Daily Devotional

“If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, you are to offer a male without defect. You must present it at the entrance to the tent of meeting so that it will be acceptable to the Lord. You are to lay your hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on your behalf to make atonement for you. You are to slaughter the young bull before the Lord…”
 Leviticus 1:3-5

Recently I was reading through the Book of Leviticus.  My tendency is to speed through the opening chapters because the regulations for the sacrifices are very detailed and repetitive.  But this time I decided to slow down and meditate on what I was reading.

The first seven chapters of Leviticus describe five main types of offerings: (1) burnt offerings were made for sins in general; (2) grain offerings acknowledged that all we have belongs to God; (3) peace offerings celebrated restored fellowship with God; (4) sin offerings atoned for a litany of unintentional sins; (5) trespass offerings dealt with sin that required compensation to be paid.

As I read through those seven chapters, I was struck by the whole bloody mess.  The amount of carnage must have been unimaginable for a crowd of roughly two million people camped at the foot of Mount Sinai.  The regulations for the sacrifices are disturbing, shocking, even repulsive if you read them carefully.  Then I realized, “That’s the whole point!”

For those of us who are prone to treat sin casually, these chapters are an essential reminder of the grotesque nature of our sin and the extraordinary lengths God went to forgive us.  They teach us to take our sin seriously!

Take the burnt offering, for example.  When someone brought this offering to the Lord, he had to follow precisely the instructions outlined in the Law.  Otherwise, he could not even approach the presence of God.  This taught that Yahweh is a high and holy God who should be reverenced and obeyed.

When the offering was presented to the priest at the tabernacle, the animal had to be without blemish, symbolizing the moral perfection demanded by God.  And the animal was not cheap!  It was a precious and valuable possession, symbolizing the high cost of sin.

As the Israelite prepared to offer the sacrifice, he laid his hand on the head of the animal, signifying identification with it as a substitute.  His guilt was symbolically transferred to the animal.

But then came the most dreadful part.  The person offering the sacrifice had to kill the animal himself!  He had to take the knife and slit its throat.

As the helpless animal writhed in terror, its life slowly ebbing out of its body, the priest captured some of its blood and sprinkled it on the altar (Heb 9:22).

For the person offering the sacrifice, it became painfully clear this his sin had caused this punishment.  He understood that the wages of sin is death.  And he understood that God had spared his life because another life had been offered up in exchange for his own.

Beloved, we know those Old Testament sacrifices were temporary symbols that pointed us to Christ.  We know the blood of bulls and goats could never take away a person’s sin.  We know that Christ is the true Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  And we know that he suffered and died on the cross to conquer sin once for all.

My question is, “Do we appreciate it?”  Is the sacrifice of Christ as real to us as the Israelite who offered a burnt offering in the wilderness?  Do we feel the dread and pain of picking up the knife and slaughtering our substitute?  Do we feel the life of the Lamb slowly ebbing away in our hands?  And does his sacrifice break our heart?  Does it fill us with the kind of agony and repentance that says, “I don’t ever want to do this again?”  Does it change the way we live?

The idea of slaughtering an animal with my own hands is repulsive.  How much more the thought of nailing Jesus to the cross for my sin?
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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