So confession- I studied classical civilisation.
I say confession because my friends will enthusiastically mock me for it. You can call me a geek, I don’t care- I love ancient literature. Despite all the slaughter and war the texts actually have amazing narratives with striking Character’s and language that is just so-
Ok, I know I’m boring you so I’ll stop. As much as I’ve enjoyed studying these texts there is something that I find really thought-provoking- the excessive and frequent sacrifices to appease the divine. Before characters do anything they stop and kill a hundred or so goats, sprinkle a load of wine and blood around and plead with the gods to show them favour. Now I’m not trying to undermine what to people in antiquity was a fundamental part of living but I feel it highlights a freedom that we have in Christianity. Similar attempts to gain the approval of God are scattered throughout the Old Testament.
No longer do we need religious rituals and libations. Seriously, no amount of murdered goats is going to make God love us anymore. Because here’s the amazing thing- we can’t make God love us anymore. His love is eternal and relentless, He pursues us. So we don’t need to beg for his mercy and hope that if we make a few sacrifices he’ll grant us our hopes and desires because the sacrifice has already been done through Jesus.
Hebrews 10:4 ‘it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins’.
In reference to the attempts of the religious authorities in the Old Testament it is written, ‘day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins’. Day after day the people tried in vain to make their peace with God but no amount of dead animals is going to do the trick because these religious laws are only a ‘shadow of the good things that are coming- not the realities themselves’. The laws offered an insight as to what was to come, a sacrifice that would finally work but they themselves were only shadows- insubstantial and ineffective.
10:14 ‘for by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.’
There has only ever been one sacrifice that finally, once and for all made a way for people to enter into relationship with God; the death of Jesus.
He was the perfect sacrifice.
10:17‘ “their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more”. And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary’.
Have you ever heard Grace more beautifully articulated?
Sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary, friends.
Now I’m not suggesting that any of you reading this actually go around slaughtering innocent animals before a maths test or sprinkle libations before a dentist appointment (at least I hope you don’t) but perhaps you have your own goat. Maybe you have a tendency to think that if you need God’s hand in your situation, if you need him to guide you through something that’s worrying you or causing you to feel down then you need to offer Him your goat in return.
‘If I just prayed for a little longer…’ ‘If I just read my bible more often…’, ‘If I was a little more open with my faith…’
Now I’m not saying these are bad convictions to have, but they should be carried out as a response to what God has already done, not in the hope that doing them will prompt him to move. Whether your goat is your money, your time, your effort, whatever it is that you are feeling you are sacrificing in the hope that God will then move, we need to remember that we can’t make Him love us any more than he already does because that is impossible.
The amazing thing about our God is that we don’t need to try to catch His attention.
He sees you, He loves you, the sacrifice has been made. It is finished. So no more goat killing is necessary.