The Point of the Sacrifices of the Old Testament (Lenten Scriptural Commentary #24)
by Erik Ritland
“During Lent, we remember our faults, but we also remember that God will “love us freely” and His wrath turns away from us if we return to Him.”
Fully Alive’s Lenten Scriptural Commentary helps Christians get more out of Lent by taking God’s word seriously.
Mostly avoiding personal stories and anecdotes, our commentary dives deeply into the scripture readings for each day and applies them to the broader context of Lent. We use the daily Mass readings from the Catholic lectionary.
If possible, read each passage slowly, taking in each word. If you find that you’ve hurried through a reading, read it over a few more times. Let the words reverberate in your heart. After you’ve let it sink in, read our Lenten Scriptural Commentary.
Friday of the Third Week in Lent
Hosea poetically tells of God’s mercy, and a scribe asks Jesus a tough question. But does he understand Jesus’ answer?
Readings: Hos 14:2-10/Mk 12:28-34
Click here to read the complete text from the USCCB website
I will heal their defection, says the LORD,
I will love them freely;
for my wrath is turned away from them.
I will be like the dew for Israel:
he shall blossom like the lily;
He shall strike root like the Lebanon cedar,
and put forth his shoots.
His splendor shall be like the olive tree
and his fragrance like the Lebanon cedar.
Again they shall dwell in his shade
and raise grain;
They shall blossom like the vine,
and his fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon.
(cf. Hos 14: 2-10)
The poetry of the Old Testament prophets is practically unmatched. Though some of the references are dated, some of the diction lost in translation, the point always gets across. God speaks in poetry, as human beings are poetic, artistic creatures. Art, after all, is the signature of man, as G.K. Chesterton says.
During Lent, we remember our faults, but we also remember that God will “love us freely” and His wrath turns away from us if we return to Him.
The scribe said to him, "Well said, teacher.
You are right in saying,
He is One and there is no other than he.
And to love him with all your heart,
with all your understanding,
with all your strength,
and to love your neighbor as yourself
is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."
And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding,
he said to him,
"You are not far from the Kingdom of God."
(cf. Mk 12: 28-34)
Offerings and sacrifices were an important part of the Old Covenant. They didn’t make God love the Israelites and they weren’t done to appease God in any way. They were done to show the people their need for God, and that nothing was more important than Him, in a tangible way.
But they were only a sign of things to come. In His sacrifice on the cross, Jesus fulfills in His person all of the things that the sacrifices could only signify. With that fulfillment comes the inauguration of His Kingdom, and Jesus reveals here what the foundational commandment of it is.
Erik Ritland is a writer and musician. The founder of Fully Alive Christian Media, he also created The Minnesota Sport Ramble and is a writer and copy editor for Music in Minnesota. He was Lead Staff Writer for Minnesota culture blogs Curious North and Hometown Hustle. Reach him via email.
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Erik Ritland received his MA in Theology in 2017. He's the founder and content manager of Fully Alive Christian Media and Rambling On, copy editor and writer for Music in Minnesota, and an acclaimed songwriter.