It is a common teaching in Christianity that it was animal sacrifices performed in the temple that was the mode and method for “Jews” to be forgiven of their sins. As Christians, we would often ponder, “how do Jews think they are forgiven since they don’t have a temple anymore?” ” Have you ever subscribed to this belief? Is this really what is taught about forgiveness in the Old Testament or Tanakh (Hebrew scriptures)?
To my shame the answer was always as plain as the words on the page of the “Old Testament.” Here are just a few of the passages that declare YHVH’s plan for forgiveness of sins:
- 2 Chronicles 7:14 If my people who are called by my name (YHVH) will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land.
- Psalm 51 You do not delight in sacrifices or I would bring it, you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God you will not despise.
- Isaiah 1 – “I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats…stop doing wrong, learn to do right!…though your sins be as scarlet they shall be white as snow…”
Notice that the only mention of sacrifices in the above passages is in the context that, it is not the animal sacrifice that God takes pleasure in, but that God “hears” or takes pleasure in the soul who truly repents and seeks after Him.
Question to contemplate: If YHVH takes no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats…how could he take pleasure in the blood of his only begotten son Jesus? Christian, how do you explain that? Let me caution you not to regurgitate what you have been told, but to seek after OT scriptural validation.
But what About the Need for Justification?
If God says he will forgive on the basis of repentance – defined as turning away from our wicked ways and following his ways of humility, justice and mercy (Micah 6) – then is the doctrine of justification fact or opinion? The doctrine of justification, at least as I learned it from reformed teachers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, requires that God’s just wrath be satisfied by the pouring out of the blood of His only son. I was taught that only the blood of a God/man would do, because it had to be a totally unblemished sacrifice in everyway.
But, do the Hebrew scriptures support a need for legal justification to occur in the way the reformers teach it? Many would point back to the “legalism” of the sacrificial system. However, who said this was a “legal” system? Who planted that concept into the minds of Christians? Just as the mode and method of forgiveness of sin was as plain as the words on the pages of the Tanakh, so is the answer to the sacrificial system, what it is and what it is not.
Take some time and read and study Leviticus, not through “Jesus” eyes, but through the context and time in which it was written. Even a brief study concludes that it was not only animal sacrifices that God instituted with the Israelites…but there were fine flour offerings that were also accepted as sin offerings for those who could not afford one of the animals (Leviticus 5:11).
Question to contemplate: If fine flour could be used as a sin offering (i.e. no blood required for the forgiveness of sin) why would YHVH sacrifice His only son in a cruel punishment and death like Roman crucifixion?
So what was the sacrificial system all about? The video below explains more on the meaning and purpose of the temple sacrifices from a Jewish perspective.
Which leads me to my final question: How do YOU know which or who’s perspective is the correct perspective when it comes to Bible interpretation?