Now the Lord called to Moses, and spoke to him from the tabernacle of meeting, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When any one of you brings an offering to the Lord, you shall bring your offering of the livestock — of the herd and of the flock.’

Lev 1:1,2 NKJV

It is now time to immerse ourselves in the Levitical Law, exploring the law of the sacrifice.  This first passage relates to the law of burnt offerings.  In my last blog in this series on Jesus’ life and ministry, I suggested that this topic may make some of my readers uncomfortable.  Many of the cultures around the world today would look at any type of blood sacrifice with serious disdain.  And I personally empathize with this perspective!  In fact, when God gave Adam dominion over the earth, it is my belief that God entrusted him with a true stewardship over this part of His creation – a stewardship which extended to the health and wellbeing of the animal kingdom.  So how, then, do we reconcile God’s institution of a blood sacrifice?  Are we seeing the angry side of a resentful Creator that is mad at His creation and demands the spilling of blood as a way to satiate that anger?  Are we looking at some sort of secret law of the universe that demands one life as a payment for another?  Or are we seeing something altogether different?  This question is at the very core of the Christian faith.  And in order for us to answer it, we must go back to the garden – the Garden of Eden.

And Adam said:
“This is now bone of my bones
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.”
Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.
Genesis 2:23-25

Isn’t this amazing?  They were naked and not ashamed.  Initially, Adam and Eve lived a life of perfection, beauty and wonder because of God’s mercy in creating them with no knowledge of evil.  Their actions could not be evil, because they knew it (evil) not.  What a wonder to live without the ever-present sense of sin-based guilt! But, alas; it didn’t last.  As we’ve studied many times before, the one thing that they were commanded not to do, they did – eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  And in so doing, they doomed mankind to a future of evil and death:

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”

So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”
Genesis 3:6-11

Did you notice Adam and Eve’s first indication that their lives had changed?  Let’s see it again…

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.

Suddenly, Adam and Eve noticed their nakedness and recognized a sense of shame.  But this shame was not simply physical.  I believe that their recognition of nakedness came as much from their spirit as from their bodies.  And while they attempted to cover their physical nakedness (sewing fig leaves together), there was no covering available for their spiritual nakedness.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.  Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”

So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

Genesis 3:8-10

How, then, can fallen man cover the nakedness of a sinful spirit?  The short answer is that he cannot.  The one that sins has no power to remove the stain of that sin.  But the Creator God had a solution.  And that solution entailed the shedding of innocent blood to cover the nakedness of the guilty:

Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.
Genesis 3:21

This is the first recorded act of sacrifice – an animal giving its life in order to clothe the nakedness of a sinful man.  This is the origin of the blood sacrifice.  And we know that this institution of sacrifice continued beyond the garden, as seen in the following passages:

Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, “I have acquired a man from the Lord.” Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat.

Genesis 4:1-4a

And so, the concept of blood sacrifice was instituted.  Due to the rebellion of Adam (eating of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil), we have all been subjected to the futility of sin and evil.  And that evil has no answer, and our sin no redemption outside of the shedding of innocent blood.  How do we know this to be true?

‘And whatever man of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell among you, who eats any blood, I will set My face against that person who eats blood, and will cut him off from among his people. For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.’ Therefore I said to the children of Israel, ‘No one among you shall eat blood, nor shall any stranger who dwells among you eat blood.’

“Whatever man of the children of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell among you, who hunts and catches any animal or bird that may be eaten, he shall pour out its blood and cover it with dust; for it is the life of all flesh. Its blood sustains its life. Therefore I said to the children of Israel, ‘You shall not eat the blood of any flesh, for the life of all flesh is its blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off.’

Leviticus 17:10-14

Do you see it?  The Lord is telling us that the blood makes atonement for the soul.  The life is in the blood, and it’s the blood that makes our atonement.  We will explore this concept in more depth later.  But first, we should understand just a little bit more about life, blood and atonement.

The Hebrew word used here for life is נֶ֣פֶשׁ (nephesh). Nephesh means a breathing creature, and it is used for an animal or person.  This is the same word that is used as “soul”.  Let us examine the first mention of nephesh in the Scriptures.

Then God said, “Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures (נֶ֣פֶשׁ), and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens.”

Gen 1:20-21, NKJV

Notice that this word is first applied to the created animals.  In fact, it is used four times in the first chapter of Genesis alone – in all cases referring to God’s creation of the animal kingdom.  But man (Adam) is not far removed; in fact, our word (נֶ֣פֶשׁ) is used in conjunction with the infusion of life into the first man in Genesis 2:7:

And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being (נֶ֣פֶשׁ).
Genesis 2:7, NKJV

In the above passages, we see from context that the nephesh is the difference between a non-animate body and a living breathing creature. נֶ֣פֶשׁ is not only the life, but it is, in fact, the animating soul.  And how did the נֶ֣פֶשׁ enter the man?

And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being (נֶ֣פֶשׁ).
Genesis 2:7, NKJV

The Lord breathed life into the man.  In other words, Adam’s soul came directly from the breath of God.  And if we step back and think about it, this makes sense.  How do we resuscitate a person that has had a heart attack or drowned?  By breathing into their nose or mouth, adding breath to their lungs.  And where does that breath go?  From the lungs to the blood.  So even in the physiological realm, the life is indeed in the blood.  But I believe that the life God is referring to is much more than the oxygen we breathe.  Let’s examine another passage to see why:

Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?”

He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”

And He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground.
Genesis 4:8-10

Wow!  Do you see it?  The voice of the blood was crying out.  This is a very strange concept!  But in the spiritual realm, Abel’s life (his nephesh, or soul) was crying out to God.  From his blood.  And this is the first mention of the word blood – the spilt blood of an innocent and righteous man at the hands of the unrighteous.  We will come back to this thought.  But this brings us to the subject of the BLOOD…

And He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground.
Genesis 4: 10

The word used here for blood is דָּ֖ם (dam). We have already seen its first mention – above, in the story of Cain’s murder of Abel.  And we have already seen God’s revelation that the life (nephesh) of a creature is in its blood (דָּ֖ם – dam).  So when a blood offering is sacrificed, the life is drained from the sacrifice through its blood, and the blood poured onto the altar to make atonement for sins.  In other words, the life is poured out – or given – to God, and in exchange, He covers the sins of the one presenting the sacrifice.  Which brings us to the concept of ATONEMENT.

Atonement.  What a wonderful word!  It is not a word that most of the world uses today.  And yet it is absolutely fundamental to the future of our souls!  I have highlighted this word in multiple passages already.  But what does it really mean?  Before answering this question, let us examine the word itself.  The Hebrew word for atonement is כַפֵּ֤ר (kaphar).

Strong’s dictionary tells us that kaphar is: “a primitive root; to cover (specifically with bitumen); figuratively, to expiate or condone, to placate or cancel:

KJV – appease, make (an atonement, cleanse, disannul, forgive, be merciful, pacify, pardon, purge (away), put off, (make) reconcile (-liation).

(Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006, 2010 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

So it is used to cover something.  And this is the definition that I have already presented in this blog.  But what does it really mean to “cover” something?  As we’ve done many times before, we will examine the first mention of this word, atonement, כַפֵּ֤ר in order to bring clarity.

And God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch.
Genesis 6:13-14

Do you see it??  Were you expecting a passage related to blood sacrifice?  Were you expecting a passage related to salvation or the removal of sin?  That would be perfectly normal!  And yet, in His infinite wisdom, God has given us a first mention that seems completely removed from these concepts!  Look again:

Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch.
Genesis 6:14

Do you see it?  The ark was to be covered inside and out with pitch…  it was to be “kaphar”ed!  Really? Noah’s ark was “atoned” inside and out with pitch!  And what is the Hebrew the word for pitch?  כֹּֽפֶר) Do you recognize this word?  It is related to atonement – it is literally “kopher”, or a covering!  The ark was “atoned” inside and out with a covering.  Selah.  Let us let this concept sink in and soak us with its beauty and simplicity.

What was the purpose of the ark?  It was to protect Noah and his family.  From what, exactly?  From the wrath of God.  The LORD God brought about the flood through His wrath because of the wickedness of the earth.  Let’s take a look:

Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”
Genesis 6:5-8a

The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.

And God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth.”
Genesis 6:11-13

God chose to destroy the earth due to the corruption, wickedness and violence of flesh upon the earth.  But in His goodness, God chose to save Noah.  Why?  Of all the people on the Earth, why Noah?  Above, I presented only part of verse 8 of the referenced passage.  Let me now complete it:

But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.

Genesis 6:8b

Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.  It’s that simple.  God chose to give Noah grace and favor.  He saved Noah from His just wrath, bringing him through by the first visible act of atonement.

And so, we have:

  1. The נֶ֣פֶשׁ (life/soul) that God imparts to His creatures through His very breath,
  2. The דָּ֖ם (blood) in which the life resides, and
  3. The כַפֵּ֤ר (atonement/covering) that is made for the life, through the blood.

While we do not medically understand the mysterious spiritual and metaphysical nature of the soul, God has given us a clear picture of the relationship between blood, life and atonement.  But none of this yet speaks to the eternal atonement that we are promised as sons and daughters of God.  So there must be more.  And, indeed; there is.  Much more!

Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”
John 6:53-58

Wow.  This is a truly crazy comment.  And if we did not have the Scripture to relate it to us, it would be an unbelievable claim.  If you, my readers, are having difficulty with this verse, you are not alone.  Let’s take a look at the verse immediately following this claim:

Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?”
John 6:60

But this was not the only time Jesus made such a statement.  Let’s take a look at some more passages that lead up to the one that we are studying:

And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”
John 6:35

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”
John 6:47-51

What exactly was Jesus telling us?  Was He alluding to some cannibalistic ritual glorifying the eating of human flesh and drinking of human blood?  By NO means!  Jesus would never give us instructions contrary to the Father’s Law and instruction.  There must be something else in His statements – something under the surface.  To explore this, let’s take a look at an event that occurred the very night before His death – as He was celebrating the Passover with His disciples.

When the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. Then He said to them, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”

Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”

Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.
Luke 22:14-20

Do you see it?  Here is His message again:  You must eat my flesh.  You must drink my blood.  But in this case, we see that Jesus is using the Passover feast to symbolize (in advance) the breaking of His body and the spilling of His blood.  And did you notice who His body was being broken for?  You.  And who His blood was being shed for?  You.

The Passover is an immensely important feast in the history of the Jewish nation.  It celebrates God’s work in bringing the Jews out of bondage in Egypt.  But, more importantly, it celebrates the blood of the Passover lamb that was shed in order to save the lives of the firstborn of the children of Israel.

Now the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, “This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying: “On the tenth of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next to his house take it according to the number of the persons; according to each man’s need you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats. Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight. And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it. Then they shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. Do not eat it raw, nor boiled at all with water, but roasted in fire—its head with its legs and its entrails. You shall let none of it remain until morning, and what remains of it until morning you shall burn with fire. And thus you shall eat it: with a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. So you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover. “For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.”
Exodus 12:1-13

So here we see the Passover lamb acting as a blood sacrifice for the children of Israel.  And who, then is the fulfillment of the Passover lamb?  Our Lord Jesus.  And what is Jesus telling us?  That we must symbolically eat His flesh (as the Passover lamb), and drink His blood (His life is in His blood) in order to gain eternal life.  The writer of Hebrews expands on this whole thought process (this is a very long passage; read through the end!):

Now when these things [the Tabernacle] had been thus prepared, the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services. But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance; the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing. It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience— concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation.

But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.

For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives. Therefore not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God has commanded you.” Then likewise he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry. And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.

Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another— He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.
Hebrews 9:6-28

For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.

Therefore, when He came into the world, He said:
“Sacrifice and offering You did not desire,
But a body You have prepared for Me.
In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin
You had no pleasure.
Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come—
In the volume of the book it is written of Me—
To do Your will, O God.’ ”

Previously saying, “Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them” (which are offered according to the law), then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.” He takes away the first that He may establish the second. By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Hebrews 10:1-10

I know that this is a difficult passage!  But do you see it?  This passage draws a bow around the entire concept of the blood sacrifice!

He takes away the first that He may establish the second. By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

What does He take away?  Offerings according to the Law!  And what does He establish?  God’s will.  And what is that will?  That we be “sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”  So finally, how does Jesus fulfill the Law of the Blood sacrifice??  By giving Himself as the ultimate sacrifice!  That we may eat of His flesh and drink of His blood and have life – eternal life!  Selah!

Wow – what a wise and caring God we have!  How can we not be eternally thankful for the picture – and the fulfillment of our eternal redemption?

May God bless your study of His perfect Word!




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