In the previous chapter, we read about the priest’s clothing, in this chapter we read about how the priests consecrated themselves. The priests are set apart for the service for which God had chosen them.
Aaron was appointed as the high priest, and his sons as priests, Leviticus 8:7-9, and they were established as priests for the rest of their lives. Their successors would also be priests for life.
Because Christians make up a royal priesthood, 1 Peter 2:5 / 1 Peter 2:9, after the pattern established for priests of God, they also are on duty as priests for the rest of their lives. Jesus is now functioning as our high priest, Hebrews 5:6, but all Christians function as God’s priests to the world.
Notice that the priests are to offer sin offerings for the people but they first had to sacrifice for their own sins, Leviticus 4:1-35 / Leviticus 6:24-30 / Hebrews 5:3. By placing the hands on the bull’s head, signified that the priests symbolically put their sins on the animal that was to be sacrificed.
Sin offerings were made in order to illustrate that in reference to our relationship with God, life had to be taken in order to receive atonement. Once the blood was placed on the horns of the altar, the fat was burned upon the altar and the rest of the body parts were burned outside the camp, Hebrews 13:11-12.
There is a degree of overlap between the Sin Offering and the Trespass Offering. The Sin Offering is indicated for our general sinful condition before God, Leviticus 5:13.
The Sin Offering is indicated for unintentional sins, Leviticus 4:1-2 / Leviticus 4:27, especially by leaders or by the people as a whole, Leviticus 4:3 / Leviticus 4:13 / Leviticus 4:22. The Sin Offering is indicated for individuals among God’s people, Leviticus 4:27.
The good news of the Sin Offering is that Christ has fulfilled the sin offering, once for all, Hebrews 9:26 / 2 Corinthians 5:21 / Romans 8:3.
Based on faith in what Christ has done for us by His death on the cross, we can be released from slavery to our sinful nature and its tendencies. Jesus said, ‘Everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. If the Son shall set you free, you shall be free indeed’. John 8:34-36.
Sin offerings and burnt offerings weren’t eaten by either the priests or the people, Leviticus 4:1 / Leviticus 4:12 / Leviticus 10:17-20. The burnt offering focused on the meaning that the one who gave the offering was surrendering his life to God, whereas the sin offering was made for the sins of the one who had given himself to God.
The Burnt Offering Altar was the first item to be seen after entering through the Door into the Tabernacle’s Outer Court. It was an impressive construction: made from acacia wood overlaid with bronze, it stood 1.4 metres high and 2.3 metres wide and broad, it was square-shaped, Exodus 27:1-8.
Wood is a Biblical figure of man, Psalm 1:1-3 / Jeremiah 5:14. Acacia wood is a strong, high-quality wood, signifying the best humanity, that of Jesus. Bronze in the Bible speaks of God’s judgement, particularly His judgement over our rebellious thinking and speaking against Him, Numbers 16:29-40 / Jude 11.
Since the wood is overlaid with the bronze, the Burnt Offering Altar reminds us of man under God’s judgement for our rebellion against Him. Since the wood is acacia wood, this speaks of Jesus bearing the judgement of God for us on the cross.
At the Burnt Offering Altar, the priests sacrificed various Offerings to God, some offerings were for their own sins and for the sins of the people. The point of the burnt offering was that, by it, a person might become accepted before God and forgiven. Leviticus 1:4.
For the burnt offering a male animal was sacrificed, a ram, a goat, a bullock or a turtle-dove or a pigeon, Leviticus 1:3-17. The offering had to be without blemish, the very healthiest and best available.
This foreshadows the Lord Jesus, Who was examined by Pontius Pilate, who declared ‘I find no fault in Him at all’. John 18:38. The blood of the offering was poured out around the base of the altar, foreshadowing the Lord Jesus, whose precious blood flowed out when His side was pierced on the cross by a Roman spear, John 19:34 / 1 Peter 1:19.
The whole concept of blood sacrifices is quite disturbing to the 20th-century western mindset. Some explanations may help to understand God’s perspective in the Bible. In Ezekiel 18:4, God says ‘All souls are Mine. The soul that sins shall die’. The penalty of sin is death, Romans 6:23 ‘For the wages of sin is death’.
Sin was defined by the law, the ‘Torah’, the first five books of the Bible. The righteous requirement of the law was without pity, ‘a life for a life, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth’. Deuteronomy 19:21.
This then is the legal position, we belong to God, He made us and we are His by right. But we have done our own thing, living our own life without God: we have sinned. We always try and make out that our sinfulness is not so bad.
However, in God’s eyes everything matters, every last little thing. Since we have robbed our lives back for ourselves from God to Whom we really belong, we have sinned.
According to the righteous requirement of the law, we should die for our sins. However, there is a provision, ‘the life of the flesh (of a burnt offering or sacrifice) is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul’. Leviticus 17:11.
So, either you must die, or the offering can die in your place, a life for a life. If the offering dies, then, through its life-blood, there is atonement for your soul, ‘at-one-ment’, restoration to the God to Whom you belong, Leviticus 1:4.
After its blood was poured out, the burnt offering was entirely consumed by burning, the only products being ashes and aroma. The ashes were removed from the camp to a ‘clean place’, Leviticus 6:8-13. The burning offering was a pleasing, sweet aroma to God, to make the person accepted before God and forgiven, Leviticus 1:9 / Leviticus 1:13 / Leviticus 1:17 / Leviticus 1:3-4.
In Ephesians 5:2, Paul shows us clearly that the burnt offering was an exact picture of the Lord Jesus Christ, who ‘loved us and gave Himself up for us’ on the cross, ‘an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma’.
Psalm 22 describes graphically and prophetically the utterances of Jesus from the cross as God lays upon Him the sins of the entire world, ‘My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?’ Psalm 22:1, and the agony of being crucified, ‘all my bones are out of joint.’ Psalm 22:14.
Then follows the heat of the fire of death, ‘My heart is like wax; it has melted within Me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd and My tongue clings to My jaws’. Psalm 22:14-15, the burnt offering. In His final gasp, the offering is complete and Jesus cries ‘It is finished!’ John 19:30. ‘He has done it!’ Psalm 22:31.
The final part of the fulfilment, the carrying of the ashes to a ‘clean place’, came as Jesus’ dead body was taken down from the cross, John 19:41-42. John, an eye-witness to all this, wrote, ‘he who has seen bears testimony, true testimony, so that you also may believe’. John 19:35.
When we were at the Door of the Outer Court we heard the words of Jesus, ‘I am the Door; if any man enters through Me he shall be saved and will go in and out and find pasture’. John 10:9.
Jesus is not only the Door, He also tells us ‘I am the Good Shepherd’ John 10:11, to help us to enter through the Door. Furthermore, ‘The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep’ John 10:11, so Jesus is the offering at the Burnt Offering Altar as soon as we get through the Door.
This is the good news of the Burnt Offering Altar, whether we are Jew or Gentile, we are all under God’s judgement because of our evil thinking, speaking and doing. However, the Lord Jesus, ‘Who did no sin, neither was there any deceit found in His mouth’ 1 Peter 2:22, became the offering slaughtered in our place.
By believing in His death, ‘carrying up our sins in His body onto the tree’, 1 Peter 2:24, we can be made acceptable to God, restored to the Shepherd and to His flock, 1 Peter 2:25. Then we can enter into His courts with praise and thanksgiving, Psalm 100:3-4.
A lamb was burnt at the Burnt Offering Altar every morning and every evening, Exodus 29:38-42. Learn to come to this altar every day to confess your sins to God and to remember, ‘by offering thanks and praise,’ Hebrews 13:15 that the Lord Jesus died in your place to forgive you and to cleanse you from all sin by His blood, 1 John 1:7-9 / Hebrews 8:12 / Hebrews 9:14, so that you might live not for yourself but to Him, 2 Corinthians 5:15.
The Burnt Offering Altar and the Laver form a combined experience of Christ.
The blood on the tip of the right ear of the priests dedicated their hearing to God. The hands of the priests were dedicated to the service of God. The priests’ entire walk of life was also dedicated to God. The blood of atonement was mixed with the oil of spiritual healing.
The Wave offering was a symbolic waving of the sacrifice that indicated its dedication to God, though the sacrifice was eaten. Except for the sin offering and burnt offering, sacrifices were to be eaten either by the priests, the one who gave the sacrifice, or both.
The eating of the sacrifice symbolized fellowship between God and the one who made the sacrifice, as well as fellowship between the priest and the one who made the offering.
The wave offering is in reference to the manner in which those portions were handled before God’s altar. The breast was waved, passed from right to left and left to right after being elevated in the hands of the worshipper. It was lifted up toward heaven and lowered perhaps several times.
Notice though that the meaning of this was the portion actually belonged to God, hence why they lifted it up and the lowering down of the offering indicates that God is returning it to the priests as a gift.
Other instances of wave offerings include the breast of a peace offering, Leviticus 7:28-34, a lamb from the cleansing sacrifice of a healed leper, Leviticus 14:12, and two loaves of bread and two lambs of the sacrifice affiliated with the Feast of Weeks, Leviticus 23:15-21.
The largest wave offering was of an entire tribe. Because of their loyalty during the episode with the golden calf, Exodus 32, God accepted the Levites in the service of His temple in place of the firstborn male of each Israelite family, Numbers 3:12.
These lambs were young and innocent, a lamb was to be offered daily in the morning, and the other in the evening. One-tenth of an ephah was to be used, which is about seven pints or about three and a half litres, a hin is about a gallon and a half, or a little over five and a half litres.
The grain offering didn’t involve the taking of a life, instead, it was made up of the finest flour, Genesis 4:3 / Genesis 3:10 / Judges 3:15-18, oil, and incense. It looked to the time at creation when God had given to them ‘every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed,’ Genesis 1:29.
This is a picture of the One who became our ‘Bread of Life’, John 6:35, and who was anointed with the ‘oil’ of the Holy Spirit, Acts 10:38. Oil is symbolic of the anointing of God.
Honey was forbidden and frankincense was used instead. This is because honey would eventually turn sour, yeast was also forbidden, but frankincense received its highest degree of fragrance after it had been burned. It was to be seasoned with salt, the picture of preservation.
The grain offering is also called a food offering, Leviticus 6:14-23 / Numbers 15:1-10, it was a cereal offering and gives the idea of a gift, an offering of thanksgiving. Giving to God those things He has so richly given to us, was a gift given in recognition of the dignity and authority of another, 1 Chronicles 29:10.
They were to give to God the best of the things that He had given them to sustain life, Mark 7:11 / Hebrews 5:1-3 / Genesis 32:13 / Genesis 4:45 / 2 Samuel 8:2.
The basic thrust of the food offering is the consecration of all a person has to God, the fruits of their labour. The food offering would show that there is no real separation between our religious life and our secular life, Colossians 3:17.
The incense was frankincense, which is white and yellow looking, it was very aromatic but bitter to taste, but when it was burned it produced a sweet-smelling aroma, Exodus 30:34 / Leviticus 24:7 / Jeremiah 6:20 / Song Of Solomon 3:6.
It was the symbol of a pure and good gift, and also the symbol of prayer, Exodus 30:8 / Psalm 141:2 / Luke 1:10 / Matthew 2:11 / Luke 1:10 / Revelation 5:8 / Revelation 8:3-4.
It was to be ‘a memorial’, when we offer anything to the Lord as a sacrifice, we are remembering our covenant relationship with Him, Luke 22:19 / 1 Corinthians 11:24-25. It was the ‘most holy part of the food’ but only for the priests.
The Drink Offering was poured out upon an existing offering, Genesis 35:14 / Numbers 28:7-10 / Numbers 28:14-15 / Numbers 28:24 / Numbers 28:31.
Often a blood sacrifice was accompanied by both a Meal Offering and a Drink Offering. Because the Drink Offering is ‘poured out’ upon the existing offering, there is a thought of ‘wasting’ or ‘being wasted’, Matthew 26:6-8.
In Genesis 35:14, Jacob pours out a drink offering to signify he is giving his life back to God, consecrating himself for the house of God, ‘Beth-El’. Likewise, Aaron and his sons have just been consecrated, giving their lives for the Tabernacle service, so that God may have a dwelling place, Exodus 29:43-45.
For this to be valid there is a need, morning and evening, for daily offerings, including a lamb for a Burnt Offering, a Meal Offering and a Drink Offering. Twice daily, there is renewed consecration in the Tabernacle by the priests.
This is a picture for us in our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul spoke of himself being ‘poured out as a drink offering’ on the sacrifice and priestly service of the faith of the saints in Philippi. Philippians 2:17, as he contemplated the possibility of soon having his life ended on account of the Gospel.
Notice the reminder from God where He declares, ‘I am the Lord their God’. The ceremonial laws that came with Israel’s covenant with God were to be a continual reminder to Israel that God was the one who delivered them out of Egypt.
Although it wasn’t possible that the blood of bulls and goats would bring forgiveness of sins, Hebrews 10:1-4, all these sacrifices prepared Israel for the final sacrifice for sin in Jesus Christ.
The fact that the sacrificing was performed daily, meant that their entire lives were consecrated to God, Romans 12:1. And in obedience through the sacrifices, God dwelt in them, as He does today through the Holy Spirit.