We begin the second book of the Pentateuch with the regulations regarding the offering of a sacrifice for atonement of sin.
Now that the Sanctuary has been completed and is in service (end of Exodus), the use of the altar and initiation of the sacrificial system is to begin. The animals allowed to be used as sacrifice are domestic animals which are clean (which will be identified later in Chapter 11, although even in Noah’s time it was already known which were clean and unclean; see Genesis 7:2.) Wild animals were not allowed because they cost the person nothing, and unclean animals were not allowed because they were, well…unclean. Also any animal that kills other animals is unacceptable, or if the animal had killed someone, such as if a bull had gored someone to death, even if it is a “clean” animal it would now be unfit to be used as a sacrifice.
God gives Moses the instructions for the burnt offering (the entire animal is burnt to demonstrate total devotion to God), thanksgiving offering, sin offering, and guilt offering.
The sin and guilt offerings are both for having sinned against God (all sins are sins directly against God, no matter who we actually sin against in our personal relationships), but the sin sacrifice was more specifically for sins such as false witnessing, becoming impure, failing to perform an oath, or failing to do as God has prescribed. The guilt offering was for sins against any of the holy things of the Sanctuary, whether intentional or not.
In all the sacrifices God has made provision for the poor, in that they are allowed to offer an animal that is in accordance with their ability to pay, i.e. a wealthy person would be required to bring a bull, whereas a poor person would be allowed to sacrifice doves or grain.
I think the way the sacrificial system works has been one of the most misunderstood things in the bible, and that is frightening when we consider that our very salvation is rooted in this system. The sacrifice was made to cleanse us of the sin we have committed, and when we sin again, we need to confess, ask forgiveness and offer the sacrifice in order to be forgiven. Most people “get” that, with regards to the Old Covenant system, but don’t really see how it relates to Yeshua’s (Jesus) sacrifice.
Under the old system, God commanded the sacrifice had to be made at the entrance to the Sanctuary, and later at the Temple in Jerusalem. After the Temple was completely destroyed by the Romans in or around 73 AD, there was no longer the opportunity to be forgiven. Imagine how devastating that was to the Jewish community! For those who have accepted Yeshua as their Messiah (back then as now), the need to bring the sacrifice to the Temple was no longer necessary because Yeshua’s sacrifice was a once-and-for-all sacrifice.
Here’s where it gets all screwed up: many Christian religions have been teaching that Yeshua did away with the sacrificial system and that we are now made clean by His blood, which is true, but they imply that there is nothing else that needs to be done. This is not true- you still need to try not to sin, to do T’shuvah (turn) from your sinful activities, and continually ask for forgiveness because the forgiveness of sin is available, but it is not given until the sin is confessed and forgiveness requested.
The sacrificial system is a threefold process:
- You come before the Lord and confess your sin;
- You offer the sacrifice;
- You ask for forgiveness, and to be made clean, through the shedding of the blood that you have just presented before the Lord.
The only part of this that Yeshua completed already is the second step- the sacrifice- but we still have to recognize and confess our sins, and ask for forgiveness by means of the blood of Yeshua.
Don’t be suckered into the teaching that because of Yeshua you are clean forever- you can be, but you aren’t: you still have to confess your sin and ask forgiveness. Forgiveness through Yeshua is available for the asking, but it is not automatically given. That is what much of Christianity teaches, that you are automatically cleansed before the Lord by means of Yeshua’s sacrifice…..WRONG!!
You are not cleansed until you confess your sin, do T’shuvah (repent), and ask to be cleansed.
The sacrificial system is still in effect, only modified by Yeshua, in that now we do not have to take our sacrifice to the Temple in Jerusalem. We still have to confess, repent and ask forgiveness.
As I said above, and I feel it is so important to remember: Yeshua made forgiveness available for all, and for all time, but it is not given automatically.