The Whole Christ

"He is before all things, and in him all things hold together" (Colossians 1:17)

Notes on the Sacrifices

These notes formed part of an exercise on the sacrifices that some of the children in Sunday School looked at last week.

Genesis 3:21-24 (essential for understanding what the offerings mean):

Adam and Eve are given clothes made out of animal skin, showing that it is only through death and the shedding of blood that we can come near to God. Once they have left the garden God leaves a flaming sword to guard it. If you want to get back ‘into the garden’ to see God face to face, you need to pass through sword and fire. That’s what the sacrifices were about – ascending into God’s presence by sword and fire.

Leviticus 1:3-9 (the burnt offering – the most fundamental one). All of the sacrifices prior to the Levitical priesthood were burnt offerings, so they are the ‘mother’ of all offerings. There are five steps:

  1. Lay your hand on the animal’s head – Animal is being delegated as a representative for the Israelite
  2. Kill the animal (sword) – Animal is killed, representing the Israelite ‘dying’ of his old life, confessing his sins to God
  3. Cut up, wash and re-arrange the animal – God cuts up, washes and re-fashions the Israelite by the power of his word, making them into a new person
  4. Animal is set on fire, ascending as a cloud of smoke (fire) – The Israelite is lifted into God’s presence as a cloud of smoke, marking a restored relationship with his maker
  5. Worshipper sent away – The Israelite is commissioned through sacrifice as a representative, with a duty to proclaim the goodness and love of God to the nations

A summary of what is special about each of the types of offerings:

  • Purification (sin) offering – Strong emphasis on blood – Jesus washes us clean with his blood so we can live for him
  • Ascension (burnt) offering – Whole offering is burnt up (none is eaten) – through Jesus we can ‘ascend’ into God’s presence
  • Peace (Communion) Offering – Emphasis on eating this one – In Jesus we can have true peace and fellowship with God, as his table companions
  • Gift (grain) offering – Grain is used instead of an animal – Through Jesus God accepts and delights in our gifts and offerings (and worship) to him
  • Trespass offering – Not used in regular worship, but as a payment for specific sins – Through Jesus we can be forgiven whenever we do wrong

Finally, Hebrews 10:11-14 tells us why we don’t sacrifice animals anymore, because now Jesus has taken away our sin forever.

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