Monday in the Fourth Week of Lent

Leviticus 16:1-34

And What About All Those Sacrifices Anyway

It does make for difficult reading.  It all seems so foreign to us.  Then again, there is a sort of fascination in the very meticulous way things had to be done.  Remember, we are talking about worship, which, as we learned yesterday, is very serious business.

But I would like to address today the subject of sacrifice.  It seems that man has always felt the need to pay some offering or sacrifice to God.  After all, the practice goes all the way back to Cain and Abel.  We find Noah offering a sacrifice after leaving the ark.  Sacrifices were also a major part of pagan religion, including the abhorrent practice of child sacrifice.  Two reasons stand out for man’s given-ness to sacrifice.  First is his being created in God’s image.  Man knows that God is, and that he is His creation, and that he is to be in fellowship with his Maker.  Which leads us to the second point, which is that man knows he is out of fellowship with his Maker.  These two realities, which the Bible explains in Genesis 1-3, account for this ancient phenomenon of man’s need to offer sacrifice to God.

In the Old Testament where God commanded and regulated the sacrificial system, the key concept is substitution; that is, the animal takes the place of the guilty person or people.  There was no way that an Israelite could watch an animal slaughtered before him and not realize the horrible consequences of his sin.  He learned from this that unworthy man cannot approach God empty-handed, and that atonement must be made for the sin that separates him from God.  The sacrifice of the animal represented the offering up of his own life to God, and the sprinkling of the blood indicated his cleansing and restoration unto fellowship with the Lord.

But, of course, the blood of bulls and goats could never take away sins or cleanse the conscience (Hebrews 9:6-14; 10:1-18).  The only way God could invest such significance in the sacrificial system was in the light of the Supreme Sacrifice that such sacrifices foreshadowed: The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).  It was He who was slain from the world’s very foundation of which these sacrifices were but a poor imitation (Revelation 5:6; 13:8).  It seems so marvelous.  Long before man ever knew about the Gospel, God had implanted in his heart the very means whereby he could understand it through sacrifice.  The once-for-all substitutionary sacrifice of our Lord and Savior is man’s long sought-after answer to reconciliation with God.

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