Forgiveness of Sin and Sacrifices

Forgiveness of Sin and Sacrificeamos wittenberg

By Amos Wittenberg,  UK

We hear so often the taunt “You have no temple and no sacrifices! How do you obtain forgiveness for your sins?”

When שלמה המלך [King Solomon] had finished with the building of the בית המקדש [the House of Holiness, i.e. the Holy Temple], he stood before HASHEM’s altar in the presence of the entire assembly of Israel and spread out the palms of his hands towards Heaven and prayed (v.22).
I quote passages from his prayer with interlinear translation but please do take out your Tena”ch or for my part your King James or RSV translation. Nothing can really convey the directness of his words but I’ll try my best in translation. It is from 1 Kings 8.

כִּי הַאֻמְנָם יֵשֵׁב אֱלֹקִים עַל-הָאָרֶץ הִנֵּה הַשָּׁמַיִם וּשְׁמֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם לֹא יְכַלְכְּלוּךָ אַף כִּי-הַבַּיִת הַזֶּה אֲשֶׁר בָּנִיתִי׃
Will then God dwell on earth? See, the Heavens and the Heavens of the Heavens cannot contain You, how much less this house that I built.
כח וּפָנִיתָ אֶל-תְּפִלַּת עַבְדְּךָ וְאֶל-תְּחִנָּתוֹ ה’ אֱלֹקָי לִשְׁמֹעַ אֶל-הָרִנָּה וְאֶל-הַתְּפִלָּה אֲשֶׁר עַבְדְּךָ מִתְפַּלֵּל לְפָנֶיךָ הַיּוֹם׃
Turn then to Your servant’s prayer and his pleading, HASHEM my God, to hearken to the cry and the prayer that Your servant prays before You today
כט לִהְיוֹת עֵינֶךָ פְתֻחֹת אֶל-הַבַּיִת הַזֶּה לַיְלָה וָיוֹם אֶל-הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר אָמַרְתָּ יִהְיֶה שְׁמִי שָׁם לִשְׁמֹעַ אֶל-הַתְּפִלָּה אֲשֶׁר יִתְפַּלֵּל עַבְדְּךָ אֶל-הַמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה׃
that Your eyes may be open toward this house night and day, toward the place of which You have said ‘My Name will be there’, to hearken to the prayer that Your servant will pray toward this place.
ל וְשָׁמַעְתָּ אֶל-תְּחִנַּת עַבְדְּךָ וְעַמְּךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲשֶׁר יִתְפַּלְלוּ אֶל-הַמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה וְאַתָּה תִּשְׁמַע אֶל-מְקוֹם שִׁבְתְּךָ אֶל-הַשָּׁמַיִם וְשָׁמַעְתָּ וְסָלָחְתָּ׃
And You will hearken to the pleading of Your servant and of Your people Israel which they will pray toward this place and You, please hear in Your dwelling place in Heaven and hearken and forgive!
(I Kings 8:27-30)

בְּהִנָּגֵף עַמְּךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל לִפְנֵי אוֹיֵב אֲשֶׁר יֶחֶטְאוּ-לָךְ וְשָׁבוּ אֵלֶיךָ וְהוֹדוּ אֶת-שְׁמֶךָ וְהִתְפַּלְלוּ וְהִתְחַנְּנוּ אֵלֶיךָ בַּבַּיִת הַזֶּה׃
When Your people Israel are defeated before an enemy because they sinned against You, and they repent before You and acknowledge Your Name and they will plead to You in this house
וְאַתָּה תִּשְׁמַע הַשָּׁמַיִם וְסָלַחְתָּ לְחַטַּאת עַמְּךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל וַהֲשֵׁבֹתָם אֶל-הָאֲדָמָה אֲשֶׁר נָתַתָּ לַאֲבוֹתָם׃
And You, please hear in Heaven and forgive Your People Israel and return them to the land that You gave to their fathers.
(1 Kings 8:33-34)

וְגַם אֶל-הַנָּכְרִי אֲשֶׁר לֹא-מֵעַמְּךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל הוּא וּבָא מֵאֶרֶץ רְחוֹקָה לְמַעַן שְׁמֶךָ׃
And also the stranger who is not of Your people Israel, when he comes from a faraway country for Your Name’s sake
כִּי יִשְׁמְעוּן אֶת-שִׁמְךָ הַגָּדוֹל וְאֶת-יָדְךָ הַחֲזָקָה וּזְרֹעֲךָ הַנְּטוּיָה וּבָא וְהִתְפַּלֵּל אֶל-הַבַּיִת הַזֶּה׃
(because they have heard Your great Name and Your strong hand and Your outstretched arm) and he comes to this house
אַתָּה תִּשְׁמַע הַשָּׁמַיִם מְכוֹן שִׁבְתֶּךָ וְעָשִׂיתָ כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר-יִקְרָא אֵלֶיךָ הַנָּכְרִי לְמַעַן יֵדְעוּן כָּל-עַמֵּי הָאָרֶץ אֶת-שְׁמֶךָ לְיִרְאָה אֹתְךָ כְּעַמְּךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל וְלָדַעַת כִּי-שִׁמְךָ נִקְרָא עַל-הַבַּיִת הַזֶּה אֲשֶׁר בָּנִיתִי׃
You, please hearken in Heaven, the abode of Your dwelling and do according to all that the stranger calls to You, so that all the nations of the earth will know Your Name to fear You like Your people Israel and discern that Your Name is called over this house that I built.
(1 Kings 8:41-43)

This prayer gets me every time I read it. It brings tears to my eyes.

This prayer is all about forgiveness of sin. But, dear reader, please notice what Solomon did NOT say.

He did NOT say: “Please God, preserve Your altar because without the shedding of blood we will never be forgiven for our sins!”
In fact, he never even MENTIONED the sacrifices! He was ONLY praying in terms of supplication, repentance, confession, turning back to God, acknowledging His Name.

And he pleaded with God for YOU, the stranger who is not from His people Israel. He asked God: “Please, no ifs and no buts, just listen to their prayer and whatever it is that they ask for, You, please give it to them as long as they come FOR YOUR NAME’S SAKE.”

He did not say: “God, give me a descendant who will die for their sins and will take the sins of the world on himself”.

He did not say: “Please God, make sure You warn them that no one comes to You unless they come through my great-great-great-grandson!”

He did not say: “Please God, take on flesh as soon as possible and be born from a virgin to come and redeem us all!”

Take heed, reader. Read your Bible (the True Testimony, not the Funny Supplement) and acknowledge His great Name and remove all idols and uncleanliness from your camp.

Your Father is waiting for you to receive you. He will say “this son of Mine was dead and now he is alive”. He wants ALL His children home.

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