With My Hand on the Lamb
Leviticus 1 describes the procedure for the burnt offerings. Depending on the capacity of the supplicant, various offerings could be made: a bull from the herd, a sheep or a goat from the flock, or a dove or a pigeon for those who were very poor.
The animal or bird was to be a male without defect. But it is the picture given to us in Leviticus 1:3b-5a that made me pause this morning. “…He (the supplicant) must present it at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting (the Tabernacle) so that it will be acceptable to the Lord. He 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. He is to slaughter the young bull before the Lord…”
The one petitioning for forgiveness had to come personally. He couldn’t send a substitute or have anyone intercede on his behalf. HE had to present himself. The sacrifice had to be acceptable. It couldn’t be whatever the person bringing it decided to offer (the story of Cain in Genesis 4 reminds us of the folly of such a choice). The petitioner had to put his hand on the animal—symbolic of the transference of his sin to the animal. And then he had to kill the bull.
We can often look at the cross and blame everyone else for what took Christ to that place. But in the end I have to say that I nailed Him there; it was my sin He took; it was my guilt He assumed. He was MY sacrifice. He atoned for the offenses I had committed against God and made peace between us. And it is me personally who must come to ask forgiveness and recognize what my sin cost Someone who had never committed even one offense.
The description in Leviticus 1 of what then happened to the animals that were sacrificed took my mind to Isaiah 53. We are appalled at the brutality committed against others. But how often do we focus on our minds on the brutality suffered by the Son of God that our sins caused.
“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering…he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows…he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed…he was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth…he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken…Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many and he will bear their iniquities…he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
Did you notice the phrase, “After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied”? Unlike the bull or the sheep or the pigeon, whose deaths were final and irrevocable, Jesus’ death was not the final note in the symphony of salvation. He is alive and the music will go on forever.
But here in the Old Testament, the death of the sacrifice at the hand of the one who had committed the sin would become a solemn reminder of just how terrible sin is and what the cost of gaining forgiveness would involve. The sacrifice of innocent on behalf of the guilty would serve as a reminder, as preparation, for the coming of the One who would ultimately defeat both sin and death forever.
Every day should be Easter in our hearts, but as we prepare for the “official” celebration of the events that took Jesus to the cross, to the tomb, and then to the upper room, may our hearts and minds not stray far from that Lamb upon which you and I lay our hands as we come before Almighty God.