1998-02-21 - Atonement in the Old Testament
Comprehensive Study Series, Part 24
The verses in this week's devotional are way too many and very, very long to present here. I ask for those of you who have the time, to look them up to enhance your study. Thank you for the prayers also over the last few weeks as I went through a few unpleasant moments.
At Mt. Sinai, the Lord delivered His law to Israel. No higher or more perfect law could have been devised. On Mt. Horeb, Moses talked with the Almighty and received from Him the pattern for the tabernacle. The Lord gave instructions pertaining to the five types of offerings required of Israel in Leviticus 1:1-6:7. We will look at these five types of offerings in relation to our study on the atonement .
The Burnt Offering. Looking at the burnt offering we see in Leviticus 1:3-10 that the victim could be from either the herd or the flock. But it must be without blemish. God severely condemned the offering of any sacrifice that had a blemish and would not accept it. The unblemished animal was presented at the door of the tent of meeting. It was a type of the pure, spotless life of the Lamb of God. God warned Israel not to bring her offerings to any place other than where He would put His name. See Deut. 12:5-24.
After presenting his animal the worshipper was required to place his hands upon it. The offering would not be accepted if the worshipper failed to do this. See Leviticus 1:3.
In Leviticus 24:14 we see that an offender by having witnesses lay their hands upon him, was officially appointed to death. Thus the laying on of hands meant a designation or appointment to death. The ceremony of laying on of hands also meant a transference of guilt to the one condemned. We speak with respect to the offerings. In the case of Moses' laying hands on Joshua, a transfer of endowment of authority was signified. In the burnt offering, an atonement acceptable to God was secured for the worshipper. During this ceremony of laying on of hands, the worshipper himself slew the animal. The officiating priest then performed the prescribed service. He caught the blood and sprinkled it round about the altar of the burnt offering. He then cut the animal into various parts, washed the legs and the inward parts, then burned the whole animal upon the altar. By this means and no other, could the worshipper be made acceptable and have atonement made for him during the dispensation of law from Moses to Christ.
The Meal Offering. Leviticus 2 describes the meal offering. This was made of fine flour mixed with oil and frankincense. While the idea of atonement by blood is absent in it, a holy offering made by fire became a sweet savor unto the Lord.
The Peace Offering. The peace offerings are described in Leviticus 3. The rule for them was exactly as that related to the burnt offering with one exception. At the conclusion of the service the worshippers sat down and partook of a certain portion of the offering and ate their food before the Lord. The peace offerings indicated fellowship and communion with God. This fellowship is only possible after the worshippers have been accepted by virtue of the sacrificial animal having already made atonement for them.
The Sin Offering. The sin offering is described in Leviticus 4:1-5:13. The burnt offering was offered for atonement. The peace offerings were possible only because of that atonement. The sin and trespass offerings were presented to God to make atonement for certain specific wrongs or acts which were the result of man's sinful condition. When one became aware of his guilt he had to present a sin offering. The sins which men were guilty of but were committed in ignorance were taken care of by the annual offering on the Day of Atonement. What about acts of murder, blasphemy and adultery? The murderer had to be put to death, see Numbers 35:31. The blasphemer had to be stoned, see Leviticus 24:14. In the case of adultery, both persons had to be put to death, see Leviticus 20:10-16.
The Trespass Offering. The last of the five offerings is called the trespass offering. This is similar to the sin offering except the basic meaning of this offering implies an invasion of the rights of others, especially property rights. With this thought in mind let us remember that certain rights and privileges belong to God alone. If men transfer their allegiance, or give off their substance to false gods, they invade the rights of the one true God. The same is true with respect to human rights. Any invasion of the rights of another - in the matter of property - must be paid back as far as possible. It is also stated that in dealing falsely with neighbors, restitution and satisfactory settlements were required. In order that the offerings might be acceptable to God the same requirements pertaining to the burnt offering, the peace offering and the sin offering prevailed with respect to the trespass offering. In dealing falsely with neighbors, men sinned against God. Full restitution had to made -- with an additional fifth part of the thing in question, or its equivalent, in order to accomplish full satisfaction. This restitution had to be made in order that the trespass offering might be acceptable before God.
In Old Testament times their was a definite understanding of the need for atonement. It produced both an awareness of the guilt in a person's conscience and also an awareness of the effects of the sin in an individual's relationship to God and other people. I wonder how acute was the sense of acceptable worship and its practices and benefits, and how aware of the difference when sin was present and the need arose to get right with God came up time and again. All these things in motion around the Jewish people were surely powerful witnesses to them of the need for atonement for the sin problem that plagued them. I tend to think also that the hope of a redeemer, who would once and for all set straight, all that was wrong was a bright light of hope that permeated this people. Next week we will study the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, from both the Old and New Testament, and begin to steer toward the Atonement made by Jesus of Nazareth. May you be blessed in hearing God's word and in the faith that grows there and is pleasing to God. May you grow in grace - In Jesus' name - Amen.
In His Service,