The Book of Hebrews tells us that without blood there is no atonement for sin (Hebrews 9:22). I have mentioned this to some who do not hold a high view of Jesus. More often than not one would quote a passage from the Hebrew Scriptures in an effort to show that if Hebrews 9:22 did not directly contradict the Torah, at least there were many exceptions to the rule. This, of course is not true. The Jews admit this in the Talmud Babylonia. As a sinner, I have forfeited my life through my transgressions. The Law of God (Torah) requires my life. Under the Old Covenant, the blood, which is the life of the animal, was shed as a substitute for the life of the sinner. I have found only one exception and that is Leviticus 5:11-13. We’ll take a look at this Scripture later, but first let’s look at the other exceptions to the rule, which are no exceptions at all, but those Scriptures are taken out of context by those who reject the teaching of the depravity of man and our need of a blood sacrifice (Savior).
Some believe that Hosea shows God accepts an offering for sin without the shedding of blood. This is not true and their understanding of this Scripture is not according its context. But, let’s take a look at it and find out what Hosea is really saying:
Hosea 14:1-2 JPS (14:2) Return, O Israel, unto the LORD thy God; for thou hast stumbled in thine iniquity. (2) (14:3) Take with you words, and return unto the LORD; say unto him: ‘Forgive all iniquity, and accept that which is good; so will we render for bullocks the offering of our lips.
Some understand the above Scripture to say that all we must do is offer our words to God for atonement. This is clearly an error according to the Law (Torah). Notice what the Scripture says. The prophet told the people to ask the LORD to first remove all their iniquity and secondly to accept that which is good.
What is that which is good? According to Leviticus 27 various vows were made to God concerning different animals. The one who made the vow was not permitted to exchange an animal that was bad with one that was good (i.e. exchange a blemished animal with an unblemished), otherwise both were holy. The point is, Hosea 14:2 does not excuse anyone from offering the blood sacrifice for a sin offering, but demands that that offering be unblemished. Then God’s people would complete the sin offering by offering praise to God as a thank offering.
The Israelites were bringing their animals for a sacrifice (Hosea 5:6), but God would not hear them. Why? It was because they merely wished to appease his wrath. They didn’t wish to draw near to him (Hosea 5:4) with their hearts. God is not someone that can be bribed – all the animals used for sacrifices were his (1Chronicles 29:14). How could we appease him with what we presume to be our wealth?
After offering “what was good” (the sin offering), they shall render “the calves of our lips” which is an offering of thanksgiving. Notice:
Psalms 69:30-31 JPS (69:31) I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving. (31) (69:32) And it shall please the LORD better than a bullock that hath horns and hoofs.
In the Torah the thank offering (Leviticus 7:11-15) was offered with the flesh of an animal (calf, lamb or goat). However, all of what Israel offered was really a gift given to them from the LORD (1Chronicles 29:14). If they truly wished to offer something of their own, all they could offer was their hearts. Therefore, as the Psalmist testifies, praising God in song and thanksgiving is better than offering an animal in thanksgiving. Nevertheless, this is by no means speaking of the sin offering. By its very nature a blood sacrifice must be something that was not the property of the sinner. The innocent life’s blood of the animal was offered in substitution for the guilty life of the sinner. The sinner may have owned the animal’s body, and the animal may have served its master, but the life cannot be owned by anyone but the one who had given it, i.e. God. Although it is sinful to take a human life, the animals were placed under the authority of man from the time of creation (Genesis 1:26-28). However, this is no excuse for cruelty; it is wrong to abuse any animal (Deuteronomy 25:4; Proverbs 12:10; cp. Genesis 33:13-14; Numbers 22:28-32), because the life itself is still God’s property even though they were created for the use of man.
Once the context is understood, one can clearly see that Hosea 14:1-2 does not excuse the sinner of offering a blood sacrifice for his sins. In fact, the reverse is true. Hosea 14:2 demands that the sin offering be unblemished. There is no such thing as atonement of one’s sins without blood, and if we remember that the pattern in the Temple reflected heavenly things, we should be able to understand that the animal sacrifices were not the reality, that is, they could not of themselves atone for sins of men. It was the heavenly Son of God who became man and became our atonement that is the reality to which all the sacrifices pointed. As we approach the day in which we commemorate the event of the crucifixion, let’s think upon these matters in gratitude for what Jesus has done for us.