And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord. He said, “If you give me victory over the Ammonites, I will give to the Lord whatever comes out of my house to meet me when I return in triumph. I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.” So Jephthah led his army against the Ammonites, and the Lord gave him victory. He crushed the Ammonites, devastating about twenty towns from Aroer to an area near Minnith and as far away as Abel-keramim. In this way Israel defeated the Ammonites. When Jephthah returned home to Mizpah, his daughter came out to meet him, playing on a tambourine and dancing for joy. She was his one and only child; he had no other sons or daughters. ~Judges 11:30-34 (NLT)In the margin of my Bible next to the scriptures above is written the word "rashness' and that is a perfect description of this terrible decision. Nowhere in this passage does God ask or even imply that a sacrifice was necessary for victory, yet, Jephthah insisted and in turn lost the most important thing in his life.
For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. ~ Hosea 6:6A "sacrifice" may be defined as: "an act of offering to a deity something precious; especially: the killing of a victim on an altar" or "destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else".
What does it mean to sacrifice something to God? How do you know that's what He wants you to do? How do you know what to sacrifice? How do you know when to sacrifice?
If you're thinking I'm planning on answering all these questions, you might as well quit reading, because I'm not about to act like I have all the answers. All I have is experience to draw on. A sacrifice can be something as simple as fasting or giving something away. It can be short term. It can be long term. It can be necessary. It can be harmful. It all depends on if it is done in obedience to God or if it is done rashly, without consulting God before telling God.
I have seen a few sacrifices that I knew were not "God ordained". For example, a person I went to Bible school with decided he was going to tithe to God 1/10 of his time to prayer each day forever (That would be 2 hrs & 40 mins). Now, I'm all about prayer, and believe times of consecration such as this can be necessary, but while being a Bible school student who had to work many hours and had a lot of homework, and who already was not getting enough sleep as it was, I did not believe this was a "God thing". And...time & his weary body eventually proved it wasn't. God expects for you to talk to Him every day, but not to do it to the extent that you're wearing yourself down physically and mentally.
On the flip side, there is a sacrifice I personally made quite a few years back that I believe has set the course for my life and calling ever since. It wasn't even a decision that I prayed and travailed over. It was a split second decision I made that involved letting go of something I desired in life, when it seemed close at hand, and choosing to give myself to service for the kingdom instead. A sacrifice God required of me? That I may never know for sure. A sacrifice He will bless me for? I have no doubt.
In most decisions in life I choose to err on the side of caution...you know "Better to out give, than not give enough." And I've always looked at sacrifices to God in this way. But what about about Abraham? When the word "sacrifice" comes up, he's usually the first one you think about, other than Jesus Christ himself.
Abraham. The ultimate sacrificer.
Abraham. The one who was willing to sacrifice his son on the altar, simply because God said to.
Abraham. The one who walked away with His son in perfect health.
...Ok. now stop. Read that again.
Abraham receives praise for being WILLING to sacrifice his son. Not for actually doing it.
What if Abraham had seen the ram and still went ahead and killed Isaac, because he said he was going to, and, by all means, he had to keep his word. Would God have praised him for loving Him enough to go ahead and do it anyway? No. Of course not. No doubt God would have even been angry, because He had a greater plan in mind. God simply wanted to know IF he was willing. God wanted to know what truly was in his heart...whom he loved most.
Isaac would be part of the lineage of Jesus Christ. God knew this when He gave Abraham the test. God had a plan even then. If Abraham had went through with the sacrifice, the lineage of Jesus Christ would have been severed!
Abraham said, "Yes.", then God said, "No." and because God "said 'No'" we have salvation through Christ today.
There is a place for sacrifice and there are times for sacrifice in every believer's life. Just be sure to consult God first, then tell Him, in that order, when deciding what those sacrifices should be, for, first and foremost, He delights in your obedience.
And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. ~1 Samuel 15:22