It wasn't all that long ago that I was gainfully (if inconsistently) employed as a substitute teacher.
I'll be completely honest here- being a short-term sub was a mix of being lost in the halls and feeling a little bit like you're drowning.
After about a year, I realized that short-term subbing just isn't for me. There's a lot of anxiety there. You never know when you're going to get called, and when you do, there's so much to learn so quickly.
There was one time when I was called in very last minute and the poor classroom teacher hadn't even had time to get together a lesson plan for me.
I bumbled my way through the day, searching through the papers and folders on the teacher's desk to try to figure out what I was supposed to do.
When the students told me they'd had a pre-test in Science last week, and when I came across a folder full of ready-to-be-given Science tests, I went ahead and gave the assessment.
I felt pretty good about my problem solving and detective skills, until I stumbled across a take-home note that mentioned that the Science test was scheduled the Wednesday of the following week. Whoops.
A substitute teacher is never a really good replacement for the actual classroom teacher.
That's certainly also true when we read about the first offering in Leviticus.
First, we need to get into the actual Word. I've been really working to get myself in the Bible as much as possible, and I encourage you to do the same.
Grab your Bible and flip to Leviticus 1:3-9, or you can click here to read the passage on the web.
Are you there? Don't just keep reading this post- make sure you're reading the actual, God-written Word.
We're going to just look at one type of sacrifice today- something called a Burnt Offering, or sometimes called a Whole Offering. Same thing.
There are actually three categories of burnt offerings- one for each tax bracket.
I'm only sort of kidding. Based on income, the burnt offering could be a bull (pricey), a sheep or goat (mid range), or a pigeon or dove (for the lower-income Israelites).
They're all pretty well the same idea, just with different types of animals.
The purpose of this offering is very clearly stated:
"You are to lay your hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on your behalf to make atonement for you."- Leviticus 1:4
In this offering, the animal is atoning for the sin of the worshiper.
Now, an important thing to note is that a burnt offering isn't something that was required when someone messed up. It's not a sacrifice for a specific sin- but for the general sinful nature of the worshiper.
This isn't about confessing sin, it's about confessing the brokenness of humanity as a whole. It's a way to recommit to and reconnect with God.
The sacrifice had to be unblemished, and male. The person making the offering would then put his hand on the head of the animal- a way of symbolizing that the animal was a substitute. The bull was taking the place of the worshiper.
And then the bull was killed and cut up, and then burned completely on the altar.
I think it's really interesting to see that the priests weren't the ones doing the killing or the cutting up of the animal. The worshiper himself did the work (and it was a lot of work if you were a rich man!).
Through this offering, God provided a way to have a restored, whole, shalom relationship between humanity and Himself.
This sacrifice happened a lot.
Like, several times a day. Because while this was a heck of a lot of work, and while the sacrifice was a costly one to the worshiper, the fact remains:
A goat or sheep or bull or bird is not a very substantial substitute for a human life.
Guilty people- people born into a sinful, broken world with sinful, broken bodies and sinful, broken minds do not deserve a relationship with a Holy and perfect God. A sacrificed bull or sheep may cover our sinfulness for a while, but it doesn't last for very long.
God Provides a Substitute
God's plan was better.
While He provided a temporary, fleeting... and bleating (ha! couldn't help myself)... way for us to restore our relationship with Him in Leviticus, He had a better plan.
God provided an everlasting, once and for all substitute.
As a guilty, sin-born human being, I deserve a life cut off from God. I deserve to be forsaken, forgotten, and rejected.
But God comes to us. He makes a way.
Instead of a temporary covering of my sinful nature, God takes my sin away completely.
Instead of the death of an unblemished sheep, His plan involves a Perfect Lamb.
It's no longer an animal substituting for a human life; but Emanuel, God with Us, as a substitute for the lives of mankind.
Instead of an animal consumed completely on the altar, Christ gave himself totally and completely to redeem us.
What an over the top, fulfillment and more, totally extravagant substitute.
God offered up His only Son, unblemished and holy, to be the sacrifice for my sin.
See the Rest of the Series:
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