Why the Different Offerings
By Tom HoltLeviticus is a book most believers don't spend too much time in. For one thing, many of us find the description of animal sacrifices somewhat gory and repetitious. For another, this book deals mostly with ceremonial rituals that have been superseded by the death of Christ on the Cross.
Leviticus 1-7; Hebrews 10:1-18
Indeed, the Book of Hebrews goes to great length to show that the cross has made obsolete those sacrificial ceremonies. And Colossians 2:17 confirms that all those rituals were a shadow of things to come, and that the reality is found in Christ.
Nevertheless, God no doubt recorded all those ceremonies in the
Bible to teach us something. I believe, therefore, that even a moderate understanding of the meaning of the various offerings can help us better appreciate what Christ did for us on the cross and convict us as to what our response should be.
The Two SacrificesIn almost all the offerings discussed in Leviticus, two classes of sacrifices are involvedthe "bloody" sacrifice that required the shedding of blood by an animal; or the "unbloody" that required the baking or cooking of some flour.
I think most of us readily acknowledge that the animals slaughtered were pictures of Christ crucified. They must be without blemish because Jesus is altogether without sin. Likewise, we have no trouble understanding why the flour presented in meat offerings (the meat here refers to the meat of grains) must be fine and pure, and why in almost all cases it must not be baked or cooked with leaven. The New Testament makes it clear that leaven, or yeast, represents sinful acts or false teachings.
But once we look a bit closer at God's instructions for these offerings, we begin to see more spiritual truths. Typically, for example, before an animal was slaughtered, the person making the offering was to lay his hand on its head. It was a picture of the transfer of that person's sin to the sacrificial animal. Had our sins been transferred to Christ before He was crucified? Yes, indeed. Isaiah 53:6 declares, "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all."
Ever-burning fire. We further learn that, depending on the kind of offering, the whole or parts of the sacrificial animal had to be burnt on an altar. Of the altar, God says in Leviticus 6:12,13:The fire upon the altar shall be burning in it; it shall not be put out...The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out.
This signifies that the hell fire that Christ experienced on the cross goes on forever. Jesus Himself often speaks of hell as a place where the fire shall never be quenched. Just how His suffering in just three hours of our time was the equivalent of all believers being punished eternally is something beyond our comprehension. But it was a fact. Had He not paid the penalty in full, He would not have resurrected.
The instruction regarding grain offerings also gives us some insight into the Lord's sacrifice. Before the flour was to be burnt, baked or cooked, it had to be mixed with oil and frankincense. As oil in the Bible is a figure for the Holy Spirit, the process pointed to the humanity of Jesus. He was conceived of the Holy Spirit. Frankincense is an incense that, when burnt, emits a fragrant odor pleasing to God. There is nothing more pleasing to God than Christ being found in fashion as a man, humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Covenant of salt. We further read in the first half of Leviticus 2:13, "And every oblation of thy meat offering shalt thou season with salt." Salt in the Bible typically has to do with judgment. Remember Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt after she had looked back at Sodom and Gomorrah against God's warning? So, adding salt to the pure flour again reminds us that Jesus was judged by God for our sins.
Verse 13 continues, "neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meat offering: with all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt." What is this all about? To understand this, let's look at the only two other verses in the Bible in which the term "the covenant of salt" appears Numbers 18:19 and II Chronicles 13:5, respectively:All the heave offerings of the holy things, which the children of Israel offer unto the Lord, have I given thee (Aaron), and thy sons and thy daughters with thee, by a statute for ever: it is a covenant of salt for ever before the Lord unto thee and to thy seed with thee.
Ought ye not to know that the Lord God of Israel gave the kingdom over Israel to David for ever, even to him and to his sons by a covenant of salt?
In both cases, the covenant of salt related to a free and everlasting gift from God. So, with the meat offering, God is reminding us that by His having judged Christ for our iniquity, He has freely given us eternal life.
Five Major OfferingsLet's look now at the gospel meaning of some of the offerings. In the first seven chapters of Leviticus we find the laws pertaining to the five major ones:
Burnt offering. The book begins in Chapter One with commands relating to the burnt offering. Actually, this is an offering that predated the Law of Moses. Remember the circumstances that led to the first murder? Adam's first son Able was a keeper of sheep and he offered to the Lord the firstlings of his flock and of the fat, whereas the second son Cain, being a farmer, brought of the fruit of the ground. God accepted Abel's offering and rejected Cain's.
We read in Hebrews 11:4, "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous." That Abel made a more excellent sacrifice "by faith" implies that God had told him the requirement of an animal sacrifice and he believed. In other words, right at the dawn of human history, God revealed at least to Abel that without the shedding of blood there was no remission of sin.
This shows that even before a person has violated a law of God, he needs to be saved because he has inherited a sinful nature. "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me," Psalm 51:5 declares.
Meat offering. Chapter 2 and verses 14-23 of Chapter 6 talk about the second kind of offeringthe meat offering. As I mentioned earlier, this one emphasizes the humanity of our Lord Jesus and the free salvation that He has bestowed upon us through the covenant of salt.
While a handful of the flour offered would be burnt on the altar, the rest of it belonged to Aaron and his sons, the priests. They were to eat it in a holy place. Inasmuch as we believers are the New Testament priests, this offering reminds us that we need to regularly partake of our Lord Jesus.
Peace offering. Described in Chapter 3 and parts of Chapter 7 is the peace offering, or as some versions translate it, the fellowship offering. Primarily, these were freewill offerings made to express thanksgiving for blessings received or to make a special vow dedicating people or things to the Lord.
For New Testament believers, the key lesson is that it was Jesus crucified that has enabled us to have peace with God and to fellowship with Him. Without Christ as our Savior, even our thanksgiving would not be heard.
Particularly significant is verse 13 of Chapter 7: "Besides the (unleavened) cakes, he shall offer for his offering leavened bread with the sacrifice of thanksgiving of his peace offerings."
This is one of the only two places in the Bible where God told the Israelites to include in their offering some leavened bread. The latter, you see, represent the believer. Though we have a born-again soul, we are still living in a sin-cursed body. Yet, if we are sincere in offering thanks to God, then God wants us to give ourselves to Him, impure though we are.
Sin and guilt offerings. In Chapters 4 and 5 and parts of 6 and 7, God sets forth the law regarding sin and trespass (or guilt) offerings. While there are some technical differences between the two, the reasons for these offerings are the same. Whenever the Israelites, individually or corporately, sinned "through ignorance against any of the commandments of the Lord," it must be atoned for by an animal sacrifice. The implication is that a truly saved person would not willfully disobey God.
Unlike the burnt offering, these offerings did not call for the animals to be totally consumed by fire. Rather, the priest was to eat part of it.
The law about these offerings reveal two important truths. One, even after we have become saved, we continue to do things contrary to the commands of God. For that reason, we consistently rely on the cross to provide us with forgiveness. Two, as New Testament priests of God, we must keep on partaking of the Lord so that we are continually sanctified by the Holy Spirit with the Word of God.
The Wave OfferingBesides the five kinds of offerings spelled out in the first seven chapters of Leviticus, the Bible speaks of some other offerings. The most important of these was the wave offering, which is attached to the peace offering and which is so called because the items
offered were waved by the priests as a special presentation to God.
Wave offerings did not always require animals without blemish or pure flour. In Leviticus 23:10, for example, God commanded the Israelites to bring to the priest on the Feast of the Firstfruits a sheaf of the first grain they harvest. The priest would then wave the sheaf before the Lord, thereby rendering it acceptable to God.
Living sacrifice. More significantly, referring to the Feast of Weeks (or Pentecost), God says in verse 17 of Leviticus 23, "Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the Lord."
This is the second command that required the offering of bread baked with yeast. It really is the Old Testament counterpart of Romans 12:1:I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
We, who are members of the eternal church (symbolized by the number two), are to offer our whole bodies as a sacrifice to God, even though our bodies still have a sinful nature. With Christ, our High Priest, waving us before God, we become acceptable to Him as firstfruits. Thus, God describes us in Revelation 14:4 this way: "These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb."
Now, do you begin to see the significance of the various ceremonial offerings? They remind us that Christ endured everlasting hell fire to spare us the eternal damnation that we deserve. To effect that atonement, He had to empty His glory to become a lowly human. His sacrifice not only brought us peace with God despite our wicked nature, but continually brings us forgiveness for our everyday sin and guilt. He has also paved the way for us to pray to God, to thank Him, to serve Him, to make dedications to Him and to approach Him for any other reason.
If we truly appreciate what our Lord has done for us, how else can we respond but to present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God? What a great privilege it is just to be an unworthy servant of our gracious Savior! o
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