Tuesday: Transfer of Sin

“The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon the table of their heart, and upon the horns of your altars.” (Jer. 17:1).

Image © Darrel Tank from GoodSalt.com

Image © Darrel Tank from GoodSalt.com

After the laying on of hands and the death of the animal, the next ritual activity in the offering was the handling of the blood. The priest applied the sacrificial blood to the horns of the altar. Because blood was involved, this ritual part had to do with atonement (Lev. 17:11). If the sinner was a commoner or a leader, the blood was applied on the altar of burnt offering (Lev. 4:25, 30); if the high priest or the entire congregation was the sinner, the blood was applied to the inner altar, the altar of incense (Lev. 4:7, 18).

What did it mean to smear blood on the horns of the altar? The horns were the highest points of the altar and, as such, could signify the vertical dimension of salvation. The blood was brought into the presence of God.

Jeremiah 17:1 is of particular importance for understanding what happens: the sin of Judah is engraved “upon the tablet of their heart, and on the horns of their altars” (NASB). Although the text is referring to altars involved in idolatrous worship, the principle remains the same: the altar reflected the moral condition of the people. Blood transferred the guilt of sin. The blood smeared on the horns of the altar transferred sin away from the sinner to the sanctuary, a crucially important truth in order for us to understand the plan of salvation as revealed in the earthly sanctuary service, which symbolizes the work of Christ in heaven for us.

Because the blood carried sin, it also defiled the sanctuary. We find an example of this defiling in cases where the blood of the purification offering splashed accidentally on a garment. The garment needed to be cleansed, not just anywhere, but only “in a holy place” (Lev. 6:27, NKJV).

Finally, the burning of the fat on the altar indicated that everything about the purification offering belonged to God (Lev. 3:16).

Thanks to the death of Jesus, symbolized by those sacrifices, our sin has been taken away from us, placed on Him, and transferred to the heavenly sanctuary. This is central to the plan of salvation.

How does the sanctuary service help us to understand our utter dependence on God for forgiveness of our sins? What comfort does this truth bring you? At the same time, what important responsibilities follow? (See 1 Peter 1:22.)



Tuesday: Transfer of Sin — 13 Comments

  1. “The horns were the highest points of the altar and, as such, could signify the vertical dimension of salvation.” Yes, I believe they could but if one would do a word study of “horn” or “horns” I think a slightly different picture would emerge. To the ancient Jew horns were a symbol of power. For instance, in the books of Daniel and Revelation horns are used quite a bit and they all depict a power of some sort mostly of kings or king types such as the little horn of Dan 7 which we believe represents the Roman Catholic Church.

    Texts such as, “The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken in pieces; From heaven He will thunder against them. The LORD will judge the ends of the earth. ‘He will give strength to His king, And exalt the horn of His anointed.’" (1Sam 2:10 NKJV) show that it doesn’t have to be strictly a “vertical dimension of salvation” since salvation is only vertical without a horizontal dimension (Eze 14:14-20; Eze 18:20). Here is another text that is perhaps a bit clearer on the point, “And I said, ‘What are these coming to do?’ So he said, ‘These are the horns that scattered Judah, so that no one could lift up his head; but the craftsmen are coming to terrify them, to cast out the horns of the nations that lifted up their horn against the land of Judah to scatter it’" (Zec 1:21 NKJV).

    So to me when the blood was put on the horns of the altar it had to do with the power inherent in the symbolism of the altar as the object on which the sacrifices were consumed.

    • As horns represent power, the horns of the brazen alter would reasonably represent the power of Christ's blood to save from both the penalty of sin and the power off sin in our lives. Note that there are four horns pointing to the four corners of the earth reminding us that his power to save extends to the ends of the earth, to anyone availing himself of it.

  2. 3 different sacrifices, also called “offerings”: the ‘Olah……the burnt offering; the Minchah……the grain offering; and the Zevah…..the peace offering. Each had different purposes and occasions for their use.
    The ‘Olah first got God’s attention, and then provided a means for God to view the worshipper favorably….that is the worshipper became acceptable to God by means of the ‘Olah. The Hebrew sense of the word is that the worshipper is allowed to “come-near” the Lord….to approach the Lord.
    The Minchah built upon what was accomplished by the ‘Olah. After the ‘Olah made the worshipper approachable and acceptable to God (no one can approach God until he’s FIRST acceptable to God), then the worshipper may offer a gift to God.
    The Peace offering next built upon the work of the ‘Olah and Minchah. The Peace offering established a fellowship, shalom, between the worshipper and God Almighty, that could not occur until a) God found the worshipper acceptable to Him, and b) tribute….that could also be viewed as a ransom…..was paid. Together, the 3 offerings, the ‘Olah, Minchah, and Zevah, established and maintained peace and fellowship with Jehovah despite man’s inherent sinful nature.
    Discussing sin and atonement is like that. In our sound-byte age, we tend to think we can reduce almost every Scriptural principle to a handful of Christian cliché’s and clever sayings. And these sayings may not be wrong; but often they are so simplistic as to be rather useless. So Leviticus takes us a long way around the rock of sin and atonement, stopping to examine its many facets at a number of places. And we’re going to find that sin is a complex issue and that perhaps it is even more serious, and present in more forms in our lives, than we have ever given thought to.
    The Hatta’at, the 4th sacrifice, brings another aspect to the nature of sin, its’ effects, and the assault on God’s holiness that it causes.
    In Hebrew the sacrifice of Leviticus chapter 4 is called the “Hatta’at”. And it carries with it the sense of being a sacrifice for the purpose of purifying the sinner in order to relieve him of his guilt before Jehovah, BECAUSE this human has committed a transgression against Jehovah. In other words it's not the action that is being addressed, it’s the polluted condition of the worshipper that has resulted BECAUSE of his act of transgression that is being dealt with. It is assumed that the worshipper had been in ritually pure or clean state; that he was un-polluted by the guilt of sins but NOW he did something that was against God’s holiness and something had to be done about it. Now that he had committed this offense he was no longer pure before God…..and therefore, he needed to be purified.

    • Thank you for your comment Ron. Lets remember though that God provided Himself to be a peace offering. Romans 5:8 says while we were yet enemies, Christ died for us. He made the peace offering not us. Amazing grace!

      • Good call William!

        There was quite a lot going on with the sacrifices and rituals. One might even have been tempted to think it was/is hard work to make things right with God. Looking back we know those ceremonial activities were not any more efficacious then than they would be today (Hebrews 10:3-5). They were acts of faith manifested in obedience, in the same way our faith is to be manifested in obedience.

        The people would be made more conscious of the heinous nature of sin, learn about how Jehovah would deal with the sin problem, including its effects, and be reminded that perfect obedience is the only acceptable standard of righteousness in the Kingdom of Heaven, as was intended in Eden. They were to better comprehend the love of God and understand that happiness is derived from oneness with God, which required unwavering trust and absolute obedience. There is no other way but to trust and obey.

  3. The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. Isa. 53:6
    For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might he made the righteousness of God in him." 2 Cor. 5:21 Paul shows that he means the actual transfer of our guilt to Christ by saying, "Who knew no sin,"—that is, of his own; he was made sin, he says, by reckoning our sins to him, not by any sins which he committed.
    The word translated sin cannot mean a sin-offering in this text, for it is contrasted with righteousness. If the one is a sin-offering the other must be a righteousness-offering; but the word translated righteousness has no such meaning. And sin, not a sin-offering, must be the sense of the word in this connection. This is the common use of the word elsewhere. Men may put forth as many philosophical pleas as their ingenuity can furnish, but according to Paul the sins of the whole saved family were reckoned to—transferred to Jesus.
    Minjo Emmanuel

  4. Thanks be to God for the work of the sanctuary service, for the cleansing of the sanctuary which symbolizes the cleansing of sins.

  5. Jeremiah 17:1 emphasizing a pen of iron and a point of diamond that were used to engraved the sins of the people in their hearts and into the horns of their Altars. Iron is a powerful element it is impossible to break by human hands, and the diamond can cut through the most strongest material on earth. This metaphor is highlighting the true condition of our sins. Our sins are so deeply embedded in our hearts and our sacrifices that ONLY by the blood or the righteousness of Jesus the Lamp of God will blot them out. It is an important point to remember that the sins of the people were represented by the ashes from the sacrifices. Those ashes were transferred onto the Scapegoat at the day of Atonement. Blood is only tranferred for the purpose of purification and cleansing.

    The blood from the innocent slained animals is the representation of Jesus's pure and perfect life or His righteousness. That blood was sprinkled over the horns of the Altars and the vail typifying the righteousness of Jesus is the ONLY way into the Holy Presence of God Almighty. This is what the Bible meant by "The Power Of The Blood" which is the Righteousness of Jesus.
    This is our ONLY hope for Eternal Life. By faith let us study and gain the simple knowledge of God's Plan Of Salvation that is clearly revealed and choose Jesus to be Lord and Saviour of our whole hearts and received Eternal Life in that very moment. Let us be careful not to go into unrevealed details of the sanctuary significances that will raise perplexities and distort the simple message that God intended for us to know. I am so gratified of this God the Creator of the Universe for His Loving Kindness towards us all. Cheers my friends!!!

  6. i cant udersrand some things abour the day of atonement. how many times does the priest has to go inside?
    am asking because i hear people say 'it was once a year' but ther were many rituals that were done.

    • The priests went into the first apartment of the sanctuary on a daily basis in the course of doing their work.

      [Edited for accuracy] However, the High Priest entered the second apartment also called the "Most Holy" place, where the ark which held the Ten Commandments stood, only once a year. They could not enter it any other time on pain of death.

      The Day of Atonement came at the end of the sanctuary year, just as the antitypical day of atonement is fulfilled at the end of probationary time.

  7. Having challenges with the concept that the blood pollutes the sanctuary. Is there any biblical support for it? Does this imply that the blood of Jesus has polluted the heavenly sanctuary? I can only find references where blood cleanses. Any help appreciated.

    • Perhaps another analogy may clarify the issue. Take the washing of your hands with water. If your hands are covered with dirt (sin) you use water (blood) to carry it away. The dirt in the water is what pollutes-not the water itself. In the same way the blood carries our sin into the Sanctuary.

      P.S you are right---the blood which represents the living presence of Jesus does the cleansing or bearing of our sins.

    • John Cline's analogy is a good one. (Thanks!)

      As I understand it, in the earthly sanctuary, sins were transferred to the sacrifice by the laying on of hands. The blood of the sacrifice was carried into the sanctuary and thus, in figure, polluted the sanctuary with the sins confessed by the sinners.

      By the priests eating the sin offerings, they took the sins of the people, in type, upon themselves, and they bore the sins of the people until the day of atonement. (See Lev 10:16-17)

      What the earthly sanctuary pre-figured in type, Christ fulfilled as the antitype. Christ bore our sins on the cross. (1 Peter 2:24) In fact He "became sin" for us. (2 Cor 5:21) He died the death that should have been ours. But that's not all: He carried our sins into the heavenly sanctuary. And these are being disposed of today in the antitypical Day of Atonement.

      The earthly sanctuary services teach us that the atonement was not finished at the cross. The sacrifice in the earthly sanctuary was only part of the atonement, and Christ's death on the cross was the antitype of the daily sacrifice on the altar.

      Christ's death on the cross was also the antitype of the sacrifice of the Lord's goat on the Day of Atonement, but that was a service performed only once at the end of the sanctuary year. Thus the Day of Atonement is fulfilled at the end of probationary time on this planet. And Christ is acting as our High Priest in the Heavenly Sanctuary at this very moment.

      "As anciently the sins of the people were by faith placed upon the sin offering and through its blood transferred, in figure, to the earthly sanctuary, so in the new covenant the sins of the repentant are by faith placed upon Christ and transferred, in fact, to the heavenly sanctuary. And as the typical cleansing of the earthly was accomplished by the removal of the sins by which it had been polluted, so the actual cleansing of the heavenly is to be accomplished by the removal, or blotting out, of the sins which are there recorded. But before this can be accomplished, there must be an examination of the books of record to determine who, through repentance of sin and faith in Christ, are entitled to the benefits of His atonement. The cleansing of the sanctuary therefore involves a work of investigation—a work of judgment. This work must be performed prior to the coming of Christ to redeem His people; for when He comes, His reward is with Him to give to every man according to his works. Revelation 22:12" (The Great Controversy, p. 42 )

      The more I think about it, the more difficult it is to understand. All sorts of questions arise to which the Bible has no answer, and I can well believe that we shall delve into the mysteries of the atonement for all of eternity. We are likely to err when we try to bring things down to the level of our understanding.

      Enough is clear that we owe an eternal debt of gratitude to Jesus Christ who did for us what we could not do for ourselves. He left the glories of heaven and the worship of adoring angels to come to this planet to be despised and insulted by mere men whom He had created. It is an unthinkable humiliation ...


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