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The Altar is Greater than the Sacrifice
October 13, 2016

 “You also say, 'If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath. 'You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred?” – Matthew 23:18-19

 

Sometimes, when we have sacrificed to follow the Lord, we can get lured into thinking that our sacrifice is ‘really something.’ And although, obedience to God is a pleasing aroma to Him, we do need to maintain a right perspective. I confess, when I read the above scripture today, I was confused as to how the altar could be greater than the sacrifice. Surely the sacrifice of our service to God is more pleasing to Him than the inanimate altar. But then I began to realise that the very existence of the altar is the mercy of God to us. The Altar speaks of what God has done; of what God has made available to us. If God had not first provided the altar, we would not even have had the opportunity to offer our sacrifice.  It is the gift of God that we even have the opportunity to ‘place ourselves upon the altar’ so to speak. We deserved eternal judgment and death for sin, but instead the Lord offers us the opportunity to become living sacrifices (Rom 12:1). The key word here is living – only in Him can we truly live!) But we must not forget, that the very opportunity to do that came from the Father. We must ensure that the sacrifice of His Son bears much more weight in our minds and hearts than any sacrifice we could ever make, even if we arise to the privilege of “filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ” (Col 1:24).

 

The reason it is so critical to get this order right is because it will keep us in humility where we are ever able to keep receiving of God’s kindness and graciousness. It will preserve us from the spirit of entitlement that is rife in this age. Entitlement leads to anger at God because we think we ‘deserve’ something for our service. Most importantly elevating the work of God and the provision of God through right thinking and purposeful pondering will lead us into an experiential understanding of the work of the cross and the overwhelming glory that flows from that fount.

 

The altar is greater than the sacrifice.

The God who provided the altar is greater still.

 

Here’s another parable to sum this up…

 

“Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ ” Luke 17:7-10

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