In scripture there are different kinds of offerings. If you recall the story of Abraham, you’ll notice him sacrificing a handful of animals and God walking through the pieces. This was an incredible encounter where Yahweh was the one who vowed to show faithfulness in that relationship!
Later on after the Exodus, God issued many guidelines and regulations regarding how Israel was to worship. Part of religious practice had to do with offering livestock and crops to the temple. This is where we get the theological concept of a tithe from, where one “sets aside” a portion of one’s resources and offers it to the Lord.
There are many ways to think about sacrifices and offerings. If you ask me, I think all the bloodshed of animals, burning of grains, and pouring of drink were ways that God sought to “train” God’s people to pursue righteousness. The ancient world was unbelievably violent, so these Old Testament standards—though seemingly archaic to us nowadays—are actually rather revolutionary and focused worship on the right thing. I don’t think there’s anything particularly special about firstborn calves and the first fruits of a harvest in and of themselves. What mattered was that God’s people knew to recognize that God alone deserves our worship! God imparted these rules upon Israel to help them see that blessings came from God and that we must give our whole life over.
With this idea of offering in mind, I want to note an interesting detail about what might be physically offered to God in biblical times. Of course, there would be things like grain and goats, but often the people would give liquid sacrifices. The technical term for this was a libation. Someone would pour out an item over the altar or over an existing “solid” sacrifice.
Think about the practice of pouring out a drink. Once it is out of the jar or container, there’s no “getting it back.” It would seep out onto the ground or whatever surface was under it. There was no returning to how things were before. So libation offerings in a biblical sense were very serious and important.
Paul spoke about being “poured out” like a drink offering in Philippians 2:17 and 2 Timothy 4:6. This meant he was giving absolutely everything to Christ. Once he started, there was no going back… Just like if I were to pour water out of a glass and let gravity do its work.
With all this said, consider yesterday’s bible story for the sermon on John 12. Mary anointing Jesus has such powerful, rich significance. Not only is this an act in preparation of Jesus’ burial. Not only was she living out Christ’s own namesake—to be a messiah means to be anointed.
The story also reveals how we are to worship Christ, just as Mary did. Once that nard or alabaster fell out of the container, it was gone. This is such a powerful example of faith, where we know Christ to be Lord of all, and we offer our best to him. Let’s follow Mary’s powerful example from John 12. Give yourself to God eagerly and wholeheartedly!