So far, we've been looking at the 5 offerings in some depth. But to be honest, Leviticus is a tough book for many of us. What does knowing what to do with animals, sprinkling blood all over the place mean for us modern people? It all seems foreign and outdated. Today's passage takes us back to these 5 offerings again, and in doing so, perhaps we learn something about our worship, God's providence, and fellowship with Him.
Before we go in, it is important to realise the audience for this passage. In Lev 6:8-9, we are told that this set of instructions was for Aaron and his sons, the priests. This is an important distinction, because unlike what we have read previously in Leviticus, which was for all of Israel (Lev 1:2), God now turns His attention to the priests who are to handle this system. This helps us understand the verses, and see them not as repetition, but specific instructions for the people that God has set aside to serve Him.
(A) Worship: Continual, and never ending (6:8-13)
Lev 6:9-13 begins with a description of the burnt offering. One phrase is repeated 3 times (v.9,12,13) -- "fire of the altar shall be kept burning on it". In Lev 1, we learnt that the burnt offering was one that was common and compulsory, the "bottom line offering" that accompanied many different offerings. It was the offering which had to be carried out all the time in order for God to tabernacle (i.e. dwell) with his people. Thus, God’s priests were told to never let the fire on the altar go out because the worship of God for the Israelites was never meant to end. It was continual worship, a never-ending activity. Having a fire go continually and the prolonged smell of a burnt offering was a sensory experience, and reminded the people of the presence of God. Worship is an essential duty.
What does this mean for us today? How does continual, uninterrupted worship look like in our lives? Does it mean we are always singing songs of worship, praying or reading the bible? It means that all our life is built around God, and we are purposefully living our lives for God in all areas of our lives -- work, school, family, friends, enemies, hobbies, etc. Practical steps include setting aside time to read the Bible and to pray deeply! We are all busy people and it is a real struggle. But as what we have been learning, these offerings and sacrifices are meant for a God worthy of worship, and a God worthy of the best, not the leftovers. As we do so, worship and living in light of this God becomes our basic and fundamental identity. Is your burnt offering always there? Can you think of areas in your life that you know is against God’s will through his word? Let us all examine our lives that we may live lives of continual worship.
(B) Providence: God’s gracious providence to His priests for their full devotion (6:14-7:10)
The next set of verses in Lev 6:14-23 discuss the grain offering. Previously, we've learnt that grain offerings teach us about the expression of thanksgiving and gratefulness to God. In Lev 6, the priests are instructed by God about two types of grain offerings. The first is offered by the people of Israel (v.14-18). This is the same one which we learnt about in Lev 2, and in this chapter, we learn even more about it. The grain offering offered by the people shall be given to Aaron and his sons after a memorial portion has been burned. This portion is most holy and is the LORD’s, and not anyone else’s. This is a simple principle for us to apply. We see that as the people offered their grain offerings, the priests are sustained and taken care of. God makes provisions for His priests, and involves the people in this provision. God uses our offerings to Him to sustain the ministry of the church and ministers of the gospel in full time work through our tithes. Are you giving? Our offerings are also used by God.
The second type of grain offering is offered by the Priests (v.19-23), specifically offered on the day when they are anointed. This is offered by the high priest. There is one major difference compared to the latter -- "the whole of it shall be burned" (v.22). This offering had nothing left to be eaten. Why is this so? Realise here that the Priest was giving their personal offering. As such, they should not be getting a portion of their offering back since this is their personal offering to God. They had to give their all without expecting a portion back in return. We also see here the universality of the thanksgiving offering. Gratefulness is a discipline for everyone, priest or the common people. It did not mean that one in ministry should cease being grateful to God.
Lev 6:24-28 takes us to the sin offering. In Lev 4:1-5-13, we read of 4 instances where the sin offering was to be offered -- sin of the priest, sin of the whole congregation, sin of a leader, and sin of a common lay person. Reading the verses in Lev 4:1-5-14, we notice some differences between the former two cases (sin of the priest and whole congregation), compared to the latter two. The former two cases require the entire sin offering to be burnt up, with none left for the priest who offers it. However, for the latter cases (leader and common people), there is no mention that the rest of the offering not burned on the altar must be burned up, i.e. there were portions left over. Lev 6:24-28 addresses the latter cases, and here we are told that the priest can eat it (v.29). It also tells us that the blood of the offering is holy, and shall not leave the holy place (v.30). Why is this significant? The instances where the offering is wholly burned up involves the sins of the priests (either when they've sinned, or when they're offering it on behalf of the whole congregation, which includes them). Like the grain offering before, all must be burned as the priest should not be getting something back from what he is personally offering to God.
The instructions for the guilt offering in Lev 7:1-7 are similar to the sin offering. In fact, this similarity is explicitly state in Lev 7:7 -- "The guilt offering is just like the sin offering; there is one law for them". Once more, we also see that the priest who makes atonement can have it (Lev 7:7b). As we read more about Lev 7:8-10, what can we learn about this God to whom the offering is made? This is a generous God who provides for his priests. Notice that even in the burnt offerings, which is wholly burned up without any exception, God gives the skin of the offering (v.8). That is leather, and we remember that this is leather of the highest quality, for the animals being offered are the ones without blemish, perfect animals. This is consistent with what was mentioned in the grain offering, where Aaron and his sons were given a portion (Lev 6:17). Do you realise that this is a God who provides for the people who devote their entire lives to him? Think about what it means to be a priest in Israel, where they were the only tribe not given a portion of land. It would not be surprising that they would struggle with feelings of insecurity, jealousy, envy, bitterness when they saw their peers having land, building wealth, having status in their society, when all they had was a system that they had serve. This might not be very different from the things we struggle with today. Perhaps you feel short-changed as well, when you devote your time to serving in church, and cannot do things or pursue things your peers are? Perhaps you see it when you have "spend time reading the Bible"and "doing God's will" instead of doing other things? These verses in Leviticus are precious for us, because it teaches us that this is a God who kindly and gracious provides for those who serve him whole-heartedly. He cares for them and they don’t get less in return. 1 Peter 2:9 tells us:
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light”
As Christians who are set apart, we are the royal priesthood, a people for His possession. As we proclaim the excellencies of Him, we can take comfort in the fact that this is a God who provides for His people that devote their life to Him and His service.
(C) Fellowship: God dwelling with His people through His Priests (7:11-38)
We move on to the last of the 5 offerings -- the peace offerings. Lev 7:11-18 outlines three different motivations of the peace offerings. The thanksgiving offering (7:12) is to be accompanied with unleavened loaves mixed with oil, unleavened wafers smeared with oil, loaves of fine flour well mixed with oil, loaves of leavened bread. It was to be eaten on the day of the offering (7:15). The other two kinds of offering, the vow and freewill offering, which is to be eaten on the day of offering and the next. Any uneaten portion is to be burned up in fire. The peace offering is mainly about the meal after, where the priests, the worshipper, and God will fellowship over a meal.
Lev 7:19-27 also goes to some detail about being clean for the fellowship meal. Being clean is important because we remember that we are coming to fellowship with a holy God and this is not something to be taken lightly. It is different from the other offerings because it involves fellowship. We know this intuitively. Imagine meeting someone important, say the Prime Minister, your other half’s parents for the first time, etc. Wouldn't you strive to look to be at your best? Now, how much more important is it to be prepared and clean when we come before a holy God, the one who is Lord over everything? The people, and the priests, were mindful of the holiness of God, and their corresponding sinfulness. Notice also that the fat (7:24) and blood (7:26) goes to God. The best (i.e. fat) goes to Him and the blood that represents life and is for the atonement of the worshipper is not eaten either. Do we come to God with our best? What is fellowship with God to you? Is it the best thing or is fellowship with God secondary in your life? We must enjoy our fellowship with God as much as, if not more than anything else. Leviticus teaches us that this is not a God that we are meant come to 15 minutes a day as a chore. This is a God that deserves our best.
Some final details about the peace offering is provided for us in Lev 7:28-36. We are told specifically that the worshipper brings the offering (7:29) and the fat and breast was to be brought (7:30). Notice how it is described in verse 30. It is described as "the LORD's food offerings", implying that it is not the worshipper that gives to the priest but it is the LORD who ultimately provides the offering that the worshipper offers. The breast is waved as a wave offering, and given to the priests. The fat is burned as we already know and the right thigh goes to the priest who offers the blood and fat. Once again, we see plainly the provision of God for his priest and even the worshipper here. The worshipper gives up his offering to the LORD and the LORD provides for His priests, granting to them their "perpetual due" (v.36).
After 7 chapters describing 5 offerings, let us summarise it all in the table below. Each of the offerings symbolise something different, and were to be presented at different occasions.
|5 Offerings||Burnt offerings (Lev 1:17)||Grain offerings (Lev 2:1-16)||Peace offerings (Lev 3:1-17)||Sin offerings (Lev 4:1-5:13)||Guilt offerings (Lev 5:14-6:7)|
|Key points from studies|| (A) The first of the five: The common burnt offering|
(C) Significance of the burnt offering: atonement and worship
| (A) Instructions on the uncooked grain offering: fine flour or firstfruits with oil and frankincense|
(B) Instruction on the cooked grain offering: prepared unleavened with oil and without honey
(C) The meaning of the grain offering: costly thanksgiving and worship to God
| (A) Fellowship at a cost: the picture of peace offering|
(B) Fellowship through the cross: the reality of the peace offering
| (A) Sin: our condition and rebellion against a holy God|
(B) Sin offerings: the atonement that enables us to live with a holy God
| (A) Personalizing guilt: three ways we incur guilt|
(B) Prioritizing guilt: misery of guilt and our culture’s response
(C) Purging guilt: how to do it
|What the Worshipper Does||Bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting |
Lay his hand on the head of the offering
Kill the offering
Flay the offering and cut it into pieces
Wash entrails and legs
| Pour oil and put frankincense |
Bring it to priests
| Lay his hand on the head of the offering |
Kill it at the entrance of the tent of meeting
Bring the fat and the breast
Offer the fat
Partake in fellowship meal
| Bring the offering to the entrance of the tent of meeting |
Lay hands on the head of the bull and kill it
| Bring the offering to the entrance of the tent of meeting |
|What the Priest Does||Throw the blood against the side of the altar|
Put fire on the altar and arrange the wood
Arrange the pieces, the head and the fat on the wood
Burn all of it on the altar
Handle the ashes
|Take a handful of fine flour and oil, and all frankincense, and burn it|
Eat the rest if it in a holy place
|Throw blood against the sides of the altar|
Burn the offering on the altar
Partake in fellowship meal
|Bring some blood and bring it into the tent of meeting and sprinkle it (former cases)|
Put some blood on the horns of the altar of fragrant incense and pour out the rest of the blood in at the altar of burnt offering
Remove the fat and burn it
Carry non-burned portions to a clean place and burn it (former cases)
For latter cases, the priest who offered it can eat it
|Throw blood on the sides of the altar|
Remove the fat and burn it
Eat of the rest of it
Leviticus details for us the specificities of each offering. What does it mean for us? We do not have to offer these offerings because Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of all the above! Through his sacrifice for our sins, the fire on the altar has gone out as Jesus Christ died for our sins, and satisfied a Holy God forever. Through Jesus Christ, God provides everything that would satisfy Man’s heart. He is God’s ultimate provision, and having obeyed God the Father to the point of death, even death on the cross, Jesus sits at the right hand of God and ruling over all things, with all power and authority. God gives His true high priest everything. This God that has also given us the best in the form of His Son, if you are his minister and servant, wouldn't you trust Him to provide for you? Through Jesus Christ, we also have fellowship, for He is our ultimate priest. Lev 6-7 were given to the priests, and it calls us to worship, calls us to see God's providence and also His desire to fellowship with man. Today, as you read it, do you see His provisions ultimately in Christ in whom we have all spiritual blessings, and through whom we can fellowship with God and others? As we see that Christ in all these offerings, let us worship Him, see Him as everything and walk with Him.