Text: Leviticus 1-7
Proposition: From God’s very first commands to Israel to sacrifice, He was whispering the wonders of Jesus Christ in every offering.
Introduction: We wrapped up the book of Ezra last week and as we did we again saw the people of Israel offering a sacrifice. In fact throughout the book there were at least three different types of sacrifices that were mentioned. We could trace this back to the days of Moses and then to Abraham and even back to the garden of Eden. The clearest explanation of what sacrifices were to look like occurred when God directed Moses while the people were near Mount Sinai. God instructed the people to build a Tabernacle, this is where He would dwell, this is where the people would meet with Him and that sacrifice would always be the method. He did so with a view to something much greater than the actions of the moment. The details that God prescribed were like the way that a doctor writes out a prescription for a patient, except this prescription given to Moses also had an inner meaning to it that would not be realized for over 1500 years. Every one of the six types of sacrifice speak about the final salvation plan in the cross of Jesus Christ. Each type has a special message encoded in the method and nature of the sacrifice that speaks about Jesus. The Sacrifice directed the people in how they were to approach God. If we will explore these early types, or pictures of Jesus, we too will see the prescribed way to come to God and will gain a greater understanding of Who we worship and even how we worship today. Here are the 6 sacrifices that God prescribed to Moses: Burnt Offering; Meal Offering; Peace Offering; Sin Offering; Trespass Offering and Drink Offering. With appreciation to R.K. Campbell and George Davison at the Biblecentre.org site, let’s turn to Leviticus 1 and begin ‘Sacrifice 101’.
I. The Burnt Offering
In the burnt offering, as well as the other sacrifices, it had to be a domesticated animal or bird like a bull, sheep or pigeon. A lion or wolf or even a deer was not acceptable. The idea is that the animals had to be of the kind subject to the will of man, picturing the way that Jesus would one day also subject Himself in a similar way. They had to be presented at the door of the tabernacle, the person would place their hands on the animals head conveying that what was done to this animal was in fact being done to them. Hebrews 2:10,11 says, “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren”. George Davison adds, “We are not accepted with Him, but in Him. All that is true of Him, because we are accepted in Him, in His Manhood and in His glory, is true of everyone who is in Him, before the face of God forever more.” The word ‘burnt’ has the root meaning of “ascend’, that is the focus of this sacrifice is that which is above the offering. The picture of Jesus here is that of His death on the cross and that it was first and foremost for the pleasure of God. Not that God had some sort of perverse pleasure in Christ’s suffering and death rather it was the pleasure that the Son brought to the Father as He perfectly complied with the Fathers plan in salvation. Hence the sacrifice is God-ward, for this reason a male is used as it pictures the incarnated Christ, the man Jesus who was given in our place for the redemption from sin. There were times when female animals were used but only when the sacrifice was made in reference to specific sins needing to be forgiven through the Sin Offering. The sacrifice was put to death on the north side of the altar, the north side being referred to as the place of suffering. It was flayed or cut in pieces, it’s skin was removed. The blood was sprinkled upon the altar signifying that all the claims of God against sin are completely satisfied in this sacrifice. The blood is on the altar and not poured out on the ground as in other sacrifices, again pointing to the satisfaction or pleasure or joy of God as the sacrifice restores relationship between man and God. The skin of the animal was given to the priest who performed this sacrifice, it was to be a robe or covering for him. Here again is a picture of the robe of the righteousness of Jesus Christ with which we are cloaked. It is like a coat of office signifying that we belong to a family, like the coat put on the shoulders of the prodigal son when he returned in repentance to his father. In the case of the burnt offering the head, the fat, the entrails and the legs, all of the animal was put upon the altar, all of it was offered to God as a sweet savor or aroma. The priest did not receive a portion as is the case with some of the other sacrifices, this is not a picture of man and God communing, it is a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ offered completely according to the plan and will of the Father to the Fathers great pleasure. In our worship times today much of the focus is the same as the burnt offering, we recognize the beauty and perfection of Christ, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:2
II. The Meal or Grain Offering
In Numbers 15 it records how God instructed Moses that whenever a burnt offering was presented it should always be accompanied with a grain offering. If the burnt offering pointed to the pleasure of God in the absolute sacrifice of Christ, then the meal offering speaks about the perfect qualities in the person of Christ. The meal offering has essentially only four different parts; fine, pure wheat flour; oil; frankincense; salt. Each of these ingredients speaks in some way of the perfection of Jesus Christ, let’s consider what that might be.1.The fine wheat flour – the purity of the flour points to the sinless Christ and the flour itself is emblematic of the sustainer of life. Jesus once described Himself by saying, “I am the bread of life”, a reference to the manna bread, the bread which came down out of heaven in order to give life. The flour of the meal offering pictures the coming of the perfect life to earth to be given to the world as the bread of life. The handful of flour was offered for burning and the remainder went to the priest to eat, a picture of the communion we have in the body of Christ.2. The oil – the oil is a picture of the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit, it points to the power of God working through the person God has chosen. We see this in the way that kings were anointed with oil as symbol of God’s working through them. The oil poured out upon the flour signified the power of God present in the perfect person of Jesus, enabling Him to be the burnt offering of God’s choice.3. The Frankincense – Frankincense comes from the Boswellia tree, an unusual tree that is known for its ability to survive in dry and rocky terrain. The bark of the tree is flayed or cut repeatedly and the sap that runs out is collected and allowed to dry and harden. These hardened bits of sap are called tears. John Hopkins University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have recently determined that the smoke from frankincense has a psychotropic effect that is known to relieve depression and anxiety. We also know that frankincense was one of the gifts given at the birth of Christ. In the case of the Meal Offering the frankincense is the fragrant and pleasing aroma that is for God’s enjoyment alone in Christ. It is why the priest to take all of the incense and put it in the altar for burning. 4. The Salt – This is referred to in verse 13, it is the only extra ingredient allowed in the Grain Offering. There was to be no honey and no leaven. The salt is a symbol of that which is a preservative against corruption. The use of it in biblical times was as a preservative, it was so valuable for this that wages were often done with salt (hence the term ‘a man being worth his salt’). In the grain offering the salt speaks of the way that Christ stood for righteousness, He rightly proclaimed the holiness and justice of the Father as regards sin. Interestingly this is referred to in verse 13 as the “salt of the covenant of your God”. The meaning here is that God’s covenant with us is that we would always do that which is right in His sight, we would be salt and light in the world. Jesus, though tempted in all things as we, was without sin, Jesus perfectly did what was right in the sight of the Father. He was a fragrant joy to the Father, He moved in the power of the Spirit, being anointed with Spirit at His baptism, He came from heaven as the bread of life for us. This is the picture that the grain offering presents and it works perfectly to the Fathers pleasure in the burnt offering. This is the Jesus who is our Savior, this is the One we worship. May these OT sacrifices guide us as we grasp their fullness in Christ. Next week let’s look at the Peace Offering and the Sin Offering.