Sacrificial System Relevance

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23-24

Having been brought up in the Christian church, I had never been schooled on the sacrificial system of the Old Testament. We were taught simply that before Jesus made atonement for our sins, animals had to be sacrificed for our sins. Jesus took away the sacrificial system. Although this is true, it is extremely over simplified. In order to understand the gravity of the cross, we need to understand how the sacrificial system worked. I am not qualified to provide an in-depth analysis of the sacrificial system, so the purpose here is to open the reader’s eyes to some aspects of sacrifice that I had never learned in forty plus years of attending Protestant denominations.

In the book of Leviticus, Yahweh explains to Moses how the people should bring offerings for their sins. Yahweh is speaking of unintentional sins. These were not the ideas of Moses because Yahweh is recorded as the one who instructed Moses to do these various offerings.

Lev 4:1 Then Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,
Lev 4:2 “Speak to the Israelites, saying, ‘If a person sins by an unintentional wrong from any of Yahweh’s commands that should not be violated, and he violates any of them—
Lev 4:3 if the anointed priest sins, bringing guilt on the people, then, concerning the sin that he has committed, he shall bring a young bull without defect for Yahweh as a sin offering.

Lev 4:13 “‘If Israel’s whole assembly did wrong unintentionally and the matter was concealed from the assembly’s eyes, and they acted against any of Yahweh’s commands that should not be violated, so that they incur guilt,
Lev 4:14 when the sin that they have committed against that command becomes known, the assembly shall present a young bull as a sin offering, and they shall bring it before the tent of assembly.

Lev 4:27 “‘If anyone of the people of the land sins by an unintentional wrong by violating one of Yahweh’s commands that should not be violated, so that he incurs guilt,
Lev 4:28 or his sin he has committed is made known to him, he shall bring as his offering a female goat without defect as his offering for his sin that he committed.
Lev 4:29 He shall place his hand on the sin offering’s head and slaughter the sin offering in the place of the burnt offering.

Lev 5:14 Then Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,
Lev 5:15 “When a person displays infidelity and he sins in an unintentional wrong in any of Yahweh’s holy things, then he shall bring his guilt offering to Yahweh: a ram without defect from the flock as a guilt offering by your valuation in silver shekels according to the sanctuary shekel.
Lev 5:16 And he shall make restitution for what he sinned because of a holy thing and shall add one-fifth of its value onto it and shall give it to the priest. The priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering, and he will be forgiven.

Lev 5:17 “If a person when he sins violates one from all of Yahweh’s commands that should not be violated, but he did not know, then he is guilty and he shall bear his guilt.
Lev 5:18 He shall bring to the priest a ram without defect from the flock as a guilt offering by your valuation, and the priest shall make atonement for him because of his unintentional wrong (although he himself did not know), and he will be forgiven.
Lev 5:19 It is a guilt offering; he certainly was guilty before Yahweh.”

Next, we see an example of intentional sin. This involves retribution by returning stolen items, or repaying damages incurred by the victims.

Lev 6:1 Then Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,
Lev 6:2 “When a person displays infidelity against Yahweh and he deceives his fellow citizen regarding something entrusted or a pledge or stealing or he exploits his fellow citizen,
Lev 6:3 or he finds lost property and lies about it and swears falsely in regard to any one of these things by which a person might commit sin,
Lev 6:4 and when he sins and is guilty, then he shall bring back the things he had stolen or what he had extorted or something with which he had been entrusted or the lost property that he had found,
Lev 6:5 or regarding anything about which he has sworn falsely, then he shall repay it according to its value and shall add one-fifth of its value to it—he must give it to whom it belongs on the day of his guilt offering.
Lev 6:6 And he must bring as his guilt offering to Yahweh a ram without defect from the flock by your valuation as a guilt offering to the priest,
Lev 6:7 and the priest shall make atonement for him before Yahweh, and he shall be forgiven anything from all that he might do by which he might incur guilt.”

Jesus had some words about bringing offerings for sins to the temple:

Mat 5:23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you,
Mat 5:24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Jesus gives us a picture of repentance before giving the offering at the altar. We must remember the temple was in full function in Jesus’ day, and He would have taken part in this system. Just as He was circumcised on the eighth day, He would have had to meet all the requirements of the temple. For example, the feast of First Fruits:

Lev 23:9 Then Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,
Lev 23:10 “Speak to the Israelites, and say to them, ‘When you come to the land that I am about to give to you and you reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruit of your harvest to the priest.
Lev 23:11 And he shall wave the sheaf before Yahweh for your acceptance; the priest shall wave it on the day after the Sabbath.
Lev 23:12 And on the day of your waving the sheaf you shall offer a yearling male lamb without defect as a burnt offering to Yahweh.
Lev 23:13 And its grain offering shall be two-tenths of an ephah of finely milled flour mixed with oil, an offering made by fire for Yahweh, an appeasing fragrance; and its libation shall be a fourth of a hin of wine.
Lev 23:14 And you shall not eat bread or roasted grain or ripe grain until this very same day, until you present your God’s offering. This must be a lasting statute for your generations in all your dwellings.

Mar 14:48 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Have you come out with swords and clubs, as against a robber, to arrest me?
Mar 14:49 Every day I was with you in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me! But this has happened in order that the scriptures would be fulfilled.

The day of Atonement was the day that they brought the yearly sacrifice before Yahweh for the collective sins of the congregation of Israel. This is the day they sent the Azazel goat into the wilderness representing all of the sins of the people.

Lev 16:5 And he must take from the Israelites’ community two he-goats as a sin offering and one ram as a burnt offering.
Lev 16:6 “And Aaron shall present the sin offering’s bull, which is for himself, and so he shall make atonement for himself and for his family.
Lev 16:7 And he shall take the two goats, and he shall present them before Yahweh at the tent of assembly’s entrance.
Lev 16:8 Then Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats: one lot for Yahweh and one for Azazel.
Lev 16:9 And Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot for Yahweh fell, and he shall sacrifice it as a sin offering.
Lev 16:10 But he must present alive before Yahweh the goat on which the lot for Azazel fell to make atonement for himself, to send it away into the desert to Azazel.

In the sixty-six book Bible we are not given the background of Azazel, but in the book of Enoch we get a further explanation of Azazel, the scapegoat. Some do not accept the book of Enoch as having any value; however, it was well known in New Testament times and quoted by Jude. This book explains where devils and demons come from as well as the identity of Azazel, the scapegoat. Enoch 10:1-8:

1 And then the Most High, the Great and Holy One, spoke and sent Arsyalalyur to the son of Lamech, and said to him:

2 “Say to him in my name; hide yourself! And reveal to him the end, which is coming, because the whole earth will be destroyed. A deluge is about to come on all the earth; and all that is in it will be destroyed.
(Genesis 6:8), (Ben Sira 44:17-18), (Genesis 6:17), (Genesis 7:6-24), (2 Peter 3:6), (Luke 17:27), (Hebrews 11:7), (Ben Sira 40:9-10)

3 And now teach him so that he may escape and his offspring may survive for the whole Earth.”
(Ben Sira 44:17-18), (Proverbs 10:16), (Proverbs 11:19), (Proverbs 14:27), (Genesis 7:1, 6-7, 13), (Genesis 9:1), (Genesis 9:7), (Genesis 9:18-19), (Genesis 10:1, 32), (Wisdom 14:6)

4 And further the Lord said to Raphael: “Bind Azazel by his hands and his feet and throw him into the darkness. And split open the desert, which is in Dudael, and throw him there.

5 And throw on him jagged and sharp stones and cover him with darkness. And let him stay there forever. And cover his face so that he may not see the light.

6 And so that, on the Great Day of Judgment, he may be hurled into the fire.
(Isaiah 24:21-22), (2 Peter 2:4), (Jude 1:6), (Revelation 20:1-3)

7 And restore the Earth which the Angels have ruined. And announce the restoration of the Earth. For I shall restore the Earth so that not all the sons of men shall be destroyed because of the knowledge which the Watchers made known and taught to their sons.
(Joel 2:22)

8 And the whole Earth has been ruined by the teaching of the works of Azazel; and against him write: ALL SIN.”

With this background, the question to answer is “what is the significance of Jesus’ death on the cross?”. It appeared everything was working fine in the sacrificial system. So why did Jesus have to die if the blood of goats, rams, doves and pigeons would take care of the sins of the people? Paul tells us the wages of sin is death.

Rom 6:19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.
Rom 6:20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.
Rom 6:21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.
Rom 6:22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.
Rom 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We were slaves to impurity and unrighteousness, which would lead to death. Now, being slaves to righteousness we have the gift of eternal life. What is this righteousness we are slaves to if not obeying God’s commandments? So Jesus’ work on the cross satisfied at least two problems: He conquered the death problem that everyone would face due to the sin of Adam, and His death provided a way for forgiveness of sins that no animal sacrifice could do. This is the part I missed in my whole Christian existence. There were no sacrifices available for people who committed intentional, rebellious sin. Their lot was death when convicted. This is a very important point. Let’s look at some sins that brought immediate death with no chance of repentance or forgiveness before the time of Jesus.

Lev 20:9 “‘If there is anyone who curses his father or his mother, he shall surely be put to death; he has cursed his father and his mother—his blood is upon him.
Lev 20:10 “‘As for a man who commits adultery with a man’s wife, who commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, both the man who commits adultery and the woman who commits adultery shall surely be put to death.

Lev 24:17 “Whoever takes a human life shall surely be put to death.

Under the law of Yahweh, before Jesus, there was no repentance or offering of goats that would fix cursing your parents or an adulterous relationship. Immediate death was your sentence, and dead was dead. There was no chance of eternal life until Jesus conquered death. Those are three examples of sin leading to death. There are many more throughout scripture. Paul tells us we are no longer under the law, which states sin equals death, but we have grace through the Messiah. Now we are to be used for righteousness because we are to have no part of sin.

Rom 6:9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.
Rom 6:10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.
Rom 6:11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Rom 6:12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.
Rom 6:13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.
Rom 6:14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

John speaks of sin not leading to death, and sin leading to death in one of his epistles. Once we know the truth, we should not keep sinning, which is deliberately breaking Yahweh’s commandments.

1Jn 5:16 If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that.
1Jn 5:17 All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.
1Jn 5:18 We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.
1Jn 5:19 We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

The writer of Hebrews gives a stark warning to those who continue in rebellion once brought into the truth of the Saviour:

Heb 6:1 Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,
Heb 6:2 and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.
Heb 6:3 And this we will do if God permits.
Heb 6:4 For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit,
Heb 6:5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come,
Heb 6:6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.
Heb 6:7 For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God.
Heb 6:8 But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.

We shouldn’t dismiss the book of Leviticus as an outdated source of rules and regulations for the tribes of Israel. It is a building block for our faith, and it shows us the way someone who is a child of Yahweh should live. If we look ahead to the future, Ezekiel shows us where this priestly system will return.

Eze 43:1 And he brought me to the gate which was facing east.
Eze 43:2 And, look! The glory of the God of Israel, it came from the way of the east, and its sound was like the sound of many waters and the land radiated due to his glory!
Eze 43:3 And the appearance of the vision which I saw was as the vision which I saw at his coming to destroy the city, and these visions were also as the vision which I saw by the Kebar River, and I fell on my face.
Eze 43:4 And then the glory of Yahweh came to the temple by the way of the gate facing east.
Eze 43:5 And the Spirit lifted me and it brought me to the inner courtyard and, look! The glory of Yahweh filled the temple!
Eze 43:6 And I heard someone speaking to me from the house, and a man was standing beside me.
Eze 43:7 And he said to me, “Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place for the soles of my feet where I will dwell in the midst of the Israelites to eternity, and they, the house of Israel, they and their kings, will not again defile my holy name with their fornication and with their offerings for the dead of their kings on their high places.

Eze 43:8 When they placed their threshold with my threshold, their doorframe beside my doorframe and the wall was between me and between them, then they defiled my holy name, with their detestable things that they did, and so I consumed them in my anger.
Eze 43:9 Now let them send their fornication far away and the offerings for the dead of their kings away from me, and I will dwell in the midst of them forever.
Eze 43:10 You, son of man, describe to the house of Israel the temple and let them be ashamed of their iniquities and let them measure the pattern.
Eze 43:11 And if they are ashamed of all that they did, then the plan of the temple and its arrangement and its exits and its entrances and all of its plans and all of its statutes. And all of its plans and all of its laws make known to them and write them before their eyes, so that they may remember all of its plans and all of its statutes, so that they do them!
Eze 43:12 This is the law of the temple: On the top of the mountain, all of its territory, all the way around it, will be most holy. Look, this is the law of the temple.

We also see the survivors after the great battle required to come worship during the fall feast of booths in the millennium, or rain will be held back.

Zec 14:16 And then every survivor from all those nations coming against Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the king, Yahweh of hosts, and celebrate the Feast of Booths.
Zec 14:17 And then whoever of the clans of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the king, Yahweh of hosts, it will not rain on them.
Zec 14:18 And if the clan of Egypt will not go up and come in, on them will be that plague Yahweh inflicts on the nations that do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths.
Zec 14:19 This will be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths.

Could these survivors be the ones Jesus called the least in His kingdom because they did not regard the commandments of Yahweh?

Mat 5:18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
Mat 5:19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Hopefully these scriptures have shed some light on the sacrificial system laid out in Leviticus, giving the reader a reason to research these scriptures with a fresh approach. As Jesus exclaimed in Matthew 5:19, do and teach every last commandment of Yahweh!

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