Priests and sacrifices were very familiar to the people who lived during the time of the Bible. Aaron and Aaron's sons served as the priests of the house of God through much of the time covered by the Old Testament. Individuals also offered sacrifices to God before the Law was given to Moses, including: Abel (Genesis 4:4), Job (Job 1:5), Noah (Genesis 8:20), and Abraham (Genesis 15, 22).
Christianity also teaches about a priest and a sacrifice; but unlike the Old Testament, both the priest and the sacrifice are the same one -- Jesus. Scripture tells us that Jesus "has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." (Hebrews 9:26) In John chapter 10, Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd...I lay down My life for the sheep...I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father."
Praise be to the Priest and Lamb!
Someone once asked me this question: "If God knew that we couldn't deal with our sin and had from the beginning planned to deal with it in Christ, why was there an Old Testament?" Here are some thoughts I have with regards to explaining why:
To introduce us to God
In the Old Testament, God reveals Himself to us. He shows us that He is "I AM WHO I AM" - the Creator, the Living God, the only Savior. God also shows us what He is like - a gracious and just God who is holy and enthroned in heaven. And after revealing Himself, God also shows us how we are to approach Him - in reverent fear, love, and obedience.
To introduce us to ourselves
In the Old Testament, God shows us how He created mankind, what He designed for mankind, and how mankind has all turned away from Him. God shows us that the problem is not so much "out there" as it is "in here" - in our hearts. He gives us the Law as a mirror by which we might examine our hearts and see ourselves in the light of truth. His Law reveals our need for reconciliation, healing, and a new heart. We need a Mediator who will bring us to God and a Savior who will make us whole.
To introduce us to the Savior
In the Old Testament, God gives many illustrations, types, and predictions about how He would reconcile us to Himself and heal us. God introduces to us the idea of substitutionary atonement in the Law and throughout the Law, Prophets, and Writings, tells us how we can recognize the Savior when he comes.
To encourage us
In the Old Testament, God gives us precious wisdom, beautiful words, and awesome examples to encourage us in our walk with Him. The Christian life wasn't designed to be walked alone - and so God gives us living brothers and sisters to help us and the record of past brothers and sisters to refresh our souls through this life of faith.
Praise God for the gift of the Old Testament!
"While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head." -Mark 14:3
Why did the woman do this? Jesus explains that, "She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial." (verse 8) Was this woman preparing Jesus for his burial only in the sense that the dead were prepared with spices before they were buried in a tomb? The imagery of anointing so strongly reminds me of the priests (Exodus 40:13) and kings (1 Samuel 15:1) of the Old Testament. Could the woman's actions also possibly point to the fact that in his death, Jesus was performing the service of the High Priest, who died as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28, Mark 10:45)? And could it also possibly point to the fact that in his death, Jesus was revealed to be the "King of the Jews" (Matthew 27:37, Mark 15:26, Luke 23:38, John 19:19)? In addition to being anointed as one dead, was he also anointed as one who is a living Priest and King?
"...for the joy that was set before Him [Jesus] endured the cross..." -Hebrews 12:1-3
"I will declare Your name to My brethren;
In the midst of the assembly I will praise You...
The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
Those who seek Him will praise the LORD.
Let your heart live forever! " -Psalm 22:22, 26
"How good and pleasant it is
when God's people live together in unity!
It is like precious oil poured on the head,
running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron's beard,
down on the collar of his robe." Psalm 133:1-2
Did that perfume also run down the Anointed One's beard as he reclined at Simon's table and the sweet smell of the perfume filled the room?