In a little more than a month, on September 12th-13th of this year (2016), many Muslims around the world will sacrifice livestock in one of their most sacred festivals. Animals such as sheep, goats, cows and camels will forfeit their lives in Muslim sacrifice (Tweet That!) in commemoration of Allah’s mercy and Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael. Does that story sound familiar? If so, you may recognize the same story in the Hebrew Bible, except God had asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Issac. The story is about a man who was asked to sacrifice his son and offer him to God Almighty. In both stories, God stopped the sacrifice before it happened and provided an animal in the son’s place. It was a test of Abraham’s faith. You may ask, what’s the big deal. Does it really matter which of Abraham’s sons was involved? The answer is yes.
For the Muslim it’s a story about faith and obedience. Muhammad, is reported to have said, “It is a tradition that has come down to us from Abraham.” The sacrifices take place on Eid al-Adha, and it marks the climax of Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca. The sacrifice is not for the forgiveness of sins. For the “small sins” the Muslim can be forgiven by doing good deeds like extra prayer and fasting. For the “big sins” a Muslim must repent to Allah, and Allah will decide whether or not to forgive. They will find out on Judgement Day if they have been forgiven. It is through Allah’s choice and works that the Muslim is saved (Tweet That!).
For the Jew, the sacrifice first seen at Mount Moriah with Abraham was expanded when God gave Moses the 10 commandments and the rest of the Law. The idea of animal sacrifice started with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. When they sinned, God had to kill the first animal to cover their nakedness. We see also that Adam’s son Abel also offered a sacrifice that was pleasing to the Lord. The sacrificial Law given to Moses had five types of offerings to the God:
- The Burnt Offering [sheep, goats, turtle dove, pigeon] was a voluntary sacrifice that signified total surrender to God.
- The Grain Offering [meat, baked goods, flour, salt] was voluntary and signified a living sacrifice to God.
- The Peace Offering [cattle, lamb, goat] was voluntary and signified fellowship and was eaten with the priest.
- The Sin Offering [Bull, goat] was a required sacrifice meant for unintentional sins. Dealt more with the nature of mankind.
- The Trespass Offering [lamb, goat, turtle dove, pigeon, oil & flour] was a required for the forgiveness of all sins. Dealt specifically with individual sins.
The Jews no longer offer sacrifices. The Temple was destroyed by Rome in 70 AD and they were dispersed throughout the nations. About 600 years later the Muslims built the Dome of the Rock on the location where they thought the Temple existed. There is talk of rebuilding a Temple, but since the Dome of the Rock currently occupies the Temple Mount it won’t come without great tension.
For the Christian, Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of the Trespass Offering and His death paid for their salvation (Tweet That!). His life and death has done away with the need for the whole sacrificial system. Jesus was a descendant of Issac, not Ishmael. We have all we need in the person of Christ. Isaiah says, “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” As a Christian I can be assured that when I pass from this world into the next that I will rest in His kingdom. My salvation is not based upon works, but it is out of my love for Him that I do good works. I don’t have to worry about whether or not God will forgive me, His word tells me that I am.
There is no other way, but Jesus.
2 Tim 1:12 “because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.”