THE BURNT OFFERING (Leviticus 1)
The placing of the offerings is most interesting. The burnt offering comes first; the trespass offering comes last. God was not only the first and greatest loser when sin came in, but He is the first and greatest to benefit from the work of Christ.
God is always first
The prodigal had surely come to a true estimate of his wrong when he said to his father, "I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight" (Lk 15.21). The angels heralding the Saviour said first, "Glory to God in the highest", then, "and on earth peace, good will toward men" (Lk 2.14). The first fruits of the harvest were for God, then the rest for the family and the stranger (Lev 23.15,22). To love anybody more than Him, or put anything before Him, is idolatry.
The Lord always starts from Himself. In Exodus, Moses was instructed about the ark and the mercy seat first (25.10-22). In Ezra and Nehemiah the order was the altar (Ezra 3.2), the burnt offering (Ezra 3.5), the temple (Ezra 6.14), the walls and gates (Neh 3). In the Ephesian epistle we have Gods purpose and choice in Christ followed by our walk and warfare. It is only as we know the greatness of Gods eternal purpose in Christ and the absolute perfection of Christs person that we will be able to appreciate fully the greatness and completeness of Christs work for us on the cross. Only when we know what He means to God will we truly value our standing in Him.
The division of the offerings
The divisions of the offerings will be easily picked up whether broadly or in more detail if we look for the phrase, "The Lord spake". It is found first in Leviticus 1.1 and not again until 4.1 and that is a broad division of the offerings. The first three in chs.1-3 are sweet savour or ascending offerings. In chs.4-6 they are, in the main, non-sweet savour offerings, which were obligatory.
The word "burn" in these two sections highlights that truth. In ch.1 it is to burn as incense, to cause to ascend. In the latter, it is the idea of consuming, burning thoroughly. Note also that what was done with most of the blood tells the same story. In ch.1 it was sprinkled, but in ch.4 it was poured out at the bottom of the altar. In the sweet savour offerings, Gods holiness is feeding, delighting in the offering. In chs.4 and 5 Gods righteousness is seen judging, smiting the offering.
The same phrase, "The Lord spake", is seen to distinguish in more detail the offerings, not only dividing ch.1 from ch.4, but also in 5.14 when speaking of trespass in the holy things, and in 6.1 when dealing with trespass against a neighbour.
The place from which God spoke
Turning back to 1.1, it states there that the Lord addressed Moses out of the tabernacle, that is the place spoken of at the end of Exodus, the place where Moses finished the work, when the cloud came down and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. We also note the place from which the Lord speaks in those first five books of the Scriptures, taking a place suitable to each book. In Genesis the Lord not only spoke to Abram in Ur of the Chaldees, but the God of Glory appeared to him to attract him out. Here is a lovely principle we can enjoy. Abram went out, not only because of a word spoken, but also because of the superiority of the glory that was revealed.
I see this principle in the Song of Solomon, where the bride says, "Draw me, we will run after thee" (1.4), with the Thessalonians who turned to God from idols (1 Thess 1.9), and with the Hebrews: "Let us go forth therefore unto him" (Heb 13.13). The late John Douglas said, "I would have put that statement in Hebrews 1 and said if you dont go out I will tell you nothing, but the Holy Spirit puts it last, after He has spoken of the majesty and incomparable glories of Christ", and then he added, "I would have made it a mandate. The Holy Spirit made it a magnet to win our hearts and draw us outside the camp". Let the glories of Christ fascinate my heart and the world will be turned into a vast moral desert. Idols once held dear will fall from my grasp and earths most devoted religions will be exposed as flawed and defiled, the faked and foolish notions of mens minds. Christ alone will win, hold, attract, and compel me to move out to Him outside and apart from all that is not of Him.
In Exodus the Lord spoke to Moses in the land of Egypt out of the burning bush because in all their afflictions He was afflicted. He saw their sorrow and heard their groans and was come down to deliver them. He was going to break the yoke, smash the chains, overthrow and destroy the mighty Pharaoh and his hosts, and deliver the people, His chosen people, not only by blood but by power.
In Numbers the Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness because it records Israels journeying and provides instruction for the pathway. In Deuteronomy the Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness this side of Jordan because it was instruction for the time when they would cross Jordan and go into the land. It was to beget seemly conduct and good behaviour in every walk of life.
In Leviticus l the Lord speaks out of the tabernacle because it is about priests, altars, and sacrifices. One lesson to be noted is that the work must be finished before the Lord associates His glory with it and it is in that finished work that He manifests His glory. He speaks to say how men should approach Him (Lev 1.2): "If any man of you bring ye shall ". This clearly is different from that found in ch.4: "If a soul shall sin he shall bring" (vv.2,4). In a sense, in ch.1 there is room for exercise. The burnt offering is voluntary, but in the trespass offering and sin offering what is asked is demanded. It must be brought or judgment will fall. It is obligatory. We must bear in mind, however, that while the Lord allows exercise as to what has to be brought as burnt offerings, He does not allow us to bring it anyhow thus: "If any man of you bring ye shall...". The Lord has an order of approach that must be followed. How the man or priest came and what was done with the offering is all clearly stated. There must be adherence to Spirit-given instruction as we approach into Gods holy presence. Reverence and godly fear must mark us at all times both in language and deportment, and what we bring must be suitable.
What was brought for a burnt offering
Let us observe what was brought in Leviticus 1. There were three animals - bullock, sheep and goats, and two birds - doves and pigeons. The features of these animals, and birds were all seen in Christ as He moved toward the cross and as He was on the cross, for remember that it was what He was in life that gave value and glory to His death.
The bullock. It was strong to serve, speaking of the Lord Jesus constant, unerring service, always busy in the Fathers business, serving with all His strength, caring with all His heart and mind, not only glorifying the Father on earth but finishing the work given Him to do, completing that service by giving Himself a sacrifice well-pleasing, being obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
The sheep. This speaks of His meekness, quietness, and submission to the Fathers will (Is 53.7). The Lord Jesus "was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth". When the Lord Jesus "was reviled, he reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously" (1 Pet 2.23). Moving forward uncomplainingly to the appointed place at the appointed time He stands falsely accused. He was stripped, buffeted, scourged, thorn-crowned, His face marred, His back furrowed, and His hands and feet pierced, yet He was silent and unresisting in all His humiliation and agony.
The goat. The sure feet and the strength of the goat are equal for every circumstance. The Lord was the strong one who prevailed and entered into the strong mans domain and bound him. He destroyed him who had the might of death, He stripped principalities and powers, triumphed over them, and made a show of them openly. We sometimes sing:
How hast Thou triumphed, and triumphed with glory,
Battled deaths forces, rolled back every wave.
- H. dA. Champney
He truly crushed the head of the serpent.
To be continued.