Leviticus 1:4 “You are to lay your hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on your behalf to make atonement for you.”
In the opening of this book, we read of the various offerings that were to be brought to God. The first offering is the burnt offering used to make atonement for one’s sins. In the offering of the sacrifice, the person bringing the animal had to lay one’s hands on its head and then slit the throat of the animal killing it. The blood of the sacrifice would be splashed against the altar for payment of one’s sins until the next time.
When we read of the laying on of hands on the animal’s head, this act was symbolic of the transference of the person’s sins to the animal that would die in payment for the sins of the person. The person bringing the animal to sacrifice would then slit the throat of the beast killing it. The one guilty of sin was responsible for the death of the sacrificial animal. In so many ways, Jesus fulfilled this sacrificial role for the whole of humanity.
When He was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane and taken before the impromptu court and later before Pilate and was flogged and beaten, this act symbolized our laying our hands on Him transferring our sins upon Jesus. Then just as the sinner of OT had to slit the throat of the sacrifice, the Romans (and subsequently the Jews for requiring His crucifixion) sliced the body of Jesus with iron, glass, and bone until His very face was unrecognizable as a man and His body torn open exposing bones, muscle, and organs. They nailed Him to the cross and stabbed His heart with a spear. He spilled His blood on the altar of heaven to make atonement for the sins of the world.
Do you realize that until you lay your hands upon the head of Jesus and see that your sins put Him through the agony and slaughter and death of the cross, you cannot have your sins atoned? You do so by realizing that you are in need of being “saved” by Jesus. Then you believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord! At that point, your sins are atoned for and the record of your past sins pardoned forever. The next step is to obey the Word of God and live life the Way Jesus commands. For you see, the word “believe” in the Bible is more than just the act of accepting something as true but also entails obedience to God’s Word.
True, salvation is by grace alone and not a matter of works (Eph 2:8-9), but faith (believing or accepting something as true) is dead without works (James 2:14-26).
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.
In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
Father, I realize that because of my sins, I had to put my hands on the head of Jesus and partake of the slaughter of His body. My sins are what put Jesus on the cross, who was my sacrificial Lamb. How horrifying it must have been for the ancient Hebrews to have to approach the altar to atone for their sins and slitting the throats of bulls, goats, and sheep. It is even more horrid that Your only Son had to endure the pain and suffering and death of the cross to pay for my sins. On the other hand, I can glorify You for the grace you extended to me in that ultimate act of love. Help me to be obedient to Your Word that by my works, my faith can be seen by all around me. I cannot earn salvation but only by Your grace. The works prove my love for You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.