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1.02.2006    |    Burnt offerings
The Hebrew Scriptures are rife with details on what the Lord requires of His people Israel. Among these are ritual sacrifice which include a variety of burnt offerings, peace offerings, sin offerings, and attendant details on how and how much and who.

Christians mostly ignore these requirements as no longer applicable. Mostly. The usual thing one hears is that "the Law (of Moses) was fulfilled by Jesus' incarnation and substitutional death. Nothing more applies." Well, except perhaps for all of it?

It's all in the interpretation. On the one hand, we are told, by Jesus himself, that the Law still applies. From Matthew 5:18:
...truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
On the other hand, Jesus made it crystal clear that the Father doesn't want or need burnt offerings in the Old Testament manner. The Father wants a contrite and right heart. Not the fat of offerings. From Matthew 15, Jesus cites Isaiah 29:13:
8 This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 9 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.
This last apparently ignored by Christian churches that spend much time preparing dogmas and catechisms and creeds. And enforcing same; can't have any slackers in the pews, now.

The fundamental question remains: where, exactly, did Jesus tell us to not obey any part of the Law? To be sure, Jesus tells us in no uncertain terms to not follow the letter of the Law without being in the spirit of the Law. And that spirit is what, exactly?

Once again, the simplest answer is the best, and it is given by Jesus in Mark 12:29-30, which is a direct quotation of the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-5):
29 ...The most important is, 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'
Back with a question: What does it mean to love the Lord your God? Jesus gives us some old guidance in the second great commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself. But this, too, is from the Old Testament (Leviticus 19). Nothing new here. What is new is that the emphasis is placed on the spirit of the Law. Not the letter thereof. Same requirements. Different emphasis.

Jesus' own examples of how He loved His Father show that love of God leads naturally to love of neighbor. And that if elements of the Mosaic Law appear to be violated, it is only because of the greater good in carrying out God's mercy. In other words, mercy trumps the Law -- sometimes. Sometimes it does not. Depends on which part of the Law we're talking about.

But we are still left with Jesus' words, that the Law remains "until heaven and earth pass away." It should be clear from the overall sense of the Gospels that Jesus very much wants us to show our love for God by obeying God's commandments, not just willingly, and certainly not grudgingly. Rather, with a penitent heart, that meets the requirements out of love of God. For, as the Psalmist has written (Psalm 51):
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
So, enjoy your BLT and pork ribs; I won't squeal on ya. Just so long as you love your neighbor by sharing them with him.

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Blogger Barry said...

Hosea 6:6 (King James Version)

For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.

10:07 PM, January 02, 2006  

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About this site and the author

Welcome. My name is John Luke Rich, (very) struggling Christian. The focus here is Christianity in its many varieties, its fussing and feuding, how it impacts our lives and our society, with detours to consider it with other faiths (or lack thereof).

Call this blog my way of evangelizing on the internet.

Putting it differently, we're only here on this earth a short time. It's the rest of eternity that we should be most concerned about. Call it the care and feeding of our souls.

I was born Jewish, and born again in Christ Jesus over thirty years ago. First as a Roman Catholic; now a Calvinist by persuasion and a Baptist by denomination. But I'm hardly a poster boy for doctrinal rigidity.

I believe that Scripture is the rock on which all Christian churches must stand -- or sink if they are not so grounded. I believe that we are saved by faith, but hardly in a vacuum. That faith is a gift from God, through no agency on our part -- although we sometimes turn a deaf ear and choose to ignore God's knocking on the door.

To be Christian is to evangelize. Those who think it not their part to evangelize perhaps haven't truly understood what our Lord told us in Matthew 28. We must preach the Gospel as best we are able. Using words if necessary.

Though my faith waxes and wanes, it never seems to go away. Sometimes I wish it would, to give me some peace of mind. But then, Jesus never said that walking with Him was going to be easy...

Final note: I also blog as Jack Rich on cultural, political and other things over at Wrong Side of the Tracks

Thanks for stopping by.