An Expensive Proposition
“Sacrifice these to GOD as a congregation at your set feasts: your Whole-Burnt-Offerings, Grain-Offerings, Drink-Offerings, and Peace-Offerings. These are all over and above your personal Vow-Offerings and Freewill-Offerings.“ – Numbers 29 :39-17 MSG
Reading through chapter 29, I was struck by the sheer number of offerings required by the people of Israel to make. This chapter only covers the seventh month, which was the seventh month of the ecclesiastical year, but the first month of the civil year. When the people came into the land this would be the time of year when they had the most leisure time, because it would fall between the harvest and seeding time. So God seemed to fill it with a wider array of sacrifices and solemn occasions. But in this one chapter alone you have outlined the observances for the Feast of Trumpets on the first day of the month, the Day of Atonement on the tenth day, and the Feast of Booths on the 15th day. In that one month alone the people would sacrifice the following animals:
Male Lambs: 120
Male Goats: 10
That doesn’t include all the other sacrifices that were to be made at various days of the month on an annual basis. In fact, if you look at chapters 28 and 29, it would appear that the yearly offerings, made at the peoples’ expense, without taking into account a vast number of voluntary vow and trespass offerings, would have added up to: goats, 15; kids, 21; rams, 72; bulls, 132; lambs, 1,101. So the total of animals sacrificed at public cost would have been an incredible 1,241. Then if you take into account the huge quantity of lambs slain at the Passover each year, the number goes out the roof. According to Josephus, the Jewish historian, in the time of Christ, the number of lambs sacrificed at Passover in a single year would have been in the vicinity of 255,600. That is an incredible amount of animals.
Think of the cost to the people. These were not there runts of the litter they were sacrificing, but the best. They were to be without blemish. They were the best they had to offer. In an agriculturally based system, this was an expensive proposition. And it was mandatory. No options. No excuses. So what’s the point? What does all this blood and sacrifice have to do with us? In The Expositors Bible Commentary, Ronald Allen says this:
“As we, the modern readers of Numbers, think scripturally, this overwhelming emphasis on sacrificial worship has one intent: to cause each reader to think of the enormity of the offense of our sin against the holiness of God, thus driving the repentant sinner to the foot of the Cross. All sacrifices—whether of the morning or evening, of Sabbath or New Moon—have their ultimate meaning in the death the Savior died. Apart from his death, these sacrifices were just the killing of animals and the burning of their flesh with attendant ceremonies. After his death, sacrifices such as these are redundant—indeed, offensive—for they would suggest that something was needed in addition to the Savior’s death. But before his death, these sacrifices were the very means God gave his people in love to help them face the enormity of their sin, the reality of their need for his grace, and—in some mysterious way—to point them to the coming cross of Savior Jesus.”
Thousands of lambs could never add up to the one sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for us. But they can reveal the incredible cost of sin. And that sin required a payment. The shedding of blood. “In fact, we can say that according to the law of Moses, nearly everything was purified by sprinkling with blood. Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22 NLT). We have forgiveness of sin. And we do not need to offer any more sacrifices. Jesus Christ accomplished it all with the sacrifice of His life in our place. No more blood needs to be shed. No more lives need to be sacrificed.
Father, thank You for reminding me of the costliness of sin. The sheer numbers of animals sacrificed is staggering, and it was all done in order that the people of God might have fellowship with You. But You gave Your Son so that I might have unbroken fellowship with You. His death paid for my sins. His sacrifice satisfied my debt. Never let me take that for granted. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men