Today God has given me something in Psalm 76, verses 6 through 12, which says:
At your rebuke, O God of Jacob, both rider and horse lay stunned. But you, you are to be feared! Who can stand before you when once your anger is roused? From the heavens you uttered judgment; the earth feared and was still, when God arose to establish judgment, to save all the humble of the earth. Selah. Surely the wrath of man shall praise you; the remnant of wrath you will put on like a belt. Make your vows to the LORD your God and perform them; let all around him bring gifts to him who is to be feared, who cuts off the spirit of princes, who is to be feared by the kings of the earth. (Psalms 76:6-12)
God is a just God. He can’t look on sin, and not “utter judgment” upon it; it’s simply not in His nature to turn a blind eye. Back then, they believed that by bringing God gifts (i.e. gifts of food and livestock, also known as sacrifices) they somehow merited favor with Him. Of course, we know today that no sacrifice that they could offer would earn them any kind of forgiveness before God. Hebrews 10 makes that clear:
8 First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. 9 Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.”He sets aside the first to establish the second. (Hebrews 10:8-9)
The sacrifices that they once offered where only a foreshadow of something that was to come. They were never meant to save anyone, and thus had no power to atone for sins. However, when God saw an innocent creature being killed in order to, in the minds of the people in question, atone for the sins of the people, He would look forward to a different sacrifice which could (and did) atone for sins. The author of Hebrews states it best just a couple of verses farther from the last section we quoted:
11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices,which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. 14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (Hebrews 10:11-14)
Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, our sins have been entirely and completely atoned for. We no longer have to give gifts to God (though we should want now to offer our time and energy to Him), because He gave the greatest gift to us. We no longer have to live in fear that God will punish us, because there is no more punishment left for us (though God will still discipline His children when need-be; it would be cruel of Him not to)!