Lesson #3 for October 19, 2013
Notice some important points about the sacrificial system:
1) The sacrificial offerings were ordained by God to be to man a perpetual reminder and a penitential acknowledgment of his sin and a confession of his faith in the promised Redeemer. They were intended to impress upon the fallen race the solemn truth that it was sin that caused death. [Do we really believe that?] To Adam, the offering of the first sacrifice was a most painful ceremony. His hand must be raised to take life, which only God could give. It was the first time he had ever witnessed death, and he knew that had he been obedient to God, there would have been no death of man or beast. As he slew the innocent victim, he trembled at the thought that his sin must shed the blood of the spotless Lamb of God. This scene gave him a deeper and more vivid sense of the greatness of his transgression, which nothing but the death of God’s dear Son could expiate. And he marveled at the infinite goodness that would give such a ransom to save the guilty. A star of hope illumined the dark and terrible future and relieved it of its utter desolation. (PP 68.1) [Content in brackets is supplied.]
2) It is very important to notice what Ellen White said after the above paragraph.
But the plan of redemption had a yet broader and deeper purpose than the salvation of man. It was not for this alone that Christ came to the earth; it was not merely that the inhabitants of this little world might regard the law of God as it should be regarded; but it was to vindicate the character of God before the universe. To this result of His great sacrifice–its influence upon the intelligences of other worlds, as well as upon man–the Saviour looked forward when just before His crucifixion He said: “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all unto  Me.”John 12:31-32. The act of Christ in dying for the salvation of man would not only make heaven accessible to men, but before all the universe it would justify God and His Son in their dealing with the rebellion of Satan. It would establish the perpetuity of the law of God and would reveal the nature and the results of sin. (PP 68.2)
3) The idea of sacrifice suggests that we give up something that is precious to us. But, those first lambs that were sacrificed did not belong to Adam, and he had probably not had any special relationship with them in the past. So, how could it have been a sacrifice for him? Or, were those lambs pets of the couple?
4) It is very clear that Adam and Eve were significantly affected by taking the life or lives of those first animals. What are we supposed to learn from that? The entire universe was watching all of those events from the time of Eve’s sin all the way through to the sacrifice of those first lambs. The sacrifice of the lambs did not make all those beings or God forget what had happened! No matter how costly, sacrifices do not undo our past sins. And when we talk about the sanctuary system, we need to recognize that it is impossible to transfer a person’s sins to an animal and somehow make that animal guilty of what we have done.
5) In light of all of the above, it seems clear that the purpose of these sacrifices was to convince people to stop sinning and that sin is deadly. There is no sacrifice that can undo past sins. And what does the Bible say about the deadliness of sin? ReadGenesis 2:15-17; Isaiah 59:2; andRomans 6:23.
It was to impress Abraham’s mind with the reality of the gospel, as well as to test his faith, that God commanded him to slay his son. The agony which he endured during the dark days of that fearful trial was permitted that he might understand from his own experience something of the greatness of the sacrifice made by the infinite God for man’s redemption. No other test could have caused Abraham such torture of soul as did the offering of his son. God gave His Son to a death of agony and shame.—Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 154.
Wasn’t Abraham’s sacrifice of his son a way to demonstrate the seriousness of sin?
The sacrifice required of Abraham was not alone for his own good, nor solely for the benefit of succeeding generations; but it was also for the instruction of the sinless intelligences of heaven and of other worlds. The field of the controversy between Christ and Satan–the field on which the plan of redemption is wrought out–is the lesson book of the universe. Because Abraham had  shown a lack of faith in God’s promises, Satan had accused him before the angels and before God of having failed to comply with the conditions of the covenant, and as unworthy of its blessings. God desired to prove the loyalty of His servant before all heaven, to demonstrate that nothing less than perfect obedience can be accepted, and to open more fully before them the plan of salvation.
Heavenly beings were witnesses of the scene as the faith of Abraham and the submission of Isaac were tested. The trial was far more severe than that which had been brought upon Adam. Compliance with the prohibition laid upon our first parents involved no suffering, but the command to Abraham demanded the most agonizing sacrifice. All heaven beheld with wonder and admiration Abraham’s unfaltering obedience. All heaven applauded his fidelity. Satan’s accusations were shown to be false. God declared to His servant, “Now I know that thou fearest God [notwithstanding Satan’s charges], seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from Me.” God’s covenant, confirmed to Abraham by an oath before the intelligences of other worlds, testified that obedience will be rewarded.
It had been difficult even for the angels to grasp the mystery of redemption–to comprehend that the Commander of heaven, the Son of God, must die for guilty man. When the command was given to Abraham to offer up his son, the interest of all heavenly beings was enlisted. With intense earnestness they watched each step in the fulfillment of this command. When to Isaac’s question, “Where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham made answer, “God will provide Himself a lamb;” and when the father’s hand was stayed as he was about to slay his son, and the ram which God had provided was offered in the place of Isaac–then light was shed upon the mystery of redemption, and even the angels understood more clearly the wonderful provision that God had made for man’s salvation.1 Peter 1:12. (Patriarchs and Prophets 154.3-155.2)
Our Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide goes on to emphasize two points.
Concerning the sacrifice, Abraham understood two essential principles.class="Section4">
First, no one but God Himself can bring the true sacrifice and the means of salvation. It is the Lord who will, who must, provide. Abraham eternalizes this principle by naming the place “YHWH Jireh,” which means “The-Lord-Will-Provide.” Second, the actual sacrifice is substitutional, one that saves Isaac’s life. The ram is offered “in the place of” Isaac (Gen. 22:13, NASB). That animal, which God provided, prefigures the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, on whom “the Lord has laid . . . the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6, 7; Acts 8:32, NKJV).
God does not regard all sins as of equal magnitude; there are degrees of guilt in His estimation, as well as in that of man; but however trifling this or that wrong act may seem in the eyes of men, no sin is small in the sight of God. Man’s judgment is partial, imperfect; but God estimates all things as they really are. The drunkard is despised and is told that his sin will exclude him from heaven; while pride, selfishness, and covetousness too often go unrebuked. But these are sins that are especially offensive to God; for they are contrary to the benevolence of His character, to that unselfish love which is the very atmosphere of the unfallen universe. He who falls into some of the grosser sins may feel a sense of his shame and poverty and his need of the grace of Christ; but pride feels no need, and so it closes the heart against Christ and the infinite blessings He came to give. (Steps to Christ 30.1)
All true obedience comes from the heart. It was heart work with Christ. And if we consent, He will so identify Himself with our thoughts and aims, so blend our hearts and minds into conformity to His will, that when obeying Him we shall be but carrying out our own impulses. The will, refined and sanctified, will find its highest delight in doing His service. When we know God as it is our privilege to know Him, our life will be a life of continual obedience. Through an appreciation of the character of Christ, through communion with God, sin will become hateful to us. (Desire of Ages 668.3)
A seminary professor tells the experience of when she reluctantly accompanied her husband through the conflict-torn region of the Holy Land to the top of Mount Gerazim at Passover time. Here, the few surviving Samaritans on earth still sacrifice Passover lambs. As the lambs were led to the slaughter, she averted her eyes. But at the last minute, she looked. How utterly awful their deaths were. As she beheld the innocent creatures struggling against the knife, her soul revolted against the callousness of the priest, who was offering the sacrifice. But even more, she found revolting the whole idea of the sacrificial system. Why did innocent animals have to die to point forward to the death of Jesus? On the way back that night, in the light of the full Passover moon, she poured out her bitterness against God for the awfulness of the animal sacrifices until suddenly light from heaven penetrated her darkened mind. She finally began to understand the point: sin is so awful that it cost the life of the innocent Lamb of God. This Sacrifice was the only way that God could get people with their hardened human hearts to see how terrible sin was, how costly our salvation is.
Could you confess your sins on the head of a lamb and then cut its throat and watch it die? Adult Teacher’s Sabbath School Bible Study Guide, p. 36
Among the many sacrifices in the Levitical system, perhaps none provides such a comprehensive, advance presentation of the sacrifice of Christ as the multifaceted Passover service. Ponder the following points:
1. Foundational significance: Passover marks the “beginning of months” (Exod. 12:2).
2. Focus on the lamb (a symbol of Jesus) (Exod. 12:3,John 1:29).
4. A perfect, complete sacrifice (Exod. 12:5, 46; 1 Pet. 1:19; John 19:33, 36).
5. An ample, all-inclusive sacrifice (Exod. 12:4; John 3:16; Romans 3:23, 24; 5:6, 8, 18; 1 Tim. 4:10).
6. Personal appropriation of the sacrifice (Exod. 12:7-8; John 6:53; 1 John 1:7, 9).
7. Propitiatory, substitutionary sacrifice. The lamb was to be “roasted in fire” (Exod. 12:8, NKJV). The fires of divine wrath were poured out upon Jesus, as He took upon Himself the sins of the world and received the punishment we deserved.
© 2013, Kenneth Hart, MD, MA, MPH. Permission is hereby granted for any noncommercial use of these materials. Free distribution is encouraged. It is our goal to see them spread as widely and freely as possible. If you would like to use them for your class or even make copies of portions of them, feel free to do so. We always enjoy hearing about how you might be using the materials, and we might even want to share good ideas with others. So, let us know how you are using them. [email protected]
Last Modified: September 8, 2013
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