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Atonement is still needed… (Deuteronomy 21:1-9)

As I’ve been preparing a sermon on Deuteronomy 21:1-9 this week I’ve been reminded how deeply we still need atonement in our lives today.

Christians often think of atonement for sin as an Old Testament concept that has little relevance in our daily lives today. The Hebrew word often used for atonement literally means “to cover over.”  Our English word “atonement” carries the meaning of reconciliation or “at-one-ment”.  Being at one with the Lord after having been separated from Him.

In the passage I’ve been studying, the Lord provides details concerning how to deal with an unsolved murder in Israel.  Atonement must be made for the blood-guiltiness caused by the unsolved crime.  A punishment for the crime must be carried out by the Elders of the closest town to where the body was found.  And in this case, it must be carried out on an innocent animal.  The innocent animal must die in place of the person who committed the murder.  By doing so, vs. 8 says that “atonement shall be provided on their behalf for the blood.”

So what’s the big deal?  Why is this atonement necessary?  Why did the town’s leadership have to go to so much trouble for a person found dead?

The answer is the central theme throughout the Scripture.  It is God’s plan of redemption since the foundation of the world.

The Bible tells us that the “wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

We know from the creation account in Genesis that Adam and Eve were created by the Lord to have an intimate personal relationship with Him.  We know they were also given specific instructions concerning how to live and be.  When Adam & Eve sinned they were separated from the Lord and cast out of the garden.  The fig leaves Adam and Eve fashioned for clothing were not sufficient to cover their sin and nakedness.  Therefore the Lord provided and animal sacrifice and used its skin to clothe Adam and Eve.  Gen 3:21 – Also for Adam and his wife the LORD God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.  Since that first sin in the Garden God has required the shedding of blood to atone for sin.  From this first sin of man till this day man’s sin separates him from a right relationship with God.  Therefore atonement must be made to cover our sins to make that relationship right again.  Hebrews 9:22 According to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.  We see throughout the Scriptures that a blood sacrifice was required and offered of God’s people to make atonement.

And Jesus provided the once for all sacrifice to make atonement for the sins of all who would trust in him.  Hebrews 9:26b-10:1 He (Jesus) has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. 27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, 28 so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation. For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.  Joh 3:16-18 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

And so, the Lord has not left us to suffer his wrath and condemnation without an escape.  We have this blood guiltiness on our hands for sin, but there is a way to escape the wrath to come.

What should be our response to this gift?  How can a person receive this gift of salvation, pardon and eternal life from the Lord?  The only way is by grace through faith.  By trusting in Jesus Christ alone you can be saved.  Act 16:30-31 – Philippian Jailer asked: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 Apostle Paul replied, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.  It’s that simple for you and for me, but the cost was tremendous to the Lord Jesus.

The atoning sacrifice has been provided.  Our response is to believe and be saved.  That we would put our faith in Christ alone for salvation.  For without faith it is impossible to please God.

Have you put your faith in Jesus Christ?  If not, trust Him today.

And let us look to and reflect on His death, burial, and resurrection this week as we celebrate Easter this coming week.