There are many who wonder why so long a period should have been given to the moral and spiritual education of the Hebrew nation by means of forms, ceremonies, and sacrifices. It is sometimes argued that these were of divine appointment, as would appear from parts of the Pentateuch, but the book of Deuteronomy lifts thought to a truer apprehension of the divine will and shows that spiritual worship means simply that exercise of the affections which is so grandly epitomized in the words of the great Teacher, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength;" and "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,"—a statement which called forth from a questioner the admission that to do this was "more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices."

All through the Scriptures we find that the word as given by the prophets called for Godlike living instead of ritualism, as witness the declaration of Samuel, "Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?" and again that of Hosea, "I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings." It may therefore be asked how sacrificial ceremonies ever came to be established. There can be no doubt that when Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Issac he believed that he was obeying a divine behest, but his very desire to be obedient at any cost brought the needed illumination, and when his son's life was spared he took another step away from the religion of his forefathers, which had sanctioned human sacrifices.

In the case of the Hebrew nation we must not forget that they had sojourned in Egypt four hundred years, and had to some extent imbibed the habits and customs of the Egyptians, as was evidenced by their later worship of the golden calf and other lapses into idolatry. It is more than likely that Moses found it difficult to lift the thought of his people to a purely spiritual worship, for we find them characterized in his writings as a stiff-necked and rebellious people. He therefore offered them a purer symbolic teaching, a system which demanded an unblemished offering sincerely made, in the hope that it would prove a schoolmaster to bring them to Christ; but, as Paul explains in his second epistle to the Corinthians, "their minds were blinded," and they failed to see that the law of obedience and sacrifice must be written by "the Spirit of the living God," not upon tables of stone, but upon the hearts of men,—the spiritualized consciousness, wherein the motives, affections, and aims turn instinctively to God and delight to do His will.

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January 20, 1912

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