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Wordwise Insight, Issue #084
August 14, 2011

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BIBLE INSIGHTS (and Reader Q & A): Were the Old Testament saints really able to get forgiveness of sins by animal sacrifices?

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Animal Sacrifices

(Were the Old Testament Animal Sacrifices Effective?)

Question: There is a hymn by Isaac Watts that seems to suggest that the Old Testament sacrifices were ineffective. If that's the case, was there any purpose in the Lord commanding them?

Answer: The hymn you're referring to is likely Watts's Not All the Blood of Beasts. It begins:

Not all the blood of beasts
On Jewish altars slain
Could give the guilty conscience peace
Or wash away the stain.

All the blood...all the beasts! What an uncountable number of Old Testament offerings are summed up in that little word “all,” in the opening line of the hymn. Century after century, altar after altar, thousands upon thousands of animals slain.

But was it “all” for nothing? All useless? No, the Lord would hardly command something that had no point and purpose.

1) First, we must see the last two lines above in the ultimate sense. No, there was no possibility that the death of an animal could pay finally for the sins of a man or woman. The sacrifices didn’t have the power to “take away” sins (Heb. 10:4).

However, they did cover over sin, in the eyes of God, and secure forgiveness for the sinner, because He saw them as anticipating what Christ would do in the future.

When the offerer recognized that he had broken God’s Law, and saw the offering as involving the death of an innocent substitute taking his place, it was accepted by the Lord as efficacious.

Repeatedly, in the instructions given regarding the Day of Atonement, it is said that the sacrifice atoned for all the sins of the people. “On that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the LORD” (vs. 30, cf. vs. 16, 17, 21, 22, 33, 34).

2) In addition to providing real forgiveness, the sacrifices were a ...

For the rest of this article, click on Animal Sacrifices.


Come and Pay Us a Visit!

I have developed a blog that is called Wordwise Hymns. As the title suggests, it is about hymns, and church music in general.

But as many of you will know, a blog is especially designed to facilitate a conversation on its particular subject. Readers can easily post comments about what they see, and I'm able to reply. I hope you will take part in the discussion!

Through 2010, almanac entries dealt with what happened in hymn history on each day of the year. Beginning in 2011, I hope to analyze hymns from a biblical standpoint, linking to the material that has come before.

My hope is that the blog will add to the value of the website and this newsletter, and promote some profitable exchanges on the subject of sacred music.

What happened on this day in hymnology? To find out, click Wordwise Hymns.

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