Sin = Death
We sometimes downplay the seriousness of sin. “Oh, I should not have done it. It was wrong, but it is not a big deal.” “Everyone does it.”
Imagine an Israelite in Bible times who has sinned and brings a sheep to the priest for a sin offering. He lays his hand on the head of the animal (symbolizing transferring guilt to the animal) and kills it. Quite a lesson. Sin = death.
Animal sacrifices foreshadowed the ultimate sacrifice: that of Jesus Christ on the cross. Animal sacrifices were a traditional part of religion in ancient times. We find animal sacrifice in every ancient culture. The central religious act in ancient Greece and Rome was the sacrifice of oxen, goats, and sheep.
We wonder why God would choose this method for people to atone for sins. Perhaps because it is a very explicit way to say Sin = Death.
Animal sacrifice points to Christ, the Redeemer. The universal practice of animal sacrifice parallels the examples we have in the Bible of the sacrifices performed by the first men. When God found Adam and Eve hiding in the garden because of their shame for their sin, he clothed them in animal skins. God sacrificed an animal to cover their naked bodies and their sin. This appears to be the beginning of the sacrificial system. The patriarchs Abel, Noah, Job, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are all recorded as performing animal sacrifices to God.
Christians believe that the sacrifices of the Old Testament were a foreshadowing of Christ’s sacrifice, and therefore are no longer necessary. The rending of the curtain in the temple when Christ died signified the end of animal sacrifices.
Let’s not dismiss our sins as unimportant. Sin = Death. We need to repent and look to Christ to cover our sins.
In my book, Sacred Strands, the Story of a Redeemer Woven Through History, I write about animal sacrifices several places. The Chinese had an elaborate ceremony of animal sacrifice called the Border Sacrifices. Also a curious passage in Numbers 22-24 of the Old Testament relates the story of Balak and Balaam. Included in the story is their many acts of animal sacrifice. We see here two non-Israelites, Balak and Balaam, offering animal sacrifices to God.
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