REAL LIFE Expository Study Devotional – The Making Of the Nation of God 3: The Levitical Code of Worship and Separation.
Day 5: The Burnt Offering.
‘‘If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the LORD.’’ Lev. 1:3
Additional reading: Deut. 15:21; Rom. 12:1; Eph.5:27; Heb. 10:5 -10, 13:15 – 16; 1Pet.1:19
At this point, is expedient to remind us again that one singular reason why God delivered His children from Egypt through His mighty power was to have His chosen nation made in His image and likeness worship Him: ‘ ‘‘Believe me, they will listen to you. Then you and the leaders of Israel will go to the King of Egypt and say to him: ‘God, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. Let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness where we will worship God—our God.’’
’ (Exo. 3:18 MSG).
Having delivered Israel from the powers of Egypt, God made known His intention to dwell in the midst of His children: ‘‘I also want them to build a special place where I can live among my people.’’ (Exo. 25:8 CEV). ‘‘The people must make a sacred Tent for me, so that I may live among them.’’ (GNB). It is obvious from these verses that God not only desired worship from His children, He desired to fellowship with His children — to actually live with them.
Unfortunately, there was a limitation on the side of His children; God could not fellowship or live with His own because of their sins and they on their part could not access the holy God for the same reason. So, on account of sin, there was a great gulf between the holy God of Israel and a sinful nation. Nonetheless, God on His own accord put in place the means through which He could have an unhindered fellowship with His children and they in turn could access Him as they so desired. He began by making His intention to live with Israel known to Moses, thereafter; He gave Moses a detailed plan of His dwelling place including the size, materials to be used for the building, how to build it and those to construct specific items, not forgetting the sacrifices, what they would be, what they would be used for and how to use them.
Thereafter, Moses was again detailed to set Aaron and his sons apart to minister in the priestly office. Their term of reference was to mediate between God and Israel by offering sacrifices to atone for the sins of the people for the purpose of fellowship. The Levites; Gershom, Kohath and Merari were later consecrated as servants to attend to Aaron and his sons in the tabernacle. They were also given specific assignments and remained under strict supervision of the sons of Aaron.
Having put all things in place; the tabernacle and those to mediate between God and Israel by offering sacrifices in order to atone for the sins of the people for a sweet communion, God reveals to Moses the processes the priests must go through to ensure holiness amongst His children, which will give them access before His throne. So, the book of Leviticus served two purposes; (1.) to guide Israel on how to access the holy God through sacrifices with the priests as mediators, and (2.) to make God’s standard for holy living known to Israel.
Therefore, in Leviticus chapter 1 verses 2 to 3 God said to Moses: ‘‘Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man of you bring an offering unto the LORD, ye shall bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herds, and of the flock. If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the LORD.’’
Just as God was specific in detailing Moses concerning the building of the tabernacle, He was specific in detailing him also on their nature or manner of sacrifice. Verse 3 is really revealing: ‘‘If his offering [qorban — something brought near the altar, i.e. a sacrificial present: – oblation, that is offered, offering] be a burnt sacrifice [ola — a step or (collectively stairs, as ascending); usually a holocaust (as going up in smoke):- ascent, burnt offering, burnt sacrifice, go up to] of the herd, let him offer [qarab — a primitive root; to approach (causatively bring near) for whatever purpose:- approach, case to approach, bring, cause to bring, bring forth, bring near, come, cause to come near, come nigh, draw near, be at hand, join, be near, offer, present, produce…] a male without blemish [tamim … entire (literally, figuratively or morally); also (as noun) integrity, truth:- without blemish, complete, full, perfect, sincerely, sincerity, sound, without spot, undefiled, upright, uprightly, whole]: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of t he tabernacle of the congregation before the LORD.’’
God requested for an offering — a present to be brought to His altar — to be offered. This was to be a burnt sacrifice — a holocaust — best described as a great destruction of lives — so the offering was to be entirely consumed, this was to ascend before God in smoke. The present, which was to be without blemish — sinless, perfect, undefiled, sound, complete, full, etc was to give the offerer access to God — to draw the offerer near to God as it is only in holiness that man could fellowship with God. This act of offering a burnt sacrifice before God showed that the person was completely consumed i.e. consecrated unto God.
Verse 4 reads: ‘‘And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.’’ By putting his hands on the animal, the offerer was transferring his guilt unto the animal that was without blemish. The animal in other words played a substitutionary role — the animal became the guilty one, it identifies with the sins of the offerer. Therefore, the death of the animal on the altar of sacrifice also meant the death of the offerer. And when offered as a burnt sacrifice, smoke ascends before God meaning a total consummation of the sacrifice so that the offerer could have fellowship with God. This consummation meant a total consecration of the offerer unto God. However, this did not remove sin permanently as it only made fellowship with God temporarily possible.
In summary, therefore, the burnt sacrifice was to make fellowship with God possible. Israel needed to know that consecration and forgiveness of sins were necessary before true worship was possible. This was offered every morning and evening. It signified atonement for sins, complete surrender, devotion and commitment to God.
The lesson for the Church from this offering is that Christ’s death was the perfect offering. He died once and for all (Heb.9:12).
Meditation: Am I totally consumed before God on His altar?
Prayer: I lay my life before You today and surrender all that I am to You. Let Your will be my will and may nothing of mine be left so that my life will ascend before Your throne as a sweet smelling savour.