In our study of Leviticus, we will look at God's call for His people to be holy. As we shall see, these words were given to Moses during the year that Israel spent at Mt. Sinai. The Hebrew title is "Vayikra" which means "And he called" and God had called them out of Egypt but, as we shall see, He also called them to a life of living as God's people.
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The Lord called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting. He said,
It is often said that the Jewish leaders built up a system of religious laws and that is true but, as we see here, these laws were given to Moses by God.
'Speak to the Israelites and say to them: "When anyone among you brings an offering to the Lord, bring as your offering an animal from the herd or the flock."'
The Hebrew word for offering is qorban and it is anything that is brought to God. In this case, God gives specific instructions for what to bring for what became known as the Burnt Offering. The people were to bring a clean tame animal which would have been dear to the owner. So, what do these Old Testament offerings have to do with us as followers of Jesus Christ? This is the first of five offerings described here and all of the offerings speak of the person and work of Jesus. These dear animals were a picture of Jesus (the dear Son of God) who would be presented on our behalf.
'"If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, you are to offer a male without defect. You must present it at the entrance to the tent of meeting so that it will be acceptable to the Lord."'
We see that the animal from the herd was to be a healthy bull (male cow). The fact that it was a male speaks of strength while the "without defect" part is a picture of the perfection of Jesus. It was a voluntary offering that was to be presented at the door of the tabernacle by a person desiring access to God. This is a reminder to us that Jesus is the only way that we have access to the holiness of God.
'You are to lay your hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on your behalf to make atonement for you.'
The one that was bringing the offering was required to place their hand on its head which was an act of designation. This was a public display that a transfer was taking place. The animal was being presented to take the place of the man presenting it and its purpose was for the atonement (covering) of sin. For us, this is a reminder that our faith in Jesus Christ is a personal faith. Just as the man had to put his hand on the animal, we each must personally grab onto Jesus.
'You are to slaughter the young bull before the Lord, and then Aaron's sons the priests shall bring the blood and splash it against the sides of the altar at the entrance to the tent of meeting.'
The animal had to die and its blood was put on the altar by the priests. This is a reminder that the payment for sin was death as blood represented life. The sacrifice reminds us that it is only through Jesus' death that we have access to the holiness of God.
'You are to skin the burnt offering and cut it into pieces. The sons of Aaron the priest are to put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire. Then Aaron's sons the priests shall arrange the pieces, including the head and the fat, on the wood that is burning on the altar. You are to wash the internal organs and the legs with water, and the priest is to burn all of it on the altar. It is a burnt offering, a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord.'
The animal had to be skinned and cut up to ensure that it could all be burned up on the altar. Fire is a picture of absolute consecration and all of the animal had to be set aside (consecrated to God). This is a picture of the beating that Jesus enduring with the cutting of His flesh. The aroma pleasing to the Lord speaks to the fact that the smell of the roasting flesh would blot out the stench of sin which is so detestable to God.
'"If the offering is a burnt offering from the flock, either the sheep or the goats, you are to offer a male without defect. You are to slaughter it at the north side of the altar before the Lord, and Aaron's sons the priests shall splash its blood against the sides of the altar. You are to cut it into pieces, and the priest shall arrange them, including the head and the fat, on the wood that is burning on the altar.You are to wash the internal organs and the legs with water, and the priest is to bring all of them and burn them on the altar. It is a burnt offering, a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord."'
A sheep or goat would have been the offering of the middle class. We see that God did not hold one offering in higher regard than the other. That reminds us that it is not what we bring to God that matters; it is that we come to God with the right heart. Once again, we see that the offering covered over the stench of our sin.
'"If the offering to the Lord is a burnt offering of birds, you are to offer a dove or a young pigeon."'
A bird would have been the offering of the poor and we see that poverty was not an excuse for not coming to the Lord.
'"The priest shall bring it to the altar, wring off its head and burn it on the altar; its blood shall be drained out on the side of the altar. He is to remove the crop and the feathers and throw them down east of the altar where the ashes are. He shall tear it open by the wings, not dividing it completely, and then the priest shall burn it on the wood that is burning on the altar. It is a burnt offering, a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord."'
The main difference between the offerings was that the priests were to kill the birds instead of the person that brought them. This is a reminder to us that, even when it seems like we do not have the strength to come to Him, He has made a way through Jesus Christ.