“If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer a male without blemish. He shall bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the Lord. He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.” (Leviticus 1:3–4, ESV)

Atonement – “satisfaction or reparation for a wrong or injury.” [Dictionary.com]

There is so much packed into the biblical concept of atonement that we can hardly begin to plumb the depths in a short devotional.  Some things to notice:

  1. The individual had to bring the animal to be sacrificed for a burnt offering.  Each person was responsible to offer a sacrifice for his own sins.
  2. The individual had to kill the animal that was to be sacrificed.
  3. One of the chief purposes of this offering was to make atonement for one’s sins.
  4. The sacrifice must be perfect.

Gordon Wenham comments:

Thus the burnt offering does not remove sin or change man’s sinful nature, but it makes fellowship between sinful man and a holy God possible. It propitiates God’s wrath against sin.

The New Testament carries all of this image forward and applies it to Christ, but in a new and more meaningful way.  In Christ we are not forced to offer a sacrifice for our own sins, Christ offered up himself for us.  Christ was the perfect sacrifice who died in our place to appease God’s wrath against sin.  Therefore, Christ makes atonement for our sins, but his sacrifice is better than the Old Testament system, his sacrifice is once for all.

Peter puts it this way:

Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit.” (1 Peter 3:18, NLT)