Chapter 13

What about burnt offerings?

 

 

 

Introduction

The book of Hebrews teaches that Yahshua's crucifixion  was the final sacrifice for sin. I personally don't know of any Christian sect that believes otherwise. Yet, in Matthew 5:17-19, we have seen that Yahshua taught every jot and tittle of the Law of Moses will remain until heaven and earth pass away! So how do we deal with the subject of burnt offerings and animal sacrifices? They are part of the Law of Moses as well.

Today, both Judaism and Christianity have their reasons for not engaging in the practice of offering burnt sacrifices. Christianity believes it has no need for burnt offerings because Yahshua's sacrifice is supposed to be the one true and final sacrifice for all sin. Jews do not engage in the practice largely because they believe the only place to offer burnt offerings to God is in the temple in Jerusalem. That temple was destroyed in the year 70 A.D. and has not been rebuilt since. But many Jews believe the temple will be rebuilt someday, the priesthood re-established, and burnt offerings will resume. Christianity typically sees this picture of burnt offerings resuming as utter blasphemy because to them it is rejecting Yahshua's final sacrifice for sin. But a handful of Christian teachers are finally admitting that according to prophesy, the temple must be rebuilt and the sacrificial system re-instated during the Messianic age.

The last 9 chapters of Ezekiel consist entirely of prophecy concerning the Messianic age and third temple period. These prophecies have yet to be fulfilled and are impossible to gloss over and ignore. But the Christian teachers who admit that these prophecies must be fulfilled are then forced to engage in bend-over-backwards apologetics for the picture. They insist that the sacrifices offered during that time will have no real benefit but will serve only as a reminder of the way things used to be. After all, in their minds, sacrifices offered during the first and second temple periods had no benefit either thanks to passages like these from Hebrews.

"For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sin."   Hebrews 10:4

These apologists completely ignore the part of the prophecy where Ezekiel speaks of these future sacrifices as actually "making atonement" for sin.

"Then it shall be the Prince's part (royalty!) to give burnt offerings, grain offerings, and drink offerings, at the feasts, the New Moons, the Sabbaths, and at all the appointed seasons of the house of Israel, he shall prepare the sin offering, the grain offering, the burnt offering, and the peace offerings to make atonement for the house of Israel."   Ezekiel 45:17.

Contrary to Hebrews' assertion that "...it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sin", God says something very different in His Law.      

"If his offering is a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish; he shall offer it of his own free will at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the Lord. Then he shall put his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him."   Leviticus 1:3-4

"This is because the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul."   Leviticus 17:11

A common question among Christians is, if Jews do not use the sacrificial system anymore, how are they supposed to make atonement for sin? The answer is that sin may also be atoned for through repentance, restitution, and acts of charity.  Repentance, turning from sin, has always been the most important issue in God's eyes. Yahshua clearly indicated this on numerous occasions. An example of this is in the story of Zacchaeus. 

Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold." And Yahshua said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house..."  Luke 19:8,9 

Intentional and unintentional sin

Some branches of Judaism teach that there is no atonement available for sin committed "intentionally". Only sins committed unintentionally in ignorance may be atoned for. This doctrine is based on the following. 

If a person sins unintentionally, then he shall offer a one-year-old female goat for a sin offering.  The priest shall make atonement before the LORD for the person who goes astray when he sins unintentionally, making atonement for him that he may be forgiven . . . .  The person who does anything presumptuously, whether he is native or an alien, that one is blaspheming the Lord; and that person shall be cut off from among his people, because he has despised the word of the Lord and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt shall be on him.   Numbers 15:27-31

This is a disheartening doctrine when one realizes that many sins are committed with full knowledge of how wrong the act is. But the Hebrew words in the Numbers passage which are translated "unintentionally", and "presumptuously" actually paint a different picture than the English words indicate. The Hebrew word for sins committed "presumptuously" actually means "defiantly", and the word carries with it the picture of one's fist held high. While the Hebrew word for "ignorantly" pictures someone who errs by imprudence or lack of wisdom... or in short, foolishly. This picture would then include the great bulk of sins committed that could be termed "intentional". Most sins are committed foolishly by individuals who know they should keep their head low because they are walking on thin ice with God. It is the outright defiant shaking one's fist in God's face that God will accept no atonement for. This is the level that the devil himself has descended to. Yahshua clearly indicated in the story of Zacchaeus that there is hope even for those who commit sin intentionally. Zacchaeus admitted he knowingly stole from others in that he said,  "taken... by false accusation". In spite of this fact, Yahshua still said that salvation (atonement and forgiveness) had come to Zacchaeus' household because he repented and made restitution. 

Did God say He had no desire for burnt offerings? 

Another reason why Christians and many Jews do not believe there is a place for burnt offerings any longer is because they believe God Himself said through the prophets He has no desire for them. Here are a couple popular passages that at first appear to support this.

"To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?" Says the Lord. "I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls or of lambs or goats."   Isaiah 1:11

We need to understand the state of things in Israel at the time Isaiah wrote this. The mind set of the people was that they figured they could do whatever they pleased against the Law of God as long as they offered God the appropriate sacrifice afterwards. In essence, they were trying to appease God... a form of patronage that was repulsive to Him because it totally lacked love for Him, His ways, and true repentance. God had had enough of their patronizing sacrifices. We should understand God to be saying, "I do not delight in the blood of your bulls or of your lambs or goats." He did not imply that all burnt offerings were repulsive to Him. Just theirs.    

The second popular passage is; 

"For I desire mercy and not sacrifice." Hosea 6:6

This passage left out of its context appears quite compelling at face value. Yahshua even quoted it in Matthew 9:13. There he exhorted the Pharisees to go and find out what it meant. This would imply studying the passage in its full context. The very next phrase in Hosea reads: "and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings." This is typical Hebrew poetry where the essence of one phrase is repeated in another with different words. God did not say He had absolutely no interest in sacrifice. The obvious point that Yahshua wanted to make was that mercy is preferred, and far better than sacrifice, the same way that true repentance is preferred and better than sacrifice in God's eyes. 

Yahshua commanded others to offer burnt offerings

If, as far as God was concerned, all burnt offerings had become acts of futility by Isaiah's time, there arises a significant problem in light of the fact that Yahshua spoke of burnt offerings as though they were an everyday acceptable practice. 

"Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way, First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift." Matthew 5:23,24 

Many Christians think that Yahshua was referring to monetary gifts. In many Christian churches there is a table near the front of the sanctuary that is called an "altar"... from whence comes the evangelical phrase, "altar call". On this table is placed the congregation's monetary gifts. These gifts are almost always referred to as "offerings".  There were no such tables called "altars" at the time Yahshua spoke these words. In Yahshua's day, "altar" meant only one thing... the place on which burnt sacrifices were offered. The monetary gifts were given at a place called "the treasury". See Mark 12:41-44. 

Yahshua, even commanded individuals to go and make a specific burnt offering.  After healing a man with leprosy, Yahshua told him;

"...go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them."   Matthew 8:4

This offering is commanded in Leviticus 14:1-32 and consists of numerous animal sacrifices. To those who believe Yahshua is the Messiah, the question is, if in fact burnt offerings were acts of futility in God's eyes, why did Yahshua command this healed leper to offer them? 


Burnt offerings after Yahshua's ascension!?

Even after Yahshua had ascended, the early Messianic believers who worshipped in Jerusalem before the advent of Paul, didn't know any better than to continue with all the elements of the Law including those of burnt offerings. When rumor reached the Jerusalem elders that Paul had been teaching against the Law of Moses, James confronted Paul about it. He initially gave Paul the benefit of the doubt and gave him a chance to prove to everyone that it was just a vicious rumor and that he continued to abide by the Law. This he did by ordering Paul to involve himself in the purification rituals of four Nazarites.  

On the following day Paul went in with us to James and all the elders were present. ...and they said to him, (Paul) "You see brother how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the Law; but they have been informed about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs. What then is to be done? The assembly must certainly meet, for they will hear that you have come. Therefore do what we tell you: We have four men who have taken a vow. Take them and  be purified with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads, and that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you are nothing, but that you yourself also walk orderly and keep the Law.     Acts 21:18,20-24

This rite included burnt animal sacrifices for sin, and these were the "expenses" that James wanted Paul to provide! Here is what the Law requires of a Nazarite who has fulfilled his vow.

Now this is the Law of the Nazirite: When the days of his separation are fulfilled, he shall be brought to the door of the tabernacle of meeting. And he shall present his offering to the Lord: one male lamb in its first year without blemish as a burnt offering, one ewe lamb in its first year without blemish as a sin offering, one ram without blemish as  peace offering,... Then the priest shall bring them before the Lord and offer his sin offering and his burnt offering... Then the Nazirite shall shave his consecrated head at the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and shall take the hair from his consecrated head and put it on the fire which under the sacrifice of the peace offering...   Excerpts from Numbers 6:13-18

It is of utmost significance that James requested Paul to involve himself in this rite for the very purpose of proving to everyone that all of the Law of Moses continued to stand. As far as James was concerned, making Paul himself provide the animals for the burnt offerings should have proven that he still walked orderly and kept the Law. The fact that Paul went along with James' request in stark contradiction to what he had been teaching only underscores the fact that he didn't have much of a spine. Most Christian theologians have a terrible time trying to reconcile Paul's involvement in this rite with what he taught. From their point of view, if Paul ever did make an error... going along with James on this was it! 

The undeniable fact of history that everyone must face is that the Jerusalem Messianic believers, led by James and Peter, had obviously never heard anything about the sacrificial system being ended with Yahshua's sacrifice!  Are we really to believe that Yahshua forgot to tell them that after he died, there would be no more need for burnt offerings? Many of these believers had been there and heard Yahshua teach on many occasions, but nobody knew any better than to keep right on obeying all the Law of Moses... including those of burnt offerings for sin! Nobody that is, except those associated with Paul.

What then did Yahshua's sacrifice accomplish?

If the Law of Moses, including burnt offerings, continues to stand, we observant Messianic believers are obliged to answer another question. What then did Yahshua's sacrifice accomplish? There are two aspects to the answer. One is how his sacrifice benefited man, and the other is how it benefited Yahshua himself.


What Yahshua's sacrifice accomplished for man

When it comes to how his sacrifice benefited man, Yahshua said quite clearly why he was sent in a very familiar but little understood passage.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that (for this reason) whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved. He who believes in him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten son of God" John 3:16-18

There are a couple of things that need to be addressed from this passage. The first is the question of why he came. Yahshua said it was so that those who believed in him would not perish but have ever lasting life. It is obvious that Yahshua could not have been speaking of everlasting life for our physical bodies. No one who heard Yahshua speak these words is alive today in their physical bodies. Therefore the conclusion must be drawn that he did not come for the purpose of delivering man's physical bodies from death. This may seem like an overly trite deduction, but it is very important to make this distinction because there is in it a connection to how one believes in his name. More on this in a moment. But since Yahshua obviously did not come to provide eternal physical life, what was he talking about? Yahshua's sacrifice was to provide deliverance from a second death of perishing in the lake of fire eternally separated from God. Yahshua's sacrifice was to provide life after death. This life is not for our physical bodies, but for our new bodies. 

Here is the key to understanding Yahshua's sacrifice on man's behalf. Spirit may atone for spirit, just as flesh may atone for flesh. One aspect of Yahshua's sacrifice was that it was a temporary spiritual death (total separation from God) that atoned for our spirits. Yahshua even makes the same distinction between spirit and flesh a few verses earlier.

"That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit."  John 3:6

This being the case, then it should go without saying... that which dies for the flesh is flesh, and that which dies for the spirit is spirit. Here is the key point to bear in mind. Nothing has changed for us in the flesh... least of all, human nature. The flesh still sins and needs to be atoned for. It must be atoned for in one way or another if there is to be any hope of God allowing His Spirit to come near us while in this body! We still sin whether we like to admit it or not. Yahshua's sacrifice did not deliver anyone from the propensity to sin. If the author of Hebrews is correct in asserting that Yahshua's sacrifice was the only one true final sacrifice for sin, then his deductive reasoning from that point is correct.

"For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses' Law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing and insulted the Spirit of grace?"                Hebrews 10:26-29  

The author of Hebrews apparently believes he can scare people into being perfect. The sad fact is that no one, not even the writer of Hebrews lived his life sin-free after becoming a Messianic believer in Yahshua. The author of Hebrews is completely wrong in his presupposition that Yahshua's sacrifice was the one-and-only-end-all. The fact that there will be sacrifices for sin during the coming Messianic age, alone, proves this premise to be in error. 

How an individual obtains this spirit life after physical death by believing in Yahshua's name is also of key importance. I personally don't like using the name "Jesus" any longer. His true name, as spoken by those who walked with him, was pronounced "Yahshua" or "Y'shua" for short. This name is the combining of two Hebrew words. One is the name of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, (YHWH), and the other is "shua" which is a cry for deliverance. Here is the key to understanding what believing in Yahshua's name is all about. Yahshua's name denotes a concept.  Anyone who believes that "God-saves" or that God will save them if they endeavor to do what is right by treating others as they would want to be treated, is to one degree or another a believer in "YHWH-shua" or "Yahshua"! As was born out in chapter 2, this picture would without question include many people of all faiths and religions. I personally believe that even men like some North American Indians, who worshipped "the great spirit"... honorable men of their word who despised "speaking with forked tongues", men who loved their families and deal righteously with others, are at least as much believers in "God-saves" and saved as any Christian who possesses the name "Jesus". All these people will be saved, or "salvaged", from perishing in the incinerator. To what degree or level of reward, either in the city New Jerusalem or outside the city, is a different matter altogether. But man will be judged righteously, and to whom much is given, much will be required.  I thoroughly believe that all Jews who live honorable lives are "saved", whether they believe Jesus is their Messiah or not, and those who are Law-abiding are automatically in a better position to win citizenship to the New Jerusalem than are most Christians. 

This picture of many people from different faiths being saved removes much of the grounds for the bigoted  attitude of Christianity. Many branches of Christianity thrive on perpetrating the notion that they have cornered the market on salvation. In the minds of many Christians, they truly believe that all others go to hell. All this, because of the simple misunderstanding of the concept in the phrase, "believe in the name". Many of those who truly believe everyone else is going to hell have a genuine concern for others, but it is a misguided and regularly an abusive concern as well. 


What Yahshua's sacrifice accomplished for himself

Yahshua's sacrifice did not only win eternal life for man. By offering himself, Yahshua also purchased from the Father the rights to rule the world as Messiah, and the authority to judge every man. This is apparent in the following passages.

And they sang a new song, saying: "You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals, for you were slain, and have redeemed us to God by your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth. ...Worthy is the lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing!"     Revelation 5:9,10,12

"For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the son gives life to whom he will. For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the son, that all should honor the son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the son does not honor the Father who sent him."  John 5:21-23 

Yahshua spoke a parable concerning the kingdom of God to parallel himself. In that parable he says:

"A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom..." "And so it was that when he returned, having received the kingdom..." Luke 19:12,15

Satan even knew that Yahshua was there to win the right to rule the entire world. When he tempted Yahshua, Satan started small to see if he could get Yahshua to fail by tempting him simply with food. Then after tempting him to test God, Satan gave it one last try. This time it was for all the marbles, and for the very thing Yahshua hoped to gain for himself. 

Then the devil, taking him up on a high mountain, showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to him, "All this authority I will give you, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if you will worship before me, all will be yours."    Luke 4:5-7

Yahshua could have had the right to rule the world the easy way... and right away. He did not have to go through the excruciating pain of crucifixion or wait nearly 2000 years afterward to take possession of the world. This would no doubt be a serious temptation for any person. But had Yahshua accepted Satan's offer, man would not have been saved from eternal separation from God. That was his main mission from the Father. He passed the test and went through with the Father's plan, which is why he is now "worthy".  

Vicarious atonement?

One of modern Judaism's arguments against Yahshua offering himself for man's sin is the belief that one person cannot pay for the sin of another. This is called "vicarious atonement". The word vicarious means, "acting, or done, on behalf of someone else or in his place". This argument ignores the fact that this is exactly what animal sacrifices were. God accepted the life-blood of the innocent animal on behalf of the guilty person. I refer again to Leviticus 17:11. 

Many rabbis also argue that since God did not accept Moses' offer to take Israel's punishment for them as recorded in Exodus 32:30-33, this proves that God does not accept a man's sacrifice on another's behalf. All this particular scene really proves is that God would not accept Moses' sacrifice on behalf of others. There could be a number of reasons why God would not accept Moses' offer other than the assumption that man-for-man could not be done. It could be that Moses himself was not without spot and sin-free as all acceptable sacrifices had to be. Nor was Moses' one life, as good as it was, worth the lives of an entire nation. What the rabbis seem to overlook is the fact that even Moses believed it was possible a man could offer himself on behalf of others or he would not have made the proposition! Where do you suppose he got the idea? 

We must also look at the prophecy of the sin-bearing servant in Isaiah 53. The following are a few excerpts. 

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all

 For he was cut-off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of my people he was stricken

When You make his soul an offering for sin,

For he shall bear their iniquities.

And he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. 

Judaism today maintains that this person mentioned in Isaiah 53 is the nation of Israel. I quite disagree, and believe their interpretation is a desperate measure to find some interpretation other than the obvious. But even if this were true, it is still impossible to get away from the fact that here is proof that God accepts human-for-human sacrifices.   

Addressing child sacrifice 

A short word needs to be said concerning the practice of offering innocent children in sacrifice lest I be accused of legitimizing it. During its time of rebellion to God, Israel engaged in the practice of offering children as burnt offerings on pagan altars. The fact that this was an abomination to God is not in dispute and recorded well in the prophets. 

"And they built the high places of Baal which are in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I did not command them, nor did it come into My mind that they would do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin."   Jeremiah 32:35 

It is not the principle of man-for-man that is the abomination to God in this passage that many would have us believe. The detestable factor is that the children were unwilling innocent victims. Abortion falls into this very same stomach-turning category of human sacrifice. It is true that God requires innocent blood, but if it's human blood it must be offered willingly by the person. No human has ever maintained perfect innocence and reached an age of competent understanding to be able to willingly offer themselves on another's behalf except for Yahshua... not even Moses. Though Moses was willing, he was no longer perfectly innocent.  And it is clear from the Gospels that even the perfectly innocent Yahshua did not have to offer himself if he did not want to. He had to willingly offer his life himself. That is the all-important difference.

"As the Father knows me even so I know  the Father, and I lay down my life for the sheep.   ...Therefore my Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself..."  Excerpts from John 10:15-18

And because Yahshua did not have to offer himself if he did not want to, to make it a perfect act of his will, it was provided that he could have called upon his Father for deliverance from crucifixion at any time. When he was being arrested to be taken away to be crucified, he said to those who tried to free him;

"Or do you think that I cannot now pray to my Father, and He will provide me with more than twelve legions of angels?" Matthew 26:53

It is the perfect willingness of a person to offer himself on behalf of others that is acceptable to God.

God: the author of human sacrifice?

I have heard it said, "God is not the author of human sacrifice". At face value, this statement sounds profound enough to be the final word on the matter. But let us consider the fact that God is the author of love. With this in mind, consider Yahshua's irrefutable words. 

 "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends."  John 15:13

Throughout history, courageous, love-driven men and women have willingly given up their lives and died for the sake of others. These individuals are honored by society for their self-less sacrifices. These sacrifices are nothing less than "human sacrifices".  This is what Yahshua did in giving himself on the cross, and his act was as honorable as they come in the eye's of heaven. From God's point of view, the only acceptable human sacrifice an individual may offer is himself on behalf of others. This is the highest expression of love and good.  Sacrificing someone else for one's own sake is murder, and the highest expression of hate and evil. Life givers will receive an abundance of life.  Life takers will loose what life they do have.   

Conclusion

Burnt offerings continue to be an option for atoning for the sins of the flesh.  However it is true repentance of sin, with or without sacrifice, which is of utmost priority to God. Judaism maintains that offerings must be made in the temple in Jerusalem. To a large degree this is true. The Law concerning sacrifices made on behalf of the nation must be made there. But there were many lay altars built on which were offered acceptable sacrifices to God even while the temple stood.  Whether a person today would be capable of locating an acceptable place, building an acceptable altar,  and offering an acceptable sacrifice to God is a legitimate question. I don't know for sure.  But if it could be done, it certainly would not be the blasphemous rejection of Yahshua's sacrifice that Christianity maintains it would be. Nevertheless, during the upcoming Messianic age, I fully intend to be one of the Gentiles who goes up to Jerusalem to see the King, and offer burnt sin and peace offerings to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

"Also the sons of the foreigner who join themselves to the Lord, to serve Him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants--everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath and holds fast My covenant--even them I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of  prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on My altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations." The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, says, "Yet I will gather to him others besides those who are gathered to him."   Isaiah 56:6-8

 

 

 

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