Leviticus 6:8 - 10:7
From verse 8 of chapter 6 to the end of Leviticus 7 we have the law of the various offerings. In each case the "law" furnishes further details as to how the offering was to be presented to the Lord and, more particularly, how the priests were to deal with the parts that were not burned before Him.
Again the burnt offering comes first. Since all was consumed on the altar, the law concerning it was simple. Every morning the wood was to be laid on the altar and the burnt offering consumed upon it; but so it was to be in the evening and all the night the fire on the altar was to be kept burning. Never was the fire to go out, and the very ashes were to be dealt with in a reverent manner.
In this we may learn two things. First, that the sweet savour of the sacrifice of Christ is ever before God. In the value and fragrance of His work propitiation has been effected, and so God still goes forward with an erring people. But second, that the fire was never to go out because it typified the consuming judgment of God, the claims of which could never be satisfied by the shadow sacrifices demanded by the law. Only when the all-sufficient sacrifice of Christ had been accomplished could the words be written, "There is no more offering for sin" (Heb. 10: 18). Today we may rejoice that "the fire upon the altar" has indeed gone out, though the fire of God's wrath will yet burn against sinful men, who have rejected His grace, when they reach a lost eternity.
The law of the meat offering occupies verses 14-18 and is mainly concerned with that part of the offering which was not burnt as a sweet savour, and so was to be eaten by Aaron and his sons. It was food for the priestly family only; that is, for the males who would normally officiate as priests. It was to be treated as a most holy thing. Leaven was to be completely excluded, and it was to be eaten in the tabernacle precincts. In the next chapter we find that those who were permitted to eat of the peace offerings had to be ceremonially clean, and this doubtless applied to the priests who partook of the meat offerings. Today every saint is constituted a priest, but we need to be morally clean to digest inwardly the excellencies of the life of our blessed Lord, which were so wholly offered to God.
Verses 19-23 deal with the special meat offering of Aaron and his sons in the day of his anointing. This was to be offered half in the morning and half at night, but all was to be burnt as a sweet savour and none was to be eaten. Not till the priest was anointed and fully qualified was he permitted to partake, but in his anointing the sweet savour was to go up to God.
The remainder of the chapter is occupied with the law of the sin offering. Verse 25 shows how closely it was linked with the burnt offering, and just because it had definite reference to sin its holiness is specially emphasized. Both offerings found their fulfilment in the sacrificial death of Christ, but the burnt offering typified the Godward side of it, more connected with propitiation, while the sin offering typified the manward side, connected with substitution.
Parts of the sin offering were to be eaten by the males of the priestly families, but only in the tabernacle and its court and not in their homes. But to this there was an exception. If the blood had been brought into the holy place for reconciliation, as was to be the case when the priest himself sinned or the whole congregation was involved in sin, then none of it was to be eaten. The body of the animal was to be burned without the camp, as we saw in chapter 4. In ordinary cases the priests did eat, and this may remind us today that though the sin may be on the part of another the saint in priestly condition may take it home to himself, while helping the other. We find something in the spirit of this when we read Galatians 6: 1, 2.
Leviticus 7: 1-7 records the law of the trespass offering, which is the same as for the sin offering. As verse 7 says, "there is one law for them." In verses 8-10 we have a supplementary detail, first as to the skin of the burnt offering, which was to be for the offering priest, who was permitted to have the externals of the sacrifice, the inwards of which were wholly for God. We may apply this by reminding ourselves that though we may be allowed to share in the sweet savour of the death of Christ, we only touch the externals. The inward excellence, as known to God, must ever be beyond us.
Then all of the meat offerings which was left for the consumption of the priests, if baked or fried was to be the portion of the offering priest. If mingled with oil and dry, it was to be shared equally among all the sons of Aaron. Thus a distinction was made between priests who were passive in any given matter and the priest who was active. All believers are priests but not all priests are in action.
The law of the peace offering extends from verse 11 to verse 34. The order of the offerings is changed, and here it comes last, the reason being, we suppose, that, while in the other cases the participators were only the priests, here the common person, who brought the offering was permitted to have a share. A peace offering might be brought for a thanksgiving (verse 12) or in connection with a vow or voluntary offering (verse 16) and in the latter case the time for eating was extended to two days. There was the portion for God, a portion for the priest and a portion for the offerer, but the communion based upon a voluntary offering endures longer than that based upon thankfulness for some benefit conferred.
Here again the holiness of the offering is enforced. The partaker must himself be clean, and that which he eats must be preserved from contamination. Hereby we are reminded that we must be clean not only in ourselves but also in our ways and associations. No communion with God is possible apart from that. In this connection too we are told that both fat and blood were prohibited. The life and excellence of the victims was wholly for the Lord.
The special portion of the officiating priest was to be the right shoulder of the victim. The breast that was waved before the Lord was also to be the portion of the priests. We find an allusion to this in 1 Corinthians 10: 18. Even in Israel those who did eat of the sacrifices were identified with the altar. It imposed at once special cleanliness in person and ways upon the common person who partook, as we have just seen, and the priests were all their lives set apart for God. Today every true believer is a priest and must never forget he is identified with the Christ who died.
The few verses that close the chapter give a summary of the things we have briefly considered, and enforce the fact that though many of the details laid down may at first sight seem to be of a rather trifling nature, they are nevertheless the things "which the Lord commanded Moses . . . in the day that He commanded the children of Israel to offer their oblations." Similarly we may read 1 Corinthians 12—14, and think that the instructions given through Paul for the order of the assemblings of the church of God, are some of them rather trifling; but let us not overlook verse 37 of chapter 14. The "commandments of the Lord" through the Apostle Paul are no less binding than the commandments of the Lord through Moses, though we are now under grace and not law.
Leviticus 8 is occupied with the record of how Moses himself acted in complete obedience to the divine command when he came to the point of the consecration of Aaron and his sons. We saw how all was to be done when we read Exodus 29, we now are permitted to see how carefully Moses obeyed, so that presently he received the commendation "My servant Moses . . is faithful in all Mine house" (Num. 12: 7). Thus, in the consecration of Aaron and his sons there was the bathing all over (verse 6), typical of the new birth; then the application of the blood of sacrifice (verses 23 and 24), typical of the redeeming blood of Christ; then the application of the oil (verse 30), typical of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Today no one becomes a priest except they are the subject of a work wrought in them—the new birth—and know the efficacy of the blood of Christ, shed for them, and have received the gift of the Holy Spirit, bestowed upon them.
But we notice of course that, as had been directed, Aaron had the anointing oil not merely sprinkled but poured upon his head (verse 12). Here he stands as a type of our Great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, who needed no application of the blood but was anointed with the Spirit in His solitary perfection. We have an allusion to this in Psalm 138: 2, where the unity of brethren that is so good and pleasant, is likened to the "ointment" or oil that was poured so copiously upon Aaron's head that it ran down beard and garment even to the skirts of it. The outpouring of the Spirit upon the church today, and the effusion that is to mark the world to come, according to Joel 2: 28, are both in the nature of an overflow from our High Priest on high.
In our chapter we also learn that Moses applied both blood and oil to the tabernacle and altar and other vessels of the sanctuary, and this is alluded to in Hebrews 9: 21, as far as the blood is concerned. It shows that the whole of this earthly system stood before God on that basis. For us it typified that the cross of Christ, coupled with the gift of the Spirit, forms the foundation of all our blessing. But all through this chapter it is not merely the blood shed, but also the blood applied. And that, not only to the tabernacle and its vessels, but also to the persons of the priests: right ear, right hand, right foot. The order is significant. By the ear we hear the word of God. By hand and foot we act and walk according to that which we hear. The movements of the priest are to be controlled by what he hears.
At the end of this chapter (verses 31-36), we see that Moses, who was the mediator of this earthly system, carefully instructed Aaron and his sons as to the seven days that followed their consecration. They were to eat the flesh of the ram of consecration, as had been made plain in Exodus 29, and also they were to abide in the tabernacle and its court for the seven days, until the atonement for themselves and the whole system was completed. In this way the claims of the holiness of God were to be pressed upon them.
All this having been carried out according to God's order, the eighth day arrived, and proved to be a very special occasion. With this Leviticus 9 is occupied. All is still under the direction of Moses, but, having been installed, Aaron is now the chief actor. He had to offer first for himself and then for the people, and it is to be noted that in both verses 2 and 3 the sin offering is mentioned before the burnt offering. At the beginning of the Book the burnt offering came first, and the sin and trespass offerings came last, typifying Christ and His sacrifice as viewed by God. But here the application to us is typified, and until our sins are settled we can present nothing at all to God. Hence the sin offering must of necessity come first, and the others follow.
Verse 8 records the slaying of the sin offering which was for himself. Since he was now the anointed priest, and all the people were represented in him, the carcase of the victim was burned "without the camp" (verse 11), according to the instructions. Verse 15 records the sin offering for the people, and this was dealt with "as the first," since, when the whole people were in question, the procedure was to be the same as for the anointed priest.
In verses 12-14 we have the burnt offering for himself and in verse 16 the burnt offering for the people. These offerings were followed by both meat and peace offerings (verses 17-21), but no mention is made of a trespass offering, for as yet there had been no time for cases of actual trespass to have occurred.
When all this was accomplished, the great event of the eighth day came to pass. First, the newly installed priest lifted up his hand toward the people and blessed them. Then both Moses and he went into the tabernacle and coming out again gave a blessing, but this time as through the mediator as well as through the priest. Whatever the people might prove themselves to be, the attitude of God toward them was one of blessing. When we read the four verses that close the Gospel of Luke, we at once feel how far more wonderful were the uplifted hands and the blessing of the Lord Jesus, just as He ascended into heaven, to take up His High Priestly work there, having accomplished on earth propitiation by His blood.
But second, an even greater event was the appearing of the glory of the Lord in the sight of all the people, and coupled with this fire came out from Him and consumed the burnt offering on the altar. The effect upon the people was instantaneous. No man can stand in the presence of the glory of God, for all have come short of it, as we read in Romans 3: 23.
The instructions as to how the various sacrifices were to be offered have already been before us, but not till the consecration of Aaron do we read of them actually being made, so we may say that at the start it was the hand of God that lit on the altar the fire to consume the burnt offering, which was never to go out, as we have already seen. It was God's fire and not man's fire which consumed the sacrifice, and the typical force of this is easily seen.
Thus far the hand of the faithful Moses had been on all the events of the day, but before it closed the two elder sons of Aaron broke away from under his direction and offered incense on "strange fire" before the Lord. The incense was right but the fire was wrong. As far as we know, the only instruction that had been given in this matter is found in Exodus 30: 7, 8, where the fire is connected with the lighting of the lamps in the holy place. They may have thought that if the incense was right any fire would do to bring out its fragrance. But no, the fire must be God's fire and not man's. Let us learn from this that though in our worship the words we use are altogether right, if the energy behind their utterance is of the flesh, all is wrong. Worship must be by the Spirit of God, and we have indeed to say,
"Then let Thy grace mould every word
That meets Thy holy ear."
They used strange fire, and the fire of the Lord came out and consumed them. This may appear to us very drastic judgment, but it is evidently God's way at the beginning of any new movement to emphasize His holiness in a severe way. So it was with the first man who broke the sabbath, and with Achan, just as Israel entered the land; and with Ananias and Sapphira at the beginning of the church. Many similar transgressions may have occurred in the respective histories without such a judgment.
We add the simple yet solemn reflection that everything that is committed to the hands of men breaks down at the outset. It was so in the Garden of Eden, and again when the law was given, in the episode of the golden calf, and so it is here. The priesthood having been established, on the very day on which they began to officiate failure supervened and Nadab and Abihu died, that so God might be sanctified before all the people. Though the people might mourn, the claim of God on the priests was such that no mourning became them. The claims of natural relationship were set aside.
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