Reading: “For the wages of sin is death” —Romans 6:23

In explaining the sacrificial system to His people in Old Testament times, God made this

[the atonement] very plain. In Leviticus 17:11 we find Him explaining a prohibition that He has just given against the eating of blood: “The life of the creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar, it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.” The central thought is that where sin has taken place, death must follow. “The soul that sins is the one who will die” (Ezekiel 18:4) is the basic form of that principle.

In the sacrificial system, however, we see God enacting an adjustment of it: the Israelite soul has sinned but the animal must die instead. It dies as a substitute.

The shed blood is a witness to the animal’s death. It is to exhibit death that the blood is presented at the altar. This alone is the basis on which God promised forgiveness of sin to His Old Testament people when they transgressed. Blood shedding in sacrifice, which means the laying down of life in death, is what atones.

(Adapted from J. I. Packer, Knowing Christianity, 72)

Not all the blood of beasts
On Jewish altars slain
Could give the guilty conscience peace
Or wash away the stain.

But Christ, the heav’nly Lamb,
Takes all our sins away;
A sacrifice of nobler name
And richer blood than they.

Isaac Watts