GOD PROVIDES(Question 14)
In the last lesson we learned that it was impossible for us as sinners to take the punishment of God and survive. The catechism taught that even if we could survive the wrath of God, we would only have to take it again and again as we continue to sin and store up His judgment against us. It is a losing battle. So as we come to Question 14 we continue to look for a way to escape from this judgment.
No. God will not punish an animal for something man has done. Besides, no animal can take the punishment of God or set us free from it.
It may seem a silly thing to ask if an animal can take the punishment for our sins. That would be like telling your mom to put your dog on restriction for something you have done. But to the people of Israel and for the time they lived in, animal sacrifice was a common practice. To them, an animal taking their punishment made sense. This is because God had set up a temporary system of sacrifice to point the way to the eternal sacrifice that Christ would one day make.
Just as a movie preview gets you excited about a new movie that will be coming out soon, God used the animal sacrifices of the Old Covenant to point to the Messiah who would one day come as the perfect Lamb of God. Now the animals were not meant to be the main part of God's saving mankind from their sins, just as the movie preview is not the movie itself, but just a taste or a hint of what is to come. The very first sacrifice took place in the Garden of Eden.
Also for Adam and his wife the LORD God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.
After Adam and Eve had sinned against God they realized they were naked and they were ashamed. By killing an animal God provided them a covering for their nakedness and took away their shame. Now this animal was innocent. He did not sin against God, and it is important to understand that God didn't kill it because of what Adam and Eve had done. God had already punished Adam and Eve for their disobedience. Yet the fact remained that they needed to be clothed and God chose to use the skins of an animal to do so.
This sacrifice is a symbol or a "preview" of Jesus who would become the Lamb of God. By His death on the cross we are covered by His blood. We are no longer naked and unworthy in God's eyes. The shame of our sin is taken away in Jesus. Let's look at another example of animal sacrifice. This story is probably a familiar one to you. It is about Abraham and his son Issac.
Abraham was the father of all the Israelite people. Through him God promised to bring the Messiah into the world. But there was one problem-Abraham and his wife Sarah were unable to have any kids. How could God bring Christ into the world if the father of all His people could not produce any descendants? Well, God being faithful to His promise gave Abraham a son when he was very old. Abraham loved this boy Issac and would do anything for him. But one day God spoke to Abraham and asked him to do something unheard of. Look at these verses to see what happened:
Now it came to pass that after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am". Then He said, "Take now your son, your only son Issac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you."
Can you imagine what Abraham was thinking? How could God give him a son after all those years of waiting and then ask Abraham to kill him? Yet Abraham obeyed God and he took the boy to the mountain that God commanded. He tied the boy and put him on the altar. Abraham drew his knive and was ready to kill the boy...
But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, "Abraham, Abraham". So he said, "Here I am." And He said, "Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me". Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son.
Again we see how God provides an animal in the place of man. It was no accident that the ram was caught in the thicket. God provided the ram as a symbol, as a "preview" of the Lamb of God who was to come. We know this Lamb to be Jesus. When He came He offered Himself as a sacrifice so we wouldn't have to die. Just as Abraham was willing to offer his son, his only son-God too put His only Son to death to save us. What a wonderful and loving Father we have. He covers our sins, forgives us of our rebellion, and then places us in His family for eternity. We who deserved to die not only once, but twice-He has forgiven and cleansed. Trust in the Lamb of God today. God has provided a way out of judgment for you, and His name is Jesus Christ.
1. How did the animal sacrifices act as a "preview" of what God was going to do?