If his offering to the LORD is a burnt offering of birds, then he shall bring his offering of turtledoves or pigeons. Leviticus 1:14
As I was meditating on Leviticus chapter one this morning, I was overcome with thanksgiving when I read verse 14. You might think that strange, especially since the next verse instructs the priest to wring the bird’s head off and drain its blood. (Priests had a very bloody job in the Old Testament.)
What makes this verse encouraging is its context. At the end of Exodus, Moses acted as overseer to make sure the tabernacle of God was completed according to the Lord’s precise instructions. Now completed, before God would meet with His people in the tent, God instructed them to establish a system of sacrifices. There was no way for a sinful people to approach a holy God without sacrifice. (Check out this great video to see why this was necessary and why Jesus was that sacrifice for us – https://youtu.be/NN_gw3Q6PkI.) The first sacrifice mentioned was the burnt offering.
Burnt offerings were given by a worshipper to declare total commitment and complete dedication to God. (What a wonderful way to begin worship!) Verses 3-9 describe the proper way to sacrifice a bull, and verses 10-13 show how the same process can take place with the substitution of a sheep or goat. There was one problem with this picture.
Only relatively wealthy people had enough money to purchase a bull or sheep. Even those who raised such animals could scarcely afford to remove one from the herd or flock to simply burn it up. What if a poor person wanted to show his loving dedication to his Creator? Was he left out when his others met to worship God?
God does not just want a relationship with those of high economic standing. In fact, quite often the independent self-reliance of the wealthy keeps them from admitting they even need a God to lean on. God has a special place in His heart for the poor and lowly, so much so that when He decided to enter humanity, He did so by becoming part of a poor shepherd’s family. So God prescribes the remedy if a poor person wanted to worship. They could substitute what they could afford – a turtledove or pigeon. There was hope for all the poor people who were part of the worshipping throng.
In relation to the peoples of the world, my family and I are quite wealthy. We have food, shelter, access to medical care, and transportation. Many around the globe cannot claim those privileges. Yet, compared to our fellow Americans, we would be considered poor. We have endured homelessness and at times been completely dependant upon the generosity of others to survive. I am not complaining at all. We have been humbled and through it been overwhelmed by God’s generous love poured out on us through His people.
My homebound wife has not been able to work since early in our marriage. While the small churches I served always gave us an extremely generous salary, it wasn’t quite enough for a family of five. Adding a mountain of medical debt to this situation often brought my heart to despair. Today, I am in my ninth month being unable to work because of physical issues. That’s nine months without a paycheck.
Just writing those words brings shame to my heart. I often confess to God my inability to provide for the precious family He has given me. I feel like a failure in so many ways. I don’t feel worthy to share Jesus with my neighbors, who may wonder why I am such a loser. I avoid fellow pastors whom I considered friends because of their successful leadership and my own defeat. I am tempted to run from God, who obviously must not want to be seen with someone like me. Right?
Until I remember that God asks for turtledoves and pigeons. He makes a way for people like me to worship Him. In fact, He invites people like me to worship. He delights to be with me and calls me His own. When this truth sinks into my thick skull, instead of running away from Him, I run towards Him as fast as I can to be embraced by His powerful, comforting arms.
Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth? He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people.
Psalms 113:5-8 ESV