One of the more difficult to understand principles of Christianity is the need for a blood sacrifice. It is not a cultural staple anymore for different religions to offer animal sacrifices, so we often do not consider that they were a part of daily life for many of our late ancestors. When looking to the Bible to learn about this, we cannot help but discern that a blood sacrifice has been a part of God’s people’s lives for a long time. It’s been noted that the first animal sacrifice was for Adam and Eve’s benefit. Genesis 3:21, “Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.” God made the first sacrifice then for his people to clothe them. We know that under the “Patriarchal” system (before the Law of Moses) the eldest male of the family would offer animals to be pleasing to God. “So it was, when the days of feasting had run their course, the Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offering according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did regularly” (Job 1:5).
Under the law of Moses, absolutely everything that was done required a blood sacrifice of some type. Bulls, goats, lambs, and doves were the animals of choice for the Jews under this law. The most prominent sacrifice was the annual “Day of Atonement” in which a young bull, a ram, and a goat were all offered for the sins of the people. At the end of this blood shed, the sins of the people were not forgiven, but were “atoned” for and it would be forgiven until the next year. In Leviticus 17:11 a key to understanding this kind of sacrifice is given: “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.”
This principle is compounded when we get to the New Testament. Hebrews 10:4 shines a light on why the Law of Moses was not a perfect law for mankind: “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.” Thus, when we learn about the sacrifice that Jesus made for us we understand why it was necessary for him to shed his blood. Matthew 26:27-28, “Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” Therefore when we obey the commandments of Jesus and become a Christian we are cleansed and sanctified by that blood shed on the cross. When we continue to walk as a Christian with a penitent heart towards our sin, we have continual washing by that same sacrifice (1 John 1:7-9). It is no longer necessary for us to make sacrifices over and over again since we have the “once and for all” sacrifice in Jesus (Hebrews 10:11-18).
God be praised that He was willing to show us the value of a blood sacrifice through the Patriarchal covenant, the Mosaic covenant, and then give us the perfect sacrifice through the innocent Lamb of God.