Sacrifice and offering you do not desire, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required. – Psalm 40:6 (NRSV)
What makes forgiveness real? How do we know it happened? Honestly, I’m not sure. I am sure that blood has nothing to do with it.
Many Christians believe that if Jesus had not shed his blood on the cross, forgiveness of sins would be impossible. Hebrews 9:22 and Leviticus 17:11 are often deployed as proof texts which, in my opinion, they aren’t.
Moreover, concluding God needs blood to forgive us has several glaring problems:
1. It makes God rather vampirish and uncomfortably like the Canaanite gods.
2. If God is dependent on something, blood or anything else, God is no longer God.
3. There are numerous prescriptions for righting wrongs in the Hebrew Scriptures that do not involve blood.
4. Jesus routinely forgave people throughout his ministry well before his death.
5. Jesus encouraged people to forgive (seventy times seven) and never mentioned anything about blood or sacrifice.
6. The text above, and several others like it, make it crystal clear God does not desire or require sacrifice and sin offerings.
Who would require blood sacrifice before granting forgiveness? I’m extremely glad people forgive me without requiring an open vein or the death of my dog.
Suppose I do something hurtful to my marriage and I come home with freshly sacrificed flowers. Does she really need or want an offering? No, what she wants and deserves is an acknowledgment, an apology, and a demonstrated desire to change. Flowers might symbolize my intentions, but that’s all.
Quoting Hosea, Jesus said: “Learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’” (Matthew 9:13). Have we listened?
If I sacrifice anything, let it be my ego to make room for what you truly desire: a merciful heart.