Today’s Reading: Leviticus 1-4
Today’s reading contains detailed descriptions of a variety of offerings: the burnt offering, the grain offering, the sacrifice of peace offering, and the unintentional sin offering. There is a fifth offering, the guilt offering, that is described in chapter five.
Have you noticed that not one of these offerings was to be given by Israel at the command from God?
God never commanded these offerings. God never said, “You must offer…”
Leviticus 1:2 says, “When any one of you brings an offering to the Lord…” In just these four chapters the word “when” occurs six times. Further, in Leviticus 1:3, God said to Israel, “If his offering…” In just these four chapters, the word “if” occurs 16 times. These are not commands.
What is going on here?
Let’s go back to the very first offering recorded in the Bible in Genesis 4. These were the offerings made by Cain and Abel. There was no command from God for Cain and Abel to make an offering. There were no instructions on why, how, or what they should offer. Cain and Abel voluntarily made offerings to the Lord. Offerings were something that man did. Man believed that offerings were how you served god.
So, when we come to Leviticus, God knows that Israel is going to make offerings to him. Therefore, instead of giving offerings any way they want, God tells Israel when you make an offering, if you make an offering, then this is how I want you to do it.
If the offerings weren’t a command from God, then why does God direct Israel on how to make offerings?
Because each of these offerings, every particular detail of these offerings, was a picture of Jesus, specifically his obedience to the voice of God. God knew that Israel would make these offerings every day for thousands of years. By seeing these offerings enacted every day, God wanted Israel to be ready for Jesus voluntarily giving his life for them. God wanted Israel to have seen these offerings so many times that when Jesus offered his life for them then Israel would know exactly what had happened.
Psalm 40:6 says, “In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required.” Sacrifice and offering involved death. But, God is life (see 1 John 5). God is life, and, therefore, there is no death in him. Hence, God does not delight in sacrifices and offerings. God does not require burnt offerings or sin offerings. God did not demand, ask, beg, or wish that Israel would give him burnt offerings and sin offerings.
But, David writes that God had “given me an open ear.” What was God asking from Israel throughout the book of Exodus? He wanted Israel to hear his voice. He wanted Israel to diligently obey his voice. But, Israel refused. Israel told Moses to hear from God and then Moses could tell them what God said. Israel did not want to hear God’s voice. So, God said, “When any one of you brings an offering…” and “If his offering…”
Psalm 40:6 is not the only instance where the Bible records that God did not require, demand, or command offerings be given to him.
Psalm 51:16 says, “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.” When we read the psalms as the prayers of Jesus, we understand that Jesus knew that burnt offerings did not please God. Jesus knew it was obedience to the Father’s voice that the Father wanted.
Isaiah 1:11-13 says, “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me.”
How about Isaiah 66:3-4? “He who slaughters an ox is like one who kills a man; he who sacrifices a lamb, like one who breaks a dog’s neck; he who presents a grain offering, like one who offers pig’s blood; he who makes a memorial offering of frankincense, like one who blesses an idol. These have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations; I also will choose harsh treatment for them and bring their fears upon them, because when I called, no one answered, when I spoke, they did not listen; but they did what was evil in my eyes and chose that in which I did not delight.”
Here God equates offerings and sacrifices with idolatry. Israel did what was evil in God’s eyes and chose to do that which he did not delight in. But, they didn’t do what God wanted. He wanted Israel to obey his voice. When God called, no one answered. When God spoke, no one listened.
Jeremiah 6:20 says, “Your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices pleasing to me.”
In response to Saul’s sin, in 1 Samuel 15:22, Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.”
In Jeremiah 7:22-24, God directly says he did not command offerings. Plus, God says exactly what he commanded Israel to do. “For in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to your fathers or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. But this command I gave them: ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.’ But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward.”
Could God be any clearer?!?
God doesn’t want offerings. God wants obedience to his voice.
This is exactly what Jesus Christ did. There is no record of Jesus presenting an offering in the gospels, even though he attended numerous feasts where ?Israel presented offerings. Rather, Jesus obeyed God’s voice. Look at what Jesus said he did in his own words.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” – John 5:19
“For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” – John 6:38
“When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and I do nothing on my own authority, but speak as the Father taught me.” – John 8:28
“For I have not spoken on my authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment – what to say and to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.” – John 12:49-50
Jesus heard the voice of God and obeyed him.
Which brings us back to Psalm 40:6. The writer of Hebrews quotes this verse in Hebrew 10:5-7, “Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, “Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.”‘”
Jesus came to do God’s will as it was written of him. Part of what was written about Jesus was how he would offer his life for us. And, that is what is captured in the offerings in Leviticus. The offerings in Leviticus are a picture of Jesus offering his life for us. They are a picture of his perfect obedience to the Father.
Notice that all of the animal offerings were to be without blemish and the grain offering was to be without leaven. Jesus was an offering without sin. We were ransomed “with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” (1 Peter 1:19) “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.” (1 Peter 2:22)
Notice that it was the one who offered or the sons of Aaron that killed the offerings. Peter, in the first sermon preached after the Holy Spirit was poured out, said in Acts 2:23, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.”
Notice that God’s description of the guilt offering beings with “If anyone sins unintentionally in any of the Lord’s commandments about things not to be done…” As he was being crucified, Jesus said in Luke 23:34, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Jesus said we didn’t know what we were doing. It was unintentional. Further, Paul said in 1 Timothy 1:13, “I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief.”
These are just three rather obvious places where the instructions for offerings bear witness to Jesus. But, every detail of every offering bears to witness to the work of Jesus. It is worth our time to search these details out so that we better know the person and the work of our Lord.
As Jesus obeyed the voice of God, we are to obey the voice of God too. We are to have the same mind as Jesus, to present ourselves as an offering as he did. Notice in Leviticus 1 that the burnt offering was about acceptance before the Lord. This is what Paul is speaking of in Romans 12:1, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
Take note that bodies is plural but the sacrifice is singular. The believers are members of one body, Christ’s body. As he presented his physical body a burnt sacrifice out of obedience to God’s voice, so too are we to present our bodies, which are the temple of the Holy Spirit, the spiritual body of Christ on this earth today, a living sacrifice holy and acceptable to God.
The offerings are about the obedience of Jesus to the voice of the Father and shows us what our spiritual worship, our obedience to the Father’s voice, should look like.