We asked yesterday about punishments matching crimes. It seems like a natural enough thing to pursue in a system of law, even if it’s challenging in practice. It makes sense and is fairly palatable with more minor infractions, but when we get to really serious crimes, it gets harder. Think of sex crimes and murder. If we consider something so reprehensible it should never be done, it’s hard to justify repeating the crime as punishment against the perpetrator. This is, of course, the whole reason people debate the death penalty. But let’s consider now the problem of sin.
One way to describe sin is that it’s when we take good things in world, and abuse them, using them in ways God never intended. This all goes back to our misuse of life itself, taking the life God had given us as a basis for a relationship with him, and using it for selfish ends.
What is the punishment for this? If the gift was life, and we misused it, it might make sense to take life away. This sounds quite harsh, but thankfully God had a plan, and part of that plan was a sacrificial system, to always hold before the Jews that sin led to death, until something could be done about it once and for all.
In the Old Testament, very careful laws were laid down as to how sins should be dealt with. There was a whole system of sacrifices to show how serious sin was – for example, the sinner would take an animal and the animal would be as near to perfect as possible and then inside the temple the sins were transferred to the animal and then the animal was killed. Sin led to death, quite visibly.
But was this enough? The author of Hebrews, in the New Testament part of the Bible, said this:
For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
Why would they do this year after year, day after day? What effect was it having? Its effect was only a temporary fix, but they needed a permanent one.
Question: What kind of sacrifice do you think would deal with sin forever, not just for the moment?
Meeting with a Group? Your discussion questions are in this week’s Group Study Guide[permalink append=”#comments”]Discuss the Challenge[/permalink]