For centuries under the Law of Moses, worshippers had sought to please God with sacrifices and burnt offerings. Though these things were commanded by God, they just didn’t work out. Isaiah the prophet wrote, “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me,” says the Lord. . . When you come to appear before me, who has required this from your hand to trample my courts? Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they are a trouble to me, I am weary of bearing them” (Isaiah 1:11-14).
Repeated trips to the altar with animal carcasses didn’t have the desired effect. The people kept coming but the prophets kept telling people that God (Yahweh) hated their offerings.
The Lord himself had commanded those offerings. Why did he no longer want them? Why did he despise the parade of animals being marched to the place of sacrifice?
They may have missed the scripture that says, “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and all thy soul” (Deuteronomy 10:12).
Lives had not been transformed. Redemptive communities had not been created. Outsiders mocked them and refused to be a part of Israel. All this was the opposite of what Abraham had done, for the scriptures said, “And Abraham believed in the Lord and it was counted (credited) to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). God made Israel (Jacob and his sons) a light to the nations and his own chosen people. They were destined by God to become the beating heart of an entire world living to the glory of God.
Israel had missed the key truth that Yahweh had always wanted their hearts and not their cattle, their bodies and not their burnt offerings. According to the writings of Hebrews “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). Paul refers to this in Romans 12:1-3 “I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service (spiritual worship). And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
Jesus Christ was called to be our Great High Priest. “For if the blood of bulls and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:13-14).
Jesus paid the debt he did not owe for a price we could not pay. Paul writes in summation, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God has set forth as a propitiation (atonement) by his blood, through faith, to demonstrate his righteousness . . . for by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous. . . So that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 3:23-25; 5:19-21).
It was a cold day in the early 1900’s. The one room school house took all who desired to learn through the ninth grade. The new schoolmaster was a scrawny sort and the older kids delighted in tormenting the teacher to distraction.
The new schoolmaster approached his first term in a unique way. “I want the students to make the rules”. This strange beginning appealed to the group and they began to shout out the rules to govern the student body. “Ain’t gonna be no cheating” one shouted. Another voiced, “Ain’t gonna be no stealing”, and one by one the rules were written on the faded blackboard. Each law had a penalty to be imposed without exception.
One day big Mike missed his lunch. The law clearly stated that the guilty party would get 10 lashes from the hated bull whip. Surface information convicted a youngster of eight as guilty. The boy was pitiful. He explained that he hadn’t eaten in two days but the law said “10 lashes without exception”. The boy’s tattered overcoat was removed and a thin shirt revealed an emaciated body. The teacher took the whip but had no heart to whip the boy. The law demanded and the integrity of the system was at stake. As she faced the shivering lad and drew back the whip, a strong voice called out, “Wait a minute teacher. I’ll take that whipping for that kid. Big Mike took the beating and the law was satisfied.
Isaiah said, “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him . . . when he made his soul an offering for sin . . . He saw the travail of his soul and he was satisfied.
Ah Grace, what a marvelous word.