A Call To Holiness
The Burnt Offering:Acceptance with God
Jerry A. Collins
In the game of baseball we hear the language of sacrifice. With a runner on base and no outs it is probable that the hitter will attempt a sacrifice bunt to advance the runner. Though the batter is thrown out at first, he will not be charged with an at-bat, in recognition of his intentional sacrifice. Sacrifice is commonly used in reference to some costly action taken in order to benefit someone else.
This language of sacrifice is also used as the central focus of worship in the Old Testament. The worship of the nation of Israel revolved around five basic sacrificial offerings; the grain offering, the peace offering, the sin offering, the trespass offering and the burnt offering which is the subject we are dealing with. In Exodus 25-40 God gives all the instructions for the building of the Tabernacle which was to become the center of the religious life of the nation. The climax comes when the Shekinah Glory, the presence of God, sweeps into residence in association with the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy of Holies. This residence of God amongst the people becomes the clue for what Leviticus is all about. It is the manifestation of the eternal God dwelling in the midst of His people. It is their Immanuel. The defining concern of the book of Leviticus is the arrangement of life around His presence. In other words, how should one live if the eternal, holy, almighty God lived with him? The first seven chapters of Leviticus reveal that basic to residence with God is sacrifice! How do profane and sinful people live around such a holy presence? The answer is by sacrifice!
So the laws and the rituals taught Israel about themselves and God in at least two ways. (1) That the race was corrupt and sinful, separated by sin from God. (2) That God was gracious and compassionate, making a way of acceptance available so they could fellowship with Him. Of course, the significance for the New Testament and us i9s that the law is a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ who is the goal of the law. we know, for instance, the significance of blood atonement in Christ, because God taught it to mankind for hundreds of years. God has been teaching us this and many others truths through symbol and rite to his people for generations. So when the fullness of time came, Jesus Christ stepped into the world and accomplished once and for all what all these sacrifices, rituals, feasts and laws signified in Leviticus. God enacts this law in the nation to instruct the people as to how they might live and how to worship so that He might dwell among them. All who approach Him whose name is ‘holy’, whether priests who minister unto Him or people who worship Him, must themselves be holy.
Situated just inside the entrance to the courtyard of the Tabernacle was the large brazen altar upon which the sacrifices were to be made. This altar was made of wood overlaid with brass. It had to be fire and water proof. Four horns were on the corners and fire was sent from God (Lev. 9:24) to light the altar and the priests had the responsibility to never let this fire die out. This brazen altar signifies the sacrif9icial basis for entrance before God. It represents shedding of blood, the appeasing of God’s wra5th, and the substitutionary death of the victim. It was the first thing the offerer came to as he entered the tabernacle area. It would signify to him that noone approached God without stopping here at the altar and making sacrifice.
The tabernacle was portable so that the building could be taken down board by board and transported to the land. Later the Temple replaced this primitive structure.
1) The tabernacle was the throne of God. Because the nation was a theocracy God was the king. This house was his palace among the people. He ruled from the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies through the mediation of the priests and prophets.
2) The tabernacle represented the perfection of God. Every part was detailed and perfected to represent His character and nature. The work was not done cheaply or carelessly. Nothing but the best is good enough for Him.
3) The tabernacle represented his presence among His people. God was with them, but that demanded that they be a pure people, undefiled and without contamination. Therefore, everything in the tabernacle and everything done in the tabernacle signified this meeting of God and man in relationship and fellowship with one another. But this meeting demanded separation from the world. One had to go through the courts of the tabernacle to get to God.
4) The tabernacle demanded progressive stages of being close with God. It was set entirely off from the encampment of the people. Inside there was the holy place and then the most holy place. To move to the most holy place one had to go by the brazen altar, then the laver for washing, then into the tent with its altar of incense, but there he stopped until one day the priest would go behind the veil that separated the people from the presence of God. All access began with the blood and was maintained by the blood. The steps would include: a. decision to enter the courts at the outer gate; b. acceptance at the altar when the sacrifice was made (free from penalty of sin and wrath set aside); c. cleansing at the laver from defilement; d. fellowship at the table of shewbread; e. testimony by light at the golden candlestick; f. intercession at the altar of incense (the fellowship, testimony and intercession looking at the removal of the present effect of sin) and finally, in the holy presence of God at the mercy seat where the high Priest would enter once a year to atone for the sins of the nation (free from the presence of sin our future hope). This then was the provision by God for access to His presence As he dwelt among his chosen and redeemed people. It taught the nation that God, their king, was central to every decision and every activity in the nation.
THE BURNT OFFERING
Basic to the ritual of sacrifice was the burnt offerings that were made at the altar. The distinctive features include:
1. Substitution had to be made (vs 3). A male animal without any defect (vs 3). It could be from the herd (vs 2), the flock (vs 10) or of birds (vs 14). The point that is stressed by the different animals offered in this sacrifice would be the ability of the offerer. Each kind of animal could be given and offered. The point is that if a person was impoverished, he could offer even a pigeon or turtledove that could be caught. No one is barred from acceptance with god or worship on the basis of their income or ability to give. Everyone had to realize that an offering of substitution had to be made but that at the same time, Israel’s worship of God was not a rich man’s religion! Everyone is accepted by God the same way and that is through substitution. noone could buy their way to god, bribe their way to God, pay their way to God. God is not a respector of persons Acts 10:34. James 2:1-9 warns us of the sin of favoritism and partiality. Every person is significant to God and is invited to trust in the substitution provided in Christ.
2. Identification was necessary (4-6). The animal presented at the door of the tabernacle would have the offerers hands laid on it (vs 4) to show identification with the animal. he would then kill the animal (vs 5) except in the case of a bird which was handed over to the priest who wrung its neck. the blood would be collected in a basin sprinkled around the altar and then he would skin the animal and cut it into pieces (vs 6). Some parts placed on the altar, others washed first while the bird pilled apart at its wings. This would be quite an experience for someone who had raised this animal and now takes its life. Today we personally identify with the substitutionary death of Christ by faith. I deserve the stroke of death in the presence of a holy God but Christ has taken that stroke for me. His blood has been shed, His life given for me.
3. God’s wrath has been satisfied (vs 9, 13, 17). The offering has become a sweet aroma to the Lord. It has been totally consumed on the altar and the idea is that the wrath of God against sinful people has been averted and now we have access to him. The smell of this sacrifice must have been wonderful as compared to a barbecue. This ‘sweet savor’, a wonderful aroma pleasing and desirable to us like a backyard barbecue, must also be to God. Think about this. The death of His Son, Jesus Christ, is a sweet savor to the Father. Christ’s’ sacrifice for us was pleasing and desirable to the Father!
4. We are acceptable to God (vs 3-4). Now that the wrath of God has been averted, we are assured of acceptance because we are brought into harmony with God. The separation because of sin has been removed. The sweet aroma of Christ’s sacrifice is sweet because thr9ough it we now have access into the presence of the Father. The barrier has been removed. The veil has been torn in two (Matthew 27:51). Anyone who approaches God by faith in the sacrifice of Christ will be accepted by the father into relationship and fellowship. As with the whole burnt offering, so the death of Christ is complete. It speaks of the complete exhaustion of the wrath of God. Now that you are accepted by God as a believer, how full is your commitment to the lord? Have you surrendered yourself to Him? He gave everything for you!