There is much to learn from the early chapters of Leviticus.
The offerings which feature so prominently in the ordinances of the law provide a rich treasury for the student of the Scriptures, though their study is too frequently neglected because of the apparent complexity of the various ordinances. The truths of Leviticus are not generally found on the surface, and it is only the earnest student who delights unaided to dig for gems of truth to be found in that book. It is our purpose, therefore, to enlist the sympathy of fellow students in a survey of the offerings, as to their different objects, their relationships, the spiritual lessons to be derived, and, above all the glimpses they give of the Lord whose glorious Person and work are set forth by them.
The Epistle to the Hebrews, which has engaged our attention of late through the writings of our esteemed co-worker, gives sufficient warranty for not dismissing these teachings as ” Jewish things, ” for it gives a vital connecting link between the ordinances of the Old Covenant and those of the New Covenant, and makes us realise that there is something more than the Passover to be considered by a redeemed people. For “even the first covenant had ordinances of divine service” (Heb.9:1), and the word even (or verily or indeed) emphasises the fact that it was an essential part of the covenant for service to be thus rendered, and that all these things must find a correspondence in the day of reformation, or setting right.
There is, alas, too often a view expressed that the New Covenant has done away with the ordinances of the Old Covenant to such an extent that the glorious liberty of the disciple must not be marred by any seeking of knowledge as to the way of service. Such as hold these views have little sympathy with a study of the types and shadows of the law, because these reveal that the principles of God are much the same in every age, and that the worshipper must be as careful to-day as any Israelite in a past day as to his service and as to his way of approach. It is necessary to-day to remember that the service which is well pleasing to God must be offered with as much reverence and awe as ever God enjoined at mount Sinai (Heb.12:18-29).
We are indeed not come to such a mount where a holy God speaks through the tangible things of creation, but we are come to One whose conception of His own holiness and righteousness found expression in His own Son. If indeed we are not called upon to witness that
Clouds and darkness are round about Him, we are expected to know, and to appreciate to our utmost power, that Righteousness and judgment form the foundation of His throne (Ps.97:2).
Unless there is a deep apprehension of the attributes of God, there can be but little understanding of the possibilities of serving Him; if we do not attempt to understand what is proper to offer to God, we are in greater ignorance than those who were under the law. It was never intended that the annulment of the law should lead to such misconceptions of the sacrifices well pleasing to God as are found in this so-called day of liberty. If a better Covenant is associated with a better Priest and a better Sacrifice than any to be found under the Old Covenant, it is surely to be expected that such better things would be accompanied by a better apprehension of the things of God than was possible to men of an earlier age.
The Book of Leviticus is indissolubly joined with the Book of Exodus, both being part of the Law of Moses, and the first word: “And” shows that the subject matter is intimately related to the closing chapters of the Book of Exodus in which the Glorious Presence of God has been seen in association with His House.
The Book of Leviticus opens by declaring that “Jehovah called unto Moses. ” Though God spake much with Moses, the occasions when this expression is used are very noteworthy, whether at the Bush (Exodus 3:4), or at Sinai (Ex.19:3,20) when the mountain quaked, or when he was called into the midst of the cloud for 40 days (Ex.24:16), or, as in Leviticus, when God speaks from the place which He has chosen. The commands and the truths to be disclosed on these occasions are the weightiest of all, and on this occasion the purpose of God is to advise His people as to the mode of approach to Him now that He dwelt in their midst.
From the earliest days men had offered up burnt offerings and sacrifices, so that there is nothing essentially new about the offerings to be referred to, it is taken for granted that the people already know much about burnt offerings and peace offerings and so forth, but the people among whom God actually dwelt must be better instructed than their fathers, their apprehension of the claims of God must be deeper, their knowledge more detailed, their hearts more filled with reverence and awe now that God is so very near. Such must also be the object of our studies if we are to gain real benefit from them.
It is the desire to please God which is a basis for sacrifice and offerings, and from the earliest times there have been men who sought a way of pleasing God. Cain and Abel both had this desire, but their apprehension of the truth and ways of God was not the same, so that Cain suffered the mortification of seeing his offering rejected. God Himself pointed the moral, ” If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? ” Noah offered a burnt-offering (Gen.8:20), and his doing so calls for no comment in the context, so that it appears that from the very earliest times the essence of the teachings as to the offerings was known to men.
It may be noted, however, that the offerings made prior to the erection of the Tabernacle appear to shew very little discrimination as to the purpose and character of the offering, so that Jacob, for instance, in Gen.31:54 and Gen.46:1 offered ” sacrifices, ” apparently of a general kind, while in Job 42:8 the offerings to be made on account of the folly of the friends of Job are specified as burnt-offerings. In fact the generalised conception of the value of an offering seems to have been with a view to showing God that the offerer was prepared to demonstrate his recognition of the fact that from the fall in Eden man could only be accepted through the shedding of the blood of a sacrificial victim. However much or little men understood of the One who was to fulfil God’s great purpose, this at least they did understand, that God had signified, to Abel and to Cain, and thence to all men, that this approach by sacrifice would secure the favour of God.
In the fuller knowledge now to be revealed as God calls to Moses, there is to be a discrimination made, so that the offerer will be called upon to understand what it is he is about to do. No longer will it be considered according to knowledge to offer up a general sacrifice with a confused apprehension as to how much of it is for the acknowledgment of wrong-doing, or how much for propitiation or the securing of divine complacency. In this dispensation our sacrifices may be of a different nature, but there arise circumstances in which it is needful to know when the sacrifices of a broken heart (one that is conscious of sin) may be more appropriate than the sacrifices of thanksgiving, though many are but too ready to engage in the offering up of spiritual sacrifices in thanksgiving and praise when there is need for confession and reconciliation. The former things we should do, but the latter should not be left undone. Any efforts which we make to understand the will of God and His truth will be regarded by Him as an acceptable sacrifice whether it be in the application of His word to personal shortcomings, or in those having to do with communion with Him, or in those which touch the appreciation of Himself and His attributes.
All these things are to be found exemplified in the offerings of Leviticus, in the broad classes of the burnt-offering, the meal-offering, the peace-offering, the sin-offering and the trespass-offering, but even within each class of offering there are found different grades, and it is generally held that these refer to the different degrees of apprehension of the truths associated with the class of offering. All believers have not the same degree of apprehension of spiritual truth.
There can be no doubt whatever that the offerings set forth different aspects of the Person and work of Christ, whether He is seen as One that died for our sins as the sin-offering, or as the One who has for ever delighted the heart, of God by giving Himself as the burnt- offering, or as the One who brings God and man together in the enjoyment of the peace-offering. The study of Leviticus will probably not add to the revelation of Him in the New Testament; no new truth concerning Him will be looked for, but the studies should provide that enjoyment which comes from a series of pictures of one that is beloved, in which all the various traits are delightfully shewn, in which the loved One is seen from many points of view. This should be our object as we study the offerings, and then the imagery changes and we see our- selves as the offerer having somewhat to offer, and rejoicing that it is our appreciation of our great Saviour that is so precious and acceptable in God’s sight.
THE DIFFERENT OFFERINGS
The most excellent way of studying the offerings is not that of taking the verses seriatim, but by arranging the details in parallel columns for the various offerings. It is not feasible to print such an arrangement, but its advantages will be gained by considering the contrasts and comparisons so revealed. This method, however, supposes that the student will have a measure of familiarity with the offerings, even if it be only through a simple perusal of the first few chapters of Leviticus. It will be then seen that there are five principal classes of offerings, which we shall arrange in two classes under the titles of:
(1) sweet savour offerings: the burnt-offering, the meal-offering, and the peace-offering (Lev.1:9,13, 17; Lev.2:2,9 ; Lev.3:5,16);
(2) forgiveness offerings: the sin-offering, and the trespass-offering (Lev.4:20,26,31,35; Lev.5:10:13,16,18; Lev.6:7).
A SWEET SAVOUR.
It is a well-known principle of study that the first references to a word or subject in the Scriptures have a special bearing upon the interpretation and application, and the principle is exemplified in this instance also. For the first reference to a sweet savour offering is found in Gen.8:20-22, where Noah offers of every clean beast and of every clean fowl a burnt-offering to the LORD: “And the LORD smelled the sweet savour; and the LORD said in His heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake.” Now the word for “sweet” is the Hebrew word niychoach —”pleasant,” and it is derived from another word nuwach= “to rest or to settle down.” It is a matter of very great interest and importance to notice that another derivative of this same word is Noach = nowach = “quiet or rest.” and that this word is the name Noah.
Thus, at the very outset of our studies we are caused to consider the bearing of the offerings on the important matter of rest. When this subject of rest is brought before us in the Scriptures we always have a connection with the eternal rest which will be enjoyed in Heaven, which God has visualised for Himself and the redeemed from times eternal, which has been set forth for enjoyment in time in connection with the Sabbath, the land of promise, the House of God in that land, and the House of God in the present day. That eternal rest will have its duties and privileges even as the rest of the believers has in this day The two things are linked together, though at times it is necessary to distinguish between the eternal rest, and the present rest, which is for “To-day.” (See Heb.4. The reader is advised to refer to Bible Studies for 1937, Notes on the Epistle to the Hebrews, by Mr. J. Miller, pages 66-70: See also Bible Studies for 1933, pages 4-6).
When Noah offered burnt-offerings it was with some under- standing of the peace and rest which he enjoyed, and which was also pleasant to the LORD. It was his first duty in those scenes which were to him the equivalent to a new creation, and in the day when God will indeed make all things new it will be our duty and our privilege to enter into the appreciation of the rest of God, but it will be in connection with a better sacrifice, even our Lord Jesus Christ, that we shall render the offerings of our lips as an offering pleasant indeed to God. It is the privilege of a new creation in Christ Jesus to anticipate that day and also to enjoy, in measure, that rest in its present-day aspect.
The principal characteristics of the burnt-offering are denoted by the Hebrew and Greek words used to describe it, the former being holah = “that which ascends,” and the latter being holocaust = “a whole burnt-offering.” Practically speaking, the whole of the animal was offered to God, was wholly consumed, and ascended unto God in the sweet-smell. The offerer received nothing, all was for the enjoyment of the LORD. When Noah so offered his burnt-offerings it was with a single-minded desire to express unto his God his appreciation of the goodness and excellencies of the One whose awful powers had been made manifest in the upheaval of the great deep, and in the dreadful doom of the wicked men with whom the Spirit of God had striven in vain, while at the same time there was recognition of the grace and saving power of Him who had caused Noah to build an ark for the saving of his house. When Noah saw the ascending smoke he saw therein an out- ward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace, he saw a symbol of that which his thankful heart could feel but could never express, and with spiritual insight and instructed knowledge he approached his great God and Saviour by offering the token of a devoted life.
We thus see that to Noah there was implied by the burnt- offering many things which were associated with thanksgiving and praise. The burnt-offering was a full offering, and it will be well if we also understand from the outset that from of old the burnt-offering implied all that could be expressed, though men might never utter a word. It would be very wrong to think that the various types of offerings were mutually exclusive (though, as was pointed out last month, the different offerings were designed to increase the spiritual discernment), and in fact we shall see that in some of the grades of the offerings there is a merging of thought with that normally expressed by another type of offering. In a similar way, while the meal-offering appears to be entirely different from the burnt-offering, in that no life was offered, and it was not all for God, yet the expression frequently occurs, ” burnt-offering and its meal-offering. ” In Num.15:8,9 it is laid down that when a burnt-offering was presented before God it must be accompanied by a meal-offering. Also a peace-offering is so like a burnt-offering, both as regards the animals offered, and the grades of the offerings, that the comparison calls aloud for attention, and we see that the principal difference is that it is not wholly an ascending offering, but that in addition to a part being devoted to God and to the priests, as in the meal-offering (God alone having a portion in the burnt-offering), the offerer, his family, and even his friends, have portions of the peace-offering.
We see something of this in connection with Noah. Primarily, his offering was wholly for God, and he offered it unconditionally, but this, while exceedingly precious to the heart of God, would not content the God of grace who longs for His creatures to share in the joy and blessing, so that we read the response of God as to the ground, and the blessing to the creatures, while to Noah He gives a portion also. “And God blessed Noah…and said…Every moving thing that liveth shall be food for you…And I will establish My covenant with you…” It needs very little exposition of this to shew that in this act of grace we get something of the peace-offering prefigured, in which there is a wide-spread sharing and communion.
The burnt-offering so aptly expresses the unreserved devotion of the Lord Jesus that one is tempted to linger and to muse upon Him of whom it speaks. “Christ…gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God, for an odour of a sweet smell ” (Eph.5:2).
There is not here any suggestion of His giving Himself for the sin of the world, such as we get elsewhere, for the words “‘ an odour of a sweet smell ” preclude the thought. It requires no great stretch of the imagination to read the context in the light of the dealings of God with Noah. From Eph.4:25 we have a list of things which might well take our thoughts back to the days when God saw that the wickedness of man was very great in the earth (compare Gen.6:1-8 with Eph.4:25-32). when the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man for ever.” The Apostle passes from the contemplation of such a state of affairs in his hearers as he exhorts that the Spirit be not grieved, and contemplates the new creation in Christ Jesus, saying “Walk in love, even as Christ also loved you and gave Himself for you.” Just as Noah’s offering up of an odour of a sweet smell was a delightful and perhaps necessary preliminary to a proper walk in that new scene, with judgment accomplished, so also is Christ’s offering up of Himself in all His fragrance accepted of God that we might walk before Him in new creation life.
This thought is strengthened by what we read in Heb.5:7 concerning the value of the life of the Lord Jesus, for His life and His death are joined together in the counsel of God for us. His unreserved offering up of Himself is the anti-type of the burnt-offering while the anti-type of the meal-offering is seen in His life, and we have already noticed that the meal-offering was an adjunct to the burnt-offering. The meal-offering was also a sweet savour offering and the perfect life of the Lord Jesus is vital in connection with His appearing for us before God, named of God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. Without this sweet savour offering to God, it would be hopeless for us to know the power of walking in new creation life.
It is with reverence and awe that we are also constrained to note the profound words of the Apostle Paul in 2 Cor.2:15 “For we are a sweet savour of Christ unto God.” When Jacob sought a blessing from his earthly father, he sought it in the garb of another, and so obtained the blessing, as Isaac exclaimed. “See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the LORD hath blessed ” (Gen.27:27; see also Hos.14:6). But we. without guile, receive a blessing as the sweet savour of another ascends unto God through and in us.
While the sweet savour offerings primarily speak of Christ it is permitted unto us to offer on our own account, through the grace of Christ in us, as we see from Phil.4:18: Paul speaks of the things received from the Philippian saints as “an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing unto God.” and we note how that the peace-offering is suggested in the next verse, as the Apostle says, “And my God shall fulfil every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
FORGIVENESS, ATONEMENT, AND ACCEPTANCE.
The preciousness of the sweet savour offerings, both to God and men, is that they are associated with communion in various aspects. Beyond all doubt, when man was created in the image of God, when life was breathed into His nostrils, it was to this intent, that in the fulness of life he might know his Creator, and that he might in some measure share in the fellowship which already existed between the Persons of the Trinity. The greatest calamity which befell men when sin entered into the world was not so much the fact of death, but the loss of communion. It was the realisation of this which filled up the cup of agony of the Lord Jesus, when He cried that bitter cry, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” If Christ was to be truly man, it was needful that He should experience the worst of Adam’s woes, and to know the dreadfulness of the penalty for sin which He was bearing for Adam’s race, and when God looked upon Him as the Sin-bearer upon the Cross He was constrained to break that communion which had been so precious to the Lord throughout His earthly sojourn.
It is sad that in the day in which we live men are encouraged in the religious services of professing Christendom to imagine themselves as partaking of communion when they have never considered the barriers to that communion. In the Levitical Law there could never be any misunderstanding as to this, and the offerer had to recognise the fact of sin, whether known and confessed in wrongful acts, or whether recognised as the state in which men are found by nature. Thus, we find two types of offerings which are called the Sin-offering and the Trespass-offering. The broad distinction between these two classes is that in the latter there are definite acts which become known to the offerer, and which, as they involve loss to others, require restitution to be made, while in the former the acts are not so prominent as the sinful state of the offerer, as we shall see on a later occasion. Both types of offering, however, are characterised by their being offered for forgiveness. If Lev.4 and Lev.5 are scrutinised this will be very apparent. In general, as we see from many Scriptures, sin-offerings and trespass-offerings were always offered first, after which the sweet savour offerings could be acceptably rendered.
If Thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O LORD, who shall stand?
But there is forgiveness with Thee, That Thou mayest be feared. (Ps.130:4,5).
Forgiveness of sins has never been regarded by God as an end in itself, though selfish men would appear to be content with a one-sided relation with God. Forgiveness has an end in view, as we shall seek to shew, but we are constrained to consider for a little while the importance of forgiveness in the purposes of God. Forgiveness is a divine attribute, as we see from Ex.34:7, when Jehovah declared Himself to Moses as a God full of compassion and gracious…, but it is only granted to men on account of a divine offering. It is through Christ that we have forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of the grace of God (Eph.1:7), and that grace was made to abound unto us in all wisdom and prudence (verse 8). This means that it was one of the deep things of God that forgiveness should be made dependent upon the excellent work of Christ and not upon any of the works of men. Whether a man offered much or little as a sin-offering, whatever be his apprehension of that which was speaking of Christ, the fact remains that in the word of God he could read at the end of the instruction for each grade of offering, ” and he shall be forgiven. ” Forgiveness of our sins is never made to depend upon the degree of our apprehension of them nor upon the degree of our confession of them. We are forgiven because of the Beloved.
It is instructive in this connection to consider the very first reference to forgiveness in the Scriptures. Please read Gen.50:14-21. The wisdom of Israel is made manifest, and that of his sons also, when the message is sent to Joseph, “Forgive…the transgression of thy brethren, and their sin…, and …forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of thy father.” After all that Joseph had experienced of them this must have indeed touched his heart, and he wept, saying, ” Fear not: for am I in the place of God? ” It was indeed wise that the plea for forgiveness should rise from the merely human one of ” thy brethren ” to that of ” the servants of the God of thy father. ” That is the plane on which God Himself dispenses forgiveness. We would that this were more clearly realised by beloved fellow-saints. The beloved apostle Paul teaches us again and again this truth that forgiveness is in Christ, whether the forgiveness of our sins which we did aforetime, or the forgiveness which we ourselves should exercise. The device of Satan would be to make forgiveness depend upon works (see 2 Cor.2:10-11), but when Paul forgave, it was in the person of Christ. Again, he says, in Eph.4:32 and elsewhere, “Be ye kind…forgiving each other, even as God also in Christ forgave you.” If we were more ready to appreciate the joy attached to the forgiveness of our sins we should be the more ready to forgive the sins against us of the brother for whom Christ died. “But some have no knowledge of God: I speak this to move you to shame.” If we made our forgiveness to depend upon Christ, and not upon the degree of confession or restitution by the wrongdoer, we should be more conscious of the fruits of the Spirit within us.
But some may say, What has the mutual forgiveness of saints to do with the offerings? Much in every way. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us.” The work of Christ in the offerings goes beyond the Cross, and no offering was ever accepted from an offerer unless the conditions were fulfilled. If the different grades of offerings represent different degrees of apprehension of Christ, the above Scripture teaches us that it is mere affrontery to ask for our trespasses to be forgiven “in His Name” when our acts show that we have so little apprehension or appreciation of Christ, as to refuse to forgive the trespass of the brother for whom Christ died.
In association with forgiveness the offerer was promised atonement, the expression which is used being, “the priest shall make atonement for him as concerning his sin, and he shall be forgiven.” Strictly speaking, therefore, we should have considered the atonement before the forgiveness, but we desired to compare the atonement resulting from the offering for sin with the atonement referred to in connection with the burnt-offering. See Lev.1:4, where we read that when the offerer lays his hand upon the head of the burnt-offering ” it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him. ” This is the only reference to atonement in connection with the sweet-savour offerings, but for practically every grade of the sin-offerings and trespass-offerings the expression quoted above is repeated instructions concerning each grade of offering. The atonement is seen first of all in connection with the burnt-offering and last of all in connection with the sin-offering.
There is thus a suggestion of a distinction between the uses of the word ” atonement. ” The word kaphar so translated in each case simply refers to a covering and it finds many applications in that sense. It is first used, and significantly so, of the ark, when Noah was commanded to pitch it within and without with pitch. (This is not the covering referred to in Gen.8:14, for that covering was a cover of boards. ) The pitch gave perfect protection from the deluge. The same word has a close derivative which is applied to a village on account of its protecting walls, and another derivative refers to the cover of the Ark. the Mercy Seat. Thus, when the word is used in connection with the burnt-offering, it does not imply that there is any association with sin. The covering up of sin is the result of an offering for sin, in the sense of Dan.9:42, “make reconciliation for iniquity,” or “cover up iniquity.” Such sins are then forgotten and the sinner comes not into judgment, but in the case of the burnt-offering the cover is granted as soon as the offerer identifies himself with the offering by laying his hand upon it. It is a cover of righteousness in which a man can draw near to a holy God. It is associated in thought with the garments of righteousness which will cover the redeemed in glory, a covering which is effective to the redeemed at all times as they draw near.
So clearly are these two aspects of atonement differentiated in the Scriptures that for the burnt-offering we get the expression “accepted…for atonement ” and for the sin-offering we get “atonement for sin…and he shall be forgiven.” The thought of acceptance is peculiar to the burnt offering and to the peace-offering (see Lev.7:18), and probably to all the sweet savour offerings. The word used is sometimes translated “well-pleasing.” These conclusions are summarised by Paul in Phil.4:18: where he refers to the gift which was as an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well- pleasing to God. The sin-offering was not for acceptance, for God never had delight in offerings for sin. It was a dreadful necessity that such offerings had to be made at all, but God was pleased to grant a cover for our sins and forgiveness for our iniquity that He might be feared with a godly fear, and that we might know the greater joy of the cover which gives us liberty to draw near in the sacrifice of praise.
THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN SIN AND TRESPASS.
Before proceeding to the consideration of the details of the offerings it is advantageous to consider the way in which the sin- offerings are sub-divided in chapters 4 and 5 of Leviticus, and also to consider the relations between these and the trespass-offerings. This analysis is more necessary for the forgiveness offerings than it is for the sweet-savour offerings, for the latter have well-marked characteristics, whereas there is a gradation between the sins of ignorance of Lev.4: and the more venial sins of trespass of Lev.6. It is not surprising, therefore, to find that there are certain sins, not involving loss to others, which are described in chapter 5, and for which a “guilt- offering” had to be offered, while a “guilt -offering” had also to be offered for trespass.
The apostle said, “I had not known sin, except through the law” (Rom.7:7), but sin in the sight of God has ever been present in the flesh. Sin is inherent in us, and we are oft-times ignorant of its working. “For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing, for to will is present with me, but to do that which is good is not” (Rom.7:18). However willing, however learned, a man may be in the things of God, he fails. It is for unwitting sin that Lev.4 provides, sin done in ignorance, but which cannot be excused on the ground of ignorance. When it became known (verses 14 and 23) it was necessary to bring an offering.
In Lev.5:1-13, guilt is imputed and a guilt-offering had to be offered, but before this could be done it was necessary to make confession (verse 5), whereas confession is not explicitly demanded in chapter 4. The guilt-offering for such confessionary sins is not identical with the guilt-offering where trespass has been committed, as we shall see in a later occasion. The two are associated, however, in thought, as both the confessionary sins and the trespasses arise from negligence or carelessness as to the claims of God and the claims of men.
The Hebrew word for “sin” (chata) primarily means “to miss the mark,” as an archer, or “to miss the way” or “make a false step,” as in Prov.19:2 and Prov.8:36, whereas the word for guilt or trespass (asham) primarily has the idea of “negligence, especially in going or gait” A trespass arises from a failure in duty, while sin may be the error of a well-meaning man. As we said above, there are all possible gradations between the unwitting sins and the culpable sins of trespass.
Where a trespass was committed it involved loss which had to be made good. Thus in Lev.5:15,17 the trespass might even be unwitting, but nevertheless the LORD had been deprived of that which was His due, whether in the “holy things of the LORD” (verse 15) or in “any of the things which the LORD hath commanded not to be done.” Such a loss was to be estimated by the priest in the coinage of the sanctuary (verses 15 and 18), and the characteristic of the trespass-offering is that not only must full restitution be made, but in addition a fifth-part had to be added (verse 16). A similar injunction is given concerning the misdemeanours against men (Lev.6:1-7). In the former cases the priest acts as recipient for the LORD and in the latter case the aggrieved person receives restitution and the added compensation.
The trespass-offering is naturally, in many ways, the easiest to understand, for something apparent is involved, a sense of loss is felt, and the ideas of restitution and compensation are of a simple character. The sin of Adam was not so much sin in the sense of missing the mark as sin in the sense of trespass. Both are implied, of course, but the sin of Adam caused tremendous losses, not only to God, but also to men. This is beautifully brought out in Rom.5 which is perhaps the best commentary on the trespass-offering. The apostle shews the trespass (Rom.5:15) was that death had been brought into the world or “reigned from Adam until Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the likeness of Adam’s transgression” (verse 14). It does not necessarily mean that there were people who had not so sinned, but the argument is that if there had been such people they would have suffered death through the transgression of another.
The transgression of Adam was thus not only against God, but against all his descendants, and it could only be met by Adam or by that One who stood in Adam’s place or undertook to pay Adam’s indebtedness both to God and to man. He restored that which He took not away. So we read that the free gift received through Christ (verse 15) exceeded by ” much more ” the original trespass of Adam. And not only so, but in that those who followed Adam transgressed also in their day, all these trespasses were taken into account so that no man in the great day of judgment could make complaint that his dire plight was due to the faults or transgressions of his ancestors, thus “many trespasses” were taken into account in the ” free gift ” (verse 16). So also in verse 20 the effect of the law is to involve much trespass, but all these were met by the Redeemer who stood in Adam’s place.
In the judgment, all who have not accepted Christ as standing to pay Adam’s debts will have no room for complaint; they will not be able to justify themselves on the ground of hereditical sin, for there is One ready to pay all, yea and more than all. The trespass-offering not only envisages restitution, but compensation also, and the fifth part is brought out very beautifully in the words “much more” of verse 15, and again in verse 17, and again in verse 20; truly “grace did abound more exceedingly.”
The true “restitution” set against the reign of death is the reign of life in Christ Jesus (verse 17), with the added compensation that those who benefit by this trespass-offering are placed in a far better position than Adam ever enjoyed. Theirs is a far better lot, to be placed, not in a garden which God made, but before Him in His holy place in exceeding joy. Blessed be the fifth part and Him who pays it!
But God also was transgressed against, and the Lord Jesus has met every claim that God could have had on Adam or his descendants. The joy or communion in or with His creatures was one of the losses sustained by God, His rest was broken, His glory unexpressed by men. But the One who undertook the debt had the joy of restoring communion, and He wrought a rest for God, and made man fit to exercise his true glory in using his mouth to the glory of God. The song of praise which the redeemed can sing was beyond the comprehension of Adam in Eden, as well as the angels, for they never knew, as we know, Christ as Redeemer. The communion we have is a better and more continuous communion than that enjoyed by Adam, the rest we have is a better rest, and we shall rise to heights of praise or adoration that Adam could not have attained to. However little the redeemed may understand it, God, is satisfied and more than satisfied with the fruits of Christ’s work in standing for Adam’s transgression.
Hence, in the day of judgment, both God and men will have perfect satisfaction, and that day will see the trespass-offering fulfilled in all perfection.
THE COMPONENTS OF THE OFFERINGS.
The instructions concerning the animals or substances which might be brought, or which had to be brought, are so precise that it becomes us to try to ascertain the teaching concerning them. For this purpose, the following summary will be useful.
(1) a male of the herd; or
(2) a male of the flock; or
(3) turtledoves or young pigeons.
(1) fine flour, baked or unbaked; with
(2) oil and frankincense and salt.
The Peace-offering: —
(1) a male or female of the herd; or
(2) a male or female of the flock.
The Sin-offering: —
(1) a young bullock for the priest or the congregation;
(2) a male goat for a ruler;
(3) a female goat or a lamb for one of the people.
The Guilt-offering: —
(1) a female lamb or goat or
(2) turtledoves or young pigeons; or
(3) fine flour without oil and frankincense.
The Trespass-offering: —
(1) a ram.
We see at once that there is a very definite order in the lists of offerings, which is given precisely as in Lev.1: to 6., and the significance to be attached to the various grades is brought out at once in connection with the sin-offering. It is clear that the sin of a priest or of the whole congregation is more grievous than that of a ruler, and this again is more grievous than that of one of the people. Hence a bullock has to be offered in the first case, as being intrinsically more valuable and also, as we shall see later, as having some typical teaching. Also we see that whereas in general the flock may be either of sheep or of goats, the distinction between the sins of a ruler and a common man are emphasised by offering a male goat in the former case and a female goat or lamb in the latter, from which law we deduce that the offering of a female animal must be regarded as inferior to that of a male
From this we deduce (if we need to!) that the burnt-offering must be regarded as on a higher level than the peace-offering, in that the former specifies male offerings only, while the peace-offering could be a male or a female. We also see that the guilt-offering is on a lower plane than the sin-offering, showing that culpable sins which arise from negligence are not so grievous as unwitting sins which arise out of our very nature. This is so contrary to the general notions of men that it is worth emphasising. The natural man is so prone to look at the things made evident to his senses that he underestimates the unseen sinful nature, whereas God is ever more concerned with what we are than with what we have done. Again, man is so egotistical that the peace-offering, in which he has a share, might easily be regarded as more precious than the burnt-offering.
It will be noted that an element of choice is allowed the offerer in all cases except the sin-offering and the trespass-offering. In the former a distinction is made as to the status of the sinner, but in the latter all are on the same plane, and a ram must be offered by men of all degree. We pointed out in the last article that a trespass required this special guilt-offering, and on comparing the guilt-offerings we see that while the general guilt-offering (for the confessionary sins) was a female, this special guilt-offering (for trespass) had to be a male. From the preceding conclusions, we see therefore that trespass was regarded more seriously than the sins of negligence, in that the offering was of a higher character
Since it is the special cases which give most help in the elucidation of the details, we can further consider the trespass-offering with regard to the character of the animal specified in the law. The Hebrew word for a “ram” is the word ayil, which means “strength,” and it is applied to many things which suggest strength, such as “mighty man, lintel, oak, post, tree.” This suggests that the principle of making the punishment fit the crime finds application here! For many trespasses come from misapplied strength, where the stronger preys on the weaker. We get a side-light on this from the words translated “lamb” and ” “he-lamb”; the former is sey, probably from the idea of pushing out to graze, while the latter is kebes, from a root meaning “to dominate,” and it is applied to a male lamb just old enough to butt. Thus, the ram is indeed an animal appropriate to trespass. Men rise against men, and nation against nation, and in Daniel’s vision this is pictured by the pushing ram against which no beasts could stand (Dan.8:4).
We get some very remarkable instruction from the meanings of the words translated “goat.” There are two words so translated, the word ez, derived from a word meaning “stout,” being used in connection with the burnt-offering and the peace-offering, while the word sair is used of the goat to be offered up by a ruler for his unwitting sin. Naturally we conclude that some significance must be attached to the change of word, and on investigation we find that sair means “shaggy or rough” and the same word is translated “devils” in the A.V. of Lev.17:7, which in the R.V. reads, “They shall no more sacrifice their sacrifices unto the he-goats, after whom they go a whoring.” This word comes from saar, a primitive root meaning “to storm,” which is used of tempests and whirlwinds and of horrible fear (Jer.2:12 and Ezek.32:10). (Neither word is used for the goat referred to in Dan.8). It is most interesting to observe that it is principally in connection with the sin-offering of the goats on the Day of Atonement (Lev.16) that the word sair is used.
There can be no question that it is intended to convey that the sin-offering for the unwitting sin of a ruler and for the unwitting sin atoned for on the Day of Atonement is of a very fierce character, not only aggressive in the sullen manner of the ram, but aggressive and fierce withal.
When we examine the words translated ” bullock, ” we get very similar conclusions. Several words are used, but we need only mention two: —(1) baqar, from a primitive root meaning “to turn over or plough,” and generally translated “herd, oxen”; and (2) par from a root meaning “to break up” in a violent sense, which is frequently translated “make of none effect,” “frustrate,” . In Lev.1:5 the burnt-offering (“bullock”) is ben hab-baqar, “a son of the herd,” and in Lev.4:3, 4, the sin offering is par ben baqar, “bullock, son of the herd.” The “son of the herd” refers mainly to a domestic animal, a tamed animal. We see something of its significance in Isa.11:7, “The lion shall eat straw like the ox.” The word par is used in Ps.22, the well-known Messianic Psalm: —
Many bulls (par) have compassed Me:
Strong bulls (par) of Bashan have beset Me much. They gape upon Me with their mouths,
As a ravening and a roaring lion.
Thus, undoubtedly when par is used there is a suggestion of fierceness and violence.
It may be noted that while the Book of Leviticus consistently makes a distinction in the words used for a bullock for a burnt-offering or for a sin-offering, no distinction is made in the Book of Numbers, and in fact par is used frequently for burnt-offerings in Num.28 and Num.29. The writer has had occasion to point out, in his remarks on the Festivals of Jehovah (“Bible Studies,” vol. 1, 1933, p. 67) that the Book of Numbers gives a special view of many of the offerings, and that Leviticus gives a purer typical teaching.
We see, therefore, that in the Book of Leviticus as a general rule the principal offerings for sin and trespass are indicated by words which carry suggestions of aggressiveness and violence, whereas in the sweet-savour offerings the animals are described by words of a more placid character. The fierceness diminishes as we go down the scale of the sin-offerings, and in the guilt-offerings, which were for negligence, there is no such thought implied, either through the female sheep or harmless doves.
This contrast in the character of the offerings is of some importance, and it is rather a pity that the translation of the words involved does not convey the full thoughts. Some writers on the offerings have thus been led astray in their interpretation of the sin-offerings, through applying the details too freely in the Lord Jesus Christ. From what we have said about the bullock and the goat it would not be right to regard them as strictly typical of Him whose gentle character is seen in the lamb. It is very instructive to note that there is no provision in the law for a male lamb to be offered as a sin-offering, so that the Lamb of God which beareth away the sin of the world is not expressly typified in any of the animals specified under the law. While we shall not be able to compare Him directly either to the bullock or to the goat, yet we shall be able to deduce certain principles finding exemplification in these offerings which can be applied to His perfect offering. [It may be necessary to distinguish between what man saw in Christ and what God saw. What man saw may correspond to the rough exterior of the goat, and the unattractive shagginess of the Nazarite, the friend of publicans and sinners, herding with those whom the priests and Pharisees accounted unholy ones, no better than the satyrs or rough he-goats in their eyes. But what God saw was a life of perfectness, and a heart of purity and holiness in His blessed Son. —J. M.].
While the sinner under the law was caused to identify himself with an animal suggesting the fierceness and lawlessness of sin, he could see in the burnt-offering fierceness subdued and strength brought into subjection to the needs of man and the service of God. There is thus a suggestion that men can only be regarded as a sweet savour when there is the same subjection. The bullock, “strong to labour” and giving “great increase” by his strength, is a fit animal for a burnt-offering to God, while in his untamed condition he is a picture of the effects of sin.
The meal-offerings, of course, have quite different teaching in view, and they will be considered further below.
The Meal-offering is so distinct from the other offerings as concerning its materials that we shall find it advantageous to discuss its general purport before considering the ingredients. Like the other sweet savour offerings there is no thought of sin associated with it so that it speaks in an intimate way of the Lord Jesus Christ. Unlike the other offerings, life is not cut off or given up, but the fruit of the ground is offered to God. In a later article dealing with the food of the priests, we shall be concerned with the important fact that this offering was used for the sustenance of the priests after God had received His portion, whereas in the burnt-offering God receives practically all. We therefore see that this offering is in some way associated with the provision which the Lord has made for those who serve Him. We must also bear in mind that the meat-offering was not offered alone, but was associated with the burnt-offering—”its meal- offering” (Lev.23:13).
The general significance of the meal-offering is most clearly brought out in Lev.23. To my mind, the instructions in that chapter concerning the Festivals of Jehovah reveal the purposes of God in a very characteristic way, whether it is by direct commandment or by omission of details given elsewhere. As I pointed out in articles on these Festivals some years ago, we must distinguish between the details of Lev.16 (which are for the Priest), the details of Num.28 and Num.29 (which are for the people), and the details of Lev.23, which give the essential elements from God’s point of view. Now in connection with the Passover only a burnt-offering is specified, while in the next festival, that of the wave-sheaf, a burnt-offering had to be accompanied by a meal-offering and a drink-offering, and in the festival of weeks all classes of offerings are specified. The latter festival has to do with the reception by men of the work of the Lord on the Cross, so that a sin-offering is required, but it may be noted that there is a very unusual order of the offerings: —burnt-offering, meal-offering, sin-offering, peace-offering. The last, though it is a sweet-savour offering, is here seen after the sin-offering, for the peace-offering has to do with communion between men and God.
It would appear, therefore, that there is a gradation of thought here which should help us. At the Cross, the work of Christ was a mystery to men, even to the disciples, but it was a delight to God. The resurrection of the Lord brings into view another aspect of His work, brought before us in the type of the first-fruits of the harvest, the sheaf of which was waved before God, a symbol of the fruits of abounding life. It is particularly to be noticed that the meal-offering is mentioned with considerable detail, so supporting the view that it is at the Resurrection of the Lord that the meal-offering begins to find its anti-type.
This suggestion that the meal-offering refers primarily to the resurrection life of the Lord Jesus may cause some surprise in the minds of those who are familiar with the interpretation of the meal- offering as referring to the earthly life of the Lord. It may be well to state that one of the great difficulties of interpretation of the offerings is to avoid mere conjecture, and the difficulty in the case of the meal- offering is greater than in the cases of the other offerings. We must endeavour to determine the principal purpose of each offering, and we must look to the guidance of the Scriptures for any direct connections which will help to give substance to the interpretation put forward. The ultimate purpose of God is what we have in mind when we say that the meal-offering finds its anti-type in the resurrection life of the Lord, which is a continual sweet savour to God, and this we shall now seek to show. The relation between the meal-offering and the earthly life of the Lord Jesus will then be shown to follow naturally as we consider the ingredients, towards the end of this article.
The resurrection of the Lord is an earnest of the fact that because He lives so shall we, not only in resurrection life beyond the grave, but in resurrection life here and now. That life which had been sown in the grave is seen arising in a new and wondrous manifestation that He had truly said, “I am the Life.” The death that He died He died unto sin once, but the life which He liveth He liveth unto God, and because He lives so do we.
How do we live in Christ? In the very beginning of things (Gen.1:29) the fruit of the ground was given unto man for his need, and in due course we have corn referred to as the main sustenance of man. Natural men could indeed live by bread alone, but as God is dealing with spiritual things under a disguise of natural ones, we must look for the spiritual counterpart, and we find it in the words of God through Moses: “Man doth not live by bread alone, but by every thing that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live” (Deut.8:3). Moses was exhorting the people in view of their life in Canaan, that land which would produce corn in abundance, that land which is the type for us of resurrection-life as we may know it here. But Moses looks back, and says firstly, “He humbled thee…and fed thee with manna…that He might make thee know that man doth not live by bread alone…” The manna is thus set before us in its significance as food from God.
Now in Lev.23 we have a reference back to this very subject of the manna, for the word for ” sheaf ” is the same as the word “omer” which is used in connection with the manna, and is not used much elsewhere than in Ex.16 and Lev.23. Since “An omer is a tenth part of an ephah” (Ex.16:36), the real offering of Lev.23 is thus measured in omers, and an omer is a man’s eating (Ex.16:16,18,22).
It is indeed most remarkable that the Lord Jesus should have brought these matters in close association again in His discourse in Jn 6. The “true bread from heaven” (verse 32) was Himself. “I am the bread of life” (Jn 6:48). “The bread which I shall give is My flesh, for the life of the world” (Jn 6:51, and also verse 33). What the Lord had in view was life in men, a life which could not be sustained without proper provision, and that provision was to be found in Himself. The eating of Himself as the Bread of Life is not that life might accrue, but that it might be maintained in richer fruition, expanding in the service of faith, and overflowing in life to the service of Heaven. Life eternal is to know God and His Son, even the Lord Jesus, and it is only found in abundance, with a true zest of living, as it is nourished by the Bread of Heaven. And that Bread from Heaven is also called the Life and the Word of God by which men live.
But as we eat of Him we become partakers of Him, sharers in His life, and in us will be manifested those things which made His life so beautiful, for the visible life of the Lord on earth was lived before God in the same way as ours may be. His meat was to do the will of Hod that sent Him (Jn 4:31). The Word of God was to Him a sure resource, a shield, His meditation day and night, His daily food: “Thy words were found, and I did eat them.” Hence, we gather thoughts from the meal-offering which have to do with His own life, and our life as proceeding from Him.
The principal ingredient of the meal-offering is corn, and it could be offered either in the ear as firstfruits (Lev.2:14), or it could be offered as fine flour (verses 1 and 4). But the natural product in the sheaf or in the ear was the lowest grade of offering, and even so it could not be offered as it came from the earth; it had to be parched with fire or bruised in the fresh ear. It was to be thus prepared in greater or less degree for its service as the food of the priests, and it is thus an appealing symbol of the One who knew the bruising of His service on earth that He might be so acquainted with all our sorrows and sufferings as to be indeed fitted to nourish us in all our need. The line flour had to be perfectly ground, but it is no part of the offering to do the grinding, for the flour was brought already perfected into fineness. The Lord was always perfect. Nevertheless, if the grindstones or the fire have not been in evidence, there is the unalterable fact that their efforts were seen in the finished product. We may not see the processes of the perfecting of the Lord (Heb.5:7-9) yet we know that such things as He learned on earth are the means of blessing to us now.
Three other ingredients, oil, frankincense, and salt, were regarded as essential parts of the meal-offering, while in contrast to these, two materials, honey or leaven, must not be incorporated in any way. The oil could be poured on to the offering or the cakes could be anointed with it. There can be no hesitation as to the meaning of this, for the Lord Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit, as in Lk.3:22 and Lk.4:1 and many other references. The frankincense is a symbol of purity or fragrance, and the fire of the altar brings out its sweet savour. Honey and leaven are symbols of corruption; in spite of the sweetness of the honey it soon ferments and it does not stand the fire. The salt is a preservative, and is used to symbolise endurance or perpetuity because of this (see Lev.2:13 and Num.18:19). These all have such obvious relationships to the Lord Jesus that further comment is needless. When we are the offerers, and bring to God something concerning the life of the Lord it is just as essential that our offering be with the Spirit, that it be free from the honey-sweetness and the leavening of this world, and that there is about it something of “the salt of the covenant” and the frankincense which will be a sweet savour to God. Our feeding upon the Bread from Heaven also should be conducted in the same spirit that God may also have His pleasure and memorial.
THE DUTIES OF THE OFFERER.
Having considered the components of the offerings we can now turn our attention to the duties performed by the offerer himself, and we find that these are given in great detail and variety. The first duty of the offerer is clearly that of assuring himself that his offering is indeed without blemish, and that he is offering according to the ordinances; otherwise he might suffer a refusal. The law was most stringent in this respect, and we known how God, through Malachi, condemned those who dishonoured Him by offering the blind and lame or sick.
No man would ever think of bringing such blemished offerings if he clearly understood the purpose of the next duty laid upon him, for in most, but not all, cases he was commanded to lay his hand upon the head of the offering. This gesture is, of course, associated in thought with the practice of “laying on of hands” in Apostolic days. It implied identification and association, so that the offerer who laid his hand upon the head of an animal was caused to realise that this animal was being accepted for him, to make atonement for him. Only the best of the herd or the flock could be deemed worthy of being offered if there was to be assurance of acceptance, and if the need for atonement was fully understood. As offerers of the present day, our joy is this, that our Offering was indeed the best, the Flower of the race, the only unblemished One that ever lived. On Him our hand is metaphorically laid, the One who stood in our room to make atonement for us.
The only exception to this rule is in connection with the turtle-doves, if indeed we can regard it as an exception, seeing the birds must be carried in the hand. The same might also be said of the meal-offering.
The matter next in importance to the offerer was the death of the offering. In all cases where an animal is offered it was essential that he should at least witness its death. In the higher grades of offerings it is stated that the offerer himself must kill the animal, and in the lower grades the priest acts for the offerer. It will be helpful to note that the pronoun “he” in practically all cases refers to the offerer; the words “the priest” or “the priests” are repeated wherever required. If Lev.1 be carefully read through this will be clear; for instance, “he” (singular) in verse 9 must still be the offerer as “priests,” (plural) not “the priest.” are referred to in verse 8. The following summary of the law as to the death of the animal will be useful.
(1) the bullock before the LORD (Lev.1:5) at the door of the tent of meeting;
(2) the sheep or goat on the northward side of the altar before the LORD (Lev.1:11);
(3) (the turtledoves, by the priest, at the altar).
all grades at the door of the tent of meeting, before the LORD (Lev.3:1,2,7,8,12,13).
(1) the bullock (for the priest or congregation) before the LORD at the door of the tent of meeting (Lev.4:4,15).
(2) the goat (for the ruler) and the female goat or lamb (for one of the people) “in the place where they kill the burnt-offering” (Lev.4:24,29,33), that is, as (2) for the burnt-offering above.
(1) as for the sin offering (Lev.5:6).
(2) (turtle-doves, by the priest)
We note at once that the animals for the higher grades of the burnt-offering and sin-offering were killed “before the LORD” and “at the door of the tent of meeting,” while the animals for the lower grades were to be killed “on the northward side of the altar” though also “before the LORD.” In both cases the emphasis is on the phrase “before the LORD.” It must indeed have been most solemnising to know that He was indeed watchful of all that was done. There is increased emphasis laid upon this in connection with the higher grades.
While all the offerings were slain “at the altar” or “in the place where they kill the burnt-offering,” we must give weight to the choice of words in connection with the higher grades—they were killed “at the door of the tent of meeting.” Extra emphasis is thus laid upon the solemnity of the place.
We must also note that it is the sin-offerings for the priest and for the whole congregation which receive this preferential treatment. There is something peculiarly solemn about the sin of a priest or the sin of the whole of God’s saved people, and it was needful that there should be a corresponding appreciation of the intense interest of God in the atoning sacrifice.
These matters have teaching for ourselves. Our offering is Christ, and we are called upon week by week to remember Him, to proclaim His death. We have not stood at the foot of the Cross in verity, to witness with horror the death of the Victim, to realise in His agony the dreadful fact of sin and its penalty, but in faith we can take our stand there, and we can clasp our hands in horror and shed tears of sorrow as we gaze upon Him. If such were our reactions to the remembrance we should know the true solemnity of our being gathered together. The whole assembly needs to appreciate in the presence of God the fact that Christ has died. Whether we are concerned at the moment with Him as sin-offering or as burnt-offering is immaterial to this consideration, but this we know, that as God has looked with a searching eye on the agonies of the Sin-bearer, so also He looks upon that which we present. We can take our gaze, as it were, from the door of the tent of meeting and be taken up with the northward side of the altar, but we shall lose by it.
There are two definite aspects, therefore, of the remembrance which seem to be linked together in this way, to be placed, so to speak, on equal footing, in the similarities between the procedure for the burnt-offering and the sin-offering. Whether we are taken up with the sin-offering aspect or the burnt-offering aspect, it is most desirable that our hearts should be touched with the fact and the manner of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is as essential to the one as to the other, and it is thus erroneous to consider the remembrance of the death as pertaining only to the offering for sin.
The next duty of the offerer is to discriminate between the parts of the offering, as follows: —
(1) the bullock, sheep, or goat, had to be flayed
and cut into pieces, and the inwards or legs had to be washed with water.
(2) the turtle-doves had to be rended by the wings, but not divided asunder, and the crop and filth had to be taken away.
the offerer removes the fat, which is God’s portion.
as in the peace-offering.
The burnt-offering, in its higher grades, required the offerer to inspect each part of the offering. Not one single thing that could be counted as defiling could be allowed to go with the rest on the altar. As we contemplate Him who was the true Burnt-offering we shall look in vain for anything of defilement. We can consider the head, the eyes, the inwards, and we find His thoughts. His walk, His affections spotless indeed, for they were continually kept by Him unspotted from the world. Every type of Him, whether it be Aaron or the burnt-offering, needed to be washed to correspond with Him in His purity, and all that He Himself offers up as a sweet savour to God is washed by the word of God, as it is written of the Church (Eph.5:26), “that He might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word.” As we speak with God of Him who gave Himself, it is given unto us to survey every detail of the offering, and return God’s word to Himself as to this perfect Man that He is truly “very good.”
Very little of this is seen by some who only consider the Lord Jesus as the innocent man slain on Calvary. His excellencies are unknown or undiscriminated by them, corresponding to the offering of turtle-doves, and the meagreness of that done concerning them.
It is interesting to see that in the case of the peace-offering only the fat is removed. This is God’s portion, of which we shall have to say more in a later article. The sin-offering is on the same footing as the peace-offering in this respect. The fat, of course, speaks of the inward excellency of the offering.
Turning now to the meal-offering, the offerer has principally to pour the oil on the offering and add the frankincense. This duty could not be delegated to the priest. So far as we are concerned this is an important duty as we remember before God the Lord Jesus as the Bread of Life. It is given unto us so to act by the Spirit that by His unction our remembrance of Christ ascends as a sweet savour offering.
Thus, we see that many of the lessons we learn from the duties of the offerer are intimately associated, if we are wise enough to see it thus, with the weekly remembrance of the Lord Jesus. It is true that the death that He died, He died unto sin once, but week by week it is given to us to remember His death and to declare His excellency as we may see Him in His work as sin-offering, peace-offering, meal- offering, or burnt-offering. Our discriminatory powers are most exercised in the last, the highest form of offering, and happy and blessed are we, and sweet our gathering before God, when we can rise to the expression of the excellencies of Christ.
THE DUTIES OF THE PRIESTS.
The nature of the priest’s office was such that he was called upon to handle holy things, and to appreciate, to a degree much greater than that experienced by the offerer, the character of the offering and the character of Him to whom it was offered. The priest, as a successor to Aaron, was in his office a type of Christ so that we shall expect to find much in his duties which will cause us to appreciate the present work of the great Priest on high, while at the same time he and his fellows, in their priesthood, were a type of that priesthood in which we are found by the grace of God.
If we read carefully we shall see that in general the officiating priest is called “the priest,” and that certain duties appear to have been collectively performed by “Aaron’s sons, the priests.” Compare, for example, Lev.1:5,7,8 with verse 9. Now in the book of Leviticus we have the expression “Aaron the priest” and it is desirable to ascertain, if possible, the respective parts played by Aaron and his sons. Num.3:3-4 refers to the sons of Aaron which were anointed, two of whom died without children, while of the remaining two we read, “Eleazar and Ithamar ministered in the priest’s office in the presence of Aaron their father.” It would therefore appear that while Aaron was alive his sons had in no sense an independent office and that his presence was a necessity.
Lev.6:20 refers to a meal offering which Aaron and his. sons had to offer in the day of his anointing, with a similar provision in verse 22 for the anointed priest that was in Aaron’s stead. Now in Lev.9 we have this day of anointing over by 7 days, and the first duties of the priests are specified in detail. Compare verses 8 and 9, for instance, in which Aaron slew the calf and his sons presented the blood to him for his further duties. See also verses 12 and 18 which also show that Aaron’s sons acted together in presenting to him the blood. In verse 20 they put the fat upon the breasts, but Aaron burnt it. We must therefore conclude that in the details of the general offerings it is well to note the references to the priests in their collective capacity, and to note also that “the priest” speaks of Aaron.
We can summarise the work of the priests as follows: The burnt-offering:
(a) they present the blood of the bullock and sprinkle the blood round about the altar (Lev.1:5), put fire and wood on the altar (Lev.1:7), and lay the pieces in order upon it (Lev.1:8);
(b) in connection with the offering from the flock, they sprinkle the blood;
(c) in connection with the fowls, they do nothing.
The peace-offering: —
(a) for an offering from the herd, they sprinkle the blood and they burn the fat of the offering.
(b) for an offering from the flock, they sprinkle the blood.
It should be noted that the priests are not mentioned at all in connection with the sin and trespass offerings, and they have no duties in connection with the meal-offering except to receive it (Lev.2:2), (and of course afterwards to partake of it, which is not part of our present consideration).
We also note that some of the duties done by the priests collectively in the higher grades of the burnt-offering and peace-offering are not performed by them in the cases of the lower grades, but in these instances the work is done only by “the priest,” and in the lowest grade of the burnt-offering they do nothing. There must be some teaching in this for the priesthood of this day. It would seem quite right and proper that in connection with sin and trespass the offerer deals only with “the priest,” who makes atonement for him. In this matter no priesthood can meddle.
The work of the priesthood is thus found entirely in connection with the sweet savour offerings. It was the privilege of the priests to stand with Aaron round the altar and share in the joy of the ascending offering, but whether they shared in the work of burning or not, one duty was laid upon them—they had to present the blood and to sprinkle it upon the altar that was at the door of the tent of meeting.
In the great sacrifice of Christ of which all these offerings speak, there was, of course, no priesthood. That which was done was done by Him alone, and in His own person He performed all the functions of offering, offerer, priesthood and priest. If the priesthood is to be interpreted for us it must be in association with the remembrance of these things. Just as God took pleasure, to some extent at least (and not forgetting such Scriptures as Heb.10:6), in the sacrifices of old, because they were anticipative of the pleasure He would find in the offering up of Christ, so also He takes pleasure in that which can now be offered in the remembrance of that which has taken place.
The Levitical teaching as to the duties of the priesthood, however, shews that the true function of a holy priesthood is found in the rendering of a sweet savour offering unto God. They are seen associated with the High Priest in connection with the burnt-offering and not with a sin-offering. While we must, of necessity, remember the blood which cleansed us from our sins, so that the remembrance of the blood of Christ is precious both to God and to us in whatever aspect Christ may be considered, we must realise and remember that this is ever a preliminary to the high and holy privilege of rendering sweet savour offerings.
Further, the cup of remembrance is called by the Lord the cup which is a new covenant in His blood. The first covenant (Heb.9:18) was associated with the sprinkling of the blood of sweet savour offerings (Ex.24:5-8). Note very carefully that this sprinkling was not done with the blood of sin-offerings. That covenant was a covenant of service, and the true service of the sanctuary was seen in the ascending offerings. The last covenant, in the blood of Christ, is equally a covenant of service, and this is what the Lord intended us to realise. “All that the LORD hath spoken will we do” was the cry of the people of Israel, and on that basis, additional to the fact of their being redeemed, they were sprinkled with the blood. If, therefore, the blood of the sin-offering needed to be offered and accepted for the forgiveness of sin, the blood of the burnt-offering and of the peace- offering was needed for service.
If a holy priesthood forgets that its principal function is to keep before God the memorial of the sacrifice which ascended to God as a sweet savour, it will enter upon a very barren state of service. If that holy priesthood is more taken up with the remembrance of the blood that was shed at the doors of the houses in Egypt than with the remembrance of the blood of Him that gave Himself without spot or blemish as a sweet savour to God, then that priesthood will have decried its privileges and debased its office. Alas! many believers are in heart hardly over the thresholds of the doors of Egypt, and in consequence the service of God which should ascend as a sweet memorial of Christ is but an egotistical remembrance of the blessings accrued to them from the death of the lamb of the LORD’S Passover. To remember Him who freely offered up Himself, we must in measure be prepared to forget ourselves.
One other important duty fell to the sons of Aaron. As we scan the above list of duties we see that only in two cases do they have any part in connection with the burning. In the case of the highest grade of heart-offering they lay the pieces in order on the wood and fire and “the priest” actually burns the whole offering (Lev.1:9). But in the highest grade of peace-offering (Lev.3:1-5) there is no mention whatever of ” the priest ” and Aaron’s sons burn the offering (verse 5). This is unique and commands our attention. In the lower grades of peace- offerings the priest takes a part.
Now we have repeatedly stated that the higher grades of offerers are associated with the higher appreciation of the purpose of the offering, and here we see the priesthood exercising itself in duties that normally belong to the priest. Why should this be so in this case? The answer is, that the peace-offering is peculiarly a communion offering, and more parties are concerned in it than in any other offering, for God, the priest, the priests, the offerer, his family, his friends, all can have a portion in this. What a delight it must be to the Lord to stand aside, so to speak, and see an instructed priesthood being exercised to the utmost in priestly work in connection with that communion for which He suffered and died! Rest and peace we share with God, and, as we understand the value of it in our own souls, we are a blessing to ourselves, to our family, and to our friends. The peace of God passes all understanding, and it is given to a holy priesthood to cause the expression of it to go up as a sweet savour to God, for
Glory to God in the highest
is associated with
And on earth peace among men in whom He is well pleased.
THE WORK OF THE PRIEST.
The functions of the priest were of the greatest importance in connection with the people of Israel, not only in connection with the sacrifices and offerings, and the things of the Sanctuary, but also in connection with the morals and health of the people. With this wide range of activity we cannot deal, and this article must be limited to the work of the priest in connection with the burning of the offerings. His duties relative to the blood will be discussed in a later article.
The priest, as we showed in the previous article, is the High Priest, Aaron and his successors, and therefore is a type of the Lord, so that an understanding of the priest’s duties should help us to a fuller appreciation of the work of the great Anti-type. For He is a Priest on behalf of His people, and His priestly work began after His death on the Cross: “Having been made perfect…named of God a High Priest” (Heb.5:10). His work is “within the veil, whither as a forerunner Jesus entered for us, having become a High Priest for ever…” (Heb.6:19-20). This High Priest, like all the earthly priests, must have “somewhat to offer” (Heb. 8:3), and that which He has offered has been the testimony of the sacrifice of Himself (Heb. 9:14, 26), the testimony of His blood (Heb.9:12), but that which He now offers includes our sacrifice of praise, through Him, the fruit of lips making confession to His name (Heb.13:15). Unless, therefore, there is a response on our part we are falling short of our privileges.
One of the principal duties of the priest, in connection with the sweet savour offerings, was to perform the actual burning, whether it be of the whole as for the burnt-offering, or the handful for the meal- offering, or the fat as in the peace-offering. The word “burn,” used in connection with the sweet-savour offerings, is different from that used in connection with the sin-offerings. In the latter case it is the word for burning in the ordinary sense, but in the former case it is a word used in association with incense. The priest has in mind, not the burning up as destruction, but the burning which is regarded as a means to produce a sweet smell. Whether the appreciation of the offerer was made known in the highest grade or the lowest grade of offering, it is the priest who burnt the offering, and the worth of the sacrifices of praise which we render, the value of the appreciation of the great offering which was Christ, the discernment of His excellencies, the testimony of His blood, all reach unto God through Him and it is He who gives value to them and causes them to ascend as a sweet savour.
It has been reiterated that in the lowest grades of offerings the offerer does very little indeed, and the priest does more. The priest, therefore, makes up for the deficiency of the offerer. The offering itself is perfect, and the sweet savour has no degrees of sweetness—all is sweet to God who receives it. But in the higher grades of offerings the priest does less and the offerer is thus accorded the privilege of doing more, to his own spiritual welfare. The One who can take the un- uttered groanings of His saints or can translate them into fervent supplications on their behalf before the face of His Father can, and does, take the meagre offerings and adds His own sweetness to them. But it is ever His desire to set with joy before God the richness of our utterings, the testimony of spiritual life in us. An analogy may help: the ungrammatical writings of a contributor may be polished by an editor, but it is a pleasure when the contributions are so well expressed that they can be passed into print untouched. So, I take it, the Lord has delight when we do more in our spiritual enlightenment and He is called upon to do less. As we pointed out last month, this finds its highest expression, so far as we are concerned, in the burning of the highest grade of the peace-offering, when the priest in one sense is not seen to act, though, be it noted, all is done in his presence, as we saw in connection with the priestly work of the sons of Aaron.
Reverting to the matter of burning, we must take care to distinguish between two separate acts of burning required for the offerings for sin. Part of the sin offering, namely, the fat, had to be burned on the altar of burnt offering, exactly as in the case of the peace-offering. Here the word used is qatar as is used in connection with the sweet-savour offerings (Lev.4:10,19,26,31,35; also, in Lev.5:12, for the handful of meal), so that these portions are burned as having fragrance, but the words “for a sweet savour of rest” are not added. Just as the sin-offering needed to be perfect, so also the fat, the emblem of inward health, had to be perfect, and God appreciated the perfection as a fragrance. The perfection of Christ as an offering for sin was gratifying indeed to God. But the animal itself had to be burned (Saraph) elsewhere, outside the camp (e.g., Lev.4:12), because it was offered for sin, and had to suffer the emblem of divine wrath. Yet even so, any place without the camp would not do, and this brings us to another part of the work of the priest.
It was part of the priest’s duties to care for the ashes of the sweet savour offerings (Lev.6:10-11), which had to be placed first of all beside the altar, where also, “beside the altar, on the east part, in the place of the ashes” (Lev.1:16) were placed the crop and filth of the fowls used for burnt-offerings. The priest had thereafter to carry the ashes to a clean place outside the camp and it was to this place that he had to carry the sin-offerings. One would have thought that someone other than the high priest would have done this laborious and even menial work, but it was only the anointed priest who could so act. How solemnising is the thought that sin should cause one so high to stoop so low! How perfect the picture of One who was prepared for the lowest stoop in order to cope with the consequences of sin! Here, in this clean place, the sin-offering was burned, and the ashes mingled with the ashes of the burnt-offering.
The great care shewn in connection with these ashes must have some significance for us, and the mingling of the ashes was apparently deliberate. The whole pile, perhaps, would speak of the completion of the great work of Christ, as sin-offering, but also as burnt-offering, which brought forth the words, “It is finished.” It was one offering, one sacrifice, which we have viewed in different aspects, and when all was over that perfect body was reverently laid in a clean place, and guarded by the angels of God. The fire of divine wrath was over as well as the ascending offering, and God cared for that which was left.
Only the higher grades of sin offering, those for the priest and for the congregation, were burnt outside the camp. The other sin offerings were not burnt, apart from the fat, and they were used (as we shall see in a later article) for the food of the priests. Heb.13 deals with this point, that only those beasts whose blood was brought into the holy place by the high priest, as an offering for sin, were burned without the camp (verse 11). These two classes or grades of offerings are obviously associated with service and communion, and Heb.13:10 makes it very clear that there is no thought of personal sustenance involved in this aspect of the work on the Cross—the death of the Lord is viewed as for sanctification, as fitting for the service of the house of God (see verses 12 and 15). So perfect is the type that we have even the suffering without the gate (verse 12) portrayed in the burning without the camp. We shall miss a great deal if this aspect of the death of the Lord is not clearly grasped, that His suffering was with a view to communion and praise.
David appears to have had the same subject in mind in Ps.36:8 and Ps.63:4-5, for the word therein translated fatness is the same word as is used for the ashes of the altar. In the latter Psalm he refers to “fat” and “fatness” (ashes) as though considering the offering up of the fat and the completion of the sacrifices.
They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of Thy House.
My soul shall be satisfied as with fat (R.V.M.) and fatness. And my mouth shall praise Thee with joyful lips.
As we contemplate the same scene, the mute witness of the great sacrifice, there should also well up in our hearts the abundance of satisfaction which results in a praising people.
THE SPRINKLING, POURING, AND SCATTERING OF THE BLOOD.
The teaching concerning the blood of the offerings is vital to our understanding of the work of Christ, and it is with reverence that we approach a subject on which we ourselves would long for deeper knowledge. We shall firstly seek to point out some essential differences in the meanings of the words used in referring to the blood. It is to be regretted that the translators have used one English word to express two different Hebrew words, for the blood of the burnt-offering and the blood of the sin-offering, for example, are each said to be “sprinkled” though the ideas conveyed are not the same.
The word zaraq is used when all the blood is to be sprinkled, and for convenience we shall express this operation by the word “scatter.” The word nazah, which means to spirt, in small drops as with the finger, is best expressed by the word “sprinkle.” In general, these two words are used with very great precision, but there is an apparently exceptional case which is helpful. In Num.19 the water of separation (the water added to the ashes of the red heifer) was sprinkled upon those who needed to be cleansed, and normally this word is used when the sinner was cleansed, but in Num.19:13,20 we have brought before us the cases of those who refuse to be purified, and it is then said that they were condemned because the water of separation had not been scattered upon them, as though they had refused the cleansing power of the whole of that water.
The blood of the burnt-offerings and peace-offerings was scattered by the priests, the sons of Aaron, and when Moses took the book and made a covenant with the people (Ex.24:6,8) he scattered the blood of sweet savour offerings upon the altar, the people and the book. It is the general rule for the blood of sweet savour offerings to be scattered, the whole of it being so used, but when we have sin-offerings brought before us, a portion of the blood only is sprinkled. The instructions concerning the blood of the sin-offering are of very great interest and importance, and we shall proceed to consider these in detail.
We shall deal firstly with the procedure in the cases of the sin-offerings for the sins of individuals, from a ruler downwards, and we find that in all these cases there were two distinct operations, both taking place at the altar of burnt-offering (Lev.4:25,30,34, and Lev.5:9): –
(1) putting the blood on the horns of the altar;
(2) pouring the blood at the base of the altar.
To understand the meaning of these operations we must refer to the institution of the rites of the offerings, as set forth in Lev. 8. Thus, verse 15 makes it clear that these operations have different purposes, the first being that the altar might be “purified” and the second being that it might be “sanctified,” the last having in view atonement for the altar. These two ideas are at first sight so similar that we might well wonder wherein lay the difference. The thought of atonement for the altar, particularly after the anointing referred to in earlier verses, seems somewhat strange, and it is not until we investigate the word chata, which has been translated “purified,” that we realise how much has been lost in the translation. This word means “to miss (the mark)” and from it comes the word for “trespass.” Hence the thoughts associated with the putting of blood on the horns of the altar are really concerned with a trespass against the altar, whereby it becomes defiled.
In all these cases of individual sin the offerer was caused to understand that when the blood was put upon the horns of the altar it showed that there had been a missing of the mark. His sin was an offence against the altar of burnt-offering and without that altar being sanctified, and without atonement for it being made, it was unable to fulfil its primary purpose in connection with sweet savour offerings. He was caused to realise that his sin affected the altar, that while it remained unforgiven there was an effect upon the reception by God of that which was His due. The sinner may never have realised this, but when the blood was put on the horns of the altar he realised that it was unclean until it was sanctified by the pouring out of the blood of the sin-offering at the base of the altar. Then atonement was made.
It is outside our present purpose to discuss the special case of the red heifer of Num.19, but there the consequences of uncleanness are very solemnly set forth, for even the priest who was himself “clean,” and all those who were “clean,” and had a share in the rites, became unclean and temporarily unfitted for service because of their services for the sins of others (Num.19:7,8,10). This is indeed a very solemn matter, that others should be so affected by our sins. Many believers are not sufficiently concerned in their souls as to this.
When we consider the cases of the higher grades of sin-offering, when the priest or the congregation had sinned, we have these thoughts intensified, for it is now not only the altar of burnt-offering that is affected, but the service within the Sanctuary itself. The blood had to be sprinkled before the LORD seven times, before the veil (Lev.4:5-6,16-17), and then the priest had to put some of the blood upon the horns of the altar of sweet incense, that precious golden altar from which ascended to God the sweetness and preciousness of the perfume. This sprinkling of blood teaches us that the sanctuary itself had become regarded as unclean, that the altar of sweet incense had been rendered unfitted for service, because of the sin of the priest or of the congregation. The sprinkling was an acknowledgment of this solemn fact by the priest as well as a token to God of the sacrifice that had been made and of the blood to be poured out. If the sprinkling had been sufficient for cleansing, then the pouring out of the rest of the blood at the base of the brazen altar would have been redundant. When the blood was sprinkled it had in view that full atonement shortly to be effected, the pouring out of precious blood in expiation, the cleansing of the altar of burnt-offering thereby effected, and consequently the renewed freedom of the priest to officiate in the service of the LORD.
There is far too little exercise among believers as to the effects of sin in hindering service Godward. Trespasses and sins should be dealt with by the individual without loss of time, lest his faults mar the service of a serving and worshipping people. If there was more self-examination prior to the Remembrance there would be a fuller and freer exercise before God. Alas! too many fail to realise that the dead fly in the ointment may cause the whole to send forth a stinking savour.
In our remarks on the work of the priests we made it clear that their work was principally associated with the blood of the sweet savour offerings. Their duty was not merely to sprinkle a small portion, but the whole was scattered. It would seem as though there could not be by a holy priesthood too great an apprehension of the blood of the Divine sweet-savour offering. But we often feel, as we ourselves act on Lord’s Day morning in giving thanks in association with the cup, that the profoundness of the theme transcends one’s powers of under- standing and expression. As we listen to others, we often feel that there is a poverty of expression regarding that of which the cup speaks. Too often, what is then offered up in thanksgiving is but a second edition of that which was said earlier in association with the loaf, or else it would appear as though what had been left unsaid on the first occasion is said on the second. It is also sometimes the case that what was said concerning the cup might equally have been said concerning the loaf, and vice-versa. To our mind, this is wrong. The message of the loaf is not the message of the cup, and if the peculiar teaching and significance of the cup is not appreciated and expressed then the services unto God will be on a low plane.
The cup which reminds us of the new covenant in the blood of Christ should cause us to realise the tremendous value of that blood whereby we, even we, are enabled to draw near and speak unto God in full communion. The fact that we, in view of what we once were, are enabled to come with boldness into the very presence of God is of tremendous and fascinating importance. The privileges which we have should stagger us. We know that we are clean, but we cannot fathom the deep mystery of the means whereby we are clean. No wonder the poet could sing,
And can it be, that I should gain
An interest in the Saviour’s blood?,
nor that he should exclaim,
‘Tis mystery all; the Immortal dies!
With great diffidence have we sought to pen these few thoughts on this great subject, but it is our hope that there may be an exercise among brethren as to the importance of that which is brought before us in the cup.
THE FOOD OF THE PRIESTS
Just as the Book of Deuteronomy, in its second statement of the Law of God, gives us oft-times a fresh view of Divine principles, so also in the Book of Leviticus do we find a second summary of the ordinances relating to the offerings, and each part of this section, from Lev.6:8 to 7:38, opens with similar words, as ” This is the law of the burnt-offering, ” etc. One would have thought that the earlier chapters would have given the law as to these matters. But now the whole subject is being reviewed from an entirely fresh angle; whereas chapters 1 to Lev.6:7 are to the people of Israel (see Lev.1:2), the second section is to Aaron and his sons (Lev.6:9). Many of the details of the instructions are extremely interesting, but we shall have to pass over them, and discuss the most important matter here touched on. It becomes increasingly clear as we read the section that it is principally taken up with the subject of the food of the priests.
Another matter which immediately engages our attention is that the peace-offering is relegated to the end, and is referred to in greater detail than any other offering. Further, the emphasis is laid on the holy character of the sin-offering. In fact, as we see from Lev.6:25; 7:7 and also Lev.6:17, the sin-offering is said to be “most holy” and even the meal offering is to be regarded as ” most holy ” in the same sense as the sin-offering. This is a complete reversal of emphasis from what we get in the first five chapters. There the burnt-offering is supreme and the sin-offering is said to be dealt with ” in the place where they kill the burnt-offering. ” In those early chapters it is the thought of the sweet savour which is the basis of grouping, but in this later section it is the thought of the provision for the priests which determines the order of treatment; thus we get
(1) The burnt-offering treated first, which provides food neither for the priests nor for the offerer;
(2) then the meal offering, sin-offering, and guilt-offering, which provide food only for the males of the sons of Aaron (Lev.6:18,29, Lev.7:6; 7:10);
(3) lastly, the peace-offering, which provides food, not only for the offerer, and the males of the Aaronites, but also for the females.
If we examine some exceptions to the general rules of the offerings grouped under (2) above, we get a little more insight into the principles of interpretation. It appears from Lev.6:23,30 that certain meal offerings and sin-offerings could not be eaten because they were to be wholly burnt, and on considering the references back to the sin-offerings we find that the exceptional cases pertain to
(a) the meal offering for the priest himself;
(b) the sin-offering for the sin of the anointed priest;
(c) the sin-offering for the whole congregation.
If we take it that of these three the first two cannot find fulfilment in the anti-type of the anointed priest (that is, in the Lord) we are led to consider the last one and we see from Heb.13:12, which refers to this, that because the body of the animal was burnt then the priests could not find sustenance in the offering made for the sin of the congregation. So also we must not look to the One offering made for the sin of the whole people as that which is referred to in connection with the food of the priests. We are forced, therefore, to consider that the priests found sustenance in the offerings made for the individual sins of the rulers and the people.
It seems to be a very strange thing that the sin-offerings should be used for food at all, and stranger still that the bodies and the food had to be handled and eaten with the utmost reverence. As sin-bearers they were doomed to death and bore in their bodies the penalties that came’ from God’s abhorrence of sin. But once the death had been accomplished the bodies were put under very special care. We saw something of this same principle in connection with the work of the priest, how he carried out of the camp to a clean place the bodies of animals offered for certain sins, and how in that clean place the ashes of the bodies were mingled with the ashes of the burnt-offerings. Here, in the case of other sin-offerings, whosoever touched the bodies must be holy (see Lev.6:25-30), any garment affected by such bodies must be washed in a holy place, the earthen vessel used to cook the flesh could not be afterwards used and must be broken, and any brazen vessel must be thoroughly cleansed after use. The actual eating must also be done in a holy place, the court of the tent of meeting. We might well ask the meaning of all this. The fire of divine wrath which fell on Christ when He became the Sin-bearer lasted not a moment after His death. Thereafter His body was an object of reverence on earth, and will be so for ever in heaven. The object of awe on the Cross is the theme of joy and wonder here.
Another important point in connection with the eating of the sin- offering is that only the males of the house of Aaron could eat of it (Lev.6:29), whereas the peace-offering could be eaten by males and females (Lev.7:32 and Lev.10:14). We are caused to realise that this distinction is of very great importance. The sacrifices of peace-offerings are not said to be “most holy” as are the others just referred to, and they need not be eaten in a holy place. We must conclude that the eating of the “most holy” sacrifices had something to do with ceremonial satisfaction, if we may so put it. The males, as active members, are seen eating together in a holy place of the “most holy” sacrifices. There is a measure of solemnity about it. We would judge that much the same sort of satisfaction is associated with those occasions when the sins of an individual are confessed and the Assembly shares in the joy of knowing that the sin has been confessed, and the reproach against the Testimony is removed. When the individual’s sin was regarded as a trespass against the altar, it must have been a source of joy to the priesthood to know that the matter was rectified, and there was a collective sharing in the satisfaction of atonement.
A very interesting and important revelation is made in Lev.10:17 as to the meaning of these ordinances concerning the food of the priests. On the day of consecration of Aaron and his sons a goat had been offered up for the people as a sin-offering. It was not offered for an offering for collective sin, for in that case a bullock (Lev.4:13) would have had to be offered, and the blood of the bullock would have had to be presented in the sanctuary, while the body would not have been used for food at all. But a goat was offered for the people, and as Moses points out to Aaron (Lev.10:18), because the blood was not brought into the sanctuary then the body should have been eaten by the priests. Moses further reveals (Lev.10:17) that it was given to the priests for food that it might bear (or take away) the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them. This is something new and profound. We can only conclude that the priests thus had a solemn responsibility laid upon them. As we have said previously, the priests had no share in the ordinances relating to the sacrifice of the offering, they neither touched it nor sprinkled the blood. Only the priest could act to forgive sin, but the priests in eating the sacrifice found satisfaction in the accomplished work. It is well-pleasing indeed to God when the priest- hood thus finds satisfaction. The reason why Aaron and his sons could not eat the sin-offering on the occasion referred to was that in the interval between the atonement made by the sin-offering and the eating of the body further grievous sin had resulted, so that there could not have been any satisfaction in completing a rite which had ceased to have reality. There could have been no joy over a sin atoned for when the cloud of a more grievous sin had overshadowed the priesthood.
In the interpretation for the priesthood of this day we must conclude that we are to find holy and collective satisfaction in Christ as the Offering made for individual sin. The consideration of this should indeed be a continual source of satisfaction, and ought to tend, as the contemplation of Christ ever should (see Eph.4:12,13) toward the upbuilding of “the body.” It should be an act of satisfaction to the collective people of God when the sins of believers are confessed and forgiven before God, so that the interpretation for us to-day of the eating of the sin-offering is that the provision for sin made by God in the Person of His Son should cause us to be filled and strengthened in the collective sense.
As regards the meal-offering, we have already commented (see 1938 Bible Studies, pages 84-87) so we shall not enter into details. But it may be noted that, as in the case of the sin-offering, it was “most holy” and that only the males of the house of Aaron could eat of it (Lev.6:18).
We pointed out in connection with the meal offering that in the Festivals of Jehovah the peace-offering comes last, the same order precisely as that which we have in this portion of Leviticus. Communion could only commence in its fullness after the cross-work was over, and this can be either a collective matter, in the solemnity of the priestly work of the Assembly, or a family matter as those in the family of God. Hence the daughters of Aaron and his sons are seen to share in the peace-offerings. What they ate was a due for ever to the Aaronic priests from the children of Israel. There is undoubtedly much joy and gladness and upbuilding power in the blessing to the individual saint in his communion with God in connection with the great Peace-offering, but there is a sense in which the whole assembly gets its portion from this also, just as the priests and their families shared with the offerer and with God in the sacrifices of peace-offerings.
THE FOOD OF THE OFFERER.
In association with the preceding subject, we should also consider the food of the offerer. It is only in the peace-offering that the offerer finds a portion, and it is only as we contemplate the peace which we have in Christ that as individuals we can know the true peace of God which passeth all understanding. Such a state of mind calls for thanks-giving, and the spirit that is enjoined to the offerer is that in which the full savour of this thanksgiving is enjoyed without stint. So we read that none of it shall be left until the morning (Lev.7:15). With it was to be offered a meal-offering, and our minds go back to the ordinance concerning the manna—none of it could be left until the morning. The thankful heart should not consider it necessary to save some of his elation until the morrow. Some of us are perhaps, too much of this stingy spirit, so that we fail to enter into the full joy of thanksgiving for the peace we have in Christ.
With regard to the peace-offering for a vow the ordinances are different and solemn. Whereas thanksgiving should well up in our hearts day by day, a vow (or freewill offering) is a rare occurrence. What solemn moments have been spent before God in the deep satisfaction of peace with Him! What dedication has been made! It is permissible to continue to feed on that experience and on Him for whose sake it was given. But, alas! how many have delighted only in the dedication, the promising to oneself and to God of a life devoted to service, and yet have never achieved what they set out to do. He who vowed could feed for a “second day,” but what remained over on “the third day” was to be burnt. We know that “the third day” speaks of resurrection. It will not be sufficient in that day to seek satisfaction in the great resolves of heart that once were made. “I have found no works of thine fulfilled before my God” was the word to the saints in Sardis (Rev.3:2), who had a name that they lived, and yet were dead. The knowledge of the peace in Christ our Lord should stimulate us to vow in our hearts to serve Him, but “when thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it…” (Eccles.5:1-7).
THE TITHE AND THE FREE-WILL OFFERINGS.
It is fitting that in closing this series of articles we should give a little attention to the class of offerings which depended upon the blessing received from God. The offerings for sin and trespass depended upon a knowledge of the frailty and sinfulness of men, and the sweet-savour offerings depended upon an appreciation of God’s due from men, but the tithe was a compulsory offering demanded of men who inhabited the land by the favour of the LORD, who received blessings from Heaven above and earth beneath because of the munificence of the Creator. “The world is Mine, and the fulness thereof” was the word of the LORD through Asaph in Ps.50, His are all the cattle on a thousand hills, and the wild beasts also are His. When He uttered those words, God had shined forth out of Zion (Ps.50:2), and desired His saints to be gathered together, those that had made a covenant with Him by sacrifice (Ps.50:5). That which they had offered had come from Him in the first place, but He yearned for a spirit of thankfulness in their hearts, so that they might offer unto Him the sacrifice of thanksgiving (Ps.50:14,23).
Again in Ps.24 we read,
The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof,
-and David immediately links with this the questions,
Who shall ascend unto the hill of the LORD?
And who shall stand in His holy place?
The things of earth are always related to the things of heaven, and the generation of them that seek after God, that seek the face of the God of Jacob (Ps.24:6) is the same in heart as that of the man who stood in the loneliness of the desert place, in that fearful place where he had discerned God’s House, who set up the pillar before God, and who discerned also that three things needed to be connected in his own mind:
(1) the God who gave him bread to eat and raiment to put on,
(2) the House of God, the place where respect could be paid to God, and
(3) the response of a thankful heart as shewn in the vow to give a tenth unto God of all that God gave him (Gen.28:20-22). So, in Psalm 24 the clean hands and a pure heart, a soul which has not been lifted up unto vanity and hath not sworn deceitfully, are proper to the one who connects the fulness of the earth and the place of the Name.
The tithe is first mentioned in connection with Abraham and Melchizedek, priest of God Most High (Gen.14:20 and Heb.7:4), King of Righteousness and King of Peace, for Abraham had been richly blessed and it was the duty of Melchizedek to indicate the source of that blessing, “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth,” “The earth is the LORD’s and the fulness thereof.”
We live in a day when the blessings of heaven are not seen at first-hand, —for most of us are not anxiously waiting for the rain from heaven to water the land; the parched ground and the fear of famine are not seen as the withholding of God’s favour. Nevertheless, when all is traced back to the Source from which it comes it is the same Hand that provides for our needs.
The Israelites were nearer to God in this—the Land was the LORD’s (Lev.25:23). Their portion was to enjoy it, to till it, to inherit it. but it was the LORD’s, and in the Law of God there is a beautiful mingling of the words, “It is thine,” “It is Mine.” This acknowledgment of the claims of God upon the land and its produce was met by the tithe (Lev.27:30-33). This was the end of “the commandments which the LORD commanded Moses for the children of Israel in Mount Sinai” (Lev.27:34). The Book of Leviticus opens with the Law of the Burnt Offering and closes with the Tithe. The blessing of God was very patent; the flocks and herds, the fruits of the ground—all depended upon Him. It was a privilege and a duty to return a portion unto God. But in our day also, if we are spiritually alive it should also be evident that as we are blessed of God so also we have a duty to God. Shall I give a tithe in this day of grace and not of the Law? Why not? We can have little sympathy with those who will argue as to the portion that is the Lord’s, for the faithful Israelite was in no way limited to the tithe; he could bring his free-will offerings and set them before God.
Not all burnt-offerings and sacrifices were free-will offerings, for some were compulsory. The burnt-offering was demanded by the ordinance of God from Israel unitedly, as in the daily burnt-offering and in the annual ceremonies of the Day of Atonement, and also of individuals who were unclean. The burnt-offering that was associated with the guilt-offering (Lev.5:9-10) was as necessary for forgiveness as the guilt-offering itself. An Israelite who walked in the fear of God would feel under perpetual obligation to bring a burnt-offering that he might fulfil the Law of God, for the same Law which said “Thou shalt not covet” and demanded a trespass-offering if the law was broken, also said, “Thou shalt love the LORD thy God,” and the burnt-offering might be regarded as necessary to the demonstration of this. Nevertheless, a sweet-savour offering was the finest possible expression of such devotion to God that led the offerer to give a free-will offering.
Thus, we see that we must distinguish between the necessities of our spiritual life and the privileges. “God loveth a cheerful giver,” and it is as true to-day as ever it was that if the believer is exercised unto thankfulness, and pours out before God the expression of his appreciation of God’s truthfulness and grace, then such will ascend unto God as a sacrifice of a sweet smell, an odour acceptable unto God.
Whoso offereth the sacrifice of thanksgiving
In bringing these thoughts to a close we must again express our earnest hope that the results of our studies may have widened the interest of our readers in the Scriptures, and that they may have found indeed that the ordinances of the law provide a rich treasury for the student. As we have dwelt on one portion after another we have felt that avenues of truth have opened up before us which would call for exploration, and new thoughts have caused us to desire opportunity to modify old ones here and there, but it is as we are conscious of the many imperfections of our own words that we become more than ever convinced of the rich perfection of the Word of God.
Extracted from BIBLE STUDIES 1938
For full review of the annual volume of the magazine, see: https://churchesofgod.info/publications/bible-studies-archive/#BS_1930s