Let’s review a couple of things we’ve been over so far.
First, the Levitical Sacrificial System did NOT provide atonement for any and every sin a Hebrew could potentially commit.
Second, the Levitical Sacrificial System only provided atonement for what the Bible classifies as UNINTENTIONAL SINS.
Third, under the Levitical Sacrificial System, INTENTIONAL SINS could not be NOT atoned for.
Fourth, the INTENTIONAL SINS were turned over to that part of God’s justice system known as the “Curses of the Law”.
The bolded and underlined part of the following verses from Numbers is actually a great explanation of what the Curses of the Law is.
“‘If an individual sins by mistake, he is to offer a female goat in its first year as a sin offering. The cohen will make atonement before Adonai for the person who makes a mistake by sinning inadvertently; he will make atonement for him, and he will be forgiven — no matter whether he is a citizen of Israel or a foreigner living with them. You are to have one law for whoever it is that does something wrong by mistake. But an individual who does something wrong intentionally, whether a citizen or a foreigner, is blaspheming Adonai. That person will be cut off from his people.“-Numbers 15:27-30
I gather it is because of verses like this that gentile pastors, teachers and church leaders generally shy away from teaching the Old Testament.
Because the simple truth is the above Numbers passage and others presents a thorny theological problem that just doesn’t jive with modern day doctrines.
Aside from the fact that most modern pastors are severely lacking in a proper understanding of the Old Testament, they would all unanimously agree that Yeshua satisfied all the requirements of the sacrificial system.
I’m sure most gentile believers have heard that preached from the pulpit ad infinitum ad nauseum, and I wouldn’t have any objection to that statement.
That Yeshua is the perfect sacrifice, the once and for all authorized substitute for all the animals that were sacrificed to atone for sin within the Bible’s sacrificial system as explained in Leviticus is 100% correct.
Again, I wouldn’t have any problem with pastors who say that.
However, what do we do with the terrifying reality that the Levitical sacrificial system, of which Yeshua was a substitute, only provides forgiveness for UNINTENTIONAL SINS?
God makes it clear in the above Scriptures that if you commit an intentional sin, if you blaspheme Him, there is NO atonement for such a sin and you will be cut-off.
What do we do with this dilemma?
Simply sweep it under the rug and just accept a greatly watered down and unquestioned doctrine that fits a predetermined gentile agenda?
Well, the ancient Hebrews also had the same big problem.
They were well aware that the Torah simply does NOT provide a way for an Israelite to reconcile with God once a “high handed” or “great” sin was committed.
In order to deal with this thorny problem, the rabbis started coming up with all kinds of non-Torah based remedies to deal with this problem.
Some said that Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) atoned for intentional sins.
Others said that doing good deeds or showing heartfelt repentance covered intentional sins.
Others also said that if one studied enough Scripture or did some great good deed, intentional sins would be forgiven.
Of course, none of this is Scriptural.
But I can’t blame the ancient sages and rabbis for doing their best to deal with this problem.
I mean who in the heck wants to go through life knowing that your fate of destruction is fixed and inescapable because you have committed an intentional or high-handed sin?
And all of these remedies concocted up by the Rabbis simply highlights all the more how serious a matter intentional sin was.
The Hebrew religious authorities conjured up all kinds of unscriptural procedures on how to escape this rejection by God due to the committing of an intentional sin.
If an Israelite committed an UNINTENTIONAL SIN, he could always turn to the Levitical sacrificial system and be forgiven.
And I’m talking about REAL FORGIVENESS, not some inferior kind.
Real atonement was achieved and peace with God was restored once the animal sacrifice was made and in some cases reparations taken care of.
However, if someone sinned intentionally (high handedly), they could NOT go to the sacrificial system to be forgiven.
Instead, they had to be dealt with by that part of God’s judicial system known as the Curses of the Law.
The one who committed an intentional sin, instead of being under the blessing and grace of the sacrificial system, was put under the punishment or curse of the Law.
This was terrifying because not only was the person who committed an intentional sin in most cases executed, he also lost his relationship with God.
And there was really no clearly explained or defined way in the Torah to get it back.
This was the burden every Israelite carried.
He had to always be on guard to not commit an intentional sin.
In one careless or rash moment if you committed a sin that the sacrificial system could not atone for, you were now at war with the Creator of the universe.
Let me put it another way.
Since the only means in God’s justice system to be forgiven was via an animal sacrifice confined to the context of the sacrificial system, what happened if you committed a sin NOT covered by that system?
You were done for.
This was the world the Hebrews of the Old Testament lived in and the mindset of Paul and the Jews during Yeshua’s time.
Paul, especially, as a highly positioned Pharisee, would have understood the realities of God’s justice system to a degree your average person didn’t.
As a Rabbi, it was his job to constantly re-examine his position with God so as to avoid the curses of the Law due to intentional sin.
Man, imagine the tremendous amount of mental energy needed to control your will so completely that you would never throughout your whole lifetime ever commit an intentional sin.
It’s no wonder that throughout the centuries, the Hebrew Scribes and Rabbis came up with a lot of unscriptural traditions to deal with the harshness of a system that had no provision for intentional sins.
In many cases, these traditions were simply a replacing of God’s ways with man’s ways because it better fit their notions of fairness and justice.
And of course, they needed a way to get rid of their guilt.
This also informs us why the more educated an Israelite was, the more strict he was in keeping the Law and urging others to do the same.
The Torah-trained scholar understood much better than the average person how limited the sacrificial system REALLY WAS to atone for sin (what could and could not be atoned for under the sacrificial system).
So now, in just about three short blog post articles, you should have a good idea of the basic principles of the MISHPAT or justice system the Israelites lived under and with that probably a better understanding than 99% of the pastors out there,at least I’ve never heard this taught at a gentile church anywhere
One final point, and pay really close attention because I think you it may transform forever your current understanding of the Law.
The sacrificial system represented the BLESSINGS part of the Law.
Because if an Israelite committed an unintentional sin, he could always turn to the sacrificial system for forgiveness, it was a blessing to him.
On the other hand, the curses of the law represented the PUNISHMENT part of the Law.
Because if an Israelite committed an intentional sin, there was no means for forgiveness, and thus rather than being blessed by the sacrificial system, he was punished.
So make no mistake about it, the sacrificial system was a blessing and it was a part of God’s grace provided to the Israelites so they could be forgiven if they sinned unintentionally.
The next time we meet, I want to explore the question of since the sacrificial system only covered sins that weren’t intended, and if Yeshua fulfilled ONLY THAT system, where does that leave us modern believers when we sin deliberately?
(For those who are freaking out because you may have committed an intentional sin in the past, relax. I’ve got some awesome news for you.)