Dedicating Ourselves to God
As we think of firsts and new things, a Bible story comes to mind — the presentation of the baby Jesus at the temple (Luke 2:22-24). Before Mary and Joseph get too far along into rearing Jesus as their son, they do something first. In this Scripture, Mary and Joesph bring their infant son to the temple in Jerusalem to fulfill the requirements of the law which said that after a time of purification for the mother following childbirth, the parents and child were to go to the temple to offer a sacrifice to the Lord (Leviticus 12). A reason for this is that although the birth of a child signals blessing and joy, it also reminds us of the curse associated with pain in childbirth and the sin passed on from parents to child ever since the fall (Genesis 3:16).
Mary and Joseph obeyed God’s command to offer a sacrifice that day, but they also obeyed another command of the Lord — that every firstborn male was to be dedicated to Him. Jesus represented Mary and Joseph’s firstborn son (Luke 2:7). In requiring that the firstborn be dedicated to Him, God was calling to the people’s memory the great act of deliverance He performed for them. When God struck down the firstborn of Egypt, God preserved the firstborn of Israel, not because of their own merit (Deut. 9:6), but by the blood of the lamb that they placed over the doorposts. Henceforth, God asked Israel to set aside all the firstborn males, human and animal, to the Lord as “a sign on your hand and a symbol on your forehead that the Lord brought us out of Egypt with His mighty hand” (Exodus 13:16). Dedicating the firsts of their dear possessions to the Lord reminded the people of what God had done for them.
In this act of dedication, the parents relinquished ownership of their child. The child belonged to the Lord for His service. But even here, God was gracious. He appointed the descendants of the tribe of Levi to serve as His servants in the temple in place of the firstborn sons. After symbolically dedicating their child to the Lord, parents could redeem their child — in other words reclaim them — into their household again by paying a redemption price of five shekels to the priests (Numbers 18:16). In the new covenant established through the death and resurrection of Jesus, God doesn’t require us to perform these rituals any longer. They remain in Scripture, however, as a continual reminder of what God has done.
As we start the new year, many of our resolutions center around us. They deal with self improvement, which isn’t a bad thing altogether — eating healthier, getting more sleep, watching less TV are good things for us. But if that is where our resolutions stop, then we are forgetting the greater things to which God has called us. God says that we are a “chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness and into His wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9). God redeemed us with His sacred blood not so that we could serve ourselves but so that we could serve Him. He has saved us from any empty way of life and given us a life-giving relationship with Him. How can we share that with others? How can we be Christ’s representative in someone else’s life? How can we give more of ourselves to God and less to the things of the world? This would truly be a new year’s resolution for us.
Just as Mary and Joseph dedicated this new life in their arms to God, this new year let us resolve to dedicate ourselves to God’s service, to the God who has done so much for us and has loved us with an everlasting love. He deserves our best.
Thanks be to God.
Revs. Garritt and Sanette Fleming