Voce mea ad Dominum

Random thoughts from an amateur theologist.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Obedient Sacrifice

But Samuel said: “Does the LORD so delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obedience to the command of the LORD? Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission than the fat of rams." - 1 Samuel 15:22

God instructed Saul to go and destroy Amalek in a war of extermination. All things both man and beast are to be destroyed, so Saul went to Amalek and destroyed all people and beasts except Agag, the king of Amalek, and the best of the fat sheep, oxen, and lambs which Saul intended to offer as a sacrifice to God. Upon his return, Samuel chastises Saul for his disobedience to God's command, disobedience that Saul has completely denied. This disobedience is so displeasing to God that Saul is rejected as king of Israel.

In the Psalms, Prophets, and the Gospels, this theme of obedience over sacrifice is played out again and again. In and of itself, sacrifice is not a bad thing but is a sign of a covenant forged between God and his people. The problem arises when God's people attempt to please him through performing a sacrifice while being disobedient to his covenant, as though they can barter for God's favor. Offering sacrifice while being disobedient is insulting because it is reaffirming a covenant in which one party (the one offering the sacrifice) has been unfaithful.

Truth be known, being obedient to the will of God is a kind of sacrifice itself, the sacrifice of a humble heart. So what God desires is a sacrifice of humility which is obedient to him. This obedience is a sacrifice of self. For this reason, Christ's sacrifice is the perfect sacrifice. It is the humble and total giving of self in complete obedience to God's will.

Being obedient to the command of Jesus, the Church continues to offer this sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving which is the Body and Blood of Christ instituted in the Last Supper, the Holy Eucharist (which comes from the Greek word eukharistia or "thanksgiving"). When we eat Christ's Body and drink his Blood, we participate in that total giving of self which is the sacrifice of Christ that is brought forward in time. Christ's obedient sacrifice on Golgotha is made present to us through the Eucharistic sacrifice, and through this sacrifice, we offer ourselves to the Father along with Christ, uniting our sacrifice with his. We give our very lives to the Father along with the Lord Jesus.

This is the obedient sacrifice that God delights in.

Let thanksgiving be your sacrifice to God,
fulfil the vows you make to the Most High;
then if you call to me in time of trouble
I will rescue you and you will honor me. - Psalms 50:14-15


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