14 And he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward; and before the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times.
15 Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the vail, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat:
16 And he shall make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins : and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation, that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness.
17 And there shall be no man in the tabernacle of the congregation when he goeth in to make an atonement in the holy place, until he come out, and have made an atonement for himself, and for his household, and for all the congregation of Israel.
18 And he shall go out unto the altar that is before the LORD, and make an atonement for it; and shall take of the blood of the bullock, and of the blood of the goat, and put it upon the horns of the altar round about.
19 And he shall sprinkle of the blood upon it with his finger seven times, and cleanse it, and hallow it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel.
The passage that we read here is just one of many that you can find in the Old Testament that shows the duties of the priest of Tabernacle's worship system. I picked this passage out randomly because this is often what you think about if you have done any studying of Old Testament sacrifices. You find a priest killing a sacrifice and sprinkling the blood of the sacrifice on the altar and then on the mercy seat. You often picture the animal being placed on the burning altar, and of course for the sins of the people.
This concept of a sacrifice originated with the first sin in the Garden of Eden. It was the sacrifice of an animal that, in essence, took the place of the one that sinned and paid the penalty of the sin.
It began with one simple verse in the Book of Genesis…
21 Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.
With that verse, began man's understanding that when sin comes into his relationship between him and God, there will be the penalty of death. But graciously, God has allowed a substitute to be in our place.
11 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.
So the idea of a sacrifice is not at all uncommon. It is so common that if you are not careful, when you read through passages containing a sacrifice, your mind will automatically insert picture images of what is happening, and who is making it happen. And that is where I want to take you this morning. In our automatic insertion of this picture image, we often get it wrong. Our mind often works in such a way that if we ever put something into our minds, that becomes the default picture and image we use.
Let me give you an example. How many of you if you are reading or thinking about…if it is being preached about….Moses with the Ten Commandments, and ready to break them, picture Charlston Heston as Moses. If you have ever seen the movie, The Ten Commandments, it could be easy for your mind to use that image, even many years later after seeing the movie.
I am saying this because after our mind constructs a paradigm, or a model, or a pattern in our thinking, then it can become auto insertion, even if the model in our mind is not lining up with the words we read from the Bible. And when Hollywood gets it wrong, which they often times do, our mind can get it wrong, even when we are reading Words of the Bible.
Back to The Sacrifice…The Priest…The Altar. Let me bring these images back to the forefront of your mind. The Book of Exodus describes the saving of Israel out of Egypt. It describes the journey through the wilderness to the Promise Land. It also describes the instruction and construction of the Tabernacle.
The Book of Leviticus begins where the book of Exodus ends – at the foot of Mount Sinai. The Tabernacle has just been completed. Now God is ready to teach the people how to worship there.
We may be tempted to dismiss the book of Leviticus as a record of bizarre rituals that took place too many years ago. But its practices made sense to the people of that day and offer important insights for us into God's nature and character. But this morning, as I take you there, I don't want your mind to do the auto insertion of images that are wrong.
Animal sacrifice is repulsive to many modern cultures. Doubtless, this was true in biblical times as well. But this is the point – sin is serious. When people saw the sacrificial animals being killed, they became sensitive to the importance of their behavior. Our culture's casual attitude toward violence reflects a casual view of pain and sin. Although many of the rituals of Leviticus were fitted to the culture of the day, their purpose was to reveal a high and holy God who should be loved and worshiped. God's laws and sacrifices were intended to bring out devotion of the heart.
Hopefully, every time an animal was sacrificed, it didn't get any easier to do it. And hopefully, every time an animal was sacrificed, the thought came to the individuals mind, "That should be me paying for my sins."
The point is that each person offered a gift to God by sacrificing it on the altar. In the Old Testament, the sacrifice was the only way to approach God and restore a relationship with Him.
When God taught His people to worship Him, He placed great emphasis on sacrifices. Why? Sacrifices were God's Old Testament way for people to ask forgiveness for their sins. Since creation, God made it clear that sin separated people from God, and that all who sinned deserved to die. And since "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God", God designed sacrifice as a way to seek forgiveness and restore a relationship with Him. Because He is a God of mercy and love, God decided from the very beginning that He would come into our world and die to pay the penalty for all people that would take that sacrifice. God became flesh and the name given was Jesus, God with us.
But getting back to Leviticus, animal sacrifices accomplished two things: 1) The animal symbolically took the sinner's place and paid the penalty for sin, and 2) the animal's death represented one life given so that another life could be saved.
So when we get to the book of Leviticus, God starts teaching them how to sacrifice. And this is where we often do the automatic insertion of mental images that may not be right. If you can get it right, and maybe you have, I believe it really gives a larger impact to our worship here today.
The opening scripture that I read to you is a priest offering a sacrifice for the entire nation of Israel. But look closely with the opening chapter of how to worship and see if you can tell the difference here. (Notice the back and forth from the "he" - the one bringing the sacrifice, and the reference to the sons of Aaron or the priests. Also marked in this passage is the 4 things that the priests do.)
Lev 1:1-17 (KJV)
1 And the LORD called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying,
2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man of you bring an offering unto the LORD, ye shall bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herd, and of the flock.
3 If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the LORD.
4 And he (who is the he here? – the one that brings the sacrifice) shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.
5 And he shall kill the bullock before the LORD: and the priests, Aaron's sons, (plural) shall (1) bring the blood, and sprinkle the blood round about upon the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
6 And he (singular - who do you think is doing this?) shall flay the burnt offering, and cut it into his pieces.
7 And the sons of Aaron the priest shall (2) put fire upon the altar, and lay the wood in order upon the fire:
8 And the priests, Aaron's sons, shall (3) lay the parts, the head, and the fat, in order upon the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar: (organize it in proper order).
9 But his inwards and his legs shall he wash in water: and the priest shall (4) burn all on the altar, to be a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD. (make sure it is completely burned).
10 And if his offering be of the flocks, namely, of the sheep, or of the goats, for a burnt sacrifice; he shall bring it a male without blemish.
11 And he shall kill it on the side of the altar northward before the LORD: and the priests, Aaron's sons, shall sprinkle his blood round about upon the altar.
12 And he shall cut it into his pieces, with his head and his fat: and the priest shall lay them in order on the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar:
13 But he shall wash the inwards and the legs with water: and the priest shall bring it all, and burn it upon the altar: it is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD.
14 And if the burnt sacrifice for his offering to the LORD be of fowls, then he shall bring his offering of turtledoves, or of young pigeons.
15 And the priest shall bring it unto the altar, and wring off his head, and burn it on the altar; and the blood thereof shall be wrung out at the side of the altar:
16 And he shall pluck away his crop with his feathers, and cast it beside the altar on the east part, by the place of the ashes:
17 And he shall cleave it with the wings thereof, but shall not divide it asunder: and the priest shall burn it upon the altar, upon the wood that is upon the fire: it is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD.
When you come to church, it is not all up to the preacher, the worship leader, the musicians and the singers to get you right with God. Matter of fact, from what God starts out with in Leviticus in teaching the people how to approach Him has mostly to do with the one approaching. When you come to church, too many times we have automatically inserted an image of what is suppose to happen in which you can view as revival, and many times we get revival completely wrong. Many churches are dead, dull and boring today because they are leaving it up to the preacher to make their sacrifice for them.
Let's sum up the responsibility of someone trying to maintain a right relationship with God…
1) YOU Bring a sacrifice…
The Bible does mention praise as a sacrifice in…
15 By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.
16 But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
Praise is something that God wants us to bring to Him all the time. But to think that praise is the only thing that we are to bring would be a big mistake.
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;
30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent :
31 Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.
2) YOU Apply Your Hands.
shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering… This is symbolic of transferring the penalty of your sins to the thing being offered. Why do we lift our hands in worship, praise and in repentance? It is not so we have sore arms on Monday morning and therefore remember how we got those sore arms from Sunday. But, instead, it is to transfer our love to Him for the sacrifice He has made for us. It's the transference.
3) YOU Make The Effort Of Dicing, Slicing, Quartering, and Delivery…
It doesn't even say that the priest provided the knife to do the work. All he did was catch some of the blood and put it on the altar, made sure fire was on the altar, organized the proper order of the altar, and made sure you didn't leave until the sacrifice was complete.
4) YOU wash the inward parts…
That is so much different than so many concepts of church today. You come here because you have sins in your life. You come here because you want to maintain a right relationship with God. Quit expecting the preacher to do your sacrifice for you. That is not how God set it up.