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Overview of the Offerings (1): Leviticus 1-7

R Dawes, Lesmahagow

There are five main offerings - the burnt, meal, peace, sin, and trespass offerings. They were "a shadow of good things to come" (Heb 10.1), having their fulfilment in the Person and work of Christ. Hebrews 10.5-6 alludes to all five. Four are "blood offerings" and one is "bloodless", three are "sweet savour" offerings and two are "offerings for sin". They are God's "picture book" and ABC of salvation to enable us to understand, at least in measure, the breadth and depth of Christ's cross-work. They provide a kaleidoscope of the Person and work of Christ and answer to the four Gospels - Matthew presents the trespass offering aspect, Mark the sin offering, Luke the peace offering, John the burnt offering, and the meal offering combines all four. There are five specific psalms that reflect the different aspects of the offerings - Psalm 40 the burnt offering, Psalm 16 the meal offering, Psalm 85 the peace offering, Psalm 22 the sin offering, and Psalm 69 the trespass offering. The study of the offerings is very important in view of the general ignorance of many believers; it enlarges understanding and enriches worship.

The offerings also present five portraits of Christ and five principles of conversion, amongst many other interesting things. In type and figure they show that His Person is absolutely pure and spotless and His work perfect and effectual. The order in which they are given in Leviticus chs.1-7, burnt offering to trespass offering, presents them from the divine perspective - what is most precious and pleasing to God, His appreciation; the reverse order, trespass offering to burnt offering, is the sinner's apprehension. We will approach it from the sinner's viewpoint, which parallels our spiritual experience. The responsibilities of the priest, the garments to be worn, attending to the altar, the disposal of the animal parts and the ashes are detailed in the "law of the offerings" in 6.8-7.38.

The Trespass Offering (5.14-6.7)

We were initially troubled about our sins and desired, above all, personal forgiveness. We found Christ by faith as our "substitute sacrifice", who provided forgiveness and paid our debt as sinners. The trespass offering relates to sins against the Lord in divine things (5.14-19), even if committed through ignorance; and also sins against the Lord respecting one's neighbour 6.1-7. The sinner also begins to realise at this early point in his spiritual experience the injury and harm that his sin does to others; thus public confession, restoration and compensation will be necessary. The wrongs had to be remedied as well as recompensed, and therefore the trespass offering included provision for a fifth part (as estimated by the priest) to be added so that the person wronged was compensated and indeed was better off than he was before the offence took place. Hence the sacrifice (a ram without blemish, a lovely type of Christ) and the valuation for damages have to be brought to the Lord openly and publicly (5.18; 6.7). As sinners we have robbed God of glory and honour that is His due, and we are debtors with nothing to pay.

He paid a debt He did not owe,
I owed a debt I could not pay;
I needed someone to wash my sins away.
And now I sing a brand new song,
Amazing grace the whole day long,
For Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay.

(Ellis J Crum)

The Sin Offering (4.1-5.13)

Having received forgiveness we then become conscious of a deeper problem - the principle of sin within, a defiled and depraved nature, for "in me…dwelleth no good thing" (Rom 7.18), the condition rather than the character of sin. The person (note the different people mentioned), not so much the practice, is involved in the sin offering. Sins of ignorance, not specific sins, are in view, and this manifests inward corruption - "We don't even know when we are sinning!" We are unclean and unfit for God's presence. The sin offering deals with sin as a root principle: "he hath made him to be sin (or sin offering) for us" (2 Cor 5.21). No sin in Him, but our sin on Him. The ritual is:

Presentation of the living sacrifice. A young bullock without blemish is an apt type of Christ in His energetic, patient servant character.

Identification with death. The offerer had to "lay (lean heavily) his hand" on the head of the animal, signifying complete oneness with the offering, thus in figure (in fact for us) passing his sinful state to the victim slain for him.

Distribution of the blood. Much is made of the blood. It is sprinkled seven times before the vail to satisfy the claims of God and it is then put on the horns of the incense altar as the basis of all worship. The rest is poured out beside the brazen altar, to assure the sinner of acceptance. "Precious blood" is the ground of all approach to God and blessing.

Selection of inwards. The fat, kidneys, and caul (no washing as for the burnt offering?) are "burnt as incense" for God on the altar, suggestive of the inward excellence, emotions and energy of Christ, even when made sin.

Destruction outside the camp. The flesh was carried to a clean place outside the camp and "burnt" (a different word, meaning "destroyed") to ashes for the work was finished and sin was dealt with.

The remnants of both offerings for sin were to be eaten by the priests in the holy place (Lev 6.29). Note, "it is most holy"; it typifies our blessed Lord.

My sin, O the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to His Cross and I bear it no more;
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul.

(Horatio G Spafford)

The Peace Offering (3.1-17)

Having had our sins and sin thoroughly dealt with, the conscience is now clear and clean and we can move on in Christian experience. The way is now open for communion with God. We discover that we were at enmity with God, hating what He loves and loving what He hates, but we can now enter into peace having been reconciled to God through the blood of His cross. The word "peace" is plural, and it includes the thought of prosperity and joy. We have peace with God, a settled matter, but there is a conditional peace, the peace of Christ (Jn 14.27; Phil 4.7); do we enjoy both? The peace offering was often brought to express "thanksgiving" (Lev 7.12), and when we arrive at this point in our soul's experience gratitude for grace should characterise us. This offering introduces us into a happy relationship and joyful fellowship with God and His people; He has desired it and provided for it in the "peace" aspect of the Cross. The Lord leads us to His laden table, as Mephibosheth was brought to David's and Ruth to Boaz's. Observe the stages of the ritual:

Perfection. The animal must be without blemish, but it could be male or female, to allow the most to participate.

Identification. The outstretched hand suggests the reality of faith, so that the blessing may be obtained.

Presentation. The blood is shed, and the inwards (the choicest and best parts) burnt as incense on the altar for God.

Participation. The breast (affections) and the shoulder (strength) were given to the priest, the rest for the offerer, his family and friends; it was a joyful feast before the Lord (Deut 12.7). Do we feast on Christ, our peace offering?

I hear the words of love,
I gaze upon the blood,
I see the mighty sacrifice,
And I have peace with God.

(Horatius Bonar)

To be continued.


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