The Levitical Offerings and their Significance.
The order of the offerings in Leviticus is from the Godward aspect. First there is the burnt offering, then the meat or meal offering, the peace offering, the sin offering, and the trespass offering. When as sinners, we come to God, it is in the opposite order that we catch glimpses of the various aspects of the work of Christ. We first learn that we need forgiveness for definite acts of sin which we have committed, and our need is met by the trespass offering; then we learn not only that we have sinned again and again, but that our hearts are full of sin, that we have an evil nature, but that God has made provision for this in the sin offering. Next we are taught to enter into the meaning of the meat offering and peace offering and to feast upon them, and lastly we see the burnt offering aspect of Christ's work, and are taught our standing in Christ, “accepted in the Beloved.”
The study of the offerings is a great safeguard against confused views on holiness, sanctification, sin, etc., for while the burnt offering teaches us that the believer is absolutely perfect in Christ, the sin offering shows our constant need before God and how it has been met. It is impossible to have a low estimate of what sin really is as we study God's requirements and the provision he has made.
The work of Christ is one, and although the offerings foreshadow its different aspects they are closely allied to one another. Thus, in the case of the BURNT OFFERING and sin offering, both sacrifices were slain in the same place, viz., by the brazen altar (Lev. vi. 25), the fat of the sin offering was burned upon the burnt offering (iv. 19), and the remainder of the sin offering was burned on the spot where the ashes of the burnt offering had been poured out (iv. 12; vi. 11), while the offerer in both instances laid his hand on the head of the animal at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
In so doing, the offerer identified himself with the offering, but there is a marked difference in the result of the action in the two cases. When he laid his hand upon the burnt offering (i. 4), and when he laid his hand upon the sin offering (iv. 4), a transference took place, but it was in the opposite direction. In the first case, the acceptableness of the burnt offering passed to the offerer and he was accepted, while in the second case, the sin of the offerer was transferred to the offering and he was forgiven.
There is no mention of sin in the burnt offering, for it speaks of justification rather than forgiveness and thus is a type of Acts xiii. 39. “By him, all that believe are justified from all things,” while the sin offering typifies the preceding verse, “Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins.” In the burnt offering, God views the sinner in Christ, as though he had not sinned, and in the sin offering, he makes provision for his sin.
The only part of the burnt offering that was given to the priests was the skin (Lev. vii. 8), teaching us that we may clothe, or cover ourselves in Him who is the great antitype of the burnt offering and may “put on the Lord Jesus Christ"—“the Lord our righteousness.”
The animals offered for burnt offerings might be taken from the herd or the flocks. The people might offer bullocks, sheep, goats, turtle-doves, or young pigeons; the variety is generally taken to denote the different measures of spiritual appreciation with which we view Christ as our burnt offering. Though our want of appreciation may interfere with our enjoyment, we are blessed, not according to our own, but God’s estimate of His excellency, and in each case, a whole Christ is needed. Strength characterizes the bullock (Prov. xiv. 4); submission the lamb (Is. viii. 7), and mourning innocence the dove (Is. lix. 11; xxxviii. 14; Matt. x. 16).
When the burnt offering was from the herd or the flock, the priests had to cut it up and lay it in order upon the altar. Each part was examined by them. Mr. Spurgeon, speaking of Heb. xii. 2, said that “looking unto Jesus” might be read “looking into Jesus,” and he compares it with the duty of the priests in connection with the burnt offering, and as we gaze, we see more and more how entirely Christ was well pleasing to the Father. The head is generally taken to represent the intelligence, the thoughts; the fat, the general health and vigor, or the excellency; the inwards, the motives, and the affections; and the legs, the walk.
Lev. i. 9 speaks of the washing in water, and as water in the types often refers to the Word (see the laver, Ex. xxx. 20, 21; John xiii. 1–15; Eph. v. 26; John xv. 3; xvii. 17–19; Ps. cxix. 9; also John iii. 5, with 1 Peter i. 23 and 1 John v. 8); this would seem to speak of testing by the Word. In whatever way Christ is tested or examined, His excellencies are brought out.
The ashes of the burnt offering were first placed at the east end of the altar (Lev. i. 16) and the ashes spoke of accepted sacrifice. In the twentieth psalm, David prays, “The Lord hear thee in the day of trouble . . . remember all thy offerings, and accept"—or, as we read in the margin, “turn to ashes thy burnt sacrifice.” God showed his acceptance of the offering by sending the fire, and the ashes proved that the fire had said, “It is enough" Prov. xxx. 16). The fire did its work on Calvary. God is satisfied, and we take our stand now and throughout eternity, like the priests in 2 Chron. v. 12, at the east end of the altar, the place of the ashes, the place of accepted sacrifice. The tabernacle faced east and west, and the place of the ashes, the point nearest the entrance, was furthest east, while the mercy seat was the point furthest west. Is there not here a tabernacle interpretation to that familiar passage in Ps. ciii.12? Primarily, it speaks of the infinite distance between the east and the west in the infinitude of space, and tells us that “as far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us,” but is there not also an infinite distance between our position as sinners, coming to the tabernacle for the first time and standing by the brazen altar at the place of the ashes, and the position we occupy when with boldness, we may enter through the veil into the holiest of all and approach the throne of grace? As far as the place of the ashes is from the mercy seat so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.
In the MEAT OFFERING or meal offering, there is no mention of death; it speaks rather of the spotless life of Christ as presented to God. The fine flour tells of his perfect evenness, no roughness, no irregularity. He was not remarkable for any one characteristic; every beautiful trait was equally prominent, and none were wanting. The flour was perfectly smooth, but in order to become so, it must be crushed and bruised. The oil, which was another of the ingredients in the meal offering, must be beaten, and thus we have foreshadowed the sufferings through which the Lord passed. The Captain of our Salvation was made perfect through sufferings, for “it pleased the Lord to bruise him.” The meaning of the word Gethsemane is said to be “oil press,” and not only on that last sad evening did he visit Gethsemane, but constantly he resorted thither (John xviii. 2; Luke xxii. 39). His whole life was one of suffering, for while in his death, he suffered at God's hands for unrighteousness' sake; during his life, he suffered at the hands of man for righteousness' sake. Again and again, the sufferings of Christ are foreshadowed in the types, and as we study them, we may well pray with Paul “that I may know him . . . and the fellowship of his sufferings.” “Bread corn is bruised” (Isaiah xxviii. 28); the manna had to be ground or beaten (Num. xi. 8). The fine flour used in the meal offerings and shewbread must be ground, and the corn beaten out of the full ears (Lev. ii. 14). The oil for the light, for the meal offering, and for anointing, must be beaten oil (Ex. xxvii. 20; xxix. 40). The spices must be bruised, and the incense beaten very small (Ex. xxx. 36), and the gold used in the tabernacle for the candlestick, cherubim, and high priest's dress must be beaten gold (Ex. xxv. 31–36; xxxvii. 7; xxxix. 3.)
Oil had to be poured on all the meal offerings, telling of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit that is so constantly spoken of in connection with the life of our Lord (see Matt. i. 20; Luke i. 35, iii. 22, iv. 1–14; Acts x. 38; Ps. xlv. 7; lxxxix. 19, 20; Isa. xi. 2; lxi. 1). We too need the oil in every part of our lives. We need it on our head as the anointing oil; on our ears, hands, and feet, consecrating us to his service; in our hands in worship, as we bring the meal offering to God; on our feet, the feet dipped in oil (Deut. xxxiii. 24), that our walk may be one which shows that we are indeed guided by the Holy Spirit (Rom. viii. 14; Gal. v. 16–25), and we need the oil for our wounds, to comfort and to heal. “There is treasure to be desired, and oil in the dwelling of the wise” (Prov. xxi. 20), and in many places in the Word, we may learn lessons from the oil as a type of the Holy Spirit, as to the conditions for the filling of the Spirit, “empty vessels,” etc. (2 Kings iv. 3), and the results, beauty (Hos. xiv. 6), and honor (Judges ix. 9).
The frankincense in the meal offering was all burned upon the altar; it all belonged to God, and speaks to us of the preciousness of Him whose “name is as ointment poured forth,” and of whom it is written, “all thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia.” Besides these three ingredients, fine flour, oil, and frankincense, two things are mentioned which were never to be burned on the altar as a meal offering, viz., leaven and honey.
Leaven evidently denotes evil, and so could not be present in that which represents Him who was “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” There was to be no leaven in the houses of the Israelites at the passover (Ex. xii. 15; Deut. xvi. 4), and probably this is the reason that in John xviii. 28, we read that the priests and Pharisees would not go into the judgment hall lest they should be defiled, for the house of a Gentile would contain leaven. Christ speaks again and again of the leaven of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians (Matt. xvii. 6, 11, 12; Mark viii. 15; Luke xii. 1), and in Matt. xiii. 33, he compares Christendom to three measures of meal, into which leaven has been cast, till the whole has been leavened. This is often taken to represent the power of the gospel working in the world till the whole is converted, but by comparing the passage with the other mentions of leaven, it is very evident that it refers to the working of an evil principle, such as we read of in 2 Thess. ii. 7, which has so permeated the whole, that it is impossible to divide between the good and the evil, “the mystery of iniquity doth already work.” Paul adopts the same simile and twice says, “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump,” referring in 1 Cor. v. 6, to evil walk, and in Gal. v. 9, to evil doctrine.
Lev. ii. 12 tells us that the oblation of the firstfruits was not to be burned on the altar, and this is explained by Lev. xxiii. 17, which states that leaven was present. The firstfruits were divided into two portions, the one mentioned in verses 10 and 11, the second after fifty days, in verse 17, and these two were evidently typical of 1 Cor. xv. 23, “Christ, the first fruits, afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.” The sheaf in verses 10 and 11, refers to the Lord's resurrection, and the day on which it was to take place is minutely prophesied; “the morrow after the Sabbath,” immediately following the passover, and followed by Pentecost (verse 16), and the two wave loaves, baken with leaven (verse 17), which typify, not Christ Himself, but them that are His at His coming. Hence, the presence of the leaven, which is met by the sin offering in verse 19. The sheaf of the firstfruits required no sin offering, because there was no leaven.
There is one mention of leaven in connection with the peace offering (Lev. vii. 13), in the thanksgiving sacrifice, teaching that even our holiest things are mixed with sin, and here again the leaven is met by blood (verse 14). The high priest wore the plate of gold on his forehead, inscribed with the words, “Holiness to the Lord,” that he might “bear the iniquity of the holy things, which the children of Israel shall hallow in all their holy gifts,” and Dr. Bonar says: “There is forgiveness, not only for our omissions of duty, but for our duties themselves; not only for our prayerlessness, but for our prayers; not only for our long rejection of Christ, but for our sins in coming to Him; not only for our unbelief, but for our faith; not only for our past enmity, but for our present cold-hearted love; not only for the sins we bring to Christ, but for our way of bringing them, the impure motives that defile our service, and also for the sins mingling with our worship when standing within the veil in that sanctuary, where the majesty of the Holy One made its abode.”
There was to be no honey in the offerings. Honey seems generally to typify the world's sweetness and could not be acceptable to God. Prov. xxv. 27 says, “It is not good to eat much honey; so, for men to search their own glory, is not glory”; and Prov. xxvii. 7 tells us that “the full soul loatheth an honeycomb” (margin, treadeth under foot), and it well describes the attitude of the heart that is satisfied with Christ towards worldly amusements, pleasures, glory, etc. We are often asked if this or that is wrong, but the question is rather, Are we satisfied with Christ? if so, the other is distasteful to us, we do not want it. There are two things lying all around us in our pathway,—the manna and the honey,—and we must stoop to pick up the one and trample under foot the other. The manna was just as sweet as the honey, for “the taste of it was like wafers made with honey” (Ex. xvi. 31), and so the Word is said to be “sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb,” and again the psalmist says, “How sweet are thy words unto my taste, yea sweeter than honey to my mouth.”
Salt was to be present in the meal offering, for while leaven and honey cause corruption, salt is that which prevents it, and is looked upon by some as typifying judgment upon and testimony against sin. “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt,” would thus mean that though we are to be gracious and amiable, it is not to be at the expense of faithfulness. We are not to wink at sin, but reprove it. It is often easier to take no notice of something said in our presence, but there is to be salt as well as grace, and this was always noticeable in our Lord's life and conversation.
One of the chief lessons taught by the meal and PEACE OFFERINGS is that while a portion was burned upon the altar, the priests were permitted to feed upon them. They fed on that in which God delighted—“the bread of God” as it is termed (Lev. xxi. 6–8, 17, 21, 22, xxii. 25). In the peace offering, two portions are specially mentioned as the food of the priests, the heave shoulder and the wave breast (Lev. vii. 31–34). The shoulder indicates the place of strength and the breast, the place of affection, and these two are particularly the food of the believer. The two thoughts are often linked together. The high priest bore the names of Israel upon the shoulders (Ex. xxviii. 12) and on the breastplate (verse 29), reminding us of how we too repose on the shoulders of His strength and the breast of His never dying love. “He shall gather the lambs with his arm and carry them in his bosom" (Is. xl. 11). The beloved of the Lord . . . shall dwell between his shoulders, (Deut. xxxiii. 12). We have the prayer, “Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm" (Song of Sol. viii. 6). He says, “I have strength" and “I love” (Prov. viii. 14–17), and He is mighty in strength and heart (marg., Job xxxvi. 5), while Paul's two prayers for the Ephesians are characterized by these thoughts. The prayer in the first chapter is that they may know the power, in chapter iii, that they may know the love.
The subject of feeding upon Christ as typified by the offerings is a very full one. In John vi, we have four results of feeding upon Christ. He says, “Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life” (verse 54), “dwelleth in me” (verse 56), “shall live by me” (verse 57), and “shall live forever” (verse 58).
In Lev. xxii. 4, we read that a leper or one with a blemish might not eat of the offerings. If there is known sin, there can be no fellowship and no feeding. The prodigal in the far country remembered the food in his father's house and said, “How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger.”
One who was unclean must wait till the evening sacrifice had been offered, “when the sun is down, he shall be clean, and shall afterward eat of the holy things” (Lev. xxii. 7), but it would be in the twilight not in the sunshine, the brightness would be gone. Is it not often so with us? When we have lost communion and have been restored, and may feed once more, the brightness is dimmed for a time and we seem to be feeding in the twilight instead of the sunshine.
It was the privilege of all the priests to eat of the offerings, “one as much as another” (Lev. vii. 10); “of His fullness have all we received.” There was to be a daily portion “due for every day,” and when in the time of Hezekiah, the temple worship was purified and revived, the priests and Levites confessed, “We have had enough to eat and have left plenty’’ (2 Chron. xxxi. 10). This too is our experience in our Father's house. There is “bread enough and to spare,” and like Paul, we can say we “have all and abound.”
Lev. xxii. 10 tells us of some in the household of the priest who might not eat—no stranger (compare Eph. ii. 12–19), or sojourner (see 1 John ii.19), or a hired servant (John xv. 15). The prodigal knew that there was a great difference between the position of a hired servant and a son, but when his father received him as a son and said “this my son,’’ he could not ask to be made one of the hired servants.
Lev. xxii. 11 tells us of two classes who might have their portion—“If the priest buy any soul with his money, he shall eat of it” (compare 1 Cor. vi. 20; 1 Pet. i. 18–19, and Acts xx. 28), “and he that is born in his house, they shall eat of his meat’ (compare 1 Pet. i. 23, ii. 2).
The sin offering and trespass offering differed from the others in that the body of the animal was burned, not on the brazen altar, but outside the camp. Hebrew students tell us that the word “to burn'' is different in the two cases, and that the one which refers to burning upon the altar, denotes the ascending of incense, while that which describes the burning of the animal for the sin offering, as in Lev. iv. 21, denotes consuming in wrath. Everything burned on the altar of burnt offering was a sweet savor to God, but he hid his face from Jesus as the sin offering, and it was then that he cried, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Even as the sin offering, he was still well-pleasing to God, and this is expressed by the fat of the sin offering being consumed upon the altar of burnt offering.
In Lev. iv, there are SIN OFFERINGS mentioned for four classes of people, for the priest, the whole congregation, a ruler, and one of the common people, and they probably speak to us of the provision that has been made by God to meet sin in our various relationships. Thus, the sin offering for the priest would meet sin in our position as priests before God; that for the whole congregation would represent our collective position as the assembly of God; that for the ruler, our position relative to those whom we may influence; and that for “one of the common people,” our individual position.
In the first two, the sin offering for the priest and congregation, the blood was taken into the holy place, sprinkled seven times in front of the veil, then put upon the horns of the golden altar and the remainder poured out at the bottom of the brazen altar. The blood sprinkled before the veil, re-established God’s relationship with his people, the veil covering the place where God met with them, the blood on the golden altar re-established the worship of the assembly, and the blood at the brazen altar re-established individual communion; all of which had been interrupted by sin.
These two chapters (Lev. iv and v), show us God's estimate of sin, and we cannot fail to see, as we study them, how constant must be our daily need of the great sin offering. Contact with defilement of any sort must be met by the sin offering, and sins of ignorance must be atoned for, ignorance in no wise excusing guilt. “Though he wist it not, yet is he guilty.” Paul realized this when he called himself the chief of sinners, for his sin was a sin of ignorance—he did it ignorantly in unbelief.
The word for sin means to come short or to miss the mark. According to the Hebrew, the word used in Judges xx. 16, “Every one could sling stones at an hairbreadth and not miss,” might be as correctly rendered “not sin.” There are two ways of missing a mark—we may aim in a wrong direction, or we may not have strength to shoot far enough. Many lose sight of this latter way of missing the mark and think that if they aim correctly there is no sin. We are warned against coming short of the glory of God (Rom. iii. 23), the grace of God (Heb. xii. 15), and the rest of God (Heb. iv. 1). “He that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul” (Prov. viii. 36) is rendered in the R.V. “he that misseth me.” in contrast to the preceding verse, which says “whoso findeth me, findeth life.”
The following are some of the Bible definitions of sin: “Sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John iii. 4), “all unrighteousness is sin” (1 John v. 17), “whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Rom. xiv. 23), “sin, because they believe not on me” (John xvi. 9), “to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” James iv. 17), and we read that the plowing of the wicked is sin (Prov. xxi. 4), and “the thought of foolishness” (Prov. xxiv. 9), wronging a poor brother (Deut. xv. 9; xxiv. 15), and defrauding God (Deut. xxiii. 21).
In the TRESPASS OFFERING, where the trespass was against the Lord, the sacrifice preceded reparation (Lev. v. 16), where the trespass was against man, reparation preceded sacrifice (vi. 5–6).
A very interesting study is to try to classify some of the most important passages about the work of Christ according to their different aspects and the offerings they represent.
Thus in Is. liii., we have the peace offering in verse 5, “the chastisement of our peace was upon him,” the sin offering in verses 6, 10, 12, “the Lord hath laid on him, the iniquity of us all,” “when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin,” and “he poured out his soul in death,” for in the sin offering, the blood was poured out at the bottom of the altar.
The sin offering on the great day of atonement, when the scapegoat bore away the guilt of the people, is suggested in verses 11 and 12, “He shall bear their iniquities,” and “He bare the sin of many”; the trespass offering is in verse 5, “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities”; and there is the bruising of the fine flour for the meal offering in verses 3 and 10, “He is despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,” and “it pleased the Lord to bruise him.”
In the first chapter of John's epistle, we seem to have set before us the fivefold view of the work of Christ in the same order as in the offerings, beginning, as in Leviticus i, with the Godward side, and ending with the provision for our sinfulness. In verses 1 to 3, we have the burnt offering aspect, the offering that was all upon God’s altar, of which the priests might not partake but which they could only look upon and their hands handle. In verses 3 to 7, there is the thought of fellowship and joy. As in the meat offering and peace offering, the priest partook of “the food of the offering,” “the bread of his God,” so we can say, “Truly, our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ,” and in verses 7 to 10, we have God's provision for sin and sins, as typified by the sin offering and the trespass offering.
"Northfield Echoes" 1895.