Today’s reading is from the third chapter of Leviticus (I know, but try to contain your excitement! 🙂
1 If your offering is a fellowship offering, and you offer an animal from the herd, whether male or female, you are to present before the Lord an animal without defect. 2 You are to lay your hand on the head of your offering and slaughter it at the entrance to the tent of meeting. Then Aaron’s sons the priests shall splash the blood against the sides of the altar. 3 From the fellowship offering you are to bring a food offering to the Lord: the internal organs and all the fat that is connected to them, 4 both kidneys with the fat on them near the loins, and the long lobe of the liver, which you will remove with the kidneys. 5 Then Aaron’s sons are to burn it on the altar on top of the burnt offering that is lying on the burning wood; it is a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord. (NIV)
Unlike sin offerings, thanksgiving or fellowship offerings weren’t obligatory. They weren’t mandated. They were simply a way for the Israelites to show their gratitude toward God. And so God’s altar got the kidneys, liver and the fat around the entrails – the choicest bits, according to my study Bible! The law declared that “all fat belongs to God” (v5).
Martin Luther once commented, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” Psh, we say, only three?! Sit down back with the average kids, Martin Luther! But honestly, when I’m busy, prayer and devotions are the first things that get shunted a few slots down my to-do list. Googling “devotionals”, there’s a bunch of quick devotions for hectic schedules. In fact, that’s how #CoffeeTimePrayer started out – the idea was to have devotions that are a cup of coffee long.
But is God really worth so little of our time and our attention? What do we give him instead of the “choice fats” of our lives? A drumstick of prayer every now and then?
Working through Isaiah, I got a jolting answer to that question. In Isaiah 43:22-24 God reprimands the Israelites:
Yet you did not call upon me, O Jacob;
but you have been weary of me, O Israel!
You have not brought me your sheep for burnt offerings,
or honored me with your sacrifices…
You have not bought me sweet cane with money,
or satisfied me with the fat of your sacrifices.
But you have burdened me with your sins;
you have wearied me with your iniquities. (NRSV)
That made me pause. Unlike the Israelites, we no longer have to pitch up to the tabernacle or the temple with an oblivious goat in tow – instead, in Christ, our lives become the thanksgiving offering. Whatever we do, good or bad, is laid on God’s altar, waiting for fire to descend:
I lay out the pieces of my life
on your altar
and watch for fire to descend. (Psalm 5:1-3 MSG)
The question is, then, what are we putting on God’s altar? What is our thanksgiving offering? Is it all the choice bits of fat – our love and obedience – or is it all the cast-off bits – our sins, our ingratitude, our distance from God?
If like me your answer to this question wouldn’t get you any gold stars in Sunday school, be comforted by the fact that even as our frankly terrible thanksgiving offerings turn to smoke, God forgives us:
I, I am He
who blots out your transgressions for my own sake,
and I will not remember your sins. (Isaiah 43:25 NRSV)
Lord, I choose to make You my priority each day. Amen.
Have a good week,