Yes, this is an apt and accurate description of every sinner considering the wickedness and depravity of the human heart. Let us never forget that precise and repugnant description of Israel that applies to every sinner, “From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment” (Isa 1:6). Truly, we are sin covered in skin.
But imagine now a priest sitting outside his tent as the cold of the desert night settles in around him. Perhaps like a Zachariah, he is disgusted with himself for having doubted or having fallen short in his devotion to the Lord. His mind races to the Shema that he has memorized, written, and quoted thousands of times, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deut 6:5). Emotion swells, and He looks to the starry sky, blurting out an apology to his God for being so limited and failing while pleading with Jehovah, the eternal God, that somehow, some way he might become a more devoted man. He dreams of being a man who could say words like David would write of another, “I have set the Lord always before me.” His dream is short lived, as the reality of his own unacceptability and limited love tumbles like an avalanche down upon his heart.
As tears slow, he gives a small shiver and then moves to a tent, picking up a skin from a bullock that he had recently brought home after a day’s work at the tabernacle. As his hands run over the smooth hide, he remembers the face of the young father who brought the animal and how the man winced and turned in anguish when the man had to kill the animal himself. The man had brought it as a burnt offering, so the priest had to skin it, cut it in pieces, and he could still see the man watching with eyes gleaming and a big smile as the whole animal was lifted on the brazen altar.
Suddenly, the priest shivered again and wrapped himself in the skin. As he sat back down it all came clear to him. My love for God has been cold and dim, but the atonement for a soul is not a performance-based life. The law says, “IT shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him” (Lev 1:4) – IT being another life that was completely given to God.
Immediately, tears run down his cheeks as the priest wraps himself tighter, enjoying the great truth. This is not a putting on of skins of spiritual pretense to impress others like false prophets (Matt 7:15), this is being honest before God. Neither is it putting on skins like a Jacob (Gen 27:16), to pull a fast one and get a blessing from the Lord. This was better than Adam and Eve the first time they put on a covering but still had to move away from God. No façades, no fakes, no faux acceptance. What a blessing to have open, honest, genuine acceptance based on the life of another who gave his all to God. As he smelled the skin surrounding him, he remembered the eyes of the young man watching the smoke of that burnt offering, wafting up to the nostrils of Jehovah as a sweet smelling fragrance.
The priest’s mind suddenly runs ahead, trying to imagine the joy in Jehovah’s heart. No one but Messiah could be that devoted bullock! He would come saying, “Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of Me, I delight to do Thy will, O My God: yea Thy law is within my heart” (Psa 40:7, 8), and would never waver or never fail. He alone would unflinchingly love God with all His heart, soul, strength, and mind. Even more, He would “become obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil 2:8). He would love us and give “Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice TO GOD as a sweetsmelling savor” (Eph 5:2).
The priest looks up towards the shining stars above. His face beaming, his heart warmed, and tears of sadness from looking at his own heart now turn to joy as he looks into God’s heart. Thankfulness floods his soul for the great “IT” of the burnt offering.
My brother, sister, and fellow priest are you there today? Tired of your lack of devotion? Disappointed in yourself? Feeling a cold, dryness in your soul? Grab the skin of the burnt offering; may it warm your soul to the core that you are not accepted by God because of your own devotion. You are “accepted in the Beloved (one)” (Eph 1:6).