The book of Leviticus may not be your favorite book in the Bible—it's full of rules and regulations, and bloody, messy sacrifices. But all Scripture is inspired by God, and through our study of Leviticus, we gain a better understanding of temple life in the New Testament and unveil God's presence, undo shallow patterns of worship, and reveal God's holiness. As we begin our study of the book of Leviticus, we learn the rules and reasons for the burnt offering, the grain offering, the peace offering, and the sin offering.
As the Israelites camped before Mount Sinai, the Lord gave them His law, and the people gave a promise that they would obey it. But because God knew they would not be able to keep their promise, he instituted offerings and sacrifices to make atonement through the shedding of blood.
The book of Leviticus, written by Moses, details the sacrificial system of the nation of Israel, including the shedding of the blood of an innocent animal, which showed the seriousness of sin.
In his comprehensive, verse-by-verse study of Leviticus, Skip Heitzig shows how central this book is to our understanding of the atoning sacrifice of Christ, and how the theme of this book is the pure worship of God.
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Hebrew terms: קֹ֥דֶשׁ; qodesh-holy; וַיִּקְרָ֖א; wayyiqra-called; תּוֹרַת כֹּהֵן; torah kohanim-the law of the priest; עֹלָ֤ה; olah-that which goes up; מִנְחָה; minchah-offering; זבח שלמים; Zevach Shelamim-a sacrifice for alliance or friendship, peace offering; חַטָּאָה; chatta'ah, sin
Greek terms: Λευϊτικόν; Leuitikón, Leviticus
Figures referenced: Maimonides
Cross references: Exodus 25, Leviticus 11:44-45, Leviticus 17:11, Leviticus 19:18, Numbers 18:19, 2 Samuel 24:18-24, 2 Chronicles 13:5, Malachi 1:8, Matthew 5:3, Matthew 13, Matthew 15:5-12, Matthew 19:19, Luke 12:1, Acts 15:18-29, Romans 3:23, Romans 12:1-2, Romans 15:4, 2 Timothy 3:16, 1 John 1:9
Good evening! Let's turn to your favorite book in the Old Testament. Turn to the Book of Leviticus.
Hey! We've got the Levitical choir over here. Third book in the Bible, third book of the Torah, the middle book of the Torah, the shortest book in the first five books of Moses; and I won't tell you how many chapters we're going to cover tonight. You've got to see. Let's pray together.
Father, thank you. We say that a lot to you, Lord, and it somehow doesn't seem adequate. But we recall what David wrote in the Psalms, "What shall I render to the Lord for all of his benefits? I will give Him or offer to Him the cup of thanksgiving." So we say, thank you, Lord, with a full heart for all the things you have done for us, your provisions to us, and your work through us. I pray, Lord, you'd give us keen minds and ready hearts wide open to listen to what the Holy Spirit might say through this part of your Word, and how we are to respond. In Jesus name. Amen.
Now, I was kidding when I said open to your favorite book in the Old Testament. Honestly, if you ask most people, what is your favorite book in the Bible, you probably would, rarely, if ever here, Leviticus. It probably doesn't have lots of underlines or yellow marks in your own Bibles. You'll probably never go to a mens' or ladies' retreat where they're going to teach the Book of Leviticus. You probably don't retreat to the Book of Leviticus for strength and comfort, because of the nature of the book itself. You probably have never even heard many sermons, if any sermons on the Book of Leviticus.
It's funny how, about every January, people make New Year's resolutions and one of them, for many believers, is to read through the whole Bible. They get through Genesis and they feel good about what they've read and feel good about their progress. They make into Exodus and they're still feeling good, until they get toward the end of the Book of Exodus and start to change a little bit. It becomes a little more legal. It becomes a little more Levitical. And then they get to the Book of Leviticus and that's when they falloff the wagon; and have to make a New Year's resolution again the following year. This is where we lose a lot of people, because it doesn't have the narratives that the Book of Genesis, or Exodus, or even other parts that the Old Testament have. We have laws, we have rules, we have regulations, and as we read them we say, "None of these make any application to my own personal life."
But here's what I want you to know. Did you know that in ancient times, Jewish children began their study of the Bible with the Book of Leviticus? It was the first book they read. Isn't that intriguing? Now, the question comes as to why it would be Leviticus that you would introduce a child to. And the ancient scholars use to say, "Because children are more pure and we want to introduce them in their purity to the purity of worship of God." This is what God requires. Here is pure worship. This is how He designed us to live and we'll introduce children to that at first.
Also, there are some lofty passages in the Book of Leviticus. "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," isn't a passage that comes to us first from the New Testament. Though Jesus said it, He was quoting the Book of Leviticus. There are other wonderful passages that are quoted in the New Testament, but that is one of the loftiest.
But most believers, most Christians don't pay much attention to this book because they say, "Since the Temple sacrifices, let along the tabernacle has ceased, since the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., and since these rules, these sacrifices, these regulations, have nothing at all to do with any of our lives, why should I read this book? What's in it for me?"
It's always a question we ask, and I think it's a legitimate question. Well, I'll say this. When you read this book, you're not going to get the immediate "feel good" reaction that you get if you were to read the Psalms or Matthew or John. You have to dig a little bit deeper to get some of the principles. But I'll say at the beginning right off the bat that when Timothy said in 2 Timothy 3:16, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for correction, instruction, reproof, that you might be thoroughly furnished in a complete person in all good works." All scripture also included the Book of Leviticus. So let's just kind of get that upfront.
Also, remember in Romans 15, the Apostle Paul said, "Whatever things were written before, were written for our learning, that we through the patients and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." And Leviticus would fall into those things that were written before time.
What will a study of the Book of Leviticus do for you? Number one: It will unlock other books of the Bible. I submit to you that you cannot have an understanding of the Book of Hebrews; the New Testament Book of Hebrews at all without a working knowledge of the Book of Leviticus, all that the writer of Hebrews predicates His principles upon is this ancient text. You won't be able to understand many of the other passages of the Old Testament that speak about the priesthood and sacrifices, unless you understand their foundation in this book. You won't be able to understand New Testament gospel passages about Temple life and sacrificial life at the time of Christ, unless you understand a working knowledge of this book. So it will unlock other Bible books.
Number two: Reading the Book of Leviticus will unveil the presence of God. Let me explain. One of the unique features about Leviticus is you understand that God wants to invade you space — all of your space. He doesn't want once a week on Sunday. There are rules, laws, regulations for personal hygiene in this book. Your prayer life, your worship life, your sex life. God wants to be involved in His presence, His fullness in all aspects of your daily experience, your daily life. So it will unlock other books of the Bible. It will unveil for you the presence of God.
Number three: It will undo shallow patterns of worship, shallow patterns of worship. I feel that much contemporary worship in Evangelical Protestant churches is shallow or at least becoming shallow. Where a worship service, "Well, let's plug in this song and plug in that song and plug in that prayer, plug this in and take that out and plug that in," and it just becomes formulaic and canned, allowing worshipers not to participate, but simply to watch without being engaged. One of the things you discover is that the worship of the Old Testament in the Book of Leviticus required — number one — everybody had to be all in the worship experience, and you'll see this. I'll explain that to you. Number two: It was a very active dynamic form of worship with the sacrifices that will be given.
Number four: Studying the Book of Leviticus will underscore the holiness of God. That God is holy, that man is not holy, God is holy, set apart, unique, different, unapproachable by sinful man, unless something happens to bridge that gap. The holiness of God and the unholiness of man are two themes that are very apparent in this book. The word in Hebrew "kodesh", which is translated holy, or holiness, or sanctify, or sanctification, appears in the Book of Leviticus 152 times. So it will underscore the holy nature of God.
Moreover, you're going to see the need for us as sinful people to have an atonement for our sins, or to put it more theologically, a vicarious atonement, a substitutionary atonement. Something dies in our place, because of sin and atoning sacrifice must be made in order for us to have fellowship with God. So holiness is one of the major themes. Twice in this book, God will tell his people, "Be holy because I am holy. I am a holy God, you are an unholy people, but I am calling you to a life more and more of separation, of holiness, of sanctification, to be more and more like me."
Something else in this book about holiness. When the Lord gives the laws of sacrifice, of hygiene, of daily life, all these different rules and regulations, he says, "I'm doing this that you might learn to discern between that which is holy and that which is profane or unholy." I think we need that kind of discernment today. We need the ability to distinguish between what is good and what is not good, what is wholesome, what is not wholesome, what is profane versus what is holy.
Now, something about the book geographically; nobody moves in this book. The same spot the book opens is the same spot the book closes at. I know some of you and most of you, probably, have been with us on our track through the Bible, so far. We've done Genesis in the Old Testament, Exodus, and now, Leviticus. If I can just drag your memory a moment, to get you to think back to Exodus 25: "The children of Israel come to Mount Sinai. Moses ascends Mount Sinai, receives the Law, the Decalogue, the 10 Commandments, along with a set of blueprint instructions, verbal blueprints of building the tabernacle.
He's in the presence of God. He comes down from the mountain. A man who has just had an incredible, personal, holy, overwhelming worship experience for days on end with the Lord God, and he comes down and he sees the holy people of God partying in a loot kind of a fashion and they had built golden calf and they were worshiping this golden calf. And Moses, seeing that, becomes angry and smashes those tablets, right? Then he grinds up the golden calf to a fine powder, puts it in water and forces the people to drink it. There is a national repentance that takes place. Moses goes up the mountain again. Gets a second copy of the Law, renews the Covenant with God, comes back down and the Shekinah Glory of God, that cloud, settles over the encampment of Israel as God's presence is known. That is where Leviticus begins. Geographically, it begins and it ends at the same spot.
Now, we call the book Leviticus, even though it doesn't begin by saying, "This is the Book of Leviticus." In fact, the Hebrews, when they named books, they were more practical. They called the book, "Vayikra". You're looking at me like, "I don't get it?" Well, good. I'm going to need your listening. Vayikra is Hebrew for, "And He spoke," from verse one. "Now, the Lord called to Moses and spoke to him from the tabernacle of the meeting, saying..." So they called it Vayikra, "And He spoke," or, "And He called." The Lord called Moses and He spoke to him. So they would often name their books based upon the first few words of that book.
As time went on, the name changed about 2,000 years ago at the time of Christ, this book was called "Torat Kohanim", which mean the Law of the Priest. Kohan or Kohanim, the Priest, the Law, the Torah of the Priest, the Septuagint version of the Old Testament. Remember that ancient 250 B.C translation of the Hebrew text into Greek, called in Greek "luitikon" or "levitikon" and we get name Leviticus from it. What's ironic is that the term, the name Levite only appears twice in the book; one's in chapter 25, one's in chapter 34, if memory serves. But it's called the Book of Leviticus, because it's a book pertaining to the operation of the worship system of Israel superintended by the priests who are of the tribe of Levi. So it's appropriately named the Book of Leviticus.
Now, the next or the first few chapters are offerings, sacrifices, and the worship of Israel revolved around five principle sacrifices. Here they are: The burnt offering, that's chapter one. The grain offering, that's chapter two. The peace offering, that's chapter three. The sin offering, that's chapter four. And the trespass offering, that's chapter five. Those five offerings were the main menu of how people approach God during this time of wilderness wandering with the tabernacle, and later on, in the Temple worship, all the way up until the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D.
Now, when the Temple was destroyed, ever since then, the Jews as part of their daily prayers, and part of the orthodox prayer manual — I have a copy of it — is praying for the restoration of the Temple and these sacrifices once again. The Jew knows, however, that that will not happen until the Messiah comes. So they pray for the Messiah, the rebuilding of the Temple, and the reinstitution of these sacrifices.
We begin in verse one of chapter one and the first one is the burnt offering. It says, "Now, the Lord called to Moses and spoke to him from the Tabernacle of Meeting saying, speak to the children of Israel and say to them, "When anyone of you brings an offering to the Lord, you shall bring your offering of the livestock, of the herd, and of the flock. If his offering is a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish. He shall offer of his own freewill at the door of the Tabernacle of Meeting before the Lord.""
We call it the burnt offering. The Hebrews call it the "Ola". The Ola means, "That which goes up." In this case, "That which goes up in smoke." And with this first offering, the burnt offering, all of it goes up in smoke. It is totally consumed, it is totally burned, it all goes to ashes, except for one thing, and that is the hide of the animal. The hide is preserved and given to the Levites or to the priest as part of their compensation or honorarium for offering that sacrifice and part of their mainstay.
Now, with other sacrifices, you'll notice, and I'm going to make summations of verses and I'll read all of them. We mention there are five main offerings, and their worship revolves around five of them. With many of them, a portion of this sacrifice was given to the priest for sustenance. A portion would be burned on the altar and in some cases the worshiper could even take a portion of it. When we get to the third offering, we'll see that
With this first offering, the burnt offering, and here's the reason I'm not going to go through every verse, because they repeat themselves with the different options. So here are the options you have. If you're going to make a burnt offering, you can bring a cow, a bull. You can bring a sheep, you can bring a goat, you can bring turtledoves or you can bring pigeons. The reason you have those options is because of your financial ability in providing those sacrifices. Somebody with a lot of money can get a cow and offer it. Not a problem. For somebody else, it's just going to just bankrupt them. They might not even own a cow.
So if you're wealthy all the way down to the poorest of the poor, anybody can grab a pigeon. They were all over the beach. I hated those things. Grab one of them babies. I'd love to sacrifice that thing.
So all of these options are given, and the prescription of how to offer them is also given. But you'll notice in verse three, if his offering is a burnt offering of the herd, that is a cattle, a bull, let him offer a male without blemish.
One of the things you'll notice in the worship of ancient Israel is, they were to give their best to God. The animal had to be healthy.
No castoffs. The reason God makes this clear and puts this in His law is, I believe, because He understands the human tendency. Our tendency is to find something we're not using anymore. Something that's busted or broken or not, "That's not that great of a cow anyway. You know, that thing is like — has a peg leg. Let's just get rid of it." It is human nature to want to give not the best, but the second best or even the worst and that tendency still exist. "Hey, what are we doing with that beat up old piece of furniture? Oh, we're not doing much of it and it's pretty fractured. Let's give it to the church." "Why not buy them a brand set of furniture for the children's room?" "Oh no, let's get rid of that beat up old thing that we never use anyway."
So God knowing that's our tendency said, "You bring a male without blemish." Now, it's not just a male. In some cases, it would be a male or a female. So God isn't like — He's gender neutral when it comes to sacrifices. Some are specified as male, some as female, some as either/or. We're not told why, we're just told what to or they were told what to do. God doesn't explain Himself as to why a male or a why a female in certain cases.
In the Book of Malachi 1:8, the prophet denounces the worshippers of Israel who had taken this concept and it became degenerated overtime. He said, "Why is it that when you make a sacrifice to the Lord, you bring the lame animal, the sick animal, the blind animal?" He says, "You wouldn't even offer one of these to your political rulers, to your governors, why would dare offer it to the Lord?" It is to the best. It is to be without blemish.
Okay. With the burnt offering, as I mentioned, the hide, the outer hide, the skin, was given to the priests. It was part of their compensation. They could make leather goods out of it. They could use it for clothing or for belts or for sandals or for a number of other things. That was part of their compensation.
Then in Verse 4, "He shall place his hand —" notice this "he", that is the worshipper, "— he shall place his hand on the head of the burnt offering and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for sin. He shall kill the bull before the Lord and the priest." That is the worshipper come with his own knife. The worshipper slits the throat of the animal and bleeds the animal, killing it before the priest, before the Lord. Aaron's son shall sprinkle the blood, bring the blood and sprinkle the blood all around the altar that is by the door of the Tabernacle of Meeting and he shall skin the burnt offering and cut it into pieces. The sons of Aaron and the priest shall put fire on the altar and lay the wood in order on the fire. Then the priest, Aaron's sons shall lay the parts, the head, the fat in order on the wood that is on the fire upon the altar. But he shall wash it's entrails and it's legs with water and the priest shall burn all on the altar as a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, a sacrifice, an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the Lord.
Now, you're starting to see already that this is a bloody ordeal. In fact, that word "blood" appears 88 times in this book. And one of the themes of the Book of Leviticus is to show you the awfulness of sin, the awful nature of sin. This is what sin does. Sin makes a bloody mess of things. Sin kills. It's either going to kill you or you have to have something that will be killed in your place, on your behalf, vicarious or substitutionary atonement. But you'll see that blood is often seen in this book, often used in this book, the awfulness of sin, but at the same time the graciousness of God. In allowing you to approach Him, by bringing the sacrifice, He is willing to forgive you and maintain a relationship with the worshipper who would bring their sacrifice in obedience to him.
Now, in verse 10, beginning in verse 10, it's not if you bring something from your herd, but a sheep or a goat. The stipulations are given. Then in verse 14, if you bring turtledoves or pigeons. So let's just look at verse 14. "And if the burnt sacrifice the offering to the Lord is of birds, then he shall bring his offering of turtledoves or young pigeons. The priest shall bring it to the altar, ring off its head, burn it on the altar. Its blood shall be drain out of the side of altar."
Some of you are already getting a little bit queasy and just going, "This is just like? What? This is a Bible study?"
"And he shall remove its crop with its feathers; cast it beside the altar on the east side into the place of the ashes. Then he shall split it at its wings, but shall not divide it completely and the priest shall burn it on the altar on the wood that is on the fire." It is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the Lord.
This is so foreign to us. We get our meat in a package. We go to the store and it's all packaged up and says what it is and how much it cost per pound. It's ground for us. It's blood for us. The idea of the sight, the sound, the smells of a slaughterhouse upsets or would upset most of us. Poor city slickers, unless you were raised with this. This stuff is like really creepy.
In those days, however, people lived closer to life, closer to birth, closer to life itself, closer to death. So this idea was, though foreign and upsetting to us, dignified for them, an act of worship for them. There's something to look at in the way this is being conducted, this type of worship. The worshipper was all in. When he came to worship, he couldn't just like come to the tabernacle and just sort of fold his or her arms, just sort of watch what's going to go on. He's all in. He's involved. He helps reenact the drama of redemption that will take place in that tabernacle on a daily basis.
He's all in in two ways. Number one: It's going to cost him something. It's costly. Worship must cost someone something. You have to feel the pinch, whether it's financial giving or it's your time, your talent — it's costly. It cost something to take something from the herd or the flock or a bird. Even if it's a little bit, it's going to cost you something. David, when he wanted to buy a threshing floor which later on became the court of the Temple where the Temple was constructed. He bought it from that guy named Araunah. He saw it and he said, "I want to buy your threshing floor." It was the top of Mt.Moriah. And Arauna said, "Hey, man, you're the king and you want this for God. I'll give it to you. It's yours. You don't have to buy it." "No, no, no. I'll pay for it, good cash." "No, no. This is for the Lord, you can have it." And David said, "Listen, I will not offer to God something that cost me nothing. This has got to cost me. I want to give you money for this. I have to feel the pinch."
So number one, it was costly and number two, it was personal. As we noted in verse 4 and 5, "Your hand would be upon the animal's head. Your hand would grab the knife and slit the throat of the animal draining it of its blood." So you were a part of this. It was costly and it was personal.
Now, what does this sacrifice have to do with us today personally? I see it as an Old Testament principle of Romans 12, "I beseech you therefore brethren by the mercies of God that you present your body a living sacrifice holy and acceptable to God which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world but be changed, man, totally transformed by the renewing of your mind that you might prove what is that good, acceptable, and perfect will of God."
It's totally being consumed with what the Lord wants. It would be lived out when you wake up tomorrow morning and your eyes open and before your feet hit the ground, you say, "Lord, every moment of day, all of me, I want it to be consumed in some way with honoring and glorifying you. My life is for your pleasure." Totally consumed for God's glory.
That brings us to chapter 2, the second of the offering, the grain offering. If the Hebrews called the first offering the Ola, they called the second offering the Minchah. Say that —Minchah. Isn't that a nice word?
Now, I hope you've covered your mouth when you've said it or the guy in front of you going like this right now, "Oh, man!" Minchah means a gift that comes from grain. That's called the grain offering. It's not a bloody sacrifice. It's a sacrifice of the work of your hands, the earth that you sowed and reaped from and harvested and you give that to the Lord. It's a grain offering. When anyone offers a grain offering to the Lord, his offering shall be a fine flower or another translation, choice flower. And he shall pour oil on it and put frankincense on it. And he shall bring it to the Aaron's sons, the priests. One of whom shall take from its hand or from it. His handful of fine flower and oil with all the frankincense and the priest shall burn it as a memorial on the altar, the offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to Lord.
So the priest took a token amount. It was flower mixed with olive oil. A portion of it would be brought. The priest would take up token, all of the incense, the frankincense that was a gummy aromatic resin that came from Saudi Arabia. Now, I don't know if you've ever smelled frankincense. Frankincense smells really woodsy, like cypress-pine oil with lemon. It's very wonderful smell. And he'd put all of that incense on that token portion of flower oil, throw it on the altar and it would go up in smoke. It was a sweet aroma to the Lord. The rest of the grain offering shall be, Aaron and his sons, it is, most holy of the offerings to the Lord made by fire. So they could take the flower and the oil. They could take it and use it for themselves, again, as part of their compensation for the offering.
In verse 4 are the instructions for the grain offering if you bake it in an oven. Notice, and if you bring as an offering, a grain offering baked in the oven. Okay. Again, your mind and my mind thinks of your oven at home. It's not a GE or a Viking or anything electric. The oven in those days was a clay cylinder that was heated up with coals from the bottom and the bread was placed, the dough was placed on the sides of the cylinder. If you come with us to Israel, I'll try to show you one of these ovens. They still cook with them. The best bread, when you dip that in olive oil and they just take that dough and they flattened it out across that cylinder and it bakes and it bubbles and it's amazing. Well, that's mentioned in verse 4.
Verse 5 is, "If you bring the offering, but this time, you bake it in a pan." Notice, if you're offering is grain offering baked in a pan, that is a griddle, and you bake it on a griddle and you're going to have a crips kind of a wafer. So there's different forms this offering can take.
In verse 7, "If your offering is a grain offering baked in a covered pan." Now, when you bake something in a covered pan, it turns out different than if you bake it on a griddle. If you bake it on a griddle, it's going to be a wafer, a crips wafer. If you bake it in on a covered pan, it's going to be more moist. It's going to be like holy pancakes. So you can bring crisp wafers, you can bring oil and flower with frankincense or you can bring holy pancakes.
Verse 11, "No grain offering which you bring to the Lord shall be made with leaven —" that is yeast, "— for you shall burn no leaven nor any honey in any offering to the Lord made by fire." As for the offering of the first fruits, you shall offer them to the Lord but they shall not be burned on the altar for sweet aroma. And every offering of your grain offering, you shall season with salt. You shall not allow the Salt of the Covenant of your God to be lacking from your grain offering with all your offerings you shall offer salt.
First of all, leaven is forbidden, leaven or yeast. Leaven is that which causes the bread to ferment and rise. Because fermentation takes place, degradation takes place, corruption is taking place. Once you put leaven in it, that bread starts to go bad. So leaven becomes a type of corruption or sin in the Bible. You'll discover when the Passover law is given. You have to search the house before the Passover to get rid of all the leaven. It's a feast completely without leaven.
Now, not all the feasts are. The feast of First Fruits included leaven bread that was waved before the Lord. But on Passover, all the leaven was taken out of the house. So leaven, yeast becomes a symbol of sin, of corruption.
That's important to know, because when you get to the New Testament and Jesus will say to His disciples, "Beware of the leaven of the pharisees." And they start going, "Okay. Which one of you dudes forgot to bring bread? That's what he's talking about. Somebody forgot to bring bread." And Jesus said, "You guys don't get it, do you? Beware of the leaven of the pharisees which is hypocrisy." He used it in a negative sense —hypocrisy.
Paul the Apostle in his writings uses leaven also as a negative. When in 2 Corinthians, he says, "A little leaven, leavens the whole lump." And in Galatians 5, "A little leaven, leavens the whole lump." In Galatians, he's talking about the leaven of legalism, trying to be made perfect or right with God because you're keeping a set of laws. He says, "That's leaven. That's bad. That's corrupting. Get rid of it." A little leaven will leaven the whole lump. So your offering is to be made without leaven.
Notice it also says "without any honey." Now, we're left to guess in some of these things, because the text doesn't tell us why no honey. God says just no honey. It's not a book about why you shouldn't do stuff, just do this. So why do you suppose the Lord would say, "When you offer a sacrifice, a grain offering, don't put any honey." Because honey would be really good. right? I'm thinking again sopapilla. This is where my mind is. I'm thinking I'm the priest, "Bring some honey. You've cooked them pancakes up, put a little honey on it."
No honey. Why? Well, a couple of options. The pagans would often use honey in their own sacrifices to pagan gods. And according to an ancient Jewish scholar,Maimonides, he said God was forbidding that the worship of Yahweh, the true God, should resemble anything like pagan worship. It should be free of any pagan influence. It should be pure. No honey. The pagans do that.
Option number two: The word for honey is the Hebrew word "devash", which can also mean sweets that you make like jelly, jams, preservatives. And it is believed that when the bible talks about the land flowing with milk and honey, its date honey that is extracted and made by humans and not by bees. It's not that kind of honey, bee honey. It's human made from dates — devash. So the idea is when you bring this grain offering to me, I don't want you to add human sweetness to it. Don't try to add anything of your own natural sweetness to it. This is a supernatural act with the ingredients that I have provided. "I, the Lord God from heaven."
If that is the meaning, it is very, very suggestive and poignant, because I've discovered something. When I share the Gospel with people, the hardest people that I find who will be open to the Gospel are those who have a sense of their natural sweetness, their own natural goodness. Who would say, "We don't need a sacrifice. I'm good person. Nobody has to die here. No blood has to be shed. I work hard. I do my best. I'm naturally a sweet person." It's usually the person who knows he or she is corrupt and wasted who sees their need for salvation, who says, "There's nothing good in me." That's why Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit." They recognize their own spiritual poverty. They're bankrupt before God. So don't add any honey to it. Don't add any leaven to it.
But God does say in those verses that we've just covered — verse 13 — that you're to add salt to it. What does salt do for food? It flavors it. In ancient times, it preserved it. There were no refrigerators. So when meat was cut, you would rub it with salt. If you didn't, it wouldn't last long. You'd have to eat it right then and there or it wouldn't last. So you would rub it with salt to preserve it. So it added flavor. It was a preservative. Jesus said, "You are the salt of the Earth." I think he had those two ideas in mind. You are to give flavor to the company that you keep. You are to add the spice of life. You preserve your culture, your generation by your values in your life.
But something else. In ancient times, when an agreement was made between business partners and a deal, a covenant was to be sealed or settled. A meal was eaten. Sort of like today. You shake hands on the deal and you go out and have a meal. But it was a form of meal, it was a covenant meal, and at that meal, salt would be included called the Salt of the Covenant. And if it wasn't in the meal it was simply a pinch of salt that the two men in the Covenant would take together and it was their Covenant of Salt.
Now, that little phrase, Covenant of Salt, is used a couple of times in the Old Testament. Meaning, an agreement is made. So salt will be added to all of the sacrifices because it speaks of the formal covenant of approaching God, having a relationship with God, between God and his people.
Before we get into the next chapter — what does this offering have to do with me personally today? How can I benefit from it? What am I to take away from this? Simply this: All that I have belongs to God. All that God has given me, all that comes from my own labor and my hard work, whether I'm harvesting fields or working in an office, all that the Lord puts in my hands, I am simply a steward of the blessings of God. God has blessed the work of my hands and I am in fellowship with Him and I offer back some of that. But it speaks of God blessing the work of my hands of which I am a steward before the Lord.
So, offering — number one. Blood is shed. I have access to God. God then. Second offering blesses the work of my hands and an offering is made.
Chapter 3. See, we're really zooming through this book. This is the peace offering, when his offering is a sacrifice of a peace offering, "Zevaḥ shelamim" in Hebrew. Say that. No, I'm just kidding. When his offering is a sacrifice of a peace offering, he offers it of the herd, whether male of female. See, either/or. He shall offer it without blemish before the Lord. He shall lay his hand on the head of the offering and kill it at the door of the Tabernacle of Meeting. And Aaron's sons, the priests — this is of the tribe of Levi — shall sprinkle the blood all around on the altar. Then he shall offer from the sacrifice of the peace offering, an offering made by fire to the Lord. The fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails, the two kidneys and the fat that is on them by the flanks and the fatty lobe attached to the liver above the kidneys, he shall remove.
Now, you and I may not know a lot of what that is because we're unfamiliar with the animal anatomy. They were very familiar with this. This is part of their worship. And Aaron's sons shall burn it on the altar upon the birth sacrifice which is on the woods that is on the fire as an offering made by fire a sweet aroma to the Lord.
The idea of the peace offering or the Zevaḥ shelamim, it meant a slaughter that brings peace or better yet, more literally, a slaughter that results in wellbeing, a peace offering. Now, this offering is different. It's different because the result will be a meal that you, the worshiper, have with your family and friends afterwards. This is different than the first two. The first two, it was all consumed except the hide that went to the priest. The second, a token was thrown on the altar of the grain offering and the rest was consumed by the priest. This sacrifice has three parts. Part of it is consumed on the altar burned by fire like in offering number one. Part of it is given to the priest as their compensation; the breast and the right thigh. Part of it or the rest of it, you will take home and you will have a huge party of celebration, celebrating the peace that exists and your thankful for the wellbeing because you are in right relationship with God and God has blessed your family. It's simply something you want to do.
Go down to Verse 9, "Then he shall offer from the sacrifice of the peace offering as an offering made by fire to the Lord its fat and the whole fat tail which he shall remove close to the backbone. And the fact that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails.
"The two kidneys and the fat that is on them by the flanks, the fatty lobe attached to the liver above the kidneys he shall remove and the priest shall burn them on the altar as food and as an offering made by fire to the Lord." So you take out the innards. That's what my dad used to call my grandmother, "She dumbs the innards." You take out all those parts that are mentioned, the innards and the fat and those are to be totally burnt, consumed upon the altar.
Now, we're city folk, so some of this whole fatty tail on a sheep thing, we're not getting. So I'm going to explain it to you, not because I have any personal experience with it, but I have seen this over in the Middle East. It was a phenomenon back then. It still exists to this day. There is a type of sheep of called the oriental broad-tailed sheep that has an unusually big fatty tail. Get this. Up to ten to 20 pounds — that's how much the tail weighs just the tail. The tail stores excess body fat in it. They were so big that the ancient historian, the Greek historian Herodotus tells us that the ancients would make little contraptions, like little carts with wheels attached to the sheep supporting the tail. So the sheep would go around and the tail would be supported so the tail wouldn't break, because they got so big. I know that sounds weird, but the reason they were kept that way is the fatty tail was considered a delicacy. But when you go out to dinner and they offer fat sheep tail at 20 bucks a pop — done. It was a delicacy. You wanted that. God says, "I want that. I want that delicacy. You're to burn that on an altar with all of the innards to the Lord."
Now, it's a peace offering. What is the Hebrew word for peace? Shalom. That's the word used here — shalom. If you go to Jerusalem today and you wave it to somebody, they'll say to you, "Shalom!" When you say goodbye, they'll say, "Shalom!" It means hello and goodbye. It does mean peace, but more than that, it means satisfaction, wellbeing. It's that sense of inner wellbeing and satisfaction knowing that I'm in a right relationship with God and I just want to take the time to thank Him, praise Him and have a party about that with my buddies and my family. Great concept! I love the concept of the peace offering. God has welcomed us into fellowship. It's like we're a host or we're a guest at God's table. He is the host. He is taking care of us. He has lavished us with his meal. This comes from Him and we celebrate that with our friends.
Now, down in Verse 17, "This shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations and all your dwelling. You shall neither eat fat —" well, a lot of us look at it and go, "I don't like that. I like the chicharones."
That's okay. You're not under the Law. Go for it. Although, it might cause you later on in health. Anyway, "You shall neither eat fat nor blood." Don't eat fat. Don't eat blood. Remember in the New Testament the Book of Acts, when the Counsel of Jerusalem was telling the Gentiles who believed in Christ what to do and whatnot to do? The counsel of Jerusalem said, "Let's not burden them with too many rules and regulations. Let's tell them to abstain from fornication, from thanks strangle and from blood." Because they didn't want them to offend their Jewish brethren who would be greatly offended if someone did what the law definitely said not to do.
The reason they're not to eat the blood — the key will be unlocked in Leviticus 17 where the Lord says, "For the life of the flesh is in the blood." It signifies life itself. You're not to eat it, you're not to drink it. Who would do that? Well, they did and in some parts of the world, they still do. Ever heard of blood pudding? Gross. I think you tried that ones didn't you Nathan? Blood pudding? Okay. You have more guts than I have. Guts literally.
Now, I want to say something here. The Jehovah Witnesses had made a big deal about not allowing their constituents, those who are Jehovah Witnesses, even if their children are dying, even if they need blood, a blood transfusion, it is forbidden in the belief system of the Jehovah Witnesses for any of their members to take a blood transfusion based upon Levitical text, like chapter 3 and chapter 17, "The life of the flesh is in the blood."
Even though God is saying, "Don't eat the blood." Somehow, in their minds, if there is a blood transfusion, since whatever you eat eventually becomes a part of you and will get into every part of you, including your bloodstream — this their thinking — a blood transfusion is to break this commandment. And that is why you'll read from time to time horrible things, little babies, little children dying who could have been saved have they had a blood transfusion, but they weren't allowed to have it. It's a gross misinterpretation of the text.
Now, what is this offering have to do with us? How could we apply this personally? Be more thankful for the goodness of God. In fact, be more celebratory of the goodness of God. I love the idea of having a party not because it's Christmas, not because it's Thanksgiving; just because we just want to celebrate God's goodness and faithfulness to us. We use to have a great ministry around here years ago we called "Dinner of Eight". Some of you may remember it. It was simple. No big rules and regulations. It was to encourage couples in the church to develop community life together. Dinner of eight —four couples commit to having dinner once a month for a period of time. No agenda. During that time, they would talk, they would interact, they would build relationships, they would start small groups from that and continue on. But the idea was having a meal, having a dinner just to celebrate there is wellbeing because God is a part of our fellowship and a part of our life. I love that.
I was invited by a friend yesterday. He opened a restaurant and he wanted me to come and he said, "Bless this restaurant." Just to pray over his staff and his restaurant. So I thought, "I wouldn't do it alone. I'll bring my pastoral staff." And we went all over there and got into circle and prayed for the owner and for his family. They're believers. They want to do this for God's glory and we prayed just that God would bless the endeavor, et cetera. And then afterwards, they brought out the peace offerings. Sheeps and salsa and tacos and we just sat around and celebrated God's goodness. And I think in a true way, it kind of fulfilled the idea behind this great feast here.
Now, Chapter 4, "Now, the Lord spoke to Moses saying —" this is the sin offering now "—speak to the children of Israel saying, ‘If a person sins unintentionally against any of the commandments of the Lord in anything which ought not to be done and does any of them. If the anointed priest —" perhaps speaking about the high priest ‘— if the anointed priest sins bringing guilt on the people —' notice the sin of one affects the many ‘— then let him offer to the Lord for his sin, which he has sinned, a young bull without blemish as a sin offering. He shall bring the bull to the door of the Tabernacle of Meeting before the Lord laid his hand on the bull's head and kill the bull before the Lord. And the anointed priest shall take some of the bull's blood and bring it to the Tabernacle of Meeting. The priest shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle some of the blood seven times before the Lord in front of the veil." That is the veil between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, the Veil of the Sanctuary. "And the priest shall put some of the blood on the horns of the altar with sweet incense before the Lord, which is in the Tabernacle of Meeting and he shall pour the remaining blood of the bull at the base of the altar of burnt offering which is at the door of the Tabernacle of Meeting."
This fourth offering, the sin offering is called in Hebrew the "Hatat". Now, you can say that. You've got to do that, but be mindful of the neighbor in front of you. Hatat, and that word Hatat comes from Hata, which is the word for sin, which means "to miss the mark." The Hebrew word means "to miss the mark." God has set the mark and you didn't make the mark, whether you knew it or not. In this case, you didn't know it. It was unintentional. The idea of sin means to miss the mark. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We've all missed the mark. Let's say you and I — let's say there were three of us. A couple of you and I' we decided. let's have a little contest. We're going to run from here, from the church through town.
We're going to run to the base of the Sandia Mountains, get to La Luz Trail. Ever been on that? That eight-mile windy trail up toward the top of Sandia Mountain. Sandia Mountain is, what? 10,600 feet. We're going to run from here to the base of the mountain up La Luz Trail and the winner gets to the top. So, we take off. I make it a block, I passed out. I'm a cyclist. I'm not a great runner. One of you make it all the way to tramway and you passed out. You haven't been training. You used to run, but you've been eating a lot lately, a lot of peace offerings going on. You've been really thankful. So you make it to tramway and you collapse. The other, really fit, really lean, really athletic, you make it all the way to La Luz Trail. You make it toward La Luz Trail, toward the top. You're winding. You're going through that little rainforest there and you make it almost to the top and you collapse. Question — who got to the top? Nobody. If the top has got standard of perfection, no one made it. All of us have sinned.
Now, some of you may be better sinners than others, you made it almost to the top. I may not be as good of a sinner as some. I only made it a block.
See how I spun that from the beginning? But the point is nobody made it. We have all hata. We have all missed the mark. So sin is committed. God is saying sometimes by Commission, you do it on purpose, a trespass; and sometimes by omission. You fail to do some or you didn't know you did something that you did. You unintentionally sinned. And several groups are listed as to what sacrifices are made for whom. If you're a high priest, you do this. If you're a congregation as a whole, you do this.
Verse 13, look at this just quickly. "If the whole congregation of Israel since unintentionally and the thing is hidden from the eyes of the assembly and they have done something against any of the commandments of the Lord in anything which should not be done, they are guilty. When the sin, which they have committed becomes known that is you find out that was wrong, "I didn't mean to do it, but now I see I've done it." Then the assembly shall offer a young bull for the sin and bring it before the Tabernacle of Meeting and the elders of the congregation shall lay their hands on the head of the bull before the Lord, and then the bull shall be killed before the Lord."
Look down to Verse 22, "When a ruler has sinned —" that is a tribal ruler "— and done something unintentionally against any of the commandments of the Lord his God in anything which should not be done and he is guilty, or if his sin which he has committed comes to his knowledge he shall bring as his offering a kid of the goats, a male without blemish."
There is something psychologically good about this offering. All of us, if we, by oversight or negligence do something that hurt somebody — once we find out that what we did or didn't do, we didn't know it then, it actually caused great damage to another person. We feel really bad. We feel really guilty. If you were texting while you are driving, shame on you, and you get in an accident and hurt or kill someone to live with that the rest of your life. That will be tough. I've read about few girls driving in Montana and they accidentally ran into a man who was dressed as big foot. I don't know why. But they accidentally, unintentionally killed him. And I thought, "Well, that's bad for Bigfoot, but it's also bad, really bad for those survivors who have to live with that survivals guilt."
So God made provision if something is done unintentionally, you missed the mark; this is how you deal with it. If you are a high priest, if you are a congregation, if you're a leader, if you're an individual — look at verse 27. We're coming to a close of our study, end of this chapter, "If anyone of the common people sins unintentionally by doing something against any of the commandments of the Lord in anything which ought not to be done and he's guilty. Or, if a sin which he has committed comes to his knowledge, then he shall bring us his offering a kid of the goats, a female without blemish for his sin which he has committed. He shall lay his hand on the head of the offering..." et cetera, et cetera.
Now, there are some differences. Let me just give them to you quickly. Number one: If you're a high priest or if it's the whole congregation that is being atoned for, blood is brought into the inner sanctuary, the Holy Place, and sprinkle toward the veil and blood is placed on the horns, the protrusions, the four corners of the altar of incense that's in the Holy Place. The rest of the carcass of the animal is taken outside the camp, disposed off. If, however, the offering is made for a ruler of for an individual, the blood is applied to the outer altar, the Altar of Sacrifice, the big altar in the courtyard, the main altar, placed on the four horns of that altar, blood is drained and the animal is eaten by the priest. Because if you are the priest, you can't eat it. "Well, I have sins, so I'm going to get a good meal out of this." You can't do that. The animal is disposed off. But if it's unintentional sins of a ruler of an individual, then the priest could partake of that.
Now, what are the benefits of this? Look at verse 31, "He shall remove all its fat, that is remove from the sacrifice of the peace offering just like that. And the priest shall burn it on the altar for a sweet aroma to the Lord so the priest shall make atonement for him and it shall be forgiven him." The benefit is forgiveness. Look at the last verse, verse 35, "He shall remove all the fat..." et cetera, et cetera. Look at the last sentence, "So the priest shall make atonement for his sin that he has committed and it shall be forgiven him." That's the benefit. Now, the first three offerings were voluntary. This fourth offering is compulsory. You had to bring it. Once you find out there's guilt, you bring an offering.
First three, it is do because you do. You want to do it, you do it. The first offering, the burnt offering, became the ritual of Israel done for the whole nation everyday morning and evening, eventually, but those were voluntary. This one is compulsory. Now, think how hard it would be to bring an offering. Let's say you've sinned and you bring an offering. Everybody is going to know you've sinned. So it's tantamount to making a confession. "I blew it. I didn't know I blew it, but I blew it and now I'm making a confession." So you're making confession, it's done in this case publically.
The great thing about confession is the guarantee of forgiveness. 1 John 1:9, you know it well, do you not? It says, first of all, if we say we have no sin, we are a liar and the truth is not in us. But if we sin, John says we have an advocate with God the Father that is Jesus Christ. But 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us all of our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
Well, we're at the time limit. I do want to give you a teaser, if I may. Ready? Historians, scholars, will look at this sacrifice and say, "Well, these are no different than any of then ancient sacrifices of the people from China or Mesopotamia." Ancient people often sacrifice to their gods, grain offerings, animal sacrifices, blood. So they will take these sacrifices as simply a primitive form of worship like all of the worldly sacrifices of people around them. Why is what they've just said not to be believed and what is the hold in their argument saying it's just like theirs? What makes these sacrifices different from all of the other sacrifices? Chew on that. I'll tell you next time when we get together. Let's pray.
Heavenly Father, you are unique. There is no one like you. There is no God like you. In fact, there is no God at all beside you. This world has religions with thousands of ideas, thousands and millions of gods and goddesses, all of which are not real. They're just made up by people's imagination. They don't exist at all. They are false gods and false religions propagated by false prophets. There is one true God and He alone has made covenants with men and women. We are under a different covenant, a different agreement than those in he Old Testament times.
But we're thankful for the meaning behind all of these sacrifices, what they mean, what they point to and ultimately, they point to the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world. Where all animal sacrifices, we're unable to do, Jesus has done once and for all and we're thankful for that. Thankful for the atonement that was made and I prayed that our worship, we would be all in. We would be more engaged. It would be more costly to us. It would be more personal to us and there would be much more celebration. In our participatory worship when we come together like this and sing and when we were at home with friends and family. May our lives be centered on the living God and His son the Lord Jesus Christ. In his name, we pray. Amen.