Sunday, March 17, 2013

God's Desire for the Sacrifices

In our sanitized twenty-first century it is difficult to imagine a world of blood sacrifices. We prefer the clean worship of praise, prayer, song, and sermon. Yet, this has not always been the case. The ancient world's worship centered on blood sacrifice. Something deep down was ingrained in our human consciousness. Blood sacrifices would appease our gods, or so we believed. Yet, even the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob required blood sacrifice. The Tabernacle and the First and Second Temples were constructed with the sacrifices as the centerpoint of worship. However, with the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. the Jewish sacrificial system came to an end. Without the Temple the Jews were forbidden to sacrifice to God. Prayer became the substitution and "clean" worship became the norm. Now, the thought of blood sacrifice has become "disgusting" and aren't we glad that "stuff" is over and done with?

But what was God's opinion of blood sacrifice?

Although God had required blood sacrifice, a well known verse from Scripture in Isaiah is often used to demonstrate that God really never "wanted" the sacrificial system.

Isaiah 1:11 (KJV)
11 To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.

This verse seems to corroborate the idea that God had tired of the sacrifices. But the context of Isaiah chapter 1 speaks of Israel's rebellion of heart. Although, the people mechanically continued to offer their blood sacrifices, their hearts were far from God. They were involved in all kinds of sin, thinking that God would ignore their behavior and accept their sacrifices. 

Isaiah 1:4 (KJV)
4 Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.
Then, another verse that is commonly used to point out that the sacrifices never worked comes from Hebrews.

Hebrews 10:4 (KJV)
4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.

What is usually ignored is that the purpose of the sacrifices was not to take away sin. Hebrews is only confirming this.

Hebrews 9:13-14 (KJV)
13 For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh:
14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

This passage in Hebrews set up a comparison between the efficacy of the sacrifices and the greater efficacy of the blood of Yeshua. While the blood of bulls and goats would sanctify (make holy or set apart for God's use) and purify the flesh, how much more would the sacrifice of Yeshua purge sin? What this passage says is that the sacrifices did what they were designed to do!

So, is there any passage that tells us how God viewed the sacrifices? Let's go back to Isaiah.

Isaiah 43:22-26 (KJV)
22 But thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob; but thou hast been weary of me, O Israel.
23 Thou hast not brought me the small cattle of thy burnt offerings; neither hast thou honoured me with thy sacrifices. I have not caused thee to serve with an offering, nor wearied thee with incense.
24 Thou hast bought me no sweet cane with money, neither hast thou filled me with the fat of thy sacrifices: but thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities.
25 I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.
26 Put me in remembrance: let us plead together: declare thou, that thou mayest be justified.

Although God's people fulfilled the sacrifices without their hearts being right as shown in Isaiah 1, they also forgot about the sacrifices as shown in Isaiah 43. In both cases, God wanted the people's hearts. He didn't want mechanical ritual, but He did want to be honored with heart-felt gratitude and love demonstrated in the giving of the blood sacrifices. By giving God their hearts, verse 26 states that the people would be justified. The evidence of justification was the obedience of the sacrifices.

The reason for this discussion is not simply a look at the past. We still may appreciate that the blood sacrifices are not obligatory at the present time. However, in the Millennial Kingdom it appears that there will be blood sacrifices again. If the purpose of the sacrifices is for purification and sanctification in order to be in the presence of God almighty, those human beings alive at the time of the Millennial Kingdom will be in need of the sacrifices again. We find this in Ezekiel.

Ezekiel 43:27 (KJV)
27 And when these days are expired, it shall be, that upon the eighth day, and so forward, the priests shall make your burnt offerings upon the altar, and your peace offerings; and I will accept you, saith the Lord GOD.
If we think of the blood sacrifices as "disgusting," how likely are we to participate in them during the Millennial Kingdom? But if we want to experience the actual presence of the living God in the Temple we will have to follow what He commands. Are we willing to do whatever it takes?

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