I will spare you from reading the entire chapter here, but I encourage you to check out Leviticus 4. The scripture heading summarizes:“Sinners are forgiven through sin offerings of animals without blemish—Priests thereby make an atonement for the sins of the people.”
The process of offering a burnt-offering, or sacrifice, was done to point to the ultimate Sacrifice that would be given by Christ. There are two parts to understand, and they are relevant for our receiving forgiveness.
1. “Sinners are forgiven through sin offerings of animals without blemish-…”
Obviously, sinners are not actually forgiven because of the sacrifice of the animal. Instead, sinners are forgiven through the sacrifice that is represented here – The blood sacrifice of our Savior – who was without blemish.
Christ was the firstborn, male son. He was perfect. He alone could be the sacrifice that would pay for the sins we commit. Through His sacrifice we can be forgiven.
Sometimes it is hard for me to wrap my brain around this concept. I mean, I can sit and type it up, and even discuss it at some level. But when I really think about it – his sacrifice – my mind starts to hurt a little bit.
Regardless of my ability to relate to this sacrifice or understand it, I know that Christ’s sacrifice enables me to repent. Without it, all hope for any kind of happiness or return to Heavenly Father is lost. Without Christ’s sacrifice, our lives have no meaning.
The sacrifices offered by the ancient Israelites did not save them, instead it pointed them to the coming of a Savior who would also bleed and die for their sins.
2. “…Priests thereby make an atonement for the people.”
Just as the animals sacrificed do not save the people, the priests do not actually atone for the Israelites.
During ancient times, the Israelites could not perform the ordinance of burnt offerings or atonement on their own. They needed a priest – who held authority from God – to act as mediators.
Although the ancient act of burnt offerings seems a little cruel, or at least barbaric, it is nice to glean understanding and wisdom from it. The Lord gave His people a very concrete object lesson through such an exercise. Our need for our Savior: through His blood, and His Mediation is as real for us as it was in ancient times.
This exercise is was only symbolic as the Priest really had nothing to do with the atonement or forgiveness. It was Christ – His power – vested in the priest that forgave the sinner.
I love this object lesson because we learn that we, too, must go to the Priest of priests – who gave his own blood for a sacrifice. Only then can we be atoned and receive forgiveness from our sins.