Sacrifice of the innocent

Leviticus 1:3-5 “If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer a male without blemish. He shall bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the Lord. He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him. Then he shall kill the bull before the Lord, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall bring the blood and throw the blood against the sides of the altar that is at the entrance of the tent of meeting.”

What is the value of a book like Leviticus to a person today?  Surely, all the rituals and sacrifices are foreign to our way of thinking.  In fact, all of these sacrifices have even been abolished for the Jews for whom they were originally instituted, for we see nothing resembling such practices observed in any synagogue today. 

Well, to begin to understand why God ordained that the words describing the sacrifices were preserved for us even if the ceremonies were not, we need to understand that it was Jesus himself that was the fulfillment of every sacrifice in the Old Testament.  He alone was the sacrificial Lamb of God.  We are told in the New Testament that “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, “Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book (Hebrews 10:4-7).”’”  So, in effect, all the Old Testament sacrifices, all the bulls, goats, lambs, and doves, everything offered on the altar to God, pointed to Jesus, “the Lamb Who was slain (Revelation 5:12).” Because of this, in the ceremonies of the Old Testament, we see many applications that are relevant to us today, personally. 

So, what about the burnt offering we read about in Leviticus 1 above.  One thing we see is that the animal was to be “without blemish,” which represents the perfection, the innocence, and the sinlessness of Christ.  Is that the way you see Him?  Do you see any insufficiency in Him at all? When you look at yourself in comparison to Him, does your own sinfulness stand out in stark contrast?  It surely should, for that’s the truth about every one of us. 

But then do you notice that the fate of the animal was linked to the person that offered it.  The animal was slaughtered because of the condition of the person that was offering it.  The animal was innocent.  It was just living its life as God intended it to live, at peace, being cared for by shepherds as one of the herd. But then, in its very nature as the very best of the herd, i.e., one without blemish, it was selected to experience a violent and painful death on behalf of the person who offered it.  It was that person’s personal possession.  But it was because of that person’s sin that this animal had to die.  Over and over again, as these offerings were slain and placed on the altar to be burned in a fire to God, there was a reminder that this animal died because the person who offered it had sinned. It wasn’t the animal’s fault that it died. Rather, it was the person’s fault that offered it. 

Again, is that how you see yourself in relation to the One who died for you? Do you realize that the only reason He died a violent death on the cross was because of your sin and not His? Here was the Prince of Peace, worshipped and adored in heaven, glorified as the pure and holy Son of God, worthy of nothing but praise and worship for His perfection and holiness, who had to come to earth, where He was mocked, harassed, and murdered, for no other reason than for what you and I had done.  We deserved the death that He received, but God made a way for a sacrifice, One without blemish, to die for you and for me. 

It is only as you and I identify with Him, when we by faith place our hands on Him and acknowledge that His death was something we deserved, that His sacrifice becomes applicable to us.  It is a precious reality and a merciful privilege, but we have to acknowledge that, incredibly “For our sake he made Him to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).”

Is this something that you acknowledge, and is this something that you have, by faith, believed? Or do you think you have no need of sacrifice for your sin, and do you think you will one day be able to stand before a Holy God and think that you can present yourself, on your own merit, as acceptable to Him?  Is Christ’s death on your behalf of no consequence to you?  Do you think you have no need of forgiveness as you live a life with no thought given to your many sins against the God who made you and gave His Son for you? 

May God help us to see in the merciful picture of the sacrifices of Leviticus our need for a sacrifice as well.  But the only sacrifice that will ever be acceptable to God is that of the Holy One who gave His perfect life for you and me.

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