THE BURNT OFFERING (Leviticus 1; cont)
The twofold description of the offering
The parts of the offering are divided into two groups: the head and the fat; the inwards and the legs.
The head and the fat coupled together (v.8). This tells me that the Lords energy was always controlled by His wisdom. Prudence always marked His words as well as His ways. Think of the healing of the palsied man (Mk 2.1-12). The scribes reasoned, "Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?". The answer of the Lord tells these men that healing the man and forgiving his sins were things impossible for them to do. He proves that He can do the unseen thing, that is, forgive sins, by doing what is seen.
Again, think of the wisdom of His reply to those who came complaining about His disciples plucking and eating the corn (Mk 2.23-28). The Lord did not refer to Deuteronomy 23.25 where it is justified, but to the time when David ate the shewbread, because the Pharisees said, "Why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?". Notice how wisely and accurately He used the incident recorded in 1 Samuel 21.1-6. This objection was not levelled at Him but rather at His disciples, so He said, "Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungered, he, and they that were with him?". He pointedly added, "he, and they that were with him". Matthew includes an interesting statement in the words of the Lord: " David entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him" (Mt 12.3-4). The Pharisees used the words "not lawful", so the Lord returns the phrase "not lawful for him (David)...neither for them which were with him".
Why does the Lord take up this incident in Davids life and not go to Deuteronomy 23.25 to prove the disciples were within the law? I think He is using their objection as an opportunity to draw a parallel between the days of David and His position at that very time. If David had not been in rejection but had been where he and his men ought to have been, at the palace amidst plenty, there would have been no need and therefore no hunger. Even so was it with the Lord Himself. If these men had given Him His rightful place this occasion would never have arisen.
Note His wisdom seen in deeds. Perhaps we should be content to recall just one. I am thinking of the feeding of the multitude, not now the preacher taking up a vantage point but rather placing the multitude in rows of fifties so that the disciples could have easy access to distribute to the people what the Lord had graciously and miraculously provided for them (Mk 6.30-44). I have witnessed some confusion in conferences with attendances up to 500, due to lack of wisdom. The Lord always, in word, and deed, used His energy prudently.
The inwards and the legs coupled together (v.9). We must pull ourselves away from this interesting theme suggested by seeing the head and the fat mentioned together and look at the other couplet: the inwards and the legs. If, in the head and the fat we see energy channelled by wisdom, here we see movements actuated by love. Notice the number of times in the Gospels that we read that Jesus was "moved with compassion".
I remember the joy that flooded my heart when I noticed the first mention of this in Marks Gospel, that of the Servant of Jehovah, in chapter 1.41. The leper cried, "Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean". The beloved physician says that "he was full of leprosy" (Lk 5.12). He must have been a most unlovely sight, but the Lord Jesus was moved with compassion for him and put forth His hand and touched him and said, "I will; be thou clean".
We marvel at the love that moved Him to come from glorys heights sublime, to move in servant form in scenes of time, and, having loved, to love to the end, to the uttermost. Read of the tears at the grave before the cry, "Lazarus, come forth" (Jn 11.35,43). Yes, the inwards and the legs tell us that it was love which motivated and moved Him; love to the Father, love to Israel, love to His own that were then in the world, love to the church and, wonder of wonders, love to me.
The washing with water
"His inwards and legs shall he wash with water" (v.9). The water of the Word applied to us finds a heart that has wicked and vile affections, in which there is love that at best is not without dissimulations. Water, however, applied to Christ finds no need to cleanse from the filth of the flesh or spirit. He had no need for the laver to cleanse, no need for the snuff tongs to remove the filth, no need of the crucible to purify. Everything wrong and vile was absent. Everything holy, right, and pure was present.
Unique features for the sheep or the goat
What was done with the bullock was to be done with the sheep or the goat but one thing is added in v.11. The priest had to kill the sheep or the goat "on the side of the altar northward". The north is where the sun never shines. The priest killed and offered with no sun to cast even its shadow on the altar and sacrifice, himself totally out of sight. I am thinking of Naaman being cleansed by obeying the message of a man he never saw, by the unseen preacher. The writer of the Hebrew Epistle is not named, he is the unseen teacher. Here where there is no shadow between offerer and offering, there is the unseen worshipper. Only spiritual preachers, teachers, and worshippers can present Christ and keep themselves out of the picture. Oh for help to preach to sinners, teach the saints, to present Christ to God with all of self removed out of sight. What a terrible possibility that we could overshadow the amazing glories of Christ by parading ourselves. Oh to magnify Him alone, for that we will do in heaven. May we strive to do it now here on earth. In that day all thought of self will be forever over. Christ, the unmingled object, will be filling the heart which in blest adoring love will find in Him its endless part, that which will never cease to satisfy. Only then will the heart be satisfied and ask no more.
This small practical touch leads me to something else mentioned in connection with the sheep and goats. There was no flaying of them and note also that the birds were not divided. There was not the same ability to handle things before the Lord, but all had the same acceptance, for our acceptance is not measured by our appreciation of Christ but by Gods infinite knowledge of Him. We all, young and old, knowledgeable and dull, are accepted in the Beloved One. Our enjoyment of this may vary but the fact of it remains unalterable and full. Even in heaven we will know no other merit, it will be enough to be in Him accepted, beloved, embraced.
Features of the offering of fowls
As we go to v.16 we have another very practical lesson. There were things taken away from the fowls, although they were the smallest of the burnt offerings. If the offering of the fowls (vv.14-17) suggests the idea of younger believers offering according to their measure, then the lessons here are valuable.
The crop. This is food that was picked up, gathered but not digested, not becoming part of the bird. A young believer may gather from reading or listening that which appeals to his mind but has never won over his heart.
Feathers. This pictures that which is outward and showy; flowery language, eloquent words on the lips but not the personal, private meditations from the heart. These are not suitable for the altar of burnt offering. Again, these had to be placed at the east side of the altar, the place of the ashes, the place of judgment, the place where the sin offering was burnt. Would this speak of a young believer truly exercised to present something to God yet perhaps not too able to distinguish between the burnt offering and the sin offering? It must be a priestly man who takes away what is not suitable.
The young must be adjusted, and appealed to with compassion. They have not to be spoken to in such a way that they will never offer again, but encouraged and educated so that growth will take place and that they, too, will become able to offer their bullock.
To be continued.