1 “On the first day of the seventh month you shall have a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work. It is a day for you to blow the trumpets, 2 and you shall offer a burnt offering, for a pleasing aroma to the Lord: one bull from the herd, one ram, seven male lambs a year old without blemish; 3 also their grain offering of fine flour mixed with oil, three tenths of an ephah for the bull, two tenths for the ram, 4 and one tenth for each of the seven lambs; 5 with one male goat for a sin offering, to make atonement for you; 6 besides the burnt offering of the new moon, and its grain offering, and the regular burnt offering and its grain offering, and their drink offering, according to the rule for them, for a pleasing aroma, a food offering to the Lord.
7 “On the tenth day of this seventh month you shall have a holy convocation and afflict yourselves. You shall do no work, 8 but you shall offer a burnt offering to the Lord, a pleasing aroma: one bull from the herd, one ram, seven male lambs a year old: see that they are without blemish. 9 And their grain offering shall be of fine flour mixed with oil, three tenths of an ephah for the bull, two tenths for the one ram, 10 a tenth for each of the seven lambs: 11 also one male goat for a sin offering, besides the sin offering of atonement, and the regular burnt offering and its grain offering, and their drink offerings. – Numbers 29:1-11 ESV
Beginning in Numbers 28 and continuing through chapter 29, Moses provides a synopsis of the various public sacrifices that the people of Israel were required to make. There was a daily sacrifice of two lambs, as well as a sacrifice of two additional lambs each Sabbath day. On the first day of each month, they were to sacrifice two bulls, one ram, seven lambs, and one goat. Then, during each day of the seven-day-long Feast of Unleavened Bread, they were to sacrifice two bulls, one ram, seven lambs, and one goat. During Pentecost or the Feast of Weeks, they were to offer the same number of sacrifices. On the first day of the seventh month, they were to offer one bull, one ram, seven lambs, and one goat. On the Day of Atonement, they were to offer the same thing. Then for eight straight days during the Feast of Booths, they were to offer their largest number of sacrifices:
Day 1– 13 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs, 1 goat
Day 2 – 12 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs, 1 goat
Day 3 – 11 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs, 1 goat
Day 4 – 10 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs, 1 goat
Day 5 – 9 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs, 1 goat
Day 6 – 8 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs, 1 goat
Day 7 – 7 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs, 1 goat
Day 8 – 1 bull, 1 ram, 7 lambs, 1 goat
And each and every one of the sacrifices was to made “to the Lord.” They were to be a pleasing aroma to Him and were to be offered as an atonement for their sins and in order to maintain a right relationship with Him in the days to come. There were many sacrifices because of the sheer volume of sins among a nation of so many people. There was never an end to the need for the making of sacrifices and the atoning for sins. It was to be a perpetual requirement for the people – UNTIL God instituted a better plan.
There was a day coming when God would send His Son as the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of mankind. He would provide a permanent solution to man’s sin problem.
In John 6, we read the words of Jesus stating, “It was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:32-33 ESV).
Under the system God established for the people of Israel, the sacrificial animals had to be provided by the people. They had to offer unblemished animals to God on their own behalf. But in the scenario that Jesus paints, He describes Himself as a sacrifice given by God for the people. Jesus used some very strange language that confused His disciples. He spoke of Himself as the bread of life and said, “This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (John 6:50-51 ESV).
His choice of words shocked His hearers.
“How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” – John 6:52 ESV
But rather than clarify His message, Jesus responded with more of the same.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” – John 6:53-54 ESV
Of course, Jesus was not speaking of the literal consumption of His flesh and blood. He was referring to trust and belief in the coming sacrifice of His life on the cross for the sins of mankind. When we take in food, we trust that it will sustain us and supply us with life, In the same way, Jesus was saying that men will be required to “take in” His death on the cross, believing that it alone can provide them with forgiveness of their sins and eternal life.
But Jesus points out that this particular sacrifice was provided for us by God. He did what only He could do. In the book of Hebrews we read, “For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:1-4 ESV).
Until God sent His Son as a sacrifice for the sins of mankind, the people of God were caught in a cycle of sin and sacrifice. Their best efforts to remain in a right relationship with God were temporary and incomplete. They had to bring their best animals and sacrifice them to God in order to stave off their own execution for their sins. But in the New Testament, we read of God sacrificing His best in order to atone for the sins of mankind.
Paul tells us, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 ESV). God provided the singular and all-sufficient sacrifice of His Son – for us. In essence, the sacrifice of Jesus should be a “pleasing aroma” to us. This sacrifice was made for our benefit and for our consumption. And not only do we receive forgiveness from sin, but we also gain life – eternal life.
Jesus told His audience, “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:40 ESV). He was offering a permanent solution to the problem of sin, through His shed blood and crucified body. And yet, the people of His day were more concerned with literal bread and their own sad, temporary lives. They had come to Jesus seeking more food because He had miraculously fed them the evening before. He had filled their stomachs with bread and fish, and they craved more of the same.
When Jesus spoke of bread from heaven that gives life to the world, they responded, “Sire, give us this bread always” (John 6:34 ESV). But they wanted real bread, not the metaphorical or spiritual kind. They were stuck on a temporal, earthly plane, and failed to see that God was providing an offering for them that would do for them what they could never do for themselves.
It amazes me to think that God made a sacrifice on my behalf. He sent His Son to die for me. In the Old Testament sacrificial system, the people had to provide their own sacrifice, and it could only forestall or delay the inevitable reality of death. It could prolong life on this planet, but not provide life for eternity. Their sacrifices were temporal and eventually, ineffective at sustaining life. But God’s offering of His Son’s body and blood provides everlasting life. Jesus said, “Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever” (John 6:58 ESV).
All I have to do is receive God’s offering and believe that it is sufficient to pay for my sins and provide life more abundantly, both now and for eternity. Just as I eat bread and rely on it to sustain me, I must consume the sacrifice of God’s Son and allow Him to provide me with life everlasting. God has made a sacrifice on my behalf. He has sent His Son to die in my place. No more lambs, goats, bulls, or rams. Jesus offered Himself to God as a pleasing aroma, an acceptable sacrifice. And God offered His Son for me as a permanent solution to my ongoing sin problem. I live because He died. The sacrifice of Jesus by God was done for me, but not because of me. I didn’t deserve it. I had not earned that kind of gift. It was while I was in the depth of my own sin and hopelessness that God sent His Son as an offering on my behalf. The Son of God became the Bread of Life so that I might have eternal life. “We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:10 ESV).
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.