The Significance of Sacrifice
And the LORD called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man of you bring an offering unto the LORD, ye shall bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herd, and of the flock. If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the LORD. And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him. And he shall kill the bullock before the LORD: and the priests, Aaron's sons, shall bring the blood, and sprinkle the blood round about upon the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
The Brazen Altar
The brazen altar was situated right inside the courtyard upon entering the gate of the tabernacle. The Hebrew root for altar means “to slay” or “slaughter.” The Latin word alta means “high.” An altar is a “high place for sacrifice/slaughter.” The altar stood raised on a mound of earth, higher than its surrounding furniture. This is a picture or projection of Christ, our sacrifice, lifted up on the cross, His altar, which stood on a hill called Golgotha.
The altar was the place for burning animal sacrifices. This showed the Israelites that the first step for sinful man to approach a holy God was to be cleansed by the blood of an innocent animal. A person had to bring an animal for a sin offering — a male one without blemish or blemish from the flock or herd — to the priest at the gate of the tabernacle. The transaction at the altar wasn’t between the offerer and his conscience; it was between the offerer and the Lord. The worshiper could take his offering to one of the pagan temples which might have pleased a pagan god or priest, but this would not have brought the blessing of the Lord upon the offerer. The shedding of blood couldn’t change a person’s heart or even take away their sin (Hebrews 10:1-4) but, God did say that the sins of the worshiper were forgiven (Leviticus 4:20,28).
By laying his hand upon the head of the offering, the person was identifying with the sacrifice. His sin and guilt was being moved from himself to the animal. And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him (Leviticus 1:4) The priest would then slaughter the animal, sprinkle its blood in front of the veil of the Holy Place, burn the sacrifice, and pour the rest of it at the bottom of the altar. Blood is a significant agent of atonement found in the Old Testament –– for cleansing and the covering of sin. Atonement means that a price is paid and blood is shed, because life must be given for life.
The Significance of the Tabernacle Sacrifices
Although the blood of the sacrifices covered over the sins of the Israelites, they had to perform the sacrifices year after year, for no freedom was given permanently from a guilty conscience. However, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, came as the ultimate and final sacrifice for mankind when He offered up His own life. As Isaiah prophesied, the Christ would be brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth (Isaiah 53:7b). His blood was poured out at the cross for us.
“Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:.” (1 Peter 1:18-19)
The horns of the animal were a symbol of power and strength in biblical times. When the sacrifice was made, blood was dabbed on the horns of the altar, signifying the power of the blood to atone for sins. In the same way, there is mighty power in the blood of Christ. Jesus is named as the “horn of our (my) salvation” (Psalm 18:2, Luke 1:69) –– The mighty power to save.
Thought: The significance of sacrifice for us is that we have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ. If we have repented of our sins and have put our faith and trust in the only One who can ultimately forgive our sins, we have been rescued from eternal punishment. Without the shedding of His precious blood, there would be no remission or pardoning for our sin. He has covered our sin once and for all and there is now no more offering or sacrifice for sin. We are free from the result of sin for there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. No sin a believer commits, past, present, or future, can be held against him. The penalty is paid by Christ and His righteousness has been recognized and accredited to our account. Nothing can reverse this –– for Christ alone is the One who justifies.