Scripture: “If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer a male without blemish. He shall bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the LORD.” Leviticus 1:3 ESV
Observation: With Exodus concluding with the tabernacle assembly and the glory of the Lord filling its space, Leviticus begins with Moses instructing the Levitical priests and the people of Israel concerning sacrifices, worship, the priesthood, ceremonial cleanness, the Day of Atonement, feasts and holy days, and the Year of Jubilee. The central message of this third book of the Pentateuch is God is holy, and so must his people aspire. Leviticus also highlights how God graciously provides atonement for sin through the shedding of blood—pointing us to Christ. The opening chapters present God’s instructions on how to observe the various offerings:
- Burnt: chapter 1
- Grain: chapter 2
- Fellowship: chapter 3
- Sin: 4:1 – 5:13
- Guilt: 5:14 – 6:7
Over the next five days, we will explore the significance of these offerings at the time of their institution and their relevance today. The first is the burnt offering, the least observed of the six. Like the guilt offering, the offerer of the burnt offering would lay his hand on the head of the clean animal while confessing his sins (transferring them to the animal). But while the priests would consume the edible parts as their share of the guilt offering, the priest would incinerate the entire flesh portion of the animal (removing hide or feathers) for the burnt offering. Thus, the ongoing ascension of smoke would facilitate prayerful worship. Finally, the priest would sprinkle the animal’s blood on the altar to signify substitution by death, given blood symbolized life (17:4).
Takeaway: As mentioned above, the confession of guilt aided by the burnt offering was a form of worship (whether offered by individuals or priests). However, with symbolic animal sacrifices, the process of atonement had no end in sight—until Christ. Presenting himself as an unblemished substitutionary sacrifice, Christ, our Great High Priest, covered our sins, past, present, and future (Hebrews 4:14-16). No longer do we need to shed blood because Jesus shed his blood for us (Hebrews 9:14). No longer do we need a priest to mediate because we have direct access to God through Christ, our mediator (1 Timothy 2:5). And while incense may enhance our prayer life, we now worship him in spirit and truth (John 4:23).
So how does Christ’s atonement of our sins impact us here and now? Again, turning to the letter to the Hebrews, we who believe can enter into his rest (Hebrews 4:1). How? By submitting to the Word of God that discerns the thoughts and intentions of our hearts (Hebrews 4:13). And when we cooperate with the Holy Spirit (who uses Scripture to convict us) and confess our sins, we draw near to the Lord (without the aid of human mediators or animal sacrifices) and receive his mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:26). Therefore, let us confidently worship him with ascending prayers that waft to his throne of grace.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you that, in Christ, you have covered our guilt and atoned our sins. So would you please help us cooperate with your Holy Spirit, as he administers your Word, and then confess our sins with an offering of ascending prayers of worship to you?
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling