We conclude our series on sacrifices with a very eye opening look at the evidence in scripture that reveal God's attitude toward sacrifices. We discover that the whole sacrificial system was not God's plan but simply God's way of relating to us in a way we could understand. He did not want their sacrifices. We thought He did, and so we have built a whole theology around why Jesus came that fit that view but discover it was incorrect. Jesus came to love us and serve us. He did not come to die. In fact, we are the ones that killed Him in such a violent way as He was intent on loving us. He did not need to die in order for God to forgive us. He loved us and we killed us as he was trying to communicate to us that we were already forgiven. What an amazing picture of God Jesus reveals to us.
Sacrifices in Israel Part Three
Every animal sacrifice included special treatment of the animal’s blood, which various biblical passages identify with the life force of the animal (see, for example, Genesis 9:4, Deuteronomy 12:23). Despite the importance of this ritual use of blood, only one passage in the entire Hebrew Bible appears to explain its significance (Leviticus 17:10-16 the life is in the blood). This debated but crucial verse concerns life, not death; animal life on the altar preserves and enhances human life.
Hebrews 10:8-10 Indicates that all the above sacrifices were inadequate to deal with the sin problem.
8 First, Christ said, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings or burnt offerings or other offerings for sin, nor were you pleased with them” (though they are required by the law of Moses). 9 Then he said, “Look, I have come to doyour will.” He cancels the first covenant in order to put the second into effect. 10 For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.
Sacrifices and Continuity.
It is unlikely that Joseph offered sacrifices in Egypt yet he has a meaningful relationship with God.
The Israelites had not sacrificed while they were slaves in Egypt. Moses gives Pharaoh the reason for the Israelites to go to the wilderness as the need to worship with sacrifices (Exodus 5:1-3). Pharaoh understood this reason (Exodus 8:8).
The first half of Leviticus is concerned with impurity and we would hardly call these sins today but significant blood is required to deal with these problems. The second half of Leviticus details many sins that require the death penalty. It is unlikely that the perpetrators would come to the sanctuary to confess these sins so they could then be executed. The sanctuary tent was located in Shiloh in the Promised Land for 300 years and does not seem to have played the prominent role the temple would later play in dealing with sin by animal sacrifices.
King David was big on sacrifices when moving the ark but he does not seem to have sacrificed to be reconciled to Godafter his sin with Bathsheba (Psalms 40:6; 51:16-17). 16 You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. 17 The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.During the Babylonian exile there was no temple where the sacrificial rituals could be continued.
We have no record of Jesus offering sacrifices or sending anyone to offer a sacrifice. He did send people he had healed to get a certificate of cleanliness from the temple.
We also have no record of the disciples offering sacrifices.Sacrifices are not offered by Jews today. This is an anomaly since they do not believe Messiah has come. Muslims sacrifice when they go on the haj.
Did God desire Sacrifices?
After this brief history and description of the various sacrifices we have to acknowledge that there are loud voicesindicating that God did not want blood sacrifices. These voices are amplified in the later prophets. Here is evidence that some of the prophets, especially the later prophets understood that God did not want blood sacrifices of any kind.
1 Samuel 15:22 (NIV) But Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”
Samuel is ordering the importance of obedience above that of sacrifices. It is not fair to use this passage to exclude sacrifice.
Psalm 40:6 (NIV) Sacrifice and offering you did not desire—but my ears you have opened (but a body you have prepared for me~ Septuagint)—burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require.
This is a clear statement that God did not desire sacrifices and offerings. Sacrifices and offerings are used as synonyms here and in many other passages. This passage is quoted in Hebrews 10:8-10.
Psalm 50:9-13 (NIV) I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, 10 for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. 11 I know every bird in the mountains, and the insects in the fields are mine. 12 If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it. 13 Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats?
Verse 13 is a dogmatic statement about God’s relationship with sacrifices. He does not need them.
Psalm 51:16-17 (NIV) You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
Having composed this Psalm we also remember David sacrificed hundreds of animals as he moved the Ark of the Covenant from Obed-edom’s house to Jerusalem. Every six steps David sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf because Uzzah had been executed for touching the sacred symbol of God’s presence (2 Samuel 6). These sacrifices were “protection money” so none of his men were killed like Uzzah.
Isaiah 1:11-13 (NIV) “The multitude of your sacrifices—what are they to me?” says the LORD.“I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. 12 When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? 13 Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.
The context here is the hypocrisy of the worshippers. This passage cannot be used to dispense with sacrifices any more than it can be used to dispense with sacred convocations.
Jeremiah 6:20 (NIV) What do I care about incense from Sheba or sweet calamus from a distant land? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable; your sacrifices do not please me.”
Jeremiah 7:21-26 (NIV) “‘This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Go ahead, add your burnt offerings to your other sacrifices and eat the meat yourselves! 22 For when I brought your ancestors out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices, 23 but I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in obedience to all I command you,that it may go well with you. 24 But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. They went backward and not forward.25 From the time your ancestors left Egypt until now, day after day, again and again I sent you my servants the prophets—day in and day out. 26 But my people have not listened to me or even tried to hear. They have been stubborn and sinful—even worse than their ancestors. This passage is clear and strident in its message. God is not about the blood and flesh of clean animals. He is about life giving practices. Later Jesus will state, “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy but I am come to give you life, abundant life” (John 10:10). Blood sacrifice steals the animal’s life away by killing and destroying it. From the words of Jesus it would be impossible for God to ask for a death practice.
Hosea 6:6-8 (NIV) 6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings. 7 As at(like) Adam, they have broken the covenant; they were unfaithful to me there. 8 Gilead is a city of evildoers, stained with footprints of blood.
Hosea understands the priorities of God and these do not include blood.
Amos 5:21-26 (NLT) “I hate all your show and pretense—the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. 22 I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings. I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings. 23 Away with your noisy hymns of praise! I will not listen to the music of your harps. 24 Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living. 25 “Was it to me you were bringing sacrifices and offerings during the forty years in the wilderness, Israel? 26 No, you served your pagan gods—Sakkuth you king god and Kaiwan your star god—the images you made for yourselves.
Amos gets it. The sacrifices offered in the wilderness were to their pagan gods.
Micah 6:1-4, 6-8 (NLT) Listen to what the LORD is saying: “Stand up and state your case against me. Let the mountains and hills be called to witness your complaints. 2 And now, O mountains, listen to the LORD’s complaint! He has a case against his people. He will bring charges against Israel. 3 “O my people, what have I done to you? What have I done to make you tired of me? Answer me! 4 For I brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from slavery. I sent Moses, Aaron, and Miriam to help you. 6 What can we bring to the LORD? Should we bring him burnt offerings? Should we bow before God Most High with offerings of yearling calves? 7 Should we offer him thousands of rams and ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Should we sacrifice our firstborn children to pay for our sins? 8 No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah understands that God is not wanting animal blood and flesh but justice, mercy and humility.
Matthew 9:13 Jesus: “I want you to show mercy not offer sacrifices.” (Quoting Hosea 6:6)
John 1:29-36 The lamb of God, was given to us, and we decided to sacrifice him. God’s lamb’s blood was meant to change our minds. Not God’s mind. The spilt blood of Jesus is what God experiences in Christ as God communicates his forgiveness to us.
John 17:19 I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so that they can be made holy by your truth. Sacrifice and burnt offerings you did not desire. You gave me a body . . .
Hebrews 10:8-10 NLT
8 First, Christ said, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings or burnt offerings or other offerings for sin, nor were you pleased with them” (though they are required by the law of Moses). 9 Then he said, “Look, I have come to do your will.” He cancels the first covenant in order to put the second into effect. 10 For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time. (Quoting Psalms 40:6)
Some feel that the voices which decry sacrifices are objecting to the abuse of the sacrifices at the expense of moral development. This could be, but the voices are so strident it seems that the whole idea of sacrifices is being called into question. It is important to notice that Jesus never sent anyone to offer a burnt offering at the temple. He did send them to get a certificate of healing. The rules given for sacrifices in Leviticus are imposed on God like a meat diet, divorce, slavery, the monarchy, going to war and so on. God gave regulations to minimize the harm these practices bring but this does not mean that he wanted any of these practises.
Humans made sacrifices hoping they would change God’s mind. Using this understanding God made his sacrifice bybecoming a human being forever so that he could change our minds. For every believer this holy sacrifice has accomplished its purpose. We now see God differently because of Jesus’ incarnation. We are no longer angry with God because we now know that God was never angry with us.
Ian Hartley, November 2021