1The LORD called to Moses and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting. He said, 2“Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When any of you brings an offering to the LORD, bring as your offering an animal from either the herd or the flock.

3“‘If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he is to offer a male without defect. He must present it at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting so that it will be acceptable to the LORD. 4He is to lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him. 5He is to slaughter the young bull before the LORD, and then Aaron’s sons the priests shall bring the blood and sprinkle it against the altar on all sides at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. 6He is to skin the burnt offering and cut it into pieces. 7The sons of Aaron the priest are to put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire. 8Then Aaron’s sons the priests shall arrange the pieces, including the head and the fat, on the burning wood that is on the altar. 9He is to wash the inner parts and the legs with water, and the priest is to burn all of it on the altar. It is a burnt offering, an offering made by fire, an aroma pleasing to the LORD.
Leviticus 1:1-9

Atoning for sin was a messy business in the Old Testament. The sinner is to lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering” – fully identifying himself with the animal, essentially transferring his sin to the animal. He must then slaughter the animal. There is no reason for the animal to be killed other than to atone for his sin. In the New Testament we read that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22b). In the Old Testament they lived that Truth. We live in the grace of that Truth – that is, that Christ has died for us, but in the Old Testament, the Israelites lived with the death that sin caused.

I am thankful that I don’t have to actually kill an animal to atone for my sin, but I think it is oh, so easy for the seriousness of sin to lose its impact when we are removed from the reality of what it takes for sin to be forgiven. The perfect, sinless Son of God had to die a horrible death so that I could be forever forgiven – and not just me, but you and everyone else in the world, too.

I used to wonder why “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a). At first I simply accepted that God is God and He can set the price of sin at whatever He wanted and who was I to argue? I accepted that simply because it’s what Scripture teaches and I had come to believe that Scripture was the Word of God. Yet it always felt like a weak argument to me. An acceptable one if it was the only one God was giving, but not a fully satisfying one. That’s OK because God’s ways are higher than my ways and His thoughts are higher than my thoughts (Isaiah 55:9). Faith trusts without full understanding.

In His graciousness, however, God helped me to understand this issue. In what seemed like a flash of understanding, I realized that all sin – ALL sin – involves a death – something pure and unblemished dies. Truth dies. Relationships die. Trust dies. Something inside us and/or another dies. In light of that understanding, requiring a death for the forgiveness of sin is God’s justice. That makes sense to me. I wrote earlier that it is very easy for us to forget the seriousness of sin. In that place, it is easy to overlook the death that our sin causes.

I encourage you to meditate on this statement: All sin involves death. Think about what would die the next time you are tempted to speak in anger, or lie, or gossip, or commit adultery, or cheat someone or any other sinful act you might be tempted to participate in. What death is your sin going to cause? Perhaps this new understanding of the reality of the situation will open a door for the Holy Spirit to work in your lives and bring transformation. Christ has already died for your sin and you can experience forgiveness. Why cause more death? Let’s choose life.

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