You’d think that paying the price for another would come with a bit of honor. That laying down your life for someone else’s sin would demand a bit of dignity when disposing of the body. But as I hover over Leviticus 4 this morning, I’m chewing on the picture presented of a substitutionary sacrifice that gets little respect.
It’s the sin offering. The offering to be presented when someone, anyone, sins unintentionally. Whether it’s the priest, the congregation as a whole, one of their leaders, or one of the common people, when someone sins unintentionally and they realize their guilt they are to bring a sin offering. The animal is to be killed. Its blood to be shed, offered before the Lord, and poured out at the altar. Then the fat and vital organs are to be burned on the altar.
The life given of a spotless substitute. Its blood shed. It best parts offered up. You’d think then that disposing of the rest would be done in a way that shows a high regard for the sacrifice. Apparently not.
But the skin of the bull and all its flesh, with its head, its legs, its entrails, and its dung–all the rest of the bull–he shall carry outside the camp to a clean place, to the ash heap, and shall burn it up on a fire of wood. On the ash heap it shall be burned up. . . . And the priest shall make atonement for them, and they shall be forgiven. And he shall carry the bull outside the camp and burn it up . . .
(Leviticus 4:11-12 , 20b-21a ESV)
Though the place was to be ceremonially clean, to me the ultimate disposition of the carcass seems somewhat unceremonious in nature. Dumped on the ash heap. Whatever’s left burned outside the camp. The best of the sacrifice leveraged for atoning forgiveness, the rest of the sacrifice left in abandoning obscurity.
How come? I’m thinking it’s because of the touch.
In every instance where the sin offering is offered, it begins with the sinner laying his hand on the head of the sacrifice before he kills. it. A transference of the debt they should pay for with their life to the one whose life would be offered instead. Their sin laid upon their offering. And with that translocation of iniquity came the defilement of the spotless substitute. A clean sacrifice made unclean. Thus disposed of outside the camp.
And I find myself thinking about how my spotless Lamb, come to atone for my sin, suffered a similar humiliation.
Because He allowed my hand to touch Him, taking my sin upon Himself, He too was taken outside the camp, to a hill outside of Jerusalem. What’s more, he was mocked, abused, robed in purple, and required to carry His own cross. Though His blood would be shed for the remission of the sin of many, though His life offered to bear the just wrath deserved by others, there was no honor afforded the Lamb of God.
Even after His blood was shed and His life was given, His body was scooped up, hastily prepared for burial, and tucked away without fanfare in an obscure tomb lest His death taint the observance of a holy day.
How come? Because of the touch.
Because He who knew no sin became sin for us (2Cor. 5:21). Because He who eternally is holy submitted to the Father’s will and “redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us–for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree'” (Gal. 3:13).
Having taken on the sin of another, disposed of outside the camp on an ash heap.
And that because of the touch. When, by faith, we responded to His invitation to reach out our hands and lay our sin upon Him.
O, what a Savior!
What amazing grace! To Him be everlasting glory!