Empty Ritual in the Temple Full of God’s Glory.

Study Series Note: This study is the eighth in a series that examines the Bible’s sacred places (tabernacle, temple, etc.). Previous studies focused on the tabernacle, as well as creation and the Garden of Eden as a Temple.

Previous posts discussed how the tabernacle and temple mediated the presence of the holy God to his covenant people. The temple and its service allowed Yahweh to dwell in the midst of his people and allowed the people to maintain an exclusive covenant relationship with the God of the universe. Solomon built the Jerusalem temple at the height of Israelite national power around 960 b.c.e. For the next few centuries, the temple and its service continued. As time passed, the prophets increasingly warned Judah’s kings, priests, and people that true faithfulness to the Lord was more than a matter of following temple rituals. Solomon's_Temple_JerusalemThe Lord dwelt in the temple, but the temple did not contain him like some genie’s lamp. Yet, some Israelites treated the temple as a charm. They reasoned that if the Lord dwelt in the temple, then he would thwart any enemies that threatened his house and the city that surrounded it. The covenant relationship between God and his people (a relationship cultivated by Moses and King David) had given way to pagan superstition and a magical mindset that sought to manipulate God for human purposes. The temple rituals remained, but the true covenant faithfulness for which the temple existed was largely abandoned. Continue reading

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Study 7: Temple Sacrifice

The previous study examined how the tabernacle and its priesthood mediated God’s holiness to a sinful people. Today’s study focuses on one important part of that mediation—sacrifice. Offering sacrifices was perhaps the most important religious observance at the tabernacle/temple.

Study Series Note: This study is one in a series of studies on the Bible’s sacred places (tabernacle, temple, etc.). Previous studies focused on the tabernacle as well as creation and the Garden of Eden as a Temple.

While sacrificing animals may seem strange to modern westerners, the reality is that sacrificing animAltar-of-Sacrificeals to our own appetites is accepted and common. We don’t think about eating meat as a “sacrifice” to our stomachs because we are so detached from our food sources. Nevertheless, the process of an animal giving its life by becoming food for us is basically the same as an animal giving its life to God for us. Those who hunt or raise their own animals generally have respect and a realistic idea of what meat eating entails—for themselves and for the animals.

What is Sacrifice?

In the most general sense, sacrifice is giving up something for another. For instance, a mother sacrifices (gives up) sleep to feed her newborn in the middle of the night. Worshipers in many religions give up/dedicate/sacrifice something from their possessions in service to their god. Sacrifice in the Hebrew Bible also included this idea of giving up something to honor or worship the Lord, but many types of sacrifices emphasized what the Lord was doing for the worshiper through the offering. When accepting a prescribed sacrifice, God was transferring the sin, and the justice due for that sin, from the sinner and onto a designated substitute. This transference was symbolized by placing the hands on the head of the animal to be killed. The blood of that animal represented its life, a life sacrificed on behalf of the giver. These sacrifices showed that sin brings death, but they also showed grace in that God allowed a substitute.

Scripture study and Discussion:

Leviticus 1:1-5: Then the LORD called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, 2 “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When any man of you brings an offering to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of animals from the herd or the flock. 3 If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer it, a male without defect; he shall offer it at the doorway of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the LORD. 4 He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, that it may be accepted for him to make atonement on his behalf. 5 He shall slay the young bull before the LORD; and Aaron’s sons the priests shall offer up the blood and sprinkle the blood around on the altar that is at the doorway of the tent of meeting.” 

This passage in Leviticus specifically describes the “Burnt offering,” and Leviticus goes on to describe many other sacrifices and how they are to be performed. Some sacrifices atoned for sin, some were thanksgiving or celebratory, and others were community/fellowship oriented.[i]

In Leviticus 1:1-5, note some important aspects of the burnt offering: the phrase in verse 3, “without defect . . . that he may be accepted,” suggests there is a proper and acceptable way to approach God. Verse 4, “He lays his hands on its head so it will make atonement on his behalf” communicates the idea of sacrifice as a substitution. Verse 5 gives instructions for the blood to be sprinkled on the altar—blood represents life and the altar is the means of giving something to God. The life of the animal is given to God on behalf of the giver.

The important connection between blood and life informed how many of the sacrifices were actually performed. The pouring out of blood, or the sprinkling of the blood, on the altar represented the offering up of life. The blood–life connection is spoken about in the next passage.

Leviticus 17:10-14: 10 And any man from the house of Israel, or from the aliens who sojourn among them, who eats any blood, I will set My face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from among his people. 11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement. 12 Therefore I said to the sons of Israel, “No person among you may eat blood, nor may any alien who sojourns among you eat blood.” 13 So when any man from the sons of Israel, or from the aliens who sojourn among them, in hunting catches a beast or a bird which may be eaten, he shall pour out its blood and cover it with earth. 14 For as for the life of all flesh, its blood is identified with its life. Therefore I said to the sons of Israel, “You are not to eat the blood of any flesh, for the life of all flesh is its blood; whoever eats it shall be cut off.”

The Israelites were to treat blood with a special reverence—why? Blood represented life. Blood, therefore, is set apart as the atoning agent in the sacrificial system since that life blood is given on behalf of the one offering it. Because of blood’s special significance in life and atonement, it can’t be treated like other parts of the animal (consumed).

If sinning requires a goat to be killed and its blood splashed on the alter, then sin is graphically and concretely pictured as more serious, more costly. People of modern western cultures may feel bad for the animals involved in sacrifice, but that animal would have been eaten anyway; it’s simply being given to God instead of a human stomach.

Sacrifice for Covenant Relationship.

The sacrificial system was part of the covenant that God gave to Moses. Israel was set apart as God’s special people and maintaining that relationship meant that sin against a holy God had to be dealt with. By offering a sacrifice for sins, the Israelites acknowledged their sin and desire to remain in God’s covenant grace. They would go to the place of God’s presence, the tabernacle or temple, to re-enact and uphold the covenant. The placement of the Ten Commandments in the Ark of the Covenant spoke to the close connection between the law covenant and the temple.[ii] While we may think of the Ten Commandments as the primary moral code of the covenant, Israelites considered the whole Torah, including the stipulations for sacrifice in Leviticus, as a part of the covenant code. Sacrifice was a way for the holy God to maintain covenant relationship despite human frailty and sin.

How does the sacrificial system shed light on sin? On God’s character? What does it communicate about how humans relate to God? (Suggested answers: Sin causes death. As an affront to the holy infinite creator, sin requires an infinite penalty. The largest penalty one can pay is their life. But God is loving in addition to being just, so in his grace he allows a substitution. Nevertheless, humans should relate to God with a humility and awe because our lives belong to God—both because he gave life and because in his justice life is the required payment for sin.)

The sacrificial system of the tabernacle/temple provides important background for understanding the sacrifice of Jesus Christ the “Lamb of God.” The next study will look into how the book of Hebrews describes Jesus as the fulfillment and pinnacle of the sacrificial system.

 

End Notes

[i] D. G. Reid, “Sacrifice and Temple Service,” pages 1037-1050 in Dictionary of New Testament Background, edited by Craig Evans and Stanley Porter (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2000).

[ii] As Lunquist notes, the close connection between the law, sacrifice, and the temple was assumed throughout the ancient Near East. , John M. Lunquist, “What is a Temple? A Preliminary Typology” pages 205-219 in The Quest for the Kingdom of God: Studies in Honor of George E. Mendenhall. Edited by H. B. Huffmon, F. A. Spina, and A. R. W. Green. Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns, 1983.

A father’s faith: “I do believe; help my unbelief!”

Father’s Day always falls on a Sunday, and over the years I have discovered that in any given church Father’s Day brings mixed emotions. On the one hand, there is gratefulness and a desire to give thanks and honor dads because fathers have a tremendous impact on their children, on families, and on the nation. Not to mention “Honor your father and mother” made Moses’ top ten list of commandments. On the other hand, observing Father’s Day can be very difficult for those who are mourning a father’s death or for those who are dealing with an abusive or absent father. The pain of those experiences highlights the significance of fathers. For me, being a father has been one of the mostIsaiah, me, fish difficult and spiritually enlightening tasks I have ever been given. Integrating my faith with fatherhood has been both rewarding and heart wrenching. Whether as a father or relating to our fathers, fatherhood affects our faith journeys. Fatherhood can lead us into a better understanding of faith, of God, and ourselves.

To see how fatherhood can lead us into a deeper understanding of faith, we will examine one father’s journey described in Mark 9:17-27. This unnamed father was struggling. He was dealing with a son who was very troubled and no one had been able to help him. This situation, of course, also raised many faith questions for the father. With raw emotion and real faith struggles, this father sought out someone who made bold claims and performed miraculous deeds. This father sought out Jesus. Continue reading

Study 6, part 2: Christ Enters the Heavenly Tabernacle

Study Series Note: This study is one in a series of studies on the Bible’s sacred places (tabernacle, temple, etc.). Previous studies focused on the Creation and the Garden of Eden as a Temple.

The last study was devoted to the tabernacle, the portable tent temple, which the Lord established as a place to dwell with the people of Israel. (If you haven’t already, you can read the first part of study six here: https://throughandto.com/2017/02/15/study-6the-tabernacle-in-tents-holiness/#more-752) Understanding the concept of holiness was shown to be crucial for understanding the function of the tabernacle. The tabernacle (along with the later temple) and its priesthood mediated the holiness of God to his wayward people.

Although priests were intermediaries, they still had to go through many rituals to be able to move across the buffers to holiness. They still needed to offer sacrifices for their own sins, and certain actions rendered them unfit for the priesthood. The Book of Hebrews presents Jesus as the perfect high priest who is able to enter the true heavenly tabernacle. Continue reading

Review of “Going Deeper with New Testament Greek.”

Review of Going Deeper with New Testament Greek by Andreas Köstenberger, Benjamin Merkle, and Robert Plummer. Published by B&H Academic, 2016.going deeper

Going Deeper with New Testament Greek (a.k.a Going Deeper) is a collaborative work of Andreas Köstenberger, Benjamin Merkle, and Robert Plummer. All three are professors of New Testament in Southern Baptist seminaries, and Köstenberger is widely published in the fields of New Testament Studies and Biblical Theology.[1] Plummer and Merkle are not as prolific as Köstenberger in terms of published works (few are), but they have collaborated further on the forthcoming Greek for Life: Strategies for Learning, Retaining, and Reviving New Testament Greek. Plummer is also well-known to students and teachers of Biblical Greek through his production of the “Daily Dose of Greek,” a daily, two-minute video that examines a verse in the Greek New Testament (My wife gets really annoyed when Plummer sounds the “subjunctive alarm” during these videos).    Continue reading

Study 6:The Tabernacle: “In-tents” Holiness.

The previous two studies were devoted to the sacred places before the tabernacle. The next two studies return to the tabernacle, the portable tent temple, which the Lord established as a place to dwell with the people of Israel. We will discuss how the tabernacle (along with the temple) and its priesthood mediated the holiness of God to his wayward people.

Study Series Note: This study is one in a series of studies on the Bible’s sacred places (tabernacle, temple, etc.). Previous studies focused on the Creation and the Garden of Eden as a Temple.

Continue reading

Jesus as the new Bethel. Study 5, part 2 in the “Where Heaven and Earth Meet” series.

This study looks at how the Gospel of John appropriated Jacob’s encounter at Bethel to show Jesus as the typological fulfillment of that event. If you have not read it already, I suggest reading the first part of Study 5’s post from December 27, 2016. That post examines Jacob’s vision as it appears in the book of Genesis. jacob

Bethel was a place where heaven and earth met. This connection was vividly portrayed in Jacob’s dream with angels going up and down a ladder that stretched to the Lord in heaven. In the Gospel of John, Jacob’s ladder finds fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Jesus himself makes this claim to Nathanael, one of the several men who are deciding to become Jesus’ disciples. We read about this encounter in John 1:43-51. Continue reading

Study 5:A Journey of Faith Begins and Ends at God’s House in Bethel.

A Journey of Faith Begins and Ends at God’s House in Bethel.

 

Study Series Note: This study is one in a series of studies on the Bible’s sacred places (tabernacle, temple, etc.). The last study (posted in September under Study 4) focused on the Creation and the Garden of Eden as a Temple.

All sacred places of the Bible are made sacred by Godjacob’s presence. God walked in the Garden of Eden and was close to the people he created, which was why the Garden was closely associated with the later temple. Visiting the houses of God, therefore, doesn’t always entail entering a structure. In today’s study, we jump forward several chapters in Genesis and many thousands of years.
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