Wednesday: Sacrifices as Part of Worship
Read Nehemiah 12:43. What was special about offering “great sacrifices” as part of their worship celebration?
Sacrifices were the most essential aspect of worship during the time of the temple. Several different sacrifices were used, either for the promise of forgiveness or to express the joy of fellowship and gratitude to God. Sacrifices provided the substance for worship, as they reminded the worshipers of the truth of God and who He is, and pointed to the Promised Seed, the Messiah, who would sacrifice His life for them, because He is the Lamb of God.
Read John 1:29, John 1:36; 1 Corinthians 5:7; and Revelation 5:6, Rev. 5:12-13. What do they teach us about what the sacrifices ultimately pointed to? If the ancient Israelites could rejoice over a dead farm animal, a death that could reveal only so much truth, how much more reason do we have to rejoice than they had?
Notice, too, how many times the idea of joy and rejoicing appears in Nehemiah 12:43 alone. That is, amid the reverence, and perhaps the godly fear that the people experienced in their worship service (after all, the killing of an animal for their sins was a solemn thing), there was joy and rejoicing, as well. When we approach God, it must be in awe and reverence, as well as with rejoicing. Psalm 95 demonstrates that a true act of adoration involves a summons to sing, shout joyfully, and make music to celebrate God (Ps. 95:1) as well as to bow down and kneel before the Lord (Ps. 95:6). Striving to achieve a balance between joy and reverence is crucial for adoring, praising, and worshiping our Creator.
|When we think that, at the cross, the Creator of all that is created (see John 1:1-3) hung there, dying for the sins of His creation, what emotion do we first experience? What role can, and should, joy also play in our experience of the Cross?|
Personally I find the idea of the sacrificial system totally repugnant. Last night I read several chapters of Leviticus to see if I could get my head around the original instructions. I have still got a fair bit to sort out in my mind but a couple of things are pretty clear.
1) It was expensive. Bulls and Rams are not cheap. It is a long time since I lived on a dairy farm but even back then ordinary cattle sold for about 2 weeks wages. A breeding bull was worth a lot more. (My grandfather once spent a years wages on a bull)
2) Sacrifices were bloody. There was a a lot of blood involved. Some of it was sprinkled around in the temple (That gives real meaning to the idea of Cleansing of the Sanctuary.) The rest of it had to be disposed of somehow.
I grew up on a farm and occasionally we had to kill a sick animal. Back in those days, sheep were killed by cutting their throats with a sharp knife. I asked my Dad why he did not shoot them with the rifle; so the next time we had a sheep that had to be dispatched Dad took the rifle and tried to shoot the sheep, after nine shots he cut the sheep's throat. (I don't think my Dad was a very good shot) The point is, that I have seen sheep killed in the same way that you would have to kill a sacrificial animal in the temple. It is not pretty, and blood goes everywhere. And on top of that, I would often throw up from the stress of it all. Out in the paddock that does not matter so much, but in the temple it would make a big mess - and that is just one lamb/bull.
Can you imagine what it would have been like on special days were thousands of animals were sacrificed. Read the description of the dedication of Solomon's temple to get some idea of the scale of the death and destruction. The post exilic temple may not have had quite such a grand ceremony but it would have at least put an economic strain on a largely agrarian society. The Temple was effectively an abattoir - a placed designed for the killing of animals.
There is another side to this scene that we often forget. Not all the sacrificial animals were completely burned. Some of the flesh was to be eaten by the priests and levites, and some by the people themselves. One writer, in describing the temple services said that He saw the temple services as like a big barbecue, with the savoury smell of roasting meat encouraging people to come and eat.
I have spoken to Jews about the sacrificial system and asked them what they believed. The answer was straight forward: We have sinned and we need to pay for our sins by sacrificing at animal. Once we have made the sacrifice and our sins have been forgiven we can rejoice and by happy. I asked if they thought that it pointed towards the Messiah, and they responded that it did not. It is interesting that after the destruction of the Temple in 70AD there had never been a significant attempt to restore the sacrificial system.
I mention all of this because we often view the sacrificial system through very sanitised Christian eyes. We colour much of our perception of the sacrifices though the eyes of Isaiah. That is not wrong. In fact that is the way that Jesus would have us view it. But we lose something of the meaning if we do not also new it through Jewish eyes. And, I have to add, that my experience as a farmer, having to kill sheep and see their life blood pumping out on the green New Zealand pastures has give me just a little insight into what sacrifice means.
By the way, Leviticus provided a vegan option for the poor.
Excellent discussion Maurice. Thank you. I have studied the Temple, it’s structure, services and read many books by Jewish scholars. I have always been puzzled by the inability or unwillingness for the post 70AD to present Jew to recognize the type/antitype connection. I would think/hope that at the end of the age, many of them will accept in Christ, that type met anti-type. After all, in is Judeo-Christian beliefs and values that has given us the basis for our modern western world.
In the upper room everyone is busy talking.
No one wanted to address the obvious.
Who would take the mantle and the towel?
Who would serve?
Questions asked in the consciousness is hushed because no one wanted to be first in sacrificing self.
Jesus watching the disciples does not blame rather see the effects of sin.
Selfishness cannot be eradicated by education.
Jesus quietly walks over and picks up the pitcher, bowl and girds himself with the towel.
Sudden silence fills the air in the upper room.
Each one of the disciples thinks to himself, I should have done that to demonstrate my humbleness. Even now they did not learn true humbleness.
Jesus knowing the sacrifice of the lamb is at hand prepares the disciples to enter into the eternal binding with himself.
No longer the sacrifice at Jerusalem will be required to take away the sin of the world. The true Passover lamb will be slain at Golgotha.
He who was one with God willing to be separated eternally from the Father voluntarily took on humanity He will forever retain.
What is our sacrifice when compared to Him?
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, creator and redeemer of mankind, let my body be a living sacrifice for you.
In Genesis, just after sin entered the world we see killing of animal came in existence. The sacrifice that was ordained by God was not just killing of animals, but those sacrifices pointed them forward to the Lamb of God which will come and take away the sins of the world.
Every morning and evening a lamb of a year old was burned upon the altar, with its appropriate meat offering, thus symbolizing the daily consecration of the nation to Jehovah, and their constant dependence upon the atoning blood of Christ. God expressly directed that every offering presented for the service of the sanctuary should be “without blemish.” Exodus 12:5. The priests were to examine all animals brought as a sacrifice, and were to reject every one in which a defect was discovered. Only an offering “without blemish” could be a symbol of His perfect purity who was to offer Himself as “a lamb without blemish and without spot.” (PP 352)
Paul writing in Romans 12:1-2 encouraged us to present our bodies a living sacrifice to God. Those who love Him with all the heart, will desire to give Him the best service of the life, and they will be constantly seeking to bring every power of their being into harmony with the laws that will promote their ability to do His will. (PP 352)
Every morning and evening we as Christians must daily concentrate and die to sin, then present ourselves to God as a living sacrifice. As we present ourselves a living sacrifice, we must constantly depend on his atoning blood.
Life is a constant struggle, the pull to the world and evil is everywhere. Satan is constantly enticing men and women to himself. It is only through our daily devotion to God we will gain the victory we need.
The grace of Christ is to control the temper and the voice. Its working will be seen in politeness and tender regard shown by brother for brother, in kind, encouraging words. An angel presence is in the home (church and everywhere). The life breathes a sweet perfume, which ascends to God as holy incense. Love is manifested in kindness, gentleness, forbearance, and long-suffering.
Sacrifice - the killing of a domesticated animal as an offering to the LORD. As Maurice pointed out some were 'eaten' by God, some by the priests and some by the people.
Why do we have a problem with the sacrificial system? Because of the killing of the animals? Because it was done in the temple area? Because it was a waste to kill them just to be burned? Because the poor animal had to suffer for human wrong doing?
In those days and even more these days millions of animals are killed for food. Does it make a difference because we don't see it happening, we just go to the shop and buy it all neatly packed in plastic? Does it make a difference because it was part of the religion? Don't we pray over our food and thank the LORD for providing it?
Burnt offerings - totally burnt up
Food offerings - handful burnt, the rest was food for priests
Sin offerings - priests to eat it
Clearly most of the offerings were in fact to feed the priests.
The blood of the animals was drained out and the fat, kidneys and liver were to be burned up, the people were not to eat these parts for health reasons.
Animals and produce sacrifices were actually only people taking part of their livelihood and giving it to the LORD and His priests, don't we do the same, we work, we earn and we return part of that to the LORD.
Today's lesson suggests a list of verses starting with John 1:29 and then asks what these verses teach us about who the sacrifices ultimately pointed to.
I would invite going a little deeper in our consideration of the sacrificial system as the 'object lesson' (teaching tool) that it appears to have been.
John 1:29 tells us that Jesus, as the Lamb of God, takes away the sin of the world. Notice that it says that Jesus takes away the sin of the world - not that He takes away the penalty of the sin of the world.
So what was the sacrifice that Jesus - as the metaphorical Lamb of God - made and how does it actually take away the sin of the world?
"A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal, But even the compassion of the wicked is cruel." Proverbs 12:10 (NASB)
This passage says that we should take care of animals and have regard for their lives. So does taking the life of the animal in the sacrifice make us wicked?
Ray, initially plants were given to man for food then after the flood animals, fish and birds were given for food so killing them can not make one wicked. We can still care for them even tho we use them for food. Interesting thought, if we decide to only eat plants all those animals would not be economical to keep, what would happen to them?
Interestingly, the sacrifices were beneficial to the giver, his family and neighbors,the officiating man and to God,no one person or set of persons had the right to enjoy the fruits of FORGIVENESS through the sacrificed lamb while the other folk went starving and begging! How sweet the light of the gospel
In John 1:29 I suggest the Greek word αἴρων (airōn) has a better meaning if interpreted ‘takes up (or bears)’ the sin. In this sense, He took the sin of everyone upon Himself and bore the guilt and punishment. This is not a mechanical discussion explaining the how of the sacrifice. It should be enough that God gives us this gift of salvation provided by the death of Jesus on the cross. He alone defines the act, and the Holy Spirit impresses the truth of it within us. A study of the Sanctuary would indicate that there is more than the sacrifice of a spotless, holy, innocent. I propose this is no mere killing of some farm animal (as Dr. Moskala implies in the lesson). God designed this as an incredibly holy act to represent Jesus and His ministry to rid the Universe of sin forever. It should alert us (as it should have to the Israelites) to the serious nature of sin and God’s incredible love by being both Just and Justifier. The Tabernacle items and the Ark speak of a greater purpose in which sanctification and judgment outline the plan of salvation in deeper terminology. Nadab and Abihu dismissed the incense as mere smoke. Let's not make a heavier mistake in reducing the Cross to a magic that simply vaporizes sin like some Harry Potter wand. Jesus did not die just to forgive us; He lives to rid sin from each of us.
In the beginning, when God instructed Adam & Eve to kill that very first lamb, it was to do 2 things. #1 it would help them to see the horror of sin. They had never seen death, and they certainly had never been the cause of it. #2 it pointed to Jesus death, it was to help them understand that a sinless being would pay the ultimate price for the choice they both had made.
Fast forward to Isaiah, where God told him He was sick of all the rivers of blood and killing of animals, what He wanted was a repentant people, obedient people. The sacrificial system was to bring the person who took that animals life, to their knees, asking God to change their lives. Sadly, like all the other ceremonies, the nation of Israel made that the means of salvation, instead of pointing them to our means of salvation.
In Canada, after working to deliberately destroy the culture and families of indigenous peoples for more than 150 years, we are finally coming to recognize the dehumanizing impact of this genocide on them and on us. There is a high human and financial cost to dysfunctional government policies based on simple-minded political ideology. I am amazed that many first nations people are as functional and forgiving as they are given what they have gone through.
I see the great controversy in a similar way. Satan has worked through deception, lies and force to destroy God’s children, and our Heavenly Father has worked to win us all back. It was on a Roman cross that the Love of God was lifted up for all to see. It does not matter how wrecked and wretched we are from the venom of the Serpent, if we fix our gaze on that love, we will live. (John 12:31-32; Numbers 21.)
The Father yearns more than anything to have his children back. He has proven his love for us over thousands of years. He will take us from wherever we are and bring us to his promised rest and love. All we have to do is focus on his love and will for our lives. He will take care of the rest. It all comes down to each person making a decision: “Whom will I worship?”
Getting caught up in religious forms and traditions will not heal us from Serpent’s venom or the sting of death. It is the Person, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, who will lead us to overcoming victory. Will we trust his leading?
“Come let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the Lord our God our maker.” (Psalm 95:6, MKJV.) Because he was humble enough to kneel at our feet and wash us clean with his own hands.