Notes on Leviticus 2 & 3 (Reposted from 3/31/14)

Today we continue look at the chapters from Leviticus found in our Bible Reading Plan. Yesterday, we looked at the burnt offering described in Leviticus 1. Today, we look at two chapters because there are two in the plan, the grain offering (chapter 2) and the peace offering (chapter 3).

Chapter 2
The grain offering in chapter 2 follows the burnt offering in chapter 1. The burnt offering laid the foundation for the other offerings because it most directly represents atonement. The burnt offering was a blood sacrifice of a male animal without any defects because it points to Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who is perfect. In contrast, the grain offering does not involve blood and death. This is because the grain offering is not about atonement, but the response of the one who has been atoned for. This order is important, because we can not offer anything acceptable to God until we have been atoned for by Jesus Christ. But, once we are atoned for, we gladly offer up ourselves to God.

The grain offering was an offering of fine flour mixed with oil and frankincense. The flour represents the fruit of the life of the worshipper. The oil signifies the Holy Spirit who sets the flour apart for God. The frankincense signifies that our offering has a pleasing aroma to God.

As with the burnt offering, worshippers could give based on their economic status. The wealthy had ovens, so they could bake cakes or wafers. The middle class could prepare their offerings in griddles. The poor could fry their offerings in pans. In each case, the offering was pleasing to God if it was offered up in faith based on the atonement provided for in the burnt offering.

Instructions were given not to use leaven (like yeast) because leaven represents sin and corruption (v. 11). However, salt was always to be used because of its preservative nature (v. 13) just as the Holy Spirit preserves us.

The sweet fragrance of the frankincense may be what Paul was referring to in Philippians 4:18: “18 But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God.”

As you reflect on the grain offering, reflect on Romans 12:1 “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”

Chapter 3
The Peace Offering in chapter 3 has some similarities with the burnt offering. In both cases, the animal was to be without defect. The worshipper laid a hand on the head of the animal, an act representing faith. Finally, the animal was offered up on the altar.

There are some differences as well. In the peace offering the animal could be male or female. This is because the peace offering focusses on the effects of atonement (peace with God) rather than the object of atonement (Jesus death on the cross). Also, while in the burnt offering, the entire animal was burned to ashes to signify the complete judgment in atonement, in the peace offering, only the rich, fatty parts of the animal were burned in smoke, while the other parts of the animal were eaten. The fatty parts symbolize the heart and inner man of the worshipper. It is offered up to God. But, the other parts were eaten to represent fellowship with God just as we often fellowship with each other over a meal.

Finally, these same fatty parts of the animal and the blood were not to be eaten. This instruction was not only for the altar, but at home as well. By having this instruction, the Israelites were reminded every time they cooked an animal about atonement (the blood) and whole devotion to God (the fat) leading to peace.

As you reflect on the peace offering, reflect also on Romans 5:1-2. “1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.”

Notes on Leviticus 1 (Reposted from 3/30/14)

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!

Notes on Leviticus 4

Now, we continue look at the chapters from Leviticus found in our Bible Reading Plan. Previously, we looked at the grain offering (chapter 2) and the peace offering (chapter 3). This time, we turn our attention to the sin offering in Chapter 4.

Chapter 4
The sin offering was offered for those who sinned unintentionally. These sins were not calculated, but done in the moment. Some time may have passed between the time they were committed and when the transgressor became aware of the offense. The human heart is deceptive and we can go for a period of time before the Holy Spirit draws our attention to our wrongdoing. But, once we become aware of our sin, we must confess our sins and remember that we need a Substitute to pay for even those sins. Ignorance is no excuse.

In the chapter, there are different sacrifices prescribed for each type of offense. If a priest sins, he must offer a bull (verse 3). This is the same sacrifice that is given for the whole people. Because Christ in his role as High Priest took on the sins of all of his people, the high priest of Israel must have an offering equivalent to the sacrifice given for all the people.

After he offers up the sacrifice as in earlier sacrifices, this time he brings brings some of the blood to the tent of meeting in order to  sprinkle some of the blood on the veil. In the New Testament, we learn that the veil represents the body of Christ. Again and again, we see the Levitical sacrificial system pointing to our blessed Savior. He also puts some of the blood on the horns of the altar, which is a public display of propitiation (see Romans 3:23-26). It is the altar of fragrance which symbolizes that God is pleased with the sacrifice. Finally, the rest of the bull is taken to a clean place outside the camp and is burned until only ashes remain, a reminder that God’s judgment toward those sins is completed.

In the following verses (13-21), the procedure is given for an unintentional sin of the entire congregation. This time, the elders must place their hand on the bull, showing that leaders have a special responsibility for the sins of the people.

In verses 22-26, the procedure for the unintentional sin of a leader is given. This is similar to the previous sacrifices, but this time a goat is given, since the people did not share in the sin. Finally, in verses 27-35, the procedure for a common person is given. The sacrifice can be a female goat or lamb. Since the seriousness for the congregation is less, the animal does not need to be as costly.

We all sin more than we are aware of. Jesus’ sacrifice pays for all of those sins too. But, when we become aware of those sins, we must take those sins to Jesus too, that he might get the glory as the Substitute for all of our sins, known and unknown, intentional and unintentional. Even one unintentional sin on our part would require that Jesus offer himself as a sacrifice to bleed and die that he might offer up his blood as a testimony to the Father that his holiness requires the death of the sinner. Praise God that Jesus takes our place in that punishment when we trust in him and place our hand on the Lamb of God through faith.

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