Chapter 1 (Burnt Offering) pages 49-62
North begins well enough by quoting James Jordan (page 49) saying that
‘[he] argues that the whole burnt sacrifice symbolized the death of the sacrificer. This death was imputed judicially to the animal. The animal became covenantally dead. The sinner’s liability to death was transferred to the animal’
but, unfortunately, by relying upon the chronological order in which the offerings were committed to writing (that is, the burnt offering comes before the sin offering), he sees an indication (page 49) that
‘Death must be dealt with before sin is’
an unfortunate conclusion even though the subsequent quote from James Jordan (page 49) that
‘What the sacrifice removes is not sin but death, the judgment for sin. Death having been removed, it is now possible to live a righteous life’
should wake us up to the necessity of seeing sin being dealt with first in order that sin’s effects (that is, death) may be adequately dealt with and removed, not having any foundation upon which to flourish. If (spiritual) death is dealt with first before its sin cause, then spiritual death must once again be present through the undealt with sin but, if the other way round, the effects of sin can be removed because their foundation has been dealt with.
If this is the case, then we would expect to find sin offerings and burnt offerings frequently mentioned in the same sentence and, if chronological order is a good indication of our assertion, that the sin offering would normally be mentioned first. This is exactly what is found though there are exceptions to this expectation. For example, sin offerings are mentioned as preceding the burnt offering in Lev 5:7, 9:2, 9:3, 9:7, 9:22 (where the order is sin - burnt - peace), 10:19, 14:13, 14:19, 14:22, 14:31, 15:15, 15:30, Num 6:11, 6:16, II Chr 29:20-24.
The best example, though, has to be the offerings of the Day of Atonement when the forgiveness of sins was secured for another year for the entire congregation of Israel by, firstly, the offering of sin offerings for Aaron (Lev 16:11) then the congregation (16:15,20) before the concluding sacrifice of burnt offerings (16:24) where it’s clearly stated that they made
‘...atonement for himself and for the people’
The procedure is quite straightforward - first the sin offering was to be offered to deal with the actual sin and then followed the burnt offering which removed sin’s effects. Death, therefore (that is, spiritual death) must be dealt with after sin has been.
Wenham, in a lengthy discussion of the burnt offering’s purpose (pages 57-63), states
‘...we conclude that one function of the burnt offering was to prevent God’s displeasure at man’s sin from being turned into punishment. Because man’s very nature is sinful, there is always friction between him and his Maker’
Harrison (page 45) simply states, with very little discussion, that the atonement of the burnt offering
‘...nullifies and removes the effects of sin or uncleanness’
It may seem strange that the burnt offering is listed first of the five offerings but, as Wenham points out (page 52)
‘The reason for describing the burnt offering first is that it was the commonest of all the sacrifices, performed every morning and evening, and more frequently on holy days’
and, further, that the complete list in chapters 1-5 (page 52)
‘...are arranged according to their various theological concepts, so that it is easier to remember their distinctive features’
Therefore, though North is probably correct in seeing the death of the sacrificer as mirrored in the death of the sacrifice, he has unfortunately used the chronological order that Leviticus was written in to substantiate a wrong thesis that (spiritual) death must be dealt with before sin.
North’s notes (page 51) that
‘...while the blemish-free male sacrifice testified to the Israelites’ total indebtedness to God, the requirement of only one animal placed limits on the sense of guilt and obligation’
(page 52) that
‘...any attempt to offer a blemished sacrifice is a judicially representative assertion of man’s own partial autonomy: a denial of man’s total depravity and also of God’s absolute sovereignty. It asserts that man’s sin is really not so bad. On the other hand, any attempt to offer more than what is required is also an assertion of man’s partial autonomy: a declaration that men are capable of paying God everything they owe Him out of their own assets. To argue either way...is to argue for the autonomy of man: man’s ability to buy his own salvation’
and (page 60) that
‘...the person who presented the sacrifice to the priest was proclaiming ritually and publicly that he in principle owed everything to God (ie the best of his flock), but at the same time, all that he owned would not suffice to repay God (ie one animal only). The individual sacrifice was to be of high value but not total’
and these are all excellent observations.
Surely, throughout the duration of the Old Covenant whenever a worshipper offered what he knew to be ‘too little’ to clear his own debt, the thought must have been ever present with him that there had to come a time when the full price would need to be paid and that, hopefully, God would sort the problem out on his behalf. That the worshipper was in a position of bankruptcy (spiritually speaking) must have been all too obvious (see below on North’s comments on this subject and my comments).
North wrongly asserts (page 53) that
‘The permanent economic restraint on civil government is also the tithe: all combined levels of the State may not lawfully claim so much as a tithe (I Sam 8:15-17)’
using the Scripture passage as a binding law whereas it was only a passing comment by Samuel to warn the Israelites that the king they were wanting would cost them more than they had figured it would. They thought that to have a king would be like to have a figurehead at the front of a ship, the maintenance of which would be cheap - but the reality of all ‘states’ or ‘sovereigns’ is going to be excessive taxation because, when God is removed from that position of authority, men must pay for the support of what they desire to have.
The bottom line is that Governments are not obligated only to take ten percent and no more - but neither are they constrained to deduct as much as they desire. The Bible is clear that rulers are God’s channel through whom sin is kept in order and checked (Rom 13:1-4) - and are therefore entitled to take whatever money is necessary from their subjects to bring that about. What they’re not expected to do is to hard press those under them by the outworking of their own will, desire and purpose.
It’s economically sound to say that, if I decide that I want to join a club of some sort then I must pay a subscription which increases out-goings. I could axe another expense to pay for it but God’s payments remain the same as due upon mankind thus increasing the economic burden of having a separate ruling authority.
So the State pulls away from God’s dues and mankind will first axe paying what belongs to God rather than withholding a sum that results in swifter retribution from a visible, physical force.
Any political State must necessarily pull away from a commitment to God if they’re not devoted to follow Him regardless of any other consequences.
North considers the cross of Christ and the sacrifice that’s ‘without blemish’ and draws some accurate parallels and foreshadowings from the Levitical law. He reasons that, if man has to give the best for his own sin (a lamb without blemish) then it’s because God will do the same to finally pay for sin once and for all through the offering of the unblemished Lamb of God. But his statement (page 53-4) that
‘It is not what fallen man pays to God that repays God for sin...it is what God pays to Himself’
is flawed in so far as he sees the price of man’s salvation being paid ‘to God’. The Bible simply speaks of the price that was paid rather than seeing any recipient of that price. In yesteryear, the price was seen to have been paid to satan by Christ on the cross but this is equally wrong. North’s italicised conclusion should, rather, read ‘it is what God pays’ to make it Scripturally accurate (see my notes on Redemption).
I do not pretend to understand North’s statement (page 54) that
‘The fact that God was willing to sacrifice His Son testifies to His protection of mankind. Similarly, covenant-keeping men’s willingness to sacrifice their most valuable animals testified to their hierarchial obligation to protect the creation’
Perhaps it’s just me? It seems that the destruction of one part of the Creation is a poorly conceived statement that man is caring for the rest of it – it only speaks of a commitment to acknowledge and deal with sin and then only if the recipient of God’s grace commits themselves to strive not to do the very same things again.
Yet again, the individual tithe creeps in to the picture. The acknowledgement of Christ’s death (that is, the ultimate sacrifice) must be made (page 55)
‘...verbally, ritually, ethically, and financially, ie the tithe’
I’m still not sure just how that compulsory tithe comes about - even more so when it’s mentioned as an acknowledgement of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice.
In the conclusion (page 62), North goes on to assert that
‘To thwart the satanic system of wealth redistribution, men must place God’s boundaries around the State, but this means that they must pay their tithes to their local institutional churches’
again with insufficient reasoning (though, granted, these are concluding remarks). He, unfortunately, doesn’t include a definition of what the word ‘institutional’ means which, in the UK, could mean the State’s Church of England (ungodly as it is, on the whole – in the year 2002, we’re in the process of installing a Druid as it’s head).
And what of a church that fails to follow after the clear commands of the Lord? Is this where man’s tithe should be placed? Where should the line be drawn between committing money blindly to the place that has Christ’s name and some preliminary investigation that would be needed to see if the place is a good steward of God’s money? Unfortunately, even if the tithe was accepted as being obligatory upon believers, a better definition of who it should be given to, based upon clear Scriptural guidelines, should be given (see my notes on ‘Giving’).
North’s example of economic interest on sin is an interesting one (page 55) though it may be used here to a logical extreme that it’s not fair to take it to. He writes that
‘Man’s debt to God was not forgiven under the Old Covenant economy; its repayment was only deferred. In a sense, the sacrifices could at most meet the required “interest payments” to God; they did not repay the principal [the initial debt]. Analogously, whenever Israel quit paying because of her rebellion, these missed payments were added to the principal owed. Israel’s debt to God grew ever-larger. Finally, in AD 70, God called in the debt. Israel went bankrupt publicly’
I’m not sure just where North views the Babylonian captivity in all this. Was that a similar calling in of the debt? If yes, why did God give Israel another chance? And should we expect Israel to get another chance in the future through the preaching of the Gospel (a return to the old sacrificial system is certainly not God’s will for Israel now that Christ has come)?
These questions need to be addressed.
The economy of the forgiveness of sin (debt recovery) is good (pages 55-56). We have the delegated authority to forgive sins (to cancel debts) even though (page 56)
‘If men fail to acknowledge in history that He has paid their debt to God, God will collect it from them for all eternity’
We have the right to recover the cost of the sin from the sinner (page 56 footnote 14), but we can function as implementing the guilt offering sacrifice (it was only the guilt offering that included restitution) in order that the debt may considered to be paid.
Debt cancelling (forgiving sin) can therefore make a way open for God to move in a person’s life.
The only problem with this point is that North has now jumped forward to the fifth of the sacrifices instead of continuing his discussion on the original topic of the burnt offering.
His understanding of the economy of bankruptcy (page 57) is also good, especially as it applies to the cross of Christ even though he doesn’t seem to make the connection. In the conclusion, he notes (page 61) that
‘When a man declares bankruptcy, he hands over all his assets to his creditors, including all debts owed to him. He can no longer demand payment of debts owed to him, for they are no longer owed to him. Whatever had been owed is now paid to his creditors’
a quite outstanding observation when it comes to being ‘born again’. Initial conversion should be seen in this light - that a man is declaring himself bankrupt before God. That is, he is unable to settle his sin debts through the payment of anything that he has in his possession. Bankrupt, he turns to God (the receiver) and hands over not just his debts but also all his credits, thus giving God total control to re-order his life the way He sees fit.
North notes (page 57) that
‘In the United States, if a debtor is willing to forfeit all his assets except the clothes on his back and the tools of his trade, he has identified himself as an impoverished person. He therefore is allowed to escape the demands of his creditors by declaring bankruptcy’
So, then, at initial conversion a believer forfeits his rights to all that he once considered to be his own and is presented with a ‘new start’ from which he can build a new life (so long as that new life is in accordance with the will of God in Christ). That so many fail to understand this principle and live by it is demonstrably clear, that the Church often remains self-centred and egoistic is a sure demonstration that our spiritual bankruptcy goes unnoticed, unrealised and unapplied.
If new converts fully realised their spiritual state before God, the Church as a whole would be more committed to use the resources now available to them for the advance of the Gospel.
North’s teaching concerning the ‘unblemished’ animal is relevant here (as it would be also under three of the other offerings) but his subsequent teaching concerning the cancelling of debts and bankruptcy really belong under a discussion of the sin and guilt offerings which deal with the subject of direct sin and the restitution of sinful gain.
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