Happy Easter Sunday! Today’s readings are Leviticus 3-4, Proverbs 19, and Psalm 91.
Note: according to the schedule we were supposed to read Leviticus 2-3 yesterday but I only linked Leviticus 2. Today, we’re caught up.
This devotional is about Leviticus 4.
This chapter of scripture prescribes how the people of Israel were to atone for their sins. This isn’t the first time we’ve read The commands in this chapter are tailored to the type of person who sins:
- an anointed priest who sinned was required to bring a young bull for his sin offering (vv. 1-12). His sacrifice was more costly than that of the other individuals in this chapter because he was guilty of “bringing guilt on the people” as their representative before the Lord.
- if the whole nation sinned, they too were required to sacrifice a young bull as a sin offering for the whole community (vv. 13-21).
- if a leader sinned, he was required to sacrifice a male goat (vv. 22-26).
- if a everyday Israelite sinned, that person was to bring a female goat (vv. 27-31).
There are several things that are worth noting in this chapter, but let’s focus on this one: for all four types of people described in this chapter, the sinner (or his/her representative) was required “to lay his hand on its head” (vv. 4, 15, 24, 29, 33) just before it was slaughtered. Why? Because the animal was about to serve as the sinner’s substitute. When a sinner placed his hand on the animal’s head, he was symbolically transferring his guilt to the animal who would then die in the sinner’s place.
This gesture would remind the person offering the sacrifice how serious sin is. Because of his or her sin, an animal would die. Although the expense of animal life was bloody and costly, it was a merciful concession by God to allow the sinner to live by accepting another’s death as a substitute.
All of this pointed toward Jesus who died as our substitute on Good Friday. Animals couldn’t really be substitutes for sinful people; only another human could die in our place. But just as each animal had to be perfect (“without defect” — vv. 3, 23, 28, 32), so only a perfect man could truly substitute for sinners. This is what Jesus did for us! As we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus today, we can do so knowing that our sins are truly and eternally forgiven. Jesus, the perfect sacrifice, stood in our place, accepted the guilt of our sins, and was punished by God as our substitute. This is why we are accepted by God and can worship him today.