Read carefully Leviticus, chapters 1; 6:8-13; 7 and 8; Deuteronomy 33:8-10; Psalm 40; Ephesians 5:1-2.
To many believers the theme of the burnt-offering is very familiar, but there are large numbers of God's beloved people who have never carefully studied the marvelous types of the Person and work of Christ given us in the early chapters of Leviticus, where we have five distinct offerings, all setting forth various aspects of the work of the Cross and unfolding the glories of the Person who did that work—a Person transcending all the sons of men, for He was both Son of God and Son of Man, divinely human and humanly divine. We shall get great help for our souls if we meditate upon the marvelous pictures here given us of the great and wondrous truths which are unfolded in the New Testament. In coming to the study of the types, we should never found doctrines upon them, but discovering the doctrines in the New Testament, we will find them illustrated in the types of the Old.
The five offerings may be divided in various ways. First we notice that four of them are offerings involving the shedding of blood—the Burnt offering, the Peace offering, the Sin offering, and the Trespass offering. The Meat offering, or, as it should read, the Meal offering or Food offering, was an unbloody offering, and stands in a place by itself. Then again there are sweet savor offerings as distinguished from offerings for sin. The burnt offering, the meal offering and the peace offering are all said to be "for a sweet savor unto the Lord." This was never true of the sin offering or the trespass offering. The divine reason for this distinction will come out clearly, I trust, as we go on.
The five offerings which are here grouped together present to us a marvelous many-sided picture of the Person and work of our blessed Lord Jesus Christ. They show what He is to God, as well as what He has become in grace to sinners for whom He died, and to those who have trusted Him and now stand before God accepted in the Beloved. If there be details, as many there are, which are difficult for us to understand, these should but give occasion for exercise of heart before God and for meditation and prayer. We may be sure of this, that the better acquainted we become with our Saviour and the more we enter into 7 what the Word of God elsewhere reveals as to the details of His work upon the cross, the more readily we shall understand the types.
As we get them here in the first seven chapters of Leviticus we see things from the divine standpoint, that is, God gives us that which means most to Him first; so that we begin with the burnt offering, which is the highest type of the work of the Cross that we have in the Mosaic economy, and we go on down through the meal offering, the peace offering, and the sin offering, to the trespass offering, which is the first aspect of the work of Christ generally apprehended by our souls.
As a rule when a guilty sinner comes to God for salvation he thinks of his own wrong-doing, and the question that arises in his soul is, "How can God forgive my sins and receive me to Himself in peace when I am so conscious of my own trespasses?"
Most of us remember when the grace of God first reached our hearts. We were troubled about our sins which had put us at such a distance from God, and the great questions that exercised us were these: How can our sins be put away? How can we be freed from this sense of guilt? How can we ever feel at home with God when we know we have so grievously trespassed against Him and so wantonly violated His holy law? We shall never forget, many of us, how we were brought to see that what we could never do ourselves, God had done for us through the work of our Lord Jesus on the cross. We remember when we sang with exultation:
"All my iniquities on Him were laid,
All my indebtedness by Him was paid,
All who believe on Him, the Lord hath said,
Have everlasting life."
This is the truth of the trespass offering, in which sin assumes the aspect of a debt needing to be discharged.
But as we went on we began to get a little higher view of the work of the cross. We saw that sin was not only a debt requiring settlement, but that it was something which in itself was defiling and unclean, something that rendered us utterly unfit for companionship with God, the infinitely Holy One. And little by little the Spirit of God opened up another aspect of the atonement and we saw that our blessed Lord not only made expiation for all our guiltiness but for all our defilement too. "For God hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." It was a wondrous moment in the history of our souls when we saw that we were saved eternally, and made fit for God's presence because the Holy One had become the great sin offering, was made sin for us on Calvary's cross.
But there were other lessons we had to learn. We soon saw that because of their sins men are at enmity with God, that there could be no communion with God until a righteous basis for fellowship was procured. Something had to take place before God and man could meet together in perfect enjoyment and happy complacency. And thus we began to enter into the peace offering aspect of the work of Christ. We saw that it was God's desire to bring us into fellowship with Himself, and this could only be as redeemed sinners who had been reconciled to God through the death of our Lord Jesus.
As we learned to value more the work the Saviour did, we found ourselves increasingly occupied with the Person who did that work. In the beginning it was the value of the blood that gave us peace in regard to our sin, but after we went on we learned to enjoy Him for what He is in Himself. And this is the meal offering; for it is here that we see Christ in all His perfection, God and Man in one glorious Person, and our hearts become ravished with His beauty and we feed with delight upon Himself.
We can understand now what the poetess meant when she sang:
"They speak to me of music rare,
Of anthems soft and low,
Of harps, and viols, and angel-choirs,
All these I can forego;
But the music of the Shepherd's voice
That won my wayward heart
Is the only strain I ever heard
With which I cannot part."
"For, ah, the Master is so fair,
His smile's so sweet to banished men,
That they who meet Him unaware
Can never rest on earth again.
And they who see Him risen afar
At-God's right hand, to welcome them,
Forgetful are of home and land,
Desiring fair Jerusalem."
To the cold formalist all this seems mystical and extravagant, but to the true lover of Christ it is the soberest reality.
And now there remains one other aspect of the Person and work of our Lord to be considered, and it is this which is set forth in the burnt offering. As the years went on some of us began to apprehend, feebly at first, and then perhaps in more glorious fulness, something that in the beginning had never even dawned upon our souls, and that is, that even if we had never been saved through the work of Christ upon the cross there was something in that work of tremendous importance which meant even more to God than the salvation of sinners.
He created man for His own glory. The catechism is right when it tells us that "the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." But, alas, nowhere had any man been found who had not dishonored God in some way. The charge that Daniel brought against Belshazzar, the Babylonian king, was true of us all: "The God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified." God must find a man in this world who would fully glorify Him in all things. He had been so terribly dishonored down here; He had been so continually misrepresented by the first man to whom He had committed lordship over the earth, and by all his descendants, that it was necessary that some man should be found who would live in this scene wholly to His glory. God's character must be vindicated; and the Lord Jesus Christ, the Second Man, the Lord from heaven, was the only one who could do that. And in His perfect obedience unto death we see that which fully meets all the requirements of the divine nature and glorifies God completely in the scene where He had been so sadly misrepresented. This is the burnt offering aspect of the Cross. By means of that cross more glory accrued to God than He had ever lost by the fall. So that we may say that even if not one sinner had ever been saved through the sacrifice of our Lord upon the tree, yet God had been fully glorified in respect of sin, and no stain could be imputed to His character, nor could any question ever be raised through all eternity as to His abhorrence of sin and His delight in holiness.
So in the book of Leviticus the burnt offering comes first, for it is that which is most precious to God and should therefore be most precious to us.
Others have pointed out how the four Gospels connect in a very wonderful way with the four bloody offerings. Matthew sets forth the trespass offering aspect of the work of Christ, meeting the sinner at the moment of His need when he first realizes his indebtedness to God. It is noticeable throughout what a large place the thought of sin as debt and as an offence to the orderliness of the divine government occupies in that book.
In Mark's Gospel the aspect of sin as uncleanness and defilement is more emphasized, and so we have the sin offering view of the Cross. Then in Luke we have the peace offering as the basis of communion between God and man. In chapters 14, 15, and 16 we are shown the way that God in infinite grace has come out to guilty man to bring him into fellowship with Himself, and yet how many there are who refuse that mercy and so can never know peace with God. In John's Gospel our Lord Jesus Christ is seen as the burnt offering, offering Himself without spot unto God, a sacrifice of a sweet-smelling savor, and that is why in John there is no mention made of the awful cry of anguish, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me!" This really belongs to the trespass and sin offering aspects of His work; but it does not come in where His death is seen as that which fully glorifies God in the world where He has been so dishonored. The meal offering is seen in all the four Gospels where we have the Person of Christ presented in various ways; as the Messiah of Israel in Matthew; the suffering Servant of Jehovah in Mark; the perfect Man in Luke; and the Son of God become flesh in John.
It is as we meditate upon all these precious things that we really enjoy communion with the Father. At one time in my early Christian life, I had an idea that communion consisted in very-pious feelings and frames of mind, and in order to have these emotions I would read every devotional book I could find, and would often jot down in a diary my thoughts when I had, what seemed to me, a distinct sense of piety that was very delightful and solemn. In after years I came across this book and could hardly believe that I had ever had such strange, conceited thoughts and supposed them to be the result of communion with God. I realize now that I thought communion consisted in having God find delight in my pious feelings. But that is not it at all. Communion with God is when my soul enters into His thoughts concerning His Son.
Did you ever go into a home where a dear mother had been entrusted with a new baby? How did you get into heart communion with that mother? You talked perhaps about various things, but you could not strike a responsive chord in her heart until you said something about the little one. All at once she brightened up and began to tell you what a wonderful baby it really was, and soon you and she were completely en rapport, for you were both occupied with the same little personality. The illustration is a very feeble one. That child of hers is entrusted to her for but a brief period, but the God of the universe has been finding His delight in His blessed Son throughout all the ages of eternity, and now He says, as it were, "I want to take you into fellowship with Me in My thoughts about My Son. I want to tell you about Him. I want you to understand better the delight that I find in Him and to see more fully what His work and devotion mean to Me."
And so this book of Leviticus opens with the voice of the Lord calling to Moses out of the sanctuary. It was from the excellent glory that the voice came saying, "This is My beloved Son in whom I have found all My delight." And so from the inner tabernacle where the glory of God abode above the mercy-seat, the voice of Jehovah called unto Moses saying, "Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man of you bring an offering unto the Lord, ye shall bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herd, and of the flock." Notice there is not a word about man's sinfulness. This is addressed to those who are already in covenant relation with God, and whose hearts are overflowing with gratitude for what He has done for them, and who now voluntarily desire to bring to God something which He can approve of; and everything that they bring speaks of Christ. For there is nothing that any of us can bring to God that will give Him joy unless it speaks in some way of His blessed Son. It is the very voluntariness of the burnt offering that gives it such value. There is here no question of legality, no "must," nor any demand, but it is the heart filled with gratitude desiring to express itself in some way before God that leads to the presentation of the offering. And notice the universality of it. It says, "any man." It was something of which any one could avail himself. All may come to God bringing the work of His Son.
Three distinct kinds of offerings are mentioned. The burnt offering might be a sacrifice of the herd, that is, a bullock or young ox, as in verses 3-9; or it might be out of the flocks, a sheep or a goat, as in verses 10-13; or again it might be fowls, as turtle-doves or young pigeons, as in verses 14-17. These grades of offerings had to do with the ability of the offerer. He who could afford a bullock brought it; if unable to bring a bullock, a sheep or a goat; and the poorer people brought the fowls. But all alike spoke of Christ. It is a question, I take it, of spiritual apprehension. Some of us have a very feeble apprehension of Christ, but we do value Him, we love Him, we trust Him, and so we come to God bringing our offering of fowls. We know Him as the Heavenly One, and the bird speaks of that which belongs to the heavens. It flies above the earth. Others have a little fuller understanding, and so we bring our offering of the flocks. We see in Him the devoted One who "was led as a lamb to the slaughter and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb." Or He is represented by the goat, the picture of the sinner whose place He in grace has taken. Others again have a still higher and fuller apprehension of His Person and His work. We see in Him the strong, patient ox whose delight was to do the will of God in all things.
There is very little difference in the treatment of the sacrifice of the herd and that of the flock. But of necessity there is considerable difference when we come to that of the fowls. Let us consider a little verses 3 to 9: "If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish; he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord," or, as it reads in the 1911 Version, "that it may be graciously received from him before the Lord." The bullock, or, more literally, the young ox, speaks, as we have said, of the patient servant. It is written in the law of Moses, "Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn." The apostle Paul applies this to the ministering servants of God, they who prepare the food for the people of God, and are not to be deprived of that which they need for their own sustenance. Our blessed Lord was like the patient ox treading out the corn. The One who came not to be ministered unto but to minister, He was the perfect Servant come to give His life a ransom for many. And observe, the ox must be a male without blemish. Among the types the female speaks of subjection, whereas the male suggests rather the thought of rightful independence. Our Lord Jesus was the only Man that ever walked this earth who was entitled to a place of independence, and yet He chose to be the subject One, even unto death. And He was the unblemished One. No fault was to be found in Him, no short-coming of any kind, no sin or failure. The offerer when he presented his unblemished burnt sacrifice was practically saying, "I have no worthiness in myself. I am full of sin and failure, but I bring to God that which is without blemish, that which speaks of the worthiness of His own blessed Son." And the unworthy offerer was accepted in the worthy sacrifice, as we are told in Ephesians 1:6, "He hath made us accepted in the Beloved" or, as it has been translated, "He has taken us into favor in the Beloved." Observe, not according to our faithfulness, nor according to the measure of our zeal, nor yet according to the measure of our devotedness, but according to His own thoughts of His beloved Son. We who have been brought through grace divine to see that we have no worthiness in ourselves, have all our worthiness in Christ.
This is emphasized in the fourth verse. Man as the offerer stood before the priest with his hand upon the head of the burnt offering. He was really identifying himself with the victim that was about to be slain. It is the hand of faith which rests upon the head of Christ and sees in Him the One who takes my place. All that He is, He is for me! Henceforth God sees me in Him.
But it is not in His life that He does this, but by His death. And so we read, "And he shall kill the bullock before the Lord: and the priests, Aaron's sons, shall bring the blood, and sprinkle the blood round about upon the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation." We have all had our part in the killing of the bullock. That is, we have all had to do with the death of Christ. Men generally recognize this, but fail to lay hold of it individually. It is when I see that Jesus died for me, that even if there were no other sinner in all the world, still He would have given Himself as the victim in my place, that the value of His precious blood is applied to me, and I am accepted before God in all that He has done, and in all that He is.
In verses 6-9 we read of the flaying, that is, the skinning of the burnt offering, and the cutting of the victim into its parts. Of the skin we shall speak in a moment, and there are precious truths connected with it. The pieces were all to be washed with water and then placed upon the wood of the altar and burnt with fire, to go up to God "an offering made by fire of a sweet savor unto the Lord." The washing by water typifies the application of the Word of God to every part of Christ's being; all that He did was in perfect holiness, as under the controlling power of the Word of God in the energy of the Holy Spirit. He could say in the fullest sense, "Thy Word have I hid in My heart that I might not sin against Thee." He did not need the Word for cleansing, for He was ever the Holy One, and yet He was in everything submissive to the Word, for He was here to glorify God as the dependent Man.
We read, "The priest shall burn all on the altar." The burnt offering was the only one of the sacrifices of which this was true. In all the rest there was something reserved for the offering priest or for the offerer, but in this one particular case everything went up to God; for there is something in this aspect of the work of the Cross which only God can fully understand and appreciate.
But in Leviticus 7:8 we have one apparent exception. While every part of the victim was burnt on the altar the skin was given to the priest. This is indeed precious. It is as though God said to the priest, "I have found My portion in Christ. He is everything to Me, the beloved of My heart, in whom I have found all My delight. Now I want you to take the fleece and wrap yourself in it! Clothe yourself in the skin of the burnt offering." It is a wonderful picture of acceptance before God in Christ. We are covered with the skin of the burnt offering!
It is scarcely necessary to go into any detail in regard to the offering of the flocks, for, as we have already seen, it was handled in practically the same way as that of the bullock. But there is an added thought or two in connection with the fowls. We read in verses 15-16; "And the priest shall bring it unto the altar, and wring off his head, and burn it on the altar; and the blood thereof shall be wrung out at the side of the altar: and he shall pluck away his crop with his feathers, and cast it beside the altar on the east part, by the place of the ashes." The birds, as we have seen, speak of Christ as the One who belongs to the heavens but who has come down in grace into this scene. There is by no means the same fulness in picturing His work here that there was in connection with the other creatures. But His death is again fully emphasized, and before the offering was placed upon the altar the crop and the feathers are plucked away and cast in the place of the ashes. The taking away of the feathers from the bird suggests, I believe, the parting with all His glory and beauty when He stooped in lowly grace to the death of the Cross, while the plucking away of the crop speaks undoubtedly of His voluntarily giving up all that would minister to natural enjoyment. We sing sometimes, and perhaps but feebly enter into the meaning:
"I surrender all,
I surrender all,
All to Thee, my precious Saviour,
I surrender all."
But if we turn this around, what an appeal it makes to our hearts, and how truly it tells of the place He took in grace:
He surrendered all,
He surrendered all,
All for me, my precious Saviour,
He surrendered all.
In chapter 6:8-13 we have the law of the burnt offering, that is, instruction to the priest as to how he was to conduct himself when carrying out this part of the ritual. In the first chapter we get what is more objective—God's picture of the Person and work of His Son. But in the law of the offering we have what is more subjective—the effect all this should have upon us, and how our souls should enter into it. And so here in chapter 6 we see the priest clothed in white raiment) his garments speaking of that righteousness which is now ours in Christ and which should ever characterize us practically), reverently taking up the ashes of the burnt offering and laying them beside the altar; the ashes saying as plainly as anything inanimate could, "It is finished." For ashes tell of fire burnt out, and so suggest that the work of Christ is finished. He has suffered, never to die again, and God was fully glorified in His work which has gone up as a sweet savor to Him. In Old Testament times the fire was ever to be burning on the altar. It was never to be put out, for one burnt sacrifice followed another continually, and the peace offering and the sin and trespass offerings were also placed upon the same fire. The work was never finished because no victim had yet appeared of sufficient worth to fully meet the claims of God. But now, thank God, the flame of the altar fire has gone out, the work is done, and the effect of that work abides for all eternity. May our souls revel in it. In Psalm 40, which is really the psalm of the burnt offering, we hear the voice of praise which results from the soul's appreciation of this aspect of the work of Christ. May it be ours to enter into it in all its fulness. In Deuteronomy 33 we see that the chief business of God's anointed priests was to offer burnt offerings upon His altar. So may we as holy priests of the new dispensation ever find our first delight in occupation with Christ and this aspect of His work!