Sin, Laws, and Sacrifice
We’ve been moving through CASKET EMPTY, and I don’t want us to lose sight of why we’re doing that. The whole idea of Casket Empty is to recognize God’s redemptive story throughout the Old Testament. Many have wondered did God create the world and then just leave it to run itself, and what we see throughout the Old Testament is the answer, “NO”. God remains active and God remains involved in Creation and the lives of his people.
The story and need for redemption all begins back in Creation when humankind was created in God’s image. Humankind was created to be a reflection of God - but instead Adam and Eve encouraged by the temptation of the serpent to be like God and ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Immediately their eyes were opened and they realized they were naked and exposed not only physically, cognitively, morally, but also spiritually.
Up until that time they were naked and not ashamed - there was no impure or God defying thought in their mind. They lived in total harmony with the rest of Creation and with their Creator. Now that their eyes were opened they were keenly aware that not every thing about them was holy, not everything about them was purely the image of God. In defying God they had separated themselves from God and each other. They had broken the harmony they enjoyed not only with the creation, but the Creator - and they were ashamed.
If we stop to think about it - there was at that point only ONE act that caused them not to be holy and the pure image of God - yet the realization leads to a cascading effect. They’re exposed not only to God, but to one another. In their shame they become afraid and hide.
And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”
This is the first mention of fear in Scripture. Prior to this the totality of the relationship between humankind and God had been one of love, and we know from John’s first pastoral letter:
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
Since that fateful chapter in Genesis 3 the toll of sin and death has increasingly been on display in the history of humankind and the creation. If anything, we can see that creativity has definitely been passed to humankind as the number of ways they create to defy God continues to grow.
The Books of Law, the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch are filled with laws in the way we are to be right before God. The basics are recorded in Exodus 20, vs. 1-17, and again in Deuteronomy 5:6-21.
You shall have no God’s before me...
You shall not make for yourself an idol...
3. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God...
4. Remember the Sabbath...
You’ll note all of these have to do with our relationship with God directly. The remaining 6 have to do with our relationship with one another.
5. Honor your Father and Mother...
6. You shall not murder.
7. You shall not commit adultery.
8. You shall not steal.
9. You shall not give false testimony...
10. You shall not covet...
Jesus, when asked by an expert in the Law, Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” responded with this:
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
This truly is a summary of ALL the Law (all 631 of them) and the teachings of the Prophets. Love God and treat yourself and others and God’s loved ones.
But how do we overcome the sin in our lives? In the Old Testament God set up a sacrificial system. God gives Moses specific instructions about various types of sacrifices that are to be offered for sin and impurity.
This sacrificial system is the means by which a sinful people can live in the midst of a holy God. Remember that God is residing with them in the Tabernacle at this point - right there in their midst.
In the opening chapters of Leviticus we are given 5 types of sacrifices:
Five types of sacrifices
Burnt offerings (Lev. 1)
Grain offerings (Lev. 2)
Fellowship or peace offerings (Lev. 3)
Sin/Purification offerings (Lev. 4)
Guilt offerings (Lev. 5)
Specific instructions are given regarding the type of animals and grain products to be used, the specific procedures to follow when the animal is being slaughtered (or when grain offerings are given), and special attention is given to the use of blood in the sacrificial procedure.
So, for instance regulations for sin offerings in Lev. 4 begin this way,
“Speak to the people of Israel, saying, If anyone sins unintentionally in any of the Lord’s commandments about things not to be done, and does any one of them,
and then regulations are given concerning various people who sin in this manner, such as a congregation, a leader, and a common person. The priest is to atone for the person who has commited such a sin, and forgiveness is thereby granted through the sacrificial system established by God.
It is important to note that these offerings and this sacrificial system primarily focus on sins committed inadvertently, though certain deliberate acts are also covered.
However there are a whole list of deliberate sins listed in Exodus and Leviticus that require the death penalty. These include: Adultery (Lev.20:10; Deut. 22:22); kidnapping another person (Exod. 21:16); sacrificing to another god other than the Lord (Exod 22:20); cursing God (Lev 24:10-16, 23), or cursing one’s father or mother (Lev. 20:9); and striking another person so that he dies (Exod. 21:23).
But the person who does anything with a high hand, whether he is native or a sojourner, reviles the Lord, and that person shall be cut off from among his people. Because he has despised the word of the Lord and has broken his commandment, that person shall be utterly cut off; his iniquity shall be on him.”
If anything becomes clear in these Laws it is that God takes sin seriously. His people must also.
Reading God’s Law it is clear our culture does not take his law seriously. As an example adultery is commonplace in our literature, in our movies, in our culture. And yet it required the death penalty by God’s Law. This sounds archaic, out of touch, over the top. I’m sure that adultery and all of these were not uncommon in the world in which Moses and the people of God lived. But these Laws are for God’s covenant people, these Laws are pointing Israel and through them, us, back to the holiness of God - back to the way we were created to live.
“While God surely forgives iniquity, he will by no means leave the guilty unpunished. God passes over the iniquity of his people for many years, yet we need to bear in mind that one day those sins will be taken into account at the cross when God’s wrath is poured out on Jesus.” ~ Carol Kaminski, Casket Empty.
This leads us to the Atonement.
The atonement was a yearly event in the life of Israel, when sacrifices were made for the whole nation. There were detailed instructions given to Moses and Aaron. How the ritual was to be performed, who was to perform it, and the circumstances under which it could be performed. The instructions were very detailed, and needed to be so that there would be no risk of death when approaching the Holy God.
At the center of the sacrificial system is the provision of blood for atonement.
For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.
The author of Hebrews would write centuries later:
Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.
In order for the high priest to make the atoning sacrifice he first had to be consecrated and clothed with elaborate garments, and he was not able to enter the holy place without blood - the blood of bulls and goats - which he would first offer for his own sin, and then for his household’s sin, and finally be able to offer for the sins of the people.
The Day of Atonement reminds us that even though God is dwelling with the Israelites in the tabernacle and later in the temple, access to God was still limited. Only the High Priest could enter beyond the veil, and only once a year.
This points us to the day of Atonement for us as well. We are reminded that though God provided a way for us to make sacrifices they only pointed the way to God. The blood of goats and bulls under the old covenant could never take away sins.
For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.
But Jesus blood is far better. It is because of His atoning sacrifice that our sin is dealt with and we are cleansed, so that we may enter his presence with confidence.
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
Our sin is evident.
God’s Law shines light on our sin and makes it clear to us.
God provided a sacrifice so that His people could move beyond their sin and be directed back to Him.
Jesus atoning sacrifice pays our sin debt once for all.
In closing, I want to encourage you all to read through the Levitical laws and especially about the atonement. The sacrificial system provided in the Old Testament clarifies why Jesus came and what it really is that Jesus did for us. I think it will give you a greater understanding of God
Leviticus 1-8 and 16
I want to encourage you all to read through the Levitical laws and especially about the atonement. The sacrificial system provided in the Old Testament clarifies why Jesus came and what it really is that Jesus did for us. I think it will give you a greater understanding of God’s abounding love, and it will bring to life all that happened as Jesus died on the cross. The veil was torn and our entry was granted.