Sanctification and Sacrifice

Leviticus isn’t my favorite book of the Bible to read. It’s a close second to Numbers with all its so-and-so was the father of this other guy who also had sons. But in Leviticus its the size and make up of curtains and boxes and lamp stands and lots of dead animals and their blood.

Generally speaking I’m not a fan of gore. My husband has to tell me when to look after something gruesome stays on the TV screen for more than split second. It makes me feel queasy. And it stays in my brain for a long time and will show up in my dreams.

So naturally, I skim those parts with all the animal killing.

But there is beauty even in something so ugly.

There is a beacon of hope and grace blazing off the otherwise dull pages of Leviticus.

‘Now if anyone of the common people sins unintentionally in doing any of the things which the LORD has commanded not to be done, and becomes guilty, if his sin which he has committed is made known to him, then he shall bring for his offering a goat, a female without defect, for his sin which he has committed. He shall lay his hand on the head of the sin offering and slay the sin offering at the place of the burnt offering. (Leviticus 4:27-29 NASB)

What a beautiful picture of God’s grace. And an unbelievable partnership in the process. God created the way for his people to be clean. But man has to choose to actually do it.

So, what does this mean for us today? We certainly aren’t going around sacrificing animals.

The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! (Hebrews 9:13, 14 NIV)

Through Jesus blood we are clean to the depths of our souls. How truly divine is a plan like this?! Our sanctification comes not from our own acts of cleansing, but from one single act of Jesus.

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For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:15, 22-28 NIV)

And yet there is still a partnership between God and his people. In the old covenant, his people has to choose to obey and sacrifice an animal. In the new covenant, we must choose to accept the free gift of salvation and begin to learn what it means to follow Jesus.

Every day I’m surrounded by Muslims. Often, when meeting with them I’ll ask them about their ceremonial washings before they pray. They will tell me that they must be clean before God from sins they have committed so they wash their hands and mouths and noses and ears and feet. (I’m still not sure how a nose can be part of a sin act.) And my response is always the same: when I gossip, it isn’t my mouth that commits the sin but deep inside of me. How can in cleanse my heart? What can I do to be sure my sins are forgiven?

And there’s no real answer to this because Jesus isn’t in a part of it.

It is only Jesus who saves us from our sins.

It is only Jesus who sanctifies us and allows us the privilege of a relationship.

It is only Jesus.

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