Substitutionary Atonement

Scripture: Leviticus 1:3-4, ‘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. 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.’


Observations: The first seven chapters of Leviticus are instructions regarding the sacrificial offerings, the first of which is the burnt offering, which may either by ‘from the heard (a young bull, v3-9),’ from the flock (a sheep or goat, v10-13), or a bird (a dove or pigeon, v14-17). Whichever it is it must be ‘without defect.’ God will only accept the best that his people have to give. Secondly, it must be sacrificed at the Tent of Meeting (the Tabernacle) for it to be ‘acceptable to the Lord.’ The sacrifices must be made according to the Lord’s will or he won’t accept them. Thirdly, the individual making the offering must ‘lay his hand on its head.’ This symbolizes that the offering is a substitution i.e. it dies the death that his sins deserve. In this way the sacrifice ‘makes atonement for him.’ The word atonement basically means ‘to make one again,’ it’s what needs to happen for reconciliation to occur. In this case it’s two-fold. Firstly, the death of the animal appeases God’s anger at sin (propitiation). Secondly, the blood of the sacrifice cleanses the man of his sin (expiation). Sacrifice, may seem brutal but it highlights the seriousness of sin, but also God’s willingness to reconcile sinners with himself.


Application: All these sacrifices ultimately point to God’s plan to send his own Son, Jesus, who would live a perfect life (be without defect), who would spill his blood and die on a cross in order to make atonement for our sin (Rom 3:25; Heb 2:17; 1 Jn 2:2; 4:10). While in the Old Testament they had to lay their hand upon the sacrifice, now we just need to put our faith in Jesus for him to become our substitute and die the death we deserve to appease God’s wrath and cleanse us from our sin. Have you put your faith in Jesus Christ and his death on the cross? Has Jesus appeased God’s wrath for your sins, so that God now looks upon You as his precious child? Has Jesus cleansed you from all your sins so that You may receive eternal life?


Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You that through faith in Jesus Christ all my sins have been dealt with. Lord, I thank You that You poured out Your wrath on Jesus, so that You could pour out Your grace on me. I thank You that through Jesus’ blood I have been cleansed and made clean in Your sight. Lord, I deserve none of Your love and Jesus deserved none of what he suffered, and yet from the beginning You planned Jesus to be the atoning sacrifice for my sins. Lord, may I live each day in the light of Your amazing grace. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

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