The Sacrificial System of the Old Testament
by Bobby Bruno

The sacrificial system was more than just a way to be forgiven for sins; it was more an act of worship for the people of Israel. The sacrifices instituted by God forced the people to live a holy life before God. The shedding of blood reminded the people of the blood that was shed during the Passover and that it also took a sacrifice of blood in the Garden to clothe Adam and Eve in animal skins after their sin had been discovered.

If we take into consideration the order of the sacrifices listed in Leviticus we find that the offerings start out as worship to please God, and then they move into the realm of sacrifices for forgiveness and mercy. This is also the way Jesus taught us to pray by honoring God first and then to ask for forgiveness of our trespasses. This system kept the people honest and humble because it included the killing of an animal, maybe even one that may have been a prized animal to the family. The benefits to the individual or family were great in that it kept their Holy God ever before their eyes for Israel had proven that when left on their own, as they were with the golden calf, they would quickly stray away from God. The sacrificial system kept them close to God in a way that nothing else ever could.

One problem with the system was that an animal's life had to be cut short because of the sin of its master. Instead of killing the sinner, God made it possible for the sinner to repent and to be forgiven of their sin. All life is precious to God, animal and human, and the shedding of their blood screams to God that something serious has taken place. Still, the killing of an animal might not have produced the repentance that God was looking for. There may have been some who didn't care about the animal, but only cared that their sins were forgiven. What was one animal out of a hundred once a year?

This brings us to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Somewhere along the way, God said enough was enough. Enough blood has been shed in the name of sin, so He set out to end the bloodshed of innocent animals by allowing the shedding of the innocent blood of His Son, Jesus. Once and for all, thanks to Jesus obedience, animal sacrifices were put to an end. Now, through the blood and body of Jesus Christ we may come to the throne of grace and seek forgiveness and renewal. All sins have been forgiven for all people, but, as a family brought a sacrifice to the altar, we, too, must bring our sins to God and confess to Him that we agree with Him that we have sinned. When we pray we are to honor God first for who He is before we speak of ourselves and the sins we have committed or omitted in the past. Jesus joyfully became the scapegoat for all of humanity. The shedding of Jesus' blood screams to God, but now in a different way; now it screams hallelujah come sinner come.

Comment: "When you mention the shedding of blood in sacrifice as a comparison to the Passover in Exodus 12, what do you mean by that? Are you saying that the sacrificial system is an example of the Passover, or that it is a reminder of the Passover? What I mean by this is: are you comparing the Passover to the sacrificial system? If so, what comparisons are drawn between the two outside of the shedding of blood?"

Author Response: God decided to sacrifice a living being in order for its blood to be smeared on the doorposts so that the people of Israel could be "saved" from God's wrath on the nation of Egypt. This is the same way God decided to save the rest of humanity from His wrath by the shedding of the blood of another living being, His Son, Jesus Christ, so that we may be saved from our sins for all eternity. The Sacrificial system, to me, was the precursor to Jesus' blood being smeared on the cross so His people could continue to be saved from His wrath against sin and disobedience. In Egypt, God settled His account with that nation for enslaving His people and causing them to suffer greatly. He then blessed Israel with a great bounty of gold and silver that once was Egypt's. In the shedding of Jesus' blood, God settled the sin debt once and for all time and then blesses those who accept His Son with eternal life and a life where His Spirit is always with us. Outside of the shedding of blood, the only connections I see in both is that both included the sacrifice of an animal for the purpose of pleasing God, and the people were to reflect on all that God had done for them in the past. Blood is very important to God because it is where the life of the body resides (see Abel's murder in Genesis).

Comment: "Why did God put this system into place? This was in place for the purpose of fellowship with God and also how God recognized the repentance of sin by man giving a sacrifice to receive atonement for sin."

Author Response: I like what you said about the sacrifice being the way that God recognized the repentance of the sinner. This is also a good way for the sinner to take his sin seriously knowing that an animal's blood had to be spilled for his sins to be forgiven. These days, I think many people take it for granted that they have been forgiven because all we have to do is ask for forgiveness and know that we have received it when we confess our sin to God. The only sacrifice we have to give most times is our words. How much more seriously would we take our sins if we could see Jesus bleed for us all over again each time we ask for His forgiveness? I bet the Israelites took their sin very seriously everytime one of their livestock had to be killed in order to be holy again in God's eyes. As Jesus said, will He find anyone faithful when He comes back to take us home? How many of us still have unconfessed sins simply because we don't take them seriously enough? The shedding of Jesus' blood certainly showed us how seriously God takes our sin. If only many who profess to be Christians would serious give up their sin. Wouldn't that make a difference in the way the world sees us, as people set apart by God, and not as people who act just like them? What a world this could be if we all took sin as seriously as our Father in Heaven does.

Comment: "There was such a gap between humanity and God since the fall, God designed a system so that humanity can come back into closer relationship with him."

Author Response: I sometimes wonder if the sacrificial system was about obedience more than anything else. If we go back to the years in the desert we find the Israelites being disobedient time and time again, especially where it came to the golden calf. Even while the Ten Commandments were being written the people were being about as disobedient as they could get by wanted to fashion another god to worship since they didn't think that Moses' God was doing such a hot job. Could it be that God wanted to make sure that His people never forgot Him again by instituting such a horrific and messy way to get their worship and obedience? I would believe that the Israelites understood just how serious their sin at the mountain was when they made the calf. I would hope that I would think twice about my sin if I had to kill an animal on a regular basis; one that I had brought up since birth and nurtured through sickness and disease only to have to kill it because I did something I knew that I should not have done. The more I learn about the sacrificial system, the more I want to bow my head in shame of all the wrong-doing I still do today. I thank Jesus that He saved me from being that sacrificial animal I should have been in His place.

Bobby Bruno was saved 15 years ago in a way that left him no doubt that Jesus wanted him to reach others with His great and abounding love.  He started writing at the age of 12 and hasn't stopped since. He achieved Associates Degree in Biblical Studies from Ohio Christian University in early 2014.

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