The Burnt Offering: Part 2
In part 1 of the Burnt offering we considered its purpose: we saw that it concerned approaching God, finding acceptance with God, knowing the atonement God provided and finally seeing the offering ascending as a sweet savour of rest unto God. We also saw the application to our lives, namely that God has provided all our needs in Jesus.
In part 2 we look at the pattern of the offering, that is how the offering was enacted. We must note that God laid out very specific and definitive instructions as to how it should be done, from the dissection of the animal to the disposal of the ashes. The Burnt Offering (alongside the Meal/Grain & Peace Offerings) was voluntary. However having decided to bring such an offering the person had to do so according to the exact instructions laid out in this book.
Men and women cannot approach God unless it is according to His appointed ways. For us, living this side of Pentecost, that means we can only come to God through Jesus (Jn.14:6) and not through any effort or merit of our own, nor by any other person be it priest, pastor, pope or any system of belief.
In the details of how the offering was carried out we see something further of the glorious person and work of Jesus, and its application to us.
As we read Lev. 1 the one thing that strikes us is that the offerer could bring alternate animals as their burnt sacrifice. Of the Herd (v3), of the flocks, sheep or goat (v10), or of the fowls of the air (v.14). These were the only ones specified, no other animal would have been accepted.
The question then is: why did God allow alternative animals to be used for the Burnt offering? Looking at other scriptures such as Lev.14:20-22, we can conclude that this was provision for all of society. People brought what they were able to afford. If they were poor then the fowls were acceptable. Everybody was included. No one was excluded from approaching God.
This tells us that the gospel is for the ‘whosoever’. No one is excluded from the Gospel invitation. It is for everyone, whether or not they respond to the call is another matter, but God has made provision for every human to come to Him through the merits of His precious Son.
The parable of the wedding invitation highlights this especially Mtt.22:1-14. We read that the king made ready and sent the invitation out. After many made excuse not to come the king sent out the invitation to those in the highways. Whatever else we learn from that parable it is clear that provision was made for any who would respond. It is worthy of note that at the end of the parable one was found without the correct attire (v11), and was cast out, showing again that we must come God’s way, and be clothed in Christ’s righteousness and not with a garment of our own choosing.
In the book of Revelation we see visions of heaven and we see people who have been redeemed around the throne, Rev.7:9-12. There were people from every nation, kindreds and people and tongues. God’s salvation reaches to every strata of human society. Just think, that around the throne of God there will be people from every distinct nation, ethnic group, family group and language group! Our God is a great inclusive God, if only men and women would turn to Him!
The next point in the Burnt Offering to note is that the animal had to be male (v3, 10). In other offerings female animals could be brought, (e.g.Lev.3:6) but not so here. It had to be a male. So we ask: what significance do we draw from this fact?
Turning to I Cor. 11 we read that in God’s order of creation the male is that of headship. Christ is the head of man, the man is the head of the woman and God is the head of Christ. We take this one step further, we said in the previous study that the offerer, by laying hands on the animal, was showing identification. The animal was substituted for the person bringing the offering.
We return to the theme of Christ our representative, for here we see that Christ is now seen to be the representative of the whole human race, that is our federal head. He not only identified Himself with us as individuals but also identified Himself with the human race as a whole.
We see that Adam, the first federal head, disobeyed and consequently plunged the whole of humanity into sin. Sin entered the race as a result. Then sin has passed on all humans. This is what is meant by original sin, we inherit a sinful nature as a result of being a part of Adam’s race by natural birth.
In contrast we see that because Jesus obeyed then, as many were made sinners by Adam’s transgression, the free gift has come upon all, by Christ’s obedience. So those who are justified and have been born from above are made righteous. Two heads, two births: by first birth we are born into a sinful nature, but by second birth we are born out of it.
In his masterly argument on the resurrection Paul compares and contrasts Adam and Christ. The first Adam was made a living soul, Jesus the last Adam a life giving spirit. Adam never gave life to himself, he received it when God breathed on him the breath of life. (Gen.2:7). Jesus however doesn’t receive life, He gives it for He is THE life (Jn14:6). We first received natural life by being Adam’s descendent, but receive spiritual life by being in Christ.
Adam -the first man is of the earth, Jesus -the second man is from heaven. We first bare the earthly image, but in Christ we shall bare the heavenly. In both considerations we see that Paul shows that both Adam and Christ are federals heads of humanity. Everyone starts off in Adam, and on new birth we are translated into Christ (Col.1:13)
Adam the first head handed the human race over to sin, Christ on the other hand came to rescue us from that. As Isaac Watts puts it:
We have in another study, click here, looked at the typological significance of the animals used.
God took great care in detailing the way the priests had to dissect and offer up the animal. It was a dissection and not a butchery. Let us consider the process carefully. Concentrating on the offering of the herd. (vv.3-9) Firstly the offerer had the responsibility of killing the animal (v5). Everyone is responsible for the death of Jesus; as well as the actual authorities who arrested and passed sentence on Jesus whole, it was us as individuals that placed Him on that accursed tree. His love for us was so great that He suffered the agony of Calvary for each and every person that has or ever will be born. In coming to Jesus we need to acknowledge that it was because of ‘my sin’ that put Him there. It has often been said that if there had been only one person who needed salvation, then Jesus would have died for that one alone! Such is His love, such is our guilt. Having being forgiven so much let us love so much too.
Secondly, the blood of the animal was sprinkled upon the altar and at the door of the Tabernacle(v5 Again it must be remembered that this offering had nothing to do with sins; they were dealt with by the sin and trespass offerings. The Burnt offering was essentially to do with a person’s standing before God, or justification, as mentioned in part 1. In other words this deals with THE SIN , ie the state of sin rather than sins, the individual acts.
Blood speaks to God, as is seen after Abel’s murder (Gen.4:10) Later on in Leviticus God makes this statement .
The blood of bulls and goats cannot make a person stand right before God, they were mere shadows pointing to Jesus. Only the blood of Jesus could bring our justification. The topic of the blood of Jesus is vast and needs a complete series in its own right, just to say here that His blood shed speaks to God of His life poured out for our redemption, for our justification as well as for our cleansing.(Ro.3:24-26; I Jn.1:7) Once the animal was flayed it was dissected and its parts laid upon the altar for burning. (vv.8-9). We note that it was the offerer who had to perform this dissection, before the priest laid it all on the altar. Once more indicating that the responsibility of the sacrifice’s death was the offerer. It cannot be stressed too much how that all of us are responsible for Jesus' death, and indeed have to face up to this. It was the priests’ responsibility to burn the animal. Only the blessed Trinity could make that once and for all eternal sacrifice. Whilst we must acknowledge that we were responsible, because of our rebellion, for Jesus' death, it was only the Godhead that could effect our salvation, and that Jesus as the Great High priest offered Himself through the Spirit as our sacrifice. (Heb.9:14The text highlights the Head, fat, inwards and legs for special mention. We also note that wood had to be laid in order as well. In scripture wood is usually taken as a symbol of humanity. Jesus became a man, He was the God-man, our representative, and at Calvary was our substitute. The head speaks of the mind and Christ’s mind was one of humility, He humbled Himself to become a man (Phil.2:1-6; The inwards speaks of the will, Jesus emptied Himself and did the will of His father (Phil.2:7-8a; and the legs speak of the walk, Jesus was obedient unto the death of the cross (Phil.2:8b); the burning of the animal was a sweet savour by which we learn that Jesus was exalted far above all. (Phil.2:9-11
The skin also had a special significance. It was the only part of the sacrifice that was not laid on the altar, and the only part that the priests had for themselves. Lev.7:8. The text says specifically……the priest shall have to himself the skin of the burnt offering …
The skin would have become garments for the priests. They were clothed with the sacrifice. What a picture this is of what Christ has done! In Romans Paul is very careful to tell us that we are justified freely because of the blood of Jesus, Rom.3:24-26. The priest by putting on the skin would be identified with the animal’s death. As he unfolds the gospel in that epistle Paul tells us of being identified with His death, that is co-crucified with Him, to be no longer slaves to sin and to the Law, but servants of righteousness. (Rom. 6-7). Then later on in Romans Paul tells us to put on Christ (Rom.13:14).
This identification with Christ is vital. He identified Himself with us by taking on our flesh, it was so that we could be identified with him and become the righteousness of God in Him. (II Cor 5.21; Rom 10:4)
Once the animal was prepared it was wholly burnt on the altar of burnt offerings. What was left after it had been consumed were the ashes, and even they had laws as to their disposal.
But first what caused the animal to be burnt? It was the sacred fire on the altar. The thing to note was that this fire had to be keep burning day and night, it was never to go out. Lev6:12f The priests were responsible for keeping the fire going. The sole purpose of the fire was to burn the offering, and turn them to ashes whenever a person brought a sacrifice.
Now this tells us that in the Old Covenant the sacrifices had to be repeated, and had to be made continually for they could never take away sin, nor make the offerers perfect. Heb.9:8-13;10:1-4. it was only when Jesus came, died and was resurrected that anyone could truly be justified and set free from sin. The fire came from God Lev.9:24. It was God who smote Jesus Isa.53. Man had his responsibility for putting Him on a cross, but ultimately it was the Father who made Jesus an offering for sin.
The ashes were then finally scattered. They were placed on the east side of the altar. Then after having put on his linen garment the priest would take the ashes and scatter then outside the camp. There are three thoughts here for our consideration.
Firstly, the ashes were what was left of the offering. It was the physical evidence that an offering had been made and that God had accepted it. The evidence that God has accepted the one and only eternal sacrifice for sin is that Jesus now sits on the right hand of God.
Secondly, the ashes were placed on the east side of the altar before there removal to outside the camp. If we remember that the Holy of Holies was on the west side of the tabernacle, then we are reminded of this verse from the Psalms:
Finally, the ashes were taken outside the camp, here we are reminded of the writer to the Hebrews
Jesus was identified with us in our sinful and lost state. we are now exhorted to be identified with Him in bearing His reproach.