In part 1 of this series, we began looking for a more informative answer to my young friend’s question (“Why would God send His only son to die?”). The answer is of course that it was God’s plan for our salvation all along. But a better explanation would really be aided by a better understanding of sin, atonement, and ultimately, propitiation. In part 2, we looked at what sin is, why it matters so much to God, and why it should matter to us. And now we turn to God’s response to sin – which, come to that, is also one of the reasons that it matters to us.
What are the consequences of sin?
Of course, God’s first response to sin was to Adam and Eve after the fall of man, but He has given man many other earthly responses to sin. God was so grieved by man’s wickedness that He “struck down every living creature” (that wasn’t on the ark) in a global flood in Genesis 6-8. God promised His judgment on the Canaanites in Genesis 15:13-21 and again in Deuteronomy 9:4-5 , well in advance of the Israelites’ entry into the promised land in Joshua 3. And just as he warned them 1,000 years earlier in Deuteronomy 28:49-63, God had His people removed and taken captive for their continued disobedience, and their cherished holy city was burned (2 Kings 17, 2 Kings 24, 2 Chronicles 36:17-21). Of course, all of these, and many other earthly judgments God has brought to pass, pale in comparison to God’s promise of eternal separation from Him and the punishment that awaits the sinful in the end – in contrast to the reward that awaits the faithful (Matthew 8:11-12, Matthew 25:45-46).
Why does God require a price to be paid for sin?
It is a fact that it is no accident that the Creator of life demands discipline, and that the blueprints He gives us for living our lives result in the best that life has to offer for us. Godly living in the long and short-term always has born out that constant truth – His ways are best for us. And it is His will for all of us to be saved (1 Timothy 2:3-4) So why does God demand a price for sin? As we noted in part 2, God is too pure to tolerate sin (Habakkuk 1:13). But just as importantly, He is a fair and just God (Psalm 25:8-14, 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10, Deuteronomy 32:4). He has promised to reward us for our righteousness, just as He has promised to punish sin. He is faithful and true to all of His promises. If it were not so – if He simply turned a blind eye to sin – how could we count on Him to keep the other promises He has made to us?
How was sin dealt with in the Old Testament?
Sacrifices and offerings to God were made by presenting them to a Levitical priest (a descendant of Levi, one of the 12 sons of Jacob). Non-priests could not make an approach to God. The different types of offerings are described in Leviticus 1-7. Only the High Priest – from Aaron through the end of Eleazor’s line – approached God in the innermost part of the Tabernacle (the Most Holy place), as they did to make offering on the Day of Atonement. This occurrence simply put off the judgment of the Lord for their sins in the past year (Leviticus 16:34). These sacrifices and the old law were merely a shadow of the promise of what was to come (Hebrews 10:1-4).
God had set apart the Levites (Numbers 3:12) and established the priesthood for His people through the lines of the three sons of Levi – all with special duties. These were the Gershonites (Numbers 4:24-26; 7:7-8), Kohathites (Numbers 3:29-32, 1 Chron 15:1-15), and the Merarites (Numbers 3:36-37; 4:29-33). Moses and Aaron were sons of Kohath; and it was through Aaron’s line that the priesthood continued until the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., by way of his sons Eleazor, Ithamar, and Nadab and Abihu. The latter two met their end (and that of their lines) in Leviticus 10. Ithamar’s line ended in 2 Kings 2:26-27 with Abiathar. Eleazor’s line lived on until the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
All through these ages, the promise loomed ahead of something better. A promise that was made first in Genesis 3:15-17, and would be repeated and expounded throughout the Old Testament. We will look closer at that promise as this series continues in part 4, taking a look at how Jesus fits into God’s plan for our salvation.
image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog. All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility. When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com. For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.