Monday, August 7, 2023

On Sacrifices

God rejected Cain's offering or an animal, but then provided a ram in the bushes for Abraham and later commanded His people to bring Him animal sacrifices until ultimately, He offered His Son as "the Lamb." 

So does the God who created animal sacrifice in the first place accept it or hate it or...what's going on?

This is where it gets complicated.

Animal sacrifice, though it began as God's gift to cover our shame, actually has a lot of reasons behind it, a lot of different circumstances in which it applies. 

For Cain, he was bringing a thank offering while the echo of the curse was still ringing in the valley. It wasn't what God had asked for. 

On the mountain with Abraham, the animal sacrifice was substitutionary - Abraham had gone to sacrifice his son, as he was instructed to do, and because of his faith and righteousness, God stepped in with a ram to save Isaac from the sword while not letting Abraham off the hook of actually offering something

Israel was instructed to bring the firstborn of their flocks after the Exodus from Egypt, after the plague where God had killed the firstborn of every livestock in the country. In this case, it became an act of dedication and remembrance. 

Animal sacrifice was also prescribed in the sin offering and burnt offering, which were meant to be acts of atonement - recognition of the sin that separates us from God and a chance to bridge that gap a little with an aroma pleasing to Him. 

God also accepted freewill offerings of livestock, gifts to God just because the person wanted to give something of value. In this case, it was the act of sacrifice itself - the fact that it was sacrificial in nature (in giving up a portion of one's economic and domestic viability in trust and love) was the key. 

What we come to see, then, is that animal sacrifice is always a measure of the heart and the circumstance behind the offering. 

And that, I think, is also part of Cain's story. The Bible tells us that he didn't bring all of the animal, but just the "choice" parts. To us, that means he brought the best, and we think that might be good, but it also means that he sat there and decided what was for God and what wasn't. He picked at his own offering until there was no meat left on the bones, then had a pile for God and a pile...not for God. And that's not the heart God wants in the sacrifice. 

Abraham came in faith. Israel came in obedience and repentance and joy and hope. 

So really, it's not as complicated as it seems, though it is complex. When you sit down and look at the stories, at what's actually happening in the sacrifices, it makes perfect sense. (Strange how God does that, huh?) 

There's one more thing we have to talk about, though.... 

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