Who Really Kills the Sacrifice?

I was talking with someone about the sacrificial system yesterday, and the person I was talking with asked me why God wants to kill animals in order to forgive sin. I explained that sin can only be washed clean with blood and that blood has to come from an animal that was acceptable for sacrifice, without blemish (perfectly formed and innocent of sin.)

Hebrews 9:22  In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

Afterwards, I began to think about this a little more. In the Torah God tell us to kill an innocent animal as a sacrifice to absolve our sin, but is it then God who is having the animal killed? If the removal of sin can only be accomplished by the death of an innocent animal, then isn’t it really the sinner who is the cause of the animal’s death?

God tells us that blood is the way we cleanse ourselves of sin, but does it have to follow that it is God’s fault the animal has to die? Does God really want to have the animal killed?

That doesn’t seem to be so when you consider all the biblical admonitions to be kind and compassionate to animals:

Proverbs 12:10– A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal, But even the compassion of the wicked is cruel.

Deuteronomy 25:4You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.

Luke 14:5– And He said to them, “Which one of you will have a son or an ox fall into a well, and will not immediately pull him out on a Sabbath day?

Judaism places great stress on proper treatment of animals. Unnecessary cruelty to animals is strictly forbidden, and in many cases, animals are accorded the same sensitivity as human beings. Jacob, Moses, and David were all shepherds, people who cared for animals.  The Talmud specifically states that Moses was chosen for his mission because of his skill in caring for animals:  “The Holy One, Blessed Be He, said ‘Since you are merciful to the flock of a human being, you shall be the shepherd of My flock, Israel.'” Likewise Rebekah was chosen as a wife for Isaac because of her kindness to animals; when Abraham’s servant asked for water for himself, she volunteered to water his camels as well.

The Torah and the Talmud have many other specifications regarding the importance of caring for animals, and there are punishments for failure to do so. This leaves us to again question, with all this concern for proper and compassionate love of animals, why does God require that we kill them to remove the sin that we performed?

I don’t know; but I have an idea… wouldn’t you agree that we all seem to have a natural desire to care for and love animals? I believe that God did more than just tell us to care for the animals, I believe He gave us an innate desire to love them! To prove this, let me ask you if you own or have ever owned a pet?  Do you know people who have? I will bet that the vast majority either have had their own pet or know many people who have pets. We are created in the image of God, and I think part of that includes the love of all His creations. That is why I believe sacrifice of an innocent is necessary- it is designed to strike us to our very marrow with the horror of sin!

In other words, God isn’t really the one killing an animal- when we sin we are the reason an innocent animal has to be slaughtered! 

Our sin is the cause of the animal’s death- if we hadn’t sinned, the animal would have lived.

The lesson in this regulation for us is that sin isn’t something that affects just us, but it affects all around us. Your sin is like having a big pile of garbage in your back yard: even though the garbage is only in your yard, the stench of it permeates the entire neighborhood. Our sin isn’t just on us, but it affects those around us, especially our loved ones.

God loves all the creatures He created and doesn’t want to see any of them killed needlessly. Killing an animal to cleanse us of a sin we committed is a needless killing: yes, we need the blood to be forgiven of  our sin, but it is still a needless death because the animal did nothing to deserve being killed.

So, if someone should ever ask you why God wants to have animals killed, I would suggest you answer the same way I will from now on: it isn’t that God wants to have animals killed, it is because we are sinners that animals have to suffer. God doesn’t require the death of animals, sin does!

Let’s not be confused about something: the forgiveness we receive is spiritual, and will not stop us from suffering the consequences of the sin we committed while we are still in this world.

Finally, let’s take this one step further: because it is our fault animals had to die to remove our sins, then when Yeshua (Jesus) died to remove our sins, who really killed Him? Was it the Romans? The Jews? God, Himself, who could have saved Yeshua from death? The answer to the question, “Who really killed Yeshua?” is- I DID! YOU DID! WE ALL DID! Yeshua died because sin existed in all of us and we needed an innocent life to be sacrificed so that we wouldn’t have to suffer the eternal (spiritual) consequences of our sins. Yeshua, the Messiah, was the only innocent that could do that: then, now, and continually until all things have come to pass and we are living in the Olam Haba (World to Come) together.

Sin is more horrible than we want to realize. It causes innocent lives to be lost, and it is, in my opinion, a cowardly act because when we sin we know that some poor innocent will suffer on our behalf, just so that we can escape the fate we really deserve.

To sin is to commit murder- remember that the next time you feel tempted to do something you know you shouldn’t.

Will we ever learn?

I just read Psalm 78, by Asaf, which is titled as a “Maskil.” From what I have seen, the difference between a psalm and a maskil is that a maskil is a psalm that may have a specific message, other than praise for God. This particular maskil is a reminder of the many ways in which God provided for his people, Israel, despite how they constantly demonstrated faithlessness and a rebellious attitude, which resulted in them being punished.

Fortunately for us (and I mean everyone, not just Believers, Jews or even Americans- I mean everyone in the world), God is a forgiving God, so much so that even in His righteous anger and punishment He is merciful. The fact that we are all still here is proof of that! And when He punishes, it isn’t like when a human punishes, which is (most of the time) from anger and frustration born out of pridefulness (“You didn’t do as I wanted”); no, that is not why God punishes us. When God punishes us, and we end up flat on our backs, it is so that we can only look up to see Him there, with His hand extended, waiting for us to take it so He can lift us back up onto our feet.

We have learned at least one thing- that God is forgiving. In fact, it seems (from history, including my own) that we count on His forgiveness because we keep sinning and rebelling. What would happen if, one day, God just decided, “Oy! Enough is enough! Youse guys have gone too far this time, so you’re on your own. Forever.” ? What would happen then?

I’ll tell you what will happen- there will be no hope for anyone, ever. I assume that without hope for eternal peace, there would be no more fear of eternal suffering- we will just live out our lives, with absolutely nothing else to look forward to, and then die. Our lives will be all we ever have, and when we die it will be as if we never existed. A meaningless past, no future, only the present. No blessings and hope, only random chance to count on; no one to depend on and nowhere to go for hope (you can’t count on humans), with nothing to do but get through it on your own.

Thank God that God will never allow that to happen. His promises are absolute, irrevocable and dependable. His faithfulness is eternal and never-ending; unlike ours, which is weak, unstable and transitory.

We need to learn one thing, if nothing else- God is dependable, and what God says will be, already is. God called Himself, “Ehyeh asher ehyeh“, which means “I am that I am”, or “I will be that which I will be”; what He is saying is that He, His name and everything about Him is undefinable in human terms and understanding. What He is, He was, and He will be. There is no timeline in God’s world- what was, what is and what will be already are.

Try to wrap your head around that one! Yikes!!

So, back to the lesson we need to learn, if nothing else- that God is dependable and what He says will be, already is. In other words, we always have time to ask forgiveness, and when we ask for forgiveness and really mean it (which is demonstrated by a change not only in our heart, but in our actions, too- the former without the latter is meaningless), we will be forgiven, even when we ask with our very last breath.

If you already know this lesson, you are ready to move on to the next level. If I put this in the terms most youth of today will understand, which does sort of jive with some ancient beliefs, as you do better and better, you move up a level (just like in video games); and, like in a video game, the higher the level, the more difficult it is to succeed at that level. The holier we become, the less likely we will fit into the regular world system, and the world will treat us more like an outcast than a member of society. That’s OK, believe me, because what the world offers is temporary and what God is preparing for us is eternal.

And infinite beats the heck out of finite, any day!

Parashah Shmot (the names) Exodus 1-6:1

We all know this story- the Pharaoh that was hundreds of years after Joseph was of a totally different people and enslaves the Israelites from fear of their size. All the male babies are to be killed, Moses is hidden then sent down the Nile by his mother who trusts in God to protect her son. He is found by a daughter of Pharaoh, raised for the first years of his life by his mother, then returned to the Princess to be adopted into the royal family. Years later, as an adult, Moses sees one of his countrymen being beaten by an Egyptian (his mother had taught him about the God of Israel and his heritage), loses it and kills the Egyptian, then runs for his life. He goes to Midian, marries and becomes a shepherd. Years later he sees the burning bush, and is told by God that he will be God’s spokesman in order to get Pharaoh to free the people.

NOTE: If you feel you don’t know what your calling from God is, just be patient: Moses was 80 years of age before he found out.

He goes back to Egypt, faces Pharaoh and declares to Pharaoh, “Let my people go.”

Pharaoh doesn’t take too well to this, and orders that the Israelites are to now make bricks without being provided the straw, so instead of going home at sundown to rest they had to glean the fields all night. That didn’t make them very happy at all, and the Parashah ends with Moses about to get stoned by the people for making their lives even more miserable than before he came to free them.

I want to take one little line, just a few words from this Parashah, and talk about them today. They are found in Chapter 3, verse 14, when God tells Moses His name. The exact translation is: Ehyeh asher ehyeh– I am that I am.

This seems to be a simple statement, but it is in reality, vast. Popeye the Sailor says, “I yam what I yam, and that’s all that I yam…”and in his case, his statement is simple. Popeye is his own man, he is a modest and simple person who doesn’t profess to be anything other than what we see.

However, when God says “I am that I am” He means that He is now what He is, He has always been what He is, and He will always be what He is. Popeye is Popeye only during his lifetime, but God is God, God has been God, and God will always be God- there is no timeline for God.

When we try to put a timeline on God we end up upset and disappointed with Him. But how can we ever expect God to be constrained to our parameters of time and space? He is beyond physics, He is beyond restrictions, He is beyond understanding.

I can count to a Million, but can I really understand what a Million is? I can know who God is, but can I understand Him? Not a chance. He is beyond human understanding; as such, we must trust in His knowledge and timing, and ability to do that which He says He will do. Such was the lesson Moses was learning when he first went to Pharaoh. He had the staff that turned into a snake and the hand-leprosy trick: to Moses that must have seemed like more than enough to get Pharaoh’s attention. When it failed, and failed miserably, I am sure Moses was having second thoughts. In fact, we read how he asks God, essentially, what’s the story? Why isn’t this working as you said it would?

That’s because God had more planned to happen then Moses was aware of, and God kept it that way. God told Moses what He was going to do, but didn’t spell out every step of the procedure. He didn’t need to because He is (after all) God, and Moses didn’t have a “Need to Know” at that time. Faith is walking in complete darkness and trusting God to tell you where to step. Moses needed to develop that level of trust, which is why (in my opinion) God took Moses step by step through the Plagues, telling Moses only that which he needed to know, and only when he needed to know it.

We should be walking as Moses did (once he caught on), trusting in God to tell us where to step and where to avoid stepping. Moses was the most blessed of people in that he got to speak with God, face-to-face, but what we have is the very next best thing- we have the in-dwelling Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit, to be our spiritual GPS, leading us in the way God wants us to walk. The hard part, for us, is to listen to it.

Well, maybe not for you, maybe you can hear and obey the Ruach, but I confess it is very hard for me to continually be led by the Spirit. Even my language is hard to control (we could do an entire year of lessons on the difficulty of controlling the tongue), so you can imagine how much more difficult is it for me to control my actions. I am happy to report that I am making progress, slow as molasses going uphill against the wind in February, but still, it is progress. Three steps forward and two steps backsliding is still one step closer to God, and that is all we can hope for- getting closer to God, day by day, step by step.

When you feel that God isn’t doing as you thought He should, or you are getting impatient waiting for a prayer to be fulfilled, remember that God is eternal and we are mortal- apples and oranges- and it is unfair to God (and to us) to expect that we will be able to understand what is happening in our lives as God directs us. Work on following God’s instructions, remembering and trusting in the fact that He is what He was, and He will always be that which He is. That’s a really difficult concept to wrap your head around, but don’t worry about understanding it. You don’t need to.

Understanding what God is going to do is not necessary to accomplishing what God is calling you to do: all you need to do is trust Him and follow His lead.

Bad news is the news

Doctor to Patient: “I’ve got some bad news, and I’ve got some even worse news.”

Patient: “OK- so, what’s the bad news?”

Doctor: “Your test results are back and you have only 48 hours to live.”

Patient: “Yikes! If that’s the bad news, what could possibly be worse?”

Doctor: “I’ve been trying to reach you since yesterday.”

If you read the newspapers (and if you read this blog, you know that I don’t) it is pretty much all bad news. Death, crime, destruction (both natural and man-made), corruption. All bad news.

Why? The answer is simple: bad news sells. In all fairness, newspapers are not public service announcements, they are a business. And the way a business stays in business is by selling their product in such a way as to make a profit. If bad news sells, then put out bad news.

But why does bad news sell? Ah- as Shakespeare would say (and he did): There’s the rub!

I only wish I knew the answer.

I can guess the answer, and even if I am not correct, 100%, I ‘ll bet I am awfully close…..it’s because people want to feel better about themselves, and they do when they see others in worse condition. We are a competitive species, so we compare ourselves to others in order to see how well we “rate” in the world.

Is my car newer? Is my house bigger? Do I make more money? Am I prettier? Do I turn out more work? Is my grass greener? Is my hair nicer? Are my teeth whiter?

We need to compare ourselves to something, anything, in order to understand ourselves better and to find our place in the world. And here’s the kicker charge, Folks- der ain’t nuttin wrong widdat! It’s who and what we are- if not for a competitive spirit, there would be no progress, no improvement, no growth. It is our need to compare ourselves to others that drives us to improve ourselves and our society.

The question is: to whom should I compare myself?

In my opinion, the problem is that we compare ourselves to the world, to other people, and to what is expected by our society.

You may ask, “Yeah, so? What’s wrong with that?” What’s wrong with that is that people are stupid: self-centered, self-absorbed, hedonistic, and sinful from birth.

The world will do much better when we stop trying to beat out the next guy and just try to be more like the only guy we should emulate: Yeshua ha Mashiach (Jesus).

When we compare ourselves to other people we are working with a bad role model, so even all the wonderful things that have resulted from this competition- improvements in technology, medical care, science, etc.- are good, but came about in spite of ourselves, not because of what we intended.

Oh, yeah- there are many, many things that have improved our lives that were intended to do so, but overall when you start with hedonistic, self-absorbed beings what you get is a drive to be better than the other person for the sake of being better.  What we need is to stop trying to be better than the other person and concentrate on being a better “me.”

The only role model we should be looking to is Yeshua.

I believe when we compare ourselves to what God wants us to be we will have plenty of room for improvement. Don’t you worry about that! And, when we are driven to create, we will create for the betterment of society. And when we are driven to do something, it will be for someone else’s sake and not for our own fame. And when we give to others, it will be without concern for recompense because we will do it to glorify God, not us.

Then, maybe in this idealistic dream of mine, the newspapers will tell of the kitten that was saved, the way people worked together to prevent a tragedy; instead of focusing their report on the death and destruction from an earthquake, they will report that there was an earthquake and this is how people helped each other….

We all need role models, especially the children, because once you get to about 7 or 8 years old, most of what and who you are going to be is already formed. With good role models in our life we can become better people and be role models for others. Eventually the “chametz” (yeast, biblically representing sin) will be removed from the dough instead of the other way around. Shaul (Paul) said only a little chametz can leaven the whole batch of dough (Galatians 5:9) and the dough of this world is pretty well leavened, wouldn’t you say? But for purity, that which we present to the Lord, there must be no chametz in the bread:

Lev. 2:11– Every grain offering you bring to the LORD must be made without yeast, for you are not to burn any yeast or honey in a food offering presented to the LORD.

What we present to God, which should be our everyday thoughts, actions and words, should be matzo- unleavened bread worthy of presentation to God.

One of my favorite (and most often repeated) prayers to God is from two of David’s psalms:

Psalm 51:10– Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

Psalm 19:14– May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

These prayers ask God to make me into what I really want to be: matzo presented to Him without chametz.

Forget reading the newspapers- they are full of dreck. Read the Bible, instead. A little Bible every day will work it’s way through you, and make you a better person. Compare yourself to God, to Yeshua, to what they want you to be and forget what the world has to offer you. It is fleeting, it is temporary, it is superficial.

The world is never going to have anything more than a finite effect on you and you on it, but what you do for God is eternal. And what God offers you is eternal, as well.

We all have the God-given right to make our own decisions, and that includes picking the role model we want to emulate. And don’t ever forget- we will all have to answer for who we chose to be like when we come before the Lord.

I suggest you chose well.