Why Old Testament Sacrifice?

Old Testament sacrifice. It’s neither pretty, nor appealing.

In the Old Testament, God asks for sacrifices and lays out meticulous demands. Why? Why were they part of God’s covenant relationship with the Israelites? In various ways; sacrifices are obnoxious, offensive and dreadful. To the modern world, sacrifices seem violent and brutal.

Why Sacrifices in the Old Testament?
Sacrifices were designed to teach impure and imperfect people how to live in a relationship with a totally perfect and absolutely Holy God. They helped people see the nature of their Creator God, and further illustrated the reverence, respect and honor due Him. Sacrifices provided atonement for the people’s sin, through substitution. It was a picture of what was to come- Jesus ultimate sacrifice (atonement) on the cross for all sin, past, present and future.

God Repetitively Decreed He Didn’t Need Sacrifices
God simply didn’t want them if they were not completed with sincerity and a contrite, repentant heart.

If God had to choose, he prefers a right heart:

Psalm 51:16-17
You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one.
You do not want a burnt offering.
The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

God informs us that it is an insult and an offense to bring sacrifices to Him with any kind of wrong heart:
Isaiah 1:13-14
Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts;
the incense of your offerings disgusts me!
As for your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath
and your special days for fasting—
they are all sinful and false.
I want no more of your pious meetings.
I hate your new moon celebrations and your annual festivals.
They are a burden to me. I cannot stand them!

To do so is hypocrisy, a sin God thoroughly hates. Jesus pronounced His strongest indictments against hypocrisy in Matthew 23, when he criticized the religious leaders of the day.

The Significance and Application for Christians Today
1. Jesus taught that sincerity and authenticity were God’s principal need in worship.
John 4:23-24
But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.
 
2. Sacrifices are a reminder that each of us contributes to the evil in our world. It demonstrates that something must be done… and we must do more than conveniently question why God allows sin. For if God were to remove all evil, none of us would continue existing!
 
3. God gave instructions for whenever sin was “unintentional” or “in ignorance”. This was because even when done in ignorance; sin still pollutes, poisons, and brings judgment. This thought runs contrary to modern rational.. the thinking today that sin does no harm when it’s between “consenting adults”. God called for sacrifice because sin’s destructive effect still poisons, defiles and hurts though done in ignorance (or unintentionally). These sins poisoned, defiled, and hurt the person, his family, society; indeed they hurt the very environment and the community as a whole. Any cries of blamelessness due to ignorance did nothing to stop or cancel the destructive effect of sin or halt its judgement. While sympathetic to a person being in ignorance, God in His wisdom knew all of this and provided guidelines to address it to protect His people.
 
 
Biblical Sacrifices Taught These and Many More Lessons.
Today, because of Jesus death and resurrection, we are asked to sacrifice in different ways- not for atonement- but rather to give up our lives for the sake of Christ. This is the new covenant. We sacrifice daily because of our love for Jesus and gratefulness for the grace we’ve been given. We sacrifice by giving up our rights, serving others, working to build His kingdom, denying our old nature and choosing God’s will and way.
 

God’s nature has not changed and never will. He is holy, and we are still impure and imperfect people. Thank you Father for Jesus! He is our sacrificial Lamb, and now we live in a new covenant with God!

 
May the Lord continue to teach us how to live in relationship with a totally perfect and absolutely holy God. Let our prayer be that our lives continue to give Him all the reverence, respect and honor due Him.
 
Author:
Pastor Liandro Arellano
Christ-Follower, Husband, Father, Grandfather and Retired Pastor at large

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