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Sacrifice: Penal Substitution
We finished up Romans last time and a key word in Romans, especially in the second half, had to do with sacrifice and the priestly offering. Then on Tuesday night in our study in dispensations or God’s Plan for the Ages, we had a lesson dealing with Ezekiel’s temple, the millennial temple, and the restoration of the animal sacrifices in the millennial temple. This coming Sunday we’re going to have the Lord’s Table. Sandwiched between there we finished one series and since I haven’t started the other one, I thought it would be beneficial to have a study on sacrifice in the Bible.
Sacrifice is fundamental to every single dispensation. Sacrifice is something too, I think, that is especially hard for westerners and Church Age believers to grasp. We want to take some time to look at what the Word of God says in relation to sacrifice. The core idea in sacrifice is the idea of penal substitution. The word “penal” means that it relates to punishment. It is a capital punishment because the penalty for sin is death.
This death penalty was established for the human race the instant that Adam ate from the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. God told Adam and Eve that at the instant they ate of this fruit they would surely die. Now they didn’t die right then physically. It was a spiritual death, a separation from God. In order for man to have a restored relationship with God it would be necessary for there to be a payment for that sin penalty.
Death is a concept that is really more and more foreign to our culture. In previous generations, such as your grandparent’s or great-grandparent’s generation, it would not be uncommon for a person to have died in the same home in which they were born. Birth and death were part of life and were witnessed within the home. Many of you who have parents and grandparents that might have grown up in a more rural environment knew they were very much aware of death. If they wanted to have chicken for dinner, they would have to go out and kill the chicken. If they wanted to have steak, they would have to go out and butcher the cow. These were animals they were familiar with so death was not foreign to households. It was an object lesson that any family could use to teach about spiritual principles.
We’re a long way from that in our culture today. We try to do everything we can to distance ourselves from death. I think one reason people are so fearful of death today is because there’s no spiritual solution for them in their mind. They do everything they can to try to postpone death, to try to live longer, and to grasp for more life because life is going to end and they don’t know what’s going to happen next. There’s no hope. Most people just believe that when you die, it’s all over with, so they just grab hold of it with everything they have. Death is a foreign concept and it’s a scary concept for a lot of people.
The Bible is filled with death, over and over again. In fact, if you look at those early genealogies in Genesis, chapters 5 and 11, there’s repetition of the fact that Adam gave birth to Seth and Seth lived so many years and he died. You read all through those genealogies that so-and-so was born and then they died, and then they died, and then they died. There’s this emphasis on death. The Scriptures are reinforcing the idea that physical death is a consequence, not the penalty, but a consequence for sin and sin entering into human history.
We have to come to understand that this is something that was very serious and was reinforced by God almost from the instant that Adam and Eve sinned, that there had to be a death to pay the penalty for sin. So sacrifices were introduced. I want to start by just looking at the concept of sacrifice as it’s defined in terms of the English word from the Oxford English Dictionary. Sacrifice is defined as the practice or an act of killing an animal or person or surrendering a possession as an offering to a deity.
There are two ideas there. One is the act of death for an animal. Human sacrifice was something that was developed in paganism. Human sacrifice was never authorized in the Bible and never part of Biblical teaching in the Old or New Testaments. The second meaning of sacrifice is the act of giving up something of value for the sake of something that is of greater value or importance. That definition particularly plays a role when it comes into usage in the New Testament.
In the Old Testament there are several Hebrew words that are used for offering. The first is olah. Olah is from a Hebrew word that means to go up. It’s the word that’s used to describe a burnt offering because the entire sacrifice was burned up and the smoke would go up to God and it would be a sweet savor to Him. It’s like barbecue. Anyone who goes past a barbecue restaurant and smells the sweet savor of the meat cooking knows what that would smell like. So when you think about that, transfer that smell to what would be wafting over Jerusalem day and night because the burnt offering was the type of offering, of sacrifice, for the morning and the evening sacrifices. So if you were down wind of the Temple it always smelled like barbecue.
The second word that’s used is the word n’sak, which means to offer a sacrifice. It’s nothing more than that. Nothing intrinsic to the word; it's just a basic meaning. Then we have a third word qorban from the verb meaning to draw near. That’s an important word. We find it in numerous passages in Leviticus such as Leviticus 1:2 when it says, “If someone wants to draw near to God [qarab]…” So this gets at an interesting root that recognizes sin separates us from God. This word for sacrifice emphasizes that a sacrifice brings us near to God, and that there must be a sacrificial penalty paid in order for us to draw near to God.
Another word that’s often translated sacrifice or offering is the word minha. The first time it’s used is in Genesis 4 and we’ll look at that in just a minute. It has that idea it can refer to a meat offering. It can overlap with the next word zevach which means literally just sacrifice and so either minha which can have a broader range of meaning or zevach are the primary words that are used to communicate the idea of sacrifice in the Bible. Olah is the primary word. It’s used 162 times in the Old Testament and it emphasizes the fact that something is given up.
When you talk about an animal sacrifice, a lamb that’s without spot or blemish, it’s not only significant of Christ as a type that has no blemishes or sin, it’s also an animal that has greater value, such as a lamb, a goat, or a calf with no spot of blemish which makes it more valuable. This would indicate it was at cost to an individual when they brought that sacrifice before the Lord. These different sacrifices are outlined in Leviticus 1–5. The idea of the sacrifice is emphasized especially in passages like Hebrews 9:22 and Leviticus 17:11 that “without the shedding of blood there’s no forgiveness of sin.”
The Bible teaches that life is in the blood. So the term “shedding of blood” is not talking about someone who is bleeding to death. It’s talking about death. It’s an idiom for death and it’s saying without physical death there’s no forgiveness of sin. Why? Because that sacrificial physical death is a picture in the physical realm of something that is more abstract which is a spiritual death. What we find in the Old Testament again and again with these pictures, these types, these physical objects God uses to communicate His grace and communicate about spiritual death and salvation, is that God uses very physical objects to communicate abstract concepts.
A lot of what we find in the Bible talks about very abstract things. When you talk about retroactive positional truth or our identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection at the instant of salvation, and you talk about that as baptism by the Holy Spirit, that’s a very abstract doctrine. That’s not something easy to grasp no matter how old you are or how high your I.Q. is but that’s clearly explained in the Scripture. So God uses a picture of water baptism by immersion to help us understand that.
If we practice what the early church practiced, then every time someone gets saved they would be almost immediately immersed in water. So if every time someone is immersed in water the doctrine of positional truth is taught, then people really begin to catch it through the repetition. They can understand they are no longer under the tyranny of the sin nature. That was broken by the Baptism by the Holy Spirit, Romans 6:3. So God uses these very physical things to communicate these abstract doctrines. He does this from the very beginning.
I want to just get a quick run-through on sacrifices in the Old Testament. The very first sacrifice is only alluded to in Genesis 3:21. Now you’re read some very erudite theologians who will come along and say there’s no mention of sacrifice here and you’re just reading things into the text. But this is a very terse verse. There’s not a lot said here but if you stop and think about what goes on here, you realize that there’s a lot more than what appears at first glance. After Adam and Eve had sinned, and after God had announced the consequences of their sin in terms of creation and the animals and in terms of their own relationship, he goes back to an issue that first surfaced in the Garden after they had sinned.
God was looking for Adam and Eve and when he found them, they said, “We heard the sound of you in the Garden and we hid because we were afraid.” Another thing that is pointed out is that Adam said they realized they were naked and they sewed fig leaves together in order to cover their nakedness. In other words, they recognized they had a problem and rather than going to God for the solution, they tried to solve the problem on their own. That sewing together of fig leaves represents man trying to save himself by his own efforts. That wasn’t sufficient to cover the problem.
God came along and provided a sufficient solution in Genesis 3:21. There we read, “Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin and clothed them. Now where did God get the skin? Skin is an animal product. In order for an animal to give up his sin, that animal has to die. Nothing had ever died before. In order for God to provide tunics for them, God, who is always instructing us, not only would have taught them how to kill the animal but why this animal had to die. The animal had to die because there was now sin on the planet. That must have been a shocking thing for Adam and Eve at that particular time in history. They had never seen anything die. Physical death was something completely foreign to them.
These animals, which were going to give up their skin to cover them, were slaughtered by God in front of them. Those animals had to die because they ate that fruit. Just think about that a little bit. That’s a theme we see over and over when we come to the concept of sacrifice. God is going to make those tunics of skin. If you’ve ever hunted or you’ve ever worked with animal skin, you know that if you just leave it out in the sun to dry it’s going to become very hard and very brittle, so it’s not usable, so you have to treat it. If you were going to make clothing that is suitable then God would also have to teach Adam and Eve how to treat the skin. He would have to show them how to scrape the skin to get all the flesh off the skin and how to properly work it and what other chemicals to use to preserve it and where to get those chemicals from the different kinds of plants.
All of that would have to be part of that instruction because after this they would have to make more clothes. Those clothes weren’t going to last them 900 years and God would have instructed them so they had a sufficient revelation to make more clothes. They couldn’t go down to the Neiman’s Christmas sale or go to Neiman’s Last Call or Nordstrom’s Rack or any of those other places to get more clothes. They would have to kill an animal every time. Remember they’re not eating the animal. They’re just using that animal to order to provide clothing for themselves. Every time they did that they had to think of the fact that happened because they had sinned. So that’s our first indication of sacrifice.
In Genesis 4 we’re told about Cain and Abel. It’s obvious somewhere between Genesis 3 and Genesis 4 these boys have grown up. They’re young adults, probably in their 20s or 30’s. They could even have been older but they understand what an offering is. We’re told in Genesis 3:4-5 that as time passed “Cain brought an offering from the fruit of the ground.” He’s a farmer so now time has passed and they’ve established a farm and they’ve become very productive in their farming and in their agriculture. Cain is the farmer and Abel seems to be the one who is taking care of the livestock. He’s got the sheep and the goat and the cattle. Remember, they’re not raising them for meat. They’re raising them for other purposes. They would be raising them for milk. They would be raising them for the hides in order to clothe themselves. We have to ask ourselves that kind of questions. Most people don’t ask themselves those questions so they don’t come up with the right answer.
So Abel brings the firstborn of his flock and their fat. He understands. When we look at later revelation about burnt offering and the need to bring the animal and the fat, Abel already knows this. Now it’s not the purpose of Moses to frontload Genesis with all the information on sacrifices but it’s obvious that Abel understands he has to bring the firstborn and that he has to bring the fat. He brings that and we’re told that the Lord respected, regarded, looked with favor upon Abel and his offering but He did not respect or regard Cain or his offering.
The result is that Cain is angry. Anger is always a result of not getting our way. Cain wanted to have it his way and come to God on his terms. This is why you have passages like Jude 11, “Woe to them! [false teachers] For they have gone the way of Cain…” What’s the way of Cain? Trying to develop a relationship with God on your own terms. In Hebrews 11:4 we’re told, “By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain…” That tells us that Abel’s sacrifice was on the basis of faith and faith is always in something. He trusted in something. God gave a revelation about what was the right way to come to Him and what was the wrong way to come to Him. Abel trusted in God’s promise and brought the right kind of sacrifice through which, “he obtained a testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.” Abel has an on-going testimony.
The next time we have a sacrifice mentioned, although we still don’t have the word mentioned, is in Genesis 8:20 at the conclusion of the worldwide flood. This was as Noah came out of the ark. They had taken on to the ark, not just two pairs of every animal. They only took two pairs of every unclean animal. But they took seven of every clean animal. Why did they have the extra ones? For sacrifice. In Genesis 8:20 we’re told, “Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.”
This is the first mention of a burnt offering. This is that first word I mentioned earlier, an olah offering. Now as we go through Genesis we discover that this concept of sacrifice is passed on from generation to generation. We’re not given the specifics of God’s revelation. We look at passages like the one I just read from Hebrews 11:4. Where did Abel get the information about a sacrifice? Where did Abel get the information about bringing the firstborn and the fat? Obviously there was divine revelation given that’s not spelled out but it’s not recorded for posterity. God assumes we can figure that out from reading the text. They had to learn about it somehow.
So we get to Genesis 12:7 as God comes into the land that God had promises him, he came first to Shechem. He set up an altar in the first place he got into the land and camped out. Then they moved on to a hilltop between Bethel and Ai mentioned in Genesis 12:8 and he built another altar and called upon the Lord. Then several chapters later when he moves further south into Judea and into Hebron he builds another altar mentioned in Genesis 13:18.
The most significant altar that Abraham built was the altar he built on Mount Moriah in Genesis 22 where we’re told that God was testing Abraham and told him to take his child and go to the mountains of Moriah. Now that’s in Jerusalem. It is believed that the Temple Mount where that monstrosity, The Dome of the Rock, sits is sitting on Mount Moriah. The foundation stone that the rock in Dome of the Rock refers to is the rock at the location where Abraham was to have sacrificed Isaac. That’s the historical or traditional position there.
It was there that we have the next mention of the word altar and the next mention of the word burnt offering from Genesis 8:20 to Genesis 22:9 and we learn that Abraham went there to build an altar and offer Isaac as a burnt offering. He did not do that because God stayed His hand. That was always God’s intent. You read liberals and they say, “See, God wanted Abraham to kill his son. Well, they’re just making things up because they don’t like God. They’re just living in massive denial and suppression. The reality is that it was a test to see if Abraham understands what the New Testament tells us is the doctrine of resurrection. He finally got the point that God had been promising him again and again and again that he would have innumerable descendants through Isaac. If he killed Isaac then God would be false. So he knew God didn’t lie and even if he killed Isaac then God would bring him back to life. It was just a unique type of situation and if you don’t believe in the existence of God or objective revelation then this is not going to make any sense to you. Frankly, we shouldn’t pay attention to people like that at all, anyway.
So Abraham built that altar. Then later we have his son, Isaac, building an altar at Beersheba and then his grandson, Jacob, built an altar at Bethel and also at Shechem where his grandfather, Abraham, had also built altars. Then the next time we really see an altar of significance mentioned is when Moses builds an altar to the Lord on Mount Sinai. What we learn from each of these is some key things that run through all the sacrifices.
First of all, the foundational sacrifice is one that recognizes substitution, the payment by a life for the penalty of sin. This is a penal sacrifice and we see this from the very beginning. The animal that dies does so in place of the person. It is a substitution because that person has sinned and something has to die in place of that person. There’s this temporary provision made through an animal sacrifice.
The second thing we note is that there’s a subsequent emphasis on thanksgiving as the reason for the offering. When Noah offers that olah, that burnt offering in Genesis 8:20 it is an offering of thanksgiving to God because God has saved them, rescued them, from the floodwaters. He’s the one who provides for us and who delivers us.
The third thing that we see is that a sacrifice has an element of dependence in it because when we slaughter that which would provide food for us, it is also a recognition that God is still going to provide for us. He will take care of us even though we have offered to Him and given to Him what may be our only source of food, God is going to still provide for us. It is an act of dependence, which indicates that we’re depending upon God for our provision.
When we get into Leviticus, Leviticus mentions five different kinds of sacrifices. I’m just going to mention them very briefly. Not all of them are related to a blood sacrifice so I’m just going to focus upon those. The first one is a burnt offering and it is mentioned in Leviticus 1:4, “He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, that it may be accepted for him to make atonement on his behalf.” Now, why did he do that? The person who was coming to offer the offering and bringing his lamb, or goat, or calf, or turtledove in some cases, and this person has brought that which he has reared or raised from infancy and now he is going to put his hand on the head of that creature as an act of transference. That means he is saying his sins are now being transferred to this creature that hasn’t done anything wrong whatsoever. This creature, like a lamb, has done nothing wrong and there is transference.
The one who brings the lamb is going to take out a knife and slit the throat of that animal. He will watch that animal bleed out in front of him because of what he has done. Now that’s a powerful image. The word that’s used there for atonement, which we often think of as Christ’s ultimate sacrifice as a payment for sin, but the word atonement in Hebrew is the word kfr. It’s often translated in the Greek with the word KATHARIZO and means to cleanse or to purify. Most of these offerings are not related to salvation or justification. They are related to the worshipper’s ongoing relationship with God, their phase 2.
What happens when you sin today and sometime later you remember it. You may say, “Oh, yeah. Lord, I got angry earlier or I did this or I did that,” and you confess your sins. Every time you confess your sins you are completely forgiven and you are cleansed of all unrighteousness and you’re restored to fellowship. In the Old Testament in the ritual system in order to continue to participate in the rituals or in reality if you’re out in the fields and you sin, then you can confess it and you’re restored but the next time you go to the temple if you’re going to worship you have to sacrifice that animal. So every single time you go to the temple, you have to bring a lamb or a goat or some equivalent animal that’s qualified and you have to take out your knife and you have to slit that animal’s throat. That’s each and every time you sin. Every time you have to look at that animal that you have raised and you have to kill it because you sinned. That is a powerful object lesson. It is a reminder of how horrible sin is and what the consequences are.
So we have these burnt offerings. Earlier in Leviticus 1:2 it has the use of the word qarab meaning to come near or to approach. How do we come near God? It’s because of a sacrifice. So in a burnt offering the entire offering was consumed by fire and everything goes up to God and that’s the regular offering that was made every morning and every evening and at all of the annual feasts. The major thing that was taught was that no one could ever draw near to God without a substitutionary payment for sin. It was depicted in a temporary manner through these ritual sacrifices in the Old Testament.
The purpose of this was to make atonement for God. In other words, to atone for sin. This was only temporary and only as a result of the animal sacrifice. But as the writer of Hebrews points out in Hebrews 9, “The blood of bulls and goats could not [permanently] take away sin.” There were other aspects to this. In Deuteronomy 12:13-14, God not only told what the offering was but where the offerings could be made. In Deuteronomy 12:13-14 we read, “Be careful that you do not offer your burnt offerings in every cultic place you see but in the place which the Lord chooses in one of your tribes, and there you shall do all that I command you.”
You can’t just worship God on your terms. You can’t just go out and say I’ll offer a burnt offering here. You can’t go to the pagan temple or the high places but only where God has designated. The other thing we conclude form this is that a complete burnt offering represents judgment and purification. Again we see that idea of substitution. The second offering that’s mentioned in Leviticus is the meal or tribute offering. That is a bloodless offering so we’ll skip that one.
The peace offering or fellowship offering described in chapter 3 also involved an individual bringing an animal and killing the animal at the door of the tabernacle. So once again you have to bring one of your favorite animals, one without spot or blemish, and you have to be the one to slit the animal’s throat at the doorway to the tabernacle. You can’t just take it down to the vet and let the vet put the animal to sleep.
That’s about as close as most people come to death is when they take a pet down to the vet and have him euthanize the pet. They don’t even have to be there and witness the death. But in Old Testament days you had to make it personal. Every time you want to bring a fellowship offering to God you have to bring an animal that you have raised and you have to slit the throat of that animal and hold it as it bleeds out. That’s the basis for your coming back and being restored to ritual fellowship with God. Again this emphasizes identification and substitution.
We also have the sin offering. Again it’s the same kind of offering. It’s an offering to cover or pay for the guilt for someone who has committed an inadvertent sin. According to Leviticus 4:27-35, when this refers in relation to an individual he was to bring a female goat without defect or a female lamb without defect. Then he would slit the throat of the animal and the blood would be put on the horns of the altar and the remainder of the blood would be poured out. It was very bloody.
What we must understand is that the tabernacle and later the temple was a place where there was a lot of blood. It had more to do with where there was a butcher shop than it would with the very clean pristine temples we see in museums and at various places around the world. It was a very bloody place. Animals were killed all the time. They constantly had to bring water in to wash everything off.
Then there’s a trespass offering covered in Leviticus 5:15-19 and in chapter 6, as well as mentioned in Leviticus 7. Again, it was an animal sacrifice, a ram without defect or you could bring the valuation of the shekel of the sanctuary plus twenty percent for the priest. In other words, it cost you something. It cost you a very valuable animal or if it was just too far to bring a ram, it cost you money. Every time you sinned it cost you something, you had to pay. That’s what it involved. Then you also gave one-fifth or twenty percent to the priest. You would think the priest would become very wealthy if people were consistent in applying this particular offering.
The last sacrifice I want to talk about is the Passover sacrifice. The Passover sacrifice is covered in Exodus 12 when it’s instigated in relation to the tenth plague. God gave specific instructions. He told Moses in Exodus 12:3, “Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, ‘On the tenth of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household.’” Now a household generally would be about ten people. So if you just had a couple of kids you would get together with your neighbor and you would just take that lamb and then you have to watch it and let it become a family pet for the next four days. You watching it, you’re feeding it, it’s in your back yard, it’s in your house.
You would keep this valuable animal in your house because you wouldn’t want it to run off or escape. You’re going to keep in the house and it’s going to become part of the family for those four days. And don’t you just know? Kids always want to name that stray that comes home. If you’re parents and you’ve ever had that with your kids bringing home a stray cat or a stray dog, once they name that animal, then you’re in trouble. That’s the kind of thing that would happen every year. That animal becomes part of the family and then you have to take that animal out down to the tabernacle or temple and you have to slit that animal’s throat and watch it bleed out. This is very personal. That animal has to die because you have sinned and disobeyed God.
Over and over again that is the object lesson. This lamb that is slaughtered at the Passover and is roasted is slaughtered on the 14th day. He’s chosen on the 10th day. He’s observed and evaluated to make certain that he is, indeed, without spot or blemish. Then he is slaughtered on the 14th day at twilight. This is significant for us because it teaches us about the Lord Jesus Christ. All of the Passover does.
In 1 Corinthians 5:7 Paul gives us an interpretation, “Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.” Unleavened is our position in Christ. We have been cleansed positionally of sin. Why? Because Christ, our Passover is that Passover Lamb. That’s what John the Baptist was talking about when he saw Jesus and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” Jesus had to die because we sinned. We need to come to a fresh appreciation of this.
This is one of the things that happened on our trip to Israel. We went into Samaria and we went up on Mount Gerizim. There is a church there built on an ancient Samaritan temple. You remember who the Samaritans are? They’re those mongrel people, not pure blood Jews, who were resettled by the Assyrians into the territory of the Northern Kingdom between Judah and Galilee. You remember the story in John 4 when Jesus took the disciples and they went through Samaria instead of going around it which is what Jews typically did. Jesus got into a discussion with a woman at Jacob’s well near Sychar. The woman was surprised he would talk to her and brought up in conversation that the Jews thought the Samaritans ought to worship in Jerusalem. Jesus said that a time is going to come when we’re not going to worship either here or at Mount Gerizim which is where the Samaritans were.
The Samaritan people are still in existence. There are about 700 of them and they are not believers. They never recognized Jesus as the Messiah. They still practice some things that go back to before the Church. I’m not saying they’re Biblical. They rejected most of the Old Testament Canon except for the Torah and they believe that the temple should be on Mount Gerizim but they still practice animal sacrifice.
We had a guide that day, Joel Kramer, who was formerly a photojournalist before he became a pastor. Now he’s working on his PhD in archeology. He gave us a great talk. He’s also produced a film on sacrifice.
Now let’s hear Joel Kramer, “By the way, when you come here at Passover, how do I say this? The Samaritans are less rabbinicalized, if that’s a word, than the Jewish rabbis. Let me see if I can explain that to you in an example. Take someone who doesn’t know anything about the Bible. Passover is coming so you have them sit down and read the account of Passover in Exodus. Then send them to a Seder meal with the Jews or send them to the Samaritans here on Passover. What’s the difference?
Nothing against Seder meals. They’re great but there’s something you need in a Seder meal if you’ve got someone who doesn’t know anything about the Bible. They will have no clue what’s going on in a Seder meal unless they have a rabbi or someone explain it to them. See what I mean? They’ll read the Exodus account. They’ll go to a Seder meal and ask, “What the heck is this?”
Not so here in Samaria. If they read the Exodus account and they come here on Passover, they’re going to walk around and see a one-year-old white lamb in everyone’s yard, which they’ve been keeping several days as a pet. Then as Passover sets in, and the sun is setting to start Passover, everyone brings their lamb down and leads their lamb to the slaughter, down to the place of sacrifice. All the families are gathered around their individual lamb. They all participate in the sacrifice.
As the sun sets the high priest, descended from Aaron, gives the command and then, “Slash.” Fifty-four lambs die in a matter of twenty seconds. It’s quite impressive. With blood! Quite impressive. This is a hard thing. If you watch my movie, “The Sacrifice” when those animals die, all of a sudden the place erupts in pure joyous celebration. I’ll tell you the first time that happened, I was kind of taken aback. Here’s all these dying animals, bleeding all over the place, and here’s all these people laughing and singing and rejoicing and putting blood on each other’s foreheads and you’re just going, “What is this?” That’s the concept of atonement. That’s the concept the story is trying to give you in Exodus. God’s judgment is there and what causes God’s judgment to pass over is the blood. So the blood is the cause for great celebration. Just like the Jews who were released from their bondage, isn’t that something to celebrate?
In the sacrifice of the lamb and the blood being put on their doorposts and therefore, that judgment passing over. That’s something to celebrate. Their freedom. That’s what they’re celebrating here after the animals are sacrificed. It’s quite a sight. It takes you back to see that.”
Pastor Dean: “Let me ask you a question. How many people did Josephus say came to Jerusalem for a Passover?”
Joel Kramer: “The number is as high as two million.”
Pastor Dean: “So you have a huge number of lambs to sacrifice if you’re going by one for every ten people in a family. Do you think they had a line where they would lay out an assembly line with 100 at a time, then 200 at a time, and then do another 200?
Kramer: “Yes, they must have. The Muslims also have a sacrifice day. I’ve been in their temples on a sacrifice day where they’re sacrificing camels and bulls and sheep and goats. Literally the gutters are running with blood. That’s from a number that’s small. I’ve seen bulls sacrificed and oxen, which are just full-grown mature bulls that are castrated. With its sacrifice blood shoots everywhere. It’s unbelievable how much blood comes out of that animal. Then Solomon sacrificed 22,000 oxen followed by a 120,000 sheep and goats to dedicate the temple. Fifty-four animals dying in 20–30 seconds is impressive blood-wise but that is a very, very slow day compared to the Jewish temple. We’re missing the issue. The least popular film I’ve made is 'The Sacrifice'. No one wants to watch it, especially Americans. Why? 'Oh, that’s gross. That’s graphic.'
“But it’s the practice that was in place as a shadow to help us understand the reality. How do we understand the reality if we don’t understand the shadow? In the film, 'The Sacrifice' I have both the Samaritan sacrificing and a Jewish priest, Rabbi Glick, the one that was shot here two weeks ago. Why is he sacrificing a lamb at Passover in Jerusalem that I filmed? I was right next to him when he did it. Why? Because he’s trying to teach people that this is what Judaism is all about. It’s supposed to be temple-centered. This is atonement. If you don’t have a temple in Judaism in Biblical Israel belief system, instituted in what we call the Old Covenant, you don’t have forgiveness of sins. Leviticus 17:11 says, 'Without the shedding of blood, there’s no forgiveness.' Rabbi Glick is trying to get back the point that yeah animals have to be sacrificed in order to have forgiveness of sins in this covenant. Right?
“Then Jesus comes along and He stands right next to the Temple and He says that something greater than the Temple is here. Destroy this temple and in three days I’ll raise it back up.” Jesus says to look at the magnificent temple and that not one stone is going to stand on top of another. He means off the Temple Mount. If from the time that happened in AD 70 and I dig through the AD 70 destruction, from that time on, if you don’t have Jesus as your atonement, you don’t have atonement. Where does your atonement come from? It can’t come from the Temple. It can’t come from the Old Covenant. The center of it has been destroyed for over 1,900 years.
“Animal sacrifices, as hard as it is to watch, are important. Sometimes the hardest things to watch are the most important because what it’s there for is to teach us the seriousness of sin in God’s eyes. Are you kidding me? Every time I sin I have to go get this animal and bring it to the priest and have it sacrificed? You’re going to take sin a lot more seriously than if you just go get your package of meat from the grocery store. If you were in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago on the day that Jesus was crucified. Would you go? Would you go watch? Would you hide in a room until it was all over and then come out? I don’t know about you but I would go watch but it wouldn’t be easy to see, would it? But it would be very, very important.
“It’s like Paul preaches. He preaches Christ crucified and the concept that God came as a lamb to be sacrificed once and for all. Thank God that we don’t have to sacrifice animals to be close to God. There’s something important about this shadow and understanding it. When you walk around Jerusalem you’ll see all the beautiful temples, all whitewashed and lovely. If you want to understand the Temple, go to a slaughterhouse and stand there for a day. That’s what the Jewish Temple was. It was a place of sacrifice.
“There are these huge pools up in Bethlehem. They’re huge. They’re bigger than football fields. There are three of them for water to bring down to the Temple in an aqueduct to deal with the blood. That’s what we’re talking about. We’re talking about a bloody mess because it represents our human condition and what is needed for that human condition—the shadow animal sacrifice for all those sins and now the reality, one sacrifice for all people for all time in the person of Jesus. That’s what Jesus was explaining down there to the Samaritan woman. He was saying He was here for her, too. He was here for the Jews, for the lost sheep of Israel and also for the Gentiles. Remember how he said the Word was to go out? First in Jerusalem, then in Judea; and then what? Samaria.” [End of video clip of Joel Kramer.]
Pastor Dean: Okay, that gets the point across. It doesn’t get it across as much as the video does. I’ll talk about the video in just a minute but I want to take us into the New Testament. In Hebrews 10 the writer of Hebrew says, “And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.” This was again and again and again that the priest had to offer sacrifices. Why? Because they could never take away sins.
In Hebrews 10:12 he says, “But this Man [Jesus], after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God.” That means you don’t have to kill another animal. Nothing else has to die for my sins. The work is finished. Hebrews 13:15 we read, “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” We still have sacrifice in the New Testament. It’s not an animal sacrifice. The sacrifice of praise means that we’re giving up what we want to do and the focus on our selves. That’s the essence of the sin nature. We’re just so self-absorbed. It’s all about me. To praise God it means it can’t be all about you so that fits our definition of sacrifice. It’s giving up something that’s valuable to us to gain something that’s even more valuable.
The writer of Hebrews goes on to say in Hebrews 13:16, “But do not forget to do good and to share [generosity in giving], for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” The words that are used to translate sacrifice in the New Testament basically have the same meaning that they do in the Old Testament. You have the word THYSIA and then the word PROSPHORA that usually refers to offering or a gift. These are the two words in the New Testament.
Then we come to passages like Romans 12:1 where Paul says, “I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” Your life is a sacrifice. You’re giving up something that means a lot to you. We say, “I want to live life my way. I want to do everything my way. It’s all about me.” God says, “You have to recognize that it’s not about you. It’s about Me. The only way you’re going to have any value in your life is when you live it for Me and not for yourself.” That’s what a living sacrifice is.
That’s what we come to understand as we grow and mature in our Christian life. We’re here to serve God, not to serve our selfish needs, not to serve what we want to do but what has eternal value. Paul uses it in the same way as an example with his friend Epaphroditus in Philippians 4:18. At the conclusion of this epistle to the Philippians Paul is talking about the giving of the Macedonians. He had said they had given from their poverty. They had given abundantly and graciously to take financial gifts back to the believers in Jerusalem who had gone through a famine. They had given sacrificially to help Paul. They had not given of their excess but of the very core income they had. They had reached into very shallow pockets and dug very deeply in order to help support the Apostle Paul. So he’s thanking them for their support which came by way of Epaphroditus. He says, “Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus, the things [their financial gifts] sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.” They had done it walking by the Spirit, in the power of the Spirit, to glorify God.
Finally, a couple of things. I’d like to encourage all of you to watch this film “The Sacrifice.” You can find it on Joel’s website: http://sourceflix.com/. It costs $10.00. One of the reasons I didn’t show it is because there are some caveats that need to go out. Some of you may be a little sensitive. Some people are. It does include about 6 seconds where your see a lamb sacrificed, literally. Some people may have problems with that.
To answer the question of why we should watch this. It’s certainly not from motives of curiosity or violence, but for many this adds a level of realism to a doctrinal truth that for many of us is just a little too abstract and impersonal. It’s not simply an historical event. It’s coming to understand the significance of this type that was in the Old Testament that was active for 4,000 years in human history. It was to teach about the horrors of sin, the consequences of sin, and the need for substitutionary death. People who’ve watched this film have found it to be quite impactfully spiritually. It brings home in a very different way and a little different venue these spiritual truths.
One person commented that they will always have these images in their mind and it will forever alter how they think and what they think about during communion, when we think about the sacrifice of the Lord as we’re taking the Lord’s Table. As difficult as it was to watch the film it left them with the profound sense that in the Old Testament these innocent animals had to die because they had sinned. Every time they sinned some animal had to die and that had never quite been brought home to them in the same way.
Then we apply that idea of what happened at the Cross that Jesus had to die for us we get the connection between the picture in the Old Testament, that type that God established and what happened at the Cross and it brings that home in a little better sense for us. The second thing I want to point out is that the purpose of that film is not necessarily to get a full doctrine on sacrifice and substitutionary atonement. That’s not the point of it. The point is to get a window, a visual window for us, into what was practiced in one form or another for four thousand years. We get that window into it.
We do that through what the Samaritans are practicing. Now the Samaritans are not believers in Christ. They never have been. There are only 700 of them left alive today. They still practice this as Joel pointed out. Every year at Passover they bring a lamb home, put it out in the front yard, and watch it as it becomes part of the family. Four days later they take it down to the place we drove past. You can see the gutters there by the altars where they lay the lambs out and where they sacrifice them all. What we see is a practice in tradition probably predating the New Testament. It’s been modified a little here and there but it gives us a sense we don’t get anywhere else. This whole image that as Joel pointed out struck him hard. It struck me as being very odd. It will strike you the same way.
When they kill those animals and they erupt in joy it's because they understand what has happened. This is a picture of Valley Forge and Bunker Hill and Yorktown. The death of that lamb gave the Jews in Egypt freedom, freedom from slavery, and that is something to rejoice over. That lamb always ties the slavery to sin. When Jesus died we become freed from sin, the penalty is paid and that’s something to rejoice over. It’s bittersweet. A lamb, a creature has to die. Jesus had to die. The result of that is that we have a new life and that’s something to be excited about.
Finally, I don’t recommend anyone under 15 or 16 watch this film, but parents need to certainly exercise a tremendous amount of wisdom and discretion if you’re going to let someone under 15 or 16 watch the film. For some people, the film may bother you. It probably should bother you. You may wake up in the middle of the night thinking about it. Some people will but if you’re doing it the right way it’s because it’s impressed you spiritually. It’s not because of the fact that you’re grossed out because an animal died. You’re grossed out because of sin that this had to take place. That’s the lesson. If you miss that you miss the point of watching that film. It may not be for everybody to watch but from the people I had vet the film I took away that this film is the kind of thing people watch on their own, not in a group setting. It can have a profound impact on you so I recommend that if you’d like to get a little greater insight into this area.