One of my favorite things to do is have conversation and discussion about what Jesus’ death and resurrection mean to us today. The only thing better is when the discussion helps clear up confusion and creates greater passion for Christ! That happened recently in a conversation I had through Facebook messenger with Jess Hays. Here’s how it went!
Before the law was given, how exactly did people relate to God. Obviously there was a need for sacrifice still. I’m not being super clear… ok, was God mad at people or did they just see God as being mad at them so they did evil things, resulting in the need for sacrifice to cleanse them?
Great question! One that has multiple answers. In the garden before they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they related with complete openness and intimacy. No sacrifice was needed.
After they sinned, God provided a sacrifice to cover for their sins after they had tried to cover their sin on their own. While there is no command that they are to bring an offering after that, we do find that Cain and Abel both bring sacrifices. As we know, one was accepted because it was done in faith in what had already been done. Cain’s was rejected because it was not of faith in what had been done. It was in an attempt to impress God and gain his own measure of righteousness. We know what happened as a result of his wrong belief.
From Cain to Noah the Law did not exist. What did exist however was the knowledge of righteousness – not just the behavior of righteousness, but what makes someone righteous – faith! We know that Enoch was a preacher of righteousness (Jude 14-15). We also know from 2 Peter 2:5 that Noah was a preacher of righteousness as well. We know from Hebrews 11:7 that Noah believed he was an heir of righteousness. He was not righteous because of what he did, he was righteous because of what he believed!
The way that man was made right with God was by believing in what He said! (That hasn’t changed.)
Abraham was counted righteous because he believed God. It wasn’t because of anything else – no sacrifices, no requirements, no demands. He believed.
Sacrifices were offered before the Law, but none of them seem to out of duty. Instead they are out of joy for what God had done. We see that after Moses and the children of Israel cross the Red Sea.
God wanted the people to relate to Him by believing Him.
As time unfolds, God gives promises and commands. They were sometimes the result of the people’s complaining (the giving of manna for example). With their continued disbelief in His goodness, provision, direction, the time came that He gave them the Law.
It was His way of saying, “You don’t believe in My goodness for you? You want to be able to do something to make yourself pleasing? You can’t trust me for all that you need and are? Okay, here’s the prescription for perfection. Here’s what you must do!”
The situation was the same as that of the garden. The serpent suggested to Adam and Eve that something was missing. That they did not have all that they could. That they needed to do more if they wanted real closeness with God.
When God gave the Law, He gave them the requirements of perfection and the sacrifices necessary to cover them when they failed.
Fast forward to Jesus’ death and resurrection.
The Law and sacrifices were intended to bring man to the place of desperation. It was to point to their inability to measure up. It was to point to their need for someone to be a final sacrifice. More importantly it was to point to the need for not just the erasing of sin, but the gaining of righteousness. Sacrifices could be made for sin, but that could never make someone righteous. The death of Jesus accomplished far more than just forgiveness. If that was all we gained, then we would still have to keep coming back again and again to the cross for forgiveness (which is how many Christians live). God accomplished far more in Jesus.
For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us Romans 8:3-4
The way we are to relate to God today is really not different than what He called Adam & Eve, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jeremiah, and the disciples to do.
When Jesus was asked what was required by people to experience the blessings of God, He said in John 6:29 “This is the work of God, that you believe on Him whom He has sent.”
Hmm this is interesting to me! I think I heard alot growing up that at the moment of Adam and Eve’s sin God pushed them away, wanting nothing to do with them because of dirtiness of their sin. This led to my belief that after sacrifices were made was the only time people could have intimacy with God.
I’ve been thinking lately that maybe the reason we struggle today with wanting to gain love from God through our own “sacrifices” of duty is because we have always seen God as needing that to be pleased.
In reality, before the law, sacrifices came in thankfulness, desire, and celebration. Interestingly enough, I find the more I take in the wonder of grace the more my “sacrifices” (or things I was told I was “supposed to do”) really become things I want to do because of how I believe God relates to me.
I am beginning to see a lot of completion from Adam to Jesus and how God relates to us today, it’s very exciting and interesting!
For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments, and His commandments are not burdensome. I John 5:3
The idea of God “needing” sacrifices does not fit with the nature of His being! Life flows from Him. He does not need anything!If He needs them, then the power of God rests completely in our hands. That would mean that we have the ability to make Him more or less of who He is!
He is the initiator of life and all sacrifices! Only those given by faith in what He has already done are pleasing!
Cain offered in an attempt to get. Abel offered because of what was already given.
How did we get that wrong for so long?!
I was always taught that Cain brought the “wrong kind” of sacrifice, meaning he brought fruit and veggies instead of a blood sacrifice and that’s why God was displeased.
How did we totally miss the point of this?!
It’s exciting to learn about things like this from the Old Testament that have affect my view of who God is. I always saw him as almost two different gods- angry OT God and happy NT God. And I would hear things like “God never changes” and it would make me believe that he was really not happy with us after all. Knowing the heart of grace that God had even in the OT makes the God I know now so much more meaningful and it makes knowing that God never changes a really wonderful thing!
Yes it is! The only way the OT makes sense, is to see it through the lens of the completion of the NT. The right lens leads to clarity, consistency, and truth!By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous Hebrews 11:4
Abel’s sacrifice was accepted as this verse says because he offered it “by faith”
He believed and it was counted to him as righteousness.
Same as Abraham. Same as us.
Woohoo!! This is exciting stuff!!
EVERYONE SHOULD HEAR THIS STUFF!!!!!!!!!
Yep. That’s what Jesus said.