Bible Readings for May 19th
It is staggering to consider the sheer volume of sacrifices that were offered on the altar of Israel. When we think of sacrifices, we might imagine an occasional sacrifice here or there, but in fact, the worship of the old covenant was built on perpetual sacrifices. Every day, once in the morning and once at twilight, the priests would offer a male lamb (two lambs each day) as a burnt offering along with an ephah of fine flour with oil for a grain offering (Num. 28:3–6, 8). Additionally, they would pour out a drink offering of strong drink to Yahweh in the Holy Place (Num. 28:7).
Then, every Sabbath, the priests would offer two additional lambs, more flour, more oil, and more strong drink, “besides the regular burnt offering and its drink offering” (Num. 28:10). More than that, at the beginning of every month, the priests would offer two bulls, one ram, and seven male lambs as burnt offerings, as well as more flour and more oil as grain offerings, along with more drink offerings—in addition to another male goat as a sin offering (Num. 28:11–15).
And don’t forget the festivals, either. At Passover (Num. 28:16–25), at the Feast of Weeks (Num. 28:26–31), at the Feast of Trumpets (Num. 29:1–6), at the Day of Atonement (Num. 29:7–11), and at the Feast of Booths (Num. 29:12–39), the Israelites would offer entirely different sets of sacrifices on top of their daily, Sabbath, and monthly sacrifices.
Numbers 28 gives us some idea of just how unimaginably bloody old covenant worship must have been. There would have been blood everywhere, flowing all the time, and the smoke of the sacrifices would have hung ceaselessly in the air.
Accordingly, it must have been quite a shock to see these regular sacrifices come to a grinding halt when the early Jewish Christians instead pointed to the single sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The commandments in Numbers 28 form the backdrop to the letter to the Hebrews, which is a plea to those who were formerly blood-drenched in old covenant worship not to return to it.
Why? Because “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb. 10:4). Instead, we need a much better sacrifice, so the author of Hebrews reminds Jewish Christians of how much better the blood of Jesus is: “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Heb. 10:14).
Does your confidence rest today in the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus or in your own daily offerings to God (whatever they may be)? If the sacrificial system of Israel could not take away sins, then what makes you think that your good works can purify you before God?
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.