[God said,] “So I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar and will consecrate Aaron and his sons to serve me as priests. Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God.”
We have a tendency to believe that our sin is unique. In order to manage the guilt of sin, some people respond by jettisoning whatever transcendent truth reveals their actions as sinful. Others discipline themselves, crafting elaborate (and often painful) pathways of penance. Many disconnect from genuine community, for fear they’ll be found out.
At first glance the sacrificial system solved all of these problems. First, everyone in the community participated — it was clear no one was alone in sin. Second, it gave a tangible action to pay the debt of sin. Most importantly, it gave people a way home.
God’s presence fell on the tabernacle, and his glory guided his people. One would expect this would have reoriented the hearts of the ancients — but sin persisted. The sacrificial system proved insufficient to pay the price of sin, let-alone restore humankind’s relationship with God.
We must ask ourselves, then, why we needed the sacrificial system at all.
I’m not sure we would believe that we can’t restore our own relationship with God without the track record of the Old Testament. As modern people, we can do anything. Why wouldn’t we be able to reestablish our relationship with God?
The first covenant was broken, not by God, but by humankind. We’d already been proven impotent. And yet, it was God — in his love — who would pay the price of restoring all that was lost.
“For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests,” Hebrews teaches, “but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.”
It is our salvation, not our sin, that is unique. Christ came as the true and better high priest and — this is the scandal of the gospel — the true and better sacrifice. Because his sacrifice was complete we can live freely under grace, engage whole-heartedly in community, and rest assured in the promise Christ will complete that which he has started.
Father God, our hearts long for you. Forgive us for trying to manage our own sin and pay our own debts. Help us to create communities where sinners like ourselves are welcome, where healing can take place, and where your Son can be glorified through our love for one another.
Ancient Symbols, Modern Faith
Part 3 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org