Be Holy For I Am Holy

A Study through Leviticus

Sinful People Need a Sacrifice to Approach a Holy God – Leviticus 1-7

 

Every covenant instituted by God has been by sacrifice. In Psalm 50:5 it states:

 

·         Psalm 50:5 - “Gather My saints together to Me, Those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.”

Because humanity is sinful a sacrifice is required to deal with their sin before they can enter into relational interaction with God who is holy. We see the presence of sacrifice in every covenant made by God:

·         God’s Covenant with Adam – Gen. 2:15-17 and after the fall, an animal skin covering in Gen. 3:21

·         God’s Covenant with Noah – Gen. 8:20-21; 9:8-9

·         God’s Covenant with Abraham – Gen. 15:1-17

·         God’s Covenant with Moses – Ex. 24:3-8

·         New Covenant – Hebrews 9:15

But why is sacrifice such a big part of God’s plan?

Why Sacrifices?

If Jesus is the only sufficient sacrifice, why did God institute animal sacrifices? In Psalm 40:6 it states, “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; my ears You have opened. Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require.” If this is the case, then why did God institute the sacrificial system? God instituted the sacrificial system for the following reasons.

First, Old Testament sacrifices stimulated the faith of Old Testament believers as they obeyed God’s word. The Bible states:

·         Psalm 51:16-19 - For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;  You do not delight in burnt offering. 17     The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart—   These, O God, You will not despise.  18     Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion; Build the walls of Jerusalem.  9     Then You shall be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering;   then they shall offer bulls on Your altar.

These verses teach us that the sacrifices themselves were not what was important to God but the heart condition of the one bringing the sacrifices. God was looking for brokenness, contrition, repentance that led to real behavioral change. These sacrifices stimulated the faith of those bringing them and help them to learn that God rewards those who diligently seek Him (Heb. 11:1, 6).

Indeed the New Testament tells us that the necessity of bringing repeated sacrificial offerings was a reminder of sinfulness. The necessity of repeated sacrifices was evidence of the imperfection of the Old Testament sacrificial system. The perfection of sacrifice would come in Christ (Heb. 10:1-25).

Second, Old Testament sacrifices prefigure and illustrate God’s plan of atonement in Christ’s sacrifice. Isaiah described the Messiah as a Suffering Servant (Is. 53:5, 7, 10, 11). John the Baptist announced Jesus as the Lamb of God that had come to take away the sins of the world (Jn. 1:29). And Jesus was later preached as the atoning sacrifice of God (Acts 8:32-34).

The Old Testament sacrificial system prepared the way for Jesus by prefiguring Him (Heb. 9). The Old Testament sacrifices were unable to save anyone (Heb. 10). God passed over the sins of Old Testament saints who put their faith in Him (Rom. 3:25; 4; cp. Gen. 15:6). The saints of the Old Testament demonstrated their faith in part by obeying the sacrificial system’s requirements. This was until the Lamb of God Jesus came and made the perfect sacrifice for sin on the cross that actually satisfied the just requirement of God for the atonement of sin (Heb. 9:15, 22; 1 Pet. 1:18-19). New Testament saints compose a royal priesthood, a holy nation commissioned with spreading the news of Jesus, the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world (1 Peter 2:9; Jn. 1:29). And one day we will be in heaven praising and worshipping Jesus, the Lamb slain for our sin (Rev. 5).

Shadows in the Sacrifices

The Old Testament sacrifices contain shadows or illustrations that help Christians to see prefigured aspects of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice. The Old Testament sacrifices convey the holy attitude an offerer or worshipper of God should have toward God. What are some of these prefigured aspects of God’s atoning plan?

First, God initiates atonement. Leviticus 1:1 begins by saying, “the Lord called.” God is the One who initiates the plan of salvation. This points us to God’s grace. No one can come to the Father unless he draws him (Jn. 6:44). He stepped out in love toward us when we were still sinners (Rom. 5:8). Salvation is a work of God (Jn. 6:29). It’s all about His grace (e.g. Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5).

Second, atonement is on God’s terms. Twenty one times in Leviticus it states the sacrifices made were to be brought to God “at the door of the tabernacle.” Thirty four times the phrase “The LORD said,” is used and twenty two times the phrase, “The LORD commanded” is used. God is not only the Initiator of atonement; those who want to be saved must come to God on His terms to experience atonement.

Third, God offers atonement impartially. Leviticus 1:2 refers to “any one” who brings an offering to the LORD. The Bible says there is no partiality with God (Rom. 2:11; 1 Cor. 1:22-24). God offers his atoning work of salvation to the world (e.g. Jn. 3:16). The great truth of God’s grace is that whoever calls on the name of the LORD can be saved (e.g. Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21; Rom. 10:13).

Fourth, God requires a perfectly pure sacrifice for atonement. 16 times in Leviticus (40 times in the entire Bible) God stipulates the sacrifice brought to Him must be “without blemish.” This prefigures Jesus as the perfect sacrifice (1 Pet. 1:19). The sacrifice brought to God must be perfectly pure as well. Words found in Leviticus that convey this  are “fire” (68 times), “clean” (46 times), “cleanse” (4 times), “cleansed” (13 times), “cleansing” (6 times), “unleavened” (7 times – leaven is a type of sin: 1 Cor. 5:6-8), and “holy” (90 plus times). This refers to Jesus as the perfect standard to get to heaven (Jon. 16:8-11). It also refers to the holiness and purity of Jesus (Heb. 7:26; Rev. 15:4). Those who serve the Lord should do so in a holy way. We are to be purified and cleansed by the Spirit (Acts 15:8-9) and walk in His light (1 Jn. 1:7).

Fifth, God’s atonement involves death. Sin is serious. Sin leads to death. It kills our relationship with God. It kills our relationship with others. It kills us with guilt and shame. And sometimes it kills us literally. Death in sacrifice conveys the seriousness of sin. The word “kill’ is found 21 times in Leviticus, “killed” thirteen times, “kills” 7 times. The wages of sin is death paves the way for sinners to see their need for the free gift of God of salvation through Jesus Christ (Rom. 6:23).

Sixth God’s atonement is substitutionary. The sacrifices of Leviticus all convey a theme of the death of the innocent for the guilty. The substitutionary nature of God’s atonement is conveyed by the person offering the sacrifice putting their hands on the head of the animal being sacrificed (the phrase “put his hands on the head of” occurs 7 times in Leviticus; one time elsewhere in the Bible). The putting of one’s hands on the sacrificial animal as it was slain illustrated not only the seriousness of sin as the person felt the life leaven the animal and death take over, but it taught the transference of the sin to the animal. This paved the way to an understanding of God’s plan for a substitute to pay for the sins of the guilty. This is a major aspect of the work of Christ. He is the Sin –Bearer (cf. Isaiah 53:4-6; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 10:4-10; 1 Pet. 2:24). Jesus died for us, the just for the unjust (1 Pet. 3:18; cf. also Rev. 5:12; 13:8).

Seventh, God’s atonement removes sin “outside the camp.” Sin is like cancer, it spreads if left unaddressed. The sacrifices of Leviticus show us that the ashes of the burnt sacrifice are removed and brought outside the camp (4:12, 21; 6:11; 8:17; 9:11; etc.). Jesus became a curse for us (Gal.3:13). Our sins were laid on Him as he was crucified outside of Jerusalem (Heb. 13:11-12). Jesus is the One who removes our sin (Rom. 3:25; Heb. 2:17; 1 Jn. 2:2; 4:10).

But Jesus going “outside the camp” also tells us He went outside Jerusalem where the Temple was. The Temple was the center of the religious legal and ceremonial system. Going outside this testifies to its inadequacy to save. The sacrifices of the Old Testament point to Jesus who goes outside beyond that system to work atonement on the cross. The note from the Scofield Study Bible explains this well saying:

The “camp” was Judaism – a religion of forms and ceremonies. “Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify [separate, or set apart for God] the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate [temple gate, that is, Judaism civil and religious]” (Heb. 13:12). But how does this sanctify, or set apart a people? “Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp [Judaism then, legalistic Christianity now – anything religious which denies Christ as our sin offering], bearing His reproach” (Heb. 13:13). The sin offering, burned outside the camp, typifies this aspect of the death of Christ. The cross becomes a new altar in a new place where, without the smallest merit in themselves, the redeemed gather to offer, as believer-priests, spiritual sacrifices (Heb. 13:15; 1 Pet. 2:5). The bodies of the sin-offering beasts were burned outside the camp, not because they were unfit for a holy camp but, rather, because an unholy camp was an unfit place for a holy sin offering.[1]

Eighth, God’s atonement points to permanency. A burned sacrifice cannot be unburned. And you can only burn a sacrifice once. Burning is irreversible. Death is permanent. Therefore the sacrifices pointed to the permanence and finality of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. This is conveyed by the words “fire” found 68 times in Leviticus, “burnt offering” (1:4, 6; 4:7,10, 18, 24, 25), and “burnt sacrifice” (1:3, 9, 10, 13, 14, 17; 3:5; 8:21; 9:17). Jesus offered a permanent one time sacrifice for sin (Heb. 9:23-28).

Ninth, God’s atonement involves intercession. In Leviticus 6:13 it speaks of a “perpetual fire” on the altar that “shall never go out.” This speaks of Jesus intercession on our behalf. The fire of Christ’ intercessory prayers on our behalf will never go out (Heb. 7:25).

Tenth, God’s atonement is a work of the Spirit. The sacrificial offerings used “oil” (42 times in Leviticus). Oil is a type of the Spirit (cf. Zech. 4:6). Jesus was empowered by the Holy Spirit (Mat. 3:16-17). Those who serve the Lord need the empowerment of the Spirit as well (Acts 1:8).

Eleventh, God’s atonement is satisfactory and pleasing to Him. The phrase, “a sweet aroma to the LORD”  (1:9, 13, 17; 2:2, 9; 3:5; 4:31; 17:6; 23:18) speaks of the satisfactory and pleasing sacrifice of Jesus (Eph. 5:2).

These are the prefigured shadows of Jesus in the sacrificial offerings of the Lord.

 

The Five Sacrificial Offerings to the LORD

There are five sacrificial offerings stipulated by God in His word:

1.      The Burnt Offering – Leviticus 1

2.      The Grain Offering – Leviticus 2

3.      The Peace Offering  - Leviticus 3

4.      The Sin Offering – Leviticus 4

5.      The Trespass Offering – Leviticus 5-7

The burnt, Grain, and Peace offerings were voluntary offerings. The Sin and Trespass Offerings were mandatory. Each sacrificial offering has important insight into Christ’s atonement and our holy attitude before God.

The Burnt Offering – Leviticus 1

The burnt offering expresses the total dedication, total commitment, total surrender, total consecration to the Lord and His will.

 Jesus gave Himself in total surrender to the will of the Father as our substitute (Mat. 26:36-46; Heb. 12:2-3). The Bible speaks of Jesus complete emptying of Himself to be our sin bearer (Phil. 2:6-8).

This offering served the purpose of providing a way for the offerer to express total consecration to the Lord. An offering that is burnt illustrates permanence and totality. Something burned cannot be unburned. And so this offering was a way to express to God that you are totally dedicated to Him. It was an offering of total surrender to God.

The phrase, “burnt sacrifice” occurs 18 times with nine of those occurrences found in Leviticus. The Psalms mention burnt sacrifice as a means to call on God (Psalm 20:3; 66:15). The Angel of the Lord instructed Gideon to make a burnt sacrifice before the Lord when he tore down his father’s idolatrous altars (Judges 6:26). When King David sinned by trusting in his army instead of the Lord he offered a burnt sacrifice offering as part of his rededication to the Lord (2 Sam. 24:22). When Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal before the people of God he used a burnt sacrificial offering as a means to call them to total dedication to the Lord (1 Kings 18:33, 38). King Abijah mentioned burnt sacrifices to illustrate and prove his loyalty to God when confronting sinful King Jeroboam of Israel (2 Chron. 13:11). And the Lord gave Abijah victory over Jeroboam. But burnt sacrifices didn’t necessarily mean those offering them were right with the Lord. Evil King Ahaz offered a burnt sacrifice on a new altar he made, an altar modeled after a pagan design (2 Kings 16:15).

The phrase “burnt offering” occurs 274 times in 248 verses. The phrase occurs 49 times in Leviticus. It occurs three times in the New Testament. Jesus commended one of the scribes for stating that loving God and your neighbor is more important than burnt offerings (Mk. 12:33). In other words the outward ceremony of a burnt offering is meaningless unless it results in actual life change and action. In Hebrews 10:6 and 8, Psalm 40:6-8 is quoted to show that burnt offerings are not an end in themselves but point to Jesus. That is what we will see in our examination of the burnt offering.

Now the Lord called to Moses, and spoke to him from the tabernacle of meeting, saying,

The first thing we see here is that God initiates the contact with His people. It is the LORD who called Moses and spoke to Him (1:1). God is the one who initiates contact with us. It is God who loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son Jesus (Jn. 3:16). It is God who demonstrated His own love to us by sending Jesus to die for us while we were still sinners (Rom. 5:8). God is the Initiator. That is grace.

2 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When any one of you brings an offering to the Lord, you shall bring your offering of the livestock—of the herd and of the flock.

God makes provision for “anyone” who will listen to His voice and respond (1:2). God calls and makes Himself available to anyone who will receive Him (e.g. 1 Cor. 1:22-24; Heb. 3).

3 ‘If his offering is a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish; he shall offer it of his own free will at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the Lord.

The people were instructed to bring an animal “without blemish” (1:3, 10). We need to offer God our best (Mal. 1:7-14). Jesus, the perfect sacrifice, offered Himself to God (2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 1:18-19; 2:21-24).

God didn’t exclude anyone who “of his own free will” would bring an offering (1:3). Jesus offered Himself in full surrender to the will of the Father and he did so voluntarily. He said “Not My will but Thy will be done” (e.g. Mat. 26:36-46).

People could exclude themselves by not being willing to bring a sacrifice. God doesn’t force Himself on anyone. He is not a puppet master. He has created humanity with free will. Some say, “Well, doesn’t the Bible say we are dead in our trespasses and sins? If we’re dead, how can we respond to God?” If we are dead in this sense then we can’t respond to or not respond to God; we are dead. But when the Bible speaks of sinners being dead in their sins if musts be understood that there remains a free will that a person has from God that enables them to respond to God.

The Lord says sacrifices are to be brought, “at the door of the tabernacle” (1:3). In other words, we come on God’s terms not our own. The sacrifice must be as prescribed by God. We must bring the sacrifice to where God wants it.

4 Then he shall put his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him.

The next thing we see is God’s provision in this sacrifice for identification. The one bringing the sacrifice would identify with the seriousness of sin by placing their hands on the sacrificial animal and feeling the life go out of it as it was sacrificed. Sin is serious. It brings death. It costs life. The sin of the offerer was passed on to the sacrifice. The offerer had to identify with that. In the same way our sins were passed onto and bore by Jesus on the cross (Is. 53:4-6; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:24).

This burnt sacrificial offering provided a covering for sin. The word “atonement” in 1:4 is translated from the Hebrew kophar which means covering. Old Testament sins were covered over until they could be actually atoned for by Christ on the cross (Rom. 3:25).

5 He shall kill the bull before the Lord; and the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall bring the blood and sprinkle the blood all around on the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of meeting.

The principle of the sacrifice was the innocent dies for the guilty. It says, “He shall kill the bull before the LORD” (1:5). Jesus died for us, the innocent for the guilty (1 Pet. 3:18). And without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin (Lev. 17:11; Heb. 9:22), hence the sprinkling of “the blood” on the altar by the door of the tabernacle. You can only enter the holy area of the tabernacle by the blood.

6 And he shall skin the burnt offering and cut it into its pieces. 7 The sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire on the altar, and lay the wood in order on the fire.

Just as the sacrifice was “cut into pieces” Jesus was scourged and laid on the wood of the cross as a sacrifice. The fire speaks of the consuming of the sin. Jesus was laid on the cross and gave His life to consume our sin.

8 Then the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall lay the parts, the head, and the fat in order on the wood that is on the fire upon the altar;

The pieces of the sacrificial animal were to be put “in order” on the wood. God is orderly. He goes into great detail in His plans. We saw that in the Tabernacle design. And we see it in the sacrifices.

9 but he shall wash its entrails and its legs with water. And the priest shall burn all on the altar as a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the Lord.

The “entrails” speaks of the inner parts that had to be washed. Jesus was pure through and through. We should be too. The washing of the legs points to the pure walk of Jesus. Our walk should match our talk. Both inside and out Jesus was pure. That is what God wants to work in us. The burnt sacrificial animal produced a savory aroma pleasing to the Lord. Jesus sacrifice pleased the Lord (Eph. 5:2). It was also totally burned just as Jesus totally gave Himself for us.

10 ‘If his offering is of the flocks—of the sheep or of the goats—as a burnt sacrifice, he shall bring a male without blemish. 11 He shall kill it on the north side of the altar before the Lord; and the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall sprinkle its blood all around on the altar. 12 And he shall cut it into its pieces, with its head and its fat; and the priest shall lay them in order on the wood that is on the fire upon the altar; 13 but he shall wash the entrails and the legs with water. Then the priest shall bring it all and burn it on the altar; it is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the Lord.

Like the sacrifice offered here, Jesus was “without blemish” (1 Pet. 1:18-19). The sacrifice was to be killed “on the north side.” Calvary is to the north of the city of Jerusalem on Mount Moriah.  

14 ‘And if the burnt sacrifice of his offering to the Lord is of birds, then he shall bring his offering of turtledoves or young pigeons. 15 The priest shall bring it to the altar, wring off its head, and burn it on the altar; its blood shall be drained out at the side of the altar. 16 And he shall remove its crop with its feathers and cast it beside the altar on the east side, into the place for ashes. 17 Then he shall split it at its wings, but shall not divide it completely; and the priest shall burn it on the altar, on the wood that is on the fire. It is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the Lord.

God makes provision for the poor. If a person couldn’t produce an animal, they could bring a bird. No one was excluded from the opportunity to express dedication to the Lord. Joseph and Mary brought turtledoves to the Temple which indicates they were poor (Lk. 2:24).

The instructions concerning the offering of turtledoves here is very violent. That is because sin is violent. It rips at the sinner as well as the innocent victims. The use of birds speaks of Jesus who left His nest in heaven to provide a sacrifice for sin. The wringing off of the head speaks of the abuse Jesus took when His head was struck (Mat. 27:30). The removal of the feathers from the bird speaks of the tearing of the beard of Jesus during the crucifixion (Is. 50:6). The spreading of the wings speaks of Jesus spread out on the cross (Lk. 23:33). Jesus arms are still outstretched offering saving shelter to those who would come to Him (Jn. 6:37).

 

The Grain Offering – Leviticus 2

The grain offering speaks of the total dedication of service and in particular the perfection of Jesus. Jesus was without sin, without leaven (Heb. 4:15). Jesus was born and baptized with the Holy Spirit as symbolized by the oil in this offering (Jn. 1:32; Zech. 4:6).

This offering provides a way for a person to express their total dedication in service. It was a sacrifice of thanksgiving and devotion to God. The phrase, “grain offering” occurs 139 times in 128 verses in the Bible. 33 of those occurrences are found in Leviticus. Grain is the fruit of one’s labor and so offering a grain offering to God was a way of saying thanks to the Lord for the harvest. But also the Grain Offering was a way to express that all our work, all our service is dedicated to the Lord.

When anyone offers a grain offering to the Lord, his offering shall be of fine flour.

Grain was the fruit of one’s labor and therefore a dedication of one’s service to God. Fine flour meant that the lumps would be removed. There would be a sifting, a crushing, and a working out of the lumps.

And he shall pour oil on it, and put frankincense on it.

The oil speaks of the anointing of the Spirit (Zech. 4:6). Any attempt we make to serve God in our own strength is doomed to failure. Even Jesus was anointed with the Spirit at His baptism (Mat. 3:16-17; 12:38). Then Jesus was sifted for forty days in the wilderness (Mat. 4:1-11).

Frankincense speaks of prayer. Prayer is a declaration of dependence upon the Lord. Apart from Him we can do nothing (Jn. 15:5). The apostle James said we have not because we ask not (James. 4:2). Those who serve the Lord musts serve Him prayerfully. Jesus spent much time in prayer (e.g. John 17).

After being anointed with the Spirit (Mat. 3:16-17), Jesus was led out into the wilderness to be tempted or sifted in preparation for His earthly ministry (Mat. 4:1-11). The carnal Christian doesn’t pose as great a threat to Satan as a Spirit filled Spirit empowered Christian. And so the Spirit filled Christian can expect greater trials and temptations from the enemy as they seek to serve the Lord.

2 He shall bring it to Aaron’s sons, the priests, one of whom shall take from it his handful of fine flour and oil with all the frankincense. And the priest shall burn it as a memorial on the altar, an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the Lord. 3 The rest of the grain offering shall be Aaron’s and his sons’. It is most holy of the offerings to the Lord made by fire.

The offering was to be burned in the fire. And as we mentioned with the Burnt Offering fire speaks of the total and complete offering; you can’t un-burn something. A “handful of fine flour,” a portion of one’s harvest income was to be offered to the Lord. This is a similar concept to that of the tithe yet it is voluntary.

The fine flour offering would be put through the fire. Fire also speaks of trials. Those who seek to serve the Lord will go through the fire. Such suffering and trial are sweet to the Lord when we show Him our love for Him in sacrificial ways (1 Pet. 4:12). Going through trials prepares us and suits us for ministry (2 Cor. 1:4). That is why this offering is “most holy” to the Lord (2:3, 10).

4 ‘And if you bring as an offering a grain offering baked in the oven, it shall be unleavened cakes of fine flour mixed with oil, or unleavened wafers anointed with oil. 5 But if your offering is a grain offering baked in a pan, it shall be of fine flour, unleavened, mixed with oil. 6 You shall break it in pieces and pour oil on it; it is a grain offering.

Leaven is a type of sin (Mat. 16:6, 11, 12; 1 Cor. 5:6-8). When we serve the Lord we shouldn’t cut corners or mix sin in with our efforts. Jesus served in holiness. We are to be anointed with the oil of the Spirit like Jesus was (Mat. 3:13-17; Acts 1:5, 8).

It says the unleavened bread is to be broken in pieces. Brokenness ushers into the presence of the Lord and precedes the outpouring of the oil of the Spirit (Psalm 34:18; 51:7-11). Indeed Paul spoke our bodies as earthen vessels in which God’s treasure had been placed in order that the power of God could be clearly seen through our weakness and brokenness (2 Cor. 4:7).

Now when is the oil of the Spirit poured? It is poured when we come with a heart willing to serve.  The empowering of the Spirit is for service and service unleashes the power of the Spirit in and through us. When people pray for the outpouring of the Spirit and are unwilling to serve, it’s like filling up a car with gas and parking it in a garage, the power is dormant and unnoticeable.

7 ‘If your offering is a grain offering baked in a covered pan, it shall be made of fine flour with oil. 8 You shall bring the grain offering that is made of these things to the Lord. And when it is presented to the priest, he shall bring it to the altar. 9 Then the priest shall take from the grain offering a memorial portion, and burn it on the altar. It is an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the Lord. 10 And what is left of the grain offering shall be Aaron’s and his sons’. It is most holy of the offerings to the Lord made by fire.

The grain is to be baked like bread. The bread is brought to the priest who brings it to the altar and burns a portion of it. Again, something burned is permanently offered; it is offered with no chance of taking it back. Jesus is the Bread of Life who gave Himself completely for us (Jn. 6).

11 ‘No grain offering which you bring to the Lord shall be made with leaven, for you shall burn no leaven nor any honey in any offering to the Lord made by fire. 12 As for the offering of the firstfruits, you shall offer them to the Lord, but they shall not be burned on the altar for a sweet aroma. 13 And every offering of your grain offering you shall season with salt; you shall not allow the salt of the covenant of your God to be lacking from your grain offering. With all your offerings you shall offer salt.

No “honey”? Honey is sweet, but it breaks down when the temperature rises. If we’re e going to serve the Lord, we should be prepared not to wilt when the temperature of trials get hot.

“Salt” speaks of grace (Col. 4:6). When we serve we should do so in grace and share God’s grace with others.

Salt is a preservative agent as well as a purifying agent. We serve in a way that preserves lives by checking corruption and bringing a holy flavor to those around us. Slat is also a flavor enhancer. In a tasteless world our lives should bring a flavor of holiness. Jesus called His followers the “salt of the earth” and said we should do good works that bring glory to God (Mat. 5:13-16).

14 ‘If you offer a grain offering of your firstfruits to the Lord, you shall offer for the grain offering of your firstfruits green heads of grain roasted on the fire, grain beaten from full heads. 15 And you shall put oil on it, and lay frankincense on it. It is a grain offering. 16 Then the priest shall burn the memorial portion: part of its beaten grain and part of its oil, with all the frankincense, as an offering made by fire to the Lord.

Frankincense is a type of prayer (Psalm 14:1-2; Rev. 5:8; 8:3-4). We should serve prayerfully like Jesus did.

 

The grain offering was particularly emphasized on the Feast of First Fruits which offered fifty days after Passover. Hence it is also known as Pentecost. It’s interesting that traditionally the Bible book read in synagogues on Pentecost is the book of Ruth. It’s also interesting that unlike our Bibles the book of Ruth is placed with the Prophetical section in the Jewish Bible. That’s because there are some beautiful prophetic types found in the book of Ruth.

It was fifty days after the Passover that Moses received the Law from God on Mount Sinai which is marked as the beginning of the Jewish nation. It’s also interesting that in the New Testament God chose Pentecost as the time for the beginning of the church. Pentecost marks the birthday of Judaism and the Church.

In Leviticus 23:17 it mentions that during the Feast of Pentecost two loaves of leavened bread were to be used in a wave offering to the Lord. Rabbis interpret the two loaves as referring to the two tablets of the Ten Commandment. But there’s a problem with this interpretation. We have seen that leaven is a type of sin. Are the Ten Commandments therefore sinful based on the leavened loaves? No of course not. The Law is holy, righteous and good (Rom. 7:12). A better interpretation is that the two leavened loaves of bread are types of Judaism and the Church.

When Moses received the Ten Commandments God interrupted the process and told Moses to return to the people because they had already began to break the Law by making and worshipping a golden calf (Ex. 32). God’s judgment fell and three thousand fell that day (Ex. 32:28). This shows us that that Law exposes sin and kills the offender.  In the New Testament it states, “the letter [of the Law] kills but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor. 3:6). The Law exposes people as sinners (1 Tim. 1:8-11). The Law demonstrates that all have sinned (Rom. 3:10; 23; Gal. 3:10-13). The New Testament Gospel provides the solution to that sin problem in Jesus as Savior (Rom. 3:21-26). On Pentecost in the New Testament three thousand were saved demonstrating the New Covenant of grace in Christ (Acts 2:41). But the Church also contains sinners. In the Church we are positionally righteous through faith in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21), but there is sin that needs to be addressed through the practical sanctifying process (Rom. 6; 7 and 8; Gal. 5).

Up until the time of Christ there existed only two groups, Jew and Gentile. Christ came and provided redemption through His bloodshed on the cross and verified through the resurrection. Now Jews and Gentiles who by God’s grace repent of their sin and seek forgiveness through faith in Christ are united together in the new Testament Church. The two have become one in Christ (Eph. 2:11-22). The two loaves foreshadow the coming together of sinful people from Judaism and the Gentile world through faith in Jesus Christ. Now this is all a work of the Holy Spirit.

In the book of Ruth we have a beautiful typological picture of this which takes place around the time of harvest (Ruth 2:23 – the barley harvest occurred around Passover; the wheat harvest occurred around Pentecost). In Ruth Boaz, (whose name means Standing in Strength) is a type of Christ. He is the landowner, a wealthy, kind, generous and gracious man. He sees Ruth in his field and reaches out to her in kindness. Ruth, a Moabite, is a type of the church. Moabites are twice referred to by God as “My wash pot,” or toilet bowl (Ps. 60:8; 108:9). Moabites were cursed. That is why when Boaz shows kindness to Ruth she is overcome with the grace of Boaz toward her (Ruth 2:10). Naomi is a type of Israel. The unnamed servant of Boaz is a type of the Spirit who identifies Ruth who would become Boaz’ bride (Ruth 2:5-6). The Spirit witnesses of Christ and shines the light on Him not Himself hence the namelessness of the servant (cf. John 15:26; 16:13-14). Boaz/Christ is introduced to Ruth/Church by the unnamed servant/Holy Spirit. Notice in the story Naomi/Israel doesn’t meet Boaz/Christ until the wedding feast (Ruth 4:14). We also see that Boaz and Ruth have a child named Obed (i.e. “worshipped one”). Naomi, who has lost two sons and a husband in her trials is given the young child to nurse (Ruth 4:16). Now here is the thing. Naomi/Israel discovers the whereabouts of Boaz/Christ through Ruth/the Church (Ruth 2:19). But Ruth/the Church learn the ways of Boaz/Christ through Naomi/Israel. The Church introduces Jews to Messiah Jesus and the Church learns the ways of Jesus from the Jews who have received Jesus as Messiah. And all of this is facilitated by the Spirit.

There is a great deal more that could be said about the typology in Ruth, but suffice it to say that it was the Spirit who was poured out at Pentecost that birthed the Church. And that outpouring at Pentecost was an empowerment for service. When we serve the Lord in the Spirit we will experience His power, unity and victory and God will be glorified.

The Peace Offering – Leviticus 3

The Peace Offering speaks of fellowship with God. It speaks of Jesus as the One who brings us peace and fellowship with God. We have peace with God through faith in Jesus (Rom. 5:1).

The phrase “peace offering,” occurs 87 times in 84 verses. 29 of those occurrences are found in Leviticus. This offering was offered last because it was a meal in the presence of the Lord. It was a meal whereby the offerer enjoyed the peaceful relief after being pardoned from sin. This was a meal by someone who was in a state of peace not seeking peace. It emphasized being in a right relationship with God and thankfulness for the peace of reconciliation and relationship with God.

     ‘When his offering is a sacrifice of a peace offering, if he offers it of the herd, whether male or female, he shall offer it without blemish before the Lord.

Again this speaks of Jesus as without blemish in His sacrifice. We should guard against sinful impurities that might intrude on our relationship with God.

2 And he shall lay his hand on the head of his offering, and kill it at the door of the tabernacle of meeting; and Aaron’s sons, the priests, shall sprinkle the blood all around on the altar. 3 Then he shall offer from the sacrifice of the peace offering an offering made by fire to the Lord. The fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails, 4 the two kidneys and the fat that is on them by the flanks, and the fatty lobe attached to the liver above the kidneys, he shall remove; 5 and Aaron’s sons shall burn it on the altar upon the burnt sacrifice, which is on the wood that is on the fire, as an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the Lord.

Again we see the offerer laying hands on the sacrificial animal to identify with the giving of life as it is sacrificed. The offering is made by fire to the Lord, it is permanent. Jesus is our peace (Eph. 2:13-22), a sweet aroma to the Lord (Eph. 5:2).

The burning of the fat made a delicious aroma before the Lord. It created an aroma of a fellowship meal. Aromas trigger memories and God implanted this aroma making practice so that the offerer would remember the sweet times of fellowship they had with the Lord.

6 ‘If his offering as a sacrifice of a peace offering to the Lord is of the flock, whether male or female, he shall offer it without blemish. 7 If he offers a lamb as his offering, then he shall offer it before the Lord.

This was a meal with the Lord. What a wonderful picture of fellowship with the Lord. Jesus is knocking on the door of hearts waiting for us to open up and invite Him in for a fellowship meal (Rev. 3:20).

8 And he shall lay his hand on the head of his offering, and kill it before the tabernacle of meeting; and Aaron’s sons shall sprinkle its blood all around on the altar.

9 ‘Then he shall offer from the sacrifice of the peace offering, as an offering made by fire to the Lord, its fat and the whole fat tail which he shall remove close to the backbone. And the fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails, 10 the two kidneys and the fat that is on them by the flanks, and the fatty lobe attached to the liver above the kidneys, he shall remove; 11 and the priest shall burn them on the altar as food, an offering made by fire to the Lord.

12 ‘And if his offering is a goat, then he shall offer it before the Lord. 13 He shall lay his hand on its head and kill it before the tabernacle of meeting; and the sons of Aaron shall sprinkle its blood all around on the altar. 14 Then he shall offer from it his offering, as an offering made by fire to the Lord. The fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails, 15 the two kidneys and the fat that is on them by the flanks, and the fatty lobe attached to the liver above the kidneys, he shall remove; 16 and the priest shall burn them on the altar as food, an offering made by fire for a sweet aroma; all the fat is the Lord’s.

This offering was unique in that the offerer, the priest and the Lord would have a meal. Therefore it speaks of fellowship in the presence of the Lord. Jon Courson makes the following comment on the Peace Offering:

The peace offering was the one offering in which three parties partook: the man who brought the offering, the priest, and the Lord Himself. Thus, the peace offering uniquely speaks of fellowship, and relationship.

 

Again, I believe this is highly emblematic of Communion, for at the Lord’s Table, we experience a unique time of fellowship not only with the Lord, but with our “fellow priests” (1 Peter 2:9) as we eat of His body and drink of His blood. How I would encourage you to establish this practice in your life. You truly have peace with God through Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1). All that remains is for you to believe and receive it. The argument of the enemy will always be that God is upset with you, that you haven’t been doing this or that, that you’ve missed the mark here or there. But it’s all a lie. If you have received Jesus’ gift of salvation, if you have embraced His finished work on the Cross on your behalf, you have peace with God tonight. The work is complete. Nothing more can be added to it. So celebrate what He’s done.

 

Nothing smells better than a barbeque. As this peace offering was being prepared, surely the aroma would make everyone’s mouth water. Spiritually, there is nothing more pleasant than the Lord’s Table. And it makes my spiritual mouth water as I realize Jesus is my peace Offering. [2]

 

17This shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwellings: you shall eat neither fat nor blood.’ ”

God loves fellowshipping with His people. In the gospels we see Jesus loved fellowship meals (John 6:1-13). There’s a reason why Jesus referred to Himself as the Bread of Life (John 6:35). Part of that reason is His love for fellowship meals (e.g. Mat. 9:10-12; Lk. 24:40-43; John 21:11-13).

The fat was viewed by many as being the best part. It smelled the best when cooked. But we know that the fat is the unhealthiest portion of the meat. Similarly, we may question why God prohibits certain things but the truth of the matter is that God’s prohibitions are meant for our protection. We may question why He forbids sex before marriage, but He is protecting us from sexually transmitted disease as well as heartbreak. We may question why God requires we give a tithe, but he is protecting us from greed. We may protest God’s calling to not neglect the gathering of the fellowship, but He is protecting us from isolation and vulnerability to the enemy when we are alone or on our own. All that God does for us is done because He loves us. We need to learn to trust His love and abide by His word. That in fact is how we show our love for Him (Jn. 14:21).

When we look at scripture we see the peace offering used on a number of occasions. When a Nazarite vow ended a peace offering was used to worship the Lord (Num. 6:14, 17, 18). When the children of Israel crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land as they had been instructed they worshipped the Lord with peace offerings (Deut. 27:7; Joshua 8:30-35). When Saul was anointed King Samuel offered peace offerings before the Lord (1 Sam. 10:8; 11:15). After David had sinned by relying on the size of his army instead of on God he used a peace offering to seal his repentance and reconciliation with God (2 Sam. 24:26). When the Ark of the Covenant was replaced in the tabernacle by David he offered peace offerings (1 Chronicle 16:1, 2). The grandest peace offering was offered by Solomon at the dedication of the Temple (1 Kings 8:63-64).

But the peace offering like all other offerings was meaningless and unacceptable to God unless it was accompanied by a heartfelt worship and practical life of holiness. In Amos it states:

Amos 5:21-24

21     “I hate, I despise your feast days,

     And I do not savor your sacred assemblies.

22     Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings,

     I will not accept them,

     Nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings.

23     Take away from Me the noise of your songs,

     For I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments.

24     But let justice run down like water,

     And righteousness like a mighty stream.

 

Unless the peace offering flowed out of a heart and life that was just and righteous the ritual offering was worthless.

We’ve said that the peace offering was a way to celebrate peace with God. The best commentary on the Old Testament is the New Testament and in 1 John 1:3-10 we see important insights into how we can have fellowship with God. This passage reads:

1 John 1:3-10

3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.

5 This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

What John is speaking about is something he and the other apostles have experienced firsthand. That experience is fellowship with God. That is what he is writing about (1 Jn. 1:3, 4). Fellowship with God, knowing Him and Jesus Christ is the purpose of life; it’s why we were created (cf. Jn. 17:3).

John’s message to the recipients of 1 John begins with the awareness that “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 Jn. 1:5). That is another way of saying God is holy. This chapter dovetails well with our study in Leviticus because Leviticus is a book about how unholy people can find and experience fellowship with Holy God. The first step in experiencing fellowship with God is honesty not hypocrisy. John says if we say we have fellowship with God and walk in darkness or sin we are lying and untruthful. We have to approach God in truth not falsehood (1 Jn. 1:6). We approach God in truth by walking in the light or through holiness. When we walk in the light of God as provided in His word it leads to fellowship with fellow Christians and more importantly with Holy God; that’s what “one another” means. Such fellowship is a product of applying the “blood of Jesus Christ” which “cleanses us from all sin” (1 Jn. 1:7). Living a holy life is walking as Jesus walked (1 Jn. 2:6). It is not something we do on our own, it is provided by God’s grace through faith in Jesus who died for our sins.

We have a sinful nature that tries to rationalize or minimize away our sin. Our sinful nature deceives us and pushes the truth of God aside (1 Jn. 1:8). We need to beware of such inner lies. The way to overcome such deception is to “confess our sins.” To confess our sins doesn’t just mean to recite or list our sins, it means to feel the same way about our sin as God does. It means to hate our sin, find it repulsive and repugnant. And we are to confess our sins to God. This is where that fellowship with God begins. And when we confess our sins to God He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness. Notice john’s use of “all” in the phrases “all sin” and “all unrighteousness.” God offers to do a complete work in us. Those who try to take credit for such fellowship by minimizing their sins are saying God is a liar and the truth of His word is not in them. Sin greatly deters our relationship with God.

An Old Testament example of the insidious nature of sin and how it deters our relationship with God is found in the life of Samson. In Judges 13-16 we find Samson the judge of Israel. Samson was the strongest man to ever live. He was strong because of his relationship with God not because of steroids or dumbbells. He was a nazarite from birth which meant he was to refrain from drinking wine, not touch anything dead and never cut his hair. His nazarite vow was for life. Samson was strong physically but weak spiritually. The account of his life shows how he one by one went against his vow. God was merciful throughout his life but the last part of his vow that he went against was the cutting of his hair. It’s a well known story of how he succumbed to the sly strategy of Delilah and divulged the secret of his strength was in his hair. If his hair was cut he would become weak like any other natural man; not because of his physical hair, but because of the vow it represented; his relationship with God.

Here is the scary thing about Samson. It states after his hair was cut that the LORD left him, “but he did not know that the LORD had departed from him” (Judges 16:20). Sin is like that. We indulge in sin and no one else might be aware of it, but God is. And God withdraws from us because of our sin and the deceptive part of sin is that we are often unaware God has left us. Fellowship is broken. The proof of God’s departure was in the consequence.

When we look at Samson we see first sin binds us. Without his strength his enemies were able to bind Samson. Sin saps us of our strength in the Lord and gives our enemies an open door into our lives to bind us and do with us what they want. And the next thing we see is that sin blinds us. Samson’s enemies put out his eyes. He could no longer see. Blinded by the enemy because of his sin Samson was at their mercy. So they took him and tied him to a millstone where he found that sin grinds you. When we indulge sin God withdraws and end up going in circles like Samson and like the children of Israel in the wilderness (Judge 16:21).

But God is merciful. When Samson was being humiliated by his enemies and he called out to the LORD for strength to avenge himself on them, God heard his heart cry and restored him. Samson pushed apart the pillars of the temple of the pagan philistine god and it says, “So the dead that he killed at his death were more than he had killed in his life” (Judges 16:30). That is always the case. If we want to be used by God we have to die. Jesus said those who follow Him needed to deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow Him (Lk. 9:23). If we are going to enter into and experience fellowship with God we need to die to self (cf. Gal. 2:20). We have to bring anything and everything that is sin and burnt it before the Lord. Then we can experience the sweet aroma of a peace offering of thanks to God for our fellowship with Him.

The Sin Offering – Leviticus 4

The burnt, grain and peace offerings were voluntary. The last two offerings, the sin and trespass offering were mandatory.

The phrase “sin offering” occurs 121 times in 109 verses. 50 of these occurrences are found in Leviticus. The sin offering was for the atonement for sin generally. It was for unintentional sins. It deals with the sin nature. Jesus bore our sin on the cross; the sins of the world (1 Jn. 2:1-2). Jesus alone can free us from and give us victory over the sin nature (Rom. 7:25).

     Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘If a person sins unintentionally against any of the commandments of the Lord in anything which ought not to be done, and does any of them, 3 if the anointed priest sins, bringing guilt on the people, then let him offer to the Lord for his sin which he has sinned a young bull without blemish as a sin offering.

All fall short of the glory of God all have sinned (Rom. 3). If we say we have no sin, we’re lying and saying God is a liar (1 Jn. 1:8, 10). We all have sin that we need to take to the cross.

4 He shall bring the bull to the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the Lord, lay his hand on the bull’s head, and kill the bull before the Lord. 5 Then the anointed priest shall take some of the bull’s blood and bring it to the tabernacle of meeting. 6 The priest shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle some of the blood seven times before the Lord, in front of the veil of the sanctuary. 7

Sin kills. It destroys the sinner physically, mentally and spiritually. The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). The laying on of hands on the sacrificial animal was a way to identify with the sacrifice as well as acknowledge the seriousness and costliness of sin. Sprinkling the blood “seven times before the LORD, in front of the veil of the sanctuary” speaks of the completeness of the sacrifice.

And the priest shall put some of the blood on the horns of the altar of sweet incense before the Lord, which is in the tabernacle of meeting; and he shall pour the remaining blood of the bull at the base of the altar of the burnt offering, which is at the door of the tabernacle of meeting.

The altar of sweet incense represented the prayers of the saints. Our prayers need to be covered in the blood. If we regard iniquity in our hearts the Lord will not hear our prayers (Ps. 66:18). [3]

8 He shall take from it all the fat of the bull as the sin offering. The fat that covers the entrails and all the fat which is on the entrails, 9 the two kidneys and the fat that is on them by the flanks, and the fatty lobe attached to the liver above the kidneys, he shall remove, 10 as it was taken from the bull of the sacrifice of the peace offering; and the priest shall burn them on the altar of the burnt offering. 11 But the bull’s hide and all its flesh, with its head and legs, its entrails and offal— 12 the whole bull he shall carry outside the camp to a clean place, where the ashes are poured out, and burn it on wood with fire; where the ashes are poured out it shall be burned.

We have seen that while fat has a pleasant aroma, it is not good for us and that is why God demands we refrain from eating it. Fat is excess and as such it is a type of the flesh. The Bible refers to the sinful nature as “the flesh” (Rom. 8:1-12; Gal. 5:13, 16, 17, 19-24). The fleshly sinful nature attempts to tempt us to overindulge in things. For instance sexual attraction is a God created drive and holy. The flesh perverts that sex drive by pushing people to lust and sinful sex outside the parameters of God’s word. The fatty flesh therefore needs to be removed and burned.

All the fat was to be burned on the altar. The hide and flesh, including the head and legs, entrails and everything else was to be taken “outside the camp to a clean place” where the ashes are poured out and all of it burned on wood with fire. Jesus took our sin on Himself and bore it on the wood cross outside the camp, a place of separation (Heb. 13:11-13). Sin must be removed otherwise it will defile the entire camp (e.g. Josh. 7 and 8).

13 ‘Now if the whole congregation of Israel sins unintentionally, and the thing is hidden from the eyes of the assembly, and they have done something against any of the commandments of the Lord in anything which should not be done, and are guilty; 14 when the sin which they have committed becomes known, then the assembly shall offer a young bull for the sin, and bring it before the tabernacle of meeting.

If an individual priest sinned, a bull was required. If the entire nation sinned a bull was required. This demonstrates the import of the position of the priest. God is looking for someone to stand in the gap (Ezek. 22:30). We are a royal priesthood who need to not only be criticizing our nation but interceding for it (1 Pet. 2:9). We need to be salt and light (Mat. 5:13-16). We need to infiltrate and influence in our nation for God’s glory. 

15 And the elders of the congregation shall lay their hands on the head of the bull before the Lord. Then the bull shall be killed before the Lord. 16 The anointed priest shall bring some of the bull’s blood to the tabernacle of meeting. 17 Then the priest shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle it seven times before the Lord, in front of the veil. 18 And he shall put some of the blood on the horns of the altar which is before the Lord, which is in the tabernacle of meeting; and he shall pour the remaining blood at the base of the altar of burnt offering, which is at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. 19 He shall take all the fat from it and burn it on the altar. 20 And he shall do with the bull as he did with the bull as a sin offering; thus he shall do with it. So the priest shall make atonement for them, and it shall be forgiven them. 21 Then he shall carry the bull outside the camp, and burn it as he burned the first bull. It is a sin offering for the assembly.

The elders of the congregation were the one’s responsible to identify with the sins of the nation and serve as proxies in offering the sin offering. That’s a big responsibility.

22 ‘When a ruler has sinned, and done something unintentionally against any of the commandments of the Lord his God in anything which should not be done, and is guilty, 23 or if his sin which he has committed comes to his knowledge, he shall bring as his offering a kid of the goats, a male without blemish. 24 And he shall lay his hand on the head of the goat, and kill it at the place where they kill the burnt offering before the Lord. It is a sin offering. 25 The priest shall take some of the blood of the sin offering with his finger, put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and pour its blood at the base of the altar of burnt offering. 26 And he shall burn all its fat on the altar, like the fat of the sacrifice of the peace offering. So the priest shall make atonement for him concerning his sin, and it shall be forgiven him.

If a ruler or political official sinned, a goat was required. This doesn’t reflect too well on politicians!

27 ‘If anyone of the common people sins unintentionally by doing something against any of the commandments of the Lord in anything which ought not to be done, and is guilty, 28 or if his sin which he has committed comes to his knowledge, then he shall bring as his offering a kid of the goats, a female without blemish, for his sin which he has committed. 29 And he shall lay his hand on the head of the sin offering, and kill the sin offering at the place of the burnt offering.

Politicians and common people were equated. A ruler, a nation and the common people, all sin and all need provisions to deal with sin.

30 Then the priest shall take some of its blood with his finger, put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and pour all the remaining blood at the base of the altar.

31 He shall remove all its fat, as fat is removed from the sacrifice of the peace offering; and the priest shall burn it on the altar for a sweet aroma to the Lord. So the priest shall make atonement for him, and it shall be forgiven him.

Why a sin offering? Because there needs to be atonement for sin. The word atonement in the Old Testament is kaphar which means “to cover.” Noah covered the ark with pitch which symbolizes how God protected his vessel from the flood of judgment (cf. Gen. 6:14). In the Old Testament God covers sin when believers trustingly obey His order of sacrifice for sin. But sin is not truly dealt with until the New Testament.

In the New Testament “atonement” is a translation of the Greek term katallage which means, “to reconcile.” True eternal reconciliation is possible because on the cross Jesus actually paid the penalty for sin with His atoning death. With the penalty for sin righteously paid, sin can be removed from the person who trusts Jesus as Savior and seeks forgiveness from God through faith in the atoning work of Jesus on the cross. In the New Testament it states this saying:

·         Romans 5:10-11 - 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

Why would anyone trust in Jesus for atonement? What basis or evidence do we have that Jesus’ atoning death was satisfactory to God the Father? The resurrection of Jesus was and is the proof of God’s acceptance of the substitutionary atonement of Jesus on the cross. The most serious consequence of sin is death. The resurrection proves the efficacy of Jesus’ atonement by defeating death in the resurrection. The New Testament states:

·         1 Corinthians 15:55-58 - 55     “O Death, where is your sting?      O Hades, where is your victory?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

Yes, thanks be to God for the victory over sin we have in Jesus Christ!

The followers of Jesus have the blessed but serious responsibility to share the good news of reconciliation to God through faith in Christ. Those who have been forgiven for their sin through faith in Jesus are God’s ambassadors of reconciliation. In 2 Corinthians 5  Paul is inspired to state this using the word “reconciliation” translated from the Greek katallage. He is inspired to write:

·         2 Corinthians 5:18-21 - 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled [i.e. Greek katallage] us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, [i.e. Greek katallage] 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

This is our priestly call; to share the good news of reconciliation form sin to God. In the power of the Spirit may we share this great news in love (cf. 2 Cor. 5:14-17).

32 ‘If he brings a lamb as his sin offering, he shall bring a female without blemish. 33 Then he shall lay his hand on the head of the sin offering, and kill it as a sin offering at the place where they kill the burnt offering. 34 The priest shall take some of the blood of the sin offering with his finger, put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and pour all the remaining blood at the base of the altar. 35 He shall remove all its fat, as the fat of the lamb is removed from the sacrifice of the peace offering. Then the priest shall burn it on the altar, according to the offerings made by fire to the Lord. So the priest shall make atonement for his sin that he has committed, and it shall be forgiven him.

The shedding of blood is necessary for the atonement (OT – covering;   NT – propitiation) of sin (cf. Heb. 9:22).

Just think of the cost and effort required to atone for sin under the Law of the Old Covenant. Under the New Covenant the cost of sin has been paid once for all by Jesus. The atoning death of Jesus is appropriated by faith in the life of the believer by faith in Christ through prayerful confession and repentance. What a blessed provision God has given in Jesus Christ! He paid a debt He didn’t owe so that those who owed a debt they couldn’t pay could be redeemed.

The Trespass Offering – Leviticus 5-7

The sin offering deals with sin generally. Even if sin was entered into ignorantly or accidentally, it still needed to be atoned for once it came to light. The trespass offering deals with specific sins. The phrase, “trespass offering” occurs 39 times in 35 verses in the Bible. 23 of those occurrences are found in Leviticus.

Jesus died and said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” (Lk. 23:34). Jesus is the solution to our sin in all forms (Rom. 8:3-4; 1 Jn. 1:7, 9). Sin whether general or specific needs atonement.

     ‘If a person sins in hearing the utterance of an oath, and is a witness, whether he has seen or known of the matter—if he does not tell it, he bears guilt.

God is very protective of the truth. The first sin addressed is that of lying. God seeks honesty in our hearts. If you know the truth and don’t share it, you’re guilty. This is true even if you aren’t directly asked the right question. Tell the truth!

2 ‘Or if a person touches any unclean thing, whether it is the carcass of an unclean beast, or the carcass of unclean livestock, or the carcass of unclean creeping things, and he is unaware of it, he also shall be unclean and guilty. 3 Or if he touches human uncleanness—whatever uncleanness with which a man may be defiled, and he is unaware of it—when he realizes it, then he shall be guilty.

4 ‘Or if a person swears, speaking thoughtlessly with his lips to do evil or to do good, whatever it is that a man may pronounce by an oath, and he is unaware of it—when he realizes it, then he shall be guilty in any of these matters.

God wants his people to be true to their word. God doesn’t want us to compromise or sin in word. He wants integrity and honesty. Sins of the tongue reveal a deeper heart problem (Mat. 15:18-19).

5 ‘And it shall be, when he is guilty in any of these matters, that he shall confess that he has sinned in that thing; 6 and he shall bring his trespass offering to the Lord for his sin which he has committed, a female from the flock, a lamb or a kid of the goats as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement for him concerning his sin.

The word “trespass” is translated from the Hebrew term asam and refers to an act or offense that causes guilt. Notice, this offering was to be brought whenever and for every sin. Bringing an animal sacrifice could therefore become very costly which communicates the costliness of sin. It was also complicating to life since it interrupted the normal flow of life. It was important that when a trespass became know, that you paused and brought your offering to the Lord to deal with your sin and restore your relationship with God. Your relationship with God was and is essential to life.

All of this complexity with dealing with sin should make us appreciate the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. Jesus died “once and for all” (Rom. 6:10; Heb. 7:27; 9:12; 10:10). Now we need only come before the Lord confessing our sin repentantly and receiving God’s forgiveness for our sin through faith in Christ. God’s faithfulness in Christ is the basis for our forgiveness (1 Jn. 1:9).

7 ‘If he is not able to bring a lamb, then he shall bring to the Lord, for his trespass which he has committed, two turtledoves or two young pigeons: one as a sin offering and the other as a burnt offering.

God requires that we have a genuine contrition about our sin. We shouldn’t be sorry that we got caught in a sin. We should be repentant that our sin has offended our Holy God (Psalm 51:1-5).

If you can’t afford a lamb, bring a bird. If you can’t bring that bring a little bit of grain. No matter how poor you are, you don’t get off the hook. There are no excuses; you pay up. Deal with your sin.

8 And he shall bring them to the priest, who shall offer that which is for the sin offering first, and wring off its head from its neck, but shall not divide it completely. 9 Then he shall sprinkle some of the blood of the sin offering on the side of the altar, and the rest of the blood shall be drained out at the base of the altar. It is a sin offering. 10 And he shall offer the second as a burnt offering according to the prescribed manner. So the priest shall make atonement on his behalf for his sin which he has committed, and it shall be forgiven him.

11 ‘But if he is not able to bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons, then he who sinned shall bring for his offering one-tenth of an ephah of fine flour as a sin offering. He shall put no oil on it, nor shall he put frankincense on it, for it is a sin offering. 12 Then he shall bring it to the priest, and the priest shall take his handful of it as a memorial portion, and burn it on the altar according to the offerings made by fire to the Lord. It is a sin offering. 13 The priest shall make atonement for him, for his sin that he has committed in any of these matters; and it shall be forgiven him. The rest shall be the priest’s as a grain offering.’ ”

Again, God makes provision for everyone to find forgiveness for their sins.

14 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 15 “If a person commits a trespass, and sins unintentionally in regard to the holy things of the Lord, then he shall bring to the Lord as his trespass offering a ram without blemish from the flocks, with your valuation in shekels of silver according to the shekel of the sanctuary, as a trespass offering. 16 And he shall make restitution for the harm that he has done in regard to the holy thing, and shall add one-fifth to it and give it to the priest. So the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering, and it shall be forgiven him.

17 “If a person sins, and commits any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the Lord, though he does not know it, yet he is guilty and shall bear his iniquity. 18 And he shall bring to the priest a ram without blemish from the flock, with your valuation, as a trespass offering. So the priest shall make atonement for him regarding his ignorance in which he erred and did not know it, and it shall be forgiven him. 19 It is a trespass offering; he has certainly trespassed against the Lord.”

Sin must be atoned. We can’t make restitution for general sins, but we can for specific sins. God instructed people to make restitution for specific sins plus 20%. Restitution was meant to assure that the offender was genuine in their regret over their sinful act. Dealing with sin isn’t accomplished by a casual or shallow “I’m sorry.” That accomplishes little. Sin is dealt with when a person experiences deep regret from the realization of the wrongness of their sin. The evidence that one is sincerely sorry and repentant about their sin is evidenced in their willingness to not repeat that sin and to make restitution. That is true under the Old and New Testament. Dealing with sin is not accomplished with mere words, but with actions that back up those words.

God wants his people to be truthful through and through. He wants honesty in our hearts (Ps. 51:6-12). That’s because relationships can’t exist where there is lying. Lying and dishonesty will destroy a relationship faster than just about anything else. Therefore we need to come clean with God (Ps. 51:13-19).

Leviticus 6

     And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 2 “If a person sins and commits a trespass against the Lord by lying to his neighbor about what was delivered to him for safekeeping, or about a pledge, or about a robbery, or if he has extorted from his neighbor, 3 or if he has found what was lost and lies concerning it, and swears falsely—in any one of these things that a man may do in which he sins: 4 then it shall be, because he has sinned and is guilty, that he shall restore what he has stolen, or the thing which he has extorted, or what was delivered to him for safekeeping, or the lost thing which he found, 5 or all that about which he has sworn falsely. He shall restore its full value, add one-fifth more to it, and give it to whomever it belongs, on the day of his trespass offering. 6 And he shall bring his trespass offering to the Lord, a ram without blemish from the flock, with your valuation, as a trespass offering, to the priest. 7 So the priest shall make atonement for him before the Lord, and he shall be forgiven for any one of these things that he may have done in which he trespasses.”

God requires restitution in His system of justice. The 20% added to the restitution is disciplinary. God disciplines those He loves (Prov. 3:11-12). He wants us to learn the costliness of sin. He wants us to gain wisdom and a sense of integrity. He wants to motivate us to be sorry enough to not repeat our sin.

8 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 9 “Command Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the law of the burnt offering: The burnt offering shall be on the hearth upon the altar all night until morning, and the fire of the altar shall be kept burning on it. 10 And the priest shall put on his linen garment, and his linen trousers he shall put on his body, and take up the ashes of the burnt offering which the fire has consumed on the altar, and he shall put them beside the altar. 11 Then he shall take off his garments, put on other garments, and carry the ashes outside the camp to a clean place. 12 And the fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it; it shall not be put out. And the priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and lay the burnt offering in order on it; and he shall burn on it the fat of the peace offerings. 13 A fire shall always be burning on the altar; it shall never go out.

The perpetually burning fire points to the perpetual intercession of the Lord on our behalf (Heb. 7:25). And we too need to be totally committed. Don’t burn out burn bright. Ministers are ministers only while at church. There’s no down time. Christians aren’t off. We serve the Lord always.

14 ‘This is the law of the grain offering: The sons of Aaron shall offer it on the altar before the Lord. 15 He shall take from it his handful of the fine flour of the grain offering, with its oil, and all the frankincense which is on the grain offering, and shall burn it on the altar for a sweet aroma, as a memorial to the Lord. 16 And the remainder of it Aaron and his sons shall eat; with unleavened bread it shall be eaten in a holy place; in the court of the tabernacle of meeting they shall eat it. 17 It shall not be baked with leaven. I have given it as their portion of My offerings made by fire; it is most holy, like the sin offering and the trespass offering. 18 All the males among the children of Aaron may eat it. It shall be a statute forever in your generations concerning the offerings made by fire to the Lord. Everyone who touches them must be holy.’ ”

The offering of grain was given to the Lord. A hand full was burnt. The rest went to Aaron and his sons to support them. All the offering was to the Lord, but the Lord directed the offering would go to support the ministers.

We shouldn’t resent that offerings support the pastor or those ministering in the church.

19 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 20 “This is the offering of Aaron and his sons, which they shall offer to the Lord, beginning on the day when he is anointed: one-tenth of an ephah of fine flour as a daily grain offering, half of it in the morning and half of it at night. 21 It shall be made in a pan with oil. When it is mixed, you shall bring it in. The baked pieces of the grain offering you shall offer for a sweet aroma to the Lord. 22 The priest from among his sons, who is anointed in his place, shall offer it. It is a statute forever to the Lord. It shall be wholly burned. 23 For every grain offering for the priest shall be wholly burned. It shall not be eaten.”

24 Also the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 25 “Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, ‘This is the law of the sin offering: In the place where the burnt offering is killed, the sin offering shall be killed before the Lord. It is most holy. 26 The priest who offers it for sin shall eat it. In a holy place it shall be eaten, in the court of the tabernacle of meeting. 27 Everyone who touches its flesh must be holy. And when its blood is sprinkled on any garment, you shall wash that on which it was sprinkled, in a holy place. 28 But the earthen vessel in which it is boiled shall be broken. And if it is boiled in a bronze pot, it shall be both scoured and rinsed in water. 29 All the males among the priests may eat it. It is most holy. 30 But no sin offering from which any of the blood is brought into the tabernacle of meeting, to make atonement in the holy place, shall be eaten. It shall be burned in the fire.

Verse 28 speaks of an earthen vessel and it being broken. Godly sorrow brings brokenness and repentance (2 Cor. 7:10). Scripture also likens us to earthen vessels (2 Cor. 4:7).  Brokenness releases God’s power in us.

Leviticus 7

     ‘Likewise this is the law of the trespass offering (it is most holy): 2 In the place where they kill the burnt offering they shall kill the trespass offering. And its blood he shall sprinkle all around on the altar. 3 And he shall offer from it all its fat. The fat tail and the fat that covers the entrails, 4 the two kidneys and the fat that is on them by the flanks, and the fatty lobe attached to the liver above the kidneys, he shall remove; 5 and the priest shall burn them on the altar as an offering made by fire to the Lord. It is a trespass offering. 6 Every male among the priests may eat it. It shall be eaten in a holy place. It is most holy. 7 The trespass offering is like the sin offering; there is one law for them both: the priest who makes atonement with it shall have it. 8 And the priest who offers anyone’s burnt offering, that priest shall have for himself the skin of the burnt offering which he has offered. 9 Also every grain offering that is baked in the oven and all that is prepared in the covered pan, or in a pan, shall be the priest’s who offers it. 10 Every grain offering, whether mixed with oil or dry, shall belong to all the sons of Aaron, to one as much as the other.

The trespass offering was to be eaten by the priests.

11 ‘This is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings which he shall offer to the Lord: 12 If he offers it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer, with the sacrifice of thanksgiving, unleavened cakes mixed with oil, unleavened wafers anointed with oil, or cakes of blended flour mixed with oil.

The peace offering was to be thankfully eaten by the priests. Worship and express thanks to the Lord for putting away sin.

13 Besides the cakes, as his offering he shall offer leavened bread with the sacrifice of thanksgiving of his peace offering.

Why the use of leaven here? Because God is saying bring what you have; come as you are. We may feel like we’ve been tarnished by our dealings in the world and think, I had a bad week so I’m not going to church this week. God doesn’t want that. We should come to the Lord with what we have, not justifying sin, but coming with what we have and with who we are. It’s better to come with what we have than not to come at all. Don’t hold back from the Lord. Don’t make excuses.

14 And from it he shall offer one cake from each offering as a heave offering to the Lord. It shall belong to the priest who sprinkles the blood of the peace offering. 15 ‘The flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offering for thanksgiving shall be eaten the same day it is offered. He shall not leave any of it until morning. 16 But if the sacrifice of his offering is a vow or a voluntary offering, it shall be eaten the same day that he offers his sacrifice; but on the next day the remainder of it also may be eaten; 17 the remainder of the flesh of the sacrifice on the third day must be burned with fire. 18 And if any of the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offering is eaten at all on the third day, it shall not be accepted, nor shall it be imputed to him; it shall be an abomination to him who offers it, and the person who eats of it shall bear guilt.

Don’t put off your meal and time of worship with the Lord.

19 ‘The flesh that touches any unclean thing shall not be eaten. It shall be burned with fire. And as for the clean flesh, all who are clean may eat of it. 20 But the person who eats the flesh of the sacrifice of the peace offering that belongs to the Lord, while he is unclean, that person shall be cut off from his people. 21 Moreover the person who touches any unclean thing, such as human uncleanness, an unclean animal, or any abominable unclean thing, and who eats the flesh of the sacrifice of the peace offering that belongs to the Lord, that person shall be cut off from his people.’ ”

22 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 23 “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘You shall not eat any fat, of ox or sheep or goat. 24 And the fat of an animal that dies naturally, and the fat of what is torn by wild beasts, may be used in any other way; but you shall by no means eat it. 25 For whoever eats the fat of the animal of which men offer an offering made by fire to the Lord, the person who eats it shall be cut off from his people. 26 Moreover you shall not eat any blood in any of your dwellings, whether of bird or beast. 27 Whoever eats any blood, that person shall be cut off from his people.’ ”

God seeks to ingrain the truth of the message of the fat through repetition. If Got repeats something it means it’s important to Him. Remember then, the “fat” was believed to be the best part. Fat burned in the fire is what gives off the aroma in the meat. God reserved the fat for Himself. Some might see that and ask why God would take this part. Fat may smell good, but we know today that fat is the most unhealthy part of the meat. That tells us that God spares us from what we see as attractive, but what He knows is harmful to us.

God has our best interests at heart. If He tells us to stay away from something, we should listen. Sometimes we see something that smells good. It may be an attractive unbeliever or an attractive vice of this world. We like the smell. We’re attracted to it. But God says let it alone and let Me take care of that. The reason for that is that God wants to protect us and guide us to His best. Listen to the Lord and the prescriptions of His word. He only wants the best for you.

28 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 29 “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘He who offers the sacrifice of his peace offering to the Lord shall bring his offering to the Lord from the sacrifice of his peace offering. 30 His own hands shall bring the offerings made by fire to the Lord. The fat with the breast he shall bring, that the breast may be waved as a wave offering before the Lord. 31 And the priest shall burn the fat on the altar, but the breast shall be Aaron’s and his sons’. 32 Also the right thigh you shall give to the priest as a heave offering from the sacrifices of your peace offerings. 33 He among the sons of Aaron, who offers the blood of the peace offering and the fat, shall have the right thigh for his part. 34 For the breast of the wave offering and the thigh of the heave offering I have taken from the children of Israel, from the sacrifices of their peace offerings, and I have given them to Aaron the priest and to his sons from the children of Israel by a statute forever.’ ”

The wave offering was a way of worshiping the Lord. Aaron and his sons got the shoulders of the animal because they were shouldering the burdens of the people and they would be provided for too.

35 This is the consecrated portion for Aaron and his sons, from the offerings made by fire to the Lord, on the day when Moses presented them to minister to the Lord as priests. 36 The Lord commanded this to be given to them by the children of Israel, on the day that He anointed them, by a statute forever throughout their generations.

37 This is the law of the burnt offering, the grain offering, the sin offering, the trespass offering, the consecrations, and the sacrifice of the peace offering, 38 which the Lord commanded Moses on Mount Sinai, on the day when He commanded the children of Israel to offer their offerings to the Lord in the Wilderness of Sinai.

These offerings show us the life of Jesus. In the burnt offering Jesus lays His life down. In the grain offering Jesus is sifted, tempted in the wilderness to show purity. In the peace offering we learn of the peace provided by Jesus. The sin offering shows us Jesus died for the sins of the world and in the trespass offering Jesus atones for our particular sins.

For us we get saved when we discover we are a sinner, a trespasser in particular. We discover we are a sinner not because we sinned but we sinned because we are a sinner; we have a sin nature. Then we experience the peace of God through faith in Christ. There is no condemnation for those in Christ (Rom. 8:1). Then we seek to be refined and serve the Lord. We cry sift me Lord. Lastly, we give ourselves totally to the Lord. Our cry is consume me Lord.

Where are you on that path of offering, this process? Jesus said if you lose your life you’ll find it. If anyone would follow Christ, they musts deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Him. The way to live is to die. The further you go in this process the more joy and happiness you’ll experience in the Lord. There’s a lot to take in and learn from the sacrificial offerings of the Lord. God open our eyes and teach us. Work Your work in us.

The Heart of Offering

David is described by God as “a man after Mine own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14; Acts 13:22). David is a prominent figure in the Bible being mentioned 1058 times. Sixteen times the phrase “Son of David” is used to refer to Messiah. David was courageous as demonstrated by his defeat of Goliath, a warrior who measured nine and a half feet tall with weaponry and a bad attitude to match. When Goliath defied God and his armies and everyone cowered under the echoing taunts of the behemoth, it was young David the shepherd boy who courageously stepped up and was used by God to work a great victory (1 Sam. 17). David was a man of integrity and uprightness. He resisted taking matters into his own hands by not taking advantage of a number of opportunities to slay the crazed King Saul (1 Sam 24; 26). He was obedient to God’s word and the spirit of it stating he would not raise his hand against “the Lord’s anointed” (1 Sam. 24:6; 26:11; compare with Psalm 105:15). He was the “sweet psalmist of Israel,” an inspired communicator and anointed leader of God (2 Sam 23:1-2).

But what makes David so encouraging a figure is that God referred to him as “a man after Mine own heart,” even though he wasn’t perfect. He pretended to be insane to escape arrest (1 Sam 21:10-15). He fled Israel and served with the Philistines for a time (1 Sam 21-31). He was a bloody leader on occasion (1 Sam. 27:9). He committed adultery and tried to cover it up with murder (2 Sam. 11-12). He wasn’t the best father to his children which led to family strife (2 Sam. 13-18) which boiled over into political strife as well (2 Sam. 19-20). And toward the end of his life he succumbed to the temptation to depend more on his own forces as measured by statistics than on God (2 Sam 24). Those are some pretty serious sins. Many of us would look at that and think how could this be a man after God’s own heart?  The answer to that question is revealed in how David handled God’s discipline for his final sin.

In 2 Samuel 24 David gives in to the temptation to act faithlessly. He turns his back on God. He ignores all that God has done for him. How did he do this? He is presented with the tempting thought of numbering his military in order to plan his upcoming campaigns. The account seems to indicate it was God who brought this temptation (2 Sam. 24:1). But God tempts no one. People are tempted when they are carried away by their own desires (James. 1:13-14).  Further study reveals that Satan acted as the tempter (1 Chron. 21:1). God sovereignly permitted Satan to tempt David and David succumbed to this temptation. David’s relying on his own presumed strength was not only an act of weak faith but an affront to God; a shallow disrespectful disregard for all God had done for him in his life. This was enough to greatly anger God. God disciplines those he loves (Heb. 12). But because David was King God’s discipline impacted the nation.

The account of this sin of David in his later years sheds light on the godly heart of this great man. What do we learn in this passage of the heart of the man after God’s own heart?   

First, David’s sin was out of character for him (24:2-3). When David orders general Joab to number the people, Joab questions David’s actions saying, “Why does my lord the king desire this thing?” David had never had this done before. He had never depended merely on the strength of his forces. Indeed, from a youth David had faced great odds by faith in God and been victorious in the strength of the Lord. Now David was lowering himself by acting like any other secular or pagan king. David wasn’t acting in faith in God. Joab found this surprising, which tells us it was out of character for King David.

David was a man of faith (Heb. 11:32-33). But even people of faith can act faithlessly on occasion. That shows us David was human. He wasn’t perfect. And that should be encouraging to us. Even though we, as David, aren’t perfect, God can still refer to us a people after His own heart.

Second, David’s heart was sensitive to sin (24:5-10a). David insisted on numbering the people. As soon as he had numbered the people it’s as though he came to his senses and thought what on earth am I doing? I’ve completely left God out of this. I’ve forgotten to seek the Lord and rely on Him. “I have sinned greatly in what I have done.” David’s heart was sensitive to sin. He sensed he had offended God.

It says, “David’s heart condemned him . . .” (24:10a). The word “condemned” (Heb. Wayyak) means literally to strike down, hit, kill, smite, or beat. What David had done hit him like a ton of bricks. Heaviness came upon him, a grief over what he had done. David wrote in the Psalms that God doesn’t hear the prayers of those who regard iniquity in their hearts (Ps. 66:18).  The lines of communication between David and God were cut because of his sin and for a man after God’s own heart that was a devastating blow.

Third, David’s heart didn’t sugarcoat his sin (24:10b). As soon as he felt the conviction of the Spirit, he immediately turned to the Lord in prayer. He immediately sought to make things right again with God.  He asked God to “take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have done very foolishly” (24:10). These words shine a bright light into the nature of the godly heart of David.

David didn’t try to excuse himself or rationalize his sin. He saw what he had done as “iniquity.” Iniquity (Heb. Awon) refers to sin that is twisted or distorted, a deviation from the way, perverse. David knew his action to number the people was a twisted distortion of God’s blessings of him and the nation. God was the One who had multiplied and strengthened the people and now David faithlessly made the blessing more his focus than the One Who blesses. That is twisted. Whenever we give priority to things or the blessings of God over God that is twisted and sinful. And David was honest with God about what he had done.

Fourth, David’s heart was humbly surrendered to God’s discipline (24:10c). David came humbly before God as, “Your servant.” He came willing to submit to whatever discipline God levied against him. He had learned from his sin with Bathsheba that one needs to be contrite and submissive to God because sin is against the Holy God (cf. Ps. 51:1-6). David knew and admitted that he had acted “foolishly.” To act foolishly is to fail to factor God into life’s equation. Foolishness is to disregard and step outside the parameters of God and His word. David humbly confessed this to God.

Fifth, David’s heart rested in the mercy of God (24:11-17). Through Gad the seer God gave David three disciplinary options. David’s ultimate decision was, “Please let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for His mercies are great; but do not let me fall into the hands of man” (24:14). The discipline was severe upon David and the people, but it was also merciful. The heart of David was fully surrendered to God trusting in his mercy. David could do this because of his relationship with God. He had enough faith in God and knew God well enough to know that God’s discipline would be just as well as merciful.

The word “mercies” (24:14; Heb. rechem) refers to the deep compassion and pity of God. In Lamentations Jeremiah was inspired to write:

·         Lamentations 3:22-24 - Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!”

God would not act cruelly or in a way out of proportion with the offense. It’s always best to rest in God’s determinations. He is a God of love and mercy, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort (2 Cor. 1:3-4).

Sixth, David’s heart worshipped God with a costly meaningful offering (24:18-25). Gad got a word from the Lord that David should erect an altar and worship God. This altar was to be specifically built on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite (24:18). David was immediate in his obedience to God’s instructions (24:19). When David went to Araunah to purchase the land to build the altar Araunah offered him land for free. Here was another test for David. Would he accept the bargain of the land for free? Or would he proceed in the spirit and integrity of true worship? Would he cheapen his offering by accepting the bargain basement price or would he put his heart into his offering by paying the full cost? David chose to pay Araunah the full price. Why? David said, “No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God with that which costs me nothing.” (24:24). David wanted his offering to the Lord to be worth something. He offered God something of value; something that cost him. He wasn’t going to worship God or make Him an offering on the cheap. He wanted God to know he was truly sorry for his sin and that He was worth the full cost of his offering.

There’s something very important to understand here. David wasn’t presenting an offering to appease God in an attempt to purchase God’s favor. No, David offered two offerings, a burnt offering and a peace offering. The burnt offering was an offering that expressed in worship one’s total dedication to God. The peace offering wasn’t made to make peace with God, it was made because peace had already been attained and received and the peace offering was a fellowship meal to celebrate being forgiven and reconciled to God. The offerings made by David on the altar here expressed a deep restoration between him and God. David didn’t want to cheapen that in any way.

If you receive a gift and then find out the giver paid nothing for it, the gift becomes less meaningful. It’s insulting to be given a gift that cost the giver nothing. That is what David did not want God to feel. He wanted God to know their relationship was worth the full price of the land upon which an altar would be built and an offering would be made. The message was worshipping You is worth a lot. The godly heart won’t skimp or cheat God by offering Him bargains or anything that is less than the best.

The heart of offering. When we look at David we see a perfect example from an imperfect man of how offerings of worship to God should be made. Jon Courson summarizes the godly heart of David and the significance of the way he made his offering to God when he states:

In this passage, I think we are given understanding and insight into what made David so great. Why was he alone called a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14)? It certainly wasn’t because he was sinless, for he had a series of failures that I daresay match or exceed any of ours. In fact, if he were on trial before the Christian community, I suggest the Christian community would have had a tendency to write him off long ago. Saul, on the other hand, would be applauded and approved. Saul, too, made mistakes. But not as seemingly blatant as David’s. Therefore, I suggest that, in the eyes of human understanding, Saul would be exalted, and David would be dismissed as one who wasted his potential.

 

But that wasn’t God’s verdict. Why? Because God looks at the heart and David had a heart for God.

 

“Take the property,” Araunah said. “Make your sacrifice so the plague might be stopped. It’s free. It’s yours.”

 

“I will not give the Lord that which costs me nothing,” David said.

 

Hear the heart of David. “I won’t skimp,” he said. “I won’t cheat God. Yes, I failed Him in the past. But my heart is devoted to Him.”

 

If you want to know the heart of David, read the Psalms. Saul never wrote a single psalm because Saul didn’t have a heart for the Lord. Saul was outwardly impressive, but he used the things of God to exalt himself. David, on the other hand, used himself to exalt the things of God. When David penned the Psalms, he didn’t know they would be preserved and studied for centuries. He was simply writing love letters. He just loved God.

 

What would you have done had Araunah come to you and said, “Take the property. Here’s the wood for the sacrifice. Here’s the oxen. Just take it”?

 

Would you have said, “Great! I can save a few shekels”? Or do you have a heart like David’s, a heart that says, “I will give everything I have, everything I am to the One who gave His all for me”?

 

Many of us are skimpy and small. We give the Lord the leftovers of our time, of our energy. You might not be committing any moral sin. But God sees the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). He’s looking for men and women who say, “I’m devoted to worshiping the Lord. I’m devoted to extolling and praising Him. I’m devoted to paying the full price.”

 

Although severely chastened again, even at the end of his life, David is still to be exalted by the Lord and acknowledged throughout history as one of the very greatest of all men who ever lived. Why? Because he had a heart after God. Do you? [4]

 

It’s interesting that the threshing floor of Araunah was the site of three significant events in history. It was the place where Abraham offered Isaac (Gen. 22:2). It was the location where the Temple (where sacrificial offerings were made to God) was eventually built by King Solomon (1 Chron. 21:18; 22:1; 2 Chron. 3:1 – Ornan is Araunah). And ultimately it was the place where Jesus gave Himself as our atoning substitutionary sacrifice on the cross (Mat. 27:33; Mk. 15:22; Lk. 23:33; Jn. 19:17). The person after God’s own heart knows from the testimony of the threshing floor of Araunah (or Ornan), Mount Moriah, that offerings to the Lord are costly. Abraham was willing to offer his only son of promise Isaac. Solomon erected a Temple where numerous costly offerings were made to God. The animal sacrifices demonstrated that atonement involves the costly giving of the life of the innocent in place of the guilty. And Jesus demonstrated the ultimate costliness of offering to God by giving His life to redeem us from the penalty of sin. That is the heart of offering.

The question that begs to be asked and answered is what kind of heart do you have? What kind of offerings do you present to God? What is worship and offering to God worth to you? The Bible instructs us to be imitators of God (Eph. 5:1-2). Are you a person after God’s own heart?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



[1] C.I. Scofield, The Scofield Study Bible, New King James Version  (Oxford Univ. Press: New York, NY, 2002 edition). Note on Leviticus 4:12,  page 154.

[2]Courson, J. (2005). Jon Courson's application commentary : Volume one : Genesis-Job (371). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Iniquity (Heb. Awen ) comes from a root word meaning to be strong. The idea is to be self reliant as opposed to reliant on God. It also refers to worldly wicked ways, vain worldly ways. It refers to an offense against God’s holy law. This is an attitude of those who are without God. Certainly this needs to be repented of and covered by the blood.

 

[4]Courson, J. (2005). Jon Courson's application commentary : Volume one : Genesis-Job (958). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.