No one has ever regretted a study of the Levitical Offerings. Many older believers will remember that initial thrill, the joy of discovering Christ in the early chapters of Leviticus. For many it has been a milestone in Christian experience and some will almost envy the young believer who is now reading these ancient Scriptures for the first time. If it be asked whether there is any authority for so finding Christ in the Offerings, there is certainly no lack of such authority. The Lord Jesus Himself, walking to Emmaus with two of His disciples, showed that privileged couple that He was indeed to be found in the writings of Moses and of all the prophets. There were things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures, He told them, and later He specifically mentioned the Psalms too (Luke 24:27, 44). The Epistle to the Hebrews refers much to types of the Person and work of Christ in the Tabernacle and Offerings (Heb 8:1-5; 9:1-9; 10:1-9). These were patterns, figures, examples, and shadows, of which our Lord Jesus is the fulfilment and substance. How sad that anyone should regard the Book of Leviticus as but a record of old Jewish rites and rituals of no importance to New Testament believers.
There are five principal Offerings outlined in the first seven chapters of Leviticus and there is a significance in the order in which they are first mentioned. For a very important reason, which will be considered later, the Burnt Offering is mentioned first, followed at once by the Meat Offering. Then, in central place, is the Peace Offering, and finally the Sin Offering and the Trespass Offering. There are other Offerings, commonly called auxiliary Offerings, such as the Drink Offering, a small quantity of wine, part of which was to be poured on the sacrifice or meat offering (Exod 29:40; Lev 23:18; Num 15:5,7). Then there is the lesser known Wood Offering, mentioned only in Nehemiah 10:34, 13:31, which was so necessary for the maintenance of the altar fire which was never to go out (Lev 6:12-13).
Each of the Offerings has its distinctive features but they have this in common that they all portray, each in its own peculiar way, something of the Person, the ministry, the offices, the perfections of the Lord Jesus. Just as the four Gospels all present Christ, but each with its own special character, so the Offerings, with all their differences, unite to give us a full-orbed picture of our blessed Lord in the loveliness of His life and character and in the wonder of His sufferings and death. It is like a man photographed in different circumstances and in changes of clothing. He may be at one time in formal dress and at another time in casual wear. Again, he may be in working clothes, engaged in manual labor, or yet again he may be resting comfortably in his favorite chair at home. How varied the portrayals, how very different he may appear in the respective photographs, but it is always the same man. Together the pictures give us an all-round idea of the kind of man he is and the work that he does. So it is with the Gospels and with the Offerings. How varied they are, but always consistently rich in symbolism of Christ!
The Burnt Offering was all for God, consumed in its entirety on the great altar except for the skin. The outward covering of that which satisfied God was appropriated by the priest who offered. The Offering ascended in sweet savor, causing it to be known as “the ascending offering.” It represents the highest appreciation of a worshiper and perhaps it is therefore not surprising that it should appear first. When Jehovah gave His instructions for the building of the Tabernacle He began in the Holy of Holies and from there moved out to other matters. So now He begins with the high ground of an Offering which was exclusively for Himself and then proceeds to other Offerings in which His priests and His people were permitted to share.
The Meat Offering was a bloodless Offering of fine flour prepared and offered in various forms. We shall see it as a delightful foreshadowing of the moral glory of the Savior in a life lived fragrantly for the pleasure of God. There is no thought of atonement in the Meat Offering. While there are symbols of suffering there is no shedding of blood. It is a type of a spotless life lived in perpetual holiness and purity, bringing satisfaction to God. In this Offering, however, priests will have their portion, teaching us that the saints of God, in priestly privilege, may feast on Him Who has first satisfied the yearnings of the heart of God.
The Peace Offering, like the former Offerings, was a sweet savor Offering. It was a voluntary Offering, given from a devoted and grateful heart and it was a fellowship Offering, in which there was a portion for the altar, a portion for the priestly family, and a portion for the offerer to enjoy with his family and friends. It typifies the greatness of a Christ in Whom God and His people can fellowship together in a holy communion.
The Sin Offering was primarily for sins of ignorance, sins committed unintentionally, teaching us that such is the condition of the human heart that a man may sin and not even be aware that he has sinned. For the Jew, beset as he was with the rules and regulations of a complex law it would have been so easy to sin without knowing. But even sins of ignorance incurred guilt and required an offering and the shedding of blood. Calvary has met such requirements for us.
The Trespass Offering was for sins committed knowingly, sins against a neighbor, which are, of course, sins against the Lord. These too demand an offering and in the death of Christ every believer knows that “Christ hath once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust” to bring about reconciliation. We rejoice in the consciousness that He has “washed us from our sins in His own blood” (Rev 1:5).
But, more interesting details later.