Festival Sacrifices

It almost seems like a oximoron, a contradiction of sorts to pair the term “festival” with “sacrifice,” especially when thinking in terms of the sacrificial system of the Old Testament.

Festivals during that time were marked by periods (some lasting a whole day, week, or even a year) of rest from ordinary work, pilgrimages, feasting, celebration, and worship.  The exception being, of course, of “Day of Atonement”. However, for the most part, the term “festival” in ancient Israel would generally bring to mind a joyful gathering of large crowds of people from every family, tribe, and city of Israel all anticipating a rich time of fellowship with one another and their God.

However, equally present throughout the Old Testament descriptions of these Festivals (or “holy convocations” or “holy days” or ” appointed feasts”), is the detailed description of numerous types of sacrifices (animal, grain, bread, oil, wine, etc.) ordained by God to be offered during these festivals. Even though these sacrifices in the Pentateuch are referred to as the “food of God” (Lev 21.6, 21; 22.7), elsewhere in Scripture God reveals that He was not seeking a source of food from these sacrifices:

“Hear, O my people, and I will speak; O Israel, I will testify against you. I am God, your God. Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you; your burnt offerings are continually before me. I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds. For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats?“-Psalm 50.7-13

If God was not desiring to be fed by the sacrifices during the festivals, then why did He ordain them in the first place? What was He really seeking?

“*Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.-Psalm 50.14-15

This passage is incredibly enlightening because it reveals God’s heart behind the sacrificial system: His own glory by means of our thanksgiving, faithfulness to Him, and humbled reliance upon Him.

With this enlightened understanding of the term “sacrifice,” it would seem as though the term “festival sacrifice” is not such a contradiction after all! It is in the heart of every believer (through the ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit) to offer praise, adoration and thanksgiving to God. Even our faithfulness to God is really a gift from Him as well (Rom 12.3). Since God is the source of these things, it would also follow that the believer would rely upon the Lord for them as well (Prov 3.5-7). Therefore, the sacrifice that God is seeking should naturally flow out of the believer anyway (i.e. a “free will offering” of sorts), which would be fitting in a “festival” setting.

Oh, that we would offer God the right sacrifice of thanksgiving, faithfulness and reliance upon Him in all things that He may be glorified!

*Or: Make thanksgiving your sacrifice to God.


About Elizabeth

I am a sinner, saved by grace striving to increase in the knowledge of my Savior and His precious Word each day. The reader should know that there are a few presuppositions with which I approach this blog: 1) I believe in the biblical gospel, which basically purports that all mankind is born under the curse of sin (due to the sin of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden). Therefore, man is separated from God and can have no relationship with God because He is perfectly holy, not even able to look upon sin. Unfortunately, God is also perfectly just and must not only separate Himself from sin, but must also punish it. In order to reconcile man to Himself, God, the Father, sent God, the Son, down to earth to live as a man and take our sins upon Himself on the cross. While on the cross, God, the Son, bore the full weight of the wrath of God, the Father, against our sins in order that we who believe in Him might be set free from the curse of our sin. God, the Son, Jesus Christ, died as a propitiation for our sin in order to appease God, the Father's, holy and just character, redeem us from sin, and reconcile those who believe in this gospel to God, the Father. 2) I am primarily writing to those who already believe in this biblical gospel. In other words, this blog is not focused on evangelizing the lost, but edifying believers. 3) I believe that the Christian Bible is the very word of God. Therefore, it is completely inerrant, infallible, sufficient, and authoritative in the life of a believer.
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