The whole idea behind the complex sacrificial system of the Old Testament is foreign to our modern western society, but at least a general understanding of its significance is essential if we want to understand what Scripture means when Jesus is identified by John the Baptist as the Lamb of God.
In Genesis 4, we learn of the first offerings mentioned in Scripture, those of Cain and Abel. By the time of Abraham, the people God had set aside as His own were very familiar with the idea of sacrifice. When God delivered the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt, the Passover celebration included the sacrifice of a lamb.
“Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats…” Exodus 12:3-5 ESV
Once the tabernacle was made according to God’s detailed instructions and the priests were consecrated, a daily system of sacrifices began.
“”Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two lambs a year old day by day regularly. One lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight.” Exodus 29:38-39 ESV
Hebrews 10:11 tells us that these daily sacrifices lacked the power to take away sins. So why did God give such detailed instructions concerning the sacrificial system? I believe there were two reasons: First, God wanted His people to understand that sin separates us from God and that the penalty of sin needed to be paid. And second, the symbolic offering of lambs was a picture of the single sacrifice for all sins that would be offered by Christ.
“And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” Hebrews 10:11-14 ESV
Christ Jesus as the Lamb of God is the fulfillment of the sacrificial system of the Old Testament. He also is our Passover Lamb, sacrificed during the time of the Passover memorial. By shedding His blood on the Cross, Jesus once of all time made atonement for our sin and restored us to relationship with God. 1 Peter 1 tells us this was God’s plan all along. And the following verses remind us of the difference these truths are to make in how we live our lives.
“And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” 1 Peter 1:17-21 ESV
Lord Jesus, I am eternally grateful that You are the Lamb of God, an acceptable sacrifice because You are without blemish or spot. Thank You for paying the penalty for my sins and making a way for my relationship with God to be restored.