Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate.  Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach.  For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.

 
 
 

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7-29

The Sacrifices of Israel

Jesus said that he was “meek and lowly in heart”, and then he issued an invitation to his disciples to “Come, learn from me” (Mt. 11:29). Men of God, years later, would write that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is “the radiance of God’s glory and the reflection of His very being” (Heb. 1:3) and “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). But if the Son is the mirror image of his Father, and the Son says he is “meek and lowly in heart”, then what does that truth tell us about the Father?

It tells us in words what the Father told Israel in works.

In Leviticus, the laws governing sacrificial works in Israel are given. One of the astonishing things about God’s sacrificial system is how simple and generous it is. While the gods of the Gentiles were demanding extravagant and costly gifts, including the sacrifice of innocent children, the God of Israel demanded so little that Israel could not even believe it was sufficient. The main reason ancient Israel failed in their walk with God was that He was so good that they could not believe it. For one instance, if the entire nation of Israel was found to have transgressed, what was required to make atonement for the sins of all those millions of people was one bullock! That was all: “When the sin which they have sinned against it [God’s law] is known, then the congregation shall offer a young bullock for the sin” (Lev. 4:14).

Perhaps even more astonishing, especially in comparison to the oppressive, self-serving demands of heathen gods recorded in the sagas and laws of ancient Gentiles, is what God demanded when someone stole from Him as compared to when someone stole from a mere mortal: Here are God’s requirements for such sins, as found in Leviticus:

Verse Trespass Offering for
stealing from God
Trespass Offering for
stealing from a neighbor
Verse
5:15a The owner must bring the offering to the Lord. The owner must bring the offering to the Lord. 6:6a
5:15b It must be a ram without blemish. It must be a ram without blemish. 6:6b
5:15c A fine will be determined by the priest. A fine will be determined by the priest. 6:6c
5:16a The guilty must “make amends” for the harm, and add 20% to it. The guilty must restore what he has stolen, and add 20% to it (on the day of his Trespass Offering). 6:5
5:16b “And the priest shall make an atonement for him with the ram of the Trespass Offering, and it shall be forgiven him.” “And the priest shall make an atonement for him before the Lord, and it shall be forgiven him.” 6:7

Could you find a difference? The humility of the Almighty revealed in these laws is breath-taking. He could have demanded anything — everything — of those who succumbed to fear, or greed, or were just ignorant, and failed to render to Him what was His due, in tithes and offerings. But His concern was not with Himself; His concern was for the one who had done the wrong, to restore him to fellowship and safety within the congregation of the Lord’s people. The focus of God’s law was on our well-being because the focus of God’s heart was on our well-being.

If there ever were a law given that was capable of giving life,” wrote Paul, “surely righteousness would have been by the law” (Gal. 3:21). Before the Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost so that we could walk in it, walking in the light of the law that God gave Israel was as close to God as anyone could be. The righteousness of the law was as pure and great a righteousness as anyone could possess before God shared His righteousness with us, through the Spirit. The Old Testament law revealed God’s loving heart, and His perfect justice, as well as it could have been revealed without having God Himself dwell in us and guide us from within. The sacrificial system of Israel was just one of the tools God used to reveal Himself to Israel, but other than the sunshine and the rain, it was the one He used the most.

If you would like a copy of my summary of the law’s sacrificial system as given in the book of Leviticus, it is available. It was a very simple system; still, one must study it carefully in order to grasp its beauty.

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