Introduction: For many years I struggled with the logic of the
atonement. Why, exactly, does our sin require Jesus’ death? On the
other hand, why is Jesus’ death sufficient to take away our sins?
The atonement was not like a math problem, with an obvious
connection. This involved issues which I did not understand. The most
valuable lesson from our study of the sanctuary this week is an
answer about why Jesus had to die. Why the atonement makes logical
sense. Let’s race into our Bible study this week and find out more!

  1. Subverting the Rule of Law

    1. Read Genesis 9:5-6 and Numbers 35:30. What is the penalty
      for murder? What is God’s rule of law? (Death.)

    2. Read Genesis 4:8-10. What should have happened to Cain?
      (He should have been put to death.)

    3. Read Genesis 4:11-15. Why do you think God not only failed
      to execute Cain, but He affirmatively protected him from
      justice – from God’s rule of law?

    4. Read 2 Samuel 14:4-6. Have you heard this story before?
      (Sounds a bit like Cain and Able.)

    5. Read 2 Samuel 14:7. The family wants justice, but the
      mother does not. Why? (She will have no sons. Her husband
      is dead, and now both of her sons will be dead if justice
      is carried out. There is this unsettling no “heir” comment
      that makes you suspect the relatives had more than justice
      in mind.)

      1. Do you think the mother’s statement explains the
        unusual judgment placed on Cain? Remember, however,
        that Adam is still alive. (I think it does suggest
        the reason for Cain’s sentence. It would have been a
        terrible tragedy for Eve to consider that her sin
        caused the death of both of her sons.)

    6. Read 2 Samuel 14:8-9. This is a very odd statement. Why
      should blame rest on the king or be transferred to the
      mother? Neither one committed any crime. Both showed love
      and compassion. (The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown
      Commentary on this text explains that violating the rule
      of law exceeded “the royal prerogative.” Responsibility
      for the crime had to go somewhere. Since the king, at the
      request of the mother, had subverted the rule of law, the
      responsibility should fall on the king. Since the mother
      asked the king to violate the rule of law, the mother
      says, “I’ll take responsibility instead.”)

    7. In Matthew 27 we read the account of the trial of Jesus.
      Read Matthew 27:15-18. What is Pilate thinking about the
      verdict he should pronounce on Jesus? (He thinks Jesus is

    8. Read Matthew 27:20-23. Should Pilate release Jesus? (Yes,
      of course. The crowd cannot give a good reason for Jesus
      to be executed. It is trying to coerce Pilate. Worse, in
      Matthew 27:19 Pilate’s wife tells him that God sent her a
      message not to harm Jesus.)

    9. Read Matthew 27:24-25. How are Pilate and the crowd like
      the story we just read in 2 Samuel 14? (The rule of law is
      being subverted. Again, the judge would should take
      responsibility, but the people asking for the law to be
      subverted say they will accept the blame.)

    10. Read Numbers 35:31 and Romans 6:23. Romans does not say
      that we are murders, but it does say that the penalty for
      our sin is death. Is God violating the rule of law for a
      second time? We discussed the violation involving not
      putting Cain (and us) to death. Now we see that ransom for
      murders is also prohibited!

      1. Can we explain this by saying that we all die because
        of the entry of sin into the world? If that seems an
        easy answer, how do we explain Elijah (2 Kings 2) and
        Enoch ( Hebrews 11:5) who were taken alive to heaven?

  2. Responsibility for the Subversion of the Rule of Law

    1. We saw that when the king violated the rule of law, he
      accepted responsibility for the violation. When we violate
      a law of the state, or a law of God, who is the victim?

      1. Read Psalms 51:3-4. King David is speaking, and he is
        talking about his acts of adultery and murder. How
        can he say it is “only” against God that he sinned?
        (In the United States, a criminal complaint will say
        “The People” against the person accused; not the
        specific victim of the crime against the person
        accused. The idea is that when you commit a crime,
        you violate the rights of the public. This reflects
        the idea that sins are against God, who rules over
        the universe.)

    2. If God is the true (and only) victim of our sins, why
      can’t He say, “I forgive,” and forget about this stuff
      about God paying the penalty for the violation of the rule
      of law?

    3. Read Micah 7:18. What is God doing about our sin? (He
      pardons us. This shows that God can say, “I forgive!” In
      the United States, the President (or the Governor of a
      State) can pardon criminals.)

      1. So, I ask again, why does anyone have to die if God
        can pardon? (It is still a corruption of the rule of
        law. The one who corrupts the rule of law must take
        responsibility for it. However, the victim of the
        crime has the best claim to change the rule of law.)

  3. The Fix

    1. Read Leviticus 1:3-5 and John 1:29. Why do you think God
      gave this instruction about animal sacrifice in the Old

      1. How does it relate to Jesus? (This is where the logic
        of the atonement comes together. God subverted the
        rule of law by not killing us for our sins. As the
        One who made the decision, He took responsibility for
        it by agreeing to die in our place. However, He
        wanted us to understand the connection between sin
        and death, and so God created a sanctuary sacrifice
        system which both reminded us of the connection
        between sin and death and pointed to the solution to
        the sin problem.)

    2. Let’s contemplate the assumptions that underlie the
      conclusion that Jesus is responsible for the problem. What
      are those assumptions? (First, that Jesus should assume
      the penalty for our sins shows that He is God. Like the
      king, He has authority over the problem. Satan agrees that
      He is God. Second, this shows the incredible importance of
      God’s law and His determination that the rule of law
      should be respected. Last, it corroborates the creation
      account of the fall of humans.)

    3. Read Jeremiah 17:1. Where is sin written? (It is carved in
      our hearts and on the altar. This reference to sin and the
      altar in the sanctuary points to the importance of the
      sanctuary system.)

  4. Purification

    1. Read Leviticus 16:15-19. When we learned that the king who
      subverted the rule of law became responsible for the
      crime, what did we see? (The sin transferred from the
      guilty person to the king.)

      1. In the sanctuary system, the sins of the person
        transferred to the animal who was sacrificed. What
        other transfer do we see in these verses? (The
        sprinkling of the blood of the sacrificed animal
        seems to transfer the sin to the sanctuary and its

    2. Read Leviticus 16:7-10 and Leviticus 16:20-22. What has
      now happened to the sins that were transferred to the
      sanctuary? (They are transferred once more to a live goat.
      The goat does not die, it is released into the desert.)

    3. If we go back to the idea that the one who subverts the
      rule of law takes responsibility, and the sanctuary system
      of animal sacrifice points to Jesus taking responsibility
      for our sins because He did not kill us, how do you
      explain the transfer of sin? Why does the sanctuary system
      also contain the lesson about sin transfer? (God does not
      want us to remain in sin. In the end, neither the sinner
      nor the lamb carried the sin. The sin was transferred to
      the sanctuary and ultimately to a goat.)

      1. What is the spiritual lesson in this? (Our sins are
        literally taken away. Jesus is not just paying the
        penalty on our behalf, our sins are removed.)

      2. If the sacrificed animal pointed to Jesus, what does
        the goat point to? (The release of our sins. Jesus
        accepted the punishment for our sins, but He also
        made provision for the removal of our sins.)

    4. Friend, consider what God has done for you. He gave you
      life by subverting the rule of law. He accepted your
      guilt. Jesus died in your place. How should you respond?
      Why not today accept His sacrifice on your behalf, rejoice
      in His removal of your sins, and determine to live like
      you want sin out of your life?

  5. Next week: The Day of Atonement.