You gaze out over your herd of cattle. Your eyes are scanning for the best bull, one that is perfect in every way. Your eyes settle on the one. It is a valuable animal to you—a wealthy person.
You gaze out over your flock of sheep and goats. Your eyes are scanning for the best animal, one that is perfect in every way. Your eyes settle on the one. It is a valuable animal to you—a person of the middle class.
You gaze down at the small coins in your hand. Your eyes are fixed on them, for you will use them to buy a turtle dove or a pigeon. These coins are valuable to you—a poor person.
You gaze at the container of flour. Your eyes look at what would have been part of your meal. This flour is valuable to you—the poorest of people.
Leviticus chapters 1 through 5 tell us of the sacrifices to be made by Israelites when seeking forgiveness of their sins. Bulls, sheep, goats, coins, grains—these were not items of little consequence in their society. These sacrifices cost them dearly, both in the value of the sacrifice and in the all-too-public confession of their need for forgiveness.
And yet it cost the animals even more. It cost them their lives. As those seeking reconciliation with God placed their hands on the animal, they could feel the life of that animal slip away as the priest killed it. They could smell the warm blood as it was put on the altar as a visible reminder of the cost of their own sin. This wasn’t an abstract or theological concept; this was a harsh reality.
We shy away from these images. And yet I wonder, Would we be more aware of and repulsed by our own sin if it cost us more dearly than it often does? It is true that we occasionally pay an immediate penalty for the consequences of our sin, but does that happen often enough to keep us vigilant against sin? What would our attitude be toward our sin if we saw the cost each time?
Jesus paid the price for our sin—a price too costly for any human to understand. This sacrifice was all at Jesus’ cost and none of our own. It was His blood that was placed on the final altar. Peter, speaking in Acts 4:12, says clearly about Jesus, “There is salvation in no one else! There is no other name in all of heaven for people to call on to save them.” Jesus makes us acceptable to God, in whose holy presence sin cannot exist.
Our praise should always rise to God for this amazing gift, and yet it may be that we often take it for granted. Jesus’ excruciating death happened so long ago, and unlike the ancient Israelites, we do not have the visual reminder of that death to sensitize us to the awful cost. As benefactors of that sacrifice, may we actively remember the cost, receive the great joy of sins forgiven, and live in never-ending thankfulness for this remarkable gift.
© 2010 Arlina Yates