Reading through the books of Leviticus and Numbers, as I am at the moment, can seem like hard going at times. Long descriptions of laws, sacrifices and festivals can be tough to get my head around. It’s not hard to relate Passover celebrations to the Easter story, or the Feast of Booths to our modern Christian summer camps. But it’s not so easy to work out what I can learn from detailed descriptions of the tabernacle bowls and utensils, curtains and poles, or Jewish dietary regulations.
And I’ve never got completely clear the distinctions between burnt offerings, fellowship offerings, sin offerings, wave offerings, and so on. I’m glad we don’t need animal sacrifices anymore. And I’m extremely happy that Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, has made the once-for-all sacrifice that pays the price and penalty for all my sins. The simplest response when we read about animal sacrifices anywhere in the Old Testament is a heartfelt “Thank You Jesus, Thank You that You died for me”.
But there are a couple of recurring principles in the descriptions of the sacrifices that are a direct encouragement and challenge to us in our worship and worship leading today. These could be summarised as giving the First and the Best. When the Israelites brought an offering to God, it had to be the first and the best. The firstfruits of the harvest, not the leftover gleanings. And a lamb without blemish, in other words a perfect one not a second class animal.
God sets the standard as always, giving His only Son, the most precious Gift He could possibly give. And the challenge to us is to bring the First and the Best when we come to worship.
This could be our time, are we giving the best of our time to the Lord, or just the scraps left over when other things have been done? It could be our attitude, are we going to church or other activities planning and praying that we might be as great a blessing as possible to those we are going to meet? Or it could be our money, are we giving to the Lord first, or is our financial giving just the bit remaining after we’ve met all our own wants and needs?
Too often my worship has been the opposite of this. I’ve turned up for church not prepared to worship, left Bible reading til the end of the day because I couldn’t get up early enough, and allowed multiple distractions to take my time away from prayer and time with God. But today is a new day, we’re forgiven, we’re filled anew with the Holy Spirit, let’s be encouraged to start afresh and give Jesus the very best of our time and our devotion today. He is worthy of it all!