As we prepare to give an offering today for the Day of Atonement, I would like to reflect a little bit on an offering we give that we may not always be aware of. This offering we can give any day, but it is even more common to give this offering on the Day of Atonement than any other day of the year, save perhaps for the Passover. Let us talk about this particular offering we give to God today.
Afflicting Your Souls
First, let us turn to Leviticus 23:29, where we read something that is unique about the Day of Atonement among all the Sabbaths and Holy Days of God. Leviticus 23:29 reads as follows: “For any person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day shall be cut off from his people.” God commands us to fast on this day, to afflict our souls. What does this have to do with giving an offering?
King David made a profound connection between offerings and afflicting our souls in Psalm 51:16-19. This passage tells us the relationship between offerings and our own personal spiritual state, relating to afflicting our souls. Psalm 51:16-19 reads as follows: “For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not desire in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart—these, O God, You will not despise. Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion; build the walls of Jerusalem. Then You shall be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering; then they shall offer bulls on Your altar.”
In the time of ancient Israel animals were often offered to God as part of the Holy Day offering. At the time David wrote Psalm 51 he had been confronted with his sin of adultery by the Prophet Nathan. He was repentant, but knew that he needed to be reconciled with God before any offerings that he could give would be pleasing to God. He understood that it was righteousness that was pleasing to God, and an offering given from a heart that belonged to God, that God wanted. God does not need our money any more than He needed the ancient Israelites to slaughter thousands of bulls and lambs for Him. What He wanted from Israel was their devotion, their obedience, and their loyalty.
When we afflict our souls, call to God in repentance for Him to forgive our sins and reconcile ourselves to Him, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and reconcile with each other, the offering is pleasing to God. God commands us to give an offering, but it is not our money that He really wants—He wants us to give that which He cannot require by force: our love, our honor, and our obedience. And it is that which makes our offerings pleasing to God.
Reconciling With God And Man
We see this principle about the need to reconcile with God and man in Micah 6:6-8. This passage tells us what offerings are pleasing to God. Micah 6:6-8 reads as follows: “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the High God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”
God gave us Jesus Christ, His firstborn son, to pay for our sins. It is not our money, or the slaughter of animals, that makes us right with God. God desires us to obey Him, to walk humbly in righteousness to Him, and to love mercy and to do justly in our relationships with other people. When we have a right heart with God we will offer to Him, and He will bless our offering and bless us in response, as He blessed ancient Israel when they gave him a bountiful offering to build His tabernacle. But before our offerings please God, we need to have a right relationship with God and with each other.
And it was precisely this point that Jesus Christ Himself made while on this earth in Matthew 5:23-24. Let us look at Matthew 5:23-24 to see what it says when it comes to offerings. It reads: “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
Here we see that Jesus Christ Himself said it was more important for us to be reconciled to each other than for us to offer generously before God. Before we can make an effective public display of our worship we have to have our heart in the right place with God and with each other. If we do not love God with all our heart, all our mind, and all of our souls, nor love our brethren as ourselves, we cannot give to God with a proper spirit. And we cannot expect God to bless us if we are not right with Him or with others. First, we must reconcile with God and with men, as this day symbolizes, and then we can give with the generous and righteous heart that we ought to give with.
Let us therefore conclude by talking about what offering is special and unique that we give today on the Day of Atonement. The sacrifice we give through our prayer and fasting and our repentant hearts is the sacrifice of a broken spirit and a contrite heart, the offering with which God is pleased. When we make this offering we reconcile with God and with our brethren. Only when our hearts and motives and agendas are right with God and with each other is God pleased with our offerings to Him. Let us therefore ask God to create in us the right hearts so that the offerings we give will be pleasing to Him.