|What the story tells us
God is central to the first story. Life has value, because God made it that way.
God gave value to his creation. Angels are God’s messengers, spirits of heaven. Man is a fallen creature, bearing God’s image, knowing of God’s love, living under the law, and needing grace. Animals reflect the fallen condition of man although they did nothing to deserve it. When mankind fell, the animals and plants went with them. Death tainted all living things on the earth. When God restores his creation, the animals will benefit as well.
Value begets morality
God put value into his creation, and value tells us about morality. If human life has value, we owe it respect. We owe a moral duty to love and care for it. God made each human being with his image, and any mistreatment of a human being is an assault against God.
The Jews took sin seriously. They chose the best animals from their flocks and herds, and sacrificed them to cover their sins. Death was the penalty for sin.
Animal sacrifices seem harsh, and they should. Anything less would not show the seriousness of the sin for which it was required. Leviticus 1:4
Death tells us something. We see a pattern that a man goes through when facing death. He denies it. He feels angry, calling it “unfair.” He feels scared. He tries to bargain. Finally he accepts it.
I see us go through the same pattern when we face guilt. We deny it. We feel angry and call it “unfair.” We feel scared. We try to bargain. Eventually we must accept it. We’re guilty, and we’re going to die.
Our society downplays the concept of sin. We like to say, everyone sins, no big deal.
Sin is a big deal in the Bible. It is not an accident like tripping over a stone: oops, I sinned. Sin is what you do when God told you the right thing and you chose to do the other. It is something you do by your will.
When you redefine sin as a mistake, you undermine forgiveness. You cannot forgive people’s accidents. You cannot think up an excuse for someone’s misbehavior and then forgive it. You must do one or the other.