Today’s taste of Torah is a one verse morsel. The passage is Leviticus 17:11 and it reads; ‘For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.’ These words are part of a chapter that deals with the sanctity of blood; specifically laws for blood sacrifices. In the preceding verse it’s stated that Israelites and non-Israelites who ate blood would be judged (17:10). And the reason for this judgment is that life is in the blood and God assigned blood for atonement (17:11-12). So to pour out blood is to pour out life. And the punishment for violating God’s laws regarding blood was premature death.
With regard to blood atonement sacrifices, the sacrifice of a substitute sin- bearer served as a graphic object lesson that the penalty of sin is death. Plus, this killing of a substitute, also said something significant about God’s character. You see the objection could be raised, “Why doesn’t God simply forgive as an act of good will instead of requiring such a drastic payment? Why doesn’t He just cut people some slack?” Well, the fact is, even if God could somehow overlook sin against Himself as an act of so-called good will, He is still bound by His nature to preserve justice in the universe. To ignore or gloss over sin would destroy the whole meaningfulness of the concept of justice! Bottom line, what it ultimately comes down to, is God’s position of official administrator of the judicial system governing the entire universe and His prerogative to exercise that role as He sees fit! But really we shouldn’t be surprised by this. In the Hebrew Scriptures He has clearly and repeatedly said that, “The soul that sins will die!”
However, there’s a positive aspect associated with the death required in atonement. This action can further be interpreted as the animal giving its life to the offerer so that the offerer can continue living! In other words there’s an exchange of life happening here. The animal took the life of the offerer by identification and because the offerer’s life was sinful the animal died. But conversely the animal gave its life to the offerer so that the offerer could continue living! And it is this exchange of life that completes the atonement process.
Now the New Covenant concept of atonement refers to the aspect of Messiah’s work, particularly His death, which makes restoration of fellowship between an individual believer and God possible. In His death Yeshua took the place of the sinner (Heb. 2:9), bore the curse of God’s judgment (Gal. 3:13; 2 Cor. 5:21), satisfied God’s just demands (Rom. 3:25-26), provided forgiveness (Matt. 26:28; Luke 24:47), peace and reconciliation with God (Rom. 5:11; Col. 1:20), and eternal life (Rom. 6:23; 1 John 5:11-12) to everyone who believes in the Lord Messiah. And so, these are the atonement realities that thoroughly demonstrate that Messiah’s blood which He willingly shed was not only proof of His death but also validation of Him as the source of never-ending life.