There were several reasons why Israelís priests offered animals as sacrifices (gifts to God). Here are some of these reasons:
(1) God created this world and it belongs to him. So it is right and proper that God should receive a gift from it.
(2) Those animals died on behalf of the people who gave them. The people deserved to die because of their sins (evil deeds). But the animals suffered instead. And that helps us to understand that Christ died instead of us. He suffered the punishment for our sins.
(3) The deaths of those animals made it possible for people to have a relationship with God. So even before Christ came, there was a relationship between God and his people.
In these verses, the author adds another reason. The sacrifices constantly reminded people about sin. So the rules about sacrifices had the same purpose as the rest of Godís law. They made people aware of their sin (Romans 7:7). The sacrifices proved that people had not lived by Godís standards (Romans 3:23). And it is very important for people to know that fact. That fact shows that people need Christís death. It is only by the death of Christ that God can forgive our sins.
People did have a relationship with God even before Christ died. They did not have that relationship merely because some animals had died. They had that relationship because of the real meaning of those sacrifices. That meaning was that Christ was coming to die for their sins. And that was why God could forgive them, too.
But their relationship with God was not complete or perfect. They were still very aware of their sin, as Paul says in Romans 7:7-25. They needed Christ to make them free from the power of sin and death (Romans 8:1-4; Hebrews 2:14-15; Hebrews 9:14). The sacrifices of animals had their purpose. But the sacrifice of Christ has a much greater purpose.
Next part: The blood has special meaning (Hebrews 10:4)
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© 2014, Keith Simons.