I’d had some birthday money, and bought myself some new cosmetics. My husband was concerned with the source, that it might have pagan links, and felt uncomfortable with it. Much as I liked the product, after some thought and heart searching, I finally decided to bin it. I really didn’t want to, and I didn’t have to: I just felt it was the best thing to do. A sort of mini-sacrifice I suppose – because my relationship with my husband was worth a lot more than the stuff. And anyway, if it was dodgy, then it wasn’t going to be helpful to my spiritual life to use it. So in the bin it went. That evening, I had one of the most amazing spiritual encounters with God in all my life. I don’t think I have ever sensed his presence like I did that night.
Was that because I’d thrown the stuff away? I’ll never know for sure. But I do know that God is always delighted when we make sacrifices to honour him. Exodus 29:38-46 outlines the instructions for twice daily sacrifice, morning and evening, every day, of lamb, grain, oil and wine. These were significant offerings. That stuff had real currency, and the sacrifices were made in lean times as well as times of plenty, no let-up. Wasn’t it a bit of waste – just burning good food? Wasn’t it a waste, just throwing away high value cosmetics? Wasn’t it a waste, too, when Mary poured all that wonderful, fantastically expensive perfume on the feet of Jesus (John 12:3)?
God didn’t think so. He responded with his presence. His sweet, sweet presence. And his love. The place of sacrifice is the place where God comes. “There I will meet you and speak to you; there also I will meet with the Israelites, and the place will be consecrated by my glory… Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God.”
Sacrifice is expensive, by its very nature. It costs. It can be painful. But it is a way of saying, ‘I love you’. And when God sacrificed his son for us, that is exactly what he said. ‘I love you… I want to be with you.’ How do you want to respond to that?