I should start off wishing you all a Happy New Year for yesterday was the first day of Nisan (which used to be called Aviv) and is what God declared to be the first day of our year.
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We have come to the central book of the Torah. These first 5 chapters define the sacrificial system, starting with a description of the different types of sacrifice, followed by the specific procedures for the sins of an individual and for the sins of the community.
All that God has instructed us to do regarding sacrifice is not possible for us to do anymore, not since the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. The reason we had to do these sacrifices at the temple was because of God’s instructions, which were that we are not to sacrifice anywhere we want to, but only at the place where he puts his name (Deuteronomy 12:.13).
Each type of sacrifice, whether for sin, for guilt, for thanksgiving or the wholly burnt sacrifice is described in minute detail. God even accounts for those who cannot afford the required animal, allowing for them to substitute a different animal, one they can afford to give. This idea of being allowed to provide a substitute is something that will eventually provide for our salvation, many years later.
Every detail of how to perform the sacrifice is given in these chapters, but what I believe to be the most important part of the entire process is not explained.
The sacrifice is more, much more than just the spilling of blood. The physical actions we do, i.e. bringing the animal, killing it, dividing it up, splashing the blood and burning it on the altar are just physical things. We read throughout the Tanakh how these were being done but were, in many cases, unacceptable to God. In fact, through the prophet Amos God said that he hated the sacrifices and songs we made unto him (Amos 5:21-23), so if God wants us to perform these sacrifices, but in some cases, he says that he hates them, what was different? What was missing?
What was missing is something that is still missing today in many churches and synagogues: genuine repentance.
Let me share with you what I believe the sacrificial system should entail:
- We must sin. After all, if we do not sin, there is no need for a sacrifice to gain forgiveness, so for the sacrificial system to work, we need to sin (not that I suggest you should sin, only that this system is designed for when you sin);
- We must recognize and confess that we sinned. In today’s reading we are told that when we sin, whether or not we know it, we are still guilty. But to be forgiven, we must recognize that we did commit a sin. Too many people are taught that what God says is sin isn’t really sin anymore because the times have changed, or because all those laws were done away with by Yeshua. That is a total lie, but that topic is not something which we will be covering today;
- We must repent of our sin. This is probably the most essential part of the entire process because we can recognize and even confess that we sinned, but if we aren’t sorry we did it, then there can be no forgiveness, no matter what we do. It is repentance, more than anything else, which God is looking for from us. Not just that we are sorry we sinned, but that we are sorry we failed to do as God said we should. Repentance is not just feeling sorry we did wrong, but feeling sorry that we disobeyed God because in our hearts we should want to be obedient children. And, for the record, feeling sorry because you were caught does not count as being repentant;
- We must present a sacrifice. This step of the process was to be done with one of the prescribed animals but has been replaced by Yeshua. This is what is meant by the term “He died for our sins”; Yeshua’s sacrifice did not remove the sacrificial system or the laws that created it, but simply replaced the need to bring an animal to the temple in Jerusalem. This is one of the most misunderstood truths about what Yeshua did as our Messiah. Nothing of the Torah was removed or done away with, only the need to bring an animal to the temple when asking for forgiveness. Every step of the process I am describing here is still valid and necessary if one is to ask God to forgive their sins. And now, the last step is;
- We must ask for forgiveness. I know that seems to be an obvious step, but it is the one step that everything else before it leads up to. Forgiveness is available, and not only is God willing to forgive, but he desires to forgive. God wants every sinner to turn from his sin and live (Ezekiel 18:23), but forgiveness is NOT automatic. God will not automatically forgive us, so if you have been taught that because of Yeshua all your sins are always forgiven, you will be very unpleasantly surprised when you come before the Lord on Judgment Day. There is no such thing as once forgiven, always forgiven.
The truth is that God will always forgive us when we confess our sins, are genuinely repentant and ask for forgiveness by calling on the name of Yeshua, whose sacrifice was made as an eternal substitution for the animal we must bring to the temple.
Yeshua’s blood is the substitution for the blood of the sacrifice we are supposed to supply. It was never supposed to be our own blood, but the blood of an innocent. While the temple existed, that blood was supplied by a sacrificed animal and had to be performed for each and every sin we committed. Because of Yeshua, we do not have to bring an animal to the temple in Jerusalem.
That is why God sent the Messiah.
Throughout the Bible, we are told, over and over, that God knows our hearts and our minds, and whereas in today’s reading he outlines the physical steps of the sacrificial system, what really matters to him is not what we do, but why we do it.
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Until next time, L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!