Sacrifice and Surrender

Psalm 51:16-17

Hebrews 10:8-10

On Tuesday we are going to again be reminded of this sacrifice that was just sung about. John Adams, our second president wrote to his wife Abigail on July 3, 1776 a letter which included these sober words:

You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.”

 

Last Sunday we worshipped with our brothers and sisters at a sister congregation on Marion Indiana and as we left town I stopped at the Marion National Cemetery which we pass just about every time we go to and leave from Indiana Wesleyan University.

Marion Indiana National Cemetery

There are over 8,000 graves in this hallowed place, one of 147 such designated cemeteries in this country. I took these photographs and was particularly interested in section one where the remains of many Hoosier boys from the Civil War are interned.

(I also remind us that 154 years ago two momentous battles were being waged during these opening days in July 1863. One at a place called Vicksburg, Mississippi and one at a small town in Pennsylvania called Gettysburg. Some historians believe that these terrible days of early July 1863 were the turning point in the Civil War.)

The sacrifice of which our second president spoke was a deep and costly sacrifice in 1776 and again in 1863 and at other times and places as well and we are the recipients of that sacrifice.

But there is another and I believe, more important sacrifice that we focus on this July Sunday in 2017 and two passages of scripture, one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament are the main ones I read this morning:

The first is Psalm 51:16-17

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.

And the second is Hebrews 10:8-10:

First, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

And the Message translate the passage as:

When he said, “You don’t want sacrifices and offerings,” he was referring to practices according to the old plan. When he added, “I’m here to do it your way,” he set aside the first in order to enact the new plan—God’s way—by which we are made fit for God by the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus.

Let’s look first at Psalm 51.

It is a Psalm of confession, King David’s of Israel confession for if you look at your Bible, do you see these words, or something similar at the beginning of the Psalm?

For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.
We read about Nathan’s confrontation of David in 2 Samuel 12.

David’s intent is clear in the first verse

Have mercy on me, O God,

according to your unfailing love;

according to your great compassion

blot out my transgressions.

Wash away all my iniquity

and cleanse me from my sin.

He seeks God’s forgiveness for his act of adultery, his act of being physically and sexually intimate with another man’s wife. But he also seeks God’s forgiveness for having that man, a loyal man to David, placed in the front line of battle where he would be killed…

Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, (verse 14)

David was found out. Nathan confronted him. Israel suffered. David’s character was smashed. His reputation was tarnished. His relationship with God, THE most important thing, was broken. Sin had taken control of David.

When Nathan, through a symbolic story, had David where he wanted him, I think that his voice thundered back at David when David demanded justice for the poor man by saying the rich man to pay dearly for his injustice,

“You are the man!”

You don’t point fingers at royalty. But Nathan did and his finger was the finger of God, pointing at David.

God points His finger at us when it is necessary.

“You are that person!”

He points His finger at our sin…

Our greed

Our envy

Our jealousy

Our fear

Our lust

Our hate

Our unrighteous anger

He puts His finger right on the problem

And we have nowhere to go…

As I was searching for my sermon graphics this week, I encountered this graphic.

It says a great deal about the power and turbulence of sin and the havoc and devastation it causes in our lives and the lives of others.

Now David says something interesting here

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
    you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise

David knew the law, the law of Moses which guided the life of Israel and her king.

He knew that there were offerings that needed to be made, the religious law of that day called for it – most likely a sin offering. (A far different meaning then than what we call an offering today though money was involved as reparation in some cases)

A sacrifice was required – a lamb…

David knew what the law said… But he also knew something else

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise

What God wanted from David, and He wants from us when the situation calls for it, is this – an honest brokenness that comes from being humble about our condition. David knew that. He knew that the outward appearance to offer sacrifices at the Temple was one thing – and no doubt word quickly spread about the conversation that Nathan had with the King – but David knew that what was required was a fundamental and deep honesty about oneself that went deeper than the rules.

So for David, sacrifice was a deeper, and more necessary one, that just going to the temple and having a priest offer a sacrifice.

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise

I think that this posture of an earnest and honest humility is necessary for us every time we take the Lord’s supper together as we remember and give thanks for Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. It is a time of remembrance to be sure and thanksgiving to the Lord for His sacrifice on our behalf. But it is also a time for serious examination.

And speaking Christ’s sacrifice, I now have us turn to the Hebrews text for a few moments, Hebrews 10:8-10

First, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

This chapter ultimately focuses on the once and for all-ness of Christ’s sacrifice and in these verses the writer of this passage points out what Jesus said (noted at the beginning of verse 5).

On of the things that Paul is trying to point out in passages like this passage and in others like Romans 3 through 8 is that the law, which laid out what kinds of offerings were needed so that people could be forgiven, was not enough. It could not do it because the issue was the power of sin in us and the powerlessness of the law.

Paul says it very well in Romans 8:3-4

For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh (which I remind us has to do with our human nature) God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Hebrews 10 expounds on this as it opens

The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

This is required of us as well. We cannot, cannot through our church involvement and history be made right with God. We cannot. We cannot through our religious activities find salvation in Christ. Only through the death and, praise God the resurrection, of Jesus Christ can we be made right with God.

So, as we prepare for the Lord’s Supper or communion, as we remember and give thanks, we also must take the time to be very honestly open to the Holy Spirit and His probing movement. He wants to us to confess, to tell the truth about ourselves, He wants us repent, to honestly turn away from our sin, even as we admit we don’t want to, and allow the blood of Christ to cleanse us from our sins, ALL of our sin. He wants us to do these things so that we can be free – of our sins, of our guilt, of our shame.

Go to a mirror and look at your self…

Then say three times, outloud, “I am forgiven. I am redeemble. I am loved.”

I invite each of us to do that this morning.

Let us prepare our hearts and souls for communion and may the grace and peace of Christ really be in our hearts and souls today and tomorrow.

Thanks be to God!

Amen

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