19 April 2012

A Survey of the Old Testament Law--Burnt Offerings Part 1 (Leviticus 1:3-4)

Now that we have laid the groundwork, let’s look at the acceptable animals involved with the “burnt offering.” The first type of animal they could offer was livestock—cattle, oxen, etc. Leviticus 1:3“‘If his offering is a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish; he shall offer it of his own free will at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the LORD.’” Could a person bring just any animal they wanted to bring? Let’s say Yitzhak found an animal wandering through the camp and he said, “Oh, what fortune! I shall give this to YHVH as a burnt offering!” Would that have been acceptable? No. Could they offer pigs or dogs as a burnt offering? No. What if he just went through his herd or his flock and grabbed the first animal he found, even though it had some kind of defect? Even though these kinds of practices were unacceptable to God, the nation of Israel would do just that by the time the prophet Malachi wrote the word spoken to him by the LORD. Malachi 1:6-8“6 A son honors his father, And a servant his master. If then I am the Father, where is My honor? And if I am a Master, where is My reverence? Says the LORD of hosts to you priests who despise My name. Yet you say, 'In what way have we despised Your name?' You offer defiled food on My altar, but say, 'In what way have we defiled You?' By saying, ' The table of the LORD is contemptible.' 8 And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?" Says the LORD of hosts.

So the person had to bring an acceptable animal to sacrifice. Had to be “without spot or blemish.” I don’t think I need to overexplain how this pictures Christ. The various animals were brought to different areas, and we will look at each in its time. The offering of livestock as brought to “the door of the tabernacle of meeting.” This would be the east side of the courtyard, where the altar of burnt offering was located. They bring it to Aaron and his sons, and what did they do with the animal? Leviticus 1:4“‘Then he shall put his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him.’” The person would lay their hands on the head of the livestock and God would accept the sacrifice on the person’s behalf.

What does it mean that this voluntary offering would “make atonement” for the person? Was it taking away or covering over some sin? This was a voluntary offering, meant to confess that God owns everything. So what is the “atonement” mentioned here? It does not mean “an atonement for sin,” since that was the purpose of the “sin offering” and “trespass offering” which will be described in later chapters. For example, Leviticus 4 covers the various Sin Offerings. These are the offerings that would make atonement for sins. Leviticus 4:26“So the priest shall make atonement for him concerning his sin, and it shall be forgiven him.” Leviticus 4:35“So the priest shall make atonement for his sin that he has committed, and it shall be forgiven him.” Leviticus 5 and 6 cover the Trespass Offerings. Leviticus 5:13“The priest shall make atonement for him, for his sin…and it shall be forgiven him.” Leviticus 5:18“So the priest shall make atonement for him regarding his ignorance in which he erred and did not know it, and it shall be forgiven him.” Leviticus 6:7“So the priest shall make atonement for him before the LORD, and he shall be forgiven for any one of these things…” So this atonement brought about by the Burnt Offering is not an atonement for sin.

The “atonement” spoken of here is simply this: that God sees the person acknowledging their total dependence upon him. By this offering, God would see that the person knows he has nothing on his own, and knows that everything he has comes from the hand of God. In fact, God would tell them this very thing a few years later, in a verse that prosperity preachers cling to for their very lives, Deuteronomy 8:18“And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.” What would happen if that one to whom God gave large herds or flocks simply said, “I have much to be proud of! Why, look at what a large flock I have created! I can just sit back and take it easy! What do you mean ‘What about God’? What did God have to do with this?” Well, Jesus talked about such a man in Luke 12:16-21“16 The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. 17 And he thought within himself, saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?' 18 So he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry."' 20 But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?' 21 So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” Those to whom God has given much show their faith and thanks toward Him by offering up from the choicest of his herd or flock. And if that one to whom God has given much does not show his faith and thanks toward God—this God, of whom the Psalmist says that He owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10)—then God can certainly take away everything He owns. And in the word of Joel, God does that very thing. The people had waxen fat; they had more than enough grain and vineyards: but they had forgotten God. And He sent an army of locusts to remind them that it is He who gave them the fields and vineyards.

One more note one this issue of atonement in the Burnt Offering. The giving of the choicest stock was nothing new. It was a principle that existed long before the giving of the Law. Isaac was to be a Burnt Offering before God held back Abram’s hand. And a man who lived at the same time as (or perhaps even before) Abraham. This man was commanded by God to offer up Burnt Offerings on behalf of his friends when they had spoken foolishly of God. That man was Job. Even though the book of Job is placed 18th in the Old Testament canon, he lived (probably) not too long after the time of the events contained in Genesis chapters 11-12. Now, we all know the story of the book of Job. Satan appears before God on His holy mountain; God points to Job, “a righteous and upright man.” Satan accuses Job of only loving God because of all that God had given him (Amazing, isn't it? Even Satan knows that it is God who provides!). God allows Satan to test Job, allowing Job to lose everything—family, livestock, house, everything. Then allows Job to be covered with boils “from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet.” And then his friends come to console him. And, as the saying goes, with friends like that…

They get into this long discussion about Job and about God and about righteousness and so forth. And when God demands from Job an answer for each of eighty some-odd questions, Job’s reply is “5 I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. 6 Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-6). God then turns to Job’s “friends.” Job 42:7-97 And so it was, after the LORD had spoken these words to Job, that the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, "My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has. 8 Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, go to My servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and My servant Job shall pray for you. For I will accept him, lest I deal with you according to your folly; because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has." 9 So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did as the LORD commanded them; for the LORD had accepted Job. This Burnt Offering was demanded by God from Eliphaz and Bildad and Zophar so they might understand what Job already had declared—that it is not man who makes himself righteous in the eyes of God. And the man realizes that, and proves that by his actions (as Job had been wont to do as his normal pattern of life, see Job 1:5), is that man who is approved of by God. The Burnt Offering described in Leviticus 1 is just that action God demands from the one to whom He has given much (see Luke 12:48).

The principle of the “laying on of hands” is found several times in the New Testament. Only now, hands are laid upon people, not animals. We no longer offer animals as sacrifice, but rather our lives, our bodies. Romans 12:2Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. Just as the Jew under the old covenant laid their hands on an animal, dedicating it to God, we now have hands laid on us to dedicate our own lives to God. 1st Timothy 4:14Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. 2nd Timothy 1:6Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. So this laying of hands on the offering that was to be burned in the fire was the person, by way of this animal, laying their lives in God’s hands.

Take my life and let it be/Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days/Let them flow in endless praise.
Take my hands and let them move/At the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet and let them be/Swift and beautiful for Thee.
Take my voice and let me sing/Always, only for my King.
Take my lips and let them be/Filled with messages from Thee.
Take my silver and my gold/Not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use/Every pow’r as Thou shalt choose.
Take my will and make it Thine/It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own/It shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love, my Lord, I pour/At Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself and I will be/Ever, only, all for Thee.

We finish up the Burnt Offering next week, looking at other acceptable animals, how they were processed, and what they did with all that blood.

Jesus Christ is Lord.

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