The Lord called Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When any one of you brings an offering to the Lord, you shall bring your offering of livestock from the herd or from the flock. Leviticus 1:1-2
The animal sacrifice is a practice that has taken place since the beginning of human civilization, in every part of the world. It was universal because sin is universal, and it must be attoned for. The first sacrifice recorded in the Bible was God’s spontaneous sacrifice of animals to make clothes for Adam and Eve from the skins after they first sinned. When Cain and Abel made an offering to the Lord, Cain’s sacrifice of crops was not accepted by the Lord, but Abel’s sacrifice from his herd was. It was the picture of Christ God was creating, the innocent dying for the guilty.
God never sanctioned human sacrifice. Sinners cannot die for other sinners. Pagan sacrifices in which infants and children were sacrificed were abhorrent to God. This was a realm that only he could enter with the voluntary gift if his own body through Jesus. The perfectly innocent died willingly for the guilty.
The reason we find the idea of animal sacrifice to be so awful today is that we have forgotten what it is for. We have forgotten that the wages of our own sin is death. We have forgotten that someone has to pay.