Just as all the various messianic strands found their fulfillment in
Jesus, so too did all the sacrificial system.
And the appeal of the various sacrifices in non-biblical religions also
was satisfied uniquely in the sacrifice of Jesus.
If a man or woman destroyed the property of another, the offender had to repay the victim, restoring like for like. Some aspects of sacrifice (e.g., reparation offerings) focused on this community repair.
Some (but not most) aspects of some sacrifices looked like what we would call today "fines." Since the "money" of the day consisted of livestock, fines were paid in that 'currency'.
The community had been created by God, and His people were His 'portion' in the world. When someone would do damage to a community member, there was also a "loss" to the Community Owner and original Community Member, and it too had to be "made good." Since all sin weakened the community to a greater or lesser extent, God had to be "paid back" for the damage. God took His payment in the currency of the day--livestock and agricultural products. Once the payment had been given over to God, and was now His property, God was free to do with it as He pleased: some of it He gave to His workers (i.e., the priests), some He gave to the poor and disadvantaged, some He used as "object lessons" (e.g., burnt offerings, post-exodus Passover lambs), but most of it He used in community and family celebration--to actively build community bonds. Since these sacrifices were at the center of the main community institutions, community life constantly reminded the Israelite of their relationship to the God of the Exodus. All of these uses of sacrifice by God added value and goodness "back into" the community, to help make up for the damage originally done.
The burnt offerings were a special category, which functioned like a perpetual reminder that (1) everything was the Lord's already; that (2) He had absolute authority over what was His (including Israel!), and that (3) His absolute commitment to His people was to be matched by their absolute commitment to Him (in order to enjoy the incredible blessings He had designed for the community of which He was the founding Member).
Sacrifices were pervasive in the life of the Israelite, as a constant reminder that God's ways and laws were only intended for community and individual welfare, and that deviations from that community design robbed the community of those intended blessings. They also functioned as a constant reminder that sin was not only a community issue, but also a personal issue--the offender had to approach God with a heart of honesty about the offense (and self-judgment in the process, obviously), and an action of relinquishing some personal property/value (e.g., livestock) as a just recompense to God. Sacrifices always cost something, and always required confession (by the very act of coming forward) and faith (that God had to be taken seriously).
Some sacrifices involved the notion of substitution--that the animal took the place of the community, select individuals, or offender (e.g., the scapegoat, original Passover lamb).
Sacrifices were expressions of an inward attitude and commitment. Sacrifices that were merely ritualistic were described as "worthless" or "empty" or even "treacherous." Israel was unique in ancient history in one aspect of her sacrificial system: the concept of atonement as the repairing of personal communion with God, as a way to facilitate the constructive and creative interaction between Falling Humanity and a perfect, yet eager to bless, God.
Every sacrifice reminded Israel that she had been redeemed by God and
was still in an interpersonal and corporate covenant with her Redeemer...
"Secondly, Jewish sacrificial worship was more expensive. There was a large hereditary priesthood that was supported by non-priests. In Greece and Rome priesthood was not a profession or a caste. In Rome, and not infrequently in the Greek-speaking world, it was an honour to be a priest, an honour reserved for the elite; like other honorary positions it was sometimes expensive for the office holder. Rulers whom we now think of as generals, conquerors, kings and emperors were also priests. Julius Caesar was a high priest. Alexander the Great, in his triumphant conquest of much of the known world, sacrificed regularly. In Greece and Rome, it is difficult to understand just what a priest was because the 'distinction between civic magistracy and priesthood' is elusive. Those who wanted to get on in the world sought priestly appointments (e.g. Pliny the Younger). In Judaism, on the other hand, priestly office was hereditary, priests were forbidden to support themselves by working the land, and the care and feeding of the priesthood were substantial costs borne by the rest of society, especially farmers. Another element that made Jewish sacrificial worship expensive was the use of holocausts, 'whole-burnt offerings', of which there were at least two each day in the Jerusalem temple. Such sacrifices were unknown in Greece. In Judaism, although a majority of the sacrifices provided food for the priest and/or the worshipper, some animals were entirely consigned to the altar. In Greece all sacrificed animals were eaten, and the gods usually got only some of the bones. In this second case, the expense of religion and the importance of a priestly caste, we can find parallels to Judaism in Babylonia, Egypt and other countries." [E.P. Sanders, JPB:50f]
1. Acts of love and mercy:
"In another place, with reference to Prov 21.2, it is pointed out that
the superiority of practicing the works of charity and justice over sacrifices
consists in this, that whilst the atoning effect of the former extends
also to the sins committed willfully, that of the latter is confined only
to sins committed unintentionally" [Deut R., 5.8] (Solomon Schechter, Aspects
"Rabbah Johanan ben Zakkai was the authority for 'Even as the sin-offering
makes atonement for Israel, so does charity make atonement for the Gentiles.'
[Baba Batra 10b] (Gedaliah Alon, JTLTA:51)
2. The initial Passover
3. (Cleansing of altar and tabernacle)
2. First Fruits
2. free-will offerings
2. The slain goat
3. The scapegoat
2. free-will offerings:
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom
also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which
we stand; (Rom 5.1)