The Burnt Offering

Leviticus 1  •  19 min. read  •  grade level: 6
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In the offerings we get the purposes and provisions of God for His redeemed people — Christ revealing the heart of God, our Father, in meeting all our need. The very order of these offerings is blessed. The burnt-offering comes first; then the meat-offering; then the peace- offering; and, last, the sin and trespass offerings. Yes, the order suggests the purpose of God to have us unblameable before Him at whatever cost. We may compare these four offerings to a picture gallery. There is God’s end of that gallery, and there is man’s end afar off from God. God is revealed in what Christ is in the perfection of His Person and work, but in order that man, the sinner, may be brought to God, the Holy One must be offered a sacrifice for sin. Hence, in the application of the offerings to the sinner, or to man, the sin-offering (rather, the trespass-offering) comes first. In the Gospels we have, as it were, four distinct photographs of the Lord Jesus, and in these offerings distinct photographs or pictures of His work.1
It will help us to understand the burnt-offering if we notice a few of the offerings, and the place they had from the beginning.
No sooner had our first parents sinned, than we read, “Unto Adam also, and to his wife, did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them” (Gen. 3:2121Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them. (Genesis 3:21)). What a picture in a few words of the purpose of God, namely, through death to find a clothing, even divine righteousness, for lost and naked man. Does it not point to Him whom God raised from the dead, “Who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification”?
In the offerings of the first sons of the human race we get what is, and what is not, acceptable to God. “Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock, and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel, and to his offering: but unto Cain, and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.” Now what was the difference between the two? The principle of Cain was to approach God by his own works, as though nothing was amiss. The principle of Abel was to approach God by faith — in the death of a substitute. “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts,” etc. Yes, God saw in that offering of Abel a type of the atoning death of His only-begotten Son, and therefore reckoned Abel righteous. We shall see throughout Scripture how God responds to faith in the offering. It was not what Cain and Abel were in their own persons, but it was their offerings. You may be as sincere and as religious as Cain; you may bring that for which you have labored, to the true God, and yet be rejected, as he was. There is no way by which you can be accepted but through the death of Jesus.
We will take another case. “God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me.” God said this because He “saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Is not this assuredly the true character of man? Man in the flesh is so bad, God can have no hope in him Death and the flood must pass upon the whole race. Noah and his family alone were saved through the judgment on the world. Believing the warning of God he became the heir of the righteousness which is by faith. On what principle then did God accept him, and bless him? Was it a new trial of man, or did God deal with him through the virtue of the sacrifice? When Noah and his family went forth from the ark, “Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt-offerings on the altar. And the Lord smelled a sweet savor.” Now the great question is this: Will God act according to the savor of the offerings, or will He act towards man according to what man is? If improved, will God bless him? and if not, will He curse him? What does the Lord say on this point? “And the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth: neither will I again smite any more everything living, as I have done. While the earth remaineth, seed-time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night, shall not cease. And God blessed Noah and his sons.” How precious the ways of God in grace shine out here! As to man, there is evil in his heart from his youth. But the action of God flows from what the offering is to Him. Thus all blessing flows to us through the value, and sweet savor of the offering of Christ; yes, even all the earthly blessings man constantly enjoys, seed-time, harvest, all; but how little ran knows this! It is surely most important to understand this principle of the action of God toward us. “He that spared not His own son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” We shall see the force of this if we turn to the trial of Abraham’s faith (Gen. 22). We must expect every bit of faith God gives to be tried. Abraham was commanded to offer up his son. God says, “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt-offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.” Very wonderful was the obedience of faith: he rose up early in the morning. Very touching is the narrative. Then he took Isaac, and the wood, and the fire, and the knife; and all in faith that Isaac, though he die and be consumed on the altar, yet THEY shall return. And his faith looked forward. “My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt-offering so they went both of them together. And Abraham built an altar there” (probably the very place where the beloved Son of God was nailed to the cross), “and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.” The son of Abraham was spared. God did not spare His Son! God did provide a lamb instead of Abraham’s son. “And Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt-offering in the stead of his son.” And, as in the case of Abel and Noah, God now blesses Abraham according to the value He sees in the offering as pointing to Christ. Man is a sinner. The death of the offering opens up the way for the sinner to God, and removes the barrier betwixt God and the sinner. Only let us remember, this could never be done perfectly by the blood of bulls and goats; these were only types and shadows, all pointing forward to the precious blood of Christ. The propitiatory death of Christ is the basis, and explanation of God’s righteousness in all His past, as well as present, dealings with man.
Let us now, in this light, look at the burnt-offering in Leviticus 1. In all these types it is the Lord that speaks; it is the Lord that reveals Himself — first in these types, and then in Jesus, the fulfillment of them. He spake from out of the tabernacle: the veil was not yet rent. The offering brought to the Lord, must (as it is written) be without spot. “If any man of you bring an offering unto the Lord... if his offering be a burnt-sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish; he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord.” What a picture of Him, who became a man — one of us — who came of His own voluntary will to offer Himself. Who, of all that ever trod this sin-defiled earth, was the One, the only One, without blemish? Need we say His name was Jesus! Infinite, yet voluntary love. As one has said, “Who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Oh, the unknown depths of love, when He presented Himself at the door of the tabernacle to God in all the spotless purity and perfectness of divine love, and said, “Father, glorify Thy name.” That is the man, who presented Himself of His own voluntary will, to do the will of Him that sent Him, cost what it might. And was He not accepted for us? “And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt-offering; and it shall be accepted for him, to make atonement for him.” We shall understand this better when we come to the sin-offering. There we shall see how Jesus became identified with us on the cross as the sin-offering, that we might be identified with Him in all the sweet savor of the burnt-offering. Only the absolute need of atonement must be seen even here, in order that we might be thus reconciled to God, and stand identified with Christ, faith, like the hand laid on the head of the victim, linking us with Christ, in all the sweet savor of His Person and work. Yet in order for this He must die, or we could never be thus one with Him. The grain of wheat must die or remain alone” (John 12:2424Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. (John 12:24)). Thus God acts toward us, according to the value He sees in the perfect offering of Christ. “And it shall be accepted for him, to make atonement for him,” or he shall be accepted. Have you laid your hand on this, the firm and blessed ground of faith? He, who made atonement for me, has been accepted for me.
And now, can you say, “I am identified with Him, am one with Him”? Let us contemplate, meditate, on this type of the voluntary offering of Christ for us in all the infinite perfections of His blessed Person. This will bring out, more and more, the heart of God. His purpose is to have us in the likeness of His Son, the first-born among many brethren. His purpose is to bring us into favor in the Beloved. Oh, wondrous, infinite grace.
The offerer may bring a bullock, or a sheep, or goat, or a fowl, a turtledove, or young pigeon. But in either case there must be death. Cain’s offering, without the death of the atoning victim, cannot be accepted. However great or small our apprehension of Christ, there must be the recognized fact of the absolute need of His atonement.
Verse 5. The bullock must be killed before the Lord. The blood must be shed and sprinkled. There can be no approach to God but by the blood of Jesus. Let no man forget this. The blood gives us boldness to enter the holiest. To seek to enter in by any other way will surely be to be rejected, like Cain. Now note the particulars that the Holy Spirit brings before us. The burnt-offering is prepared. “And he shall flay the burnt-offering, and cut it into his pieces.” What a night was that, the night before Jesus was led to the cross! What sufferings known, and unknown to us! How He felt the parting; how He felt the betrayal; how He felt the denying and forsaking — the brutal mockery of the soldiers, and the intense hatred of devils and men! Oh, blessed Jesus, what a night was that to Thee!
But what was all this to the fire on the altar, the searching judgment of God, and yet to find all “of a sweet savor unto the Lord”! The victim had to be washed, to be a fit type of the Holy One of God. “His inwards and his legs shall he wash in water.” The inmost thoughts of His heart, as well as every step of His outward walk, all was divinely pure. “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” The head with all the parts were laid in order on the wood, that is, on the fire which is upon the altar. Yes, the head, all the majesty and glory of Immanuel laid on the wood, and the fire. What a sacrifice for a sweet savor. Thus we have the preciousness of the Person of Christ offered up on the altar, a sweet savor to God.
But what is the meaning of all this? It will surely again help us to remember, that all this is not redemption from Egypt, but God’s provision for a redeemed people. When this is clearly understood, the offerings become intensely interesting and most helpful. You say, When I first believed the gospel I knew I had redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins; but when I think of all my failures since, how can I continue in the favor of God?
Now the very law of the burnt-offering meets this question of continuance. “This is the law of the burnt-offering: It is the burnt-offering, because of the burning upon the altar all night unto the morning, and the fire of the altar shall be burning in it. The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out” (Lev. 6:9-139Command Aaron and his sons, saying, This is the law of the burnt offering: It is the burnt offering, because of the burning upon the altar all night unto the morning, and the fire of the altar shall be burning in it. 10And the priest shall put on his linen garment, and his linen breeches shall he put upon his flesh, and take up the ashes which the fire hath consumed with the burnt offering on the altar, and he shall put them beside the altar. 11And he shall put off his garments, and put on other garments, and carry forth the ashes without the camp unto a clean place. 12And the fire upon the altar shall be burning in it; it shall not be put out: and the priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and lay the burnt offering in order upon it; and he shall burn thereon the fat of the peace offerings. 13The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out. (Leviticus 6:9‑13)). Thus is our God teaching us, that He would make a provision for us, that our acceptance should be continuous in all the sweet savor of Christ. And we must not confound this with resurrection, for it is atonement; and the resurrection of Christ is not for atonement, but our complete justification. The hand was laid on the head of the burnt-offering for acceptance. It is our identification with Christ, in the sweet savor of His offering; and this continuous.
Oh, what amazing grace! not that it reaches to our blessings in the heavenlies in Christ; but here on this earth, all through this dark night until the morning break without a cloud, here we learn how we, from our redemption until we see His face, have become identified with Him continuously, in all His sweet savor.
Now if we turn to Hebrews 10 we shall see this most clearly. We learn that these ever repeated and continuous offerings could never in themselves perfect the worshiper. For if they could, they would have ceased to be offered. The Israelites were redeemed; they had crossed the Red Sea, but still there was ever the remembrance of sins, and the conscience was never perfected. These shadows could never satisfy the heart of God, nor perfect the worshiper. They served to point forward to One who came to accomplish the will of God.
By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once. This is not our redemption nor new birth, nor conversion, but our entire separation to God in all the sweet savor of the offering of Christ to God — all through that one same offering.
Now the offerings of the law could never give continued perfection. “But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins, forever sat down on the right hand of God.” The sacrifices of the law are put in contrast, for nothing finite could be the image of that which is infinite. The work of the priests was never done. The work of Jesus is done: He is set down on the right hand of God. “For by one offering he hath perfected forever [or in unchanging continuity] them that are sanctified.”
Let us for the present dwell only on the burnt- offering aspect of this precious verse. Of His own voluntary will, as He says, “In burnt-offerings... Thou hast had no pleasure: then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of Me) to do Thy will, O God.” In all the spotless purity of His Person He has made atonement, and identified us with Himself in all the sweet savor of that offering, so that we are continuously perfected, all through this dark night until the blessed morning comes, when we, raised in glory, shall see Him as He is and be like Him.
Beloved reader, do you now see that this has not to do with your conversion, but with your whole path, from that moment to the end of your journey? Perhaps you say, “But if I should sin, what then?” We shall see when we come to the sin-offering. Or you may say, “If I find sin working within me, what then?” We shall see when we come to leprosy. You may indeed be amazed to find the whole range of your needs, food, failures, and sins, met in Christ as pictured in these types. And all to the glory of God, His portion, all a sweet savor to Him.
The burnt-offering, however, is the first picture in God’s gallery. Whatever comes after, this is the first thought of God, that we, the redeemed, shall be, in unchanging continuity, perfected by that one offering. And note; the Holy Spirit is a witness that this is so, “Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness.”
The mistake of many is this — that they have one great thing to do to attain to this perfection. Look again, is it what you have to do, or is it what He has done? “For by one offering HE HATH perfected forever them that are sanctified.” In the offering Christ is all. He came from the highest glory, and He presented Himself without spot to God. He was the priest, and He was the spotless victim. He offered Himself wholly a sweet savor to God to make atonement. The fire of divine judgment only brought out the sweeter savor to God. And God hath sanctified us, separated us, by that one offering. And He hath, by the one offering of Himself, perfected us, as to the conscience, in continuance, for that is the well-known meaning of this word translated “forever.”
Now have you the witness of the Holy Spirit? Do you believe His testimony to Jesus? Can the sweet savor of His Person who gave Himself for you ever change? And are you not only redeemed by the blood of Christ, which is the foundation of all, but are you sustained as a worshiper in all the unchanging value and perfection of that one sacrifice? The sweet savor of that one offering shall never cease. Perhaps the most daring wickedness of which man is capable, is to deny the everlasting efficacy of that one offering, and dare to offer a counterfeit, without blood, for the living and the dead. This was borne with during the dark ages, when men had not the Scriptures; but who, that has the indwelling of the Holy Spirit can fail to see, that men now by crowds, who have the Holy Scriptures in their hands, are yet doing their utmost to setup again the counterfeit sacrifice of the Mass? This must be the prelude to the judgment of God on an apostate Christendom.
It is a solemn moment. Do you believe God whether in the typical teaching of Leviticus 1, or the Spirit’s explanation in Hebrews 10?
We may have little apprehension and weak faith; but notice, whether the man brought a bullock, a sheep, a goat, or a fowl, the same truth is presented. “It is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savor unto the Lord.” Yes, such is the love of God our Father; He would have the feeblest, the weakest of His blood-bought children know, that they ARE, not may hope to be, but they are identified with His beloved Son in all the sweet savor of His work and Person. Such is our acceptance; such our unchanging perfection as to the conscience, or charge of sin or evil. This was the will of God. Christ came to do His will. His will is done. He hath forever perfected them that are sanctified.
The detail of God’s thoughts in the various applications of the burnt-offering are most precious. We may see some of these further on. Enough, perhaps, has been said to show the reader the contrast between the Passover and the burnt-offering. When we were first brought to God, it was like Israel redeemed from Egypt by the blood of the Lamb. But, after that, how much we have to learn of the riches of His grace in our wilderness journey. And how much is unfolded in the types of Leviticus . Even as to the great feasts of Jehovah, the passover comes first (Lev. 23).
The perfect order of the Word of God is most wonderful; often we fail to see it from the confusion of human thoughts. Who can tell out the blessedness of seeing the efficacy of the burnt-offering upon us all through our wilderness history? Well, we can only say we joy in such a God and Father. If we take the other offerings in their order, as meeting our every and daily need, we shall have still further cause to joy in God. We will turn next to the meat-offering.
1. The order in Leviticcus 1-5 is God coming out to man. In the gospels the order is man going to God. Omitting the meal-offering, which is found in all four gospels, Matthew is the trespass-offering, Mark the sin-offering, Luke the peace offering, and John the burnt-offering. We first learn that we have committed acts of sin (the trespass-offering needed). Next, we learn that we are sinners in nature (the sin-offering needed). Next, we learn we have unclouded peace and communion (the peace-offering needed). And finally, what is closest to God is Christ’s offering Himself as a sweet-smelling sacrifice to God, and for God, the offering burnt up to Him who alone can measure the unspeakable, infinite, glory and virtue of Christ’s Person imparting infinite value and glory to the offering. Thus, on the day of atonement (Lev. 16) along with the blood of the burnt-offering, there arose a cloud of incense from off the hot coals taken from the brazen altar, that Aaron had in His censer when he presented the blood of the burnt-offering before the Shekinah, the cloud of the glory of the God of Israel, that sitteth between the cherubim. Thus one cloud (the glory of the Person of Christ as the God-man imparting excellency and glory to the work, came before the cloud of glory sitting between the cherubim. As J. T. Armet well said, righteousness can meet the claims of righteousness, but only a cloud can meet a cloud. Indeed; and one glory answered to the other.