Prominence is given in the Old Testament to the offerings and sacrifices Jewish worshippers made to God. Many animals died to temporarily cover sin. God wanted the people to identify with their sacrifices – know the animal was dying in their place.
Connect with the Animal The worshipper brough his animal to an altar. There, he was required to connect and identify with the animal by putting his hand on the animal’s head.
- “He is to the lay his hand on the head . . . .” Leviticus 1:4
- “He is to lay his hand on the head of his offering . . . .” Leviticus 3:8
- “He is to lay his hands on its head . . . .” Leviticus 4:4 (and many other texts)
It seems that God wanted the worshipper to realize, “This animal is dying in my place.” Putting his hand on the animal made the sacrifice personal.
Possibly he liked the animal. All of the animals were required to be of high quality, so the worshipped likely valued the animal. It was expensive to offer a perfect animal.
Kill the Animal Then this animal – which the worshipper may have raised, fed, and nurtured – this animal his children may have played with – this animal which he had led to the place of worship – this animal the worshipper valued, he – not the priest — was required to slit its throat.
- “He is to slaughter the young bull . . . .” Leviticus 1:5
- “He . . . is to . . . slaughter it in front of the Tent of Meeting.” Leviticus 3:8
- “He is . . . to slaughter it before the Lord.” Leviticus 4:8 (and many other texts)
As the heart pumped blood out of the animal, the worshipper watched the life flow out on to the ground. He saw it die.
Sprinkle the Blood Then the blood was deliberately splashed in the vicinity of the altar.
- “. . . then Aaron’s sons the priests shall bring the blood and sprinkle it against the altar on all sides . . . .” Leviticus 1:5
- “. . . then Aaron’s sons the priests shall sprinkle its blood against the altar on all sides.” Leviticus 1:11 (and many other texts).
No, the blood had no special efficacy, nothing magical or mysterious, no metaphysical property about it that literally washed away sin’s defilement. Blood = life. Blood is the agent of human life. The purpose of this bloody ritual was simple: provide an intentionally revolting illustration that the wages of sin is death.
Sin is costly. As a pastor I have been tempted to slaughter a lamb in an 11:00 A.M. morning worship service at church. Revolting, right? Yes, indeed, but people who are normally asleep in the pews would never forget such a service and we would all be put on notice that sin is revolting, ghastly, ugly and distasteful.
Sin is so ugly, only God Himself could remove it. God became a human being, came to this earth and died to absorb the God’s anger toward our sin. Have you given yourself to the Living God through faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ?