Animal sacrifices are gross. Just read through the book of Leviticus, and you’ll be glad you don’t live in the days of temple sacrifice. There’s blood being sprinkled, poured, wiped on the altar, and collected in jars. Animals are cut up so that some parts can be burned, others can be eaten, and still others can be taken outside the camp and burned differently. All in all, it’s a mess.
But there’s also something quite beautiful about it.
Through the sacrificial system, God made a way for His people to come close and worship Him. The tabernacle, and later the temple, housed the very presence of God. That reality defies our limited ability to comprehend, but it’s true nonetheless. God had come close. His space was sacred, and to keep our sinfulness and uncleanness from defiling God’s throne room on earth, the sacrificial system was given. The blood of animals purified the place of worship so that men and women could come near.
At their core, the various sacrifices described in the Old Testament were about worship. The people gave their livestock—the best of the best of what they could afford. It was costly, always an act of ascribing to God the honor due His name. There was no low-priced, discount option that would do the trick. A sacrifice was just that—a sacrifice to make.
Fast-forward to the New Testament era in which you and I live. Jesus has paid the once-and-forever price to atone for our sin so that those He has redeemed can draw near to God, no animal sacrifices required. The Holy Spirit now lives inside those of us who are believers. We are now the temple of God, so everywhere we tread is sacred space, especially when we gather together as the Church. But that doesn’t mean our days of making sacrifices are over.
What was planted in seed form in the Old Testament grows into full bloom in the New. So, we should expect that what was required of the sacrificial system under the Mosaic Covenant only expands under the New Covenant—and it does. God no longer requires the blood of bulls and goats. Now He wants us—you and me—given over to Him as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1–2). Everything we have, everything we are, and everything we do is to be given over to God. We are His, and our lives should show it.
About a thousand years before Christ, David got it. He wrote, “The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. You will not despise a broken and humbled heart, God” (Psalm 51:17). It is this “broken spirit’ and “humbled heart” that allows a person to become a living sacrifice. Pride has no place in the life of a Christian. We have been bought and paid for. We belong to God, and our lives ought to reflect this fact. Our sacrifices may not be as bloody as they were under the Old Covenant, but they ought to be even more costly.
Written by John Greco