6. Faith and the Blood
It wasn’t enough just to bring a substitute. It wasn’t enough just to shed its blood correctly and properly place its fat upon the altar. Remember Cain and Abel? Cain was upset because he clearly thought that he was a better person than his brother and yet God accepted Abel’s sacrifice. Let’s suppose that Cain was much better of a person than Abel in every way, after all, he did show up first to bring an offering. He showed the first act of religious devotion. But Abel crying out to God of his unworthiness and approaches Him with the blood of a substitute. Which one would be justified? Which one would God accept? Cain brought the fruit of the ground. Cain brought the best of his good works and God was repulsed. There are no good works in man apart from Jesus Christ. Abel knew that he was unworthy and that is why in faith he brought a substitute. Notice what it says in Hebrews 11:
Hebrews 11:4 By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.
It wasn’t that he ritually brought the right thing the right way but it was his attitude. Notice it says, “By faith, Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice,” he knew that he deserved to die and that the Lord in his mercy provided a substitute for him. It was the condition of the heart. It was never just the ceremonial act in the Old Testament that brought forgiveness and acceptance but ceremony plus faith.
Ceremony alone with the wrong attitude was never accepted. Remember when Jesus condemned the ceremonies and traditions of the Pharisees? Imagine that the long-awaited Messiah had finally arrived in Israel and the leaders of Judaism were so hardened and blind in the ways that they completely missed it all. Jesus said to them, “You will not see Me again till you learn to say, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”
Its always hard for the religious person who is severely devoted to his rituals and good works to tolerate how God can accept the most wretched who would come with a good heart, a heart of faith. God’s love covers a multitude of sins.
Throughout all of history and even today, it is the attitude of faith that the Lord wants. It is a heart that truly believes in the promises of God no matter how bad he might have been. No matter what depth of sin he had fallen to.
When a common Israelite brought a lamb, God never wanted just the ceremony. He never just wanted a proper ritual. He wanted a heart with full assurance that God keeps His promises. That is why praise was always a part of the sacrifice. You could not truly praise God from your heart unless you knew you were forgiven.
If you were to tap the shoulder of one of the common Israelites at the altar and ask him, “Why are you here?” If he was a man of faith he would say, “because I am a sinner and I deserve to die, but the Lord my God, blessed be He, has given me a system and its called His Law, and according to ceremonial law this animal, when I press my hand upon its head, becomes me and I become as innocent as it is, its innocence is mine, my judgment is his, and as I kill it I realize that I should be slain but because God says so I am forgiven.”
There were always those people who just went through the motions and never grasped the mercy of God. They would take the animal just right, put their hands on it just right, slit its throat just right, put its pieces on the altar just right, and looked just like the guy next to him but his heart was wrong and he was rejected by God. The naked eye will only reveal two identical people, we look on the outside, God sees the inside.
Jesus spoke about two men. One built his house on a foundation of rock and the other built his on a foundation of sand. They both had houses, yet they were built on two different foundations. But you don’t know that until judgment comes.
Faith is simply acting on the promises of God. I believe what You said and I receive Your forgiveness.
Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.