A Brief Summary
The only thing that separates us from God and eternal life is sin. Separation from God because of sin is called death (Romans 6:23). In the Old Testament, the Israelites killed animals so that God would forgive sins. However, the death of the animal did not atone for (make up for) the sin. Rather, God required repentance in order to forgive the sin, but the sacrifice of an animal was the sign God required to demonstrate one’s repentance. It was possible, however, for someone to sacrifice the animal without having repented in his heart. That’s called “hypocrisy.” People kept up the show on the outside, even though things were not right on the inside.
The prophet Samuel said, “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22). David said, You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart—these, O God, You will not despise (Psalm 51:16-17). But, if one was repentant, then God prescribed the sacrifices that were to be offered. Always costly, these sacrifices usually included the death of an animal, which was to reflect the spiritual death that sin caused.