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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

August 15, 2018

Leviticus 1:1-17

  1. Introduction. Because the Israelites had been held captive in Egypt for 400 years, the concept of God had been distorted by their enslavement and exposure to foreign worship. The purpose of Leviticus is to provide instruction and laws to guide a sinful people in their relationship with a holy God. There is an emphasis in Leviticus on the need for personal holiness in response to a holy God. Chapters 1-7 outline the offerings required of both the laity and the priesthood. Sin must be atoned for through the offering of proper sacrifices (chapters 8-10). Other topics covered in the book are diets (clean and unclean foods), childbirth, and diseases, which are carefully regulated (chapters 11-15). Chapter 16 describes the Day of Atonement when an annual sacrifice is made for the cumulative sin of the people. Furthermore, the people of God are to be circumspect in their personal, moral, and social living, in contrast to the then-current practices of the heathen roundabout them (chapters 17-22). The primary theme of Leviticus is holiness. God's demand for holiness in His people is based on His own holy nature. A corresponding theme is that of atonement. Holiness must be maintained before God, and holiness can only be attained through a proper atonement. Much of the ritualistic practices of worship symbolize in many ways the person and work of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Hebrews 10 tells us that the Mosaic Law is “only a shadow of the good things that are coming” by which is meant that the daily sacrifices offered by the priests for the sin of the people were a representation of the ultimate Sacrifice--Jesus Christ, whose sacrifice would be once for all time for those who would believe in Him. The holiness imparted temporarily by the Law would one day be replaced by the absolute attainment of holiness when Christians exchanged their sin for the righteousness of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).

  2. In the first 7 chapters, the offerings and sacrifices will be the focus. The burnt offering, along with the other sacrifices and offerings described in Leviticus 1-7, was offered on the bronze altar of burnt offering, the plans for which God gave Moses in the Book of Exodus chapter 27. The altar for the burnt offerings was thus made of acacia wood, overlaid with bronze, being nearly 8 feet square and about 4 and a half feet high. It was a very large altar indeed, but certainly not too large considering the large number of sacrifices and offerings, which it was required to facilitate. As one entered the courtyard of the tabernacle through the gate, the altar of burnt offering would be the first of the tabernacle furnishings to be encountered as one approached the tabernacle properly. To the left of the altar would be the ash heap, where the ashes from the altar were placed (cf. Lev. 1:16). Between the altar and the tabernacle doorway was the bronze laver (30:17-21; 38:8), where Aaron and his sons cleansed themselves. Then, there was the doorway to the tabernacle. Since the altar was located at the approach to the tabernacle, the sacrifices enabled men to draw near to God who dwelt in the tabernacle, and who spoke to Moses from within it (Lev. 1:1).

  3. Verses 1-3. The first item for discussion in the book of Leviticus is the most common offering and sacrifice. The burnt offering was performed every morning and evening, and more frequently on holy days. Burnt offerings were to be made every day, in the morning and the evening (Exod 29:38-42; Num. 28:3, 6, cf. 2 Chron. 2:4, etc.). An additional burnt offering was to be offered up each Sabbath day (Num. 28:9-10). Also, at the beginning of each month (Num. 28:11), at the celebration of Passover on the 14th day of the 1st month (Num. 28:16), along with new grain offering at the Feast of Weeks (Num. 28:27), at the feast of trumpets, on sacred day in the 7th month (Num. 29:1ff.), and for the celebration of the new moon (Num. 29:6).

    1. A burnt offering was often offered in conjunction with another sacrifice. Among these were the guilt offering (Lev. 5:7, 10, 17-18), the sin offering (cf. Lev. 5:7; 6:25; 9:2-3, 7; 12:6, 8), the votive or freewill offering (Lev. 22:18), the sheaf offering (Lev. 23:12), and the new grain offering (Lev. 23:15-22, esp. v. 18).

    2. There were a number of occasions when a sacrifice was required for cleansing, of which the burnt offering was one of the sacrifices offered.

    3. In addition to this, there were special times at which the burnt offering was appropriate. Then, there were times when this sacrifice could be offered voluntarily. The bottom line is that this sacrifice was the most common of all sacrifices in Israel.

    4. The burnt offering was a whole “burnt offering,” which was totally consumed on the altar. Most of the sacrifices benefited the offeror and the priests, in addition to being pleasing to God. Sometimes, the offeror would eat some of the meat of the sacrificial animal, and most often, the priest received a portion of it. Thus, when one offered a sacrifice to God, one's mouth would water, knowing that he would be able to partake of the sacrifice. Not so in the case of the burnt offering, however. Neither the offeror nor the priest partook of any of the meat, for it was all burned in the fire. The hide of the animal was the priest's only payment (cf. Lev. 7:8).

    5. The burnt offering is often a corporate offering, but as it is regulated in Leviticus 1, it is viewed as a personal, private offering. The personal pronoun “he” is employed, referring to this individual Israelite, who comes with the burnt offering. It is also apparent that it was only the males who could make these offerings to the Lord. It seems that they represented their families (cp. Job 1:5).

  4. Verses 3-17. The burnt offering mentioned in this chapter could consist of Three kinds of animals.

    1. (1) Offerings from the herd (bull), vv. 3-9. (2) Offerings from the flock (a sheep or a goat), vv. 10-13. (3) Offerings of birds (turtledoves or pigeons), vv. 14-17. The principal reason for providing several sacrificial animals is that the poor could not afford to sacrifice a bull (cf. 14:21-22, 31, where being poor is given as basis for reduction in sacrifice demanded by God).

    2. A bull, a sheep, or a goat, were all livestock of considerable value. Except for the birds, which could be offered for a burnt offering, the animal must be a male of the flock (v. 10) or the herd (v. 3). The animal was to be young, not an old, unproductive or useless creature. It truly would be a sacrifice to offer up an animal which one had raised, which was about to be productive.

    3. Except for the offering of birds, the offeror generally puts the animal to death and cuts it up, while the priest handles the sprinkling of its blood and its burning on the altar of sacrifice. The birds were spilt open and laid on the altar. The offeror is much more involved in the process of sacrifice than we might think. Sacrifice was, for the offeror, a very personal experience. This was intended, l believe, to make an impression on the Israelite who was making his sacrifice.

    4. The offeror laid his hands upon the animal, identifying with it. More specifically, he identified his sins with the animal. Thus, when the animal was slain (by the hand of the offeror) it died for the sins of the offeror. It is not so much for the offeror's specific sins (which are dealt with by other sacrifices), but rather for the offeror's general state of sinfulness.

    5. The burnt offering was required by, and served to remind the offeror of, his depravity. The burnt offering was thus not so much to gain forgiveness for a particular sin, but to make atonement for the offeror's sinfulness. It was not just a certain sin which required men to remain separated from God, but the individual's sinful state.

    6. The point God makes is to point out to the Israelites how Holy God is and how sinful man is. These sacrifices also point out how one must worship God. God requires a sacrifice/ the death of the flesh before one can come to him something has to die. This is a picture of our dying to self and offering our life to God every day.

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