4) Forgiveness (Part I of II)

Oct 27, 10 4) Forgiveness (Part I of II)

A REVOLUTIONARY concept/idea Part I

Definitions:

Vertical – an up and down position or direction

Pagan – a person or group of people who are not Jewish (which the people: Israel were known as); pagans do not worship or acknowledge the God of the bible.

Cultures – many different people-groups with different customs, etc.

Attributes – a quality or characteristic of a person, thing, group, etc.


Old Testament (OT) forgiveness:

This is what you could refer to as “Vertical” forgiveness – it’s God’s forgiveness extended to a people or a person, most often demonstrated to Israel, the Jews.


THIS was a revolutionary concept in its time.  You need to remember that Israel, as in God’s chosen people, were surrounded by the most pagan of pagans.  I think it is really hard for us to comprehend, to understand just how really evil these other people were.  Just a side note, there is a passage in the OT which forbids the Jews from burning their children in the fire.  What?!?  That really seems like a no-brainer but the reason it is written is because the pagans around them were sacrificing their newborns in this way: rolling them into a furnace as ‘food’ for the gods 1 through fire 2; just part of their campground experience! Just another “thing” that you offer up to your gods to keep them happy! So you have to realize that Israel in spite of their human follies was the shining light, an incredible exception to the other cultures around them in their time.


And of course, you need to remember Israel was only exceptional because they are God’s chosen: He interacted with them, showed some of himself to them, and gave his law to them so that they could teach the world about His nature: His Holiness.  We learned much about God through His interaction with the Jews and one of those amazing learning experiences was that there was a God who could actually forgive, among the many gods people believed in.


Wrap your mind around that for a second.  We’ve become so used to the idea; it is so much a part of OUR culture right now, that it is really surprising to think that this could EVER have been a new idea to people: FORGIVENESS.


Yes, Israel also had a sacrifice system but where as the Jews made a blood sacrifice (through sacrificing an animal) to their God as a temporary substitute for their sinfulness (un-holiness) 3, in comparison, the pagans around them made sacrifice as bribery to their gods.  This means that they made sacrifice in order to stay on the good side of their gods because these gods acted just like humans but worse because they were powerful, big, scary and vengeful (imagine a really ticked-off HUGE 4-year old child during a tantrum); the pagans imagined their gods with a lot of power but with very human attributes, except on a much larger scale; someone you really didn’t want to get on the bad side of; a MAJOR bully.  This is why a lot of the pagan cultures made man-sacrifices; they were paying their gods off with a human life.  “Here you go; see, we’ve brought you a gift… now please don’t destroy us! Hey, and don’t forget, we’ll give you another one in a few months… “


Knowing this history helps stress that the OT relates to us the brand-new concept of Vertical forgiveness.  What is NOT in the Old Testament though is Horizontal forgiveness… that’s in the New Testament (NT) – the next step in God’s radical, revolutionary lesson to mankind: forgiving each other.  That’s another blog 😎


Endnotes:

1: page 61 The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Bible by © Robert J. Hutchinson

2: Jeremiah 7:30-32 ESV: “For the sons of Judah have done evil in my sight, declares the LORD. They have settheir detestable things in the housethat is called by my name, to defile it. And they have built the high places ofTopheth, which is inthe Valley of the Son of Hinnom to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind. Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when it will no more be calledTopheth, orthe Valley of the Son of Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter; for they will bury in Topheth, because there is no room elsewhere.

3: In the Jewish system, by offering up an animal’s blood, its life, in place of their own, the person making the sacrifice, ceremonially placed their sins onto this ‘other’ and the ‘other’s’ blood was ‘atonement’ or payment against the debt of sin.  By doing this periodically, the Jewish sinner could stay in contact with God because otherwise, their Sinfulness would keep them separated from God so not able to interact with Him.  God is a Holy perfect God whose very nature cannot tolerate unholiness (think of a huge allergic reaction – sort of but NOT really).

In summation, animal sacrifices were commanded by God so that the individual could experience forgiveness of sin. The animal served as a substitute—that is, the animal died in place of the sinner, but only temporarily, which is why the sacrifices needed to be offered over and over. (reference: http://www.gotquestions.org/animal-sacrifices.html)

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