The first seven chapters of Leviticus are instructions on the various types of sacrifices that God’s people were to offer unto Him. In chapters 4-6 we find this truth, “And the priest shall make atonement for him, and he shall be forgiven,” repeated 10 times. Surely God is teaching some valuable truths.
First, God is holy. He is other than us in purity. He is transcendent in perfection and goodness. He cannot abide with guilty people. He cannot be served with unclean hands. He will not receive profane worship. He must prescribe and provide for the way of worship and relationship.
The second truth necessarily follows the first, namely, that sin has separated humanity from this holy God. The Israelite worshippers had to have a God-appointed priest who would act as a mediator between God and the people. The priest would offer up the sacrifice on behalf of the worshipper.
Thirdly, not only does man need a priest to mediate, but a sacrifice to atone. Sin not only separates man from God, but puts him under God’s righteous judgement. That judgement is death. God must punish sin. Thankfully, Leviticus shows that God graciously provided for a substitute to be sacrificed in place of the worshipper. Through a mediated and unblemished offering, the offender was forgiven and his worship accepted by God.
Lastly, the fact that these sacrifices were to be repeatedly offered shows their inability to satisfy God’s wrath for human sin and to cleanse the conscience of the sinner. These sacrifices were temporary and preparatory. They were put in place by God until the time when the ultimate, once for all sacrifice was made by Christ. Jesus came to be both High Priest and Sacrifice, Mediator and Substitute. He alone was able to go before God in perfect holiness as our High Priest and to offer up himself as an unblemished sacrifice on behalf and in place of his people. He is the fulfilment and point of Leviticus 1-7! (Hebrews 10:1-18)
Today on this Good Friday we are not picking out a spotless lamb to take to the priest so he can offer it to God for us. Nor are we participating in bread and wine as a means of atonement offered by a priest. No, rather, we are reflecting upon and exulting in the once for all sacrifice of our High Priest offered on the cross of Calvary. Through faith alone in him alone we have the forgiveness of sins and fellowship with our holy God. So, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrew 10:22-23
Chuck Cook is the pastor of Grace Bible Church - Rolla.