In earlier blogs in this series I wrote about seeking to buy eternal life and the question of God wanting mercy in the place of blood sacrifice. Before concluding this series, I think I should discuss two Scriptures having to do with these two subjects. They have been used on the discussion boards in efforts to show God doesn’t desire a blood sacrifice as Hebrews 9:22 claims is the usual case. It seems that people with a low view of Jesus (i.e.people who believe he was merely a man) are compelled to prove that his sacrifice upon the cross couldn’t have obtained atonement for all of mankind. If it did, perhaps they would have to reconsider who he really is. The idea that Jesus is God, and that God became man to dwell with us in order to show us how to live, and then to die in order to save us from death, this idea frightens people. Why? Because, really believing it would mean one would have to change the manner in which he lives. So, they go about seeking to prove Jesus’ life from a Christian point of view was unnecessary.
Numbers 31:50 KJV We have therefore brought an oblation for the LORD, what every man hath gotten, of jewels of gold, chains, and bracelets, rings, earrings, and tablets, to make an atonement for our souls before the LORD.
The first clue that this verse is taken out of context is the words “We have THEREFORE…” Whenever the word therefore is used in a phrase of Scripture, it obviously points back to a reason for whatever takes place after the word. This case is no different. The men went to war against the Midianites and Balaam. When the leaders of Israel counted the men who returned from battle, they realized that not a single man was lost (Numbers 31:49)! They knew from this that God had protected them. This army was sanctified by the LORD to avenge his name upon those who sought to bribe him, as though he were a man subject to evil desire.
The offering made was not a sin offering, but was an offering to express their acknowledgement that God protected them from death. The gold was an offering to redeem the men who should have been killed. It was atonement money to buy back their souls. It had to do with being sanctified to the LORD. It had nothing to do with sin. Had they not done this, the men who were redeemed with the atonement money should have remained with the Tabernacle and continued to serve the Lord all their lives with the Levites.
Another Scripture used to deny the need of Jesus’ sacrifice, which is also in line with a theme used earlier in this series is Hosea 6:6. Some will try to excuse man’s debt through sin by saying that God really didn’t want a sacrifice to begin with, and they’ll quote Hosea to prove their case:
Hosea 6:6 KJV For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.
This really has nothing to do with the sin offering. In essence, what God is saying is he would rather us not sin at all. He doesn’t derive any pleasure from the sacrifices at the altar. They are commanded because of sin, but the LORD doesn’t take pleasure in the sacrifices themselves. It is because men thought God took pleasure in blood that they began to sacrifice their own children (cp. Micah 6:6-7). God’s pleasure is not the point of the blood sacrifice. Notice what the Scriptures say:
Ezekiel 18:21-23 JPS But if the wicked turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all My statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. (22) None of his transgressions that he hath committed shall be remembered against him; for his righteousness that he hath done he shall live. (23) Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD; and not rather that he should return from his ways, and live?
God takes no pleasure in the punishment of the wicked (cp. Ezekiel 18:32; 33:11). He desires rather that they turn from their ways and obey him. Obedience (“keep all My statutes, and do that which is right) includes bringing a blood offering for his sin.
Malachi 1:10 JPS Oh that there were even one among you that would shut the doors, that ye might not kindle fire on Mine altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, saith the LORD of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand.
When God does not delight in his people, the offerings mean nothing to him. He is not someone who can be paid off with a bribe. We cannot get him to do our will by filling the altar with rivers of blood. He looks upon our hearts, and when he is pleased with our hearts, he accepts our sacrifices. Therefore, Hosea 6:6 does not do away with the blood sacrifice. What the Scripture implies is that God desires a heart that is toward him before he will accept a sacrifice at that one’s hands. What Malachi shows is that the men wouldn’t even open the gates of the Temple for free. Everything was for a price, including lighting the fire in the altar of incense. The Lord mourned over the condition of the hearts of his people. His word in Hosea 6:6 has absolutely nothing to do with doing away with the blood sacrifice.
Jesus quoted Hosea 6:6 at least twice during his ministry (Matthew 9:13; 12:7). Both times the religious crowd were intent on perfect personal behavior before God, but showed no compassion for those who did not know God. The whole point of animal sacrifice was God’s mercy for the guilty. If, by our religious practice, we show no mercy to the sinner, what is the point of our religious life? Only when we are merciful ourselves is our religious life of any consequence to God. To use Hosea 6:6 to declare a blood offering is unnecessary is to miss the point of the word of God.
As we reflect upon Jesus this week and what he has done for us, recall the real NEED that mankind has for a Savior. God’s use of the Old Testament’s sacrificial system was for a reason. It was a discipline to show man is unable to atone for his guilt through anything he is able to do. The atonement comes through the shedding of the blood and the death of an innocent substitution. The ceremonial sacrifices pointed to a Reality that took place much later. Today, we look back over nearly 2000 years and recognize that Reality in the sacrifice of Jesus, God’s own Son, upon the cross. He did in his sacrifice of himself what all the animal sacrifices were powerless to do but pointed toward. May God glorify himself anew in his people today and draw into a relationship with him all those who have such a difficult time seeing the need of Jesus in their lives.