“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.” Hebrews 13:15
This month’s theme at CSAHM is sacrifice. The dictionary defines sacrifice as: the surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim. There are many things we sacrifice in life and for many reasons. As a stay-at-home mom, I sacrifice my time and energy for my children. Over the course of our nation’s history, thousands and thousands have sacrificed their lives for our freedom. And the one sacrifice that stands out the most to us as Christians is the sacrifice Christ paid to redeem us from our sins.
With Jesus’ death, the old system of offering animal sacrifices for sin ceased. Because of his perfect sacrifice in our stead, we no longer have to sacrifice a lamb or goat for every sin we commit. Yet, does this mean that there are no more sacrifices we can make in our Christian life?
Hebrews 13 calls us to always give a sacrifice of thanks to God. “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise.” To the original readers of this book, they would have recalled the Old Covenant’s use of thank offerings. These were spontaneous sacrifices, not required, and given to God as an expression of gratitude for what he had done. The Psalmist wrote, “Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of his works with songs of joy” (Psalm 107:22).
John Calvin wrote of this verse in Hebrews that the thank offering is “the highest worship of God, justly preferred to all other exercises, when we acknowledge God’s goodness by thanksgiving; yea, this is the ceremony of sacrificing which God commends to us now.”
Giving thanks to God brings him great glory and returns to him the praise due him for all he does for us.
Sometimes it seems strange to think of giving thanks as being a sacrifice. After all, when someone does something for us, we gladly say “Thank you.” Yet we often fail to live a life of praise. Many times we look at our life with discontent. We aren’t satisfied with where we are. There’s always something we’d rather being doing, going, and experiencing. Rather than give thanks for all that we have, we complain and ask why we don’t have all that we want.
And then there are times when life is hard and we are in the deep valley of suffering. That’s when it truly feels like a sacrifice to give thanks. All we see is darkness and fear is our constant companion. We can’t even think of a single thing to give thanks to God for.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” So whether the skies are blue or dark and stormy, we are called to give thanks.
In fact, God deserves our praise simply because he is God. He is our Creator and the sustainer of all life. Our very breath is a gift from his hand. He provides us rain and sun, food and shelter, grace and mercy. And the greatest gift of all–salvation through the sacrifice of his son on the cross to pay for our sins.
Giving thanks is the greatest and most important offering we can give to God. No matter what our circumstances, we have reason to give thanks. And when life is hard and we offer that sacrifice of praise, it is an offering which pleases God, “Those who sacrifice thank offerings honor me, and to the blameless I will show my salvation” (Psalm 50:23).