When God instituted the Mosaic Covenant it was strictly with the nation of Israel. Why then do we, the people of the New Covenant, have an interest in studying it? The answer is varied, but one part of it is this:
- through the Mosaic Covenant God showed forth some wonderful eternal truths pointing to His Son and the Church.
It is worth looking into these things because it adds layers and depth to our faith as God reveals these truths to us by His Spirit.
In the last post we saw the significance and typology of the materials used in constructing the Brazen
(or bronze) altar of the Tabernacle of Moses and we saw that the altar was a picture of the cross of Jesus Christ. In this post we will look at the significance of the blood of the altar and how this points to Christ’s atonement for us.
The Altar of Blood
Having just been confronted with the 7.5 feet high linen walls of the Tabernacle, signifying God’s holy righteousness, the sinner enters through the one and only entrance of the Tabernacle – the Gate.
Now the first piece of furniture he encounters is the Brazen Altar. Imagine standing in front of this piece of furniture. This is where where many, many innocent animals had been slain for the sins of the people. It was not a pretty picture. It was most likely intimidating. The altar was the place of death and blood. The place where the full penalty of sin became gruesomely obvious. “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
It represented sacrifice, death and blood atonement. For the sinner to proceed any further into the Tabernacle, innocent blood would need to be shed upon this altar on his behalf. Any attempt to bypass this step and approach God without blood would have resulted in death.
“….without the shedding of blood there is no remission (forgiveness of sins)” Hebrews 9:22
No one, not even the High Priest, could approach the Lord except on the basis of innocent shed blood.
“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.” Leviticus 17:11
The altar demonstrates that the only way a person can meet with God is on the basis of substitutionary atonement. On the basis of BLOOD.
The Blood Covenant
In fact, the Mosaic Covenant became known as the “Blood Covenant” (Hebrews 9:19, 20) due to the huge number of animals that were sacrificed.
“This elaborate sacrificial system with its multiplied continual sacrifices was given for two major reasons.
- First, it was to illustrate that no amount of continued animal sacrifices could effectively take away man’s sinfulness.
- Second, it was to point to Christ’s perfect, sinless, and once-for-all sacrifice that could take away man’s sinfulness (Hebrews 9,10).” source (1)
God instructed the Israelites to bring offerings to Him on the Brazen Altar:
|Burnt Offering||Lev 1; Lev 6; Lev 8; Lev 16:24||Bull, ram or male dove. Must be a male without blemish||Atonement for unintentional sin; act of worship|
|Grain Offering||Lev 2; Lev 6:14-23||Grain, fine flour, olive oil, incense, baked bread, salt. Always accompanied burnt and fellowship offerings (with drink offerings||Act of worship, recognition of God’s goodness and provision; devotion to God|
|Fellowship/Peace Offering||Lev 3; Lev 7:11-34||Any animal without defect or blemish from herd of flock; breads||Act of worship, thanksgiving and fellowship (it incl a communal meal)|
|Sin Offering||Lev 4; Lev; Lev 8; Lev 16||1. Young bull for high priest and congregation
2. Male goat for leader
3. Female goat/lamb for common person
4. Dove/pigeon for the poor
5. 10th of an ephah of fine flour: for the very poor
|Mandatory atonement for specific unintentional sin; confession of sin, cleansing from defilement.|
|Guilt/Trespass Offering||Lev 5:14-6:7
|Ram||Mandatory atonement for unintentional sin requiring restitution; cleansing from defilement; make restitution; pay 20% fine|
Table adapted from NIV Study Bible
The Altar & the Blood Point to Christ
“…he must bring to the LORD a young bull without defect as a sin offering for the sin he has committed. He is to present the bull at the entrance to the tent of meeting before the LORD. He is to lay his hand on its head and slaughter it there before the LORD.” Leviticus 4:3, 4
Just as the innocent animal became an offering for the sin of the Israelites, so too Jesus became an offering for the sins of the whole world. The New Testament says:
“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 1 Corinthians 5:21
So we see the Altar is a type of Christ because He is:
- A substitutionary atonement for us,
- Blemishless because He never sinned,
- The innocent substitution on our behalf
At the cross Jesus’ blood was poured out and He took the judgment for our sins upon Himself. All of the animal sacrifices upon the altar pointed to the ultimate sacrifice of God’s perfect, blemishless Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus death upon the cross fulfilled all of the Old Testament sacrifices and did away with them once and for all.
“But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come,with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” Hebrews 9:11-14
- Outside the Camp
- How the altar points to the cross
Sources: 1 The Mosaic Covenant, Kevin J Conner & Ken Malmin