The Burnt Offering: Part 1
Approach Acceptance Atonement Ascending
In this first part on the Burnt Offering we are going to consider some aspects of Jesus as our representative man and consequently what we are in Christ as a result. The Burnt Offering is laid out in Lev. 1 & 6:8-13 & 7:8. It is the first offering mentioned in Leviticus. We note that in this, and indeed in the first three offerings
(burnt, gift and peace) individual sins are not mentioned. For these offerings were not dealing with specific sins, the sin and trespass offerings were for that, but rather our standing before God, that is how we can come before a holy God when we have a sinful nature that is inherited from Adam. In NT terms we could render this as to dealing with our justification.
We first note that the first three offerings already mentioned in Leviticus have a common thread. Namely that in Hebrew the words for offering /oblation used are as follows, the words in square brackets indicate the full meaning in the Hebrew.
What we are being shown is simply that we cannot approach God without sacrifice. Before Christ came to offer Himself on our behalf God allowed animal sacrifices to be made so that people could approach Him.
One example of this is shown in the early chapters of Genesis. Adam and Eve lost the right to fellowship with God because of sin. God expelled then from Eden and put Cherubim on guard so that they could not return and approach the tree of life. They were banished from God's presence, Gen.3. Later their two sons wanted to approach God, and they came with an offering Gen.4:1-8. Abel’s [gift] offering was made to God with the firstlings of the flock Cain’s had no animal offering in his at all. God accepted Abel but not Cain. God told Cain clearly that if he did well he would be accepted. The conclusion is that to approach God sacrifice was necessary.
This shows the grace of God indeed. For before the great eternal sacrifice at Calvary, God allowed less than what was His justice rightly demanded in order for people to approach Him. But of course it was all the foreshadowing of the coming of Christ. As we shall see, as we develop the theme, the only sacrifice that would satisfy God's Holy justice was the sacrifice of His dear Son at Calvary. Thus animal sacrifices were never ever sufficient for this, but God allowed them in His mercy, and in so doing showed us some of the great truths, in picture form, of the once and for all great eternal sacrifice of Jesus.
Since Jesus has now died and is seated on the right hand of God there is now no more sacrifice to be made. We can only approach God on the basis of Jesus' great sacrifice, there is no other ground whereby we can approach God. If we reject His great supreme act of sacrifice, with which God is well pleased, then we have no hope of approaching God, for God will no longer accept animal sacrifice. Jn.14:6
When someone brought their offerings the first act was for the offerer to put their hands on the animal. This is a highly significant piece of symbolism. For laying on of hands signifies identification, and/or transfer. The example par excellence of this was the Day of Atonement. In Lev.16. We see two goats, one was for the sins of the nation and the other the ‘scapegoat’. Once the sin offering was made the priest had to lay his hands on the scapegoat, this signifying that the sins of the nation were transferred to the animal, which would then be sent into the wilderness. Lev16:20-22. Thus we see that in this act of laying on of hands the offerer was identifying himself with the animal, and in effect confessing that it was the animal who was to be sacrificed as his substitute. It was the animal that was to be accepted, on his behalf, and not the offerer
The word accepted in the Hebrew can also be translated as well pleasing/ take delight in. Without doubt this immediately points us to Jesus. For on at least two occasions the Father says of Jesus that he was well pleased with Him (Mtt.3:17; 17:5). This gives us a big clue. Jesus was accepted by the Father on our behalf.
As we read the life of Jesus we note how He identified with us humans in every way.
Why did the Father at His baptism say that He was pleased with His Son? This event took place after 30 years of His upbringing in Nazareth. From Luke’s account Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and man. Lk.2:52. During all those years of silence He lived an ordinary family life, with siblings; helping with the family business, indeed at one point in His ministry Jesus is called the carpenter (Mtt.13:55). He tasted ordinary life for us all. Then after three and a half years of ministry He tasted death for everyman.
In all aspects of life Jesus identified Himself wholly with our condition He knew what is was to live a human life, for the Son of God lived as the Son of man on this Earth. Not only in life but, and especially, in death Jesus identified Himself with us.. On the Cross He so identified Himself with us there that He became sin for us.
The purpose of all this was that we could be identified with Him. If we come to the Father through Jesus acknowledging His substitutionary death for us we will find what Paul said to the Ephesians:
Jesus being that beloved one. On new birth we are baptised into the body of Christ, I Cor 12:13, and because Jesus has been accepted by the Father, if we are in Him, then we too are accepted. Not because of what we have done, or who we are, none of that counts with God. We are accepted on the ground of what Jesus did at Calvary. We are not accepted by God by any other means, or for any other reason. We are either accepted because of Jesus's death, or not at all. That is God’s condition of us approaching Him, we can bring nothing of our own works that will please the Father, and we certainly cannot take away from what Christ did. All of man’s efforts to please God fail and just hinder anyone approaching God. In fact because we are in Christ we have His benefits. Indeed one of the main themes of Ephesians is what we are in Christ and the benefits of such a union. We shall return to this theme later on.
The next word for our consideration is atonement. The Burnt offering was to make atonement for the offerer. The word atonement means covering and in most of the OT sacrifices it was used in connection with the covering of sin. In the NC sin is not covered but cleansed.
However, as has been mentioned already, this offering has nothing to do with individual sins but with the standing before God of the individual. This word atonement is used in another way in the OT and it is will serve us well to consider how. Once we have done that we can then relate it a word used in the NT concerning Christ’s redemptive work.
(a) the flood
What we want is to see what this catastrophic event teaches us in relation to our subject. The second quote above gives us a clue. The flood and the surrounding events is a picture/type of our salvation. A full analysis is beyond the scope of this article, but a summary will suffice for our purposes.
The world steeped in its wickedness has the sentence of judgement passed on it by God. He was going to destroy the earth with a universal flood. However He found a righteous man, Noah, and through him would save a remnant of people and animals for what would be a new earth after the flood. To do this Noah was instructed to build an ark. He was given the blueprint, measurements and instructions concerning its construction. Part of those instructions included putting pitch over the wood. The pitch was a watertight covering to save the vessel, and those inside, from the destructive forces of the judgement waters.
The word pitch in the Hebrew means to cover or, to make atonement. Thus the water tight pitch would cover or atone those inside. The ark would feel the judgement waters of God, but those inside would not, they would be safe from the wrath of God.
Here we have a perfect illustration of what Jesus did at Calvary, He took the wrath of God as our substitute. Those who are in Christ have found that Jesus is their Ark, safety is found in Him, and they have discovered that Jesus bore the wrath of God on their behalf. The wrath of God was indeed satisfied.
But more than that! After the flood, after the severe judgement on all flesh, the waters abated and the Ark came to rest. Noah and his family, with the animals, came out on to a new Earth. They had passed from the old creation into a new creation. The old had passed away and all things had become new.
(b) Jacob and Esau
We are now taken to the life of Jacob and Esau. Once more a full account is not within the scope of this article, so a quick summary to where we are in the story is given.
After having cheated his brother, of both the birthright and blessing, Jacob fled in fear of his life to his uncle Laban. After many years, living away from home with uncle Laban, Jacob decided to return home. But there was a problem: he had to face his brother Esau whom he had wronged. Jacob was not sure what reception he would get from Esau, so he devises a cunning plan in order to save his own skin. Part of that plan was to give Esau a gift in order to appease him so that Jacob would be accepted by Esau.
It is this word appease that is important for our consideration. The word means to make atonement or propitiation. and is used as making appeasement. It can be understood to mean: to cause his anger to cease, to hide ( or turn away) his wrath. In other words to remove the cause of the offence. Jacob wanted to make sure that Esau's wrath against him was assuaged, that it had been removed and that by a gift.
God's wrath against sin is because of His holiness. The human race can not turn the wrath of God away from us no matter what it does. The only remedy was Jesus, he was God's gift to appease His wrath. Jesus became a man and as a man lived as our representative, a theme to be developed more fully in part 2, and on the cross there brought about our justification, he paid the price of our redemption fully. This leads us now into what we have revealed to us in the NT.
(c) Jesus our propitiation
In this passage Paul sums up the meaning of Christ's redemptive work. In it the apostle uses the word propitiation. This seems a strange word to our modern ears but let W.E Vine explain to us its meaning in the NT
Jesus was our propitiation that is by His death at Calvary He appeased a Holy God. He removed the cause of the offence that we were guilty of. Our justification is because of what He did on our behalf.
So in this section we concluded that:
We have redemption in Christ Eph.1:7
We are a new creation in Christ II Cor. 5:17
We become the righteousness of God in Him II Cor.5:21
The final consideration in the purpose of the offering is ascending. In the Hebrew Burnt Offering can be translated ‘the ascending offering’. This is because the Burnt Offering was wholly burnt and, except for the skin, everything was offered up to God. With the other offerings parts of it were held back for the priest to eat, not so with this one.
We see then that the Burnt Offering was wholly the Lord’s and that is was a sweet savour of rest to Him. This is a glorious picture of Christ’s work and acceptance, from Calvary to His glorification.
In the great plan of redemption we have the following order of events
1) Calvary and the eternal sacrifice with the great cry of it is finished Jn19:30
2) The resurrection of Jesus the third day. Jesus declared the the Son of God by the resurrection with power according to the Spirit of holiness Rom.1:3-4
3) Jesus' ascension and glorification Heb.1:3
When Jesus ascended into the heavens he sat down, indicating a finished and complete work. In the Tabernacle there were no seats; the work of the priests was continual, they could not rest nor cease from them. But when Jesus sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high He entered into His rest, He ceased from His works on the Earth for it had been completed and finished
By new birth we are baptised into Christ, we are ‘in Him’. Already we have seen that because we are in Him:
a) We are accepted in the beloved
b) We have redemption in Christ
c) We are new creatures in Christ
d) We become the righteousness of God in Christ
We now turn back to the Ephesian letter.
Salvation is much more than escaping future judgement. It is salvation in its fullest sense. We are saved indeed from the wrath to come, but also from our sins (Mtt.1:21). We are saved from the power and bondage of sin and the Law (Rom.6-7). These passages in Ephesians gives a us an overall view of things.
Because we are in Christ, and Christ is seated in the heavenlies, we too are seated with Him there. This means that as He has entered His rest, He has ceased from His works, we too do enter into His rest and cease from our works; we only receive the benefits of His accomplished work by faith and not by any effort of our own.
In this rich seam of scripture there are many wonderful truths for us to dwell on. However for our purposes, we note that God’s ultimate purpose for each of His children is to make them conform to the image of Jesus. Everything is geared to that aim. If we are in Him then it could not be any other way. The all things working together' in verse 28 has to be read in that context. The ultimate working together for good is to bring us into conformity with the image of Jesus.
Secondly, given that every dealing of God with us has that aim in view; we consider that as He has given everything in Jesus then how shall He withhold anything from us? Having given all in Jesus, He has given us the ‘lesser’ things as well. He has given us all that is necessary for life and godliness II Pet.1:3 Our needs have already been met in Christ.
Putting these ideas together we note then that being in Christ means we are seated with him in the heavenlies and have entered His rest, ceasing from our own works. God has provided all things for us in Christ, and is bringing us into conformity to the image of His dear Son. Whatever happens in our lives, God is working out His purposes and working them together for good. The application is simple. Whatever our need, whether we think it is big or small it has been met in Christ. All we have to do is come to Him in faith ad let Him do his work in us.