Hands, Eyes and Hearts on the Sacrifice – Exodus 29:15-21

The verses we have just read describe a part of the dedication service for Israel’s first priests. In some ways the sacrifice involved in this ceremony was unique. But in other ways it was much like the daily burnt offerings or any of the personal sin offerings. In this case two full-grown male sheep had their throats slit, and as their blood gushed out at someone’s feet, much of it was collected in some sort of bowl. That blood was then sprinkled and applied to Aaron and his sons in their consecration as God’s servants. Those men came away smeared with blood, smelling like blood, and probably tasting a bit of that blood. It was on their clothing, on their faces, and possibly soaking through to their arms and chests.

Without that blood they would not have been properly prepared for their priestly service. In fact without blood they would be in Hell today, because as God said later in Leviticus 17:11 – “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an ATONEMENT for the soul.” There will never be an atonement – a covering for sin – without the shedding of blood. NEVER. Not even today.

My message this morning flows out of the blessing of a sermon which I heard the other day. A week ago yesterday the Oldfields and Fultons took in a special service at the Landmark Missionary Baptist Church of Spokane. That is the church pastored by Cliff Foster; a fella who has come to a couple of our men’s prayer meetings. There were two speakers on Saturday. The first message was preached by a man from Florida and was called “Faith equals Righteousness.” The second message was entitled “The Reality of the Blood Sacrifice.” It was delivered by an Arkansas pastor, who also farms and raises a few animals. He spoke from a background which I do not possess, so there is no way I can duplicate his message. But using with his thoughts, the Lord has put a different message in my heart to share with you.

I will begin by quoting two of that man’s statements – while trying to keep Leviticus 17:11 in mind. He said, “For us to live something must die.” When we buy that ground beef in the store, we often forget that an animal had to die before that neat, clean package could be placed on those shelves. In order to enjoy that tasty piece of fish one of God’s creatures had to die a painful death. And even for the vegan, it might be argued – your baked potato required the death of a potato plant. Additionally, and more importantly – for you to possess eternal life, the eternal Son of God had to die. A second thing I jotted down from that message went something like this – “to witness the death and sacrifice of any living thing should hurt us – it should cause us pain.”

Let’s approach our subject from two directions this morning. Let’s start theologically but finish practically.

The Biblical doctrine of “imputation.”

Earlier we heard Bro. Kjeldgaard read from Paul’s consideration of Abraham and David in Romans 4. “What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. “Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” Abraham believed God, “being fully persuaded that, what (God) had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it SHALL be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.”

Five times in Romans 4 we read some form of the word “impute.” And it is also in verse 3 where the Greek word is translated “counted unto him.” The word means something like“transferred” or“reckoned.” Abraham believed God, and it was COUNTED unto him for righteousness.” “Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God IMPUTETH righteousness without works. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not IMPUTE sin.” Abraham believed God, “And … that faith was CONSIDERED BY GOD as righteousness to him.” And for us, Paul adds, when we believe that Christ Jesus was “ delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” our faith shall be imputed, or counted unto US, for righteousness.

Of course, Paul got this language from the original account of Abraham’s life. Genesis 15:5-6 – “And the Lord brought (Abram) forth aboard, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. And (Abram) believed in the LORD; and (God) COUNTED it to him for righteousness.” Paul is not the only one in the New Testament to use this word and teach this doctrine. James says, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was IMPUTED unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.”

We started this morning with a description of the consecration of Aaron to the ministry. One of the things which Aaron and his sons did was to put their hands on the ram. That symbolical act is mentioned three times in that chapter. Earlier, in verse 10 they placed their hands on the head of a bullock before he was sacrificed. And then in verse 15 – “Thou shalt also take one ram; and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands upon the head of the ram.”

What was the meaning or purpose of that act? It takes us forward to Romans 4 and IMPUTATION. When Aaron solemnly touched the sacrifice, by faith and in the sight of God, he was imputing, or transferring, his sins to the sacrifice, and in a sense he was receiving to himself the righteousness, or innocence, of the animal. And again I say with Paul – when WE believe that Christ Jesus was “ delivered for OUR offences, and was raised again for OUR justification” our faith is imputed – or counted – unto us for righteousness.

It is always surprising, but it is oh so common, for two men’s sermons to blend into a single message. It often takes place here, when Bro. Fulton preaches one message on a Sunday and I give you another. Sometimes the Spirit combines those two separate messages into another point – entirely different from what either of us expected. And there was an example of that on Saturday. The first message was called “Faith equals Righteousness.”

How does faith equal righteousness? Well, in reality, it doesn’t. But when sinners put their faith in the finished work of Christ, Paul says that there is a divine imputation of Christ’s righteousness to those sinners. When sinners trust the Redeemer, the iniquity of their sins is placed upon the sacrificial Lamb of God, and His righteousness is imputed to the believer. The believer can say with Peter, Christ “his own self bare (my) sins in his own body on the tree, that (I), being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes (I was) healed.” The Son of God died on the cross carrying away the guilt and the curse of the repentant believer. And God in grace transfers the righteousness of the Son of God to that believer. “For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” “Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.”

That in a nut shell is “the doctrine of imputation.” The reality behind the theology is absolutely essential for your salvation. “Imputation” was not really the Arkansas preacher’s theme last Saturday. But now I’m going to expand on what he did share with us.

The sacrifice for sin was a real, bloody, horrifying event.

When Aaron, and his sons, Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar, placed their hands on the heads of that bullock and those rams, preparing for their sacrifice, it may have been the first time they had ever done this. There had been an earlier sacrifice, and we will return that, but this was their first official offering. Now, put yourselves in the sandals of Ithamar or one of the others. Someone has brought to you the animal which is to give his life that you might live and to serve God. Look at that ram; look at that bullock. Is he peaceful or is he pulling at the rope a bit? Is that animal worried? Is he moaning, bleating or mooing? As you lay your hand on his head, you feel the hair and you feel the animal’s warmth. You brush one its soft ears and you look down – the animal is looking up with its large frightened eyes. Momentarily your eyes meet before you look away – you want to look anywhere except back into that face. In that moment of visual and tactile contact you and the animal become one.

Then someone comes along, reaching under the animal’s head with a razor-sharp knife. He pulls the weapon across his throat. You hear a gurgle and suddenly there is blood spewing out onto the ground and splattering everywhere. The animal with whom you had locked eyes moments before is now falling to the blood-soaked earth at your feet.

Do you have any idea how much blood there is in a 140 pound ram? About a gallon. Suddenly there is a milk jug’s worth of 100 degree, rich red blood, staining everything it touches. That ram is nothing compared to the bullock, which has about 10 gallons of blood. When that animal died there were about two 5 gallon buckets of blood quickly spilling out. And why? So that you might be right with God – either to serve Him or to be reconciled Him. The animal with whom you were joined by hand and eye is now dead that you might live. “For us to live something must die.”

People who grow up and live on a farm may become accustomed to the slaughter of animals. But I’m not one of those people, and most of you aren’t either. Do you suppose, being like us, Eleazar might have lost his lunch the first time he witnessed such a thing? Would you have desecrated that solemn ceremony by puking up your breakfast?

Our preacher on Saturday told us that he taught his children how to slaughter hogs and chickens. He said it was important for them to know from where their food comes. But he had to admit that when it came time to kill their food for the coming season, they would often trade animal for animal with their neighbors. At least that way, his girls would not have to kill and eat the animals they raised, named and played with. It is best not to make pets out of livestock – beef-stock.

Now let’s jump forward and consider King David. As you know, David was not raised in a palace; he wasn’t a king or a prince all his life. When the Lord called him to his exalted position, he was a shepherd. We are told that as a young man he risked his life protecting his sheep – defending them against a lion and a bear. Do you suppose he loved his sheep? If he did, was it individually or collectively? Did he have special affection for one or two sheep, or did he love them all equally? Were any of those sheep pets of David?

We are a society where pets are very common. In some families, it might be said that pets rule the household. But that was not generally true in ancient Israel. Those people didn’t have lap dogs, budgies and house cats.

But let me take you to a very special case in II Samuel 12. After David’s horrible sin with Bathsheba and her husband, the prophet Nathan came to him with a story. “And the LORD sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor. The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds: But the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter. And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man’s lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him.” When David, a man who probably loved sheep, heard what he thought was a horrible crime, he was furious. It was common enough in Israel for a man to bring a sheep or a goat into his house that this story didn’t surprise the king. Sometimes animals were orphaned and needed to be warmed and hand-fed or they would die. And apparently sometimes they were treated as we do our pets – “and (it) was unto him as a daughter.” Nathan then used the story to rebuke the king who had himself stolen a lamb from the house of a neighbor.

I bring this to your attention before taking you to another sacrifice – the first sacrifice in the nation of Israel. Please turn to Exodus 12:1 – “And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house.”

What is the meaning of “they shall take to them every man a lamb?” Doesn’t it mean, “to separate from the flock,” or buy from the market, a lamb and bring it into the home? I don’t know if it was universal, but for many families, the only place they could keep a lamb was in their houses, perhaps in their bedrooms – “as a daughter.” Verse 6 – “And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it.” Verse 11 – “And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the LORD’S passover.”

Remember that at the first Passover, the people of Israel were slaves; people of poverty; destitute. They couldn’t afford 20 lb sacks of dog food or 21 cans of cat food a week. They didn’t have pets at all. But into their homes were brought some of the cutest animals on the face of the earth – lambs or baby goats – kids. It wouldn’t be just the little girls of the family that fell in love with that animal; even the stodgiest father joined them. Remember too that Israel’s food consisted of pulse and vegetables – leeks and garlics. I doubt that very many of these had ever eaten flesh – meat. Most had never slaughtered animals for food – particularly their own.

But then after falling in love with this young animal, and caring for its every need for four days, Dad was required to slit its throat, collect its blood, skin it out and give it to mother to roast for the Passover meal. Remember, most of these men had never killed an animal like this. They certainly didn’t know how they would do it while collecting the blood. They had to involve others from the family – probably at least the first born son. And together, they had to look into the wide, unblinking eyes of their new pets. While the younger children screamed, asking why dad had that horrible knife and their new friend, father had to say, “for you to live something must die.”

Now lets go to another ghastly sacrifice found in Genesis 22. Abraham and his son Isaac, at the command of God, were climbing up the hill of Moriah. Isaac was no child – not an young teenager – he was a young man in his strength and prime. On his back was enough firewood to burn a sacrifice for several hours – he was burdened with the load. Abraham, the old man, was carrying little more than a torch and a knife. And half way up to the top of the hill Isaac said, “Behold the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” His father replied, “My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering.” But Abraham had been told before they left home that it was Isaac who would be sacrificed that day. Abraham was expecting to have to slice the throat of his son, his only son, whom he loved more than anything in the world. But as you know, God stopped him before the knife was pulled, and the Lord provided a ram as a substitute.

The sacrifice of Isaac – or the potential sacrifice of Isaac – had been tearing the heart out of that elderly man. He had put his hands on this sacrifice every day since Isaac’s birth. He had looked into his eyes a millions times. Can you imagine the pain in that man’s heart? That grief and anguish is suppose to approach the pain the believer feels when he considers the sacrifice of Christ.

And – the offering of Isaac, is a picture of the sacrifice Jehovah made of His only begotten son – Christ Jesus. It is another example of the fact that “for you to live something must die” – but not just “some THING.” The most precious thing in the world – in the heart of God – must die for us to live. To have eternal life. And He must not just die, but die in the most bloody and horrible fashion imaginable.

Conclusion:

Why am I going through all of this? Because I want you to understand that the sacrifice and death of the Lamb of God was just as bloody, brutal and devastating as the death of the very first Passover Lamb. I’m not sure that the analogy remains true in the case of Christ, but there is about 1½ gallons of blood in an adult human body. When the Lord Jesus hung on the cross and died, He had been bleeding profusely from wounds around His head, and oozing from His back, which was stripped of most of its skin. There may not have been much blood dripping from His hands, because of their position relative to His heart, but I’m sure that around the nails in His feet there was a lot of blood – the last blood flowing through His veins. And when the spear went into His side, spilling out the fluid around His heart and lungs it too was tainted with blood. Can’t we lawfully say that shortly after Christ died there was no more blood left in Him?

The Bible has much to say about the shed blood of the Lord’s greatest sacrifice. “In (Christ) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” “For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” “The blood of Jesus Christ (God’s) Son cleanseth us from all sin.”

Again, why am I preaching like this today? Because you must look into the eyes of this sacrifice and you must put your hands on His head before there can be any imputation of your sin to the Saviour or His righteousness to you. You must understand to some degree that Jesus’ death was truly a sacrifice of the highest order. It was a vicarious – a substitutionary sacrifice. Until you become identified with Him by faith, you will remain in your sins – lost and condemned to hell. If you will not make God’s Passover Lamb your own by faith, you will never escape the condemnation of your sins.

I plead with you – put your hands on dying Lamb of God this morning. Trust the sacrifice He made on the cross. Repent before God and rest on the Saviour.