Are you indebted to someone in your past who made a sacrifice for your sake? Do you even owe your life to that person? The Bible at its heart is a story about sacrifice. Animals have played a big part in that story.
After the first man and woman sinned against God (Genesis 3:1-19) and the world came under the dominion of Satan (Luke 4:5-6), all human beings received a sin nature, born from that time forward with a natural selfishness (Genesis 6:5-6). It is that sin nature that separates mankind from God (Ephesians 2:12).
But God’s punishment to Adam and Eve — that they would have to die (Genesis 2:16-17) — actually was also an act of mercy. God knew that because death is a fixed and tangible payment, it could be paid by someone else, resulting in the guilty party being freed from judgement. God in His love was planning to come to us in the person of Jesus to take upon himself the sins of humanity (John 3:16 and 2 Corinthians 5:18-20). He would pay the price of punishment demanded by justice, so that you and I could be free from judgement and enjoy a relationship with Him through His Holy Spirit (John 14:15-18).
Let’s look at a key scripture that speaks about this. God was giving laws to His ancient people Israel through their leader Moses. He was telling them that they could eat certain animals, but that they were NOT allowed to eat an animal’s blood. And then, He told them why:
“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar of sacrifice to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that make an atonement for the soul.” (Leviticus 17:11)
Atonement means substitute payment. And so it is that, in the Old Testament, animals were pressed into service to perform their most important role in salvation history. They would be the “sneak preview”, illustrating in a symbolic way what God would eventually do through the blood that Jesus shed on the cross (Colossians 1:13-22).
Sacrifice that comes from a heart of love, really is the most important thing that has ever happened to mankind, and perhaps the most important thing that has ever happened to you! So, the next time you see an animal, consider first of all that they must have always been, and still are, very valuable to the heart of God — otherwise, they would have been insufficient for their “sneak preview”role. Then, most importantly, consider how you can perhaps follow the lead of these sacrificial animals — and the lead of that special one who sacrificed for you — in order to be used by God to help set someone else free!