Why do the Jews no longer offer animal sacrifices? How do Jewish people today believe they can receive forgiveness from God?
In AD 70, when the Roman army destroyed Jerusalem and the temple, Jewish sacrifices essentially stopped. God's word was explicit that no sacrifice was to be burnt except on the altar at the tabernacle and, later, the temple. With the destruction of the temple and the exile of the Jews, there was no place to give an authorized sacrifice. Today, there are Moslem structures, the al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock, on the Temple Mount. Although opinions vary as to whether God would take present circumstances into account and allow sacrifices to be made in other places, for the most part the Jews no longer sacrifice animals.
If the Jews are prohibited from sacrificing animals for their sins, how do they believe they can receive forgiveness from God? They take the heart of other passages and apply it to their own situation.
Psalm 40:6: "In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required."
Psalm 51:16-17: "For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise."
Hosea 6:6: "For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings."
Hosea 14:2: "Take with you words and return to the LORD; say to him, 'Take away all iniquity; accept what is good, and we will pay with bulls the vows of our lips.'"
Modern Judaism takes these verses to mean that attitude and behavior are more important than animal sacrifice. The blood is spiritualized into personal purification (Isaiah 1:11-17). Good works and justice are more valuable than fasting (Isaiah 58:6). In the more recent Jewish writings, suffering, exile, and death attract God's forgiveness. If the sin resulted in personal injury or injustice against another person, restitution must be made before God can grant forgiveness (Leviticus 16:30).
Some Jews teach that blood sacrifice was not really God's intent; He allowed the Jews to continue a form of pagan blood sacrifice because they were used to considering the practice sacred. God just took out the pagan elements and directed the act to Himself. The command to only sacrifice at the Temple was to wean the Jews of the practice by making it more difficult and less accessible. They claim such passages as Isaiah 43:23 and Jeremiah 7:22-23 say that God allowed sacrifice, but did not ordain it.
This is not what the Bible teaches. While the Jewish emphasis on right living, repentance, restitution, and justice is what God is looking for in His chosen people, behavior cannot absolve sin. Leviticus 17:11 says, "For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life."
The punishment for sin is death, not repentance and restoration. Hebrews 10:1-10 explains that the blood of goats and bulls can only cover sin for a time. Full atonement came when Jesus shed His blood on the cross as a sacrifice (verse 10). As Ephesians 1:7 says, "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace."
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