This is the devotional for Day 4 from the Chosen People Ministries
The Sacrifices (Karbanot)
Moses, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, described the importance of sacrifice in Leviticus 17:11,
For the life of the flesh is in the blood and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.
During the Ten Days of Awe, we understand that we are marching towards the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), the most important sacrifice of the Jewish year; atonement for the sins of the nation would take place on this day. This season of the year, initiated by the blowing of the shofar, is consummated with the Yom Kippur sacrifice.
However, the idea of sacrifice and blood atonement is not easily understood for us 21st century people. Why did the Lord our God require the blood of bulls, rams and lambs as the price of readmission to fellowship with Him? Part of the answer is that the concept of sacrifice includes a cost to someone—a cost that reminds us that there is a price for sin. Disobedience to God degrades our relationship to Him and to one other.
But, there is more to it and this calls our hearts and minds to consider the biblical principle of substitution. Throughout the Hebrew Scripture and until the destruction of the Temple in the year 70 AD, the principle of substitutionary sacrifice was understood to restore a balance that the presence of sin had upset. The innocent substitute acts as the means through which “shalom” (peace or completeness) is reestablished between the sinner and God. Therefore, the primary purpose of sacrifice is to allow the estranged person to be drawn once more into unbroken fellowship with God.1
However, traditional and post-Temple Judaism has a problem and understands what was missing! Since the destruction of the Temple, sacrifice could no longer be made as the one and true altar in the Temple was destroyed. How then do Jewish people find reconciliation with God?
The sages declare that in the days without the Temple, Judaism rested upon three pillars–prayer, repentance and works of mercy. However, at the time, these three elements were thought to work in conjunction with the sacrifices. Today…and because we do not have the Temple nor an altar, these three are said to actually take the place of substitutionary sacrifice.
Yet, Jewish memory is not so easy to erase. That is why observant Jews carry out an obscure ritual called kapporot (“covering”). For this ritual, the head of the household will take a live kosher hen or rooster and slaughter it. He will swing the body around his head three times while reciting, “This is my exchange, my substitute, my atonement; this rooster (or hen) shall go to its death, but I shall go to a good, long life and to peace.” The fowl, which is sometimes stuffed with coins, is given to the poor for food.
For followers of Yeshua, neither sacrifices in the Temple nor any other means of reconciliation are needed beyond that of Messiah, whose once and for all sacrifice is more than sufficient to satisfy our need for atonement—provided we receive this priceless gift through our faith in Him. As the writer of the letter to the Hebrews reminds us,
But the Messiah came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of the Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance (Heb. 9:11-15).
I encourage you to meditate on the above passages of Scripture to help you again appreciate the wonder of God’s love in sending His Son to be our once for all atonement for sin. He did for us what we could never do for ourselves. Whether you be Jewish or part of some other religious faith – if you rely upon your own self efforts to please God you will assuredly fail. We know this in the depth of our souls. We understand that we need our guilt lifted and it is only through the power of His sacrificial atonement that we can be forgiven and enjoy peace with God forever more.