The third type of law we will study is the Sacrificial Law, coming into practice after the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, and later expanded into the Priesthood Law after the Exodus from Egypt.
We can be sure that the practice of making sacrifices to God was in existence immediately after He commanded Adam and Eve to leave the Garden because Cain and Abel were offering sacrifices (Genesis 4:3-4). It is reasonable to assume that God instructed the first man and woman in many things in order for them to survive, from hunting and food preparation to making clothes to conducting their new relationship with Him (Genesis 3:21). This would include a means of redemption, albeit temporary, by which Adam and his wife could reconcile themselves to God after their sin and they taught this practice to their offspring. The gravity of the ritual is evident when Cain was so moved by God’s rejection of his offering, he killed his brother because Abel’s offering had been favored (Genesis 4:5, 8).
The next example of offering sacrifices to God is when Noah emerged from the ark (Genesis 8:20). Thinking back to the last lesson about the Sanitary Law, take note that Noah distinguished between clean and unclean animals, using only the clean for the sacrificial offering. This proves that such law existed long before Moses ever met with God on Mount Sinai. Abram (Abraham) built many altars, indicating that the practice of sacrifice was quite commonplace for him (Genesis 12:6-8; Genesis 13:18). When told by God to travel to Mount Moriah (Genesis 22:2) to sacrifice his son Isaac, the story of the most symbolic sacrifice in the Old Testament is related. The offering up of his son places Abram in the role of God the Father sending His Son to die for us, and the substitution of the wild ram for Isaac portrays the surrogate death of Christ for us. The portion of chapter 22 telling this story is listed under Further Study at the end of this lesson.
All of the patriarchs conducted worship and sacrifice upon altars they built every place they traveled to and settled. As the head of their household, the performance of these duties fell on their shoulders, but after the Exodus and the codifying of the law by Moses, the job fell to the Levites as the chosen tribe of priests. With the onset of this major change, an entire set of Priesthood Laws came into being, and worship and sacrifice became more structured. Very specific details of sacrifice for many different purposes were prescribed. The first seven chapters of Leviticus explain all of this. In the next three chapters the duties of the priests are spelled out in great detail. These rituals and ceremonies were still being practiced when Jesus began His ministry.
Jesus made it quite clear that it was not His intention to do away with the law (Matthew 5:17-19) and to instruct others that He had done so would have dire consequences. There is no denying the fact that some laws were rendered void by His death (Hebrews 7:12-14). Priests had to come from the tribe of Levi. Jesus was of the tribe of Judah, a tribe given no altar attendance duties by Moses at all. Since Jesus is now our High Priest (Hebrews 9:11) there had to be a change in the law. Resurrected to eternal life, He is our High Priest forever, fulfilling the duties of the office of high priest by making intercession for us (Hebrews 7:24-27). He is holy, undefiled and being sinless does not need to offer sacrifice first for his own sins. No sacrifice is required today for the people’s sins because He did this once and for all when he offered up himself. In so doing, He took away the ritual of the sacrifice of animals, substituting Himself instead (Hebrews 10:9-10). Since it is obvious that some laws have been “done away” and Jesus said He did not come to destroy the law, He had to be talking about a particular class of law, the Moral Law which represents the very mindset of God and has been in existence for eternity with God.
FOR FURTHER STUDY:
Genesis 22:1-14 The story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac.
Leviticus chapters 1 -10 The different sacrifices and the duties of the priests.
Isaiah 53:7 Old Testament reference to Jesus as a lamb.
1 Peter 1:19 New Testament reference to Jesus as a lamb.
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