J. V. Fesko writes:
The book of Leviticus tells us that the Israelites used the altar to make sin offerings. Israel and the high priest did not have access to God whenever they wanted but could only approach under the blood of a burnt offering, a sacrifice for their sin. The high priest would bring a bull without blemish and slaughter it at the entrance, the courtyard of the tabernacle (Leviticus 4:4). He would then take some of the blood and sprinkle it seven times on the veil separating the holy of holies from the inner tabernacle (Leviticus 4:5–6). The priest then took some of the blood and placed it on the four horns of the altar and then poured out the rest of the blood at the base of the altar (Leviticus 4:7). He then took the fat, kidneys, loins and liver, and burned them all upon the altar (Leviticus 4:8–10). He then took the rest of the bull—its flesh, head, legs, entrails, and dung—and burnt it outside the camp (Leviticus 4:11–12).
One thing should emerge quite clearly from all of the information we have gathered—namely, there was a constant reminder of God’s holiness and man’s sinfulness at the entrance to the tabernacle courtyard. Israel would have a blunt reminder of the cost of the forgiveness of sins as they saw and heard a bull slaughtered, saw the blood smeared upon the horns of the altar, smelled the burning fat, and then carried the remains of the animal outside of the camp to be burned. The Israelites would know from the gruesome ritual that sin was costly, but at the same time would also know they served a God who was willing to forgive their transgressions.
Now that Christ, the true high priest, has come, he has done precisely what was foreshadowed in the Old Testament sacrifice of the burnt offering upon the altar:
But when 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 (Hebrews 9:11–12).
Christ entered the heavenly holy of holies and offered a sacrifice with his own blood by which he secured our redemption. ere are still further connections between Christ’s sacrifice and the burnt offerings upon the altar. The blood from the animals was smeared upon the horns of the altar, sprinkled upon the veil between the holy of holies and the inner tabernacle, and also upon the mercy seat.
One of the questions that we should ask ourselves is: Do we fully realize the significance of the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ?
So often we will give lip service to the idea of the sacrifice of Christ, but our conduct reveals our lack of understanding in our hearts. Many claim to take refuge in the sacrifice of Christ, but they live in rebellion to the authority of Christ—they claim to love Christ but their lives demonstrate they are indifferent to the costly sacrifice of Jesus Christ. ere are still yet others who claim the name of Christ and look to him for the forgiveness of sins, yet they live as though we still worshipped at the Old Testament tabernacle. In other words, they believe that their sin is too great for God to forgive, and so, like the Old Testament Israelites, they repeatedly come to God doubting his mercy and seek the forgiveness of a sin, offering their prayers and repeatedly pleading with God for forgiveness for the same one sin over and over again.
We should recall the costly sacrifice of Christ and rejoice that we can envision the horns of the altar smeared with blood, cling to them in Christ, and know that our sins accuse us no more. If Christ gave his life so that we might live, then we must not live as though Christ never came, as though he never offered himself up on our behalf. We must, as Paul says, walk in the newness of life, for our sinful nature has been crucified with Christ: ‘Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires’ (Galatians 5:24).