Think about how God reveals truth. His method is to progressively reveal His plans and purposes. For example, you will search in vain in Genesis for any mention of the blood of a sacrifice victim. We have altars, and we have sacrifices, but we do not read of the blood. A mere oversight? Or is God stressing in Genesis, not the question of sin, (even taking into account Abel’s sacrifice) but approach to God?
It is not until we come to Exodus that we have mention of the blood of the sacrifice. It is in the observation of the Passover that the blood takes prominence for the first time. Judgment and danger are in view; Israel no longer is exempt from the plagues which Egypt had borne alone. Each Israelite family had to shelter beneath the blood or face the same judgment as Egypt.
Leviticus advances our understanding of the sacrifices as we move from one sacrifice – the Passover – to five different sacrifices. There is a sense in which all five sacrifices of Leviticus 1-5 are linked with the Passover in either their ritual or their meaning. But Leviticus expands our understanding of what the altar, service, and sacrifice all mean and typify.
Numbers adds a unique offering suitable and necessary for the wilderness. The Red Heifer offering of Numbers 19 met the need of a wilderness people on a long death march of 38 years. Defilement was an everyday danger. A God marked by holiness was in their midst. They would need cleansing from the defilement of death. This is exactly what the ordinance of the Red Heifer provided. No longer is the stress upon an altar, blood, or priestly attendant; the stress now is on ashes, or the memorial of a death. In all of this, God is slowly teaching truth about the great antitype of all of these sacrifices.
What of Deuteronomy? The long soliloquy of the book is punctuated by one unique sacrifice not found elsewhere in the first five books of Moses. Deuteronomy 21 details the sacrifice of the heifer. This was necessitated when a man was found slain in the field, and responsibility for the murder was not known. While the ritual of hand washing and attestation of innocence is prophetic of the nation’s view of the death of Christ, another principle is featured in this sacrifice.
Looking at the offerings of Leviticus, there is an interesting recurrence of items occurring in groups of five. Note that there are five offerings, five different animals used in sacrifice, five ways the meal offering could be presented, five mentions of Aaron’s sons in connection with the burnt offering, five responsibilities given to the priest concerning the burnt offering, five pieces of fat for the peace offering, five sin offerings, and the fifth part that had to be added to the trespass offering. You may well discover other groupings of five as you explore these offerings. All of this is not curious coincidence but a technique which the Spirit of God employs to help stress a particular truth linked with the number five.
Other features which help to unify the offerings, and to contrast them include:
When you are looking at the first offering, or the burnt offering, all the animal sacrifice is to be burnt (Lev 1:9). In the next offering, the meal offering, it is all the frankincense (2:2). When you come to the peace offering, it is all the fat (3:3-4). Finally, in the sin and trespass offerings, it is all the blood (ch 4:7; 7:7).
While the meaning of these may seem obtuse to a young believer, an awareness that there is nothing accidental, incidental, or insignificant in the Word of God, especially when so carefully and thoroughly described by the Spirit of God, should encourage at least some thought and consideration. If your school assignment were to explain the symbolism of blood in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the resurrection in Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities, or the white whale of Melville’s Moby Dick, you would be able to find a consistent theme to write about. Why not give your mind to the very same thought process for what will be an even more rewarding study?
Leviticus 1:9 speaks of an “offering made by fire.” Leviticus 2:2 says: “and he shall burn the memorial of it upon the altar.” When we arrive at Leviticus 4:12, the sin offering is taken outside the camp and they were to “burn him on the wood with fire.” Different words are employed to express both different acts and different results from the burnings.
Referencing a Hebrew lexicon, even by the novice, would reveal that these words convey some specific truth.
• The burning of the sin offering suggests the Fury of God against sin.
• The burning of the meal offering suggests the Fragrance of the Offering to God.
• The burning of the fire in the burnt offering suggests the Fitness of the Victim to God.
It should seem obvious that there must be a different focus linked with each offering. God has chosen to reveal something of the greatness of the work of Calvary, by displaying it in this five-fold manner. Are we left to imagination or intellect to discover what each sacrifice means? They are divided into three and two in a very obvious way. Leviticus 1:1 begins with “And the Lord called unto Moses.” There is no break in the message until we arrive at chapter 4:1 when again, “The Lord spake unto Moses.” This sets the first three apart from the last two. The first three do not mention sin and are not primarily dealing with sin; the last two major on it.
In the first offering, God received everything. In the meal offering, the priests who officiated received some of the offering. In the peace offering, offerer, priest, and family, joined with God in enjoying the offering.
As a suggestion, consider the following and look for details to substantiate it:
Burnt offering – the Fitness of the victim who was all for God
Meal Offering – the Fineness of the flour which was for God and the priest
Peace Offering – The Fellowship enjoyed by man with God
Sin Offering – The Forgiveness which the blood procured
Trespass Offering – The Failure through sin rectified