Do not offer a blemished sacrifice
Deuteronomy 17 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
“You shall not sacrifice to the Lord your God an ox or a sheep which has a blemish or any defect, for that is a detestable thing to the Lord your God.
2 “If there is found in your midst, in any of your towns, which the Lord your God is giving you, a man or a woman who does what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, by transgressing His covenant, 3 and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the heavenly host, which I have not commanded, 4 and if it is told you and you have heard of it, then you shall inquire thoroughly. Behold, if it is true and the thing certain that this detestable thing has been done in Israel, 5 then you shall bring out that man or that woman who has done this evil deed to your gates, that is, the man or the woman, and you shall stone them to death. 6 On the evidence of two witnesses or three witnesses, he who is to die shall be put to death; he shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness. 7 The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
8 “If any case is too difficult for you to decide, between one kind of homicide or another, between one kind of lawsuit or another, and between one kind of assault or another, being cases of dispute in your courts, then you shall arise and go up to the place which the Lord your God chooses. 9 So you shall come to the Levitical priest or the judge who is in office in those days, and you shall inquire of them and they will declare to you the verdict in the case. 10 You shall do according to the terms of the verdict which they declare to you from that place which the Lord chooses; and you shall be careful to observe according to all that they teach you. 11 According to the terms of the law which they teach you, and according to the verdict which they tell you, you shall do; you shall not turn aside from the word which they declare to you, to the right or the left. 12 The man who acts presumptuously by not listening to the priest who stands there to serve the Lord your God, nor to the judge, that man shall die; thus you shall purge the evil from Israel. 13 Then all the people will hear and be afraid, and will not act presumptuously again.
14 “When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, and you possess it and live in it, and you say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me,’ 15 you shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman. 16 Moreover, he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor shall he cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, since the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall never again return that way.’ 17 He shall not multiply wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away; nor shall he greatly increase silver and gold for himself.
18 “Now it shall come about when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. 19 It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes, 20 that his heart may not be lifted up above his countrymen and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, to the right or the left, so that he and his sons may continue long in his kingdom in the midst of Israel.
In today’s text it says: “You shall not sacrifice to the Lord your God an ox or a sheep which has a blemish or any defect, for that is a detestable thing to the Lord your God.” We of course no longer live under the law, and so we no longer sacrifice ox or sheep as an offering to God for our sin. Jesus Himself was and is our perfect sacrifice. He had no blemish or defect, yet He offered Himself for us. 1 Peter 3:18 says: For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, (the perfect for the imperfect) so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit. Under the law it was a detestable thing to offer less than a perfect sacrifice to God. While Jesus is our perfect sacrifice, what is it that we are supposed to offer? Romans 12:1 says: Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God--this is your true and proper worship. Because of God’s mercy, He sent Jesus, His only begotten Son as our sacrifice. In view of God’s mercy, because Christ died for us, we should offer our own bodies as a living sacrifice to God. If an ox or a sheep with a defect was detestable in God’s sight, how many of our lives would be detestable? God says: “I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. And you shall not make yourselves unclean with any of the swarming things that swarm on the earth. For I am the Lord who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy.’” (Leviticus 11:44-45) While we cannot be perfect in our own strength, our righteousness is in Christ, we should at the very least not presume on God’s grace and mercy, offering less than our best to Him. To purposefully sin and claim the grace of God is to presume on His mercy. It is offering a sacrifice with defect.
In the same way that we should not presume on God’s grace and mercy for our own lives, look at what it says in today’s text regarding the community we live in. “If there is found in your midst, in any of your towns, which the Lord your God is giving you, a man or a woman who does what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, by transgressing His covenant, and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the heavenly host, which I have not commanded, and if it is told you and you have heard of it, then you shall inquire thoroughly. Behold, if it is true and the thing certain that this detestable thing has been done in Israel, then you shall bring out that man or that woman who has done this evil deed to your gates, that is, the man or the woman, and you shall stone them to death.” Once again, thankfully we do not live under the law. God’s mercy and grace, His love demonstrated in the cross of Christ extends to everyone. 2 Peter 3:9 says: The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. Jesus will one day return to finally fully establish His kingdom on earth. His delay in coming is because God wants as many as possible to come to repentance, to accept the free gift of His mercy and grace which leads to salvation. We are no longer to seek the death of those who disobey God. Instead we are to show them God’s mercy and grace. We are to demonstrate the love of God to them. Still if under the old covenant they were to stone sinners to death, surely we should not embrace, condone or accept their sin. Isaiah 5:20 says: Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Just so that we clearly know that the declaration of woe to those did not end with the new covenant in Christ, Jesus Himself says: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17-20) and “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” (John 3:16-19) We are no longer to be agents of God’s judgment, condemning sinners. We are instead to be agents of His grace and mercy. We are to demonstrate God’s love. Still it is not a demonstration of God’s love to condone and tolerate the very things which will bring about judgment. Romans 5:8 says: But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. The true demonstration of God’s love will not embrace, tolerate or condone the sin of others, it will point them to the cross of Christ, the demonstration of God’s love. We are not to be judges of others, but Jesus says: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16) Light cannot embrace the darkness. Light dispels the darkness. Although we are not judges, we are called to let the light and the truth of God shine in all that we do.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit thank You that we no longer live under the law, but rather under Your grace. Thank You for Your mercy, Your grace and Your love. Thank You for demonstrating Your love, not in accepting my sin but rather in the cross of Christ which is the perfect sacrifice for my sin. Forgive me for the times I have offered less than my best in giving my body and my life to You. Holy Spirit help me both to be Holy as God is Holy and to live as light, to live as a demonstration of God’s mercy, His grace and His love. May my life cause others to embrace the cross of Christ, to see and love the light and to glorify God. In Jesus name, the only name by which men can be saved, I pray. Amen.