Leviticus 4:27, 29-31 – “Now if any of the common people sins unintentionally by violating one of Yahweh’s commands, does what is prohibited, and incurs guilt, … “He is to lay his hand on the head of the sin offering and slaughter it at the place of the burnt offering. “Then the priest is to take some of its blood with his finger and apply it to the horns of the altar of burnt offering. He is to pour out the rest of its blood at the base of the altar. … The priest is to burn it on the altar as a pleasing aroma to Yahweh. In this way the priest will make atonement on his behalf, and he will be forgiven.”
In our modern view of the Torah, we typically are taught to look at the sacrifices offered according to the methods that God instructed as being works designed to bring forgiveness; as if the offerer is doing some kind of work to gain their “salvation,” or their right-standing with God. We then paint with a broad brush the entire Torah and say, “See, the whole system was a system of works that God abhors, since there is nothing we can do to become righteous with God on our own.”
Nothing could be further from the truth.
First of all, why would God abhor the very system he himself put in place for the Israelites to follow? The reason the system had validity was because God designed and commanded it.
The whole system was not a system of works for personal righteousness (even though that is what it had become over time). It was a system designed to bring the offerer before God in faith that the sacrifice they were bringing would be accepted by him. To bring a sacrifice according to Torah was to approach God in faith of being forgiven.
Through all of the sacrifices and offerings prescribed by Torah, there had to be an element of faith that the offerer brought with their sacrifice, otherwise, there would be no point to the sacrifice. If the offerer did not believe that they would be forgiven of their offense against God after following the prescribed method, then there would be no need to do so at all. The sacrifice or offering meant nothing without faith.
Through this process, God was attempting to teach the Israelites (and now, the rest of the world) that every action according to Torah is an act of faith, and it is only on the basis of faith that God would accept anyone.
Paul even taught that faith was the very basis of what maintained the structure of the Torah.
Romans 3:31 – Do we then nullify the law through faith? Absolutely not! On the contrary, we uphold the law.
If the ancient Israelites were to bring a sacrifice without faith, God would not accept it. If they performed the rituals of the annual festivals without faith, God would not be pleased. Inspired by the Spirit of God, the prophet Amos condemned the nation for these very things.
Amos 5:12, 21-22 – For I know your crimes are many and your sins innumerable. [You] oppress the righteous, take a bribe, and deprive the poor of justice at the city gates. … I hate, I despise, your feasts! I can’t stand the stench of your solemn assemblies. Even if you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; I will have no regard for your fellowship offerings of fattened cattle.
The reason God would not accept them was not because they were following Torah commandments, but because the people were only doing them for “religious” reasons, not because they actually had faith in Yahweh. They would offer these sacrifices and celebrate the feasts and then turn right around and worship the idols of Molech and Remphan and take advantage of their countrymen, denying them the justice due them. This demonstrated that their hearts were far from God, and they were not operating within the parameter of Torah in faith. The actual practices of Torah themselves, the sacrifices and offerings, did not have magical abilities to wipe away sinfulness of those who were not interested in bringing them in the first place; their hearts had to be right in order for the sacrifices to become effective.
The writer of Hebrews alludes to this same principle at the height of his epistle to the early believers in Messiah:
Hebrews 10:4, 26-27 – For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. … For if we deliberately go on sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire about to consume the adversaries.
Whether the sacrifice was an animal or a grain offering or the symbolic sacrifice of the Messiah himself, they would only become effective when offered or accepted in faith with hearts that were sincere before God. Someone today who claims to believe in Yeshua within the congregation of believers and yet lives like every other non-believer the rest of the week is not a person of faith and does not stand forgiven of their sins. This is the same eternal principle of Torah for all time, and will never change.
We must always approach God in faith, with hearts that are truly repentant and sincere for God to restore us. Thankfully for believers today, the animal sacrifices of Torah are no longer necessary since all of the priestly rites and temple rituals have been fulfilled once for all in the symbolic offering of Messiah.
Hebrews 10:10 – By this will, we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Yeshua Messiah once for all time.
We can now boldly approach God according to Torah, now through Messiah, but only with humility and true faith.
Hebrews 4:16 – Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.
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