A while ago, during a conversation, the concept of sacrificial cost came up; hypothetically (of course), does God ask more of some than others? So, for example, the cost that you see in one person’s life is not something that God is necessarily asking of everyone. One person’s journey is not readily transferable to another’s. It’s a good question. I’m afraid that, in the moment, I rather failed them as the answer that I gave I think rather let them off the hook. You see, ever since then I have been wrestling with a rather chicken and egg scenario, and so I feel the urge to write, if for no other reason that it may help me to get my head around all this. Take Leviticus 1. This is the great ‘burnt’ offering; the only offering that is completely consumed, leaving the altar empty. No left-overs, take away-boxes or char-grilled scraps. The first offering whose detailed instructions for execution were given to Israel was one that required the animal (from a flock, herd or even a bird) to be completely consumed by fire. Nothing remained, a complete sacrifice. This offering could not be palmed off to a priest to do, it had to be done by the person themselves. The killing, skinning, bloodletting and gore of sacrifice staining the hands. Blood would have run down the arms, soaked and saturated into their clothes as it was splashed on all sides of the altar. All the faeces had to be washed out of the bowels, the hind legs that had probably been recently clogged up with excrement as the animal lost control in death had to be washed clean. This was no spectator sport. The simple fact that there was a choice of animal meant that this type of offering was inclusive; maybe most could afford a sheep, but even a widow could partake by bringing a bird. Personal wealth was no bar, and yet the fact that the animal had to be without blemish underlined the value placed upon it. Only the best, even from the least would do.
Once on the altar, the beast would be so consumed by fire that nothing could be reclaimed, the entirety was given to God. And yet this was not an offering that was demanded of Israel, although it is ranked as amongst the most special. Job offered it as part of his regular devotions (Job 1:5), David offered it alongside his confession of sin (2 Sam 24:25), Solomon offered it three times a year (1 Kgs 9: 25). God said of this burnt offering that their aroma was ‘ever before Him’ (Ex 29:38). No, this was a voluntary offering. An offering that signified a consecration and dedication to God that came freely from a place of thankfulness, and this is why its aroma was so pleasing to the Lord. This was an offering that wasnt just about a ritual, a necessary duty to find atonement; this was a sacrificial offering that came from a broken spirit, a contrite heart. This offering spoke of total surrender, complete consumption, unqualified, unreserved; nothing held back. It’s the offering that Paul talks of in Romans 12 ‘in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship’.
Just one life; His for ours. And it is precisely at this place that my answer should have lain. You see, God asked me for nothing before He died for me; on the cross He completely out maneuvered me. The only choice that he has left me is one of response. So, we are all faced with a choice when it comes to cost; He will only ask of us what we are willing to freely give, even though it may seem a bit more at times. So the uncomfortable truth is simply this; it’s not my cost that He is asking you to think about. It’s His. He saw you as worth the full vaporised version, nothing left on the altar to snatch back at the last minute. What is that worth to you?
It is that, and only that question that will determine the cost that will mark your Christian life.