When the Lord gave His people Israel the commandments regarding freewill or burnt offerings, offerings that they could bring to God simply to please God, He did not say that they could bring whatever they wanted, but rather, limited it to just six different objects that would be acceptable offerings to God (Lev. 1-2). They were allowed to bring a bull, goat, sheep, dove, grain, or drink offering. They could bring living organisms, or that which came from a living organism. They were allowed nothing of their own ingenuity or creativity: no gaudy mobiles, no graceful carvings, castings or paintings, no intricate weavings or ingenious labor saving contraptions. They could bring to God nothing that they could create. All they were allowed to bring as an offering to God was something that only God could create, and that is life.
When God looks down upon the whole burnt offering that we bring as our reasonable act of worship, He looks not for that which we can produce from our own efforts, but for that which God alone has wrought in us as a work of grace. Like the living organisms mentioned above, the offering that is acceptable to the Lord is one that man can only cultivate, care for, protect and feed, but never create.
The heart of fallen man does always seek to strive. The Old Covenant Sabbath day rest, though still healthy for the human body, like all Old Covenant shadows, finds its fulfillment only in a New Covenant spiritual reality, and that reality is clearly outlined for us in words that lift it out of the realm of a religious ordinance, and into the realm of spiritual experience. The words are these: “For he who has entered into his rest, he also has ceased from his own works, as God did from His” (Heb. 4:10). The Sabbath rest of God, of which we all are to partake, is not a cessation of physical toil, but of spiritual toil. “…In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength…” (Is. 30:15). To be a pleasing offering unto the Lord, we must recognize that as He looks deep into our being, the only thing that pleases is that which He has wrought in us in response to our rest, and to offer what we have wrought in our striving is to offer the profane.
As I look at the Old Testament offering, I see that God, not only offends our sensibilities by accepting nothing that we can create, but also by making no distinction between an ox and a dove, apparently finding both equally pleasing as a sweet aroma. Rich and poor stand on equal ground. Not quantity, but quality is what mattered to God. “…let him offer a male without blemish…” (Lev. 1:3). The ox, the symbol of ministerial strength for increase, useful for plowing, planting, and harvesting huge amounts of food, and it’s own meat enough to help feed a family for perhaps a year or so, was no more pleasing to God than one little dove, if it was all the poor worshiper had to give. Very few of us will have great influence. All of us have lives and days filled with the little, the mundane, the insignificant that can be made significant by making it an offering of love to God by longing, not for more, or for a different station in life, but to simply please Him with what we have.
We once attended some meetings where the speakers powerfully declared, first God’s mercy in saving them, and then God’s favor in expanding their ministries. One gave statistics regarding their outreaches, etc., and one recited dollar amounts regarding their facility. All this was presented as statistics proving God’s endorsement of their ministry. They left my wife and me, and I’m sure everyone else present, with the profound impression that our only source of significance before God is to be found in ministerial greatness, and that greatness is measured by volume - quantity, not necessarily quality.
I was suspicious of that message, if not of the motives that may have generated it, for I have learned, and many have testified throughout the ages, that significance is not found in greatness, but in pleasing Jesus, and He is pleased with a dove as well as an ox. A fortune in gold comes in a very small quantity, and some people may easily deceive themselves with the sheer volume of wood, hay, or stubble that can be purchased at a bargain price. Brother Lawrence (The Practice of the Presence of God) would do nothing during his very humble day, but as an offering to God. When he picked up a stick “for the love of God”, was he any less significant than the pastor who boasts a congregation of 45,000? No way, especially if that man’s greatness or apparent success is the result of human effort, giftings, or resources (wood, hay, stubble).
As these brothers preached at these particular meetings about ministerial greatness, I couldn’t help think of those in the audience: the single father raising his children in the love of God, the home-schooling mother, the praying parent or grandparent, the laborer, clerk, stocker, or police officer. I saw in these people a well-pleasing sacrifice to God that was being made to look insignificant in God’s eyes because they were insignificant in the eyes of these professional ministers. I know that that is not what these good brothers intended, yet it is what came across, just the same. I was grieved because, instead of encouraging and instructing the normal people in how they could more perfectly please Jesus, they simply boasted of greatness that most of those present would never experience.
If God has you in an occupation or an endeavor that seams completely outside of your gifting or calling, don’t waste your opportunity to offer your many doves, waiting for an ox that may never come. Many times, our desire to fulfill our calling or our destiny, or as some like to phrase it, “to be greatly used of God”, is motivated more out of a desire for personal significance or fulfillment, than out of pure love for God.
If you feel trapped by circumstances, unable to fulfill what you feel is your destiny, you can continually long and look for a different station in life, or you can long and look for ways to turn your many daily routines into sweet smelling offerings of love to God, as you do them with a pure motive of love and surrender to the will of God that has you enclosed or shut up in a narrow place. Remember that any selfish motive for the most noble or spiritual endeavor will render the sacrifice unworthy, when the motive behind it is revealed by fire. Don’t waste the mundane waiting for significance! Turn the mundane into sweet smelling sacrifice to God. It is that very offering of love to God out of a pure heart that turns the prison into paradise, the desert into a garden, and the shack into a mansion. If you have within you the life of Christ, through a true work of God’s grace, then you already possess all that you need in order to become a well-pleasing sacrifice to Jesus.