Animal Sacrifices: Why and Why Not (Mar-Jun 2010)

By Matt Dabbs

by Edward Fudge
April 18, 2010

A gracEmail subscriber asks, “Why did God command the Israelites to bring animal sacrifices as sin-offerings, and why did those sin-offerings stop after Jesus died and rose again?”

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Those animal sacrifices reminded the Israelites of God’s greatest desire—that they love him with all their hearts, and show their love by keeping his commandments. The sacrifices also reminded them of their own failure ever to do that. And they pointed to a future Messiah who would give God what he had always wanted. To say it a different way, God asked from every Israelite the living sacrifice of a morally-spotless life. Because no one ever gave God that, God mercifully permitted the sinful Israelite to bring him the life of a physically-perfect animal instead.

To us, blood is a morbid and negative symbol, reminding us of death. In God’s eyes, however, blood is a vital positive symbol that stands for life (Lev. 16:11-12). Because the life is in the blood, if an Israelite wanted to give God the life of a physically perfect animal, he first had to take that life by slaughtering the animal. The priest captured some of the blood, which he then sprinkled, poured or smeared inside the Tabernacle and in the courtyard. Through this process, the guilty Israelite gave God the physically-perfect “life” of a sacrificial animal as a substitute for the morally-spotless life he personally could never give. But animal sacrifices were never what God wanted most. They were always remedial – God’s second choice. If the people had simply loved God, enjoyed his company and done what pleased him, his second choice would never have come into the picture.

Jesus came to give God his first choice – the living sacrifice of a faithful, loving, obedient life. When Jesus died on the cross, he offered that life as a present to the Father, a present gift-wrapped in Jesus’ own human body. When Jesus had done that, God had everything he had ever wanted from humankind. Because of Jesus’ gift to God of his own faithful life, everyone who trusts in Jesus has been forgiven, made holy and made perfect forever. Now that those goals have been achieved, there will never again be a need for anyone to resume that second-choice remedial business of slaughtered animals and ceremonial blood. (This entire answer comes from Hebrews 10:1-14, and I discuss it in detail in Hebrews: Ancient Encouragement for Believers Today, and in recorded and written teachings linked to my website.)
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Copyright 2010 by Edward Fudge. You are urged to reproduce, reprint or forward this gracEmail, but only in its entirety, without change and without financial profit.


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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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