What was animal sacrifice all about in the Old Testament?
Updated: Feb 26, 2021
I was in Thailand when a teenaged Australian girl had a sleepover in a village with people I knew. The warm-hearted Thais wanted to do something special in her honour so they sat her down outside and slaughtered a pig in front of her. She was a city girl and promptly went into catatonic shock for a day.
Our western culture is not accustomed to seeing the killing of animals yet in ancient Hebrew society this was a regular event. Under the Law of Moses, the Israelites would witness the pouring out of the animal’s blood before they would eat the animal meat (Lev. 17:14).
Why? Blood is edible and many cultures incorporate it in their cuisines. It even has health benefits for those with anaemia. Why did God get His people to go to the trouble of separating the blood from the meat?
Everything in the Law of Moses was a preparation for the work of Jesus (Gal. 3:24). In their everyday life, God was teaching the Israelites, and us, that the blood represents life and Jesus’ life was going to be poured out for us. His perfect life was given instead of our sinful lives. He took the punishment that was due to us. The shedding of Jesus’ blood means that our spirits can be made whole. “According to the law of Moses, nearly everything was purified with blood. For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.” (Heb. 9:22 NLT)
His broken body took our diseases and sicknesses so that our bodies and souls could be healed and made whole. “He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. (Isa. 53:5 NLT)
Matt. 8:16-17 quotes Isaiah and confirms that part of Jesus’ atonement included the healing of our diseases. “That evening many demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus. He cast out the evil spirits with a simple command, and he healed all the sick. This fulfilled the word of the Lord through the prophet Isaiah, who said, “He took our sicknesses and removed our diseases.”
The atonement of Jesus gave us complete restoration. Our sins have been forgiven and the effects of sin on our lives, sickness, disease, shame, emotional brokenness, have been healed.
O LORD, if you heal me, I will be truly healed; if you save me, I will be truly saved. My praises are for you alone! (Jer. 17:14 NLT)