Christ in the Offerings: The Burnt Offering

A Response of Worship

Leviticus 1:1-17; 6:8-13; 7:8

A well-known Bible Dictionary says of the Book of Leviticus, “The name describes its contents, for it deals with the law of the priests, the sons of Levi … The designation sets forth the book as a manual of the O.T. priesthood. The Jews, however, commonly designate the book from its opening phrase wayiqra, “and He called.” Leviticus sets forth the way of the priestly approach to God” (Unger).

The opening verses of Leviticus should be read in conjunction with the closing verses of Exodus (Ex 40:34-38). Twice in those verses it is recorded that “the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” The tabernacle had just been constructed at the foot of Mount Sinai, and such was the glory that filled the tent that Moses was not able to enter in. It was from out of the glory-filled tabernacle that Jehovah called Moses in Leviticus 1:1.

This was not the first time that the Lord had called Moses. He had called him in Exodus 3:4 and He had called him again in Exodus 19:3. The first call came out of the bush; the second call came out of the mountain; this call comes out of the tabernacle. In a sense every call came out from glory. The first was a call to service and the second a call to holiness, but this third call was a call to worship. It is incumbent upon every believer that we should serve and it is essential that we should pursue holiness. But the highest form of service is the worship of those who can lift up holy hands in the sanctuary (Psalm 134:2; 1 Tim 2:8).

What a wonder is this, that Jehovah in all His greatness should call out of the glory desiring something from man! Note the contrast between “man” and “Jehovah.” “If any man of you bring an offering unto the Lord.” The call is from “Jehovah,” the eternally self-existent One, Creator and Sustainer, and Sovereign Proprietor of the universe, and He is calling to “man,” which in Hebrew is adam, creature of the dust and of the clay. Well might any man ask, “What can I, frail mortal that I am, possibly bring to the inscrutable, ineffable Jehovah?” What can man, out of his spiritual and moral poverty bring to the self-sufficient Jehovah dwelling in excellency and in inexpressible glory? The succeeding verses make it clear that the Lord is looking for appreciation, for gratitude, for worship. Many years later the Savior Himself confirmed the same great truth to the woman of Samaria, saying, as He spoke to her of true worshipers, “The Father seeketh such to worship Him” (John 4:23).

The worshiper must come in the appointed way with the offering stipulated by Jehovah. The word “bring” (Heb. qarub), suggests a reverent approach with the intention of presenting an offering, so that the Burnt Offering is often referred to as an “approach offering.” The offerings presented by Noah and Job were burnt offerings. These were offered for their approach and acceptance in the days before the inauguration of the Levitical priesthood (Gen 8:20; Job 1:5).

The Burnt Offering, as indeed some of the other offerings, may have been in any one of five different forms drawn from three different spheres. The offering could be from the herd, from the flock, or from the fowls, three spheres. But from these spheres the offering could be a bullock, a sheep, a goat, a turtle dove, or a young pigeon, five different forms. Those interested in Bible numerals will see a significance in the numbers “5” and “3” which keep recurring throughout the story of the Levitical Offerings. The number five is usually associated with God in His grace, or, as others say, with man in his weakness. Is there much difference? Surely man in his weakness is always dependent upon God in His grace. The number three is the divine number, ever linked with the perfections of the Divine Tri-unity. Here in these offerings is the story of man in his frailty approaching God in His glory, in a manner devised by the Lord Himself in holy perfection.

The word used for the Burnt Offering in verse 3 is the Hebrew olah. It denotes an ascending in smoke and the word is incorporated in the more familiar English “holocaust.” How descriptive this word was of every Burnt Offering, offered upon the fire of the great altar, to ascend in a sweet savor to Jehovah. How expressively did it foreshadow that lovely Life which was to come, which would ascend always as a sweet savor to God, and never more so than when offered without spot to God upon the altar at Golgotha.

Standing at the door of the Tabernacle the offerer would put his hand upon the head of his offering, leaning upon it. This was a symbolic action and two things were happening. First, he was really saying, “This is mine, my offering.” He was being identified with it. Then, all the acceptability of the offering was being transferred or imputed to him. It was accepted for him and he was accepted in it. The word “atonement” is the Hebrew kapharwhose primary meaning is “to cover,” so that all the shortcomings and failings of the offerer were covered in the acceptability of his offering and he was accepted.

It is important to see that the phrase in verse 3, “of his own voluntary will” should rather be rendered “for his acceptance” as in verse 4 (See JND, RSV, ASV, and others). This is not a Sin Offering. The hands which bring it are the hands of a worshiper. It is a privilege to give to the Lord what He demands but it is a greater privilege to bring to Him, out of a full heart, what He does not demand. This is worship.

The details which follow portray those delightful aspects of Christ which every appreciative heart will want to present to Jehovah.