The offerings of the Old Testament, referred to generally as the Levitical offerings, bring before us in wondrous picture and type the person and work of our blessed Lord Jesus Christ. There is, however, a unique and distinct offering that is not mentioned with the Levitical offerings. It is found in the book of Nehemiah and is referred to as the “wood offering” (10:34; 13:31).
It would appear from the passage in Nehemiah 10 that lots were cast to assign various families of Israel to bring wood, by course and in their respective turn, for the fire of the altar in order to maintain the sacrifices. The law mentioned may refer to the law of the burnt offering (Lev 6:12-13), which stated that the fire was to be ever burning and never go out.
Before his death, Moses charged the people of Israel to enter into a covenant with the Lord to keep His laws. Among those that were charged were their wives, their little ones and the stranger in the camp, from the hewer of wood to the drawer of water (Deu 29:11-12). It may be that the “strangers” at the time were assigned the responsibility of providing fire and water for the sacrifices.
Later, Joshua commanded the Gibeonites to be hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation and for the altar of the Lord (Jos 9:21-27). So, the wood offering seems to be connected with the offerings, and perhaps, more particularly, the burnt offering. Perhaps in Nehemiah’s day, they did not have the luxury of relying on strangers, so the responsibility fell to the people of Israel, who were designated by lot.
While each of the offerings speaks of Christ, the burnt offering brings before us a life wholly consecrated to God. Such was the life of the Lord Jesus. He said, “I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will but the will of him that sent me” (Joh 6:38).1
In preparation for the burnt offering, the wood was laid in order on the altar (Lev 1:7). When Elijah proposed a way to the people of Israel to determine the true God, before offering the sacrifice he laid the wood in order upon the altar (1Ki 18:33). When Abraham took his son, Isaac, up the mountain, to the place of sacrifice, he laid the wood upon his son. When they reached the place of sacrifice, Abraham bound his son and laid him on the altar on the wood (Gen 22:6-9). The Scriptures record concerning the Lord Jesus, “He, bearing his cross, went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: where they crucified him” (Joh 19:17-18). The Lord Jesus was laid on the wood (the cross) and was bound there with nails by His blessed hands and feet. The wood, in these instances, may represent the sin of mankind, which the Lord Jesus bore and paid its penalty, becoming our substitute and bearing the punishment our sins deserved. Peter wrote, “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree …” (1Pe 2:24).
Just as the fire of the burnt offering was never to go out, you and I, as strangers, have the responsibility and privilege of keeping the fire going, as it were. Both in personal and public testimony, we have the responsibility of making known the only means of forgiveness and acceptance with God through the once-for-all sacrifice of the Lord Jesus. Peter reminds us, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1Pe 2:9).
Paul exhorted in the book of Romans that we present our bodies a living sacrifice, wholly acceptable to God (12:1). The sacrifice of the Lord Jesus should ever be a reminder to us of God’s wondrous grace in redeeming us from the bondage and penalty of sin and motivate us to live unto Him who died for us and rose again.
There is not any mention of the hewers of wood from the days of Joshua up to Nehemiah’s time. Perhaps this was a form of service that had been lost or actually abandoned by God’s people. Perhaps, too, Nehemiah was seeking to encourage and exhort a return to service and worship, to return to the old paths.
Dear beloved child of God, may we ever keep the fire burning, yielding ourselves in complete surrender to Christ in willing and obedient service. Let us determine with the apostle Paul to live for Him, who gave Himself for us. “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again” (2Co 5:14-15).
Let us do as the writer of the book of Hebrews exhorts us, “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name” (Heb 13:15), and as Peter reminds us, we are “built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1Pe 2:5).
Through the riches of His grace,
Is born a chosen, holy race,
All His virtues to proclaim,
Raise sweet incense to His name.
Holy temple to our God,
Purchased by His precious blood,
Ransomed souls throughout the earth,
Born again of Heav’nly birth.
Royal priests their off’rings bring
Praises to their God and King;
Rev’rently before His throne
All His holy claims they own.
In His saints thus glorified,
Blood bought Church, His spotless bride,
Shall the mighty Christ appear,
Day of glory drawing near.
Let all the courts of Heaven ring,
All redeemed His virtues sing;
Glory, honour, majesty,
To our God eternally.2
1 Bible quotations in this article are from the KJV.
2 Bernie Payne