Why did God set up such an elaborate sacrificial system in the Old Testament when sins were committed. After all, Psalms 51 says no sacrifice is needed but only a contrite heart. The cultures in OT times were likely a significant consideration. The Canaanite religion sacrificial system was quite complicated and elaborate. The cultures in Old Testament times worshiped idols and developed their own sacrificial ways to please their different gods. The God of the Jewish nation showed a better sacrificial system. Among other things God never sacrificed children as did other pagan cultures. Could it be that God used the sacrificial system to show the differences between “God and gods?” Within this context Old Testament sacrifices pointed toward the ultimate Sacrifice. The Old Testament teaches one purpose of the sacrificial system was so that people could anticipate and understand the Messiah was coming.
We may not demand “rituals for righteousness” or amends because we are so unholy ourselves in comparison to God. I am less lightly to condemn or require amends to avoid being hypocritical because of my own sins. Sacrifices in the OT demonstrated the seriousness of sin. Sacrifice is important in the healing process, both for the guilty and innocent parties. For instance when one steals, amends are necessary to pay back the victims of the sinful party. Verbal forgiveness only doesn’t right wrongs. Please do not conclude one can necessarily always payback what they have taken from someone (i.e. childhood with appropriate parental love, sexual purity). But, self-centeredness may only change when elements of sacrifice are present – repentance, verbal confession, and amends.
Why couldn’t God just say “I forgive you” rather than require the death of His Son on the Cross? As mentioned God doesn’t delight in sacrifice but a broken and contrite heart. (Ps. 51:16-17) The sacrificial system of the Old Testament was meant to lead us to repent, to follow love. Sinners must recognize how their selfishness is ruining their lives and the lives of others. The Cross was not a necessary sacrifice so God could feel justified in saving us; the real challenge was how to save us from ourselves. Jesus died not to change God’s attitude but our attitude toward God. We must view sin as God does. The Cross is a revelation of God’s compassion, not an instrument of God’s revenge. The purpose of judgment is to provoke repentance, not to pay some penalty. Do we really think the Bible portrays God as an angry, wrathful God who must be appeased, that His Honor must be restored through the Cross before He can love us? God determined the Cross was the best way to persuade us to stop sinning. Jesus coming as a Ruling King than Suffering Servant would have left us demanding more from God and not ourselves. God is not obsessed with the guilt of our sins but restoration of the relationship. God does not need to be reconciled to us; we need to be reconciled to God.