Because God is Holy

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Picture of a sacrificed ram because God is holy

Because God is holy, today’s Bible reading* begins the bloody sacrificial system. Before Aaron and his sons are ready to serve the Lord before the people, they must be clean. For them to be clean, three animals had to be slaughtered. Once their sacrifice had been made, they had to offer another sacrifice before beginning to slaughter the sin offerings of the people.

After slaughtering animals for their own cleansing and the peoples’ cleansing, God Himself rained down fire and consumed the dead animals. It was an awe-inspiring event. Because God is holy.

The word slaughter appears six times in our reading of three chapters. That’s a lot of blood! Add to that the sin offerings made by the people (hundreds of thousands of families) and you have a tremendous number of sacrifices and an awful amount of blood. There’s a lot of sin to have to atone for! Because God is holy.

In later times, some passages from the Jewish Talmud (a commentary on the Law) describe “priests wading up to their knees in blood, and others describe 1.2 million animals being slaughtered on one day.”[1] The Jewish historian Josephus says “at least 256,500 lambs were killed in the Temple for a Passover in one year between 66-70 CE (Jewish Wars 6.9.3)”{2} It would have taken 144 priests, sacrificing six lambs each minute to complete the job in five hours, killing 256,500 lambs.[3]

Those descriptions and numbers boggle my mind!

As I said yesterday, it was difficult to find a graphic to attach to the devotional; it was just very difficult to find an image of an animal sacrifice. The idea of animal sacrifice is repulsive to most people. But it still happens.

A friend of mine took me on a back-stage tour of his parent’s meat market a few years ago. A few days ahead of Islam’s holy days, an imam (a Muslim priest) slaughters goats in this market. I got to watch it happen for one poor goat. One moment, the goat was bleating loudly and the next moment, it was bleeding and silent. It was a bloody scene. And so was the Tabernacle, and later so was the Temple. Because God is holy.

The people continued to sin. The sacrifices had to be made. Year after year after year. Sacrifice after sacrifice after sacrifice. Hundreds of thousands of sacrifices every year. Because God is holy.

The priests never got to sit down because their job of sacrificing animals was never complete. Because God is holy.

You would think that after these first sacrifices were consumed by God’s fire, and knowing God’s strict instructions for the priests, Aaron’s sons would take the system seriously. But Leviticus 10:1-2 tells us,

Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu each took his own firepan, put fire in it, placed incense on it, and presented unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them to do. Then fire came from the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Leviticus 10:1–2 (CSB)

God’s consuming fire consumed two priests. Two of Aaron’s sons!

Moses tells Aaron God’s definitive statement on His holiness. Aaron, though grieving the loss of two of his sons, had no words. (Leviticus 10:3b) He knew that God was serious. And he knew that serving a holy God was a very serious matter.

Because God is holy.


People continue to sin. God is still holy. But sacrifices don’t have to be made year after year after year anymore. Why?

Jesus offered Himself as a once-for-all sacrifice one time. And unlike priests under the Old Covenant who never got to sit down, after making His Own sacrifice, Jesus as the High Priest … sat down. (Hebrews 10:12) His job was done. From the cross, He cried out, “It is finished!” (John 19:30)

Jesus’ sacrifice completely satisfied God’s wrath against the sin-debt of everyone who turns to Jesus as their sacrifice. That’s fantastic news for those who turn to Jesus! This is the Gospel Message.

But for those who don’t turn to Jesus as their sin-debt sacrifice, God’s wrath is stored up for the Day of Judgment.

Have you turned to Jesus as your sacrifice?

[3] ibid.

* Chapters covered in today’s reading:
– Leviticus 8
– Leviticus 9
– Leviticus 10

This devotional was originally published on February 17, 2021.

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