Sacrifice in the Old Testament meant that something was getting ready to give up its life for the sake of others. The people of God saw on a first hand basis the animals being sacrificed that demonstrated what was to come in the future through Jesus Christ. We celebrate those who we know sacrificed their lives for the sake of others and we say that they have paid the ultimate sacrifice which means their life. .
Many times we know what a sacrifice is but sometimes it is difficult for us to realize that we are called to make sacrifices.
Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers,[a] by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship
Our entire lives are supposed to be offered to God as an act of worship. So today we are going to discover what it really means to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice to God.
Read Nehemiah 11:1-2
1) The Sacrifice of Comfort
The walls were finished and the temple was completed but there was not enough housing for people to live in the city. Living in Jerusalem was not desirable and although people were motivated to complete the wall they were also content to travel 10 or more miles to go live in the outer villages were they had made their homes. Jerusalem, just like Christians today, was to be a place that was set apart for God. In Nehemiah 11:18 it is called the Holy City because it was to be a place that the rest of the world noticed.
Ten percent of the people were called out from their homes to go and live in this city. What they were called to do was going to be very difficult because they would have to leave the comfort and familiarity of their own surroundings and establish homes, jobs as well as maintain the wall that was just built.
Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
As Christians we have been called to sacrifice our own wants and needs for the sake of the kingdom but too many people only serve Christ when it is convenient or when it does not cost them anything. These people were sacrificing their comfortable and familiar lifestyle to go and be a part of something new and left their neighbors, friends and jobs. We sometimes read these stories and forget the real emotions that would have been experienced by these families as they moved away from what they called home. There was an emotional sacrifice as well as a physical one that they experienced that would be very difficult for them.
There was still a ton of work to be done since the majority of the homes were not even rebuilt. Imagine walking into a situation where you had to live and build your house at the same time. Nehemiah 12:1-26 list out the specific assignments each of them had as they began the process of finishing the city. The establishment of Jerusalem was important to the coming of the Messiah and the work was far from over.
God is always looking for the few who will sacrifice their lives for the rest of the world. God is always looking for people who will put their needs, comforts, dreams and desires behind them to accomplish the mission of God.
Throughout the book Nehemiah made list of who did what for the rebuilding of the city. Chapter 3, 7, 8 and 10 are written in Gods word as to who did what so for all of time we will know who sacrificed. No matter if someone does not appreciate your sacrifice for the Kingdom of God make no mistake God always remembers what you are doing. For many of the families it was not what they did for the city as much as them just being there for moral and physical support.
Never underestimate the importance of simply being physically present in the place where God wants you. You may not be asked to perform some dramatic ministry, but simply being there is a ministry. The men, women, and children who helped to populate the city of Jerusalem were serving God, their nation, and future generations by their step of faith. (Be Determined, Warren W. Weirsbe, Pg 144)
2 Corinthians 8:1-5 “We want you to know, brothers,[a] about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor[b] of taking part in the relief of the saints— 5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.”
We serve God and others for no other reason than we are called to serve and lay down our lives for others. Your sacrifice might just be that the person needs you to be with them or it may be that you give of yourself physically.
Read Nehemiah 12:27-31
2) The Sacrifice of Praise
So Nehemiah calls a special worship gathering and gets the people together with the worship leaders and priest. A purification of the priest and the people took place which consisted of animal sacrifices and some of their ritual cleaning ceremonies for the people. The wall around the place was at least nine feet wide at the top and fifteen feet or wider at the bottom. They walked around Jerusalem singing praises to God on the top of the wall.
Hebrews 13:15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.
We sacrifice to God with our lives but also with our mouths. In our busy lives we move onto the next thing and forget what God has done. Like spoiled children we do not stop to thank Him for all He has already given us or for all He has done. As the people walked, sang and praised God it was a testimony to the surrounding nations about what God has done. The enemy in Nehemiah 4:3 said that the walls could not hold foxes if they jumped on them and now the people are walking all around them as a sign of what God had done through His people. To walk on a piece of property in the Old Testament was a sign of ownership (Genesis 13:17 and Joshua 1:3)
Read Nehemiah 12:43
Their praise was heard from far away. What a testimony to God to the surrounding nations that God did a great work among His people. If you have ever been to a sporting event and left a game early you have experienced the roar of the crowd as the game continued. This would have been the same thing that would have happened to the surrounding nations and they would have been curious what was going on.
Our obedience with our lives and our obedience in praise points people to God. When is the last time you thanked God for what He has done? When is the last time you have thanked God for what He has not done?
1 Thessalonians 5:18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
The sacrifice of praise becomes even more of a sacrifice when God does not make sense. When the prayer request does not get answered, when the job does not come through. We need to praise God even when things are not going our way.
Read Nehemiah 12:44
3) The Sacrifice of Giving
Hebrews 13:16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
Giving is about money, time and or possessions. We talked about giving last week but here again in Nehemiah we see the people continuing to give. When you give your time or money for others you are always sacrificing something in your own life. Maybe because you give to the church you cannot take that vacation you wanted to take or because you serve in children’s ministry you cannot be in worship service like you want.
2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
Evil here is not doing bad things but in this verse it means things that are useless. If we are honest we give time to things that are useless. God is not going to judge us on how much football we watched or how many episodes of our favorite show. These things may not be bad in and of themselves but compared to doing things for the Kingdom of God they are considered evil.
2 Corinthians 9:7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
You have to choose how much money, time or possessions you are going to give to God but all of us are called to sacrifice all three of those things for the Kingdom and the Glory of God.
1 Corinthians 3:12-15 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
The bottom line is that all our sacrifices are not really sacrifices, they are just deposits we will get in eternity.
Has God called you to leave your comfort and go and do something for Him?
Has He called you to go and teach or serve in an area that maybe you are not comfortable with?
When is the last time you have thanked God for all He has done?
When is the last time you have sang a praise to Him?