Troublesome Topic: Life Lessons from Other Sacrifices

Lesson 20 of 21

The Former Covenant’s sacrificial system involved additional sacrifices which include too many details to list them all here. But a few are touched on to demonstrate that the people of God could learn something from each detail of the sacrificial system.

The Drink Offering

The drink offering always accompanied another offering, usually a burnt offering. It was an offering of thanksgiving for God’s provision. This offering required that wine be poured out before the Lord. Wine represented close fellowship, communion, and intimacy. It was also a key product of the land and a staple of life, thus appropriate for giving thanks.

Do we foster a culture of gratitude, or of self-centeredness? We need to foster a year-round culture of gratitude in our lives and in our homes. God considers gratitude a very big deal; we should too.

The Day of Atonement (Lev ch 16)

This ceremony involved, among other things, the release of a goat as the “scape goat,” the one that bore our sins for us. The ceremonies of this day taught that God is close, but He is approachable only on His terms. It also taught that redemption and cleansing are available. While the Former Covenant did not clearly offer forgiveness for rebellious sins, it gave hope that it would someday be available.

The Sacrifice for Cleansing of Leprosy

This was a sacrifice of two birds, one was killed, the other released (Lev 4:3-7). This was a type of thank offering, offered in gratitude for having been cleansed from leprosy. It showed there are different aspects to living for God. We must be willing to give up some things, and the life we live we must now live for God’s glory, not to satisfy self.

The skin condition that the Torah was most concerned with was a punishment or warning sent by God for an attitude of rebellion against Him. Being pronounced clean by the priest would bring great thanksgiving and gratitude because, in an act of immense mercy, God had forgiven when He didn’t have to.

The Sacrifices Were Thrown Outside the Camp

In several cases there were parts of the animal that needed to be disposed of. This would always have included the refuse, and usually the horns and hooves, the skulls, and probably some other things. These things were taken to a place outside the camp and burned there. It was a way to get the unclean filth away from the place of sacrifice.

It also represented the removal of sin. So don’t hang on to the bad stuff, get rid of it. If our sin has been removed, we should not live any longer in it (Rom 6:1-7). 

The Wave Offering

Have you ever wondered why certain Old Testament offerings were “waved” before the Lord? This was another symbol, another picture. It symbolized that the priest knew it belonged to the Lord and he was going to eat some of it only because God had provided it and had given him permission to do so. He could not forget what side his bread was buttered on. The point of waving the offering before God was to acknowledge that everything belongs to God.

The Horns of the Altar

The altar of sacrifice had horns built into each corner. These were not just to make it look cool. Horns represented power or strength. Holding on to the horns of the altar was a way for someone to acknowledge that his strength was in God’s merciful acceptance of his penitence. It was a recognition that God forgives. It was a way to say, “My strength is in God and His merciful forgiveness.”

Various people in the Bible ran to the altar when they thought someone would kill them and they held on to the horns of the altar to communicate, “I will not try to defend myself with my own strength. I repent, and I believe God’s mercy will spare me.” When someone was physically clinging to the strength and forgiveness of God, represented by the horns of the altar, it was hard for someone to kill them. Sometimes this action worked to spare a person’s life, and sometimes it only delayed death until he left the altar, or was drug away from the altar.

Keep the Fire Burning  

The priests were required to keep the fire in the altar going at all times. Fire symbolized either punishment or purification; in the context of the altar it was always purification. By keeping the fire in the altar burning around the clock they were communicating that God’s purifying power is the only source of purification and it is always available.

Would the original hearers have understood these symbols? I believe so.

Though we no longer need to offer such sacrifices, we should still try to learn the lessons from the pictures God was painting.


Just like the Children of Israel, we need to dedicate ourselves to God completely and regularly. Likewise, we need to always show God our gratitude. And we need to be willing to learn whatever God wants us to learn through whatever method He chooses to employ.

The next lesson in the full series on covenants is Bacon, Forgiveness and Atonement.