In the days of Moses, the process of correction of sins (atoning for them), was quite elaborate and generally involved sacrificing a specific kind of animal or animals (depending upon what the sin was). God was very demanding and He had a huge selection of sins which were not to be committed. If, however, a sin was either inadvertently or intentionally committed, offerings of animals could be brought to the priest who followed his instructions very carefully so that the sin or sins would be properly forgiven by God. As an example, read the following regarding two birds that were required for the atonement of sins.
Lev 5:8 He shall bring them to the priest, who shall offer the one for the sin offering first, and wring its head from its neck, but shall not sever it;
Lev 5:9 And he shall sprinkle some of the blood of the sin offering on the side of the altar, and the rest of the blood shall be drained out at the base of the altar; it is a sin offering.
Lev 5:10 And he shall prepare the second bird for a burnt offering, according to the ordinance; and the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin which he has committed, and he shall be forgiven. (Amp)
With the coming of the Messiah, our Lord and Savior, Jesus, all these old, highly specific sacrificial ceremonies involving animals and their blood, were no longer needed for our atonement for our sins. Jesus, Himself, became the sacrificial lamb as He shed His blood on the cross for all of our sins. Now, instead of us going to a priest and confessing our sins to him, we can go to Jesus in prayer, confess our sins to Him and be totally forgiven.
In the days of Moses, there was another way to handle all of the sins that were committed by the people that is discussed in Chapter 16 of Leviticus. Here we learn of the first scapegoat. A goat was saddled with all the sins of the people and, following a very specific ceremony, sent driven into the woods, never to return.
Lev 16:21 And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat and confess over him all the iniquities of the Israelites and all their transgressions, all their sins; and he shall put them upon the head of the goat [the sin-bearer], and send him away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is timely (ready, fit).
Lev 16:22 The goat shall bear upon himself all their iniquities, carrying them to a land cut off (a land of forgetfulness and separation, not inhabited)! And the man leading it shall let the goat go in the wilderness. [Psalms 103:12; Isaiah 53:11, 12; John 1:29]
Lev 16:23 Aaron shall come into the Tent of Meeting and put off the linen garments which he put on when he went into the Holy of Holies, and leave them there;
Lev 16:24 And he shall bathe his body with water in a sacred place and put on his garments, and come forth and offer his burnt offering and that of the people, and make atonement for himself and for them. (Amp)
Initially there were only Ten Commandments given by God to Moses on the stone tablets but, after much thought, those Ten Commandments turned into hundreds of specific rules and regulations that had to be followed. If they weren't followed, then it was a sin and restitution needed to be paid to God for forgiveness of those sins.
Move ahead many years to the time of Jesus. The Pharisees and Scribes became knowledgeable of all these laws derived from the Ten Commandments. They enjoyed and gloated in the respect people gave them because of their knowledge. Jesus saw through their arrogance and confronted them many times about it while He was teaching on earth. Jesus, a Jew Himself, told of simpler rules like “love your neighbors” and He told of and demonstrated the immense love God has for us, and that we were to have for each other. He told us that if we saw Him, we were looking at the Father. So God had become human in the person of Jesus Christ. He was no longer the solemn-faced, easily angered God presented by the priests. Jesus became our shepherd and we, His sheep. We could follow Him and He would lead us to a kingdom not of this world. A place of eternal life. A place unlike the earth in that it had no death, ever, and our joy would be unceasing, and real.
Jesus was the Christ. He was God on earth. After He gave us His commandments, which really fulfilled the law and prophesies of the Old Testament, He went to the cross and was put to death. He became the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. His blood replaced the animal's blood of the Old Testament for all time. When He shouted from the cross with His dying words, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” He took on His back all our sins and, after His death, three days later, when God restored His life, we, too, were restored to life and given a new avenue of communication with God.
Now that we're saved, we can look at this carnal world, this fallen world with different eyes. We need no longer feel trapped in the suffering and sin that goes on all around us. We need no longer feel abused or tortured by the lost in this world because of our promise of another world that will be filled with peace and last for an eternity.
We no longer desire to respond from the flesh when others heap their emotional garbage on top of us because we would prefer to respond as Christ would, with love, not anger. When it comes to the hatred and spite that others feel driven to divvy out to us, we no longer need to look for a goat to take all the sins away out into the woods somewhere. Jesus died for all sins for all God's children everywhere. There are no exceptions. No goat is needed. No animal sacrifice is needed. And, above all, no more human sacrifices are needed. Jesus died for us all.
Jesus died for those who have given their lives to Him and who believe in Him. But Jesus also died for those who are not aware of His tremendous love for them and His wonderful sacrifice for them. In other words, Jesus died for those who would spitefully use us, be angry with us, and be unfair to us. Can we believe this? Is it possible for us to understand that when people act out their anger and hostility and contempt at us, it really isn't personal? They are just like Paul, before Damascus, that's all.
We must respond to people's unfairness, to their anger, to their aggression and insensitivity with unconditional love. This love cannot be conjured up by us. We cannot produce such a love. We must be willing vehicles through which God's love can come through. We cannot do this on our own. But, thank God, through Christ all things are possible and what we pray believing, will come true.
Because of Christ's sacrifice on the cross, and His resurrection to eternal life, we can follow Christ by taking on the sins that are being handed to us, forgive them, and understand (by faith) that God will raise us up from the death we are experiencing. In this way and this way only, do the people who have cursed us and bullied us and undermined us and cheated us, learn that what they did to us has no effect. They see, in us, the risen Christ. They see, in us, that God wins and they can win, too, by following us. It is that simple.
Praise God for the end of sacrifice. Praise God for allowing His only begotten Son to shed His blood on the cross for us. Praise God for our eternal salvation given to us, not just for the future, but for now as we allow Christ to draw all men unto Him through us. Thanks be to God for the Christians who are willing to take the slings and arrows cast at them in loving response and show the world what it means to be a Christian.
What an awesome God who gave us His Son on the cross for our eternal salvation and His teachings and demonstrations for our present salvation. Gratitude floods my soul. Sitting on my prayer couch, eyes closed, knowing the truth of God's amazing love for us, of God's incredible, healing compassion he has for us, knowing that He dwells in me and I am to be of good cheer because He overcame the world. I know I can rest in the knowledge that, through Him, and Him only, I do not need to despair. I, too, through Christ, can overcome the world.
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