What's Up With Old Testament Sacrifices?

To many people some aspects of Christianity seem strange, unbelievable, made-up or just plain weird. This blog is my grand experiment to show that Christianity isn’t weird, but actually makes perfect sense. I’m nobody special – just someone who takes this stuff seriously. 

If there is anything in Scripture which seems weird it is the sacrificial system. Why in the world would God require that mankind do things like kill animals in order to get forgiveness for sin? If animals need to be  sacrificed then why did Jesus need to die? Sacrifices are exactly the sorts of things that sometimes cause people to walk away from Christianity and say, “it’s just a made up religion.” But there really are some good reasons why God requires sacrifices which make sense if you really think.

In Leviticus, Chapters 1-7, there are five types of sacrifices mentioned. The Burnt sacrifices were those in which the entirety of the offering was set on fire and completely consumed by the flames. Grain offerings were those cereal sacrifices of vegetation and produce. Peace offerings differed somewhat in how they were made depending on the circumstances, but they were often voluntary acts of worship. Sin offerings were made on behalf of involuntary sinful acts. That is to say, many times a given Israelite might accidentally violate the law. Trespass offerings were similar, but involved actual money and were specifically made in the event that one man had cheated another (intentionally or not). These few chapters of Scripture outline how and when these offerings are to be made. So, what’s the point?

God’s requirement of sacrifices in the Old Testament makes sense for two reasons. First, part of what makes God so great is His justice. He must act justly! That means a penalty must be paid for sin. Second, the reason it had to be an animal, vegetation or amount of money is because the penalty must actually cost the sinner something. Thus, the sacrificial system. One reason that the Bible is so specific about how the sacrifices were to be done is, undoubtedly, that God wanted to teach obedience to the Israelites. However, we are still left with the question of why Jesus had to die.

Ultimately, the sacrifices that God required of the Children of Israel would not suffice in light of eternity. They were temporary. The system was a sort of “band-aid” solution. The reason for this is that man had sinned against an everlasting God. Often when I preach I point out that if you kill someone’s pet (let’s say a cat since I’m a dog person), there will be a penalty of some kind. If you kill the owner, however, the penalty will be much bigger. You may go to prison for the rest of your life. In fact, you may receive capital punishment. So there is a small penalty for sinning against an animal and a much bigger penalty for sinning against a man because this is what our own innate sense of justice tells us. So, what must be the punishment for sinning against an everlasting God? Can it be anything but an everlasting punishment? In order to escape everlasting punishment in hell, for sinning against an everlasting God, an everlasting sacrifice must be made. 

1. Justice requires that the punishment for sin is equal to the weight of the sin

2. Sin against God is everlasting in weight, therefore

3. the just punishment for sin must be everlasting  

The only way this could be done is for God to enter the physical universe and die to fulfil that justice. 

It all boils down to the fact that God cannot change the fact that He is a God of justice. He must act justly. This means that a price must be paid. The only just price for everlasting sin is an everlasting sacrifice. Jesus is the everlasting lamb that was slain. To me, this makes perfect sense. The next time it occurs to you, “What’s up with sacrifices?” you’ll have an answer.