1998-01-24 - The Atonement in the Old Testament
The Comprehensive Study Series, Part 22
Picking up from our brief discussion of the atonement last week, I will begin to cover as concisely as I can the atonement in the Old Testament. This is no easy task. Please pray for me over the next few weeks-thanks! The doctrine of the atonement is the very heart of the revelation of God. The only really safe way to study this amazing subject is to look at the Word itself with an open mind, laying aside any presuppositions--or groundless theories. May you find this devotional study helpful to your understanding of God's word.
The word atonement comes from the Middle English period. It means "in accord or friendship" - "in agreement" - "to bring," "to make," "to set as one." That is -- "to be in or to bring about a state of agreement or reconciliation." From the phrase "at one" the word "atone" is derived. Today the word has broader meaning: "To make reparation, compensation expiation - amend for an offense or an offender."
In primitive times, God revealed certain basic doctrines by means of types and/or symbols. After Adam sinned, he realized some drastic change had taken place within him - he was not the same as before. Since this change, both he and his wife were overcome with a sense of shame. They became aware of their nakedness and attempted to cover themselves with fig leaves. Wearing these leaves when the Lord came to visit them, and having their consciences full of an overwhelming sense of guilt, they tried to hide themselves from God. When the Lord called them they explained they were naked and hid from Him. The Lord then asked if they had eaten of the tree He commanded them not to. They confessed their guilt but tried to shift the responsibility onto each other. (Sound like any marriages you know of today?) At this point the Lord -- addressing Satan through the serpent -- (Genesis 3:15) made an announcement that the redeemer of the world would become victorious over Satan. God also foretold that man was to go forth from his original home into an unfriendly world, and battle for life and existence. Before the Lord expelled them from the Garden of Eden, He clothed them.
Genesis 3:21 And Jehovah God made for Adam and for his wife coats of skins, and clothed
The only reasonable answer as to where the skins came from -- is that God slew some animals and used their skins to clothe Adam and Eve to hide their nakedness. Most likely the Lord instructed Adam and Eve to hide their nakedness. Most likely the Lord had Adam and Eve slay the animals and use their skins for clothing. It is highly probable that these animals were offered to God to make a blood atonement for their sins.
It was divine wisdom that motivated the clothing of mankind. This every man and woman must vividly understand. Before Adam's disobedience their was no reason for man to clothe himself. Since then the nature of mankind has degenerated. The present sinful condition of man and woman demands that their bodies be covered - to expose the body to the opposite sex is an entirely unwholesome condition. It is positive proof of a moral degeneracy of the heart. It is also one of the definite signs of the end of the age.
Two sons Cain and Abel were born to Adam and Eve following their exit from the garden of Eden. When these two brothers reached manhood they brought offerings to the Lord. Cain brought the fruit of the soil and of his labors. Abel offered the first of his flock. The Lord had respect toward Abel and his offering. For Cain and his offering he had no respect. Why?
Hebrews 11:4 says this By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he had witness borne to him that he was righteous, God bearing witness in respect of his gifts: and through it he being dead yet speaketh.
From this scriptural source we can be sure that God gave instructions to both Cain and Abel concerning the particular offerings they should bring to Him. Abel's faith was based on a clear revelation from the Lord. Cain substituted his wisdom over that of the specific command of the Almighty. This is evident in the fact that Cain brought fruit of the ground instead of a lamb of the flock. Undoubtedly Cain allowed Satan to deceive him as he had beguiled Eve his mother. God's ways are so much infinitely higher than ours. It is for God to speak and for man to hearken and obey. Figuratively speaking Abel was screened by the protective blood of the animal which the Lord had commanded to be offered as a sacrifice. Cain had no such blood to protect him. He was rejected and became a wanderer because of not having presented to God a proper offering. He spurned and rejected God's mercy by failing to obey.
The Extremely Important Lessons Set forth Here is still Applicable Today
Regardless of one's religion, intelligence or human reasoning one is not acceptable to God unless HIS prescribed offering is brought. In the times of the Patriarchs sacrifices were offered - this long before the Law that was given to Moses.
Genesis 26:5 Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.
It is evident that God revealed his righteous wisdom to those in this time period through laws, commandments and statutes, and this was way before any legislation came down from Mt. Sinai or Levitical laws were prescribed. It appears that the atonement was a thread of truth that was taught from above as an object lesson of our need. Yet when the Lord Jesus Christ made his atonement on the cross, even though history was rich in the truth about this from ancient times, many missed the boat. Next week I will cover more of the Atonement in the Old Testament in Part 2. May the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob through the Messiah Jesus of Nazareth, by the Holy Spirit, bless you and keep you growing in His love and knowledge. May your faith increase as you journey through His Word. Amen
All verses are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) unless otherwise noted.