There are times in the Bible when a person can miss the blessing of something because they don’t understand the purpose or point of God’s command. This is especially true when it comes to understanding why God had people do certain things in regards to their sin.
Many Christians today take for granted what God was trying to teach his people under the Old Testament. Some look at the Old Testament as old, and unworthy of study or care; but if a person misses why God had his people do certain things under the Old Covenant, they’ll never come to a fuller appreciation of what God has accomplished for us under the New Covenant of today! And there are very few places where this is more true than when it comes to the animal sacrifices found from Genesis to Malachi and right on into the gospels we read.
Let’s think about why God required what he required under the Old Testament, and how it can better help us understand the sacrifice that Jesus made on behalf of humanity when he established the New Covenant.
So the first question is, “Why did God have animals sacrificed?” If we’re not required to sacrifice them anymore, why were they ever sacrificed to begin with??? If God was going to send Jesus all along, then why didn’t he have people just say they were sorry and then forgive them when Jesus died? Why did God have people do something when it seems like it was useless in dealing with sin? Did God even care whether or not someone sacrificed an animal? If He did, then why did he say he didn’t sometimes? These are some of the issues and questions a person can have when they read about these things in the Old Testament and New Testament.
So did God really ask for, require and even command animal sacrifices? Contrary to what some try to teach, he sure did! When Adam and Eve sinned and they made fig-leaf bikinis, and God said that wouldn’t do, what did He give them? He gave them clothes to wear! Now, you don’t have to be a tanner to know that you can’t get an animal-hide outfit to wear without the animal losing its life. Right from the get go with sin, a sacrifice was made. From the garden, to Noah, to Abraham, to Moses and all throughout the history of the children of Israel you will find God requiring the sacrifice of animals for sin. There’s even a book called Leviticus that deals with the intricacies of how to properly deal with the sacrificing of burnt offerings, peace offerings, guilt offerings and sin offerings that God commanded.
But if God required the sacrifice of animals then why did he at times say he didn’t want them??? I mean there are multiple places in the Old Testament where God plainly says, “NO!!!” Read them for yourselves:
- “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?” Says the Lord. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs or goats.” Isaiah 1:11
- “For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” Hosea 6:6 (quoted by Jesus in Matthew 9:13, 12:7)
- “For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering.” Psalm 51:16
As if that’s not enough, the New Testament says this about sacrificing animals as well:
- “But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.” Hebrews 10:3-4
If this is true then what was the whole point of it all? The point has to do with the context that all these verses are given in. There was, and still is, a big lesson about sin and the human heart behind all that sacrificing that God called for! The majority of the time, God’s people in the past, like His people of today, were missing the whole point of worship, sacrifice and sin.
When blood gets spilt – God takes notice! He noticed Abel’s blood (Genesis 4:10). He warns all men to take notice (Genesis 9:6). Judgment was pronounced upon the scribes and Pharisees because of bloodshed (Matthew 23:34-35). Even when an animal dies, God takes notice (Matthew 10:29b). When an animal was killed or sacrificed, God commanded that the utmost respect be shown toward the blood (Leviticus 17).
Why does God take notice of every drop of blood that gets spilt? Because life is in the blood: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul’” (Leviticus 17:11). God called for the blood sacrifice of animals because He was teaching His people about the cost of sin. (more…)