This content is from OPEN, a new online resource that serves as a guided journey through the Bible.
I remember playing a soccer match in college. At a critical moment in the game, the other team made a breakthrough on goal. I was one of the last defenders, and in a desperate lunge, I managed to clear the ball from the goal line and save the day.
Unfortunately, the ball sailed toward the college president’s study and smashed his window. I said I was sorry, and the president was remarkably kind—but he did require that I replace the window and clean up the mess. That was what it took to make it right.
What will it take to right our wrongs against God? Some people think it all boils down to being sorry, but being sorry won’t do it. Being sorry for what we have done will not remove the guilt of our sin. We need an atonement.
The day after the people repented of their sin with the golden calf, Moses said to the people, “You have sinned a great sin” (32:30). Talk about preaching to the choir! These people already knew they had sinned, and they had repented!
Isn’t it Moses’ duty to tell them that they are forgiven? These people are sorry. What more does Moses want from them? And isn’t it God’s duty to forgive them? No. Something must happen before they can be forgiven.
At this point in the story, we discover the biblical word atonement
. Moses said, “I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin” (32:30). Atonement is what it takes to put right something that is wrong. Wherever there is an offense, we face the question of atonement. What will it take to put things right?
The whole purpose of the sacrifices in the Old Testament was so that we would understand why the Son of God had to come into the world. The sacrifices help us to see that in His death on the cross, Jesus accomplished what the sacrifice of animals could only anticipate. Christ made atonement for our sins.
Maybe you feel that if you are sufficiently sorry for your sins, you will be right with God, or that if you are obedient to God by attending church and saying your prayers, this will atone for your sins.
These things are good, but they are not good enough. It’s the sacrifice of Christ and the shedding of His blood that makes atonement with God. This is what puts things right with God and brings back His presence and His blessing in our lives.
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