Christ: Our Holocaust Sacrifice

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us.”
(1 John 3:16a)

(Devotion Drawn from the Old Testament)

When they spoke or wrote in Greek, the Jews referred to their burnt offering as a holocaust sacrifice. In the Greek holocaust means totally burned.  The burnt offering was the only sacrifice that was always—apart from its blood and hide—totally burned upon God’s altar.[1] When Old Testament believers brought their livestock to be totally burned, this indicated wholehearted dedication on the part of the person who brought such livestock. Who today would bring their offering to church, only to have it totally burned on God’s altar?  When given sincerely, a holocaust sacrifice was a profound expression of love/dedication to God. Thus the Burnt Offering (Holocaust Sacrifice) was a sacrifice indicating sanctification.  As God was the initiator of sacrifice, even miraculously lighting the altar fire in the tabernacle and later the temple, we observe that sanctification begins with God.[2] Burning sacrificial portions on God’s altar did not mean He as consuming them with His wrath; rather He was graciously receiving such sacrifices in the stead of the offerer.

Old Testament sacrifices were usually offered to God in a specific order.  First, the sin (or guilt) offering would be sacrificed; forgiveness is what a believer needs first and foremost.  Second, the burnt offering would be sacrificed, for flowing from forgiveness God creates sanctification.  Third, the peace offering would be offered to God, and its main activity was the communion meal, identifying fellowship with God and one another.  Christ on the cross fulfills each of these kinds of sacrifice, for only in Him do we find forgiveness, sanctification and true fellowship.  Return now to considering the burnt offering (holocaust sacrifice).

Jesus is our holocaust sacrifice. Of course He was not totally burned when He hung upon the altar of the cross, but He was nonetheless totally consumed by death, consumed for our salvation. Instead of bringing valuable livestock or money, Christ brought himself, and by this we know love, that he laid down his life for us. On the cross Jesus presented himself as our holocaust sacrifice, and the Father received it as the greatest act of love and dedication ever performed, for it was the supreme act of love directed not just to the Father but to all mankind. From Christ’s sacrifice we realize sanctification does not begin with us.  It is in our place that Christ dies on the cross, and thus it is in our place that Christ’s death initiates and becomes our sanctification. The only way we can accomplish any sanctified behavior is from and through His self-sacrifice.  His holocaust sacrifice both teaches us love and empowers us to love as well.

Lord Jesus, help me to ever rejoice in your holocaust sacrifice for me.  Amen.

[1] The blood—the life of the burnt offering—was too sacred to be burned.  The hide of a burnt offering belonged to the priests who, because of this, established quite a lucrative leather-producing business.  It should also be noted that the ‘sinew of the thigh’ was likewise not burned (see Gen. 32:32).

[2] Leviticus 9:24; 2 Chronicles 7:1.  After God lighted the fire, the priests were not allowed to let it go out.