Monday, March 23, 2009

The Yom Kippur Rebuttal

Issue: Is the shedding of blood the only way to atone for sins?

Here is an argument I recently heard:

“Hashem [a title for God] knows what is on our hearts and that is all that matters. We ask for forgiveness and it is there.”

That’s a wonderful thought but it is contrary to Scripture. We’ll take a look at what the Tanakh and the Talmud have to say on the subject. But first, back to the question. According to Hebrew Scripture, how exactly are one’s sins forgiven?

Since there’s no longer a temple, today’s rabbis say that the blood atonement is no longer necessary for the forgiveness of sin. They say that doing good deeds and the giving of tzedakah (charity) will get you into heaven. The argument I referenced earlier goes a step further and says that simply asking God for forgiveness is sufficient. Here’s what the Talmud, Zevahim 6a says about Vayikra (Leviticus 17:11): “Surely atonement can be made only with the blood, as it says, ‘For it is the blood that maketh atonement by reason of the life.’” That’s pretty cut and dry.

Another argument that actually seems to have some scriptural backing for the absence of blood sacrifice is that atonement can be received by a flour offering. Leviticus 5:11 says, “But if he is not able to bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons, then he who sinned shall bring for his offering one-tenth of an ephah of fine flour as a sin offering. He shall put no oil on it, nor shall he put frankincense on it, for it is a sin offering.” This argument is addressed by simply reading the next two verses. “Then he shall bring it to the priest, and the priest shall take his handful of it as a memorial portion, and burn it on the altar according to the offerings made by fire to the Lord. It is a sin offering.” The flour was only effective when added to the top of the blood offering of the community.

That brings us to Yom Kippur. The idea of Yom Kippur in the Scriptures comes from Leviticus 23. “…and you shall humble your souls and present an offering by fire to the Lord.” The climax of Yom Kippur was the Azazel or the scapegoat. Oh man, I get excited about the scapegoat. Maybe I’ll write further about the scapegoat later this week. Anyways, two goats would be brought before the high priest, lots were drawn, one goat would be sacrificed as an offering before the Lord, and the other would be released after the high priest symbolically transferred the sins of the nation onto the living goat by the laying on of his hands. That’s where we get the term “scapegoat” since this literal innocent goat was blamed for and punished for the sins of the people. The goat would then be sent into the wilderness to die.

Therein lies the problem. There’s no longer a temple and thus no blood sacrifice. Is tzedakah (charity) and mitzvoth (good deeds) enough to abolish the requirement of the blood sacrifice? Or, as my friend recently argued, is simply asking for forgiveness from one’s heart enough to atone for sin? The Jews around the world hope so but how can they be sure? There’s absolutely no reason to think that God changed his requirement since there’s no scriptural backing for such a conclusion. Isn’t there a lot riding on the assumption/hope that God will forgive sins without the blood sacrifices that he so carefully and articulately ordained?

Let’s get back to basics for a moment. Ezekiel 18:4 says “The soul who sins shall die.” Again, very straightforward. The bottom line that we would all agree with is that the barrier between God and I is sin and only God can take away that sin. How can this be done today? Many Jewish people argue that we should be more concerned about ethics and doing what is right rather than ancient tradition and ritual. Tell me though, when did God change the idea from Leviticus that there must be an “exchange of life?”

He didn’t. Malachi 3:6 says “For I the Lord, I change not.”

So what then? Has God left all of mankind without a way to have sin atoned for ever since the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70AD? No, God has provided. Remember the story of Abraham and Isaac? God told Abraham to offer Isaac up as a sacrifice but then stopped Abraham’s hand at the last minute. God provided a ram as a substitutionary sacrifice. That story speaks prophetically of the day in which God would provide Himself as the sacrifice for the world. Messiah became the scapegoat and thus provides atonement for all who will believe. It is through His substitutionary blood sacrifice that the “exchange of life” takes place and sin is atoned for according to original Hebrew scripture. Yes, Jesus fulfilled Yom Kippur perfectly. Let me leave you with a passage from the book of Hebrews. Read it slowly and think it through..

“Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” Heb 9:11-15

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Passover is just around the corner. It’s a time that I really look forward to each year as we reflect upon the story of God’s deliverance of His people from the hand of the Egyptians. If you don’t know the story, Google it and get ready to be amazed.

The centerpiece of Passover is of course the lamb. You can read about it in Exodus 12 if you’re interested. The lamb would be carefully chosen by each family, kept in the house until the fourteenth day of Nisan, and then be slaughtered. The blood from the lamb was to be placed on the doorposts and lintels of the house and they were to eat the roasted lamb as a family.

“Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.” Exd 12:13

So, the families that followed these instructions were spared from the plague that God sent to Egypt. That night, the angel killed the firstborn son of every household but passed over the houses that had the blood on the doorposts. It was the plague that persuaded Pharaoh to let God’s people go. Thus, the Jews celebrate this miraculous event to this day.

The first lamb sacrifice in the Scriptures is in Genesis and it progresses throughout the Scriptures. We read that there must be the shedding of blood for the remission of sins.

Gen 4 – A lamb was sacrificed for a single person: Abel
Exd 23 – A lamb was sacrificed for a family: Passover
Exd 29 – A lamb was scarified for the whole nation: the continual consecration by the priests
John 1 – A lamb was to be sacrificed for the whole world: John proclaimed “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

One of the specific instructions for the Passover lamb says in Exd 12:46 “nor shall you break one of its bones.” Very interesting. This speaks prophetically of Jesus…

A Roman crucifixion was designed to be excruciatingly painful. The torture would last for up to 36 hours before death finally came to the executed. The Scriptures say that Jesus died in just six hours. Because it was the preparation day for the Passover, the Jews asked Pilate if he would have the legs broken of the three people being crucified so that they would die faster. After all, it was a holy time in Jerusalem and nobody wanted to see people being crucified during the festivals.

It was actually a merciful act when Romans broke the legs of those being crucified. See, crucifixion brought spasms and eventually paralysis to the pectoral muscles. This would make it impossible to breathe. A man being crucified would then give himself a sort of artificial respiration. He would do this by placing his weight on the nail in his feet and lifting his body up a couple inches. This would allow him to exhale before dropping his weight back down.

So, the soldiers broke the legs of the men on either side of Jesus that day. When they came to Jesus, he was already dead. Instead of breaking his legs, they pierced his side with a spear to ensure that he was really dead. This fulfilled the prophecy from Psalm 34 that Messiah would not have a bone in his body broken.

Amazing! Did you know that Jesus actually died on the fourteenth day of Nisan? Yep, He became the perfect spotless Lamb and was sacrificed that day for the whole world. The very day that the Israelites were celebrating Passover and slaughtering the lambs, THE Lamb gave his life so that we could live. His blood is sprinkled on “the doorposts of our hearts” if we’ll simply believe that it is so. For my Jewish friends, may I challenge you to consider this and even study with an open mind? The Passover is a celebration of what God did thousands of years ago in Egypt but was also a prophetic celebration of the perfect Lamb: Messiah. Study the Scriptures, ask God to reveal the truth to you, and you’ll see for yourself.

Miller's Ale House

Dinner tonight with a couple friends was interesting. After my buddy was rejected by our hot waitress (she apparently has a boyfriend), the conversation meandered all over the place. I told tales of my beautiful Love and her annoying Papillion. We pondered all of the typical things guys ponder at a tavern. My buddy then had to dip and I was left alone with a new friend – one whom intrigues me greatly.

Once the bill was paid, the new friend and I sat at the booth and proceeded to explore some tragic territory. He basically bashed God for 45 minutes and blamed God for every failure in his life. It broke my heart to see how pissed and how hurt this guy was. He said that God just sits around and watches his life fall apart without doing anything about it. I didn’t say much. I just listened as this guy pointed fingers at God and everyone else in the world for his problems. When I asked if he still believed in God, he responded that he was just a hair away from walking away altogether.

I really feel this guy’s pain. Back in college many nights were spent venting to a friend (Nick Sells for the majority of one semester) about how I was ready to quit on God and just do my own thing. There was such depression, frustration, and hopelessness in those days. Life felt hard. I didn’t feel God, didn’t hear God, and didn’t like my circumstances. There were many nights that I almost threw in the towel on my relationship with God and just called the whole thing quits.

Several of Jesus’ disciples walked away from him after a particular event. When Jesus turned to his twelve and asked if they would leave as well, Peter gave this response:

“But Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.’” (John 6:68)

That’s the key. When life doesn’t make sense, when our circumstances seem unbearable, when we don’t feel God’s presence, when we lose someone we love, when the structures in our lives crumble, when we don’t understand what’s going on, when utter loneliness and depression sets in, to whom shall we turn? We can shake our fists at God but then what? Jesus has the words of eternal life; who or what other than Him is left for us to seek out?

I’m going through a really rough month. Perhaps you are, too. If you’re going through a troubling time, let me encourage you to stick closely to the Lord. He’s with you, He’s watching you, and He is deeply in love with you. God uses the trials to refine us and grow us into men and women that intimately know Him and genuinely trust Him. Don’t be like my friend was tonight. Don’t let your circumstances grow roots of bitterness and animosity in your heart against God and the rest of the world. Draw near to God and worship Him anyways. He’s worthy of our praise whether we feel up to it or not. Just press on, keep on, hang on. After you’ve tasted the living water, there’s nowhere else to go that will satisfy the thirst in your soul. Jesus is everything you’re longing for. Don’t be deceived in thinking that the world has anything to offer that will truly satisfy your thirst. Whatever it is that you’re desiring, missing, aching for, or dreaming of, you’ll find it in the one that shed his blood on the cross for you. I’m not trying to be preachy here.. just aching for my friends that are walking away from God. Just go back and save yourself some pain and regret. He loves you so stinkin’ much and really wants the best for you. Let God have His way in your heart and life. You’ll come out with a smile on your face, a joy in your life, a beautiful spirit, and a peace that surpasses comprehension and understanding.

And if you have no clue what I'm talking about because you've never given your heart to Jesus in the first place, consider doing it tonight. You'll never be the same.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Peace, Homie!

Check out today's Jon Courson Devotional..


March 10

If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you ...
John 15:7

The word ‘abide’ means to ‘be at home in’. The Psalmist didn’t say ‘Thy Word have I hid in my mind’ or even ‘in my memory’. He said, ’Thy Word have I hid in my heart,’ (Psalm 119:11).

Paul echoed him when he prayed in Ephesians 3 ‘that Christ may dwell in your hearts.’

Why does the Lord want Himself and His Word to abide in our hearts and not just in our heads? Because, affected by data, discussions, and information, the mind is incredibly fickle. I can change my mind 100 times in a single day concerning a single issue. So can you. But not so the heart.

Think back to your dating days and you know how this works. If someone dumped you, even though you knew in your head you were glad to be free of him or her you would still find yourself feeling for him or caring about her. Why? Because the heart holds on. That’s why the Lord wants His Word to dwell there.

How does this happen?

For me the most practical way knowledge moves from the head to the heart is through meditation and contemplation. Spending time in the Word — in morning and evening devotions, in corporate study, in times when I’m waiting in line or waiting at a stoplight allows it to sink in and permeate my inner man, to be at home in my life, to abide in my heart.

(Jon Courson;


This rings true with me this morning. As I think wayyy back to my dating days (umm.. just a few months ago!), I totally understand how the heart holds on even when the mind knows it's time to move on. So often, I study the Word from an academic position and forget to let the truths of God's love move into my heart. Lets focus this week on meditating on the truths that we know and push them into our hearts. Lets allow His words to be "at home" in us. Unlike Eastern Meditation in which you empty your mind of all thoughts and emotions, Biblical Meditation is the filling of your mind and heart with God's truth. Then, even when your circumstances are uncertain, even when your mind questions what's going on, even when people let you down, His Word abiding in your heart keeps you at peace.

Here are a few additional verses to go along with this idea...

"And let the peace of God rule in your hearts.." - Col. 3:15

"You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You." -Isa. 26:3

"Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You." -Ps. 119:11

"The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide." -Ps. 37:31

"Receive, please, instruction from His mouth, and lay up His words in your heart." -Job 22:22

"Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day." -Ps. 119:97

"and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." -Phl. 4:7