That is kind of how it was before Jesus came. When the people sinned they would make an offering of an
animal without spot or blemish before the Lord. The animal was killed and some of the blood was sprinkled by the priest on the alter for a sin offering. And then there was the Day of Atonement when the high priest entered into the Holy of Holies; once a year to offer a sacrifice for all the people. The thing was though that their sins were not removed, they were just covered over. The high priest would bring in two goats, one to sacrifice for the Israelites, for their uncleanness and whatever sins they may have committed; the other goat ceremonially carried the sins of the Israelites by the laying on of the high priest's hands and confessing the rebellion and wickedness of the people. This goat was taken outside the camp and released into the wilderness. The goat carried on itself the sins of the people which were forgiven for another year, that's where the word scapegoat comes from.
What we saw in that ritual was basically the washing of the face in regards to sin. The outer man was cleansed, but the inner man was not. Those sacrifices were more or less like sweeping up the dirt and debris on the floor and pushing it under the rug. It was never completely removed. As Hebrews 9:9,10 says, "the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order." (NIV) Even after all the ceremonies, all the rituals, they knew that they would have to do it all over again the next time they sinned. And there would have to be another Yom Kippur, or Day of Atonement the following year because their sin was never completely done away with.
Over and over again. Bulls and sheep and goats and doves. Blood and death and sacrifice. Day in and day out, year after year.
Can you imagine. Wow, today I feel so clean, so whole, so pure. Oh, shoot, I sinned again. Time to run to the local sheep lot and hope to find another perfect animal to slaughter. Never having a clear conscience, never feeling like you could do enough to please God. Never feeling worthy of His love or free to worship with your whole heart. A life filled with dread, a heart unsure of God's love, a conscience that was never cleansed no matter how much blood was spilled.
"Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God," Hebrews 9:11-14 (NIV). He came and sacrificed Himself, of His own accord, because of the Father's love for us. Not a sacrifice that must be done every time we sin, that must be repeated yearly; but once, for all. "When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God," Hebrews 10:8-12 (NIV) He sat down by His Father because the work had been done. As He said on the cross, "It is finished". No more blood to be spilled. No more rituals, no more sacrifice. And what strikes me about the passage above is that it says in verse 8 that those former things were done according to the law. He gave His life not for the law, but for love. And that love sets us free to love Him in return and to have a conscience that is continually clean before Him. No more doubt. No more fear.
It is hard for us to imagine that. Especially on the days that we blow it. We lose our temper at work. We get angry with our spouse or children. We rail at the opposite political party. We lie, we curse, we mentally commit murder with our hatred of others. How many sheep do we have to sacrifice for those sins? Let me count them up...uh, none. Remember, He offered for all a single sacrifice. In His eyes we are clean. In His eyes we are perfect..."For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified," v 14. We are set apart, holy, free from sin. Yes, we were born with a sin nature, but by His blood we are washed clean. Though our sins were as scarlet, we are now white as snow.
It is with a clean conscience that we have the freedom to worship God wholly. No more washing, no more cleanses. No more trying on our own power to take a wet wipe and scour away the stains of sin and death. No more spit baths attempting to wipe the schmutz of guilt off. We have been scrubbed clean by the blood of the Lamb. Not only is the outer man all spiffy, but the inner man is spotless. Free to live a life unto Him who calls us His own.