Leviticus 1 - 2:16
We now commence the book of Leviticus, and we must connect chapter 1: 1, with Exodus 40: 38. The Lord had been speaking to Moses from Sinai; but He spoke "out of the tabernacle" directly His glory had taken possession of it. Thus He manifested His presence. We see a parallel to this in Acts 2. When God formed His spiritual house, by the disciples in Jerusalem being "builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit" (Eph. 2: 22), the first manifestation of His presence was by His Spirit speaking so powerfully through Peter, of what had been accomplished by the death and resurrection and ascension of Christ, that three thousand were converted. In our chapter God speaks only of the sacrifices, which presented in type that which in due season Christ was to accomplish.
The whole of the first chapter is occupied with instructions as to what was to take place if any man desired to offer to the Lord a burnt offering. Of all the offerings this stands first, inasmuch as it typifies the sacrifice of Christ from the most exalted standpoint; namely, its value and excellence in the sight of God. It was not compulsory as the sin offering. The word "offering" in verse 2 is a translation of the "Corban," to which the Lord referred in Mark 7: 11—a voluntary offering, which might be omitted, or used on the other hand as a hypocritical reason for avoiding one's duty to aged parents
With the possible exception of Genesis 4: 7, where "sin" may stand for "sin-offering," it is noticeable that the offerings that are mentioned up to the time of the giving of the law are burnt offerings. This agrees with what we read in Romans 5: 13. From the moment of the fall sin was in the world, "but sin is not imputed when there is no law." God did not ignore the fact of sin, but He did not put it to man's account in the definite way in which He did when the law was given. Hence the sin offering did not come into prominence before the law was given.
In verse 3 we have according to the A.V. the words, "he shall offer it of his own voluntary will," but in Darby's New Translation this is rendered, "present it for his acceptance," and with this the R.V. agrees. So the thought evidently was that the offerer was to stand before God in all the acceptance of the unblemished offering that he brought. Hence the putting of his hand on the head of the offering, of which the next verse speaks, signified that he identified himself with his offering. This, we believe, furnishes us with the root meaning, which is attached to the laying on of hands right through Scripture. It signifies, identification.
Reading through the chapter, we see at once that the instructions given divide into three parts, according to the offering brought, whether from the herd or the flock or from the fowls. We note that there are slight differences in minor details between the three, but the main outline is the same. The blood of each was to be sprinkled on the altar, and in each case neither the priests nor the offerer had any part reserved for them: all was for the Lord.
Yet certain things that are specified remind us that these types are only shadows and cannot portray the full excellence of that which they typify. For instance, the inward parts and the legs of the victims had to be washed with water before they were offered by fire to the Lord, just as the priests had to wash hands and feet every time they entered the tabernacle. So the crop of the fowl with its "feathers," or "refuse," had to be cast among the ashes. The fact is that the sin of man had brought defilement into the whole creation, and there is nothing perfect. But, with these precautions taken, the burnt offerings were a fitting type of the sacrifice made when Christ "through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God" (Heb. 9: 14), thus giving "Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour" (Eph. 5: 2).
Three times in our chapter do we get the words, "a sweet savour unto the Lord." The special feature of the burnt offering was thus clearly indicated. It set forth the sacrifice of Christ in its own intrinsic excellence, as appreciated by God Himself. If His sacrifice had not effected anything for man, yet tested as He was by the fire of judgment everything about Him would have gone up as a sweet odour to God. But as a matter of fact though the benefit the believer gets from it is secondary, yet it does come in, for identified, as we are with His sacrifice, we stand in all its acceptability, accepted before God. The passages we quoted above from Hebrews 9 and Ephesians 5 make this abundantly clear.
The three classes of burnt offerings are mentioned on a descending scale. The rich man might bring his bullock, the man of medium substance his sheep, the poor man his young pigeon. Yet each of the three was a burnt offering, and in each case the offerer was accepted before God. What we see typified in these variations is not a greater or lesser acceptance but a greater or lesser apprehension on the part of the offerer. To put it in another way: every believer stands accepted before God in the perfection and fragrance of the sacrifice of Christ, which never varies and is the same for all. What does vary is the measure in which we appreciate the value of His work. Consequently when we "offer the sacrifice of praise to God... the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name" (Heb. 14: 15), the character of our praise varies. If we bring together in our thoughts Leviticus 1 and what we have in 1 John 2: 13-27, we may say that the "father" may bring his bullock, the "young man" his sheep, and the "babe" his young pigeon.
Before leaving Leviticus 1, glance again at the closing words of verses 9, 13, 17. As we see in verse 4, atonement was connected with the burnt offering, but it was not the prominent thought, but rather the excellence of the offering in the Divine estimation. It was a sweet savour to Him.
In Leviticus 2 details are given as to the "meat" or "meal" offering. In the Hebrew a different word is used for this, but still a word which indicates a gift, for this too was a voluntary offering and not compulsory. The basic offering here was fine flour, though it might be offered in a variety of ways: either fresh and untreated, or baked in an oven or a pan, or cooked in a frying pan. But in each case both oil and frankincense were to be associated with it.
Now nothing is softer and more even and less gritty than fine flour, and hence it is a most fitting type of the smooth and flawless perfection of the life on earth of "the Man Christ Jesus." Moreover the oil here, as elsewhere, is typical of the Holy Spirit of God, in whose power the Lord Jesus went forth in His unparalleled path of service, as we see in Luke 3: 22 and Luke 4: 1, 14.
The oil was to be used in different ways. In the first case, verse 2, a handful of both flour and oil was to be taken by the priest and burned as a memorial on the altar. In the other cases, verses 4-9, the cakes were to be "mingled" with oil and then "anointed " with oil. Here again we may see typified what is made abundantly clear in the Gospel of Luke, particularly in the first chapter. When our blessed Lord stooped to become Man, His birth was the result of an action by the Holy Spirit, so that His Manhood, though true Manhood, was yet unique Manhood, "mingled" with the Holy Spirit. Later, as we have seen, He was "anointed" with the Holy Spirit and with power.
In this chapter the word "atonement" does not occur. That is because no blood was shed in the meat offering which typified His perfect life. It is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.
There was thus a certain variety in the way in which the meat offering was constituted, but in each case, while only a part of that which was presented was burnt as a memorial and as a sweet savour to the Lord, all the frankincense had to be burnt with the memorial. This emphasizes again that the prime thought in the meat offering, as with the burnt offering, is that of the pleasure and delight of God Himself in the perfect life of the Lord Jesus, when tested in the fire. He is the only One in whom was found no flaw but rather every perfection in the energy of the Holy Spirit, everything about Him an odour of a sweet smell.
But though in this type God had all the frankincense there was a remainder of the flour and oil, or of the mingled and anointed cakes, which was to be the portion of Aaron and his sons. They were to have as a part of their food that which had been offered to God for His pleasure. In this we may see an indication of our privilege as those who have been "built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices" (1 Peter 2: 5), for verse 7 proceeds to say, "Unto you therefore which believe He is precious," or, more literally, "is the preciousness." Christ is precious to God in infinite measure, but His preciousness is also for us.
The believer today then, as a priest, is permitted to have as the food of his soul all that excellence which has been displayed in Christ, and as he thus feeds he has the wherewithal to offer up those spiritual sacrifices of praise which are acceptable to God. But let us note those twice repeated words (verses 3 and 10) that it is "a thing most holy of the offerings of the Lord made by fire." When Christ is before us, let us never forget the holiness of the theme, but treat it with that reverence and reserve, which springs from self-judgment, that is becoming.
In verses 11 and 13 we have further stringent regulations. From all meat offerings all leaven and honey were to be excluded, and in them salt was always to be found. All through Scripture consistently, leaven is a type of evil in its permeating power. It was wholly absent in the perfect life of our Lord, and it could never be offered to God. Honey is regarded as the sweetest thing among natural products, as is indicated in Judges 14: 18. It too, was not to be offered to God. Our Lord Jesus Christ was the very embodiment of grace. But the grace of God is not natural sweetness, which is akin to human amiability, since truth as well as grace has reached us in Him. The truth that came by Jesus Christ connects itself with the salt that always was to be a part of the sacrifices offered to God.
The Lord's instruction to His disciples, and to us, was, "Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another" (Mark 9: 50). Then we have the Apostle Paul writing, "Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt" (Col. 4: 6), and again, "Speaking the truth in love" (Eph. 4: 15). These Scriptures make plain what "salt" is, when it is applied to us. Healthy regard for truth preserves from that compromising attitude, which is so sweet if only human amiability be in question. In us, all this is only found in measure. In Christ, all was perfection.
Between verse 11, which prohibits both the leaven and the honey, and verse 13, which insists on the salt being present, comes verse 12, which mentions the first fruits. These though offered to the Lord, were not to be burnt on the altar as a sweet savour. No reason for this is mentioned here, but the reference is to the "new meat offering," of which we read in Leviticus 23: 16, 17, when we discover that these firstfruits consisted of two loaves, which were baked with leaven. They were only to be waved before the Lord and not burnt. They were not typical of Christ but rather of the church, as we shall see when we come to that chapter. Only the offerings that were typical of Christ could be burnt upon the altar as a sweet savour unto the Lord.
In the three verses that close the chapter a meat offering consisting of corn in the ear or beaten out of the ear is contemplated. The firstfruits of the harvest might be presented thus, not having passed through the mill under man's hand. The memorial of it might be burnt by the priest upon the altar with oil and all the frankincense. This would be acceptable to God. In Leviticus 23: 10, 11, the sheaf of firstfruits was only to be waved before the Lord, but, as we shall see, that typified Christ in resurrection. Here we are still occupied with Christ in His life of perfect obedience which culminated in His death. We see Him rather as the perfect "corn of wheat" which fell into the ground and died, and out of whose death springs life for others, as the Lord Himself indicated in John 12: 24.
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