God is Always Right!
When things go wrong for us we might think that God has got things wrong for us. But He never does that and His purpose is always designed to achieve the best, let John Woodall explains what he means by this.
Why Animal Sacrifices?
Throughout Old Testament times, the worship and service of God involved the sacrificing of animals. God is the King; He can forgive anyone He wants to forgive, but we humans are in this mess of failure and death because we have broken His laws. We can understand therefore that God is right to insist that we realize this: that we admit that He is right and we are wrong. This is the lesson that the sacrificing of animals was meant to teach.
People have misunderstood this.
They have thought that God wanted to be appeased by a gift, or that He wanted to vent His anger in some way so instead of killing the sinner He had an animal killed instead.
This is a big mistake because the Living God is not like that. The facts are the other way round. The sacrifices were not killed to change God’s mind or attitude; they were killed to help the sinner admit that he or she was doing wrong and needed God’s forgiveness.
Just as a child who has done wrong tells his parents that he (or she) is sorry and is then forgiven, so it is with us and God.
Sacrifices − Their Meaning
The animal was brought by the person who had sinned, and was usually killed by him for it represented himself. He pressed his hands on the animal’s head, confessed his sin and then killed it by shedding its blood (as described in Leviticus 5:5-6 & Numbers 5:7-8).
It was a sad and solemn moment.
For the worshipper was showing that he knew he was wrong and, like Adam in Genesis 2:17, he did not deserve to live any longer. He was acting out his own death, which would of course come to him sooner or later in the ordinary way; and he was admitting that God was right in that judgement and that he was wrong.
When the person’s attitude was right, he was forgiven, just like the repentant child. But if his attitude was not right, the sacrifice had no value at all, because what brought forgiveness was not the sacrifice itself but the repentant state of mind of the person who had sinned:
“The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but the prayer of the upright is His delight” (Proverbs 15:8).
“The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination; how much more when he brings it with wicked intent!” (Proverbs 21:27).
Life Out of Death
In some Old Testament rituals there was the idea of giving up the old life and starting a new one. When a leper was healed, two birds were used: one was killed and the other flew away free – the first bird showed that the old diseased life was ‘dead’: the free bird showed that a new healthy life had begun (Leviticus 14).
Once each year, two goats were used: one was killed and the other was sent into the desert – it was a symbol or picture of the fact that death was due to the people because of the sins committed in the old year, but their sins were ‘carried into the wilderness’ by the living goat so they were given a fresh start (Leviticus 16).
Again, there were ways for individuals to give their lives to God in a special way, but then some mishap could occur that would spoil that special relationship with Him. In that case they shaved off all their hair and let it start to grow again – the spoilt life was ‘thrown away’ and a new life began (Numbers 6:9).
From the time of Abraham onwards, all Jewish male children had a small piece of flesh cut off (Genesis 17:10).
Indeed, if it was not done, that man himself would be “cut off from his people!” (verse 14). This was meant to teach them that if they truly were to be the people of the Living God there were things in life that they must give up, ‘cut off’ or ‘sacrifice’.
Of itself, circumcision didn’t make them superior at all; in fact it was meant to teach the opposite, that unless they cut ungodly ways out of their lives they were not God’s people at all. Moses tried to teach them this by telling them to: “circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiffnecked no longer” (Deuteronomy 10:16). See also Jeremiah 4, verse 4. But it was not a lesson they readily accepted and there was a great deal of prejudice about people who were described by Jews as “the uncircumcised”.
Admitting that God is right
In these different ways, God was encouraging people to accept that they were wrong and He was right: they must change, come back to Him and be forgiven. Most people would not do that, but in the Bible (the Old Testament as well as the New), we can read the encouraging stories of those who really did want to belong to God.
They tried to make sacrifices in their lives because of their love of God, and in return they received blessings out of all proportion to anything they gave up.
Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life (Matthew 19:29).
In the future, by God’s mercy and grace, such people will be equal to the angels (Luke 20:35,36). The good news is that we can be among them.
What a remarkable discovery that is!
By John Woodall