Leviticus is all about the animal sacrifices and other offerings that God’s people were to make. The focus is on “blood.” This is not new. God initiated blood sacrifice when he provided lamb skins for Adam and Eve after the fig leaves failed as an adequate covering for the shame of sin. Then Cain tried to bring another offering of the ground. Nor fig leaves, but bloodless. God did not accept it. Abel offered a blood sacrifice from his flock. God accepted that sacrifice. There is a well-known passage in Hebrews 9:22, “Indeed, under the law, almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.” Leviticus begins with some specific instructions to Moses to pass on to the children of Israel. It begins, “The Lord called Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, speak to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘When any one of you brings an offering to the Lord, you shall bring your offering of livestock from the herd or from the flock.’” The “herd” would represent cattle, and the “flock” represents smaller animals like goats and sheep.

Many of the sermons I’ve heard and preached on Leviticus had to do with the value of our offerings. Indeed, in an agricultural society, cattle and sheep were of most importance for people’s livelihoods. God insists that all our offerings cost us something. “The famed pastor W. A. Criswell told the story of a father and his son who went one Saturday to the local county fair where they splurged on the midway rides, the games, and plenty of cotton candy. The next morning the father and his son attended the Sunday church service, and the father placed a pittance in the offering place as it passed. ‘What did this teach the lad?’ Dr. Criswell rhetorically asked. The sad lesson learned that morning was that the county fair’s amusements were more important than the worship of God. King David said it best: ‘I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing’ (2 Samuel 24:24). Every person should give and should give sacrificially to the Lord’s work if there is to be true worship.”[1] Baker applies the passage to us similarly. He writes, “In an agricultural society where wealth and the very maintenance of life were measured in livestock, these animal presents came from the very life necessities of the people. By comparison, have not our gifts to the Lord at times become trivialized and cheap, not costing us? Does money, which is the ordinary form which offerings take today, really cost anything to many in today’s society? What would, in fact, be a sacrifice for those with abundant financial resources? Might not our time, our work, our service cost us more than cash in some cases?”[2]

With all the sacrifices we could make to God in response to such sermons, I must ask, “Where is the blood?” I don’t bleed when I give or serve. All of that seems to be no more than fig leaves that I attempt to use to cover up my guilt. An innocent life must be offered for the guilty. The animal sacrifice pictures for you and me the one sacrifice of blood that takes away our sins. That’s what John the Baptist meant when he pointed to Jesus and said, “Behold, the lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.” Jesus, the innocent one, gave Himself as a blood offering for our sins. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made Jesus, who knew no sin, to become sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” Animal sacrifices have stopped with Jesus Christ. Animal sacrifices foreshadowed Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. The only basis on which an animal sacrifice could provide forgiveness of sins is Christ. He would sacrifice Himself for our sins, providing the forgiveness that animal sacrifices could only illustrate and foreshadow. This is the actual application of the blood offerings in Leviticus. Appreciating this in our lives moves our hearts in gratitude to give to God and others!

[1] Mathews, Kenneth A. 2009. Leviticus: Holy God, Holy People. Preaching the Word. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] Baker, David W. 1996. “Leviticus.” In Cornerstone Biblical Commentary: Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, edited by Philip W. Comfort, 2:16. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.