This third Book of Moses is called Leviticus because it contains the laws and ordinances concerning the Levitical priesthood and the services that were observed in the Tabernacle. These ordinances were given in the two-month period before the Israelites left Mount Sinai, in the year 1490 BC. We must not forget to place the same motto over this third Book as we did in the two former: “Moses wrote of Christ.” For here, in a very eminent degree, we may discover many pictures that teach us of the Person, Offices, and Character of Jesus!
Every lover of this precious Book will quickly admit that to an unbelieving reader, it contains many things that are dry and uninteresting. But to a soul that is truly taught by the Holy Spirit (Whose blessed office is to take the things of Jesus, and to show them to His people), he will find so many delightful sketches of the great Redeemer – here and there throughout the whole Book – that it will abundantly refresh his mind in the contemplation of Him Who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. If the Holy Spirit is our Teacher, we will recognize the fact that Aaron the high priest represented Christ in His priestly office. We will view the sacrifices and ceremonies as reminders that the reward of sin is death, and that without the blood of Christ – the innocent Lamb of God – there can be no forgiveness of sins!
Immediately after the Fall of Man, animal sacrifices had been ordained; but during the time when the Israelites were in the wilderness, God appointed some very specific regulations as to how they were to be offered. These sacrifices were a foreshadowing of Christ; and they also presented many lessons concerning a believer’s duty, character, privilege, and communion with God.
This first chapter of Leviticus provides us with the Lord’s directions concerning the sacrifices that were referred to as burnt offerings. The burnt offering was a picture of the sufferings of the Son of God, Who was to be a sacrifice for our sins! The burning body of an animal was only a faint representation of that everlasting misery which we all deserve, and which our blessed Savior endured in His body and soul when He died under the load of our iniquities. Let us observe, first of all, that the animal that was presented to be offered as a burnt sacrifice was required to be without any kind of physical blemish. This signified the strength and purity that were in Christ, and the holy life that ought to be in His people. Second, the owner was not to be forced into a sacrifice; he had to offer it of his own accord. Whatever we do in the service of the Lord must be done in love – just as it was in love that Christ willingly offered Himself for us. Third, the animal was to be offered at the door of the Tabernacle, where the brass altar stood; this was an acknowledgment of the fact that a sinner cannot enter into God’s presence to enjoy communion with Him, except by sacrifice. Fourth, the offeror had to put his hand upon the head of the animal – thereby declaring his desire and hope that it might be accepted by God to make an atonement for him. Fifth, the sacrifice was to be killed before the Lord in an orderly manner, with honor to Him. This reminds us that as Christians, our sinful flesh must be put to death with all its corrupt affections and lusts. Sixth, the priests were to sprinkle the blood upon the altar; for since the blood was the life of the animal, it was the blood that made atonement. This represented the purifying of our consciences by the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus upon them. Seventh, the animal was to be divided into several pieces, and then burned upon the altar. The burning of the sacrifice signified the sharp sufferings of our Redeemer; and it also represents the devout affections with which – as a holy fire – Christians must offer up their whole spirit, soul, and body unto God. Lastly, the burnt offering is described as an offering of a sweet aroma. As an act of obedience to a Divine command, and also as a foreshadowing of Christ, this offering was well-pleasing to the Lord. And the spiritual sacrifices of the people of God are acceptable to Him through Christ alone (1 Pet. 2:5).
Those who could not offer a bull for a burnt offering were to bring a sheep or a goat, and those who could not afford to offer those animals were still accepted by God if they brought a turtledove or a pigeon. The creatures chosen for this sacrifice were mild, gentle, and harmless – representing the innocence and meekness of Christ, which ought to also be imitated by His people.
We have no excuse if we refuse to offer God the pleasant and reasonable services that are now required of us. However, we cannot truly offer the sacrifice of a broken heart or of praise and thanksgiving, unless the Lord first gives them to us – just as an Israelite could not offer a bull or a goat without first receiving them from the hand of the Lord. The more we do in His service, the greater are our obligations to Him for the ability and the opportunity to do so. Let us pray for grace to be entirely devoted to serving our Lord in body and soul – no matter what He may call us to give, venture, do, or suffer for His sake!
Lord Jesus, we know that the blood of beasts and birds could never take away our sin; but in them, we behold the most beautiful pictures of You! You were brought, indeed, to the Altar as a willing Sacrifice. You were led as a lamb to the slaughter. Upon Your sacred head, by faith, we now lay our hands and confess our sins. O precious Lamb of God! We thank You that we have an everlasting interest in all the merits of Your sacrifice. Enable us to present our whole selves as living sacrifices to You; for that, O Lord, is the least we can do! Amen.
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