The Sacrifices of God (Leviticus 1:1-7:38)
Topic: One Truth: Walk in Truth Passage: Leviticus 1:1–7:38
The Sacrifices of God
(One Truth: Walk in Truth)
November 12th, 2017
I. Considering the Old Through the New
Christians have always had a complicated relationship with the Old Testament.
From the earliest days of the church, as those living in the New Covenant, Christians have often swung to extremes in response the Old Covenant. The NT bears witness to these extremes. Some have condemned the law and thrown off all moral obligations. Others have made the law an ongoing requirement. Some struggled with dietary freedom in light of Christ, while others condemned those who held to dietary restrictions as Christians
Whether it was food, or the Sabbath, or circumcision, many in the early church struggled to know what did and what did not apply to them.
And today isn't much better. There are still Christians who say we should observe the OT dietary laws and festivals, and then other Christians who ignore the OT altogether.
So what should WE do? As we continue through the book of Leviticus, this is not a purely speculative question, is it? If we focus on just this one book, this one part of the Law, and within that, focus only on what we studied thus far, we have to ask, “What are supposed to do with this strange, but spectacular teaching on sacrifice?”
That's what the first seven chapters of the book are all about: sacrifice; sacrifices; animal sacrifices and grain offerings. But what about you? What about me? If rule out the idea the idea that God wants us to follow these instructions to the letter, then what should we do with these chapters, with this teaching?
Let's figure that out together as we turn to Leviticus chapter 6.
II. The Passage: "To Bring Their Offerings" (6:12, 13; 7:37, 38)
So we covered, or at least touched on, most of the material in Leviticus chapters 1-7. The verses we have not talked about or touched on in chapters 6 and 7 are all instructions to the priest. If the first five chapters gave general information for the people about which sacrifices to offer and when, chapters 6 and 7 deal with specific instructions for the priests about how to correctly handle those different sacrifices.
Let's look at one of these instructions together, and consider what it tells us about the importance of this sacrificial system. Look with me at chapter 6, verses 12 and 13. This is what we read there about the large altar that was out in the courtyard of the Tent of Meeting:
The fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it; it shall not go out. The priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and he shall arrange the burnt offering on it and shall burn on it the fat of the peace offerings.  Fire shall be kept burning on the altar continually; it shall not go out.
So if you recall, the burnt offering was the most common offering in Israel. It was the general offering of atonement for sin. But why this instruction for the priest? Why was it important to keep that fire burning at all times? I believe the reason is that God was providing a picture for them, a picture of their constant need for atonement, and His constant provision for their need. Yes, that eternal flame is practical in terms of the regularity of sacrifice. But it was also a powerful reminder.
So these opening chapters of Leviticus are so important in conveying how important a life of sacrifice is for those with whom God dwells. And so God provided these different sacrifices in light of our different needs. We see all of these sacrifices listed in the closing verses of this section, the closing verses of chapter 7. Look at 7:37 and 38 with me:
This [what was just given] is the law of the burnt offering, of the grain offering, of the sin offering, of the guilt offering, of the ordination offering, and of the peace offering,  which the LORD commanded Moses on Mount Sinai, on the day that he commanded the people of Israel to bring their offerings to the LORD, in the wilderness of Sinai.
Now the ordination offering was actually given back in Exodus 29. And it will be described in the very next chapter of Leviticus. But all the other offerings mentioned here are the ones we've studied. The burnt offering brings us to God as the sin that separates us is covered. Consequently, the grain offering (along with a drink offering mentioned later) is a picture of the table fellowship we can now enjoy with God, and the peace offering is an expression of thanks for that gift of peace with Him. The sin or purification offering covers the daily taint of sin as we walk with God, and similarly, the guilt or reparation offering deals with the specific taint of sin against the holy things involved in worship and sacrifice.
And so...having looked at all of these sacrifices, and understanding the critical importance of sacrifice in the lives of those with whom God dwells, we come back to our original question: what are WE supposed to do with these things?
III. Their Sacrifices Then, Our Lives Today
So as we've done before in previous weeks, this is where we need to look at Leviticus chapters 1-7 through the lens of the NT. Two very simple and related questions we could ask are, “How does the NT use the word 'sacrifice' (or 'offering'), and what can that usage tell us about sacrifice in the life of the follower of Jesus?”
If we were to survey the entire NT, looking at how it uses the word sacrifice, I believe we could group the results into three general categories, with the first category being the most critical, the most foundational, the most important.
What is the principle that describes that first category? Well, spingboard-ing from Leviticus into the NT, we discover there that...
1. Such sacrifices point us to what Jesus offered up.
We've talked about this point before, but it can't be talked about enough. And while many verses in the NT explain this point, especially the middle chapters of the book of Hebrews, listen to how Paul eloquently and succinctly expresses it in Ephesians 5:1, 2...
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
That last phrase is jammed pack with the central point of the entire Bible. From the altar outside the Tent of Meeting, to a cross outside Jerusalem, the unfolding purpose of God in terms of sacrifice is touched on by Paul. When the Apostle talks about “a fragrant offering”, he is talking about the “pleasing aroma” we read about in Leviticus chapters 1-3; that aroma from the prescribed sacrifices.
Therefore, as this verse indicates, and so much of the NT explicitly affirms, the death of Jesus Christ is the fullness of all those Levitical sacrifices. As John the Baptizer affirmed at the very beginning of Jesus' ministry, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
So if we ask, what are we today supposed to do with these strange, but spectacular things from Leviticus involving sacrifice, then we must affirm that the very reason we know God, the very means by which we are right with God, the very fact we are Christians is because Jesus fulfilled the pictures that Leviticus presented. Therefore, Leviticus 1-7 are cause for celebration, for remembrance, for thanksgiving, for renewed awe and wonder in light of the superior sacrifice of Jesus. Amen?!
But there's more. Listen to how Peter describes what happens as we come to Jesus in faith:
As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious,  you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (I Peter 2:4–5)
What? The ultimate High Priest who offered himself as the ultimate sacrifice ordains us to be priests who offer spiritual sacrifices? What in the world does that mean? Well, one thing it means is that just as the sacrifices of Leviticus point us to what Jesus offered up...
2. Such sacrifices [also] point us to what we offer up.
What are “the spiritual sacrifices” that Peter had in mind? Well, one answer to that is found in Hebrews 13:15, where the writer invites us to priestly work, saying, through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.
As we saw in Leviticus, sacrifices were not only rituals for atonement; they were also expressions of worship. We have to remember that even in the OT, Israel was instructed about even more foundational sacrifices than those involving animals.
Remember the amazing words of David from Psalm 51:16, 17...
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
David is not saying that God is not pleased by obedience to the instructions in Leviticus. He is saying that anyone who comes to sacrifice an animal should come with a sacrificial heart, one that is repentant and humble before God. It's precisely why someone should offer “a burnt offering”. It is is this idea that Paul expands on for the follower of Jesus in Romans 12:1...
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
So sacrifice as an expression of worship finds its ultimate fulfillment in you and me offering our lives to God in a spirit of surrender, with a heart full of gratitude. It is no longer the parts of an animal that are important when it comes to sacrifice. It is now the parts of my own body that are central to my daily worship. This very day, will you use the parts of your body to glorify God or exalt yourself?
You see, Leviticus points us back to these very practices. But there's one last category in the NT when it comes to the concept of sacrifice. We also find there that...
3. Such sacrifices [from the OT] point us to what we offer up to others.
Listen to how that point, and the previous point, are tied together in this exchange from Mark 12:28-34. We read...
And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”  Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”  And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him.  And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”  And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” (Mark 12:28–34a)
Jesus confirmed that this scribe was on the right track, because he understood that a sacrificial heart toward God and others was foundational for true worship. Just as God wants us to surrender to Him, as we do that, he will invariably call us to surrender things like our time, talents, and treasure for the good others. Just listen again to another verse from Heb. 13
Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. [saw that before; next verse]  Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. (Hebrews 13:15–16)
Did you see again how those two expressions of sacrificial worship go hand in hand? And we see this very same thing exemplified by Paul. He talks about it in Philippians 2:14-18.
Do all things without grumbling or disputing,  that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,  holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.  Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.  Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me. (Philippians 2:14–18)
What does he mean by “the sacrificial offering of your faith”? I believe Philippians 4:18 describes part of that offering...
I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.
Isn't that amazing? For Paul, both the sacrifice of Jesus, and sacrifices for Jesus, can be described as “a fragrant offering”. Paul gave of himself in service to the Philippians, and rejoiced that they had done the same for him, in support of his ministry.
So as was stop and think about what we've seen this morning, I think we are pointed back to the fact that God's word in Leviticus is very, very specific. Right? God went to great lengths to detail for and direct the Israelites in very specific ways regarding sacrifice. Why so specific? I believe it was because God wanted them to see the utter seriousness of this issue, AND their utter dependence on His word for guidance.
If that's true, then shouldn't we be sober-minded and fully-invested in what God has told us this morning? The sacrifices of Leviticus point us first to our desperate need and what Jesus offered up on the cross, the ultimate, the incomparable sacrifice of himself, once for all.
And when you come to Him, to receive that forgiveness and peace with God, you learn that your High Priest has ordained you to be a priest. You learn that the Christian life is a life of sacrifice; of spiritual worship through the offering of spiritual sacrifices. What has He called you to offer? In imitation of Jesus, you are called first to offer yourself to God, and second, to offer yourself for others.
Let's conclude with a prayer this morning. Consider these words in regard to your life, in light of the opening chapters of Leviticus:
Heavenly Father, I thank you that you have revealed my desperate condition through my need for sacrifice, AND, I thank you for meeting that need through the perfect, the ultimate, the once for all, the-far-better-than-bulls-and-goats sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. I thank you for removing the sin that separated me from you and the gift of eternal peace with you. O God, in response to Christ's gift, I offer up myself for Christ. Let the fire of your altar consume sin and self, and let my life, every part of my life, be daily poured our for your glory and the good of others. Let genuine generosity be on display in me, and let that generosity always point to the sacrifice of Jesus, that others might also know atonement and forgiveness through Him. I ask these things with gratitude and joy over your grace. Amen.
More in Living Leviticus
July 22, 2018Spiritual Vows and a Voluntary Spirit (Leviticus 27:1-34)
July 15, 2018Just Justice? (Leviticus 26)
July 8, 2018Belonging and Belongings (Leviticus 25)