Sacrifices. -- Love in the Ordinance of Sacrifice
Hebrews 9:9
Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices…

I. If we look over the religious practice of all men in all ages, unquestionably the most remarkable fact, common to them all, is the practice of SACRIFICE. "What is its meaning? I find answer thus. Man's Fall was from love into selfishness. All sacrifice is an abnegation of selfishness; a devoting something to God, which otherwise would belong to self. 'All sacrifice is offering — bringing as a gift. Whether sin-offering, or thank-offering, or prayer, or thanksgiving, the essence of all these, which are equally sacrifices, is, the rendering up of ourselves or of that which is or seems to be ours, to God. And sacrifice is a direct recognition of One above us whom we wish thus to approach, and in approaching whom we must deny and go out of ourselves. The creature offered represents the person offering. From this, the transition is the simplest possible, if indeed it be strictly any transition at all, to regarding the death of that animal as representing the death which the offerer's sin has merited; and the infliction of that death as representing the expiation of that sin. And throughout the nations unenlightened by a written revelation, these things were regarded as not only representing, but as actually being, the expiation required.

II. In order to be acceptable to God, the self-sacrifice must be UNRESERVED and COMPLETE. It must be the perfect rendering up of the will to His will, of the being to His disposal, of the energies to His obedience. Now it must be obvious to us, that such full and entire rendering up to God is impossible on the part of man, whose will is corrupted by sin. Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Who can bring entire and perfect obedience out of one whose very leading principle is that of disobedience — whose thoughts and desires are, however his outward conduct may be ordered, in a continual state of rebellion against God? And accordingly the Law, in its typical enactments, set this plainly before the ancient Church.

III. Every victim was to be WITHOUT BLEMISH. God would accept nothing which was corrupted, or imperfect, or contaminated.

IV. Then again, if each man could not for himself fulfil this spiritual meaning of sacrifice — that sacrifice itself taught him something of a SUBSTITUTE for himself, who in his stead might be offered to God. And the Law, working on this, further continually familiarised the people with the idea of one such substitute for all. The lamb of the passover was chosen, one for each household. The daily morning and evening sacrifice was one lamb for the whole people of Israel. The great annual day of atonement witnessed one goat slain for a sin-offering for all the people.

V. But there is plainly more than this — one important element in the meaning of sacrifice is yet unconsidered. Man, as sinful, rests under the just judgment of God. And the conflict of God's will and his own will within him, if it end in his becoming united again to God, must obviously include the entire subjection of his own will, as in all other points so in this — the SUBMITTING TO THE PUNISHMENT OF SIN as part of God's holy will. The animals offered in sacrifice were almost uniformly slain, and the remnants of them consumed by fire, which fire was the well-known symbol of the Divine wrath; which as uniformly, as we observed, were required to be without spot or blemish.

VI. Again, in the substitution indicated by the sacrifice, if any adequate idea of reconciliation to God is to be conveyed, there must be represented a TRANSFERENCE OF GUILT from the offerer to the substitute. For this the Law also took especial care. To mention only one instance: in the ceremonies of the day of atonement two goats are to be offered, typifying the double result of the Redeemer's sacrifice — His death for sin, and His life for righteousness; His dying for our sins, and rising again for our justification.

VII. The next point is this: that some METHOD OF COMMUNICATION of its virtue, and its acceptableness to the offerers, should be indicated. Suppose the one atoning sacrifice represented as Offered; suppose God to be set forth as well pleased with it, and as accepting it: how was the offerer to apply these things to himself? In cases of offering for sin, and uncleanness, the blood of the slain animal was sprinkled or placed on the person of the offender for whom the victim was offered, or on the tabernacle or vessels which represented, in their use for holy things, the instrumentality of the whole people of Israel. In the great sacrifice first ordained, viz., that of the passover, this reconciliation by the imputation of blood shed in the offering was even more plainly pointed out. The blood was ordered to be sprinkled on the lintel and side-posts of the house-door of the family which offered the sacrifice; seeing which blood the destroying angel would pass over the house and would not touch them.

VIII. But more than this participation was signified also by the ceremonial law. The offerers actually PARTOOK of the sacrifice. The substance of the victim actually passed into their bodies, and was assimilated into their substance, and thus the victim became identified with themselves — their flesh and their blood; and the union between the offerer and the offered became the closest possible.

IX. The great and real sacrifice, when offered, is not only to reconcile man to God by the removal of guilt, but to possess a RENOVATING VIRTUE, by means of which man, unable before, shall be first enabled to offer himself, body, soul, and spirit, an offering acceptable to God. In other words, he is not only to be justified by the application of the atonement thus wrought to his person, but he is to be put into a process of SANCTIFICATION, whereby his whole body, soul, and spirit are to be made holy to the Lord. Did the Law in any way sybolise this, the ultimate object, as regards us, of what Christ has done for us? We may trace it in more ordinances than one. In the repeated washings and cleansings with water, of the priests, and all that belonged to the tabernacle service; in the inscription, "Holiness to the Lord," on the forehead of the high priest; but above all in the fact that every sacrifice was ordered to be seasoned with salt — that preservative and restoring power, representing the Spirit of holiness, by which the believers are renovated onto the life Of God.

X. The Law also set forth the Redeemer and His work by PERSONS as well as by ordinances. A more striking type of Him cannot be imagined than the Levitical high priest. It is an interesting question for us, though not the main question, how far these things may be supposed to have been patent to the Jewish worshipper of old — how far he took in his mind the idea of spiritual reconciliation by the sacrifice of a spotless Redeemer. The only answer to such an inquiry must be found in their own ancient interpretations of those remarkable prophecies which relate to the sufferings and atonement of Christ. And it is well kown that in commentaries of theirs, written probably before the Christian era, those passages such as the fifty-third of Isaiah are interpreted as prophecies of their future Messiah. We may also surmise the answer to such a question from the fact that John the Baptist could make use, when speaking to Jesus, himself a Jew, of such words respecting our Lord as theses" Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world." From such facts as these, we are certainly justified in assuming that the meaning of the types in the Law was not altogether unknown to the pious Jew; though whether it influenced, or was intended to influence, his thoughts and the nature of his faith to any great extent, rosy well be doubted. It was perhaps enough for him to be taught, in distinction from all heathen nations, the utter inadequacy of sacrifice or offering to please God; and to be kept shut up under the ceremonial system, in a covenant with God of obedience and fidelity, in the abnegation, if he felt and lived God's law, of all self-righteousness — waiting for the consolation of Israel; looking for the prophetic promises to be fulfilled in God's good time. For he had not only types of Christ, but the voices of the prophets all point onward to the future Redeemer.

(Dean Alford.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience;

WEB: which is a symbol of the present age, where gifts and sacrifices are offered that are incapable, concerning the conscience, of making the worshipper perfect;

The Overtones of Judaism
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