Now the Lord called to Moses, and spoke to him from the tabernacle of meeting, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When any one of you brings an offering to the Lord, you shall bring your offering of the livestock—of the herd and of the flock.'” (Leviticus 1:1-2)
For many Christians, the book of Leviticus is perceived to be all about ritual sacrifices and a myriad of archaic laws. It is true that Leviticus lacks much narrative in deference to thoroughly addressing the sacrificial system. But it is also true that much of the book deals with holiness and the sanctification of life. In other words, it shouldn’t be regarded as just a manual for ritual sacrifice; rather it accentuates God’s holiness and what must occur in the heart of those who wish to approach Him and strive to be a holy people.
Some might be surprised to discover that, for the most part, the sacrifices and offerings outlined in Leviticus deal with voluntary, private sacrifices. By that I mean, there is no law that says everyone MUST bring a sacrifice. The laws are for those who CHOOSE to bring a sacrifice. The point is that the Creator only required certain things of people when they expressed a desire to approach Him. Offerings and sacrifices submitted by someone in a begrudging or unwilling manner were not deemed acceptable (remember Cain’s offering).
So what can we glean from these instructions that focus on animal sacrifice? Admittedly, it is hard for us to grasp the purpose of sacrifice rationally because we can’t fully understand why the slaughter of an animal and the offering of its blood can invite the Presence of the Almighty. Is it possible that reasons are so profound that it escapes our comprehension? We know that God doesn’t need those sacrifices because we understand that He doesn’t have a bloodlust. To the contrary, He is about giving life, not taking it. So what is it that we are to learn through these sacrifices?
I think we need to consider that the animal presented as an offering was an expression of that individual’s heart. God did not expect or want that person to crawl up on the altar and pay for their sins with their life. At the same time, He desired that all of us would come to realize that, if we are to be a holy people, we must be willing to be a “living sacrifice.” We must be willing to “die” — to our will and desire — if we are to one with Him. Furthermore, it demonstrates God’s mercy to us because, rather than requiring a person’s life because of their sin, He allowed for these animals to be substituted in their stead.
Ultimately, this concept points us to the Messiah and His sacrifice on our behalf. So as we work our way through Leviticus, rather than focusing on the minutiae of the sacrifices, keep in mind that everything God says has purpose and that somehow and in some way, these words are pointing us to Yeshua.
Blessings and Shalom,