romans-12-1

1 Kings 19, Daniel 1

Today, read 1 Kings 19 and Daniel 1.

This passage begins with a description of Judah’s Babylonian exile (vv. 1-2). God allowed (v. 2) Babylon to overtake Jerusalem in fulfillment of God’s prophecies and because of Judah’s unbelief and idolatry.

As we read these early chapters of Daniel in the next few days, we will see that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon was a proud man. But he wasn’t too proud to believe that he and his Babylonian brethren had all the wisdom available on earth. In verses 3-5 we read that Nebuchadnezzar looked for, found, and cultivated the most outstanding young people he could find in Judah. Verse 4 told us that these young men had to look good but also show “aptitude for every kind of learning, [be] well informed, [and] quick to understand.” Nebuchadnezzar invested in the education and development of these men (vv. 4f-5) and expected them to contribute significantly to his administration when they were done with their training.

Judah was filled with godless idolators; that’s why they were taken captive by the Babylonians. The sons of Judah’s idol-worshiping men and women likewise cared nothing about obedience to God and their exile had not caused them to repent. Consequently, they had no problem falling in line with the worship, culture, and expectations of the Babylonians. I’m sure they mourned the loss of their parents who were killed when the Babylonians invaded. They may have missed Jerusalem and their old friends, too, but many of them were probably excited by this great new opportunity that Nebuchadnezzar had for them. If it meant conforming to Babylonian ways, they were happy to comply.

That was true for everyone except for Daniel and his three friends (vv. 6-7). These men were (likely) raised in homes that were faithful to the Lord. They continued to believe in God and his word despite the defeat of Judah. That defeat simply confirmed their faith because the prophets had been predicting it for years and they knew that God’s people had not repented. Their challenge now was to live obediently to God’s word in a place that was much more hostile to God than even Jerusalem in unbelief had been. Daniel and the guys determined from the very beginning not to compromise their faith. They promised to perform well if they were allowed to live God’s way (vv. 13-14). That was an act of faith and God met their faith with blessing (vv. 15-17).

The world wants to squeeze everyone into its mold but God commands us not to conform but to be transformed by renewing our minds (Rom 12:2). Daniel and his cohorts left an amazing legacy and example for all of us who want to live for God by faith to follow.

Your school, your government, your neighborhood, your friends, your family, the media you consume are all trying to squeeze you into a mold. Most--maybe all--of those influences are squeezing you into a godless form. Jesus wants to transform you into his likeness. His word, His church, His Spirit, and His grace are all operating in your life for that to happen, but it takes some determination on your part, a willingness to be different. Is there some way right now where you’re being squeezed? What would the Lord want you to do to emulate the faith and obedience of Daniel?

Romans 12

Today’s reading is Romans 12.

Romans 11 ended with a praise poem to God’s mercy. Today, Romans 12:1 began by calling us to act differently “in view of God’s mercy.” Because God has called us and given us new life and the gift of faith, God’s word urges believers “to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice.” That means serving God with your life by making moral choices that please him (v. 1b-2: “holy and pleasing to God...”) and living a life of service to others based on the gift God gave you (vv. 3-8). It means loving God’s people in real ways (vv. 9-13) and being kind and loving to our enemies (vv. 14-21).

I want to focus on that phrase, “living sacrifices” in verse 1. Up to and including Jesus, sacrifices were dead; they were living things killed to be offered to God on behalf of someone else. Christ gave himself as the ultimate (and only truly meaningful) sacrifice. He was the final dead sacrifice that God wanted as his death made atonement for us. Then, raised to life, he gives life to all who come to him in faith. Now, God does not want your dead body or for us to bring him dead bodies in worship. Instead, he wants believers to “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice.” To do that, we continue to live in this world, but the things we do with our lives, our human bodies, we do in worship to him. The ways that we spend our time, the things we say and do, our service to each other and our kindness to those who are unkind to us all grow out of the fact that we are God’s and want to worship him with our lives.

Imagine that each morning when you rise from your bed, you thought about this verse and made a decision to worship God with your body, your life, that day. What would change about your daily schedule, your thinking towards other people, what is important to you, how you use your money? Would it change the way you eat or how you spend your free time? Would you find greater joy in life because you’ve surrendered control and quit worrying about things?

Try it today; maybe even write “Rom 12:1” or “living sacrifice” on your right hand to remind you.

Leviticus 6, Psalms 5–6, Proverbs 21, Colossians 4

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Leviticus 6, Psalms 5–6, Proverbs 21, Colossians 4. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Leviticus 6.

Leviticus 6 continues the section that we’ve been reading for the past few days. These chapters detail the regulations for the various types of sacrifices the Hebrew people were to bring to the Lord at the Tabernacle. Verses 1-7 describe the sin offering—the type of offering brought when someone sinned. Verses 8-13 describe the burnt offering and verses 14-23 describe the grain offering. Finally, verses 24-30 give further regulations for the sin offering. Verses 1-7 described this sin offering from the perspective of the sinner; verses 24-30 described the priests’ responsibility for handling this sin offering. When we think of the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament, the sin offering is the one that usually comes to mind, at least for me. We understand the need to pay restitution to others (v. 5) and to pay the wages of sin, death, to God (vv. 6-7). But as important as the sin offering was, it was not the only offering the Hebrews were commanded to bring to God. The burnt offering described in verses 8-13 was an offering of pure worship. It was often offered to God in conjunction with other offerings, such as the sin offering, but it could be brought on its own by anyone who just wanted to worship God. Verse 9 tells us that this burnt offering “is to remain on the altar hearth throughout the night, till morning, and the fire must be kept burning on the altar.” It is called the burnt offering because of this verse. It was to be given to God completely and not removed from the altar until nothing but ashes remained. The symbolism of this is that the worshipper belongs to God. It is an expression of the worshipper’s desire for God to consume his life completely. “Take all of me, O God,” was clear message that this offering was to convey. Think about what that must have been like. The worshipper gave up something of high value to him—a perfect animal that would totally consumed, nothing left for him to use or sell. The priests received no value from it, either. It was 100% given to God, a complete waste from the perspective of someone who did not know God but an act of pure devotion for those who do. It as also an act of faith, expecting to God prosper his work and provide for him and his family in the days ahead.

For us, Christ himself was our sin offering (see 2 Cor 5:21) but, just as the Hebrews were to bring other offerings as acts of worship to God, we too bring offerings to God—not for the forgiveness of sins but as expression of our praise, thanks, and love to God. This is what Paul had in mind in Romans 12:1, a passage I’ll be reading this morning in our Sunday worship service: “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.” In light of all that God is and all that Christ has done for us as our sin offering, we owe God everything! But instead of consuming a dead animal to show him our love and give him our worship, we have an opportunity to be his living sacrifices. As we’ll see in today’s message, this means serving within the body of Christ. Every time we spend time giving the gospel, or preparing to teach or teaching, or serving the poor in our food pantry, or listening to others who are hurting or need advice, we are giving of ourselves to God as living sacrifices, acts of “true and proper worship.” 

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. See you when we gather for worship later today!