Five Sacrifices for the Sovereign
AN EXPOSITION OF LEVITICUS 1:3-9
3 If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the LORD.
The word for offering (Heb. qorban) refers to something brought near the altar, to be offered as a sacrificial present. The offering was to be given, not by compulsion, but on a voluntary basis.
When the heart perceives that the grace of God is freely given, the heart of the true believer responds to grace. No demands are necessary though instruction in righteousness is still necessary. So the offering of an individual was to be placed “at the door of the Tabernacle.”
As a side note, many centuries later, during the days of Jesus, the concept of something being “corban”, or an offering to God, was used in Jewish courts of law by ungrateful children as a way to protect their resources so they did not have to help their elderly mothers and fathers. Jesus condemned this practice of “Corban”. “And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.10 For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death:11 But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free.12 And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother.” (Mark 7:9-12) Such is the darkness of the human heart that it corrupts the best practices of worship.
Because there were many types of offerings, they had to be regulated. For example, a person might want to offer an expensive burnt sacrifice. This sacrifice was to be wholly burnt, with the exception of the hide of the animal, which was to be given to the officiating priest. (Lev. 7:8) A portion of the animal was given to the priest because there was much intensive labor involved in animal sacrifices, and the laborer is worthy of being recompensed.
The burnt sacrifice had to be a male animal, without blemish. Because the animal sacrifice was a type of Christ, it had to be without any deformity. Jesus was the perfect Lamb of God that took away the sin of the world. Then, the voluntary offering was to be wholly consumed, in distinction from the sin and trespass offerings which were only partially consumed. (Exodus 4, 5)
The voluntary offering would express one’s entire devotion to God with a deep sense of sin. It was associated with a meal and drink offering. (Num. 25:3)
An Act of Confession, Identification,
Transference, and Acceptance
4 And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.
Because so many people in the ancient world were illiterate, they learned through repeated ritual.The rituals of the sacrifices were designed to evangelize the Hebrew unbelievers, and then to teach believers the grace of God, and the great theological concepts that would lead them to spiritual maturity. One of the great theological concepts was that of atonement. By grace, the sin of the sinner is covered from the Divine wrath, so that the soul is treated as a righteous person. This covering comes by the substitutionary death of a sacrifice.
The Death of the Sacrifice
5 And he shall kill the bullock before the LORD: and the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall bring the blood, and sprinkle the blood round about upon the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
The slaughter of the animal was a bloody act of violence. The priest, who butchered the animal, gripped the muzzle, held it tightly, and then plunged the knife into the animal’s throat to sever the carotid, which caused massive bleeding.
With every heartbeat, the animal pumped out his blood, and thus his own life which soon stained the ground, the altar, the offeror, and the butcher-priest. The animal had to die. Jesus had to die. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
The Animal Sacrifice was to be Cut into Pieces
6 And he shall flay the burnt offering, and cut it into his pieces.
While the worshipper watched, the burnt offering was flayed to confirm there was no inner corruption. The life of Christ was impeccable. He was without sin. There was never an outward act of transgression, nor was there any inward corruption in His heart.
Only the Sons of Aaron Could Build a Fire upon the Altar
And Properly Arrange the Animal Pieces
7 And the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire upon the altar, and lay the wood in order upon the fire:
The sons of Aaron were heirs to the Levitical priesthood by virtue of physical descent. Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are also priests unto God by virtue of regeneration. “And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” (Rev. 1:6)
The sons of Aaron were to build a fire upon the altar, and lay the word in an orderly manner upon the fire. Wood, for an Israelite, had a symbolic meaning. It spoke of sins. The sins of the worshipper were consumed in the fire of judgment because of the substitute sacrifice.
In the New Testament, wood is mentioned in association with the production of human good which is to be burned up, by fire. (1 Cor. 3:11-16).
8 And the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall lay the parts, the head, and the fat, in order upon the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar:
As important as the work of the priests was, the sons of Aaron could not function as priests until they came of age. Official service began at age thirty. “From thirty years old and upward even until fifty years old, all that enters into the host, to do the work in the tabernacle of the congregation.” (Num. 4:3) “And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli.” (Luke 3:23)
Training for the Levitical priesthood began at age twenty-five. “This is it that belongeth unto the Levites: from twenty and five years old and upward they shall go in to wait upon the service of the tabernacle of the congregation.” (Num. 8:24)
The Burnt Offering was to be Completely Burned
9 But his inwards and his legs shall he wash in water: and the priest shall burn all on the altar, to be a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord.
Between the altar of burnt offering and the Tabernacle proper, was the brazen laver, which contained water for ceremonial cleansing. The priests were to wash before offering a sacrifice (Ex. 30:19). This reminds the believer that every person who bears the vessels of the Lord must be clean (Isa. 52:11), holy (1 Peter 1:15), and filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18; Heb. 10:22). Every believer must be in fellowship with the Lord. This is accomplished by confessing sin, and by abiding in the Word (1 John 1:9; Eph. 5:26).
Activity at the Altar
The animal was slaughtered.
The animal was skinned.
The animal was cut apart.
The animal parts were washed.
The animal was placed on the altar to be burnt.
The typical spiritual lesson is that everything that was necessary for salvation was accomplished on the Cross. It is finished. “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.” (John 19:30) There is nothing more a person can do to add to, deserve, or earn, salvation. It is finished. The death of the sacrifice, like the death of Christ, was “a sweet savour (a sweet smell) unto the LORD.” This phrase speaks of propitiation. God is satisfied with the offerings made according to gospel terms.