Sacrifices Pay Off

Ex. 22:20   “Whoever sacrifices to any god, other than the LORD alone, shall be devoted to destruction.

Read Exodus 22:16-23:9

This past month we have seen nations and teams in floods of joy and floods of tears as their hopes at winning the World Cup either seemed to materialize or vanish before their very eyes.

President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil encapsulates what many other people felt as they watched the game, “My nightmares never got so bad.” Argentina’s Javier Mascherano, who kept his team’s hopes alive with a heroic, last-ditch tackle on Arjen Robben during the semifinal against the Netherlands, said that the pain of losing was “immense.”

Every team that lost a match during Brazil 2014 made great sacrifices just to qualify for the World Cup. This small vignette gives us a window into every human soul. We all have things we desperately want. We ask these things to grant us validation and appreciation.

We hope that the sacrifices we make will eventually pay off.

This law in Exodus 22 and 23 is sandwiched between a host of random laws. We find this law directly in the middle of these laws. It is the centre point on which all the laws hinge. Martin Luther, the 15th century German reformer, stated that all commandments hinged on only one: worshipping anything other than God. We all make sacrifices. We sacrifice our moral integrity, we sacrifice our character, we sacrifice anything and everything for a central goal in our life, a dream.

Exodus tells us that one day these things we sacrifice to will be unable to deliver the very thing they promise. Four years from now Germany will have to hand on the World Cup to another team. Their sacrifices for glory and fame will become impermanent. They will lead to a sense of loss, frustration and failure.

The Christian life is a life of sacrifice. It is a life marked by the very sacrifice of God Himself on the cross.  His sacrifice is what saves us from loss, frustration and failure. We find the only validation and glory that will never fade. We were worth the very life of God. We no longer sacrifice for redemption, we sacrifice because we have been redeemed.

Dashed Dreams and Resurrection Reality

Psalm 74:1     Why have you rejected us forever, O God?

Why does your anger smolder against the sheep of your pasture?

2       Remember the people you purchased of old,

the tribe of your inheritance, whom you redeemed—

Mount Zion, where you dwelt.

22            Rise up, O God, and defend your cause;

remember how fools mock you all day long.

23     Do not ignore the clamor of your adversaries,

the uproar of your enemies, which rises continually.


Deafening Silence

“Why have you rejected us forever, O God?”(v1)

Have you ever felt like your dreams were dashed to pieces? The psalmist is recounting in vivid detail his dreams being shattered along with the gates and glory of Jerusalem.

Most commentators place this Psalm somewhere in the vicinity of 587 BC. The palpably real account of the destruction of Jerusalem and the “assembly place” (v.8) is only paralleled in this poetic and descriptive manner in one other place (Lamentations 2:5-9).

Amazing, Ancient Exploits

“But you, O God, are my king from of old.” (v. 12)

Somehow in the midst of this tremendous ordeal, the bard begins to sing of ancient exploits. He recounts the deeds of a  God who has subdued seas, provided for his people plenteously, and rescued his people. Suddenly, the deafening silence is not as terrifying as Asaph once thought it.

Continuous Struggle

Now, in the final verses, Asaph sings of his ordeals and laments the destruction of the Kingdom of Judah, but with less desperation. His “King from of Old” has punched a whole through death and made a way in the desert. The ordeals which once held sway over him and threatened violence are nothing but a shadow. The Psalmists’ enemies can no longer execute violence against him. The fears and threats are only “haunts of violence”(v20). Much as David said centuries before, this Psalmist need not fear death, for death is only a shadow. God, the Shepherd of Israel, has destroyed death by his death on the Cross and His resurrection life.

Not even the death of our dearest dreams can threaten the security we have in our King’s hand.

A Prayer

Almighty God, who in death has destroyed death, resurrect our dreams that we may with full confidence realize that the day and the battle are yours. May we live in the hope of your new creation for your praise and glory, through Jesus Christ. Amen