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Zivchei-Tzedek - Right Sacrifices

Right Sacrifices

Zivchei-Tzedek and the Passion of Faith

by John J. Parsons

Offer the sacrifices of righteousness and put your trust in the LORD.

Psalm 4:6[h]

HE HEBREW WORD for a sacrificial offering is korban (ืงืจื‘ึผืŸ), a word that comes from korav meaning to "draw near," specifically, to draw

near to God. Under the Levitical system of worship in the Tabernacle/ Temple, offerings (korbanot) were provided as a means to bring someone who was away from God near to Him again.

There are several types of korbanot listed in the Torah. Zevachim (ื–ื‘ื—ื™ื) were various animal sacrifices slaughtered upon the mizbeach (altar), a word that comes from the same root (Zayin-Vet-Chet). Metaphorically, sacrifices can be called righteous (zivchei tzedek) or wicked (zivchei resha).

Right sacrifices imply something more than the scrupulous performance of religious rituals, however. King David understood that they were the expression of โ€“ not the means to โ€“ genuine trust in the Lord (bittachon). Only when ritual is grounded in trust are we able to experience the blessing of drawing near to God in the truth.

Such "drawing near" does not happen in a vacuum of self-centered piety, however. Reconciliation with God is invariably connected with how we treat others. We cannot offer "our gift upon the altar" if we understand that someone is hurting because of our lovelessness (Matt. 5:23-24).

Many of us are more comfortable with the idea of offering a sacrifice than extending genuine love and mercy to others, especially to those who have offended us or whom we regard as our enemies. It is much easier to participate in a sacrificial "system" than it is to engage in the arduous task of authentic self-examination and confession. Indeed, if we are not careful, such an approach can be used as a pretext for enabling callous indifference or even systematic malice toward others.

When the Pharisees objected to his practice of extending grace to sinners (i.e., the ritually unclean), Jesus twice quoted from Hosea 6:6: "For I desire love (chesed) and not sacrifice (zevach), and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings" (Matt. 9:13, 12:7). To obey God is better than sacrifice (1 Sam. 15:22), and without the proper heart attitude of love, religious expression โ€“ even if technically "correct" โ€“ is nothing but a sham. Living a merciful life trumps your preferred theological ideologies.

Living a merciful life trumps your preferred theological ideologies...

The work of love (chesed) reveals itself by demonstrating tzedek (justice, righteousness) in your life. The Scriptures command: Tzedek, tzedek tirdof: "justice, justice you shall pursue" (Deut.16:20). Jesus' sacrifice for our sin is the sacrifice of the just for the unjust, the ultimate expression of love for mankind. Loving others means promoting their welfare and good, even if they are unjust themselves. When we truly trust in the Lord we become korban chai, a living sacrifice, offered to God (Rom. 12:1).

Go and do likewise


zivchu zivchei-tzedek u'vitchu el-Adonai

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