The Sacrifice of Praise
Read Hebrews 13:7-16
“Let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God”
The writer of Hebrews continually reminds us that Christ came to fulfill the law by providing the final sacrifice for our sins. He repeatedly points us back to life under the Old Covenant with its sacrificial system to illustrate the work of Christ on the Cross. The Day of Atonement in the Old Testament, with the blood of the sacrifice being sprinkled on the altar in the Holy of Holies, serves as a foreshadow of the work of Christ on the cross. But the foreshadowing is only that, it is a picture until the full reality comes. While the sacrifices in the Old Testament had to be repeated year after year, Christ’s sacrifice for sin was final and complete. In the Old Testament the people would identify with the offering and in so doing their sins were covered by the blood of the sacrifice. But Christ cleansed us from the stain of our sin by the sacrifice of his blood, so we gladly bear the reproach and persecution that comes because of it.
If Christ was the final sacrifice for our sins, what is to be our sacrifice? For the writer of Hebrews, the appropriate response to what Christ has done for us is to continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, giving thanks to him for what he has done for us. This begins with our conversations with others. Praise is not done in the prayer closet, but in the open where we tell others about God and his activity on our behalf. Praise is public and comes when we publicly acknowledge God’s character before others in the church to encourage them (10:24-25 and when we confess our faith in Christ before unbelievers. But it is not revealed in word alone, it is also revealed in our actions. Thus, the writer goes on to mention doing good and sharing with others. We express our gratitude to God by care for those in the church who are facing adversity because of persecution or trials that have come upon them. It is to be concerned about the welfare of others both with respect to their physical and spiritual needs.
For those who have experienced the salvation of Christ the praise of God should be natural and ongoing. The writing in the original is even more emphatic. Literally it says, “Through him, therefore let us present as an act of worship a sacrifice of praise to God through all things.” This makes praise not just continual, but all-encompassing. It is to encompass all times and all circumstances. In times of difficulty and hardship, it is easy to grumble and complain about the trials we face. As we go through life, praise becomes spotty at best. Sometimes, when something especially good happens, we may offer up a prayer of thanksgiving, but it hardly flows continually from our lips. Yet this is what the writer is calling us to do. In every situation, at every point in life, we are to live with the constant affirmation of God’s goodness towards us. The challenge is to reorient our perspective so that we see the surpassing greatness of our salvation is reason to praise regardless of what we face in life, both good and bad.