Years ago, I taught the book of Leviticus to a class of sixth graders during Sunday school. We had been studying the book of Galatians in church, and I had this strange notion that understanding the sacrificial part of the law would help my students understand the study better. All it did was make us thankful for grace.
If you’ve never read through the Old Testament, you’ll have no concept that Leviticus is a bloody book. It lists out every type of sacrifice that could and should and would be offered at the tabernacle that Moses and the Israelites were setting up. These give interesting types and shadows of Christ and his church.
But did I mention they kill baby sheep, goats and cattle?
That’s where the only girl in my Sunday school class that year got stuck. God was awful for commanding people to kill these baby animals. And the cute turtle doves, too!
I have to admit, as I’m reading through it again in my Read Through the Bible in a year plan, I can imagine the stink permeating the area around the brazen altar. And how big was that pile of ashes outside the camp after forty years of keeping the sacrifice on the altar burning day and night?
My inquisitive mind has lots of questions about how all of that worked, but mostly reading about all this blood makes me thankful that we aren’t living under the Law these days.
Grace not Law
Let’s face it, I’m thankful for grace. Every day. But reading about killing an animal for my transgressions, sins of ignorance and atonement makes me doubly thankful that I live in 2021 AD instead of 1000 BC.
We have more laws than we can recite in the United States of America. And if you thought the Ten Commandments were all there was to Old Testament law, you’ve been sadly misled.
Laws are good. Laws give humans boundaries. But the main point of the Law of God was to show people that they couldn’t keep it. They mess up. Yes, even if there was only one simple rule —because in the beginning there was—people couldn’t follow it.
Or they won’t.
And that’s why we need grace. Because the penalty of the law is death. Since we can’t follow the rules, we’ll all reap that punishment. The end.
His Blood not Mine (or My Pet Lamb’s)
That girl from my Sunday school class was right. The Law was a bloody thing. But plenty of religious people these days say that Baptists have a bloody religion, too. You know why?
And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without the shedding of blood is no remission.Hebrews 9:22
God set the penalty for sin in the Garden of Eden as death. People are born under the death penalty. A blood payment is required. That’s what all those slaughtered baby animals and yes, even the turtle doves, showed those Hebrews in the Old Testament days.
Ever since Jesus died on a Roman cross, we don’t have to worry about those animal sacrifices. His death was the ultimate atonement. God accepted the sacrifice of the perfect Lamb as payment for the sin debt of every man, woman, and child.
Thank You, Jesus, for paying the ultimate price so I don’t have to. And I don’t have to slit the throat of a lamb and feel remorse while he bleeds because of my transgressions, either.
Forgiveness without the Guilt
Because the point of having the sinner bring something that they cherished as a sacrifice led to guild. Those physical offerings cost them.
As you read through Leviticus, you see over and over again that the supplicant placed their hand on the head of the innocent lamb (calf, kid or bird) and confessed their sin. Then they slit the animal’s throat. And as the blood poured into a basin, they prayed for forgiveness.
And felt guilty. Because their sin had killed the little lamb. Their sin cost them the future wool of that baby.
I thank the Lord that I don’t have to kill an animal to gain forgiveness for my sin. That would make me feel horrible. Instead, I can come to Jesus in prayer and because He shed his blood, I can gain forgiveness without the guilt of shedding more innocent blood.
Praise the Lord for forgiveness without guilt.
Not that we don’t feel guilty when we sin, but we don’t have to compound that guilt by killing an innocent animal. The innocent Lamb of God already died for our sin.
Rather than feeling guilty about that, He wants us to praise him. He wants us to learn of him. He wants us to live for him.
If you haven’t read the book of Leviticus recently, I encourage you to read the first chapter. Then thank the Lord that there is grace and forgiveness through the blood of Christ.