Christianity and the Problem of Human ViolenceChristianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 23: The Later Prophets
from Guide to Kingdom Living

True Christian living requires us to live according to Kingdom standards which bring Heaven to earth.

Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 23: The Later Prophets

By Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.

See Isaiah 1:11-16, Jeremiah 6:20, Hosea 5:6, 6:6, 9:11-13, Amos 5:21-25, Micah 6:7-8.

It is helpful to review how animals were used as scapegoats: “Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins; and he shall put them upon the head of the goat, and send him away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness. The goat shall bear all their iniquities upon him to a solitary land; and he shall let the goat go in the wilderness.” (Leviticus 16:21-22) The text explicitly demonstrates the ancient Hebrews’ beliefs that their own sinfulness could be transferred to the goat.

We see in Micah a very different understanding. Micah asserts that God does not want sacrifices for sinfulness, but rather God desires righteousness. Micah writes: “With what shall I come to the Lord and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers oil? Shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:6-8) Remarkably, this passage recalls the ancient tradition of human sacrifice, and it then argues that God doesn’t even want animal sacrifice.

Jeremiah similarly says, “For in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to your fathers or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. But this command I gave them, ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.” (7:22-23)

Likewise, Amos writes, “Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and cereal offerings, I will not accept them, and the peace offerings of your fatted beasts I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your song, to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (5:21-24)

Isaiah expresses a similar sentiment: “‘Your countless sacrifices, what are they to me?’ says the Lord. ‘I am sated with whole offerings of rams and the fat of buffaloes. I have no desire for the blood of bulls, of sheep and of he goats. Whatever you come to enter my presence—who asked you for this? No more shall you trample my courts. The offer of your gifts is useless, the reek of sacrifice is abhorrent to me… There is blood on your hands; Wash yourselves and be clean… cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression, defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.’” (1:11-13, 15-16)

Jesus echoed these sentiments when he declared, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” (Matthew 9:13, 12:7) This is a radical sentiment, a break with the universal focus on sacred violence. Throughout his ministry Jesus, like the later prophets, asserts God really wants righteousness. What is righteousness? As will become more clear in the New Testament, the answer involves love.

Go on to: Part 24: Desire
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