I have mentioned many times before that God has continued to speak to me through consistent themes. This past week, the same exact message stood out to me twice during our morning prayer. The following is from Psalm 51:
For a sacrifice you take no delight,
burnt offering from me you would refuse,
my sacrifice, a contrite spirit.
A humbled, contrite heart you will not spurn.
In Daniel 3:39-40, it says:
But with contrite heart and humble spirit
let us be received;
as though it were holocausts of rams and bullocks,
or thousands of fat lambs,
so let our sacrifice be in your presence today.
We read these two passages on two different days in the past week, and each time, these parts really stood out to me. In both passages, I feel like the Lord is telling us not to focus on sacrifices. In many places in the Old Testament, a lot of emphasis seems to be placed on lawful sacrifices, and I find these two passages to be interesting, as their emphasis seems to be away from the tangible sacrifice. Since it is currently Lent, a season full of purposeful and intentional sacrifice, these passages stood out to me even more. If these passages speak about giving our hearts and not sacrifices, what does that mean in this season where we fast and make sacrifices? So often, we get caught up in what we are told, thinking it has to be all or nothing. For instance, when we hear about sacrifices, it is easy to just get caught up in offering sacrifices. It is easy to “follow the rules” and make the appropriate sacrifices, without thinking much of their meaning. On the other hand, when we read passages like the ones above, it is easy to read them and say that sacrifices aren’t important. It is only about offering our hearts. When we use our knowledge of the New Testament and what Jesus preached, it is easy to recognize that what He really wants is our hearts. And that brings me back to this question of wondering why we intentionally make sacrifices during Lent if it is really our heart that the Lord truly desires. I realized that I cannot view this subject with the “all or nothing” mentality. First and foremost, I must understand that it is my heart that matters. More than anything else, the Lord wants me to humbly offer Him all of me. And although He desires our hearts above anything else, offering sacrifices can help remind us in a very tangible and real way that we are supposed to offer ourselves to Him.
This idea applies to us each and every day of our lives, but it is particularly important during this season of Lent. We should not just give something up for the sake of giving something up. It is not just about giving something up because the Church says we should give something up during Lent. It is about the posture of our hearts. Are my heart and my spirit really in these sacrifices, or is it more about following the rules? I felt like when I first read Psalm 51 it was an invitation to consider where my heart should be during this Lenten season. Then a few days later, the passage in Daniel was blatantly clear. It wasn’t just a nice little thought to consider, but it was the Lord trying to tell me that I really need to look at how I can dive deeper into this Lenten season of sacrifice. Even though Lent is almost over, that doesn’t mean that I ignore the message until next year. I felt like it was a reminder telling me how to live during this season, and I felt like I needed to be reminded to reassess the posture of my heart regarding my Lenten sacrifices in these last few weeks of Lent.