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Year 1, Week 12, Day 4

I have a brief observation for today’s reading of Leviticus 2-4.

Today’s reading continues explaining the various kinds of sacrifices that the Israelites were commanded to offer at the Tabernacle. Leviticus 1:1-7:38 pertains to the types of sacrifices. With the Tabernacle in place, Israel was afforded the blessing of the LORD dwelling in their midst. However a Holy God would need to be approached by sinful people through the mediation of a priesthood and sacrifices. Along with Leviticus 1 from the previous day’s reading, a portion of today’s reading (Leviticus 2-3) outlines the details of the three routine sacrifices the Israelites were to bring to the Tabernacle. The burnt offering (Leviticus 1), the grain offering (Leviticus 2), and the peace offering (Leviticus 3), were the ordinary sacrifices in Israel. The first of the occasional is described Leviticus 4, as Leviticus 4:1-6:7 explain the sacrifices required for the Israelites to atone for their sin and guilt.

What struck me in today’s reading was the various implications that the LORD had desired for Israel to grasp through the sacrifices: “Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the LORD.” (Psalm 4:5). The sacrifices that Israel was required to make was not to be an empty-hearted, mere external activity. The sacrifices signified important realities that were to ground the hearts of the ones offering the sacrifices as firm convictions toward the LORD: “In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required.” (Psalm 40:8). The real value of the sacrifices was the heart attitude of the one making the sacrifice: “I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” (Psalm 40:8). A disobedient heart filled with unbelief is not counteracted by simply showing up at the Tabernacle with an offering; for the offering was to reflect certain heart realities.

The first two sacrifices-the burnt and grain offerings-were to reflect devotion and thus consecration to the LORD. The burnt offering was to consist of an animal that was brought to the altar and totally consumed: “And the priest shall offer all of it and burn it on the altar; it is a burnt offering, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD.” (Leviticus 1:13). The grain offering was to consist of a crop that was also brought to the altar to be consumed: “And the priest shall offer all of it and burn it on the altar; it is a burnt offering, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD.” (Leviticus 2:9). But unlike the burnt offering, a portion of the grain offering was to be given to the priest instead of consumed at the altar: “But the rest of the grain offering shall be for Aaron and his sons; it is a most holy part of the LORD'S food offerings.” (Leviticus 2:10). From a posture of trust in the LORD, the one who was bringing the sacrifice was outwardly demonstrating the costliness of devotion to the LORD as they were consecrating their lives to the LORD. The reward of belonging to the LORD whole-heartedly was worth the cost of the sacrifice. So, the burnt and grain offerings were not offered in lieu of obedience, but as a statement of obedience. The worshipper was giving himself to the LORD. Perhaps it is with these sacrifices in mind that Paul says: “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.” (Romans 12:1).

The third sacrifice-the peace offering-was to express fellowship with the LORD. The peace offering was to consist of an animal but not all of it was consumed: "And from the sacrifice of the peace offering, as a food offering to the LORD, he shall offer the fat covering the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails, and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins, and the long lobe of the liver that he shall remove with the kidneys. Then Aaron's sons shall burn it on the altar on top of the burnt offering, which is on the wood on the fire; it is a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD.” (Leviticus 3:3-5). After the fat was consumed and certain other parts given to the priest, the worshipper was to eat the rest of sacrifice: “And the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving shall be eaten on the day of his offering. He shall not leave any of it until the morning. But if the sacrifice of his offering is a vow offering or a freewill offering, it shall be eaten on the day that he offers his sacrifice, and on the next day what remains of it shall be eaten.” (Leviticus 7:15-17). The eating of the animal sacrificed (less the portions consumed otherwise) symbolized the eating of a meal in the presence of the LORD. Thus, by faith, the peace offering reflected that it is through fellowshipping with the LORD, in this case, around a meal, that the worshipper experienced peace or well-being through being in the presence of the LORD: “May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace!” (Psalm 29:11).

But whether it was the burnt offering or the peace offering, the worshipper laid his hands on the head of the animal before it was sacrificed, taking “the blood and throw the blood against the sides of the altar that is at the entrance of the tent of meeting.” (Leviticus 1:5). The shed blood made the worshipper’s sacrifice acceptable. This previewed how the shed blood of Jesus qualifies our service and fellowship acceptable: “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” (Hebrews 9:14).

What struck you in today’s reading? What questions were prompted from today’s reading?

Pastor Joe