Sacrifices and a Festival

Bible:

When the seventh month came, and the children of Israel were in the towns, the people gathered as one man to Jerusalem. Then arose Jeshua the son of Jozadak, with his fellow priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel with his kinsmen, and they built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. They set the altar in its place, for fear was on them because of the peoples of the lands, and they offered burnt offerings on it to the Lord, burnt offerings morning and evening. And they kept the Feast of Booths, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings by number according to the rule, as each day required, and after that the regular burnt offerings, the offerings at the new moon and at all the appointed feasts of the Lord, and the offerings of everyone who made a freewill offering to the Lord. From the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the Lord. But the foundation of the temple of the Lord was not yet laid. So they gave money to the masons and the carpenters, and food, drink, and oil to the Sidonians and the Tyrians to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea, to Joppa, according to the grant that they had from Cyrus king of Persia. Ezra 3:1-7 ESV

The Lord called Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When any one of you brings an offering to the Lord, you shall bring your offering of livestock from the herd or from the flock.

“If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer a male without blemish. He shall bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the Lord. He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him. . . And the priest shall burn all of it on the altar, as a burnt offering, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord. Leviticus 1:1-4, 9b ESV

“You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 23:42-43 ESV

Reflection:

When the Ingalls family moved from Indian Territory to Minnesota, they rode in their covered wagon for many days. At night they camped out in the open, and when day came they continued to ride across the country. Finally they came to Plum Creek, where they would make their home. Pa would build them a house there, in time, but to start with they lived in a dugout. It was only one small room dug into the side of a hill, with strips of prairie sod making the front wall. The ceiling was made of hay. The dugout was small and dark, but it was warm and safe. The Ingalls family would have a place to stay for the winter before Pa could build them a house. Having a place to live during that first winter was the most important thing.

After some of the people of Judah had returned to their home in the promised land, they got together in Jerusalem and rebuilt the altar there. They wanted to get started right away and make burnt offerings to God every day. They wouldn’t wait for the temple to be rebuilt, although they started on that, too. The most important thing for them was to start the sacrifices again. For many years they hadn’t been able to offer sacrifices, and it had been a sad thing for them. Bringing perfect animals and burning them completely to the Lord was their way of knowing that they were accepted by God as his people, and that God would look on them with favor and hear their prayers. It was a joyful thing for them to have sacrifices being offered on the altar again, and another joyful thing was that they celebrated the Feast of Booths again. This reminded them that their ancestors long ago had lived in tents in the wilderness for many years before God had brought them home to the promised land. Now, after many years in exile, the Lord had once again brought them home, and they shared their joy in this festival.

Jesus is our burnt offering. He was completely perfect, and he offered himself totally to God on the cross. Because of his sacrifice for us, we are accepted by the Lord as his people, and we can be sure that God looks on us with favor. He hears our prayers and helps us and cares for us. For now we live away from our home while we are on this earth, but it’s like camping for awhile. Someday we will live with him forever in our heavenly home. We know we’ll go home someday, and we know that God is always with us while we are away from the place he’s making for us in heaven.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for offering yourself for us on the cross, and for the promise that you will bring us home to be with you someday. Amen.

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