Notes on Leviticus 1

This year you are encouraged to develop the habit of reading through the whole of Bible. When Jesus spoke to his listeners, he asked, “Have you not read?” and, “Have you not heard?” It seems that he expected all of the Scriptures to be read by his people. To help you build this habit, a Bible reading plan has been made available based on the one prepared by Robert Murray M’Cheyne, a Scottish pastor in the 19th Century.

Many of you have been reading the passages. In the case of Genesis and Exodus, you may have found those passages interesting and even exciting at times. But, now the schedule has led us to Leviticus. And, this is where some people run into difficulty. There is talk of blood and animal sacrifice, ceremonies and rituals. You might wonder if we really need to read these chapters on this side of the cross. And yet, the Apostle Paul writes that “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).

I believe that Leviticus is full of pictures of the Gospel. I am hoping to share thoughts on the chapters as we read through together in hopes that it will edify you.

Chapter 1
The first several chapters of Leviticus describe the various sacrifices. The first sacrifice described is the Burnt Offering. This offering is described first because the principle of atonement is given which makes the foundation for the other sacrifices.

Kinds of animals
There are three kinds of animals that can be used: from the herd (like oxen), from the flock (like sheep and goats), and birds (turtledoves or pigeons). A rich person might have brought an ox, a middle person might have brought a lamb, and a poor person (like Jesus’ father Joseph) might have brought a turtledove, but they all would have had their offering accepted.

Characteristics of the animals
In the cases of the offerings from the herd or flock, the animal would need to have been male and without any imperfections. That is because, as representatives of Christ in atonement, they needed to reflect those attributes.

Action of the worshipper
The person making the offering would put their hand on the head of the sacrifice. In doing this, the sins of the worshipper were transferred to the animal, the substitute. This action points to faith in Jesus Christ. When we trust Jesus to be our Substitute, we are placing our hand upon his head and our sins are transferred to him. We are no longer guilty because those sins are laid upon Jesus by faith. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Results of the sacrifice
After the sins of the worshipper were transferred to the animal, the animal was killed and cut up. His blood would be collected to make atonement on the altar and for the worshipper. The violence done to the animal demonstrates the horrors of the judgment that sinners deserve. But, instead of coming to the worshipper, the animal receives the punishment. Finally, the animal is completely burned to ash. This shows that judgement has been carried out in full. There is none left for the worshipper. In the same way, when we have faith in Jesus to be our Substitute, we see by faith that all of the judgment that we deserved has been completely carried out on Jesus. There is none left for us. We are completely forgiven. Amazing grace!

Today’s post is fairly long because it has an introduction and it contains foundational points. In the following posts, I intend to keep them shorter. I hope you will come back and I hope you will share this with others by email or by Facebook. God bless you!

ICCS Bible Reading Schedule Jan-Jun (click to download the PDF)