THE LAMB Typified in The Law…
Since the dawn of creation man has sought to worship by offering sacrifice to his deity. Sometimes the sacrifice was from the fruit of his own hand, and sometimes by animals which he slew (Gen. 4:3-4). From the Moabites in the Middle East, to the Aztecs in South America, man has sacrificed to placate the gods he served in the hope that he might produce a good crop, prosper throughout the year, enjoy health, and be victorious over hostile peoples living around him.
The archaeologist’s spade has revealed elaborate sacrificial systems developed by ancient Semitic peoples in the Middle East. Such documents as the Ras Shama text describing the sacrificial customs of the Phoenicians, Canaanites and Carthaginians, reveal a similarity between them and the Mosaic system practiced by Israel.
Human sacrifice was practiced by those in the Middle East. The Canaanites held a strong belief in the efficacy of sacrificing their firstborn in the wake of impending national or individual disaster in the hope of diverting the disaster by placating their god. When the battle went against the king of Moab, he offered his eldest son for a burnt offering upon the wall of his city (2 Ki. 3:26-27). Even King Ahaz. did the same when he made his son to pass through the fire in the valley of Topheth (Jer. 7:31; 2 Ki. 16:3), although human sacrifice was not the norm in Israel and was highly condemned by God.
THE PURPOSE OF SACRIFiCE
Many theories have been suggested in an attempt to explain “why” men offered sacrifice through the centuries. Some hold to a “Gift” theory which states that sacrifices were offered to obtain favor from the gods — that is, men gave to god in order to get from god. Others believe in a “Magic” theory which suggests that sacrifices were originally offered to a demon to drive the spirit out of a sinful or sick person into the sacrificial victim which was destroyed. The offerer was trying to placate the will of his god through magical forces. There is the “TabIe-Bond” theory. A sacrificial meal was shared by the offerer and his god with the view of establishing fellowship and communion. The “Communion” theory is a variation of the “Table-Bond” view. It states that both the animal to be sacrificed and the one sacrificing possess a divine nature; thus, by eating the animal the offerer “ate the god” and received the strength and power inherent in the divine nature of the animal. Finally, there is the “Homage” theory. Sacrifices are offered by man, not because of a sense of sin, but out of a feeling of dependence upon a deity. By showing homage and obedience to.his god, he will gain.his favor. When one studies the Bible it becomes transparent that these theories in no way explain the scriptural purpose for man’s sacrificing.a to the true God.
The concept of sacrifice originated in the mind of God and was intended to provide an atonement for man’s sin so he could approach a holy God. Sacrifices were to be offered as a vicarious and substitutionary expiation for the individual’s sin. Thus, sins of the individual were symbolically transferred to the animal used to make atonement in order to propitiate the wrath of God against him (Lev. 1:1-7:38). This purpose for sacrifice is consistently presented from Genesis to Malachi.
THE PATRIARCH’S SACRIFICE
In the beginning, man enjoyed direct fellowship and communion with God, needing no sacrifice. It was after man’s fall that it became necessary for God to introduce the sacrificial system as a means by which sinful man could approach Him.
The first biblical allusion to a sacrifice is recorded in Genesis 3:21 where God provided coats of skins to clothe Adam and Eve after their fall into sin. Although the text does not state that God provided atonement for their sins through animal sacrifice, it must be assumed that He taught them directly or indirectly through this act of sacrifice. Later the Scriptures clearly teach that God can only forgive sin by means of a blood atonement (Lev. 17:11), for how else but from their parents would Cain and Abel have known to bring a sacrifice before God in worship?
The first sacrifice mentioned in the Scriptures was offered by Cain and Abel (Gen. 4: 3-5). Their circumstances were the same, both born outside of Eden of sinful parents, but they offered different sacrifices to the Lord. Cain offered from the “fruit of the ground” (Gen. 4:3), and Abel the “firstlings of his flock” (Gen. 4:4). But God did not accept Cam’s sacrifice! Why? The writer of Hebrews states the reason: “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts . . “(Heb. 11:4). Abel’s sacrifice was more excellent because it was the prescribed blood offering required by God, which Cain failed to bring.
Some would say we are reading too much into the text, since God does not specifically say that Cain’s sacrifice was rejected because it was bloodless. Not so! It was shown above that God taught Adam and Eve the necessity of a blood atonement when He slew the animals in Eden to cover their nakedness. From Abel onward, men would offer a blood sacrifice when worshiping God.
Immediately upon leaving the ark, Noah offered up a burnt offering unto the Lord of every clean beast and fowl (Gen. 8:20). Noah did this in appreciation to God for his survival through the flood.. The Lord’s acceptance of Noah’s burn offering is evidenced by the fact that He smelled the soothing aroma (lit. smell of satisfaction) of the sacrifice and promised never to again curse the earth (Gen. 8:21-22) by flood (Gen. 9: 15). The covenant that God made with Noah centered round the blood sacrifice.
The patriarch Job offered sacrifice on behalf of his children (Job 1:5) and three friends (Job 42:7-9) in order to atone for their sins and to sanctify them before God.
During his journey through Canaan, Abraham built altars to commemorate the times when the Lord appeared unto him (Gen. 12:7-8; 13:4, 18). Although it only says that Abraham “called upon the name of the Lord” (Gen. 12:8), mentioning no sacrifice, it can be assumed that sacrifice was included. Why else would he have built the altar?
The first mention of a sacrifice by Abraham is in connection with the covenant which God made with him (Gen. 15:7-21). Notice, the animals which Abraham was to sacrifice were the very animals stipulated later in the Mosaic Law. It was customary in Abraham’s day for two men who made a covenant to walk between the bleeding parts of the sacrifice (Jer. 34:18-19). When God made the covenant with Abraham, He passed between the cleaved halves of the animals, in the form of a flaming firepot and burning lamp, while Abraham slept passively. This was symbolic of the unconditional covenant which God made with Abraham. In so doing, God assured Abraham that He would perform all of its provisions — the covenant was not based on the faithfulness of Abraham, but of Abraham’s God.
The sacrifices offered by Isaac and Jacob followed the same pattern as Abraham. After the Lord appeared to Isaac at Beersheba, to confirm the Abrahamic Covenant with him, Isaac built an altar and called upon the Lord (Gen. 26:23-25) as did his father. Jacob did the same at Bethel when God confirmed the Abrahamic Covenant with him (Gen. 28:1317). He also offered sacrifice to seal the covenant between him and Laban (Gen. 31: 54). Jacob stopped at Beersheba to offer sacrifice before migrating to Egypt (Gen. 46: 1-7).
During the four hundred years that Israel dwelt in Egypt, there is no record of them building altars or making sacrifice. Up to this point, it seems that the patriarchs only offered sacrifice in the places where God manifested Himself to them. The next recorded sacrifice by Israel is on the eve of Passover when each household killed the Passover lamb (Ex. 12:6).
THE PRESCRIBED SACRIFICES
In Moses’ confrontation with Pharaoh, his continual request was “… let us go . . three days journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God … “ (Ex. 3:18, cp. 5:1-3; 8:25-28; 10:24-26). Sacrifice was initially introduced to the nation of Israel as an atonement for their sin, a substitute for Israel’s firstborn, resulting in their redemption.
On the tenth day of Nisan (March-April) the people selected a Passover yearling lamb, without blemish, to be slain at twilight on the fourteenth day of the month (Ex. 12: 1-6). The lamb’s blood, sprinkled on the doorposts of the house, became a substitutionary atonement for all the occupants in the house (Ex, 12:12-13). The Israelites were to keep God’s ordinance throughout their generations as a memorial of this great deliverance (Ex. 12:14).
Yet the Passover lamb being slain and its blood sprinkled on the doorpost as an atonement was only a type of Christ who, as the Paschal Lamb, would make atonement to take away sin (Jn. 1:29; 1 Pet. 1:18-20; 1 Cor. 5:7).
After their deliverance from Egypt, the Israelites traveled to Mount Sinai where God entered into a covenant relationship with them. The Mosaic Covenant, as it is called, was sealed with a sacrifice offered by Moses. He built an altar at the foot of the mount consisting of twelve pillars, representing the tribes of Israel. Young men (not priests) sacrificed a burnt offering and peace offering unto the Lord. The blood of the sacrifice was distributed, half put in a basin and half sprinkled on the altar. The covenant was read, accepted by Israel, and then consummated, by God and Israel, with the sprinkling of blood on both the people and the written covenant (Ex. 19:5-8).
The burnt offering atoned for the people’s sins and was symbolic of their unconditional surrender to God, bringing them into a covenant relationship with Him. The peace offering, on the other hand, was symbolic of reconciliation and fellowship which the Israelites were to experience within the covenant. Notice, the blood was not sprinkled on the people until it had been presented and accepted on the altar. The blood applied to the people formally cleansed them from sin and consecrated them to God’s service. Through the sprinkling of the sacrificial blood, and by their voluntary acceptance to be obedient to the covenant provisions, Israel officially became the people of God.
A number of lessons can be seen in Israel’s covenant relationship with God. First, Israel must atone for their sins before entering into a covenant with God. Second, the covenant, although legal and binding, was entered into by God through an act of pure grace. Notice, the covenant embodied grace as well as law! Third, God promised to deal graciously with Israel if they endeavored to follow Him in obedience, even though there were times when they would disobey Him.
The tabernacle was revealed to Moses as the place where Israel could come before God in sacrificial worship. Later the temple would be built on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem and become the place of sacrifice for Israel.
The altar, in both tabernacle and temple, was the focal point of the sacrifice. The Hebrew word for altar is “Mizbeach” which comes from the word “Zavach,” meaning a “place of slaughter” . Not only was it a place of slaughter, but a place where the atoning blood from the sacrifice would be sprinkled.
The tabernacle and temple, with the altar of sacrifice, were provided as a place where sinful man could approach a holy God, for the law clearly taught, “. .. it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” (Lev. 17:11). The verse is actually saying, “for the blood maketh atonement by means of the soul” — that is, by means of the life which it contains. Since blood represents the animal’s life and is the means by which it is kept alive, it also serves to make atonement for the soul of the one sacrificing. Thus, the animal’s life is presented as a substitute for the life of the one offering sacrifice.
The Five Sacrificial Offerings
In the first seven chapters of Leviticus, God sets forth the principles and restrictions under which Israel is to sacrifice. Every detail of the sacrifices and their implementation is revealed by the Lord.
The five Levitical offerings were not only meaningful to the Israelite but have a prophetic fulfillment in some aspect of the suffering and death of Christ. In the “burnt offering (Lev. 1:1-17) the whole animal was consumed on the altar signifying a complete and voluntary consecration of the Israelite. It typifies Christ who voluntarily surrendered to the Father’s will when He offered Himself on the cross. The “meat [meal] offering” (Lev. 2:1-16) was an expression of the Israelite’s thanksgiving and recognition of God’s sovereignty over him. It typifies Christ’s perfect obedience to God the Father which revealed His perfect character as well as His suffering on behalf of sinful man. The “peace offering” (Lev. 3:1-7) spoke of the Israelite experiencing peace and fellowship with God. It typifies Christ who is the believer’s peace, having reconciled him back to God so he can enjoy peace and fellowship with Him. The “sin offering” (Lev. 4:1-35) was brought by the Israelite as a substitute to make atonement for his sin. It typifies Christ who became sin for the individual, dying in his place, in order to take away his sin. The “trespass offering” (Lev, 5:1-19) differs from the sin offering. In the sin offering the individual offered for himself as a sinner, but in the trespass offering he sacrificed for acts of sin which he had committed. The sin offering atoned for the guilt of the sinner, whereas in the trespass offering, sacrifice was made to offer satisfaction and reparation for wrongs committed against God and his fellowman. It typifies Christ who was offered on the cross for the transgressions of others and rendered the fullest satisfaction to God for the wrong and Injury done to Him by man.
The five offerings are divided into “sweet” and “non-sweet” offerings. The “sweet offerings” (burnt, meat, peace) are so stated because they are acceptable and well pleasing to God since they are not offered in respect to the sin and trespass offering. Paul speaks of Christ’s sacrificial work as a “sweet smelling savor” (Eph. 5:2), referring to His voluntary obedience to the will of the Father and His death on the cross, ascending as a sweet aroma before God.
The two “non-sweet” offerings are identified as such since they deal with man’s sin and the shame connected to it. They typify Christ bearing the sin and shame of man on the cross.
The Five Sacrifices Offered
There were five animals used in sacrificing which portray the work of Christ during His earthly ministry. The ox typified Christ as a strong enduring servant who was obedient unto death (Phil. 2:5-8; Heb. 12:3). The lamb was symbolic of Christ’s meekness (Mt. 11: 28), purity (1 Pet. 1:19), and His silent voluntary surrender to death on the cross (Isa. 53: 7; Acts 8:32-33). The goat refers to the sinner separated for judgment (Mt. 25:33), but also typifies Christ who was numbered with the transgressors (Isa. 53:12; Lk, 23:33; Gal. 3:13; 2 Cor. 5:21). The turtle dove and pigeon were not only symbols of mourning and innocence (Isa. 38:14; 59:11), but of poverty as well (Lev. 5 :7). They typify Christ who mourned over the sin of man (Lk. 19: 41), was innocent (Heb. 7:26), became poor for mankind (Mt. 8:20), but enabled the believer to become rich in Him (2 Cor. 8:9), and became the poor man’s sacrifice (Lk. 2: 24).
The sacrificial system in the Old Testament was only a “shadow of good things to come” (Heb. 10:1), and could never take away sin (Heb. 10:4). The blood of animals had no power to provide redemption. All the ritual slaying could do was purify the flesh — provide ceremonial cleansing (Heb. 9:13).
Why then did God demand such an elaborate sacrificial system be established? For a number of reasons! First, by offering a blood sacrifice man was acknowledging that atonement must be made before God for sin. Second, he was admitting that another must make substitutionary atonement for him, thus he could not atone for his own sins. Third, the blood atonement which he offered did cover his sin before God making it possible for Him to withhold judgment. Fourth, it made possible the communion of sinful man with a holy God. Fifth, his sacrifice pointed to the day when Christ would once for all atone for sin (Heb. 9:26-28).