(Post by: Lilly Hobbs)
I have yet to meet a soul that, once hearing about the sacrificial system God instituted for His people in the Old Testament, is not shocked by the mass amount of live blood that had to be poured out in order to cover the people’s sin.
Imagine with me for a moment, the emotional and spiritual impact of offering a sacrifice, knowing full well it was your sin that made this death necessary. Imagine with me the frustration in realizing you will have to return to offer another sacrifice the next day or next week because you will certainly sin again.
One of the most devasting characteristics of humanity is that we have yet to realize the seriousness of sin. However, I believe that the Jewish people came much closer to realizing the cost for sin than any of us ever will.
In Leviticus one through seven, the Lord provided detailed instructions for offering sacrifices. These offerings to the Lord invaded the Israelites’ senses and engaged their hearts in regard to the seriousness of sin, as well as the saving provision of a substitute. Though we are no longer required to offer sacrifices, I want to share with you the powerful reason for why that is.
Each of these five sacrifices that the Jewish people regularly offered help us to understand how the work of Christ saves our souls from sin, as they each point to a different aspect of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice on the cross.
The burnt offering was the most important sacrifice at most Israelite festivals and was offered once every morning and once every evening.
Scripture tells us that the Israelite would lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and then he would kill the bull before the Lord, and Aaron’s sons, the priests, would gather the blood and throw it against the sides of the altar (Lev. 1:4–5).
Along with the burnt offering, was the grain offering of fine flour, oil, frankincense, and salt, which expressed gratitude to God and served as a way of asking the Lord to remember them with favor (Leviticus 2).
The fellowship or peace offering was a festive meal. A bull, a sheep, or a goat was shared by the Lord, the priests, and the one who offered it (Leviticus 3). The act of the offering reminded the worshiper that the only way he had been able to come back into the fullness and joy of communion with God was through the blood of a perfect substitutionary sacrifice. In this offering, something unusual was done with the blood: The priest would dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle part of the blood seven times before the Lord in front of the veil of the sanctuary. The priest would then put some of the blood on the horns of the altar of fragrant incense before the Lord that was in the tent of meeting, and the rest of the blood was poured out at the base of the altar (Lev. 4:6–7).
After this sacrifice was made, blood was on the veil, on the horns of the altar, and it was poured out. The sinner was surrounded by an unavoidable statement about the pervading nature of sin and his need for atonement.
Finally, the guilt offering was not made through sacrifice, but instead required restitution. The guilty person confessed his sin publicly, would offer the blood sacrifice, and then make full restitution of what was defrauded, along with an additional twenty percent.
I share this with you because these sacrificial provisions taught the Israelites a very significant lesson, and one that greatly relates to us today: God can be approached with the blood of a worthy substitute, and He will always make a way for us to be with Him. No matter the cost.
I believe Andrew Kern perfectly summed up one of the most profound and powerful points of the Passion Week when he said, “This is the week He enters the Holy of Holies and sprinkles His own blood on the heavenly altar.”
This is the week. Even now I find myself resting in the unshakable truth of that promise. This is the week Jesus invades our grief and makes it the place of His saving arrival. This is our rebel priest. He unravels evil. He turns loss backwards. He calls the whole world, even a broken and lost world, to be healed forevermore.
He’s a rebel priest because He refused to let sin rule over us. He broke the bondage of sin by offering up Himself as the ultimate sacrifice. He is our high priest, who has made atonement for our sin.
Our rebel priest’s blood is sprinkled on the heavenly altar. What more could we ask for?
I love how you explained all the sacrifices, Lilly, that they were meant to capture the Israelites full attention. It’s tempting to just skim right through Leviticus, but it has a huge significance for understanding what Jesus did on the cross.
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