Learn From ‘the Framework of Truth’
“[You have] the framework of the knowledge and of the truth in the Law.”—ROMANS 2:17-20.
WHAT ARE YOUR ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS?
What did the sacrifices in the Law of Moses represent?
In what way are our sacrifices similar to certain sacrifices that the Israelites offered?
Which sacrifices does Jehovah accept, and which ones does he not accept?
1. Why is it important for us to understand what Paul said about the Law of Moses?
WHAT the apostle Paul wrote in the Bible helps us to understand the importance of many parts of the Law of Moses. For example, Paul explained in his letter to the Hebrews that Jesus was a “faithful high priest” who offered a sacrifice once for all time. Those who put faith in it can be at peace with God and get “an everlasting deliverance.” (Hebrews 2:17; 9:11, 12) Paul also explained that the tabernacle was only “a shadow of the heavenly things.” Jesus was the Mediator of a covenant that was better than the Law of Moses. (Hebrews 7:22; 8:1-5) It was very helpful to Christians in Paul’s time that he explained what the parts of the Law of Moses represented. What he explained can help us too to be more grateful for all that God has done for us.
2. Why did Jewish Christians know more about God and the reasons for his laws than people who were not Jewish?
2 Some of what Paul wrote to Christians in Rome was for the Jewish Christians who lived there and who had been taught about the Law of Moses. He told them that since they knew the Law, they already had “the framework of the knowledge and of the truth” about Jehovah and his righteous reasons for the laws he makes. They understood and loved the basic truth taught in the Law. So like faithful Jews before them, they could teach others the basic truth about Jehovah.—Read Romans 2:17-20.
SHADOWS OF JESUS’ SACRIFICE
3. How do we benefit from learning about Jewish sacrifices?
3 The basic truth found in the Law of Moses, which Paul described as the framework of the truth, helps us to understand Jehovah’s purposes. The lessons Jehovah taught his people by means of the Law are still important. So we will now learn about the sacrifices and offerings required by that Law. These offerings led humble Jews to Christ and helped them to understand what God required of them. And since Jehovah requires the same basic things of his servants today, his laws to the Israelites about sacrifices can help us to examine the way we serve him.—Malachi 3:6.
4, 5. (a) Of what did the Law of Moses remind the Jews? (b) The sacrifices were “a shadow” of what?
4 Many parts of the Law of Moses reminded the Jews that they were sinful. For example, anyone who touched a dead human body had to cleanse himself. For this to happen, the priest would kill a healthy red cow, burn it, and use its ashes to make “water for cleansing.” On the third and the seventh day after the person became unclean, the priest would sprinkle this water on the person to purify him. (Numbers 19:1-13) When a woman gave birth, she was unclean for a time. After that time had passed, she had to offer a sacrifice for her uncleanness. All of this reminded the Jews that everyone is born with imperfection and sin.—Leviticus 12:1-8.
5 The Jews had to offer animal sacrifices for forgiveness in many other situations in life. Whether they realized it or not, the sacrifices they offered at the tabernacle and later on at the temple were “a shadow” of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice.—Hebrews 10:1-10.
THE RIGHT ATTITUDE ABOUT SACRIFICES
6, 7. (a) What did the Israelites need to remember when they chose a sacrifice? What did an acceptable sacrifice represent? (b) What questions might we ask ourselves?
6 Jehovah required the Israelites to offer only animals that were “sound,” or healthy, not blind, injured, deformed, or sick. (Leviticus 22:20-22) When the Israelites offered fruits or grains to Jehovah, these offerings needed to be the “firstfruits” and “the very best” of their harvests. (Numbers 18:12, 29) Offerings that were not the best were unacceptable to Jehovah. When the Israelites offered the best animal sacrifices, this represented that Jesus’ sacrifice would be spotless and unblemished. Jehovah would sacrifice what was best and most precious to him in order to save mankind from sin and death.—1 Peter 1:18, 19.
7 If the person making a sacrifice was truly grateful to Jehovah for all of His goodness, then he would be happy to choose the very best from what he had. The person could choose what to offer. But he knew that God would not be happy with a sacrifice that was not the best he had. If he offered something that had defects, he would show that he did not think that sacrifices were important or even that he felt that Jehovah was asking too much of him. (Read Malachi 1:6-8, 13.) This example should make us think about the way we serve God. We can ask ourselves: Why am I serving Jehovah? Do I need to change the way I am serving him? Am I giving him my best?
8, 9. What do we learn from the way the Israelites felt when they offered a sacrifice?
8 An Israelite could give Jehovah a sacrifice that was voluntary to show gratitude. Or he could ask for Jehovah’s approval by voluntarily giving a burnt offering. In such cases, it was probably easy for him to choose the best animal. He would feel happy to give that animal to Jehovah. Today, we do not need to offer the sacrifices mentioned in the Law of Moses, but we make other sacrifices. We use our time, energy, and resources to serve Jehovah. The apostle Paul talked about the “public declaration” of our hope and “the doing of good and the sharing of things with others” as sacrifices that please God. (Hebrews 13:15, 16) Our attitude, or how we feel, about serving Jehovah shows how grateful we are for all that he has given us. So just like the Israelites, we need to examine the way we feel about serving God and why we serve him.
9 In some situations, the Law of Moses required an Israelite to make a sin offering or a guilt offering if he had sinned. Since these offerings were required, do you think that it was difficult for the Israelite to offer them willingly? (Leviticus 4:27, 28) Not if he really wanted to keep a good relationship with Jehovah.
10. What “sacrifices” might we have to make if we have done something wrong?
10 Today, we may say something that offends a brother, either without realizing it or because we do not think carefully before we speak. Or maybe our conscience tells us that we have done something wrong. If we really want to please Jehovah, we will do all that we can to correct the wrong. This could mean that we have to apologize sincerely to the brother we offended. Or if we have done something seriously wrong, we should seek help from the elders. (Matthew 5:23, 24; James 5:14, 15) To correct a sin against a brother or against God requires action on our part. It is like making a sacrifice. When we are willing to do so, we can have a good relationship with Jehovah and our brother, and we will have a clean conscience. These good results convince us that Jehovah knows what is best for us.
11, 12. (a) What were communion sacrifices? (b) What can we learn from communion sacrifices?
11 Other sacrifices mentioned in the Law of Moses were communion offerings. They showed that a person was at peace with Jehovah. The person making such an offering and his family would eat the meat of the sacrificed animal, perhaps in one of the temple’s dining rooms. The priest who sacrificed the animal as well as the other priests who were serving at the temple each received a piece of the meat. (Leviticus 3:1, footnote; 7:31-33) The reason that the person made this offering was that he wanted to have a good relationship with God. It was as if he, his family, the priests, and Jehovah himself were all having a meal together with joy and in peace.
12 So making a communion sacrifice was like inviting Jehovah to a meal. What a great honor it was for an Israelite when Jehovah accepted his invitation to such a meal. He surely wanted to offer God the very best. Communion sacrifices were part of the framework of truth found in the Law of Moses, and they showed that all who want to have a peaceful relationship with their Creator can do so by means of Jesus’ greater sacrifice. Today, we can be Jehovah’s friends if we willingly sacrifice, or use, our resources and energies in his service.
EXAMPLES OF SACRIFICES THAT GOD DID NOT ACCEPT
13, 14. Why did Jehovah not accept what Saul wanted to sacrifice?
13 Jehovah accepted sacrifices if the person offering them had the right attitude. But the Bible also has some examples of sacrifices that God did not accept. Why was he not pleased with those sacrifices? Let us learn about two situations.
14 The prophet Samuel told King Saul that the time had come for Jehovah to destroy the Amalekites. He told Saul to kill all of them and their animals. But after Saul won the battle, he allowed his soldiers to let Agag, the king of the Amalekites, live. Saul also kept the best of their animals to sacrifice to Jehovah. (1 Samuel 15:2, 3, 21) What did Jehovah do? Because of Saul’s disobedience, Jehovah did not want him to be king over Israel anymore. (Read 1 Samuel 15:22, 23.) What do we learn from this? That God accepts our sacrifices only if we obey his commands.
15. What did the Israelites show when they offered sacrifices while doing bad things?
15 There is another example in the book of Isaiah. The Israelites in Isaiah’s time were offering sacrifices to Jehovah only because this was required of them. At the same time, they continued to do many bad things. Because of this, Jehovah did not accept their sacrifices. He asked: “Of what benefit to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?” He told them: “I have had enough of whole burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed animals; and in the blood of young bulls and male lambs and he-goats I have taken no delight.” He also said to them: “Stop bringing in any more valueless grain offerings. Incense—it is something detestable to me.” Why did he not want their offerings? God said: “Even though you make many prayers, I am not listening; with bloodshed your very hands have become filled. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the badness of your dealings from in front of my eyes; cease to do bad.”—Isaiah 1:11-16.
16. What sacrifices does God accept?
16 Jehovah did not accept the sacrifices of those who continued doing what was wrong. But he accepted the prayers and sacrifices of those who did all they could to obey his commands. The framework of truth that was in the Law of Moses taught such individuals that they were sinful and needed Jehovah’s forgiveness. (Galatians 3:19) When an Israelite understood what the Law was trying to teach him, he felt very sorry for his sins and wanted Jehovah to forgive him. Today, we too need to remember that only by means of Christ’s sacrifice can Jehovah forgive our sins. If we understand the importance of Christ’s sacrifice and are truly grateful for it, Jehovah will be “delighted” with all that we do in his service.—Read Psalm 51:17, 19.
SHOW FAITH IN JESUS’ SACRIFICE!
17-19. (a) How can we show Jehovah that we are grateful for Jesus’ ransom sacrifice? (b) What will we learn about in the next article?
17 The Israelites saw only “a shadow” of God’s purposes. But we have the reality. (Hebrews 10:1) The laws about sacrifices taught the Israelites what they needed to do in order to have a good relationship with God. They needed to show him their gratitude, have a desire to give him their best, and understand that they needed his forgiveness. Today, the Christian Greek Scriptures help us to understand that by means of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice, Jehovah will remove sin and death forever. By means of the ransom, he can forgive our sins so that we may have a good conscience even now. The ransom is a wonderful gift from Jehovah!—Galatians 3:13; Hebrews 9:9, 14.
18 To benefit from the ransom sacrifice, we need to do more than just understand what it means. Paul wrote: “The Law has become our tutor leading to Christ, that we might be declared righteous due to faith.” (Galatians 3:24) We must show our faith by our actions. (James 2:26) Jewish Christians in the first century understood the framework of truth because they knew the Law of Moses. Paul encouraged them to act according to what they learned from it. In this way, they would be living according to the truth that they taught others.—Read Romans 2:21-23.
19 Although we are not required to obey the Law of Moses, we must still offer sacrifices that please Jehovah. In the next article, we will learn how we can do this.
SOME EXPRESSIONS EXPLAINED
Framework of truth: The basic truth about God found in the Law of Moses. This expression is used at Romans 2:20
Shadow: Something described in the Bible that gives some idea of an important thing that would happen later. Various parts of the Law of Moses were shadows that represented greater things that would happen when Jesus came
Mediator: One that helps humans to benefit from an agreement with God so that they can be at peace with him. Moses was the mediator of the Law covenant between Jehovah and the nation of Israel, and Jesus was the Mediator of the “better covenant” (Hebrews 7:22)
Attitude: The way we think and feel about something, such as how we feel about serving Jehovah. We show our attitude by our actions
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We can be Jehovah’s friends if we willingly sacrifice our resources and energies in his service
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Jehovah’s basic requirements for his servants never change
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God accepts our sacrifices only if we obey his commands
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Jehovah accepts our offerings if we give him our best
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Which animal would you have offered to Jehovah?
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We can have Jehovah’s approval if we offer sacrifices that please him