God Demands Our Best
Yael Eckstein | August 11, 2021
Do not sacrifice to the LORD your God an ox or a sheep that has any defect or flaw in it, for that would be detestable to him. — Deuteronomy 17:1
Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Shoftim, which means “judges,” from Deuteronomy 16:18–21:9.
One of the most powerful experiences that I have as a Jew can also be one of the most challenging. When I pray in the synagogue, I don’t only feel connected to God. I also feel the presence of thousands of years of Jewish people who came before me and who had prayed these exact same words in the same language. It’s inspiring to picture so many generations of Jews who worshiped God in this same way, pouring out their hearts to our Father in heaven, yearning for the redemption of our people.
And while our liturgy is so powerful in our worship, it also presents a challenge. The prayer service in the synagogue can feel repetitive. Saying the same words every time we worship can make it easy to lose focus. Sometimes, my prayers feel rote instead of heartfelt and passionate. When I feel this way, I pause and remember that I am standing in the presence of God. I remind myself that I am not here to serve myself. I must always try to give God my best.
God Demands Our Best
In the laws of Temple sacrifices, the Bible teaches a powerful lesson about giving God our best. As we read in today’s Scripture, “Do not sacrifice to the LORD your God an ox or a sheep that has any defect or flaw in it, for that would be detestable to him.”
Does God have something against imperfect animals? Aren’t we all imperfect? But this is not about the animals. It’s about the quality of our worship.
Imagine bringing an offering to God in the Temple in Jerusalem. You go to your flock to choose a sheep to sacrifice. Which one will you choose? The sheep that are healthiest and in the best condition will also have the highest value. Maybe those should be saved to be sold for profit.
It’s easy to see why blemished animals might be chosen for Temple offerings. After all, what else are they good for? But someone who offers a blemished animal is actually choosing not to offer his best to God.
God has no needs. God does not need us to worship Him. But God demands that we give Him our best. He wants us to put Him first, not for His sake, but so that we will learn to put others first, as well. God wants us to learn that the blessings in our lives are to be used for others. That is how we give Him our best.
How can you give your best to God today? What blessings in your life can you share with others today?