Leviticus 1; Leviticus 6:8-13.
My intention is to take up in a simple way, as the Lord may help me, some of the offerings mentioned in the Book of Leviticus, because they set forth in a special manner the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, and, also, we may add, the blessings which have become ours through what He has done. Let us read, therefore, two verses in the last chapter of Exodus (vv. 34-35), the whole of Leviticus 1, and "the law of the burnt offering" in chapter 6:8-13.
Probably most present here are aware that the offerings which are brought before us in the Book of Leviticus are, as I have intimated, types or pictures given by the Holy Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ's Person and work and of what results to us through that work too, thank God. But someone might say, "Are you sure that they are really types? Or is it only in the imagination of man that they are such?"
In answering this inquiry we will turn to the New Testament, where we shall learn from the words of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, as well as from the inspired words of an apostle, that the offerings of the Old Testament are indeed types of the Saviour and His work.
First, then, we will read a passage in Luke 24. The Lord Jesus, speaking to those two going to Emmaus, said, "O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself" (vv. 25-27).
The expression, "Moses and all the prophets," really comprehends the whole of the Old Testament. "Beginning at Moses," that is, the five books of Moses — Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy — and then "all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures [that is, the Old Testament Scriptures] the things concerning Himself."
Have you, dear friends, ever read the Book of Leviticus and learned from it the things concerning the Lord Jesus? Or have you done as many of the Lord's people to this day do? They commence to read through the Bible, but when they come to Leviticus they pass it over. They do not read it at all, because they think it is only a book of Jewish forms and ceremonies — a ritual that has nothing to do with Christians at all. But we learn from this passage in Luke that the Lord expounded to those two travelers "in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself."
A little farther down in this chapter of Luke we read, "He said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning Me" (v. 44).
"The law of Moses" does not mean merely the ten commandments, but the first five books of the Bible.
"Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day" (vv. 45-46).
Oh, what a wonderful exposition that must have been! It was from the Old Testament Scriptures — the law of Moses, the prophets and the psalms — that He expounded unto them the things concerning Himself. How wonderful then does this Book of Leviticus become in our eyes when we find that, instead of its being only some Jewish ritual, we have precious things in it concerning the Lord Jesus Himself. And when we find that each one of the offerings gives us a picture of the Lord Jesus, either in His Person or His work, how interesting does it become! It is indeed very gracious of God to teach us in this way, by means of types or pictures, for our poor, narrow minds could not apprehend at once the glory of the Person of the Lord Jesus or the value of His work. Therefore, God gives us these types in order that we may, so to speak, consider one aspect of the Person or work of the Lord Jesus at a time. Then, having looked at one type, we turn to another, which gives us a different aspect. Thus, putting all together, our hearts are filled with wonder, worship and praise, while we learn, in a way we could not otherwise have learned, what the glory of His Person is and what the value of His work.
We find in this Book of Leviticus that there were four chief offerings. The first chapter presents the burnt offering; the second chapter, the meat offering; the third chapter, the peace offering; and the fourth chapter, the sin offering. Four offerings are brought before us by the Holy Spirit in order to make clear to our minds four different aspects of the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, just as in the New Testament the Holy Spirit has given us, in the four Gospels, four different views of the Lord's Person.
Now if you turn to Hebrews 10, you will find all these four offerings mentioned:
"Wherefore, when He cometh into the world, He saith, Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body hast Thou prepared Me: in burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast had no pleasure" (vv. 5-6).
"Sacrifice and offering," in verse 5, would answer to the peace offering and the meat offering, and in verse 6 we have "burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin." So we find all these four offerings mentioned. Then in verse 7 the Lord Jesus is seen coming to accomplish the will of God.
It is very clear from these verses that the offerings are types of Him who said, "Lo, I come. . . to do Thy will, Ο God" — that is, of the Lord Jesus.
Another scripture that may be referred to is in Hebrews 9:
"Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: the Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing" (vv. 6-8).
So, by Aaron's going only once a year into the holy of holies, the Holy Spirit signifies something. In fact, the act was typical; the whole ritual was so. We find indeed, from Hebrews 9:23, that the tabernacle and the things in it were called "patterns of things in the heavens."
I think we have now seen enough from the New Testament to show us very clearly that all these sacrifices are really types given us by the Holy Spirit of the Lord Jesus Himself. We will therefore return to our subject.
It is very helpful to connect the end of Exodus with the beginning of Leviticus. This is not often done, but I think we may lose by not doing it, and that is why I read those closing verses.
Twice over in them we find this expression: "The glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle" (vv. 34-35). "And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle" (v. 35). Moses dared not go in because of the glory there.
Now read Leviticus 1:1: "And the Lord called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying." It was from within the tabernacle that the Lord spoke. He did not speak from Mount Sinai, where He gave the law. No. The glory of Jehovah filled the tabernacle, and out of that glory He spoke to Moses, and said, "Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man of you bring an offering unto the Lord." He gave out all those instructions, not about law-keeping, but about the sacrifices. Is that not significant? First, we find glory filling the tabernacle, and then God speaking out of that glory as to the way a sinner, like you and me, could be made fit for all eternity to dwell in that glory. How simply, how beautifully, it is brought out in this chapter! The burnt offering stands first, because it shows how a sinner by nature can be accepted before a holy God on the ground of sacrifice. It brings out clearly and blessedly how a sinner that is away from God, alienated from Him by wicked works, who hates God in his heart, who has a rebellious will, and is full of sin — how that sinner could be accepted before God on the ground of the value, in His eyes, of the sacrifice of Christ. That is what we have brought out in the burnt offering. I do not say that it is the first thought, but it is what we do find brought out.
Now, of what does this burnt offering speak? "The work of Christ," you say. But what aspect of the work of Christ? Well, the sin offering, which comes last in order, speaks for itself. That is a type of Christ bearing our sins, what we have done, putting them away forever. But what is the burnt offering? The burnt offering is that which typifies Christ coming to do the will of God, at all cost to Himself, in spite of all that awful suffering and agony of the cross. He came to accomplish the will of God and to glorify Him, even in death. Thank God, it was for us too. God's will was our salvation, and thus the Lord Jesus, in coming to accomplish the will of God, came to accomplish our salvation also. Suppose I were to ask this question of the Lord's people generally: "What do you think was the first object of the Lord Jesus Christ in coming into this world?" What answer do you think they would give? Nine out of ten would say that the first object was to save sinners, of course. Yet that was not the first object. It was an object. But what was the Lord's first object in coming into this world? Have we not just read from Hebrews 10?
"Wherefore, when He cometh into the world, He saith, Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body hast Thou prepared Me: in burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come . . . to do Thy will, Ο God" (vv. 5-7).
The first object the Lord Jesus had in coming into this world was to accomplish the will of God and to glorify Him. And when was this perfect obedience to the will of God more perfectly expressed than when He was made sin for us on the cross? when He, to do the will of God, went down into death, and that for us? It was when He took our sins upon Him and was made sin that God acquired His highest and greatest glory (John 13:31-32). It is most important to see that.
Very naturally, therefore, the burnt offering comes first, because it presents Christ, not so much as taking our sins, but as offering Himself without spot to God, to accomplish the will of God and to glorify Him, and that in death.
If you turn to Ephesians 5 you will find that there are two sides of the work of Christ presented to us in one verse:
"Walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us" (v. 2); that is our side:
"An offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor"; that is the other side,
and that is the aspect that is presented in this burnt offering — an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor. I am sure we lose very much in our own souls through not looking at that aspect of the sacrifice of Christ — what it is to God, and not merely what it is for us. We get far deeper peace by looking at it in that way. We gain immensely by it. Let me ask you, Have you ever contemplated that aspect of the death of the Lord Jesus? I trust that everyone here is able to say from the heart, "The Lord Jesus died for me; in the love of His heart He gave Himself for me." Wondrous and blessed fact! We shall never forget it through all eternity. But let me ask you, Have you ever dwelt upon what that work of Christ was to God? Have you ever considered what were God's thoughts concerning that blessed One when He thus offered up Himself without spot? Returning to Leviticus 1 we read:
"If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it for his acceptance [this is the correct reading] at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord" (v. 3).
Mark, the animal is not killed yet. It is first brought, or presented, without blemish, for the offerer's acceptance before the Lord. An imperfect animal could not be accepted. Just turn to a passage in chapter 22.
"Speak unto Aaron, and to his sons, and unto all the children of Israel, and say unto them, Whatsoever he be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers in Israel, that will offer his oblation for all his vows, and for all his freewill offerings, which they will offer unto the Lord for a burnt offering; ye shall offer for your acceptance [or, that ye may be accepted; see the Revised Version] a male without blemish, of the beeves, of the sheep, or of the goats. But whatsoever hath a blemish, that shall ye not offer: for it shall not be acceptable for you. And whosoever offereth a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the Lord to accomplish his vow, or a freewill offering in beeves or sheep, it shall be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no blemish therein" (vv. 18-21).
It must be perfect to be accepted, to begin with. If there had been a single spot, a single blemish, upon that bullock, it could not have been accepted, and if the bullock had not been accepted, the offerer would not have been accepted, for it was for his acceptance that the animal was offered. What does that point to? To the holy, spotless Person of the blessed Lord Jesus, born into this world, made of a woman, made under the law, the One who thought it not robbery to be equal with God (Phil. 2), but who made Himself of no reputation, emptying Himself, coming into this world, not a full-grown man as Adam, but a new-born babe, and then passing through this world as the holy, sinless One and offering Himself without spot to God. The whole of that blessed, spotless life (which I do not dwell on now, because it is typified in the meat offering), the whole of that life, every word He spoke, every action He performed, ascended to God as a sweet savor. And then we find that He went into death.
The obedience that characterized Him in His life was only perfected, so to speak, in His death. Or, as we read in Philippians 2, He was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. We know the Father's thoughts of that blessed One. Twice over the heavens were opened, and the Father's voice was heard, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased," or, "in whom I have found My delight" (JND). Every thought of His heart was to God a sweet savor. Then came the dreadful hour in the garden of Gethsemane, when there was brought before the Lord Jesus all that He would have to go through if He persisted in this blessed path of obedience — what He would have to go through if He carried out the will of God perfectly. It was all brought before Him in such wise that the Lord said, "O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt" (Matt. 26:39). So He goes on to the cross in perfect and blessed obedience and there offers Himself up, a willing victim, to accomplish the will of God.
I ask you, beloved friends, not what your thought is about that wondrous work, that act of blessed obedience and devotedness to the Father's glory, but, Have you ever considered what is God's thought about that blessed One and His obedience unto death? If the Father could say of Him during His life here, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased," how much more now that He has gone even into death itself, out of obedience and love to the Father. In John 14:31 we find the two things, His love and His obedience to the Father, both shown in His going on to death. "But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence." He rose from the supper to go to the cross.
Suppose a friend whom we loved very much went through great trouble and suffering to do something we wished to be done, should we not appreciate his devotedness to us? Think then of the Lord Jesus Christ, at all cost to Himself, at the expense of that awful agony of the cross, in perfect obedience coming to do the will of God; as He said, "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work" (John 4:34). The Father ever delighted in Him. But now He was going to lay down His life in love and obedience to the Father, and He says, "Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life, that I might take it again" (John 10:17). Therefore! Did not the Father always love the Son? To be sure He did. Yet He says, "Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life." There was a fresh cause, a new motive, so to speak, for the Father's love to flow out toward the Son; and when on the cross the Lord was made sin, never was He personally more the object of the Father's delight. His being made sin was the perfection of His obedience. He went into death out of obedience to God. He was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Ο beloved friends, what does God think of that? It is expressed in our chapter in these words:
"But his inwards and his legs shall he wash in water [that is, the sacrifice was made clean to show what Christ was by nature — perfect, pure and holy]: and the priest shall burn all on the altar, to be a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savor unto the Lord" (v. 9).
"An offering made by fire, of a sweet savor unto the Lord." What idea do those words convey to your minds? Is not a sweet savor something in which we delight, something that is pleasing to us? These are the words the Holy Spirit uses to make known to us God's thoughts of that blessed One and His sacrifice. "An offering made by fire, of a sweet savor unto the Lord." What does "fire" mean in Scripture? Fire signifies generally God's testing judgment. Fire and the sweet savor go together. Look at that blessed One on the cross. When He was there, all the waves and the billows of the judgment of God rolled over His head. When He was made sin for us, who knew no sin; when He was there, bearing the whole weight of our judgment, in His infinite grace, what came out? Nothing but infinite perfection, nothing but a sweet savor to God, nothing but what God found infinite delight in. He was tested to the utmost, and the more He was tested the more sweet savor came out. The more we are tested, very often, the more our imperfections come out. The more He was tested, the more His perfections came out — the more the sweet savor came out before God. How blessed to look back and see the Lord Jesus made sin for us, and yet the sweet savor of what He was going up to God! In that sweet savor we find ourselves accepted, as we shall see further on.
Up to this time we have been thinking of what Christ is to God, and if we ask, "What does God think of the wondrous sacrifice of the Lord Jesus? What does He think of that blessed One who went to the cross to accomplish His glory at all cost to Himself?" the subject is so great that we can never know it in its fullness. But the Holy Spirit has expressed it for us in these words: "An offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor" (Eph. 5:2).
Now, what is our part in the burnt offering? Where do we come in? It has been truly said that the burnt offering was all for God; the priest was to "burn all on the altar." But we must remember that atonement is spoken of, blood-shedding is spoken of, and in verse 4 it says, "And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him."
That is our part — our getting the benefit of it, so to speak. It is the sin offering that tells us how Christ "bare our sins in His own body on the tree." That relates to what we have done. The burnt offering deals more with the question of what we are — our state before God as sinners, as in Romans 5:19: "By one man's disobedience many were made sinners" — what we are by nature. That is really the question to be settled, and how a sinner by nature can be accepted before a holy God. This is a difficulty to thousands of the Lord's people. Many say, "I have no difficulty about my sins; I know the Lord bore them all. Yet I cannot say that I have settled peace before God." How is that? You say, "I see my sins are forgiven, but I feel I come far short of what I ought to be as a Christian. I seem to have so little love for the Lord and for His Word."
I believe the burnt offering represents that which fully meets this question, because it deals more with our state by nature, and how we are accepted before God. This is not the first time we read of a burnt offering in Scripture. Abel's offering bore the character of a burnt offering, and by it he obtained witness that he, a sinner by nature, was righteous, God testifying of his gifts — that is, bearing witness to the value of the sacrifice (Heb. 11:4).
Noah also offered a burnt offering after the deluge. And the Lord smelled a sweet savor there and said in His heart, "I will not again curse the ground," although "the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth" (Gen. 8:21). Again, Job offered burnt offerings for his sons. "For Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts" (Job 1:5).
You will notice that verse 4 of our chapter says, "He shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering." That action means that the offerer was identified with all the value of the sacrifice. In other words, if God accepted the sacrifice, He accepted the one who brought it, but if God rejected the sacrifice, He likewise rejected the one who came with it. If God found the sacrifice a sweet savor and found delight in it, He found the same delight in the one who came with it. The offerer was fully identified with the value of the sacrifice before God. As we read, "And it shall be accepted for him," instead of him. Oh, how simple and how blessed that is! The sacrifice of Christ accepted by God for us, according to all the value that He puts upon it — Christ accepted instead of us. Instead of being before God with our sins and hatred to Him, instead of our disobedience and lack of devotedness, we are accepted according to all the value of that work on the cross, where our sins were all atoned for and where Christ's obedience, devotedness and love to the Father were fully manifested. "It shall be accepted for him."
Whatever the offerer was, whether he was devoted or not — whatever were his feelings, his experiences or his thoughts as to the value of the sacrifice — all this had nothing to do with his acceptance. The question was what the value of the offering was in the sight of God. The offerer might have said, "If God accepts the sacrifice, I am accepted; if He rejects the sacrifice, I am rejected too. If God finds delight in the sacrifice I bring, He finds delight in me too." How simple when we apply that to our case! In other words, it is Christ and His work accepted by God instead of me. That is really it. Thank God, if we have once come as lost sinners and taken our true place before Him, we find ourselves accepted, in spite of all that we are — our unworthiness, our lack of devotion, and our hatred and rebellion against God — accepted on the ground of what Christ was to God when He offered Himself a willing sacrifice — when He was made sin for us, who knew no sin.
Does not that make it plain? I am sure we lose a great deal by not dwelling more on what that work was to God.
We must remember that these things give only different aspects of the same work. It was when the Lord was made sin for us, bearing our judgment, that the sweet savor of His sacrifice rose up to God. Has the value of that sacrifice before God changed? Thank God, it has not. The value of that sacrifice is as fresh before God today as on the day upon which it was offered.
We will just look at "the law of the burnt offering" in Leviticus 6 before we close.
"Command Aaron and his sons, saying, This is the law of the burnt offering: It is the burnt offering, because of the burning upon the altar [mark the following expression] all night unto the morning" (v. 9).
I think that is so beautiful! It was burning "all night unto the morning." In the darkness of the night, when Israel was asleep or perhaps murmuring in their tents — in the midst of the darkness there was the sweet savor of the sacrifice going up before God. Is it not the night now? "The night is far spent, the day is at hand" (Rom. 13:12). Is it not night during the absence of the Lord Jesus, till He comes as the bright and morning Star? It is blessed to think that during the long, dark night, when the ruin of the professing church is becoming more and more manifest, and in the midst of all the failure of the Lord's people on every hand, the sweet savor of the sacrifice, when Christ offered up Himself, is as fresh before God as at the moment when it was offered. May we not also apply it individually? Yes. If we get away from the Lord in heart and drift back into this world and the things of the world — right away from the Lord — is our acceptance before God changed? No; for the sweet savor of the sacrifice of Christ before God is as fresh as ever, and in that we are accepted. Does that sweet savor ever alter? Never. Therefore the believer's acceptance never alters. Our appreciation of it may; alas! it does. As we often sing —
"My love is ofttimes low,
My joy still ebbs and flows;
But peace with Him remains the same:
No change Jehovah knows."
There is another blessed point brought out in this chapter 6, and that is the eternal efficacy and value of Christ's work. "The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out" (v. 13). Never go out. What does that imply? When we have been in the glory of God for innumerable ages, we shall be there on the same ground as that upon which we are now accepted — namely, the value of the work of Christ before God. When God brings in the new heavens and the new earth, wherein dwells righteousness, the foundation on which all that scene of blessedness will rest will be the sweet savor of the sacrifice of Christ, when He offered Himself without spot to God.
I do not know a more peace-giving truth than this that we are dwelling on. If anyone asks, "What are you building on? What are you resting on for your eternal salvation?" we can answer, "The value God puts upon the work of His beloved Son." What a sure, solid foundation for our souls! I was only lately saying to some Christians, "It is a great thing to see that you and I are as fit for heaven now as we ever shall be through all eternity." At first they could not see it and did not quite believe it. They could not endorse that statement. I then asked the question, "What makes us fit to dwell with Christ in glory?" They said, "Why, of course, the work of Christ." But will the work of Christ be of any more value in God's sight when we are in glory than it is today? Not one atom. Therefore, if we are believers, the blessed truth is this, that on the ground of that work we are as fit for the glory now as we ever shall be when we are actually in it, although then free from the presence of sin and with a glorified body like Christ's. And although we may fail and get away from the Lord and our hearts become as cold as a stone, though the whole professing church has gone wrong, how blessed it is to think of the burnt offering burning all night — the sweet savor of it as fresh before God at this moment as on the day when the sacrifice was offered. And throughout all the countless ages of eternity it will be still the same — what Christ was to God when He offered Himself without spot through the eternal Spirit.
May the Lord give us, beloved friends, to know more of that wondrous work of the Lord Jesus on the cross — what it is to God and what it has done for us. It will be our theme of praise in glory, when we shall know as we are known. The same blessed Saviour will occupy us then and will bring out the thanksgiving of our lips and the adoration of our hearts. May God grant that it may be more and more so now.