Lessons from Leviticus - Introduction and Chapter 1
E. L. Lovering, Ilfracombe
The aim of this series is to present suggestive studies, mainly of a devotional arid practical nature; great eternal truths are expressed symbolically with regard to worship and communion—its hindrances, requisites, manner and blessings. Ceremony was God's picture book for His people in religious development. Typically this foreshadowed the work of Christ in redemption, with its consequent results.
The Title, Leviticus, derives from the Greek Septuagint Version, and whereas the Levites are mentioned but once in 25. 32, 33, it is in general a hand book for the priests. The laws enumerated were not, however, exclusively for the priests—Aaron and his family—for the people too had their responsibility. The Lord's words to Moses out of the tabernacle of the congregation were "Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them", 1.2; by later Jews, the book was given the title of the initial word of the book in Hebrew, "and He called".
It is of interest to note that God "called" to Moses on three specific occasions, namely, from the burning bush with the promise of deliverance, Exod. 3. 4; from the top of Sinai with the giving of the law, 19. 3, 20; and from the tent of meeting with regulations for worship, Lev. 1.1.
The immediate purpose of the book is to show that the way to God demands sacrifice, and that the worship of God requires sanctification. God's holiness and God's grace are exemplified throughout.
We now provide a summary of the eight papers that will form this series on Leviticus. There are two main sections :
Chapters 1 -17:Theremoval of defilement and man's approach to God through sacrifice.
Paper 1. Introduction and presentation of the offerings, chs. 1 -7. ch. 1, Burnt offering.
Paper 2. Ch. 2, Meal offering, ch. 3, Peace offering, ch. 4, Sin offering, ch. 5, Trespass offering.
Paper 3. Chs. 6-7, Law and portion of the offerings, chs. 8-10, Preparation of the
ch. 8, priesthood—sanctity.
ch. 9, priesthood—service.
ch. 10, priesthood—sacrilege. Paper 4. Chs. 11-15, Purification of the camp.
ch. 11, Meals.
ch. 12, Motherhood.
chs. 13-15. Maladies, ch. 16, Provision in atonement, ch. 17, Principle of sacrifice,
and preciousness of blood.
Chapters 18-27: The requirement of
fellowship and man's acceptance
with God in sanctification. Paper 5. Introduction.
chs. 18-19, Prohibitions.
ch. 20, Punishments.
chs. 21-22, Priestly relationships. Paper 6. Ch. 23, Proclamation of
the feasts. Paper 7. Ch. 24, Parenthesis.
ch. 25, Property and privileges. Paper Q. Ch. 26, Promises and
ch. 27, Pledges.
Chapters 1-7, Presentation of the Offerings. The first of the offerings was the burnt offering, because it displayed that aspect of the work of Christ which in God's estimate is the highest and most precious. The last in order was the trespass offering, emphasizing the fact that there can be no intercourse between God and man until the question of sin has first been settled. In the burnt offering we see Christ on the cross doing the will of God, while in the trespass offering He is bearing our sins and putting them away. In each and all the offerings He is the perfect sacrifice.
The purpose of the burnt offering was first to make the offerer accepted, thus we read, "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. 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", Lev. 1. 3, 4. It is God's purpose that we should be "to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved", Eph. 1. 6. It is through God's own provision of grace that we shall be to the praise of His glory.
Secondly, the offering was suited to meet the offerer's ability, for his offering might be of the herd, "a male without blemish", or of the flocks, "of the sheep, or of the goats ... a male without blemish", or "of fowls", "of turtledoves, or of young pigeons". God, the God of perfection, could accept only that which was in type itself perfect; whether it was the bullock of the rich or the bird of the poor, yet both were equally acceptable to Him. It was the latter that Mary brought when she came to present her firstborn Son to the Lord, Luke 2. 22-24; it was the offering of the poor, as one has written, "the wise men had not yet visited her, and she had no gold to buy a lamb". The "male without blemish" reminds us of the absolute sinlessness of the Lord Jesus, who to be our great High Priest was "in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin", Heb. 4.1 5; and who, as our example in suffering, "did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth", 1 Pet. 2. 22; He was "manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin", 1 John 3. 5.
The burnt offering exhibits some very distinctive features, for it was first "a sweet savour unto the Lord", Lev. 1. 9, 13, 17; how wonderfully this was fulfilled in the sacrifice of Christ, who "hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour", Eph. 5. 2. Moreover, as the offerer put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering, it was "accepted for him to make atonement for him". Whereas in the sin offering atonement was for the offerer's sin, for "the priest shall make an atonement for them, and it shall be forgiven them", Lev. 4. 20, 26, 31, in the burnt offering it was for the satisfaction of Jehovah. Christ's purpose in coming into the world was to do the will of His Father who sent Him, Heb. 10. 5-7. Thus, in the days of His boyhood, to those who anxiously sought Him in Jerusalem He could say, "wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?", Luke 2. 49; and in His garden-prayer He asked the Father, "if thou be willing, remove this cup from me : nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done", 22. 42.
Further, we note that it was the offering of a life upon the altar of sacrifice, and in this it differed from the meal offering of corn, oil and frankincense. We read, "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", Lev. 1. 5. The yielded life is man's duty to God, but only One perfectly accomplished this, "the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time", 1 Tim. 2. 5, 6. All was burnt upon the altar, including the head, fat, legs and inward parts, an ascending offering unto the Lord, Lev. 1. 9.
Thus man's duty to God involves, not the yielding of one faculty alone, but the complete and absolute surrender of all. To the lawyer's question, "which is the great commandment in the law?", the Saviour replied, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment", Matt. 22. 36-38. In our Lord Jesus every thought, energy, activity, feeling, and affection were completely surrendered to the Father, and all in absolute perfection. The fire which destroys the sin of man, delights the heart of God.
Some expositors have seen in the varieties of offering a typical reference to the measures of appreciation and apprehension of the work of Christ. Thus, the bullock represents strength in service; the Psalmist prays that "our oxen may be strong to labour", Psa. 144. 14, while the wise man relates that "Where no oxen are, the crib is clean; but much increase is by the strength of the ox", Prov. 14. 4. In the lamb there is submission in sacrifice, for the prophet foretold concerning Christ that "he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opensth not his mouth", Isa. 53. 7. The turtledove might speak of harmlessness and serenity in sorrow, for the mourning of the dove and its harmless nature are referred to in Isaiah 38. 14; 59.11, and by the Saviour to His disciples as He sends them forth, that they should be "wise as serpents, and harmless as doves", Matt. 10. 16. The slain goat and the scapegoat in Leviticus 16. 15, 21, 22 bring to us the thought of a substitute for the sinner, as the goat of the sin offering is slain for the people, and the scapegoat is sent away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness, bearing all their iniquities.
As we think of the One who offered Himself unreservedly and completely to God, and who died in our stead, let us in the light of the mercies of God present to Him our bodies "a living sacrifice, holy, well-pleasing unto God", which is our "spiritual worship", Rom. 12. 1 r.v. marg.