The Burnt Offering
Introduction to the Offerings
In the offerings we have a beautiful, typical foreshadowing of the work of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God coming into Manhood in order that the will of God might be accomplished, that the glory of God might be established and that those upon whom God, in His love, had marked out from council, and a place of sonship, might be secured. Also, that God might be glorified, and the company that Christians belong to through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ might be secured for the pleasure and the glory of God. In the details of these offerings we have something of the detail and the distinctive effects both of the life and the death of our Lord Jesus Christ in glorifying God.
We start by coming into the offerings from God's side. The tabernacle had been reared up in the book of Exodus. Moses, according to the mind of God given him had done so. He had correctly ordered every detail in faithfulness to God, and at the moment when the book of Leviticus opens, the cloud of glory was resting upon the tabernacle. This was the visible mark that God was dwelling in the centre of His people. The first communication given from out of the tabernacle was concerning the offerings, and it has for its objective the approach of His creatures, a redeemed people, into the place where He dwells that they may return to God and to offer to God that which will be for the delight of His heart of love. Firstly, God would assure us that, by the Spirit, He dwells amongst His people today and is expecting that there is going to be from every one of our hearts, not only a desire to offer something for the pleasure of God, but an acting upon that desire, and that we, in the spirit of our souls, draw near to God in order that we all might tell Him, each in our own measure, of our appreciation of His well beloved Son.
In Ex.19, God called to Moses "out of the mount", but here he calls to Moses "out of the tabernacle of the congregation". In Exodus, God speaks out in government, in the giving of the law, placing man under responsibility in covenant relationship; but now the cloud of glory was in the tabernacle. This mediatorial system had been introduced, and God does not here speak governmentally to His creatures, but rather God speaks in divine love and grace to encourage His creatures to draw near to Him with the sacrifice that would bridge that distance, that the failure to obey that voice from the mount might be taken account of by their taking account of the voice from the tabernacle, and offer sacrificially that which speaks of the Lord Jesus Christ, and thus draw near to God.
This has happened to every one of us. Firstly the voice of God speaking to us in righteousness when we realised we could never meet the claims of God, and then God speaking in love and in grace, assuring us that if we have failed in our responsibility before Him, yet He would still have us draw near in what speaks of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus we can stand in divine acceptance in the presence of God.
This bringing of the burnt offering was available for all Israelites, from the least to the greatest. God's words were addressed to every individual in the camp. The first thing that is said details the kind of offering that God would accept from their hands. A wild animal (e.g. a lion or a wolf) was never brought as a sacrifice to God, the reason being that what is typified is not the fallen nature of man, but the perfect Manhood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Hence the animals were to be of the herd, or of the flock, that is, domesticated animals that had been subjected to the will of man; just as the Son of God moved through this world subject to the will of God. There were other clean animals under the law, such as the roebuck and the hart (Deut.12:15), but they were not domesticated animals, so they could never be offered to God. They were clean, and God said "you may kill and eat them in your gates", but the Israelites were never to bring and offer them in God's gates.
The first offering mentioned is a burnt sacrifice. The word translated "burnt" means 'to ascend'. It was to instruct His people that there was something above this offering, that would be like incense, ascending to Him for the delight of His heart of love. The character of all Christ's service, whatever He did to man or for man in this world, was done first of all, for the pleasure of God (John 8:29).
Now in relation to the cross, the first great reason for which Christ died was to give glory and pleasure to the heart of God. This 'ascending' offering is the death of Christ in all that was there for the glory and pleasure of God before we come to the other side of the work in all that was there in order to meet the need of man. As it is God's will being accomplished, it is God's pleasure being established that comes out first of all in this offering.
The offering was to be a male. It was the seed of the woman that was promised, but when the virgin Mary brought forth her first-born, it was a man, Christ came in Manhood. When the male is specified in an offering, it is the work of Christ Godward which is in view; but when the female is specified, it is the work of Christ manward. Hence we do not get a female in the burnt offering, but we do get it in relation to the sin offering. God's glory, God's right and God's will is involved here, and so a male without blemish is specified.
A blemish is a defect, and this animal was to be carefully scrutinised to ensure that there was not a defect upon it, for it was to typify One in whom there never was a defect, our Lord Jesus Christ in His perfect, sinless Manhood here in this world. The best possible animal that could be produced was needed to portray something of the excellency of, and the perfection of, the Manhood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It was to be offered "for his acceptance" (this is the literal translation of the phrase "of his own voluntary will" as it is in the K.J.V. here and also at the end of verse 4). It was offered not only for the forgiveness of sins, although it did "make an atonement for him", for it was on behalf of the sinful creature that this had been done for the glory of God, but Christ died also that man might be brought into all the divine favour that we find ourselves in now, into acceptance "in the Beloved", before the face of God.
The offering was to be offered "at the door" of the tent of meeting. Doors in scripture have the idea of entrance. God wants to meet His creatures in a way that would bring blessing to them, and this was achieved by bringing the burnt offering to the door of the tent of meeting. God would seek to impress upon His people that He did want to meet them, and to meet them in these conditions would mean that He could bestow blessings upon them, on the ground of that offering in His divine favour.
God would impress upon us, that having brought us to Himself, based upon the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, He meets us with divine favour that has all been secured by the perfection of the work, that this perfect, sinless Man has accomplished the will of God for God's pleasure when He died upon the cross. We are not only in the Christian company because God has forgiven us, but because God Himself wanted to bless us and take His delight in us, and pour and lavish upon us all the favour that He can, so that we are "accepted in the Beloved". So at the door of the tent of meeting God would have us meet with Him with a burnt offering, as it were, in our hands that He might give us the sense of this divine favour that is resting upon all of us in Christ for ever more. It was to be offered and be brought there before the Lord in consciousness that God's eyes were upon the offering. The offerer was to have the sense that he was doing this thing before the Lord, well knowing that the Lord Himself would take pleasure in that which was being done.
The offerer was to place his hand upon the head of the offering. This speaks of identification. "As He is, so are we in this world" (1 Jn.4:17), "He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one" (Heb.2:11). There is not anything true of Christ in Manhood at the right hand of God that is not true of everyone who is "accepted in the Beloved" (Eph.1:6). We are not accepted with Him, but in Him. All that is true of Him, because we are accepted in Him, in His Manhood and in His glory, is true of everyone who is in Him, before the face of God forever more. We are identified with Him (have laid our hands on the head of the offering), "As He is, so are we in this world".
It was accepted for Him, to make atonement for him. This is Christ dealing with our need, not only to remove that need, but to bring us into divine favour in the presence of God.
The offering was to be killed "before the Lord". All that was happening there was being done before the Lord in the consciousness of everyone's soul. His eyes were resting upon it, something was being done there all together for His delight.
The priests, Aaron's sons, were to bring the blood and sprinkle it round about upon the altar that was by the door of the tent of meeting. The altar represents the claims of God, and the shed blood means that the offerer is brought into acceptance, indeed he is so fully in acceptance that every claim of God has been eternally satisfied by the work of our Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross. In the sin offering, the blood was poured out at the foot of the altar, but there is none of that here, it is only the blood sprinkled on the altar, representing the claims of God. The death of Christ has settled every claim, has glorified God in regard to every outstanding claim upon His creature. God has been eternally glorified by the work of His well beloved Son; hence the blood sprinkled round about upon the altar means that God Himself has been eternally glorified about the question of sin.
The offering was then to be flayed and cut up into pieces. In the law of the offerings (Lev.6:8-7:38) we find out more about this. The skin was given to the priest who offered any man's burnt offering (7:8). The idea being, similar to the best robe given to the prodigal son, that the priest should have the external mark of the offering that had been offered just as we are, as it were, in that best robe, clothed in the righteousness of God, on the ground of what Christ has done.
When Abraham took Isaac up into the mountain in the land of Moriah, he laid the wood upon his son, an indication that one Person in the Godhead was going to go into Manhood and that one Person was the one that Isaac typified, the Son of God. The fire being the energy of the Spirit of God that could lay hold of that wood and cause the sacrifice to ascend, as He did. Christ was laid "in order" (there is always complete divine order about all these things) upon the fire.
The priests, Aaron's sons, were then to lay the parts, the head, and the fat in order "upon the wood that is upon the fire which is upon the altar". The word for fat here is only used in connection with the burnt offering, and means 'the suet' as we would call it today. It speaks of the very excellence of that offering, the energy, whilst the head speaks of intelligence. The two are coupled together. Nobody knew the will of God and what was due to the will of God more than our Lord Jesus Christ (this is the head), and nobody accomplished that will as energetically as He did (this is the fat). We may know the will of God, but carrying it out is another matter. The Lord not only knew what the will of the Father was, but in energy He carried out that will, thus the head and the fat go together. With divine energy, as He served here, He accomplished the will of God.
"But its inwards and its legs shall ye wash in water". The inwards would speak of inward desire, and the legs of external movement. Not only was there with the Lord, internally, the desire to move here for God, but having that desire He did move for God. Hence, the inwards underlying the legs. Just as the head and fat go together, so the inwards and the legs go together. Having the desire to please God, He pleased God in every movement He made in this world.
In connection with the head, we may link it to "He knew no sin" (2 Cor.5:21); with the inwards "In Him was no sin" (1 John 3:5); and with the legs "He did no sin" (1 Peter 2:22). In the grouping of them together, we see that knowing the will of God He energetically carried it out, and having the desire to please God, He did please God, in every movement He made in this world, the inwards and the legs washed in water in this way show that every desire and every movement was governed by the word of God (compare His response to His temptation, three times He was tempted, three times He replied, "It is written.....").
All was then burnt upon the altar. The word here for burn means to burn as incense. Later we see a consuming burning under the judgment of God in the non - sweet smelling savour offerings. It is difficult (if not impossible) for us to consider that while there was a consuming fire, in the judgment of God, there was another fire there, causing to ascend that which was pleasurable to God. In Ps.22 He was abandoned of God (verse 1 and Matt.27:46), but never do we read that He was He abandoned of the Father, indeed Psalm 91 speaks of Jehovah saying "I will be with Him in trouble" (verse 15), and the Lord could say "Yet the Father is with Me" (John 16:32). Thus there are two sides here, first the consuming fire and then the incense side of the burning. We can, and should, view them separately, but this is difficult to do with our finite minds.
However, this burnt offering was "an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord". There was that which was ascending in the perfect subjection of His own beloved Son to accomplish the work which His righteous, holy judgment demanded, that ascended to God as a sweet savour, delighting His heart.
Thus we can summarise this first offering to us as the work of Christ to glorify God. He met every claim of God, carried out His will, and established His pleasure. He has done something that has given delight to the heart of God, and in such a way that we have been brought into acceptance in the Beloved, into the enjoyment of all this divine favour in which we now find ourselves.
The goat is not often spoken of in our theology today (whereas the sheep often is), but it is mentioned in scripture time and time again. If in the sheep we find the willingness of the Lord to die, in the goat we see the ability to die. Moses said 'Blot me out of Thy book, and let these go' (Ex.32:32), but God could not accept Moses as a sacrifice, Moses was not able to exonerate the people. Similarly Paul says 'I was wishing myself accursed for Israel' (Rom.9:3), Paul was willing, but not able. But with the Son of God, typified in the sheep, He was willing, and typified in the goat He was able to do it. This offering presents Him in His willing character and on the side of His ability to carry out His work for the glory of God.
The bullock was killed "before the Lord", the offerer again conscious that God's eye was resting upon it. The sheep (or goat) was killed on the north side of the altar that is indicative of suffering.
When we come to the turtledoves or the pigeons, the crop and the feathers (or literally, 'the filth') were cast at the east side of the altar, which is where the glory is going to dawn (it is from the east that the Lord is going to come in with all His glory).
The Different Offerings
Sometimes it has been said in relation to the different offerings, it is a matter of poverty, "If he be not able", but while this is said of the sin offering, it is not said of the burnt offering. In the burnt offering there is no thought of ability to bring the offering, nor of poverty, but rather it is a question of appreciation. Some may apprehend, in all its fullness, the work that Christ has done for the pleasure of God, others may be taken up by all that He suffered in the accomplishment of that work, others by the fact that it was a Man of another order, coming into this world from heaven above, "the second Man..... from heaven" (1 Cor.15:47), that accomplished the will of God (the bullock, sheep/goat and bird offerings respectively).
John takes up the first, that which Christ did for the pleasure of God. Peter in his writings takes up the second, that which He suffered in accomplishing the will of God. Finally Paul takes up the third, the character of the Man who has suffered in accomplishing the will of God, in his writings. The two birds symbolise the open heavens. Turtledoves speak of the second Man, out of heaven, coming in order that He might live and die here in the accomplishment of the will of God. In all cases, whether the animal be a bullock or the sheep/goat or turtledoves/pigeons, the very same thing was said of it by God, "It is a sweet savour, unto the Lord".
Some of us may apprehend them all, what He did for God, what He suffered, who He is in full perfection of His Manhood, but every thought we bring to God relating to that work in accomplishing the will of God ascends as a sweet savour unto the Lord.
This is where God begins in apprehension of the Lord Jesus Christ's work, it may be where we just about end, but it is where God begins. He would impress upon us right from the outset as we try to understand these offerings that His great desire and His great thought toward us in allowing Christ to die upon the cross, was to bring us into a place of everlasting favour based upon this offering, which was a sweet savour unto the Lord.