Moses wrote Deuteronomy as his last will and testament. He recalls the work of God in the lives of the nation of Israel. They are the great nation from whom God will bring our great salvation through Jesus Christ. They had important work ahead of them. There was something very important he wanted them to understand about righteousness and God’s blessing. In Deuteronomy 9:6 Moses makes it clear: “Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.” We, too, need to understand that we are a stiff-necked people before we can even come close to offering righteous sacrifice to God.
David’s example in Psalm 51 shows the progression from wickedness to righteous sacrifice. Righteous sacrifice can only be brought before God from a person with a broken and contrite heart before Him (Ps 51:17). Like the walls of Jerusalem, the walls of our hearts must be built up against wickedness (Ps 51:18). What would it take for us to love righteousness? Psalm 45:7 tells us to love righteousness and hate wickedness.
We all know the kind of wickedness we have purposely chosen to avoid. The old saying went, I don't smoke and I don't chew and I don't go with girls who do. Everyone reading this has their own standard of wickedness that they stay away from. We draw a line in the sand and call one side safe and the other wicked. That might serve you well in some ways, but understand this: it is not the kind of righteousness that produces righteous sacrifice. Do you hate the wickedness that leads your heart to write your weekly check to the church like you write your monthly bill to insure your possessions? Does it feel wicked to attempt to control God? Do you call it wicked when your heart is full of judgment for others who believe differently than you or who are caught in sin? Do you ever feel wicked when you frivolously waste money, energy, electricity on selfish greed?
The Lenten season is a season of opening our hearts to the reality of just how wicked wickedness is. Really seeing wickedness leads to contriteness.A contrite heart leads to gratefulness. A grateful heart leads to righteous sacrifice.
During the Lenten season we remember the most righteous sacrifice of one woman every time we remember the realities of Holy Week. We remember her sacrifice because Jesus told us to. He wants us to realize that righteous sacrifice is possible. Mary of Bethany got in touch with her utter unrighteousness before Jesus. In response she was led by the Spirit to bring righteous sacrifice to Jesus the week of His death. She brought a jar of pure nard, worth a whole year’s wages, and poured it over his head, anointing Him for His death. Jesus wants us to think about Mary’s righteous sacrifice so we might learn what a righteous sacrifice is all about. He said: “I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her” (Matthew 26:13).
Let the Spirit bring you to righteous sacrifice through a contrite heart that leads to repentance that leads to gratefulness that offers righteous sacrifice.