As a test, Abraham was called by God to sacrifice his son Isaac after having lived until his old age without any children. Abraham and Sarah had longed for a child and finally were blessed with one only to have God make this dreadful demand upon them. Being a dutiful follower, Abraham begrudgingly took his son to Mount Moriah to sacrifice him. On their way to the sacrificial alter, Isaac asked his father what he and his father were intending to sacrifice (because they had no animal in their possession). Abraham answered with some very insightful words that had a much deeper meaning than even Abraham understood: "God will provide himself a lamb". God did provide a lamb that day and, of course, Isaac was spared. That sacrificed lamb foreshadowed God's true intent to provide his Son as a sacrifice thousands of years later.
The blood of a lamb played an important role in Israelite history in later years as well. What is celebrated as Passover in Judaism, commemorates a time when the Hebrews were freed from the bondage of slavery and the unblemished lamb's blood was spread on the doorways to their homes in order to mark those who were to be protected from the angel of death. Death "passed over" those homes on whom this blood was shed.
Sacrifice had become a central tenant to the daily lives of these people as a way to attempt reconciliation with God for their sins (ancient sacrificial alters can still be seen in the ruins of Israel). In that culture, animal after animal was sacrificed in order to attempt payment for their transgressions. So, the system of sacrificing unblemished animals became the norm. But, we know that in a crazy mixed-up, broken world, there aren't enough animals to make up for all of the bad. So, it was all for naught. But, the Israelites did this because they knew of God's goodness; his absolutely perfect justice. They knew that God's perfect justice would prevail.
|The circular rock formation is an ancient sacrificial alter in Israel.|
I took this picture in 2013.
Biblical prophets (like Jeremiah, Isaiah, Daniel), foresaw a time when man would be reconciled to God. The prophet Isaiah (as can be read in Isaiah 53) had some striking visions approximately 600 years before Jesus was crucified: "But he was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." (the "stripes are the beating he which was typical during a Roman crucifixion). "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." The iniquity of us all fell on one person, Jesus.
Upon seeing Jesus for apparently the first time, John the Baptist yelled out to the crowd: "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!". Approximately three years after this encounter, The Lamb of God Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem during the Passover celebration. So, at a time when the Jewish population was celebrating their release from the bondage and oppression of slavery, the blood of Jesus was shed. The perfect justice of God was exercised that day and God himself, the perfect and unblemished lamb - the only One who could pay the price for a world gone astray, bore the brunt of it.
The time of year (Passover) that this occurred is important because of the meaning of the Passover celebration. The lamb's blood that was shed and displayed on the homes of those who believed, provided a means of escaping bondage and avoiding death. The tradition of Jesus' time during the Passover celebration was similar: sacrificial offerings to offer atonement for sin - to be reconciled to God. Jesus' sacrifice ("For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son") offered an escape from death and a release from bondage for those who believe. Jesus said "...everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin". God, keeping true to his perfect justice, but also to his undying and overwhelming love, offered an escape from this bondage and into everlasting life.
"Then I saw a lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne"~ Revelation 5:6. Yes, I'll take my chances that this is true. This is what I believe.