Burnt offerings were once commonplace. Would God receive an offering made today on an altar from the vegetables, fruits and meats that a person produced in their garden or on their farm? If so, how should this offering be made so that it would be acceptable to God?
You are right in that burnt offerings were once commonplace. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob offered sacrifices on altars as a means of worshiping God. Burnt offerings were a part of the law governing the nation of Israel, along with many other types of offerings. There were thank offerings, peace offerings, sin offerings, offerings of the first fruits, burnt offerings, and whole burnt offerings. Each had a place, and had to be offered according to strict standards. These sacrifices were a vital part of the covenant God made with the Israelite nation.
However, the offering of these sacrifices did not assure the offerer of eternal salvation, only of temporal favor in the sight of the law. The author of Hebrews makes this limitation clear:
“The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming–not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship…because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am–it is written about me in the scroll–I have come to do your will O God’.
First he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them’ (although the law required them to be made) …. Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sin” (Heb. 10:1, 4-8, 11, NIV).
The sacrifices were in reality a lesson in obedience. God wanted the spirit willing, and the heart right, and the will set to obey. The offering itself meant nothing to the Almighty. Said the Psalmist,
“I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills” (Ps. 50:9-10, NIV).
In the time of Isaiah, the people were offering sacrifices but God was not pleased. “‘The multitude of your sacrifices–what are they to me?’ says the Lord. ‘I have more than enough of burn offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats …. Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations–I cannot bear your evil assemblies. Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood” (Isa. 1:11, 13-15, NIV).
What did God want? “wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right!” (Isa. 1:16-17, NIV). Clearly God did not want the sacrifice, but the obedience, the willingness to sacrifice something of value in obedience to His command.
Could we please God today by offering a sacrifice? Not unless sacrificing was commanded, and there is no command to sacrifice physical offerings today. Rather, we are commanded to offer our bodies a “living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1). To set up our own law to obey, and then obey it, might be classified along with Jews, who set their own standards, of whom Paul wrote, “They are a law unto themselves,” and again, “Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness…I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge” (Rom. 10:3-2, NIV).
It is far easier to offer produce or the first fruits of our crops than to live a life dedicated and pleasing to God in all that we say and do. While the making of a physical offering might seem or feel meaningful from our side, if it is not commanded it would be meaningless to God, and might even be considered presumptuous, “vain oblation” as in Isaiah’s time.