Church of God, Carmichael, CA

Shadows of Good Things

Or the Gospel in Type

Russell R. Byrum, 1922

[Original Page Numbers]


CHAPTER V

THE OFFERINGS THE ALTAR

(Leviticus 1—7)

  Sacrificial offerings did not have their origin with the Mosaic law. It merely directed specifically how such offerings should be made by those under it. Like the altar on which they were offered, they date from the earliest dawn of human history, and have characterized religion in almost all ages and countries.

  Cain and Abel, Noah and Abraham offered sacrifices. The priests of Baal did likewise in the days of Elijah, and the devotees of the ancient fire god Moloch placed their infant children in the extended hands of the great brass image of their god to be burned to death by the flames of a roaring fire kindled on the altar beneath, while the cries of the little victims were drowned by the beating of the drums and the blowing of trumpets. Human sacrifice has been common in different heathen religions. At one time the bloody goddess Kali of India was worshiped by the sacrifice of many thousands of human lives each year. When Europeans first visited Mexico, the Mexican Indians offered human sacrifice by placing the living victim on the altar before the idol, cutting a slit in his left side, pulling the heart out and pressing it against the idol.

  How men first got the idea of offering sacrifices we can not be certain. If it was originally by a direct injunction of God, as some suppose, it must still be allowed that a deep need of man's nature has impelled him to continue the practice. Serious minded men in all places and times have had a tendency to worship a higher being. A bent to religion is deeply implanted in human nature. Also as at present constituted men feel estranged from God by sin. They therefore seek by these sacrifices to obtain favor with him. [79]

Sacrifices by Blood

  At first thought it seems strange that the kind Creator should appoint such rites that his holy sanctuary should have the appearance of a solemn slaughter house. But such must have been the general aspect around that ancient altar of Jehovah. The grand reason for such an arrangement was that "without shedding of blood is no remission," as a New Testament writer has put it. And unless sins were remitted, the Holy Lord could not associate himself with a sinful people. God's holiness and man's sin lie at the bottom of all that ancient bloodshedding on God's altar.

  But why must blood be shed? Would not a live lamb placed upon God's altar answer as well ? Or why might not the agriculturist bring an offering of the fruits of the field, as did Cain, and be accepted of God? The answer to these questions is quite clearly given in Lev. 17:11, where the eating of blood is forbidden and the reason is given why it must not be eaten: "For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul." The full force and exact meaning of this text is often missed because of the last three words, "for the soul." According to Fairbairn the Hebrew preposition here translated "for" is much better rendered as in the American Standard Version, where the last clause reads, "for it is the blood that maketh atonement by reason of the life [soul, margin]." The reason, then, why the blood is appointed to atone for the soul of the guilty is because of the life of the animal that resides in the blood, as is brought out in the first clause of the verse.

  Moses told us more than three millenniums ago a truth which by modern science has not been discovered and announced until in recent years—that the physical seat of animal life is in the blood. Harvey, the discoverer of blood circulation, says of the blood, "It is the fountain of life, the first to live, the last to die, and the primary [80] seat of the animal soul." Now, the sinner had forfeited his life by sin, for "the wages of sin is death." Justice demanded that the penalty be paid. But God, desiring to forgive the sinner, made an arrangement so that His holiness could be maintained and His good law respected by the sacrificing of another life, one that had not been forfeited, instead of the life of the sinner so the sinner might go free. Therefore the blood, the physical seat of life, is chosen as the most appropriate symbol of that intangible life that must be laid upon the altar of God to cover from his holy eyes the guilt of the sinner.

Inefficiency of Animal Sacrifices

  Because the souls of those dumb animals sacrificed for sin were unforfeited unstained by guilt they were in this particular a fit substitute for men, but in almost every other point they lacked the requisite qualities to atone for sin. "It is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins" (Heb. 10 :4). The penalty for sin is represented as being infinite everlasting. Then how could the suffering of mere physical death by a finite creature be a proper substitute for that penalty ? Especially is this not possible when we consider that those creatures, unlike the sinner, were irrational and non moral, and so incapable of sin or holiness. Also they could not constitute a proper sacrifice for sin because their offering was unlike the sin to be atoned for—by voluntary choice. They suffered, not willingly, but by the hand of another. The priest and the offering were divided, which cannot be true in a proper atonement for sin. Passing by the question of whether the suffering of atonement must equal in extent the suffering of the sinner, it is clear that the putting to death of an irrational animal was insufficient to represent to men the extreme sinfulness of sin, and the awful holiness of God and of his commandment that has been violated.

  A nobler sacrifice must be sought. These might serve as a temporary basis for the pardon for sin, but even as such only on the ground of an adequate sacrifice being [81] provided in God's plan. Those animal sacrifices had no intrinsic value in themselves, but only as they represented the true sacrifice, much as paper money—a one dollar silver certificate has value only because of the silver dollar that is deposited in the treasury of the government issuing it. The silver dollar has intrinsic value, the paper dollar merely representative value.

  But we need not therefore conclude that the Israelite must have clearly comprehended the nature of the true atonement to be accepted by his animal sacrifice, as one need not understand the nature of the value of paper money to be benefited by it, or as one today need not comprehend the philosophy of Christ's atonement in order to be saved. Doubtless it was enough that he should have faith in the mercy of God according to the plan by which he had chosen to show his mercy. However, it is very probable that the more spiritual minded of the Israelites saw dimly the real sacrifice for sin, the Lamb of God, in the distant future that was foreshadowed by the lamb they offered.

The Antitypical Sacrifice for Sin

  It scarcely needs to be stated here that Christ in his sacrificial death is the true atonement for man's sin and the antitype of all those Levitical offerings. He is "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." (John 1:29). We are redeemed "with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot." (1 Pet. 1.19). "How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Heb. 9:14). Each of the various kinds of bloody sacrifices points to him and represents different aspects of his sacrifice, as the different parts of the tabernacle were needed to symbolize various phases of his saving work, or elaborate priestly attire and services were required to show him as mediator in various ways. [82]

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Justification, Sanctification, Unity
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