Leviticus: I. The Sacrifice

Submitted by Kyleigh on Fri, 01/21/2011 - 16:13

{post-sermon musings on a Friday evening. The sermon was on Leviticus chapters 1-7 and 17.}

Part 1: The Wilderness, Moses’ time.

            Small fingers wrapped around my hand, and I felt a gentle tug on my sleeve.       “Papa,” my six-year-old son said. His big brown eyes looked up at me, filled with love and curiosity as they always were. Dark curls tumbled around his forehead. I smiled. My son looked so much like his beautiful mother.

            “Papa,” he said again.

            “Yes, my son?”

            “Why does it smell so whenever we come by the Tabernacle?” He wrinkled his nose. I, too, hated the stench of burning flesh. But I knew it was necessary.

            “And why is there always smoke rising?” He continued. “Uncle says the cloud is because of the glory of Adonai, but what about the smoke? And why are there always men bringing bulls, sheep, and birds? Why do they never come out? What happens to them?”

            “You have many questions, my son. These are very important questions, and I am glad you have asked them. Come, let us sit in the shade of the tabernacle and I will tell you.”

            We sat, and I took my son on my lap.

            “After Adonai brought us out of Egypt, He gave to Moses rules for building the Tabernacle, His dwelling place. But my son, we cannot live with Adonai the way we are.”

            “Why not?”

            “Because Adonai is opposed to the sin in us. We are hostile to Him and His holiness. Do you understand that, my son?”

            “Sin, papa, what is that?”

            “Sin is something that is inescapably a part of us. It is disobedience to Adonai, and it is falling short of being like Him.”

            “Is that what holiness is, papa, what Adonai is?”

            “Yes, my son. Because we are sinful and He is holy, we cannot dwell together.”

            “But it is His glory in the cloud! How can this be?”

            “That is why we have the Tabernacle. You asked why there are always men bringing animals to the Tabernacle, and why the animals never come out. They do not come out because they are dead.”

            My son looked up at me, and his lip quavered. “Dead? But why?”

            I glanced heavenward. “Blood is the only way for sin to be forgiven. Our sin deserves death, and life is in the blood. With the shedding of blood, is the losing of life.” I looked at my son, brevity filling my countenance. “It should be you and me that die to make atonement, to bring us and Adonai together, but Adonai is merciful and allows an animal to be killed in our place. The blood of the animal restores our fellowship with Adonai.”

            “But why must it smell so? Is not Adonai powerful enough to make it not smell?”

            “The stench of death reminds us of how terrible our sin is. It reminds us that there is death needed for our sin, and that it is serious. Who we are in our sinfulness requires our death. My son, when you smell the odor and see the smoke of the offerings rising to Adonai, remember the price of your sin. Remember how bulls, sheep, and birds have been killed in your place so that Adonai may dwell with us. The blood of the animals is the remedy for our sin.”

            “If their death is our forgiveness,” my son said, “then why must we keep killing animals? When can we stop?”

            “Do you remember how your mother and I have taught you of Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden, and the promise Adonai made to them there?”

            “He promised the seed of the woman would crush the head of the Devil.”

            “Yes, my son. When the head of the Devil is crushed, then we shall be free from our sin. The blood of the animals is not enough, even of the most perfect animal, lambs without blemish, as we must bring. We must also hope in the Promise Adonai has said will come to cover our sin. Until then, the fire must burn without stopping, for we always need a sacrifice for Holy Adonai to dwell with an unholy people. Now, my son, do you understand?”         

            He looked up at me, tears in his eyes. “Oh, papa, how I love the lambs that die in my place! And how I love Adonai for making a way for Him to dwell with us! And how I love Him for His Promise! I know that He will keep it. Now I know why the fire burns all day, and why there are always animals, and why it smells so. It is required for my sin!”


                        Part 2: Jerusalem, ten to twenty years after Christ’s ascension.

            I kept a watchful eye on my ten-year-old son as we wound our way in and out of the crowds. It was the time of the Passover. The bleating of sheep and coo of pigeons and doves mingled with the tumult of human conversation. We passed by the Temple in all of its glory. I remembered the beauty of the inside, though it had been years since I had been inside.

            There was no need for us to go there anymore, not since Christ’s death. I looked at the crowd rushing by us, and wondered how many of them had heard the news, how many of them knew that sacrifices were no longer necessary, that Christ’s death closed down the altars. He was the Lamb of God, and had taken away the sins of the world. I trembled, thinking of the wrath of God that Christ had suffered for my sin. But the tremor left me when I remembered that I was no longer guilty, and that I could run in love to this Holy God because someone else had paid the price for atonement, the bringing together of two hostile parties: my sinful self and the Holy God.

            I turned to my son.  “Do you know why so many people are here?”

            “No, papa. But I want to know. It’s not usually so crowded.”

            “I shall tell you when we get home; it’s too loud to talk here.”

            Once we arrived at our small house, I sat down with my son and we began to talk.

            “Long ago,” I said, “when our forefathers were yet in Egypt, God sent plagues on the Egyptians. What was the last plague?”

            “The death of the firstborn,” my son replied promptly.

            “But did Israelite children die?”

            “Not if they had the blood of a lamb they had sacrificed on the door.”
            “That’s right. The lamb died in the place of the firstborn. The crowds this week are Jews coming to Jerusalem to remember that plague. As a child, I remembered it and celebrated the Passover – so called because the Angel of Death passed over the houses that had blood on the doorposts. But the lambs at Passover were not the only lambs that our ancestors sacrificed. Do you remember what I have told you about the Tabernacle?”

            “Some. You told me about the need for bulls, lambs, or birds to be killed instead of us, so that God could dwell with us, because our sin puts us at hostility with Him.”

            “That’s right, my son. The blood of the animals and hope of the Promised Messiah saved them from their sin, made atonement between them and God, and was the remedy for their sin. But now, that has changed.”
            “Why, papa? And how?”

            “There was a man called John the Baptist. He was sent to prepare the way for the ‘Lamb of God,’ who ‘takes away the sin of the world.’”

            “Of the whole world, not just the Jews?”

            “Yes, Jew and Gentile alike. Do you know who that Lamb was?”
            “Jesus Christ.”

            “Yes. When He died on the cross, He took the wrath of God. He was as the unblemished lamb being sacrificed on the altar in the Tabernacle. But He didn’t avert God’s wrath from us as the lamb did; He absorbed it. There is none left for us to receive.”

            “But why did He have to die?”

            “There had to be the shedding of blood, the shedding of life, for the forgiveness of our sins, my son. It was required so that we may have fellowship with God. On the cross, the Holiness of God that requires justice on our sin met with His grace, that provides a substitute, someone to die in our place. Do you understand?”

            My son nodded, then spoke. “I was going to ask why we should want Him to dwell with us, but you answered my question in the last things you said. If He has done so much, if He is so good, gracious, merciful, and holy, I want to be with Him, and it would pain me to be far from Him. The Romans make the cross such an ugly thing, but it is beautiful to me, because He has made it beautiful by His sacrifice. He, not a lamb, even a perfect lamb, was required for my sin.” 




Author's age when written


"Why?" "Why?" "Why?" 

When I pray for my future children, I should remember this story.

I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. --The Book Thief