Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Leviticus 1 - The Burnt Offering

The Altar of Sacrifice
When we read the Old Testament we often come away wondering what in the world is it talking about. If you have one key, you can unlock the Old Testament. That key is Jesus Christ. The Jewish sacrificial system is prophetic and symbolic of the coming of Jesus Christ. As types, they shadowed the work of Jesus Christ and its results.

The name burnt offering (
עלה אשׁה) literally means ‘that which goes up or ascends,’ and refers to the ascent of the transformed sacrifice in fire and smoke, as to God. The central idea of this sacrifice is of yielding the whole being in self-surrender, and borne up by the flame of intense consecration to God. And He is gracious in what He will accept. Depending on your abilities, a young bull, a sheep or goat, or dove or pigeon, whatever you could afford or give, as long as it was willingly and wholly given.

There were five stages in the whole process: presentation, laying on of hands, slaughter, sprinkling of blood, and burning of the whole carcass. The first three are alike in this and other sacrifices, the fourth is modified here, and the last is found here only. Each has its lesson. The significance of the offering turns on two points—atonement and burning. 

Pray and Read: Leviticus 1

Key Truth: Moses wrote Leviticus 1 to prophesy to the Israelites a coming One who would offer Himself for every sin, be sacrificed and wholly consumed for us.

Key Application: Today I want to show you what the Bible says about what Jesus Christ did for us through the image of the burnt offering.

Sermon Points:
1. For us, Christ offered Himself (Lev. 1:2-3).
2. For us, every sin was laid on Him (Lev. 1:4).
3. For us, He was slaughtered (Lev. 1:5-6).
4. For us, He was wholly consumed (Lev. 1:7-9).

Illustration: Imagine this strange and repulsive spectacle of the burnt offering. The worshiper leads his resisting animal on a halter to the front of the Tabernacle, where he dared not tread, but was to him the dwelling-place of God. 

There at the altar he stands and presses his hand with force on the victim’s head, then with one swift cut across the throat, kills it, and as the warm blood spouts from the slash, the priest catches it in a basin, and standing at the two diagonally opposite corners of the altar, dashes, half of the contents against each, wetting two sides of the altar with one throw, and the other two with the other. 

The offerer then cuts up the sacrifice. His work is done, and as he stands with bloody hands, the priests arrange the pieces on the altar. Soon the odor of burning flesh and the thick smoke hanging over the altar tell that the sacrifice is complete.

Exposition: Note well,
a. It was Voluntary: Jesus had no personal compelling reason other than His love for us for offering himself.
         i. He chose to do Himself: “Here I am, I desire to do your will, O my God” (Psalm 40:7a, 8a). “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7)
         ii. No one commanded his life be taken: “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done” (Matthew 26:42).
         iii. No one took his life: “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:18).
b. It was Unblemished: Christ’s sacrifice for us is no good unless He was absolutely sinless. When Jesus was baptized in the Jordan, the Father said, “with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). In Colossians 1:19: “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”
c. Before the Entrance of the Tent: The offerer has himself to bring the animal to the door of the Tabernacle, that he may show his willing surrender of a valuable thing. As he stands there with his offering, his thoughts would pass into the inner shrine, where God dwelt; and he would, if he were a true worshiper, feel that while God, on His part, already dwelt in the midst of the people, he, on the other hand, can only enter into the enjoyment of His presence by sacrifice.
d. Acceptable to the Lord: For ages and generations, there was nothing acceptable in which he could delight. Ezekiel 22:30: “I looked for man, who could make up the hedge and stand in the gap, but I found none.” Christ’s offer of salvation was perfectly acceptable to the Father. He was a full, perfect, sinless, flesh and blood Man. Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin. He was fully God. No higher sacrifice could be made. Paul called it “a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Ephesians 5:2). Isaiah 53:9: He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.”


a. One of the most important parts of this sacrifice was the laying of hands on the animal. In it the man identified himself with the sacrifice and was accepted in it. ‘This is I? This animal life shall die, as I ought to die. It shall go up as a sweet savour to Jehovah, as my being should.’ Isaiah 53:6, 11, 12: “We all like sheep have gone astray, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” “He will bear their iniquities, he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”

b. This is a symbol of our act of faith by which we place ourselves on Christ Jesus as our righteousness and present Him to God as our ground of acceptance. In so doing we are accepted as He is in His acceptance and sacrifice. In this way we identify with Christ in his death and resurrection. Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

c. This is the picture we have in believers’ baptism, dying with him and being raised to eternal life. Romans 6:4-5: 4We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 5If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.

d. APPLICATION: We must lay our all on Him.

a. The man, not the priest kills the animal. The animal invested with his representative character is slain by the offerer, not by the priest. It was distinctly a vicarious death. Inflicted by the person represented by the animal, he acknowledged that its death was the wages of his sin, and agreed with the justice of his condemnation. He was presenting an innocent life—innocent because it was not a moral being—as his substitute. So far the worshipper’s part goes.
b. He was slain before the Lord (v. 5), not only before all people, but before the LORD: “Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, / and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.” (Isaiah 53:10)
c. The blood was poured around the altar (v. 5): expressing Christ’s life being poured out, cleansing every place and leaving nothing of sin. “He will sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him” (Isaiah 52:15) Now another actor appears. The priest comes forward as mediator between God and man, and applies the blood to the altar. In the other offerings, the blood was smeared on the horns of the altar to atone for sin. In the burnt offering the application of the blood was the formal act by which atonement was made. The word rendered ‘to make atonement’ means ‘to cover’; and the idea conveyed is that the blood, which is the life of the sacrifice, covers the sins of the offerer.
d. The sacrifice was cut in pieces (v. 6): Exposing everything, every part, naked and open for inspection. Christ’s life was open to the fullest inspection of His Father’s eye, consecrated in every moment, every thought, every action, every issue of His life. That is why Christ’s last sufferings were so fully told in the gospels and why his agony was so protracted and intense, until there was nothing to add to the cup of pain, Christ’s sacrifice for us.

a. The offering was laid on the altar, over the wood and fire and burned wholly to ashes. Christ fulfilled this image in the consuming fire of His sufferings in life and death. The whole burnt offering was consumed on the altar, so Christ was wholly given to God. The word rendered ‘burn,’ in verse 9, is not that which simply implies destruction by fire, but is a peculiar word, reserved for sacrificial burnings, and meaning ‘to cause to ascend in smoke or vapor.’ The gross flesh was transformed (Romans 12:2) and went up to God as ‘a sweet savor.

a. It is a never-ceasing flame.
In Leviticus 6:9-13 we see that the fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously. It must not go out. Jesus died on the cross, but he rose again from the tomb. His life is a never-ending flame of eternal life. It has not ceased. It will never cease. It has defeated death and the power of the grave. Isaiah 53:11: “After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; . . . I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong.” Jesus has lived in the constant exercise of perfect self-surrender, and in the constant unmeasured possession of ‘the Spirit of burning,’ with which He has come to baptize us all.

This consecration not only typifies Jesus Christ, but also becomes our pattern of being set apart for the Lord’s use. God requires a willing, voluntary, entire surrender and dedication of our entire self and every detail of our life. Not holding anything back. Not keeping some closet door of our heart closed, but laying it all on the altar. Like Christ, our life, too, should be a continual flame of love and service before His altar so that one day we can hear the sweet “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

 If we look to Him as our Savior, we should also find in Him the power to yield ourselves ‘living sacrifices,’ (Romans 12:1-2) and draw from Him the sacred and refining fire, which shall transform us into His likeness, and make even us ‘acceptable to God, through Jesus Christ.’

The only way we can every make this offering is by receiving the Lord Jesus Christ into our life and being, identifying with Him so that we can continually present Him to others. In his great high priestly prayer, Jesus prayed in John 17:19: “For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.”

Romans’ 12th chapter begins with Paul’s reference to the burnt offering. Romans 12:1: “I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” In order to do that, we must receive Him who has already fulfilled it. We must receive his indwelling life and righteousness. Then we can give back to God that which is his own, and which he has accepted in the person of his beloved Son.

This sermon was preached May 5, 2013, at Union Missionary Baptist Church, Rocky Mount, NC