5 Stories of Sacrifice in the Bible to Reflect on Lent this Season

5 Stories of Sacrifice in the Bible to Reflect on Lent this Season

No one likes to sacrifice. God understands this. The Son of God experienced it firsthand in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus knew the reward set before him, that his Father was good, and that the pain and suffering wouldn’t be in vain.

Yet still, Jesus struggled to submit to death willingly. He even asked if there was another way. But this was the way forward to greater reconciliation and joy. With that joy, he laid his life down for us.

God asks us to sacrifice, as well. In Christ, we participate in his sufferings (1 Peter 4:13). When we do, we also gain great reward. God isn’t a sadist. He isn’t asking us to be masochistic and enjoy pain. He offers an eternal weight of glory, which more than makes any sacrifice worth it (2 Corinthians 4:17).

During Lent, we willingly give up something like food or entertainment for 40 days before Easter. Beginning on Ash Wednesday, this is a time of prayer, fasting, and giving to the poor, preparing us for the celebration of the mighty work of God through Christ. As we choose to participate in Lent, we can look back at characters from Scripture to encourage us with hope.

Here are five stories of sacrifice in the Bible to reflect on Lent this season.

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Priscilla Du Preez

  • Painting of Abraham, stories of sacrifice for lent

    1. Abraham and Isaac

    One of the most famous stories of sacrifice is the account of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, Isaac, in Genesis 22. In this story, God tests Abraham’s faith by commanding him to offer Isaac as a burnt offering.

    Despite the command’s immense emotional and moral weight, Abraham faithfully prepares to carry it out. As they journey to the designated place, Isaac, unaware of the true purpose of their journey, asks his father about the sacrifice. Abraham responds with faith, declaring that God will provide the lamb for the offering.

    At the critical moment, as Abraham raises the knife to slay his son, an angel of the Lord intervenes, staying his hand. In Genesis 22:12, the angel says, “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” indicating that Abraham has proven his obedience and faithfulness to God. In place of Isaac, Abraham discovers a ram caught in a thicket, provided by God as a substitute sacrifice.

    This story serves as a testament to Abraham’s faith and foreshadows Jesus’s ultimate sacrifice. Hebrews even states Abraham believed God would raise Isaac from the dead.

    This Lent, let us examine our faith and willingness to surrender everything to God. God provides the sacrifice in Christ and whatever else we give him. We should choose to fast from something that matters to us, not something we don’t care about. In this, we have hope of God’s faithfulness to his promise.

    Further Reading: What Do We Learn about Abraham in the Bible?

    Photo Credit:©Getty/sedmak

  • passover meal on round seder plate eggs lamb unleavened bread, stories of sacrifice lent

    2. Moses and Passover

    The story of the Passover is described in Exodus. This pivotal event marked the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and serves as a powerful symbol of redemption and deliverance.

    In Exodus 12, God instructs Moses and Aaron to prepare for the final plague that will strike Egypt—the death of the firstborn. To protect their households from this judgment, the Israelites are commanded to sacrifice a lamb without blemish and apply its blood to the doorposts of their homes. This act of obedience demonstrates their faith in God’s promise of deliverance and serves as a symbol of their trust in his protection.

    The Passover lamb serves as a powerful foreshadowing of the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, who would become the ultimate Passover lamb, offering his life for the redemption of humanity. Just as the blood of the lamb protected the Israelites from the judgment of death, so too does the blood of Jesus provide salvation and deliverance from sin and death for all who believe.

    During Lent, reflecting on Passover invites us to contemplate the depth of God’s love and the sacrificial nature of redemption. It also reminds us of the importance of obedience and faith in God’s promises, even in the face of uncertainty and adversity.

    Further Reading: What Is Passover?

    Photo Credit:©Getty Images/Gulsen Ozcan 

  • Mosaic of Ruth in Jerusalem, stories of sacrifice lent

    3. Ruth and Naomi

    One of my favorite stories, Ruth and Naomi, offers a poignant example of sacrifice, loyalty, and redemption. Found in the Old Testament book of Ruth, this unfolds against hardship and loss, yet it ultimately illustrates the power of love and faithfulness.

    The story begins with Naomi, an Israelite woman who, along with her husband and two sons, moves to the land of Moab during a famine. Tragically, Naomi’s husband dies, followed by her two sons, leaving her destitute and bereft. Naomi encourages her daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah, to return to their families, but Ruth refuses, declaring her loyalty to Naomi and her God.

    Ruth’s commitment to Naomi leads her to make a sacrificial decision to remain with her and accompany her back to Bethlehem, Naomi’s homeland. Despite the uncertainty and challenges, Ruth demonstrates unwavering devotion and selflessness, embodying the essence of sacrificial love. Ruth’s character catches the eye of Boaz, a man whose fields she gleans as a widow and poor. Boaz shows kindness and generosity to Ruth, eventually marrying her and redeeming Naomi's family line. Through Ruth’s sacrifice and Boaz’s redemption, Naomi’s loss story is transformed into hope and restoration.

    For us, this Lent, the story of Ruth and Naomi, prompts reflection on sacrificial love, faithfulness, and redemption. God works through ordinary people, even broken ones, to bring about his redemptive plan. Let us also be challenged to love others with such faithfulness and self-sacrifice for redemption.

    Further Reading: What Is the Bible Story of Ruth and Naomi?

    Photo Credit:©Getty/ZvonimirAtleti

  • Samuel's mother Hanna praying for a child, stories of sacrifice for lent

    4. Hannah’s Prayer

    Found in 1 Samuel, the story of Hannah and her prayer to God for a child unfolds against a sad backdrop: barrenness and longing, yet it ultimately reveals the power of God’s provision and faithfulness.

    Hannah, one of two wives of Elkanah, longs for a child but is unable to conceive. Despite her anguish, Hannah fervently prays for a son, vowing that she will dedicate her child to his service if God grants her request. Hannah pours out her heart before the Lord, demonstrating profound faith and trust in his ability to fulfill her desires.

    God hears Hannah’s prayer and blesses her with a son, Samuel, meaning “heard by God.” True to her vow, Hannah dedicates Samuel to the Lord’s service, presenting him to Eli, the priest. Hannah fulfills her promise through this sacrifice and entrusts Samuel into God’s care.

    Samuel grows up to become a revered prophet and judge in Israel, playing a pivotal role in the nation’s history, a far bigger role than he would have had in Elkanah’s household.

    For Lent this season, Hanna’s prayer encourages us to submit our relationships and people to God’s plan. Whether our spouses or children, we can sacrifice our own plans for people and trust in God’s ability to lead and guide them to his redemptive purposes. We do this through prayer, knowing he hears our cries and works all things together for his purposes.

    Further Reading: Who Was Hannah in the Bible?

    Photo Credit: Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld via Wikimedia Commons

  • elijah and widow of zarephath, stories of sacrifice for lent

    5. Widow of Zarephath

    While the story might be more obscure for some people, the narrative of the widow of Zarephath and Elijah provides a fascinating story of sacrifice. Found in 1 Kings 17, this account unfolds amidst a severe drought and famine in Israel.

    The Lord directs Elijah, a prophet of God, to seek refuge with a widow in the town of Zarephath. When Elijah arrives, he encounters the widow gathering sticks to prepare a final meal for herself and her son, anticipating their imminent death due to famine and hunger. Despite her dire circumstances, the widow demonstrates remarkable hospitality and selflessness, offering to share her last meal with Elijah.

    In response to Elijah’s request, the widow’s sacrificial generosity is met with a miraculous provision. 1 Kings 17:14-16: “For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’ She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family.”

    When God asks us to sacrifice this Lent, we may feel we have nothing to give, but God is faithful to provide and answer our sacrificial giving and generosity. We must learn to trust God in our giving, knowing he is faithful in his promise to care for us.

    Further Reading: What Does the Bible Tell Us about the Widow of Zarephath?

    Photo Credit: Public domain (1712 print by Caspar Luyken) via Wikimedia Commons

  • season of lent graphic

    Why Should We Make Sacrifices this Lenten Season?

    While it is tempting to see sacrifice as legalism, there is more to it than we assume. Charles Stanley reflects on how obeying God, by sacrificing things or through following other commands, becomes an act of love that helps us spiritually grow:

    According to John 14:21, we express love for Jesus by obeying His commands. To love Him wholeheartedly, we must develop a lifestyle of obedience. Let’s look at four aspects of such a lifestyle.

    1. Our trust in the Father grows. This confidence comes from believing that the Lord is who Scripture says He is. And God’s Word tells us that He is good—as well as faithful to keep His promises (2 Corinthians 1:20). Psalms 86:15 calls Him merciful, gracious, loving, and slow to anger. His character remains unchanged by difficult or hard-to-understand circumstances (Hebrews 13:8).

    2. We develop a deepening ability to wait on the Lord. Delays can be hard in our I-want-it-now culture. But we must resist temptation and wait on Him instead of running ahead.

    3. We commit to obey God. Without such a resolve, we’ll vacillate at decision time or allow fear to prevent us from choosing His way.

    4. Our study of Scripture becomes consistent. The Bible reveals God’s priorities, commands, and warnings. It acts as a light, illuminating His chosen path for us while revealing obstacles and dangers along the way (Psalms 119:105). Without it, we are like a person who walks in the woods at night without a flashlight.

    Becoming a Christian doesn’t mean that obedience to the Lord is automatic. It’s a lifelong process of growing in our trust and patiently waiting on Him before we act. This requires a steadfast commitment to obey so that we can say no to ungodly choices and yes to God.

    Taken from “A Lifestyle of Obedience” by In Touch Ministries (used by permission).

    As we participate in Lent this season, let us choose ways to sacrifice, not out of obligation or religious duty, but love and hope in the promises of God. Our sacrifices and suffering in this life are temporary, yet the inheritance is eternal if done in the hope of Christ. When God asks us to give something to him, he has something even greater planned. The sacrifices we make appear to be losses, and they feel that way, but in reality, we receive a hundredfold in this life and the life to come (Matthew 19:29).

    Peace.

    Photo Credit:©GettyImages/Andry Djumantara

    Britt MooneyBritt Mooney lives and tells great stories. As an author of fiction and non -iction, he is passionate about teaching ministries and nonprofits the power of storytelling to inspire and spread truth. Mooney has a podcast called Kingdom Over Coffee and is a published author of We Were Reborn for This: The Jesus Model for Living Heaven on Earth as well as Say Yes: How God-Sized Dreams Take Flight.


    This article is part of our Books of the Bible Series featuring lessons, prayers, and facts about each book. We have compiled these articles to help you study the writings inspired by the Holy Spirit. May the information you learn strengthen your faith and encourage your soul.

    31 Days to Pray through the Book of Romans
    Why You Should Read the Book of Genesis
    28 Days to Pray through the Book of Ephesians
    6 Life Lessons from the Book of Esther
    How Should We View the Book of Revelation?