Have you ever worn a brand new white shirt only to mar it with an accidental food stain? Even when you try your best to remove the offending mark, the shirt no longer has the same pristine appearance. The blemish is all you see. In the Old Testament, animals, brought to the Temple for sacrifice, were judged on their appearance. Only a spotless animal was considered worthy.
Today’s description of the sin offering highlights three key principles behind the Old Testament sacrifices. First, the animal to be sacrificed had to be perfect, without defect (v. 32). This symbolized their need for a righteous substitute and pointed forward to Jesus Christ, who would one day be sacrificed for sinners like “a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19).
Second, the animal was to be sacrificed or killed in the worshiper’s place, to demonstrate how the substitutionary principle worked (v. 33). This is why people laid their hands on the animal, identifying with it and admitting their sinfulness. All have sinned, and death is the just penalty for sin. The animal died in a person’s place to symbolize the justice of God’s forgiveness. He hadn’t simply waived the penalty. Someone had to die—the animals were “placeholders” until the coming of Christ (Heb. 10:1–6).
Third, atonement for sin required blood sacrifice (vv. 34–35). “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb. 9:22). Hebrews teaches us that Jesus Christ is the perfect fulfillment of the Old Testament sacrificial system. He died on our behalf so that our sin is covered. Not only is Jesus Christ the perfect Shepherd, He was also the perfect Sacrifice.
>> The next time you scrub at a stubborn stain, give thanks to God for the tremendous gift of His Son, Jesus Christ. Because of this gift, your sins are forever washed away. Christ’s righteousness has redeemed us once and for all.