Leviticus 4:22-26 (ESV)
22 “When a leader sins, doing unintentionally any one of all the things that by the commandments of the Lord his God ought not to be done, and realizes his guilt, 23 or the sin which he has committed is made known to him, he shall bring as his offering a goat, a male without blemish, 24 and shall lay his hand on the head of the goat and kill it in the place where they kill the burnt offering before the Lord; it is a sin offering. 25 Then the priest shall take some of the blood of the sin offering with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering and pour out the rest of its blood at the base of the altar of burnt offering. 26 And all its fat he shall burn on the altar, like the fat of the sacrifice of peace offerings. So the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin, and he shall be forgiven.
Often we skim through the laws of Leviticus and the sacrificial system without applying much thought to our lives. This morning, I battled my own temptation to let these words just fly by as I continued my daily reading plan. But, in walking through Leviticus 1-4, I found the common pattern in the way God allowed his people to make atonement for sin very helpful in understanding the work of Jesus, the perfect sin offering.
In the discussion of sin offerings, there are a few points that continually arise:
· The sacrifice is without blemish.
· There is a transfer of guilt, a substitution.
· The animal dies.
· The sin is atoned for.
The Sacrifice is Without Blemish
In all of the discussions of sin offering in Leviticus, the animal to be sacrificed is to be without blemish. God demands perfection. Only the perfect could cover for the sin of the imperfect.
There is a Transfer of Guilt, a Substitution
In all of these offerings, the guilty party or a representative of the guilty people was to lay his hands on the head of the animal being sacrificed. This was a move in which the person was placing the burden of their guilt on the animal being presented before the Lord. It was a way to ask God to count the animal as guilty of what the people had done.
The Animal Dies
The next item in the discussion that repeatedly comes is that the animal is slaughtered and its blood is poured out and put before the Lord. Death is the punishment for the sin of the people. God will not allow his justice to be mocked. It is a bloody and ugly business to deal with sin.
The Sin is Atoned For
In the end, there is a declaration of atonement. The person who had sinned before God is now declared to be back in a right relationship with God. Something has happened that made up for the guilt of the sin. A reconciliation has occurred.
These are True of Jesus
When we look at the person and work of Jesus in his atoning work on our behalf, all the things we have just seen are present. Jesus was unblemished. Where the animals were only outwardly perfect-looking Jesus was actually holy before the Lord. He is God. He is perfect. He is without sin. He is able to therefore be a sacrifice that no other human could have been.
Jesus stood in our stead as our substitute. He allowed the Father to place on him the penalty for all of the sins of all of God’s children. Jesus allowed the Father to count him as guilty of things that he had not done in order to pay a penalty that none of us could have ever paid.
Jesus died. The perfect Son of God allowed his blood to be shed, poured out as a sin offering. It was a bloody and ugly business. However, only through that blood of Jesus could we have our sins forgiven.
Jesus made atonement for us. All who are in Christ have their sins atoned for. There is no longer any condemnation left for us. God has covered our sin by fully punishing it in Jesus. He can now welcome us into a fully reconciled relationship with him.
And, gloriously, Jesus rose from the dead after making this atonement proving that the work is fully finished once and for all. Our Savior is, of course, infinitely better than the bulls, lambs, goats, and birds that were used in the Old Testament sacrificial system. All that blood and sacrifice pointed to Jesus’ perfect work of substitutionary atonement.
Yes, it is easy to let Leviticus fly by in your daily readings. But, I have found that slowing down and taking a closer look at how this shows us God’s holiness and Christ’s sacrifice help to make this time spent in God’s word very sweet indeed.