Ever have a phrase jump out at you from Scripture? Not even a whole verse, but more than one word?
I was reading along in Psalm 27, a psalm I’ve read so very many times, when a phrase from verse 6 leapt off the page:
Sacrifices with shouts of joy.
That living and active sword of God’s word cut right through, as it says in Hebrews 4:12, striking at the thoughts and intentions of my heart. In that moment, I realized that I rarely connect my joy with my sacrifices. And yet I’ve never really questioned the psalmist’s juxtaposition of these two things. I should have, for even way back at the beginning of God’s instructions to the children of Israel, the sacrifices offered first in the Tabernacle, then the Temple, were truly that–sacrifices. It couldn’t have been easy to take the very best lamb from your flock. It must have taken a bit of courage of offer the first of your grain and oil. And those spices? They probably could have been sold for a pretty penny. And yet God asked Israel to offer Him those things. And to do it with joy.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve (mostly) made my peace with sacrifices in my life. Or at least I thought I had. I accepted that they were necessary. That they were right. I sacrificed myself, my plans, my desires out of love for my God, in appreciation for His love and mercy toward me. But the question remained–did I sacrifice with shouts of joy?
No. More like resignation. Or even sometimes grimace. Not joy. Rarely joy. And shouts of joy? Well, that level hadn’t even entered my head! Don’t get me wrong–I’ve found joy in Jesus. True joy. But rarely does that joy reach a crescendo in the act of sacrifice. More often I find that joy in receiving blessing from Him, not in offering sacrifice to Him.
The psalmist proclaims the opposite result, that his sacrifice, not his blessing, produces in an exuberance that cannot be contained in conversational expression. It is a joy that must be shouted!
Jesus exemplified this–and we know we are to follow Christ’s example: “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)
Mary also had that kind of joy in her sacrifice. Remember her words to Elizabeth?
“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has been mindful of the humble state of His servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me–holy is His name.” (Luke 1:46-49)
Can you feel the excitement in her voice? It certainly sounds like both shouting and joy to me! But at what? At being chosen by God to sacrifice her body, her reputation, even her emotions, to His plan.
Oh, that I would come to give all to God with joy instead of just out of obedience, though I know obedience pleases Him, too. My prayer is that each daily sacrifice that we encounter would be given with genuine shouts of joy at the opportunity to so honor our King.