A Gift of Sacrificial Love
I had my Bar Mitzvah in Jerusalem, in the synagogue near my home in the south side of Jerusalem. We lived on Bethlehem Road and the synagogue was just a little distance from my home—in the same building that I started school on first grade. In my Bar Mitzvah, I read Leviticus 1:1-5:26.
This portion of the Torah deals with the laws of sacrifices. It starts with sacrifices, what is right and what is wrong to sacrifice, and how to sacrifice and butcher the animals for sacrifice.
In fact, most preachers very seldom read or preach or teach much from the book of Leviticus. Especially not from the first chapters that deal with issues of sacrifices that are not so relevant for Christians today, and actually in practice are not very relevant even for Jews. We don’t have sacrifices as a part of our religious practices since the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in the year A.D. 70.
But there are many issues that are extremely important in this section of the book of Leviticus. I just want to mention a few that in past years I have addressed from this text:
- The sacrificial system is not absolute. It is relative! It is relative to the social status and the financial status of the person who sacrifices. It depends on the wealth of the sinner and his ability to sacrifice big animals. A poor person does not have to bring a bull or a sheep or a goat, or even two doves. It is enough for a poor person to bring a handful of corn anointed with oil, and for that person, the handful of corn is as effective as a bull brought by a rich person.
- The sin is also relative. Not every sin has to be expiated by the sacrifice of an animal or corn even. The sins are graded by the punishment that the Torah requires. Also, the person who sins is relative to the punishment that the Torah requires.
- There are at least seven different kinds of sacrifices, and some of them have nothing to do with sin. There are sacrifices of thanksgiving and purification, and others too.
Now I just want to share with you the need for sacrificing! The need to sacrifice is a direct outgrowth of the need to love and to be loved. There are three words in the Greek New Testament for Love, and I can say that the same is true for the Old Testament in Hebrew. I will write about the three Greek Words from the New Testament.
The highest form of love is agape love, that is, love without any selfishness and intention of gain. Agape love is divine-type love. The kind that God loves us with. It is a love that is pure and holy, freely given, and willing to sacrifice for the person or people or goal that is loved with agape love.
The second type of love that is mentioned in the New Testament is philia. This is love between really good friends. Like the city of Philadelphia, which means “brotherly love.” This kind of love also has a sincere desire to spend time and to fellowship, and to give to friends and receive from friends.
The third kind of love is eros, erotic love. It is a love that depends on what you take and what you give, what you gain and what you share. It is not a love that does not seek benefit like agape, and it is not like philia, a question of friendship and sharing as friends. Eros is a love that needs and requires gain and benefit.
Now all these three types of love sacrifice. Agape is like divine love; it is giving of the best, without any motive to gain some selfish gain. The reason that one sacrifices and the motive for the sacrifice is of prime importance, and it makes all the difference how the Lord receives the sacrifices that we make for the Kingdom.
Can we love God and love our families and brothers and sisters without sacrificing anything for the ones that we love? The story of the Good Samaritan is a demonstration of what it means to love people. The Samaritan, who was not considered a friend of the Jews, took that Jew that was wounded and damaged on the road to Jericho. He picked him up and took him to the inn, and was willing to pay for the inn and the medical care of this stranger who was robbed and wounded.
We are commanded, each one of us, to offer our bodies as living sacrifices (Romans 12). The Apostle Paul noted that sacrificing our bodies as living sacrifices is the only reasonable thing that we can do in response to the sacrifice of Yeshua for our sins, for giving us a new life, a new birth, and the hope and promise of eternal life.
Put yourself in the time when there was a Temple in Jerusalem, and you would give an animal, a bull or sheep or goats or birds. You would bring your animal, and before anything the priest will inspect the animal and see if it is healthy and whole, without blemish. If the animal would have a broken leg, or some skin illness, or was breathing heavily, your sacrifice would not be accepted.
The Word of God commands us to give and to give sacrificially. And to sacrifice our life as a living sacrifice. The same requirement that the Israelites had in the Torah is valid for us today. We have to give to the Lord what is without blemish and without damage.
We today must sacrifice and live sacrificial lives; that is, we must give the Lord our best. Because He is worthy not only for our praise, singing, and worshiping, but He is worthy of our best—the best of our life, the best of our time, the best of our money too.
Although the Temple does not exist in our day, there is the need to live a sacrificial life for the Lord and His Kingdom, to make a good change in the world. This includes the sacrifice of time, service, money, and talent, and to care for the needy.
There are many ways to sacrifice for the Lord and for His Kingdom! If you don’t feel that you are sacrificing something for the Lord and His Kingdom—and for the spreading of the Good News—please pray to God and ask Him what you should be doing, and how to sacrifice for the Kingdom of God!
(For more of Joseph Shulam’s teachings, visit www.netivyah.org. Used with permission.)