Friday, July 21, 2023

2023.07.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ Leviticus 1:3–17

Read Leviticus 1:3–17

Questions from the Scripture text: To what sort of offering does Leviticus 1:3 refer? From where? What sex animal must be offered? Of what quality? From what motivation? Where? Before Whom? Then what does he do (Leviticus 1:4a)? What does this laying hold of the offering result in (verse 4b)? What does he then do to the bull (Leviticus 1:5)? Before Whom? And who then take the blood? To do what? Where? To what? Then what does the worshiper do (Leviticus 1:6)? Who then do what in Leviticus 1:7? What do they do with the products of Leviticus 1:6 (Leviticus 1:8)? What does the worshiper do in the meantime (Leviticus 1:9a)? So that who can do what with all of this (verse 9b)? What does all of this end up being, and unto Whom (verse 9c)? From where else may this sort of offering come (Leviticus 1:10)? What may be offered? What new detail do Leviticus 1:11-13 add to the procedure in Leviticus 1:5-9? Where else can this sort of offering come (Leviticus 1:14)? What may be offered? Who brings it (Leviticus 1:15)? What does he do to the head? What does he do to the blood? What does he do with the crop and feathers (Leviticus 1:16)? But what with the rest of it (Leviticus 1:17)? What does this end up being, and unto Whom (end of verse 17, cf. end of Leviticus 1:13, end of Leviticus 1:9)?

How can a sinner come near to God and be pleasing to Him? Leviticus 1:3–17 looks forward to the evening sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these fifteen verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the Lord provides a substitute, consecrated by blood and transformed by fire, in which the worshiper ascends unto heaven, and by whose blood the worship on earth is consecrated as well. 

The first, and most important, brought-near thing (offering) that Yahweh commands from the within the tent of meeting is literally “an ascension.” “Burnt sacrifice” in the NKJ is translating a noun-form of the verb for “go up” or “ascend.” 

Who may ascend? The wealthy (who can afford from the herd, Leviticus 1:3-9), the ordinary (who can afford from the flock, Leviticus 1:10-13), and the poor (who can afford only birds, Leviticus 1:14-17). God shows no partiality (cf. Deuteronomy 10:17). The full procedure is given for the sacrifice of the bull, with appropriate alterations for the smaller sacrifices. There are several important things  to note.

First, much of the passage (Leviticus 1:3Leviticus 1:10Leviticus 1:14) emphasizes the worshiper’s duty to choose. He actively identifies his substitute. He must choose one that is costly to him; it’s not like the chapter is saying that someone who can afford a bull is free to “go cheap” and get a turtledove! Also, the sacrifice has to be male (where easily detected; Leviticus 1:3Leviticus 1:10). This is, in part, because it will be a federal representative of sorts, but especially because it is looking forward to Christ, the blameless One Whose blood is shed and Who ascends. He must choose one that is blameless, because it will be ascending to the Lord. Only the pure may do that (cf. Psalm 24:3–6; Matthew 5:8; Matthew 22:12–13; Hebrews 12:14; 2 Peter 1:4; 1 John 3:2–3). Ultimately, only Christ may do that (cf. Psalm 24:7–10)! Do we give the Lord the costliest that we can? Do we give the Lord the best that we can? Do we come to Him only in our perfectly pure Savior? Are we seeking that purity in which we may follow after our ascended Savior?

Second, there is an identification with the animal. This laying is heavy enough to be translated as leaning or even pressing upon. Maybe “laying hold of.” Our point is that the physical contact is forceful, and it is “pressing” a point: the identity between the worshiper and the animal. It is not a transfer of sin (in chapter 16, when sin is transferred, the goat is driven away; the holy goat is the one that is sacrificed). The animal is the “brought near one,” so that in his identity with it, the worshiper may come near and “ascend” as the animal ascends. Indeed, if there is sin to be dealt with, one of the sacrifices detailed in chapters 4–5 will have to be offered first, before the ascension (sometimes translated “whole burnt offering” or “burnt sacrifice”) can be offered. 

While the word “atonement” (Leviticus 1:4) includes ideas of saving ransom and cleansing, its main idea is reconciliation to God, being brought near to Him, being at one with Him. At-one-ment. Here is a wonderful reality in Christ’s being our ascension. We are identified with Him, so that in Him we may be at-one with God!

Third, the worshiper himself slits the throat of the bull or the goat or the sheep (in the case of the bird, the priest directly takes the blood). This is an indication of dying to self. He slaughters the animal that he has already identified with himself. Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin. The blood must be used to consecrate the furnishings of the tabernacle (in this case the altar itself, where the ascension will take place). But, before it can be used to do so, first it must be shed. The worshiper must be willing to do this with his own hand. Christ laid down His own life, willing to die for our sakes on account of His union and identity with us (cf. John 10:17–18). 

Finally, the priests conduct the actual bringing near (offering)—the actual ascension (burnt sacrifice). First, they capture the blood and sprinkle it all around the altar. There are many baptizings of the tabernacle furnishings with blood: pourings, splashings, splatterings, smearings, and sprinklings. The life is in the blood (cf. Leviticus 17:11–14; Genesis 9:4). This is used to cleanse and consecrate the altar for use. Only then, do they arrange the wood and fire (Leviticus 1:7), with the head and fat on top (Leviticus 1:8), which that the worshiper has removed and given to them (Leviticus 1:6). Meanwhile, the worshiper washes the remaining vicera and legs with water, to make sure that there is no excrement or other impurity upon them (Leviticus 1:9a). Finally, all are burned upon the altar as an “ascension.” There are several Hebrew words for burning, and this one literally means to turn into smoke. The idea is not the consuming of the animal but the transformation of the animal into a form in which it may ascend.

The result of all of this is that as the worshiper ascends to God, identified with the cleansed and holy substitute from the altar that has been cleansed by blood, he is a “sweet aroma” to YHWH. The words “sweet” and “aroma” are actually synonyms, each carrying the meaning of both sweet and aroma. It is an emphatic doubling. If God had not been giving these commands from within the tabernacle itself, it could hardly be believed to be true: by ascending in this way, the believer is actually brought near as pleasingly pleasingly pleasing to Him Who dwells on high! Of course, this was not accomplished by this sacrifice in an inherent or ultimate sense, but because of Christ Himself. The copy/shadow (cf. Hebrews 8:5, Hebrews 10:1) of Christ, His sacrifice, His ascension, and His heavenly ministry was given for the sake of Christ and accepted for the sake of Christ. This is the glorious, ultimate conclusion for us: as we ascend through Him, we are genuinely pleasing to God. Praise the Lord!

Since you cannot ascend to God by yourself, what do you need? How can you be cleansed? How can you be consecrated? In Whom can you be transformed? How are you received when you ascend in Him in this way?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we thank You for providing us with Your own Son as our substitute. Thank You for cleansing us by His blood and consecrating even the assembly in glory by that blood. Now, give us to lay our hands upon Him, to be identified with Him, so that we may be received in Heaven in Him, and that we may be pleasing to You in Him, we ask in His Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP73C “Yet Constantly I Am with You” or TPH73C “In Sweet Communion, Lord, with Thee”

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