My family moved off the farm when I was young, but I remember hearing about the daily regimen of chores. One of the tasks a dairy farmer has to complete every day is the milking of the cows. Cows don’t take a sick day or a vacation day. They need to be milked every day. It’s a task you can never escape.
There was a similar daily chore that the nation of Israel faced. It didn’t have to do with the milking of cows; it had to do with the sacrificing of lambs. The Law prescribed that Israel had to offer the blood of an unblemished lamb on the altar to atone for sin. This chore was to be repeated day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. This was God’s prescribed means of dealing with sin.
Leviticus 4 outlines the procedures for these sin offerings. The average Israelite would have been well acquainted with these instructions. They sinned, and they knew they required a sacrifice.
But there were three main problems with this sacrificial system. First, it was continual, not final. It was just like those cows that needed to be milked every morning. You couldn’t get away from it. There was never a final sacrifice.
Second, the sacrificial system could not change the inclination of the heart toward sin. The sacrifices could not bring full reunion between God and His people. The barrier of the veil before God’s presence in the Most Holy Place kept out the people. Third, the sacrificial system brought a constant reminder of sin, but not remission of sin.
God sent His Son Jesus to earth to provide full atonement, making it possible for people to be in complete fellowship with God. He offered His own blood, presenting His perfect, sinless life before God to atone for sin. The incredible significance of Jesus’ coming to earth is perhaps best summed up by the words of John the Baptist, when he first laid eyes on Christ. "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29).
By calling Christ the "Lamb of God," John the Baptist specified that this would indeed be the final sacrifice. And then Jesus promised the Holy Spirit, who would fulfill the promises of Jeremiah 31 and ensure that God’s people have a new heart. Now it is possible to have our inclination toward sin changed through the work of the Spirit, enabling us to live in a way that pleases God.
Christ came to earth to take away both the penalty for sin and the practice of sin, so that we can have a relationship with Him and become like Him. May we never take for granted Christ’s willingness to become man to take away our sins (1 John 3:5).