Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Everlasting Gospel, Part 3

God also revealed to Abraham an important lesson about sacrifice in his old age. When God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac on an altar, Isaac asked about the absence of the sacrificial lamb on their trek. Abraham replied, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering,” Genesis 22:8. And so He did: “…Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son (Isaac),” Genesis 22:13.

God commanded sacrifice, for shed blood (symbolic of death) covered guilt; again teaching that the punishment for sin was death, Ezekiel 18:20. Yet the Lord would provide His own sacrifice for sin in due time, a substitute as it were; and it would be this singular sacrifice that would be found acceptable to Him. This was what the act of sacrifice was foreshadowing.

In Moses’ day God revealed clearer truth regarding the nature of His relationship to men. The Jews, on the night before their release from Egypt, were instructed to sacrifice a lamb for their household, and to paint their doorposts with the blood; when God saw the blood He would spare them, and they would not share in the judgment He was about to mete out on the Egyptians, Exodus 12:1-20. The lamb was to be without blemish; the lamb typified an innocent victim. The covering blood was the difference between salvation and judgment, Exodus 12:13.

The blood would take on a deeper significance later. We read: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement (Hebrew kaphar, meaning “covering”) for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul,” Leviticus 17:11. The sins of men were covered (atoned for) in the Old Testament, but not entirely put away because the perfect sacrifice of Christ had not yet been offered. Though animal blood was used for the sanctifying of the flesh (Hebrews 9:13), it had no genuine efficacy in removing sin, Hebrews 10:4. The fact that such offerings were repeated was proof enough that animal sacrifice was only a tutor to teach men of their sinful state before God, and their need of having that sin dealt with; it also should have taught that man’s service to God was inadequate, or else such service could have eventually ceased, Hebrews 10:1-2.

The fact that they were redundantly offered was a proof of their inability to save. Man could not save himself; the Law revealed the need to shift one’s faith from man’s service to God’s mercy, Galatians 3:22-24. The simplest object lesson drawn from this passage was this: blood in the body symbolized life; blood spilt on Jewish altars symbolized death. Only the death of an innocent victim could atone for man’s sin. Sin’s penalty was death, Genesis 2:17. Why was this? Sin was the corruption of a being made in the image of God, a transgression whose penalty had to be carried out. Sin’s penalty had always been separation from God, Genesis 3:23. During our life on earth that separation makes us spiritually lifeless and displeasing to God, Titus 1:15-16. If we enter eternity in our sin, without having it atoned for, then separation from our Creator would endure forever. The blood was the key to this mystery.

Recall Genesis 3:15? The Seed would bruise the serpent’s head at the sufferance of His heel being bruised. Would the Seed destroy the serpent, but be killed in the process? Or would He destroy the serpent by His death? The blood pointed in this direction; the Seed would lift the curse by ransoming the ones caught in its thrall, Isaiah 49:9; Zechariah 9:11; Colossians 2:13-15; Hebrews 2:14-15; 1st John 3:8.

When the Tabernacle was made in the wilderness a veil was erected between the holy place (where men were allowed to enter to serve as priests) and the Most Holy Place (where the presence of God dwelt), Exodus 26:33. Only the high priest was allowed within the Most Holy, and only then once a year offering a sacrifice of blood for himself and the people, Leviticus 16; Hebrews 9:7. The Holy Spirit was directing Israel’s attention to the fact that access to God’s direct presence was not yet permitted, Hebrews 9:8. The holy place was the area where the priests entered daily to minister to God, but for all of that the veil barred them from entering into God’s presence. To enter the Most Holy Place unbidden would merit death, Leviticus 16:2. The high priest alone could enter, but not without an offering, and then but once per year. This was a shadow of the sublime truth that in due time the veil would be rent with the offering of a perfect sacrifice.

When a perfect sacrifice was made the sins and consciences of men were finally cleansed by blood of greater efficacy than animal blood; then men could freely enter into the Most Holy Place. Jesus, the great High Priest, entered with the perfect offering of Himself. The veil was torn in His wake, as it were, so that we who follow Christ have free access to the Father due to the singular sacrifice of our High Priest. Whereas animal sacrifice failed to remit sin—it merely covered it—there was need of a singular sacrifice. The Tabernacle taught this lesson: man in his efforts would serve God forever in vain, offering sacrifice of service that would never take away sin or make them acceptable to Him. The veil was the barrier between sinful man and the presence of the holy God whose fellowship had been severed since Eden. The Tabernacle’s greatest lesson to Israel and us is that until God opens the way, man cannot enter the presence of his Creator. Yet when the Lord selected His time, entrance would be supplied abundantly and eternally through one sacrifice, Galatians 4:4; Hebrews 9:26; 10:14.
To be Continued.

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