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PART I THE LAWS AND REGULATIONS RESPECTING SACRIFICES
THE SACRIFICES (chapters 1-7). There are five classes of sacrifices instituted or regulated in the first seven chapters of Leviticus, each of which has its special signification—the burnt offering, the meat offering, the sin offering, the trespass offering, and the peace offering. The burnt offering, in which the whole of the victim was consumed in the fire on God's altar, signifies entire self-surrender on the part of the offerer; the meat offering, a loyal acknowledgment of God's sovereignty; the sin offering, propitiation of wrath in him to whom the offering is made, and expiation of sin in the offerer; the trespass offering, satisfaction for sin; the peace offering, union and communion between the offerer and him to whom the offering is made.
The burnt offering (Leviticus 1:1-17) typifies the perfect surrender of himself, made by the Lord Jesus Christ, and exhibited by his life and death on earth; and it teaches the duty of self-sacrifice on the part of man.
And the LORD called unto Moses. The first word of the verse, in the original Vayikra, meaning "and called," has been taken as the designation of the book in the Hebrew Bible. The title Leviticon, or Leviticus, was first adopted by the LXX; to indicate that it had for its main subject the duties and functions appertaining to the chief house of the priestly tribe of Levi. The word "and" connects the third with the second book of the Pentateuch. God is spoken of in this and in the next book almost exclusively under the appellation of "the LORD" or "Jehovah," the word "Elohim" being, however, used sufficiently often to identify the two names. Cf. Le Leviticus 2:13, Leviticus 19:12. And spake unto him. The manner in which God ordinarily communicated with a prophet was by "a vision" or "in a dream;" but this was not the case with Moses; "My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house; with him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently" (Numbers 12:8). The Levitical code of laws, therefore, was delivered to Moses in his ordinary mental state, not in trance, or dream, or ecstasy. Out of the tabernacle of the congregation. The tabernacle had just been set up by Moses (Exodus 40:16). It derives its name of the congregation, or rather of meeting, from being the place where God met the representatives of his people (see Numbers 16:42). Hitherto God had spoken from the mount, now he speaks from the mercy-seat of the ark in the tabernacle. He had symbolically drawn near to his people, and the sacrificial system is now instituted as the means by which they should draw nigh to him. All the laws in the Book of Leviticus, and in the first ten chapters of the Book of Numbers, were given during the fifty days which intervened between the setting up of the tabernacle (Exodus 40:17) and the departure of the children of Israel from the neighbourhood of Mount Sinai (Numbers 10:11).
If any man of you bring. Sacrifices are not now being instituted for the first time. Burnt offerings at least, if not peace offerings, had existed since the time of the Fall. The Levitical law lays down regulations adapting an already existing practice for the use of the Israelitish nation; it begins, therefore, not with a command, "Thou shalt bring," but, if any man of you (according to custom) bring. Any member of the congregation might bring his voluntary offering when he would. The times at which the public offerings were to be made, and their number, are afterwards designated. An offering. This verse is introductory to the ensuing chapters, and speaks of "offerings" in general. "Korban," which is the word here used for "offering," derived from karab, meaning "to draw near for the sake of presentation," is the generic name including all offerings and sacrifices. It is used in speaking of animal sacrifices of various kinds, including peace offerings and sin offerings (Leviticus 3:1; Leviticus 4:23 and it is applied to vegetable offerings (Leviticus 2:1, Leviticus 2:13) and to miscellaneous offerings for the service of the tabernacle, such as wagons and oxen, silver vessels for the altar, gold, jewels, etc. (Numbers 7:3, Numbers 7:10; Numbers 31:50). It is translated by the LXX. into Greek by the word δῶρον, equivalent to the Latin donum, and our "gift." These offerings are now distinguished into their different kinds.
If his offering be a burnt sacrifice. The Hebrew term for "burnt sacrifice" is olah, meaning "that which ascends;" sometimes kaleel "whole offering," is found (Deuteronomy 33:10); the LXX. use the word ὁλοκαύτωμα, "whole burnt offering." The conditions to be fulfilled by an Israelite who offered a burnt sacrifice were the following:—
1. He must offer either
(1) a young bull without blemish, or
(2) a young ram, or
(3) a young he-goat, or
(4) a turtle-dove, or
(5) a young pigeon.
2. In case it were a bull, ram, or goat, he must bring it to the door of the tabernacle, that is, the entrance of the court in front of the brazen altar and of the door of the holy place, and there after or present it.
3. In offering it he must place his hand firmly on its head, as a ceremonial act.
4. He must kill it, either himself or by the agency of a Levite.
5. He must flay it.
6. He must divide it into separate portions.
7. He must wash the intestines and legs.
Meantime the priests had their parts to do; they had
1. To catch the blood, to carry it to the altar, and to strike the inner sides of the altar with it.
2. To arrange the fire on the altar.
3. To place upon the altar the head, and the fat, and the remainder of the animal, for consumption by the fro.
4. To sprinkle or place a meat offering upon them.
5. The next morning, still dressed in their priestly garments, to take the ashes off the altar, and to place them at the east of the altar (Leviticus 6:10).
6. To carry them outside the camp to a clean place, the bearer being dressed in his ordinary costume (Leviticus 6:11).
There were, therefore, four essential parts in the ritual of the burnt offering—the oblation of the victim (Leviticus 1:3, Leviticus 1:4), the immolation (Leviticus 1:5), the oblation of the blood, representing the life (ibid.), and the consumption (Leviticus 1:9)—the first two to be performed by the offerer, the third by the priest, the fourth by the fire representing the action of God. The moral lesson taught by the burnt offering was the necessity of self-surrender and of devotion to God, even to the extent of yielding up life and the very tenement of life. As the offerer could not give up his own life and body and still live, the life of an animal belonging to him, and valued by him, was substituted for his own; but he knew, and by laying his hand on its head showed that he knew, that it was his own life and his very self that was represented by the animal. The mystical lessons taught to those who could grasp them were—
1. The doctrine of substitution or vicarious suffering.
2. The fact that without the shedding of blood there was no acceptance.
3. The need of One who, being very man, should be able to perform an action of perfect surrender of his will and of his life. The fulfilment of the type is found in the perfect submission of Christ as man, throughout his ministry, and especially in the Garden of Gethsemane, and in the offering made by him, as Priest and willing Victim, of his life upon the altar of the cross. the burnt offering is to be without blemish, for had not the animal been perfect in its kind, it would not have served its moral, its mystical, or its typical purpose. The word ἄμωμος, used by the LXX. as equivalent to the Hebrew term, is applied to Christ in Hebrews 9:14 and 1 Peter 1:19; and St. Paul teaches that it is the purpose of God that those who are adopted in Christ should also be "holy and without blemish" (Ephesians 1:4). A priest had to certify that the victim was free frorn all defects. He shall offer it of his own voluntary will should rather be translated, He shall offer it for his own acceptance. The animal, representing the offerer, was presented by the latter in order that he might be himself accepted by the Lord. This aspect of the offering is brought out more clearly by the minchah, or meat offering, which always accompanied the burnt offering. The place where the presentation took place was the door of the tabernacle, that is, the space immediately within the eastern entrance into the court of the tabernacle, immediately facing the brazen altar, which stood before the east end of the tabernacle, where was the door or entrance which led into the holy place. "The presenting of the victim at the entrance of the tabernacle was a symbol of the free will submitting itself to the Law of the Lord" (Clarke). Cf. Romans 12:1 : "I beseech you that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service."
And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering. This putting, or forcibly leaning, the hand on the victim's head, which is the most essential part of the oblation of the victim, was a symbolical act implying "This animal is now for present purposes myself, and its life is my life." It was this act of identification with the offerer which made it be accepted for him to make atonement (literally, covering) for him. The sin offering is the sacrifice which especially symbolizes and ceremonially effects atonement, but the idea of atonement is not absent from the burnt sacrifice. The aspect under which atonement is presented here and elsewhere in the Old Testament is that of covering. But it is not the sin that is covered, but the sinner. Owing to his sin, the latter is exposed to the wrath of a just God, but something intervenes whereby he is covered, and he ceases, therefore, to attract the Divine anger and punishment. No longer being an object of wrath, he becomes at once an object of benevolence and mercy. The covering provided by a sacrifice is the blood or life of an animal, symbolically representing the offerer's own life freely surrendered by him for his acceptance, and typically foreshadowing the blood of Christ.
And he shall kill the bullock. After having made the presentation, the offerer proceeds to the second part of the sacrifice, the immolation or slaying, which was to be performed before the Lord, that is, in front of the tabernacle, on the north side of the brazen altar. Then follows the third part of the sacrifice: the priests, Aaron's sons, shall bring the blood, and sprinkle the blood round about upon the altar. The priests caught the blood (sometimes the Levites were allowed to do this, 2 Chronicles 30:16), and sprinkled or rather threw it round about on the altar, that is, so as to touch all the inner sides of the altar. "A red line all round the middle of the altar marked that above it the blood of sacrifices intended to be eaten, below it that of sacrifices wholly consumed, was to be sprinkled" (Edersheim, 'The Temple'). This was in some respects the most essential part of the ceremony, the blood representing the life (Leviticus 17:11), which was symbolically received at the hands of the offerer, and presented by the priests to God. In the antitype our Lord exercised the function of the sacrificing priest when he presented his own life to the Father, as he hung upon the altar of the cross.
He shall flay the burnt offering. The hide was given to the priest (Leviticus 7:8). The whole of the remainder of the animal was consumed by the fire of the altar; none of it was eaten by the offerer and his friends as in the peace offerings, or even by the ministers of God as in the sin offerings; it was a whole burnt offering. His pieces, into which it was to be cut, means the customary pieces.
The priest shall put fire upon the altar. The fire once kindled was never to be allowed to go out (Leviticus 6:13). Unless, therefore, these words refer to the first occasion only on which a burnt sacrifice was offered, they must mean "make up the fire on the altar" or it might possibly have been the practice, as Bishop Wordsworth (after Maimonides) supposes, that fresh fire was added to the altar fire before each sacrifice.
And the priests shall lay the parts, the head, and the fat, in order. The head and the fat are designated by name, because, with the "pieces," they complete the whole of the animal with the exception of the hide. The order in which they were laid is said to have been the same approximately as that which the members held in the living creature.
The priest shall burn all on the altar, etc. The fourth and last part of the sacrifice. The word employed is not the common term used for destroying by fire, but means "make to ascend." The life of the animal has already been offered in the blood; now the whole of its substance is "made to ascend" to the Lord. Modern science, by showing that the effect of fire upon the substance of a body is to resolve it into gases which rise from it, contributes a new illustration to the verse. The vapour that ascends is not something different from that which is burnt, but the very thing itself, its essence; which, having ascended, is of a sweet savour unto the Lord, that is, acceptable and well-pleasing to him. The burnt offering, the meat offering, and the peace offering, are sacrifices of sweet savour (Leviticus 2:2; Leviticus 3:5); the expression is not used with regard to the sin offering and trespass offering. St. Paul applies it to the sacrifice of Christ, in Ephesians 5:2, "As Christ also loved us, and gave himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour;" thus indicating, in an incidental manner, the connection between the Jewish sacrifices and the sacrifice of Christ, as type and antitype.
If his offering be of the flocks. The ritual of the burnt offering was the same. whether the victim was a hull, sheep, or goat.
He shall kill it on the side of the altar, northward before the Lord. In the sacrifice of the bullock it is only "before the Lord" (Leviticus 1:5). No doubt the same place is meant in both cases, but it is specified with more exactness here. On the western side of the altar was the tabernacle, on the east side the heap of ashes (Leviticus 1:16), on the south side probably the ascent to the altar (see Josephus, 'De Bell. Jud.,' Leviticus 5:5, Leviticus 5:6); on the north side, therefore, was the most convenient slaughtering place, and this is probably the reason for the injunction.
If the burnt sacrifice for his offering to the Lord be of fowls. A comparison of Le Leviticus 12:8 leads us to infer that the permission to offer a bird was a concession to poverty. The pigeon and the turtle-dove were the most easy to procure, as the domestic fowl was at this time unknown to the Hebrews. The first and only allusion in the Bible to the hen occurs in the New Testament (Matthew 23:37; Luke 13:30, nor is there any representation of the domestic fowl in ancient Egyptian paintings. The domicile of the bird was still confined to India. A single pigeon or turtle-dove formed a sacrifice, and there was no rule in respect to sex, as there was in the ease of the quadrupeds.
The priest shall bring it unto the altar. The difference in the ritual for the burnt sacrifice of fowls is:
1. That the offerer is not commanded to lay his hand on the bird.
2. That the altar is the place of maciation, instead of the space on the north side of the altar.
3. That the priest slays it instead of the offerer.
4. That the blood (owing to its smaller quantity) is pressed out against the side of the altar instead of being caught in a vessel and thrown on it. There is no essential variation here; the analogy of the sacrifice of the animal is followed so far as circumstances permit. It is not certain that the word malak, translated wring off his head, means more than "make an incision with the nail;" but in all probability the head was to be severed and laid on the fire separately, after the manner of the other sacrifices.
With his feathers, rather the contents of the crop. This and the ashes are to be placed beside the altar on the east part, as being furthest from the tabernacle and nearest to the entrance of the court, so that they might be readily removed.
Leviticus 1:1, Leviticus 1:2
The sacrificial system.
The religion of Israel, as exhibited to us in the Law, bears at first sight a strange appearance, unlike what we should have expected. We read in it very little about a future life, and not much about repentance, faith, and prayer, but we find commanded an elaborate system of sacrifices, based upon a practice almost coeval with the Fall.
I. SACRIFICE WAS USED IN ANTE-MOSAIC DAYS AS A MEANS OF APPROACH TO GOD. "In process of time it came to pass that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof" (Genesis 4:4). The covenant with Noah was made by sacrifice: "And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord, and took of every clean beast and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the Lord smelled a sweet savour.… And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying, And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you" (Genesis 8:20, Genesis 8:21; Genesis 9:8, Genesis 9:9). When Abraham first entered Canaan, he "builded an altar unto the Lord who appeared unto him" (Genesis 12:7), as the means of communicating with him. At his next halting-place, "he builded an altar unto the Lord," as the means of "calling upon the name of the Lord" (Genesis 12:8; Genesis 13:4). On removing to Hebron, again he "built there an altar unto the Lord" (Genesis 13:18). The covenant with Abraham was made by sacrifice (Genesis 15:9); and at Jehovah-jireh, Abraham "offered a ram for a burnt offering in the stead of his son" (Genesis 22:13). At Beer-sheba Isaac "builded an altar and called upon the name of the Lord" (Genesis 26:25). At Shalem Jacob "erected an altar and called it El-elohe-Israel" (Genesis 33:20). At Beth-el he "built an altar and called the place El-beth-el" (Genesis 35:7). At Beer-sheba he "offered sacrifices unto the God of his father Isaac" (Genesis 46:1). During the sojourn in Egypt it is probable that the practice of sacrifice was discontinued through fear of giving offense to the religious feelings of the Egyptians (Exodus 8:26); but the idea of sacrifice being the appointed means of serving God was preserved (Exodus 5:3; Exodus 8:27). Moses, Aaron, and the elders of Israel took part in a sacrificial meal with Jethro in the wilderness (Exodus 18:12). And the covenant made at Sinai was ratified by burnt offerings and peace offerings (Exodus 24:5). Indeed, the Book of Psalms declares the method of entering into covenant with God to be "by sacrifice." "Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice" (Psalms 1:5). The Christian covenant was thus ratified (Hebrews 9:15), as well as the covenants of Noah, Abraham, and Moses:
II. THERE ARE THREE CLASSES OF SACRIFICES UNDER THE MOSAIC DISPENSATION, ESSENTIALLY DIFFERING IN CHARACTER—
beside Meat offerings, ordinarily attached to the burnt offerings, and Trespass offerings, a species of sin offering.
III. WHAT WAS THEIR MEANING.
1. In general, they served, as before, as a means of reconciliation between God and man, as a means of access for man to God. This purpose they fulfilled to all humble-minded men, whether their full meaning was understood or no. To the more spiritually minded they were also a means of instruction in sacred mysteries to be revealed hereafter.
2. Specifically, they each taught their own lesson and brought about, symbolically and ceremonially, each their own effect.
The sin offering taught the need of, and symbolically effected, the propitiation of God's anger and the expiation of man's sin.
The burnt offering taught the lesson of self-surrender, and symbolically effected the surrender of the offerer to God.
The peace offering taught the lesson of the necessity and joyousness of communion between God and man, and symbolically represented that communion as existing between the offerer and God.
IV. WHENCE THEY DERIVED THEIR EFFICACY. Their efficacy was derived from representing and foreshadowing the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, the sin offering typifying the propitiation and expiation once for all there wrought, the burnt offering the perfect self-surrender of the sinless sufferer, the peace offering the reconciliation thereby effected and continued between God and his people.
The burnt offering.
It was wholly consumed by the fire of God's altar; nothing was left for the after consumption either of the offerer or even of God's ministers, as in the other sacrifices.
I. IT TYPIFIES THE ENTIRE SELF-SURRENDER OF CHRIST TO GOD.
1. In his eternal resolve to redeem by becoming man.
2. In the humility of his birth on earth.
3. In the silence in which his youth was spent.
4. In the narrow limits within which he confined his ministry.
5. In the victory won over his human will in the Garden of Gethsemane.
6. In his yielding his life to his Father on the cross.
II. EXAMPLE HEREIN TO US.
1. We must surrender what is evil—
Bad habits, e.g. sloth, drunkenness.
Bad affections, e.g. love of money, bodily indulgence.
Bad passions, e.g. ill temper, pride.
2. We must surrender what God does not think fit to give us, though not in itself evil, such as—
III. THE CHRISTIAN TEMPER RESULTING FROM SELF-SURRENDER.
1. Acquiescence in God's will.
2. Cheerfulness in rendering that acquiescence.
3. Spiritual peace and happiness arising from the consciousness of having yielded our wilt to our Father's will.
4. Love to the brethren. Cf. Ephesians 5:2 : "Walk in love, as Christ also loved us, and gave himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour."
The sacrificial act cannot be completed, though it can be begun, by the offerer alone. The intervention of God's priest is requisite, and it is his hand which performs the most solemn portion of the rite. Thus there is taught the need of mediation and of a mediator when a work of atonement is to be accomplished. "The expiation was always made or completed by the priest, as the sanctified mediator between Jehovah and the people, or, previous to the institution of the Aaronic priesthood, by Moses, the chosen mediator of the covenant.… It is not Jehovah who makes the expiation, but this is invariably the office or work of a mediator, who intervenes between the holy God and sinful man, and by means of expiation averts the wrath of God from the sinner, and brings the grace of God to bear upon him" (Keil). Hence, the great work of atonement, of which all other atonements are but shadows, was performed by the One Mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ.
HOMILIES BY R.M. EDGAR
Entire consecration, as illustrated in the burnt offering.
cf. Romans 12:1.—We start with the assumption that the Book of Exodus presents "the history of redemption." It is an account of how the Lord delivered the people he had chosen out of bondage, and brought them to himself (Exodus 19:4). It contains, moreover, an account of the erection of the tabernacle, or "tent of meeting," where God proposed to dwell as a Pilgrim in the midst of a pilgrim people, and out of which would issue his commands as their Guide and Leader. In this Book of Leviticus, then, we have the Lord speaking "out of the tent of meeting" (verse 1), that is, to a people in covenant relations with himself.
This helps us to understand why the "burnt offering" is treated first. Not only was it the very oldest offering, but it was to be the daily offering (Numbers 29:6); morning and evening was a holocaust to be presented to the Lord. It was, therefore, manifestly meant to express the proper state or condition of those professing to be God's covenant people. It is on this account that we entitle this a homily on Entire Consecration.
I. THIS IDEA OF ENTIRE CONSECRATION IS ONE WHICH ALL CLASSES OF GOD'S PEOPLE ARE EXPECTED TO EXPRESS. The poor, who could only bring "turtle-doves" or "young pigeons," the representatives of domestic fowls at that time, were just as welcome at the tabernacle as those who could bring lambs or bullocks. Consecration is an idea which can be carried out in any worldly condition. The poor widow with her two mites carried it out more gloriously than her neighbours in the midst of their abundance. Complete self-surrender is not the prerogative of a class, but the possibility and ideal of all.
II. CONFESSION OF SIN IS AN EXPECTED PRELIMINARY TO CONSECRATION. the Jew, whatever was his grade in society, was directed either expressly to "lean" (סָמַךְ) his hand upon the head of his offering, or, as in the case of the fowls where it was physically impossible, to do so by implication; and this was understood to represent, and some believe it to have been regularly accompanied by, confession of sin. Of course, confession of sin is not of the essence of consecration; we have in the case of our blessed Lord, and of the unfallen angels, similar consecration, where no sense of sin is possible. And we are on the way to consecration in the other life, divorced from the sense of sin. Meanwhile, however, confession is only just, since sin remains with us. Indeed, the consecration of redeemed sinners will not prove very deep or thorough where confession of sin is omitted.
III. THE SPECTACLE OF A SUBSTITUTE DYING IN OUR ROOM AND STEAD IS WELL FITTED TO DEEPEN OUR SENSE OF CONSECRATION. The slaughter of the animal, upon whose head the sins have by confession been laid, must have exercised upon the offerer a very solemnizing influence. There is nothing in like manner so fitted to hallow us as the spectacle of Jesus, to whom these sacrifices pointed, dying on the cross in our stead. The love he manifested in that death for us constrains us to live, not unto ourselves, but unto him who died for us and rose again (2 Corinthians 5:14, 2 Corinthians 5:15). The moral power of substitution cannot be dispensed with in a sinful world like this.
IV. THE ACCEPTANCE OF THE BLOOD UPON THE ALTAR, THAT IS, OF LIFE AFTER THE DEATH-PENALTY HAS BEEN PAID, ALSO HELPS TO DEEPEN THE SENSE OF CONSECRATION'. For when the priest by Divine direction, sprinkled the blood of the sacrifice all round about upon the altar, it was to indicate the acceptance on God's part of the life beyond death. It indicated that God was satisfied with the substitution, that the penalty had been paid by the death of the victim, and that in consequence the blood, that is, the life—for the life was in the blood (Leviticus 17:11)—could be accepted. Acceptance in and through another was what this portion of the ritual implied, and this is well calculated to deepen the sense of consecration. For, according to the typology, the Person in whom we are accepted is he to whom we ought to be consecrated. It is when we realize that we are accepted in Christ that we feel constrained to dedicate ourselves unto him. The one good turn deserves another, and we are held. under a sense of sweetest obligation.
V. THE CONSECRATION OF THE CHILD OF GOD IS THE COMPLETE SURRENDER OF SELF TO THE OPERATION OF THE HOLY GHOST. Ewald has most pertinently remarked that among the Greeks and other nations such holocausts as were daily presented by the Jews were rarities. The idea of entire consecration is too broad for a heathen mind. Partial consecration was comparatively easy in idea, but a "surrender without reserve" is the fruit of Divine teaching. Now this is what the burning of the holocaust in the sacred fire of the altar signified. For, since all sensation had ceased before the sacrifice was laid upon the altar, the burning could not suggest the idea to the worshipper of pain or penalty. The fire had come out from God as the token of acceptance (Leviticus 9:24). It is, moreover, one of the recognized symbols of the Holy Ghost. Consequently, the exposure of every portion of the sacrifice to the altar fire represented the yielding of the grateful worshipper in his entirety to the operation of God the Holy Ghost. This, after all, is the essence of sanctification. It is the surrender of our whole nature, body, soul, and spirit, to the disposal of the Holy Ghost. This is devotedness indeed. Nowhere has the idea been more felicitously wrought out than in a little posthumous volume of F.R. Havergal's, entitled 'Kept for the Master's Use.' We cannot better convey the idea of the burnt offering than by copying her simple foundation lines upon which she has built her chapters.
"Take my life, and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days;
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands, and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet, and let them be
Swift, and 'beautiful' for Thee.
Take my voice, and let me sing
Always, only, for my king.
Take my lips, and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee.
Take my silver and my gold:
Not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect, and use
Every power as Thou shall choose.
Take my will and make it Thine:
It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart; it is Thine own:
It shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love: My Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure-store.
Take myself, and I will be
Ever, only, ALL for Thee."
HOMILIES BY S.R. ALDRIDGE
The weakness of man and the grace of God.
Measureless is the distance between man and his Maker. And it is sometimes emphasized in such a way as to repress thought and stifle the aspirations of the human breast. In Scripture it is not brought forward as a rayless truth, but is shown to be replete with profit and joy. To consider it increases humility, indeed, but also intensifies gratitude and love. For the less has been blessed by the Greater, and we are permitted to say, looking upon the attributes of the Eternal as exercised towards us in mercy and favour, "This God is our God: we will rejoice in his salvation."
I. MAN IS IGNORANT: THE GRACE OF GOD IS SEEN IN THE DISTINCT ENUNCIATION OF HIS WILL. The light of reason, the voice of conscience, the promptings of emotion,—these can inform us only to a slight extent of the worship and service likely to be acceptable to God. Hence the surpassing worth of the full, clear-toned, authoritative utterances of Scripture. That God is Spirit, Light, and Love, that he is holy and almighty, are declarations for which we must be devoutly thankful. The Epicureans pictured the happy gods as dwelling in unruffled serenity far from all cognizance of or interference with the concerns of men. Inspiration removes our suspicions, reassures us with the words, "The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers." Errors in the manner of our approach are prevented. Some would have presumptuously drawn near without the accustomed offering; others might bring unsuitable gifts—human sacrifices, unclean animals, etc. A God less kind might suffer the people to incur the terrible consequences of ignorance, but not if Nadab and Abihu perish it shall not be for lack of instruction. "Go ye into all the world, teaching them to observe whatsoever things I have commanded you."
II. MAN IS FEARFUL AND PERTURBED IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD: IT IS GRACIOUSLY ORDAINED THAT SPECIAL MESSENGERS SHALL BE THE APPOINTED CHANNELS OF COMMUNICATION. "The Lord called unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel." When God appeared on Sinai and thundered out His Law, the terrified people implored that God might not Himself speak again lest they should die. Their entreaty was regarded, and Moses became the medium of conveying the mind of God. Should Jehovah be for ever appearing in person, his visits would be attended with such overwhelming awe that the purport of his words might be in danger of being lost or mistaken. When embarrassed, man's thoughts are dispersed, and memory fails. It was better, therefore, that holy men should speak unto men as moved by the Holy Ghost. The striking instance is the assumption of our nature by the Son of God, putting a veil over the features of Deity that weak sinful mortals might draw near without trembling and admire the gracious words proceeding out of his mouth. Even children hear and understand the words of Jesus. And here we may remark that the utterances of the messengers retest be received as coming from the Most High. In the appointed place God talked with Moses, and on his repeating the instructions to the Israelites they were bound to attend to them. It is equally incumbent upon us to respect the decrees of God delivered through prophets and apostles, and above all to honour the Father by honouring the Son, believing his words, trusting him as the Teacher sent from God. Preachers are "ambassadors for Christ." We would give thanks without ceasing when hearers receive the truth from our lips, not as the word of men, but the word of God (1 Thessalonians 2:13).
III. MAN IS SINFUL: THE GRACE OF GOD PROVIDES MEDIATORIAL ACCESS TO THE HOLY ONE.
1. Sacrifices appointed. "Bring an offering" without blemish, and place your hand upon its head, to show that it is willingly offered and stands instead of the offerer. And "it shall be accepted to make atonement" for you, to cover your person and works with the robe of mercy and righteousness, so that the Divine gaze may be fastened upon you without displeasure. By the grace of God it was arranged that Jesus Christ should taste death for every man. His was the one offering that, through accomplishing the will of God, sanctifies all who make mention of his name. Who will hesitate to appear before the Most High? Let faith lay her hand upon the Saviour, rejoicing in the conviction that "while we were yet sinners Christ died for us."
2. A priesthood. The Levites were set apart for the service of Jehovah, instead of all the firstborn of Israel. And of the Levites, the sons of Aaron were to minister continually before the Lord, observing all his regulations and maintaining constant purification of themselves, so that without insulting the holiness of God they might interpose between him and his people. Priesthood bridged the chasm between sinful creatures and a pure Creator. The priesthood sanctified the entire nation, which was theoretically a "kingdom of priests." Jesus Christ has concentred the priestly functions in himself. He has entered into the heaven as our Forerunner, to sprinkle the atoning blood on the altar. And now with true heart in full assurance of faith we may draw nigh to God.
IV. MAN'S CONDITION VARIES; THE GRACE OF GOD PROVIDES FOR ITS INEQUALITIES.
1. Notice is taken of the poor, and appropriate offerings permitted. Oriental monarchs often despised and rejected the subjects who were unable to enrich their royal coffers. But God is no respecter of persons. It is one of the glories of the gospel that it has been preached to the poor, and is adapted to their needs. God expects every man to come and testify his respect and affection. The poor may bring "turtle-doves or young pigeons." The way was thus opened for the parents of him who "became poor for our sakes." It is to be feared that many withhold a contribution because it seems so insignificant. But the Lord is as sorry to see the mite retained in the pocket as the gold which the wealthy refuse to part with. "If there be first a willing mind it is accepted according to that a man hath." Do not decline to engage in Christian work on the plea of defective ability! Surely some fitting department of service can be found. It is often the one talent that is hid in a napkin.
2. The offering of the poor is pronounced equally acceptable. Note the repetition of "it is a sacrifice, of a sweet savour unto the Lord" after the 17th verse. It is rather the spirit than the action itself which God regards. Not the results of labour so much as its motives and the proportion of ability to accomplishment.—S.R.A.
The greatness of God.
Too wide a field lessens the thoroughness of observation. Hence it is allowable and advantageous to distinguish in thought what is in reality inseparable, in order, by fixing the attention upon certain parts, to acquire a better knowledge of the whole. Such a method recommends itself in dealing with the attributes of God. To attempt to comprehend them all in one glance is, if not impossible, at least of little result in increasing our acquaintance with His character. Let us observe how the hints in this chapter present us with the greatness of God in varied aspects.
I. THE HOLINESS OF GOD DEMANDS A SACRIFICIAL OFFERING FROM ALL WHO WOULD SEEK HIS FAVOUR. The offerings here spoken of were spontaneous free-will offerings. They indicated a desire on the part of man to draw nigh to Jehovah, and they also manifested a sense of disturbance wrought by sin in man's relations with his Maker. Once man walked with God in uninterrupted harmony. Then transgression chased innocence away, and shame drove man to hide himself from the presence of God. among the trees of the garden. The consciousness of sin renders an offering necessary, under cover of which ("to make atonement for him") we may venture to an audience with the Holy One. Thus can fellowship be resumed. The Antitype of these sacrifices, Jesus Christ, is now our peace. He was "once offered to bear the sins of many." "By one offering he hath for ever perfected them that are sanctified." The old cry, "How shall man be just with God?" is still uttered, and the response comes, "Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus."
II. THE MAJESTY OF GOD REQUIRES THAT THE REGULATIONS FOR APPROACH WHICH HE HAS APPOINTED BE STRICTLY OBSERVED. The condescension of God in manifesting himself to the Israelites might be fraught with danger if it led to presumption and to holding in light esteem his awe-inspiring attributes. Instructions are consequently given relating to the minutest details; everything is prescribed. God is pleased with the free-will offering, and it will be accepted if the precepts are adhered to; but it must in no wise be supposed that the sincere expression of affection can excuse wilful neglect of appointed rules. The love of an inferior for his superior must not prevent the exhibition of due respect. God will be had in reverence by all that arc about him. Nor is it open to man arrogantly to pronounce that a consecrated way of access through Jesus Christ may be set aside as unnecessary. Christianity may have broadened the road. of approach, but it remains true that there is still an appointed road. To refuse honour to Christ is to treat God with disrespect. "Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him." Christless worship, thanksgiving, and prayer, must be shunned.
III. THE HONOUR OF GOD EXPECTS AN OFFERING TO CONSIST OF the BEST THAT MAN POSSESSES. If poor, a turtle-dove would not be rejected, but for a rich man to offer the same would be treated as an insult to God. And the offering from the herd or flock must be "a male without blemish." Strength and beauty combined are requisite to satisfy the searching eye of the High and Lofty One. We see these requisites embodied in the Lamb of God, the perfect Sacrifice, "holy, harmless, undefiled." He knows little of God who imagines that he will be put off with scanty service, mean oblations. We ought to ask, not what is there can be easily spared, but how much can possibly be laid upon the altar. Let us not mock him by indulging in our own pleasures, and then giving to him the petty remnants of our poverty! Let us strive so to act that the firstfruits of our toil, the chiefest of our possessions, the prime of our life, the best of our days, shall be devoted to purposes of religion! Bestow upon God the deepest thoughts of the mind, the strongest resolutions of the will, the choicest affections of the heart.
IV. THE PERFECTION OF GOD NECESSITATES ORDERLY ARRANGEMENT IN ALL THAT CONCERNS HIS WORSHIP AND SERVICE. There is an appointed place for the offering, "the tabernacle of the congregation." The wood must be laid "in order upon the fire" (Leviticus 1:7), and the different parts of the victim must likewise be placed "in order upon the wood" (Leviticus 1:8).
To constitute a chaos round about the throne is to derogate from the homage a king inspires. It intimates his powerlessness, his want of intelligent forethought and present control. Law reigns everywhere throughout the dominions of Jehovah. The heavenly bodies speak of the symmetry he loves, and plants, animals, and minerals teach the same grand truth. "Order is Heaven's first law." "God is not the author of confusion, but of peace." In the worship of the sanctuary order and decency are of pre-eminent importance. Whatever shocks a devout mind is likely to be offensive to him all whoso ways are perfect. Arrangement need not degenerate into formality. The Sunday dress, the preparation for God's house, and the quiet attitude therein, are all important adjuncts to the spiritual education of the young.
Be it observed further that order means economy of space and time. Those who have no room nor leisure to be orderly do least and retain least. The laws of God are ever synonymous with the true interests of man.
V. THE PURITY OF GOD OBLIGES THAT THE OFFERING BE CLEANSED FROM DEFILEMENT. Those parts of the victim naturally subject to defilement are to be washed in water, "the inwards and the legs." One might deem this a superfluous proceeding, since they were to be so soon burnt upon the altar. But this would mean an extremely erroneous view of the solemnity of a sacrifice. Those who have not time to serve God properly had better not try it at all. He who counts it a trouble to read and pray has little conception of the insult he offers to God. Before we bow before the Lord to render our tribute of adoration and praise, it were well to purify our hearts, to hallow the desires that may have become impure, to call home our wandering thoughts, and to loose the dusty sandals from the feet which have been treading in the ways of the world. The Almighty desires no part to be absent from the offering. The affections, the strength, the time, the money, that have been lavished on unworthy objects are not in themselves sinful, they are unclean and require the sanctifying influence of the blood of Christ, and the water of the Word, and then they are fit to be rendered unto God. and consumed in the fire that testifies his acceptance of the worshipper.—S.R.A.
Our reasonable service.
The burnt offering appears to have been the most general of the sacrifices presented to Jehovah, and to have had the widest significance. Its spiritual counterpart is furnished in Romans 12:1. Meditation upon the prophetic symbol will abed light upon the "living sacrifice" of the gospel dispensation.
I. THE NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN OFFERING AS THUS SYMBOLIZED.
1. It is a surrender to God of something that belongs to us. Property inherited and acquired is the material of the sacrifice. Not only what has come to us by natural endowment, but that which is the result of toil—the cattle that were given to us, and the produce we have reared. God demands our hearts, our minds, our talents; and he looks for the devotion to him of any increment that effort may secure. Just as Barnabas sold his land and laid the price at the apostles' feet, and the Apostle Paul commanded that each Corinthian should "lay by him in store as God hath prospered him."
2. It is a voluntary surrender. The man "shall put his band upon the head of the burnt offering," to evince his willingness to part with the animal. All "the cattle on a thousand bills" are really owned by Jehovah, yet does he treat man as proprietor, and does not take by violence the necessary sacrifices for his glory, but leaves it to man freely to recognize his God, and to pay his just dues. "Voluntary" in no wise excludes the force of motives, since every decision has motives, as an antecedent if not as an efficient cause. Freedom implies absence, not of inducements, but of constraint. Man has the power to withhold from the service of God his faculties and possessions. He is ever appealed to in Scripture as a reasonable individual, capable of deciding to what purposes his abilities shall be devoted. "Yield yourselves unto God."
3. The surrender must be complete. It was not possible to offer part of a goat or lamb, the victim must be given in its entirety. The blood is sprinkled round about, and "all" the parts are burnt upon the altar. The disciple must follow the Lord fully. No putting of the hand to the plough and looking hack. No keeping back part of the price. The believer is bought by Christ, body and soul. The reason why many seem to have offered themselves to God in vain, is because they have done it in a half-hearted way, they have not "sought him with their whole desire."
II. THE MANNER IN WHICH THE OFFERING IS DEVOTED TO GOD.
1. By the death of the victim. Death is the total renunciation of present enjoyment—the extremest proof of an intention to set one's self apart for a certain object. If it does not suffice to prove sincerity and entire consecration, then proof is impossible. "All that a man hath will he give for his life." Like the apostle, it behoves Christians to "die daily." At baptism there was the emblem of death to the world. "Old things have passed away." Our death to sin, however, resembles the crucifixion of our Lord, a lingering painful death. We mortify the deeds of the body, crucify the flesh, deny ourselves. "If any man will lose his life he shall save it."
2. By cleansing water and purifying fire. "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth." "Having these promises, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit." "Every one shall be salted with fire." "The trial of your faith which is much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire." All that is earthly is consumed. The smoke, rising from the material sacrifice, reminds us of the pure metal that is free from dross, and remains to "praise, honour, and glory." Learn to welcome the tribulations of your lot as being the discipline that makes the surrender of yourselves complete. Martyrs have experienced actual flames, the fire may assume another shape to you. Perhaps temptations assail you, and difficulties wear away your strength. Glorify God in the fires. Fire is an emblem of the Holy Spirit, and as Christ offered himself through the Eternal Spirit, so does his Spirit abide with his people, to hallow them, to put away sin, to make them pleasing unto God.
3. By means of the ordained mediator. The priest must take the slain animal to perform the necessary rites. Otherwise, however free from fault, the offering will bring loss, not gain, to the offerer. If all believers are now "a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices," they are only "acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." Our Saviour must be our "Daysman," to come between us and God, and present us to his Father. His life, death, and intercession must be the inspiration of our lives, the spring of our hopes, the constraining influence that shall make us dedicate all we have and are to God. "No man cometh unto the Father but by me." We determine to know nothing save Christ and him crucified. "In Christ Jesus" we "are made nigh."
III. THE EFFECT OF THE OFFERING.
1. It pleases God. Anthropomorphic expressions are employed, not to degrade the Almighty, but to clarify our conceptions, and to make the truth plain to the dullest eyed. "It is a sweet savour unto the Lord." The smell is repulsive, and cannot be supposed to be grateful in itself to him who is a Spirit.
But it is the disposition to honour and please God that he delights to observe in his children. A parent may admire the rudest sketch if his little one brings it as a token of love, and may esteem the commonest fare a banquet, and ill-dressed food a feast, if regard and affection have contributed to its preparation. The agony and wounds of the Redeemer were not watched by the Father with unmingled delight. As we shudder at the spectacle of the Holy One made a curse for us, and yet rejoice in the all-sufficiency of his burden-bearing; so the Father felt the keenest pangs that rent the breast of his beloved Son, and only joyed in the sublime manifestation of filial devotion, content to endure torture and insult that the blot on his Father's world through the presence of sin might be erased even at such infinite cost. Wherein we are partakers if the sufferings of Christ our Sacrifice is fragrant to the Father. The apostles, in preaching the gospel, became "unto God a sweet savour of Christ." If we walk in love, we cause the incense of love to ascend with sweet odour to heaven (Ephesians 5:2). Jesus ministered to the wants of many, and the Philippians, in supplying the necessities of Paul, Christ's servant, were an "odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice well-pleasing unto God."
2. It procures for the offerer satisfaction of conscience and the favour of God. The sacrifice is accepted, communion is re-established, sin is covered. There is an inward contentment in all religious acts that is of itself evidence of the reality of religion, and its adaptation to our circumstances. Never did any man abstain from selfish, sinful gratification, or pursue the rugged path of holiness and virtue, without being solaced by the consciousness of having done what was right, what was in harmony with the noblest dictates of his nature. The self-denying, God-serving life is the happiest and most blessed life. Then do we walk in the light of God's countenance, and drink of the river of his pleasures.—S.R.A.
HOMILIES BY J.A. MACDONALD
Leviticus 1:1, Leviticus 1:2
The Book of Exodus closes with an account of the entrance of the Shechinah into the tabernacle; with the manner in which that sacred structure was enveloped by the cloud of the Divine presence; also that in which, by rising from the tabernacle, God gave his order for his people to march, and, by resting upon it, to halt and encamp. The Book of Leviticus is concerned with the revelations which God gave to Israel from this habitation of his holiness, in which the laws published from Sinai were amplified (comp. Le Leviticus 7:37, Leviticus 7:38). The text lays down broad principles upon the subject of sacrificature, which is considered first in order, because of its great importance to the Levitical system, and to that more glorious system of the gospel which it shadowed forth. We learn that—
I. SACRIFICATURE HAS GOD FOR ITS AUTHOR.
1. It existed before the time of Moses.
(1) Its prevalence amongst the nations argues its origin to be prior to the dispersion (Genesis 11:9). How else can this fact be explained?
(2) We read of it in patriarchal times. The Hebrew patriarchs offered sacrifices (Genesis 12:7, et al. freq.). So did Job, who lived in the land of Uz, on the border-land between Idumea and Arabia, probably about the time of Joseph (Job 1:5; see also Exodus 18:12). So did Noah (Genesis 8:20).
(3) The first family had sacrifices which they presented when they appeared before the Shechinah, which flamed between the cherubic emblems set up eastward of Eden (Genesis 4:3, Genesis 4:4).
2. It could not have been invented by man.
(1) It was, in the nature of the thing, most unlikely to have occurred to any finite mind.
(2) If it did so occur, would God have accepted it? Does he approve will-worship? (see Le Job 10:1, Job 10:2). What right has a sinner to propose terms of reconciliation to his Maker? His place is to throw himself absolutely upon the Divine mercy, and wait t,, "hear what God the Lord may speak "(Psalms 85:7, Psalms 85:8).
3. Here we have it authorized by God.
(1) "And the Lord called unto Moses," etc.
(2) So we find God directing Abraham respecting the manner in which sacrifices should be ordered in his worship (Genesis 15:9; see also Genesis 22:2).
(3) The "coats of skins" in which our first parents were clothed were presumably from animals offered in sacrifice. Animals were not in those days killed for food (Genesis 1:29; comp. with Genesis 9:3). Since it was "the Lord God" who clothed them, the institution of sacrificature would date from that time, and be a revelation of mercy immediately from him. God is the Author of reconciliation (John 3:16; Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:9).
II. IT WAS PUBLISHED FROM HIS SANCTUARY.
1. There are revelations of God in nature.
(1) These are exhibited in our treatises on Natural Theology. Who can fail to see the Designer in the works of design?
(2) The Scriptures recognize this voice (Psalms 9:1; Psalms 19:1, etc.; Acts 14:17; Acts 17:27; Romans 1:20).
2. But these are evident only after the hight of them is given.
(1) We have no innate ideas. The Namaquans and other African tribes were found by Moffat, Ridsdale, and other missionaries, without a glimmer of an idea of God or of immortality.
(2) The traditions of the Gentiles were originally from a pure source, but became corrupted in transmission.
(3) There are no "deists," i.e; natural theologians, where the Bible has not been before them. They do not own the source from whence they derive the hints which guide them in their reasonings.
3. Sacrificature is not taught in nature.
(1) The book of nature was written too soon. The Creation preceded the Fall.
(2) That it is, is not presumed. Sacrificature is excluded from the creed of the deist.
(3) This subject belongs to the sanctuary. "And the Lord called Moses and spake out of the tabernacle of the congregation," etc. Even the Garden of Eden, where, we presume, it was first instituted, was "planted," and planted to be a temple for Divine worship.
(4) Yet without sacrificature there can be no acceptable worship. Cain, the deist, was rejected because he came before God without blood-shedding (see Le Job 17:11; Hebrews 9:22). Let no man think he acceptably serves God when he neglects the services of the sanctuary under the pretext of "worshipping the God of nature in the fields."
III. THE SACRIFICES APPROVED ARE "FROM THE HERD AND FROM THE FLOCK."
1. They are selected from the animals that are clean.
(1) They have the marks of cleanness, viz. parting the hoof and chewing the cud (Leviticus 11:3). But all clean creatures were not proper for purposes of sacrifice. Those of the "herd" (בקר, baker) are distinguished as the bull heifer, bullock and calf. Those of the "flock" (צאן, tson) as sheep and goats; for this word is used to describe these animals promiscuously (see verse 10).
(2) This reminds us of the purity of God, who can accept nothing that is polluted—"who will in no wise clear the guilty"—who requires purity in his worshippers (Psalms 24:3, Psalms 24:4).
(3) It points to the purity of the Great One sacrificed for us, covered in whose righteousness we are justified or accounted as just persons, and in whose atoning blood we are washed and made clean.
2. They are gregarious creatures.
(1) This feature is prominently noticed here—"herd," "flock." Man is a social being. He is set in families, tribes, nations, and even internationally united. Solitary confinement is amongst the most horrible of punishments.
(2) Hence guilt and depravity become hereditary. And as we have been represented to our ruin by our common progenitor, so by the representation of the second Adam we have salvation.
(3) Sin is dissocializing. Consider its fruits—Hatred—variance—strifes—murders.
(4) True religion perfects the social principle, centres all union in God. A universe tan meet in him. A universe can hold communion in him. The genius of religion is love. The heaven of heavens is love.—J.A.M.
The burnt sacrifice of the herd.
Having given general instructions concerning the great business of sacrifice, the Most High descends to particulars, and here describes the burnt sacrifice of the herd. These particulars contain specific directions—
I. AS TO THE QUALITY OF THE VICTIM.
1. It must be a male.
(1) Females were not only admitted for burnt offerings under the patriarchal dispensation, but upon one memorable occasion even prescribed (see Genesis 15:9). The ceremonial distinction between male and female was not then, probably, so strongly defined as afterwards it became under the Law. Under the gospel it is abolished (Galatians 3:28).
(2) The male is the stronger animal; and the horns, in the ox, which are symbols of power, are more developed in the male. The male, therefore, would represent the excellence of strength.
(3) Thus Christ, as the "Power of God," would be preindicated (1 Corinthians 1:24). By his sacrifice of himself he destroyed him that had the power of death, and became the "power of God unto salvation" to every believer (Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 1:18).
2. It must be without blemish.
(1) The rabbins reckon no less than fifty things, any one of which would, in their judgment, render an animal unfit for sacrifice; five in the ear, three in the eyelid, eight in the eye, etc.; but they trifle outrageously. Any obvious defect or redundancy of parts would mar it for sacrifice, and so would any disease by which it might be afflicted.
(2) This reminds us that Christ, who is accepted of God as our Sacrifice, is without deficiency or redundancy, weakness or malady (1 Peter 1:19). In everything perfect.
(3) We are further taught that the best should be given to God. The best thoughts; the best affections; the best gifts; the best service.
II. As TO THE DUTY OF THE OFFERER.
1. With a view to procuring the acceptance of his offering.
(1) His gift must be offered freely. "He shall offer it of his own voluntary will." The sacrifice of himself, which Christ offered for us, was voluntary (Galatians 1:4; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 5:25; Titus 2:6, Titus 2:14). God expects the homage of the heart (John 4:23, John 4:24).
(2) It must be offered at the door of the tabernacle. The altar was at the door. We enter the heavens through the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 10:19-21). The Jewish sacrifices were never resumed after the destruction of their city and temple, for they hold it unlawful to sacrifice anywhere out of Jerusalem. Yet they will not see that the antitypes have come, and that the types are therefore no longer necessary.
(3) He must lay his hand upon its head. This action expressed,
(a) That the offerer confessed himself a sinner deserving to be sacrificed.
(b) That he ceremonially transferred his guilt to a substitute in anticipation of the Great Substitute promised who should truly bear the punishment of sin (1 Peter 2:24).
(c) That he trusted in the mercy of God through the vicarious sufferings of Messiah (Daniel 9:26).
2. With a view to the making an atonement for his sin. The direction is
(1) That he should kill the bullock "before the Lord." The Shechinah was there in the most holy place. The transaction is between the Lord and the soul of the sinner. In all worship we should realize the presence of the Lord.
(2) "He shall flay the burnt offering and cut it into his pieces." This operation was here performed, not by the priest, but by the offerer. In the time of the temple this was done by the priests, who were then more numerous and better skilled in the proper mode of doing it. For this service they claimed the skin (Leviticus 7:8; 2 Chronicles 29:34).
(3) People and priests alike were concerned in the Great Sacrifice on Calvary. It was done with "wicked hands" (Acts 2:23).
III. As TO THE DUTY OF THE PRIESTS.
1. With respect to the blood.
(1) They were to sprinkle with it round about the altar. The altar upon which Jesus was offered was, in its more restricted sense, the hill of Calvary. On that hill his precious blood was literally sprinkled.
(2) The position of the altar is noted, viz. "by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation." In the wider sense the altar on which Jesus suffered was this planet, which is, as it were, the entrance or vestibule of the great temple of the universe, of which the heavens are the holy places (see Hebrews 4:14).
2. With respect to the water.
(1) Water is one of the great purifiers in the kingdom of nature, and is therefore used as an emblem of the Holy Spirit, the Great Purifier in the kingdom of grace (John 7:38, John 7:39). So a controversy about baptism with water is described as a "question about purifying" (John 3:25).
(2) With water the priest was to wash the inwards and the legs. The inwards were a type of the soul; and God requires "truth in the inward parts," in the "thoughts and intents of the heart." Every pollution, also, connected with our "walk and conversation" must be laved away. To express this truth Jesus washed his disciples' feet.
3. With respect to the fire.
(1) It was "put" upon the altar. This does not say that it was kindled by the priest. The fire was of God's own kindling (see Le Leviticus 9:24; Leviticus 10:1, Leviticus 10:2).
(2) It was, however, fed with fuel by the priests. Human agency cooperates with Divine even in the most sacred things (Philippians 2:12, Philippians 2:13).
(3) The parts of the sacrifice were laid in order on the wood. The quarters were laid together in their relative positions. So with the head, the fat, and the inwards. Thus the whole animal was consumed. Our whole being should be offered to God in the flames of love (Deuteronomy 6:5).—J.A.M.
The burnt offering of the flock and of the fowls.
The ceremony of the offering of the flock is almost identical with that of the herd described in the verses preceding. In that of the fowls there is a wider dissimilarity.
I. the VARIETY OF THE VICTIMS CLAIMS ATTENTION.
1. Five or six kinds of victims were accepted.
(1) These were beeves, sheep, goats, turtle-doves, pigeons. To these may be added the clean birds, supposed to have been sparrows, which were required in the particular ceremony of the cleansing of the leper.
(2) All these, excepting the last, were proper for burnt offerings. They are notable as mild, gentle, inoffensive, and useful creatures. They are therefore fittingly used as types to describe the innocence and meekness of Jesus (John 1:36; Isaiah 53:7).
(3) As Christians we have nothing to do with the ferocity of the tiger or the rapacity of the wolf. If we have the wisdom of the serpent, it must be associated with the harmlessness of the dove (see Matthew 10:16).
2. But what are the lessons conveyed in this variety?
(1) It evinces the insufficiency of the sacrifices of the Law. If one sacrifice or one kind of sacrifice could really take away sin, why repeat it or have recourse to others? Their usefulness therefore was in the manner in which they foreshadowed the better Sacrifice.
(2) By contrast it evinces the sufficiency of the Great Sacrifice of the New Testament. No single sacrifice or kind of sacrifice could body forth all that was required in a sufficient Saviour; therefore the number and variety of the type's. But Jesus offered himself alone and once, Because everything centred in him. Supplementary sacrifices such as that of the Mass, are blasphemous impertinences.
(3) It further evinces the mercifulness of Divine justice. Here was the bullock for the rich man. Here was the sheep or goat for the man in moderate circumstances. Here were the turtle-doves or pigeons for the poor (2 Corinthians 8:12). Here is Christ without money and without price for all.
II. THERE ARE NOTABLE OMISSIONS.
1. The placing of the offerer's hand upon the head of the victim.
(1) This is mentioned in connection with the offering from the herd (Leviticus 1:4). Omitted in the description of the offering from the flock. Also from the offering from the fowls. It may have been done nevertheless.
(2) It was very expressive of the transfer of sin to the victim. Possibly Paul refers to this custom—of course, taking it in its application to the gospel—when he speaks of the "laying on of hands" as amongst the "first principles of the doctrine of Christ" (Hebrews 6:2).
(3) If in any case it was omitted, it would then suggest the important truth that the hand of God laid upon Christ the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6, Isaiah 53:10).
2. The flaying of the skin.
(1) This is described in the account of the herd, but omitted in that of the flock (Leviticus 1:6). It appears, nevertheless, to have been done also in the latter case.
(2) The skin is the natural clothing or covering of the animal. If the coats of skins with which God clothed Adam and Eve in substitution for their covering of fig leaves by which they expressed their sense of shame for their sin, were those of sacrificed animals, then it vigorously sets forth the manner in which we receive "beauty for ashes" when invested with the righteousness of Christ.
3. Instead of the "door of the tabernacle of the congregation" which is mentioned in connection with the herd, "northward" is the term used in connection with the flock (comp. Leviticus 1:5, Leviticus 1:11). These expressions are generally synonymous (Leviticus 7:2). Standing at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, the worshipper held communion with God and with the whole congregation. He stood at the north side of the altar, because that was the place of rings to which the victims were fastened in order to be slain. The hill of Calvary also was situate northwest of Jerusalem. How humiliating that our communion with God and his Church must be through suffering and blood!
III. DIFFERENCES ARE NOTICEABLE IN THE BURNT SACRIFICE OF FOWLS.
1. In this case two birds were brought.
(1) One, however, only is offered as a burnt sacrifice. The singular is used in this description.
(2) The other was to be used as a sin offering (see Leviticus 5:7; Leviticus 12:8; Leviticus 14:22).
2. They were cloven but not divided.
(1) This was in accordance with the directions given to Abraham (Genesis 15:10).
(2) The cleaving was required for the removal of the intestines, but the wings must not be divided, for the power for flight of Christ to heaven cannot be impaired (Acts 2:24).
(3) The head was wrung off, and the blood wrung out by the side of the altar.
3. The crop and feathers were cast into the place of ashes.
(1) This was during the tabernacle "by the side of the altar on the east part." All the ashes went there (see Le Leviticus 6:10).
(2) In the temple the place of ashes was a closet under the altar. In allusion to this the souls, that is to say, the bodies, of the martyrs are represented as under the altar, crying for vengeance upon their persecutors (Revelation 6:9-11). Reflect: The poor man's pigeons as truly as the rich man's bullock was "of a sweet savour unto the Lord" (see Ephesians 5:2; also 1 Peter 2:5).—J.A.M.
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
Leviticus 1:1, Leviticus 1:2
God in special manifestation.
Always and everywhere God has been revealing himself. There is no time when, no place where, men might not have "seen him who is invisible." Nowhere has he left himself without witness (Acts 14:17). Always might "his eternal power and Godhead have been understood" (Romans 1:20). But the eyes of man were blinded, and his "foolish heart was darkened," so that by his own wisdom he knew not God. It is certain that he would have remained in ignorance but for those special manifestations of which the sacred Scriptures are the record. The text reminds us that these include—
I. His PECULIAR PEOPLE. Out of the human race God chose one people, "the congregation,'' "the children of Israel," to whom he would appear, by whom the knowledge of his nature and will should be retained, and through whom he should be made known to others. To this congregation "were committed the oracles of God;" and while surrounding nations were stumbling in the darkness, Israel was walking in the light of the Lord.
II. HIS OWN HOUSE. "God spake out of the tabernacle," etc. This his dwelling-place in Israel had just been constructed, and there, in the most holy place, he had signified his presence by the glory-cloud. That was none other than the house of God, his abode in the midst of the congregation.
III. HIS CHOSEN MINISTER. "The Lord called unto Moses." The experiences of Sinai had shown that there was need of mediation between the Majesty of heaven and the children of earth. God, therefore, chose to reveal his mind through the one man who was fittest for close access, and who would calmly receive and faithfully announce his will—the courageous, devoted, magnanimous Moses.
IV. HIS PARTICULAR DIRECTIONS. "Speak … and say … "Then follow the instructions of this book of the Law: particular and precise regulations, by attention to which the congregation might worship with acceptance and "live in holiness and righteousness before God."
In the dispensation in which we now stand we have analogous special manifestations.
1. The Church of Christ is now the congregation of the Lord, the "Israel of God;" not the members of any visible organization, but all those of every society who love and honour Christ, "both theirs and ours." To such "he manifests himself as he does not unto the world;" in them his Holy Spirit dwells; through them he works on the world without.
2. The Christian sanctuary is now the house of the Lord, the "place of his abode." There he makes his presence felt; there he causes us to behold his glory, the beauties of his character, the glories of his grace. At the table of the Lord, more especially, the risen Master meets with his true disciples, the Divine Host with his human friends and guests, to receive and return their love, to accept their vows, to impart his benediction and his blessing.
3. The Christian ministry is now the chosen channel of his communications. Not necessarily those ordained with human hands; these if sent by God, but only if sent of him; and beside these, all whose hearts he has touched (1 Samuel 10:26), whose minds he has filled with spiritual understanding (Colossians 1:9), and whose lips he has opened (Psalms 51:15); all those on whose soul there really rests the "burden of the Lord."
4. The New Testament now contains the Divine instructions. These are
(1) few in number;
(2) moral and spiritual rather than formal and mechanical in their nature;
(3) adequate to penetrate to the deepest springs of the soul, and to cover the widest particulars of the life.
It becomes us, in view of these special manifestations of God in Christ,
(a) to associate ourselves immediately with the recognized people of God;
(b) to seek, constantly and sedulously, his face and favour and the knowledge of his wilt, in his house;
(c) to hold ourselves ready to speak for him to others or to receive his message from others, as his Spirit shall prompt us or them;
(d) to master and foster those principles of righteousness which Christ has taught us, that we may cultivate our character and regulate our lives according to his holy will.—C.
The true end of sacrifice,-entire consecration to God.
We shall reach the end for which God introduced all that apparatus of Divine worship so elaborately described in this book if we take the following steps:—
I. THE SEPARATING PRESENCE OF SIN IN THE HEART AND LIFE OF MAN. But for the sin which "separates between us and our God" there would have been unrestrained communion between man and his Maker in every age and land: no need of mediation, of special arrangements, of careful limitations, of means and media of approach. Every line of this chapter, as also of this book, speaks of sin—sin in the soul, sin in the life, sin on the conscience, sin as a hindrance in the way of man.
II. THE EFFORT OF MAN TO FIND A WAY BACK TO GOD. It is impossible to forget that while Israel was offering its sacrifices as God directed, other nations were bringing their victims in such ways as they deemed best. The commonness of sacrifice, its prevalence outside the holy nation, speaks eloquently enough of man's conscious distance from God, and of his desire and endeavour to find a way back to his favour. "Wherewith shall I come before the Lord?" This is the anxious question of sin-stricken, unenlightened man. "Shall I come with burnt offerings … wilt the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams?" This is his suggestion in reply. It is affecting to think of the multitudes of sacrifices under every sky, as instances of men "feeling after" the mercy of an offended God, groping in the dimness or the darkness towards reconciliation and peace.
III. THE DIVINE PROVISION FOR MAN'S RETURN AND ACCESS TO HIMSELF.
1. Under the old dispensation. Man was to bring to the altar of God suitable offerings; such as were within his reach; the best of the kind; an unblemished male. It might be from his herd (Leviticus 1:2), or from his flock (Leviticus 1:10), or it might be a fowl of the air (Leviticus 1:14). The priest was to pour the blood round about the altar (Leviticus 1:5, Leviticus 1:11), and the carcase was to be consumed upon the altar,—a whole burnt offering unto the Lord.
2. Under the new dispensation. Instead of "the blood of bulls and goats," God has provided one offering which suffices for all souls of every land and age, even his own beloved Son. This was the "Lamb of God" (1), absolutely perfect, "without blemish and without spot" (1 Peter 1:19; Hebrews 9:14);
(2) shedding his own blood (Hebrews 9:12), giving "his soul (his life) an offering for sin" (Isaiah 53:10); "putting away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Hebrews 9:26);
(3) accepted of God; "an offering … of a sweet savour unto the Lord" (Leviticus 1:17; Ephesians 5:2). Through that shed blood of "the Lamb that was slain" for us we have access at all times, forgiveness of sin, reconciliation to God. But not without
IV. PERSONAL SPIRITUAL PARTICIPATION. The offerer under the Law took personal part in the offering: he brought his victim to the tabernacle (Leviticus 1:10); he killed it with his own hands (Leviticus 1:5, Leviticus 1:11); he also "put his hands upon the head" of the animal (Leviticus 1:4). The sinner, under the gospel, does not provide the sacrifice: "Christ our passover is slain for us." But he does take a personal participation: "by faith he lays his hand on that dear head of his;" he acknowledges that he himself is worthy of death; believes and appropriates to his own need the fact that Jesus died. for his sin; earnestly desires that his guilt may be transferred to the Lamb of God; entreats that that shed blood of his may atone for and cover his iniquity.
V. THE END OF SACRIFICE,—ENTIRE PERSONAL CONSECRATION. The consumption of the whole animal in the fire pictures the complete dedication of the Saviour, his absolute and entire consecration to the work which the Father gave him to do. It symbolizes ours also. Accepted by God through the atoning blood of the Lamb, we are to dedicate ourselves to him. Our personal consecration
1. Should follow upon and grow out of our acceptance through a crucified Saviour.
2. Should be thorough and complete: including heart and life, body and spirit, things sacred and things secular.
3. Will then be well pleasing to God, "an offering of a sweet savour unto the Lord" (Leviticus 1:17).—C.
Principles of spiritual sacrifice.
All who know God are engaged, frequently, if not continually, in sacrificing unto him. Here are principles of sacrifice by which we may be guided.
I. THAT GOD DESIRES AND DEMANDS THE BEST WE CAN BRING. If the offering were of the herd, it was to be a "male without blemish" (Leviticus 1:3); so also if of the flock (Leviticus 1:10). Not that which was of small account and could be well spared, but the worthiest and best. The best for the Highest. Not "that which costs us nothing" (2 Samuel 24:24) for him who has given us everything; rather the costliest of our treasures for him who, "though he was rich, for our sakes became poor." We may well break the rarest alabaster for him whose "body was broken" for our sin; may well pour out the most precious spikenard for him who poured out his life-blood for our redemption. "Worthy is the Lamb to receive riches" (Revelation 5:12). When we worship him, or work for him, or give to his cause, we should bring, not our exhaustion, but our vigour; not our languor, but our energy; not costless effort, but that which has taken time and trouble to produce—the gold rather than the silver, the silver rather than the pence; not anything that will pass in the sight of man, but the very best we can bring to his presence.
I. THAT GOD ACCEPTS THE BEST WE ARE ABLE TO BRING. If he could not afford a bullock, the Hebrew worshipper might bring a sheep; or if that were beyond his means, a turtle-dove or pigeon (Leviticus 1:2, Leviticus 1:10, Leviticus 1:14). God accepts gifts "according to that a man hath," etc. (2 Corinthians 8:12). He who approved the widow's mites more than the rich men's gold still "sits over against the treasury," and accepts what we can bring, however humble it be, if we bring with it "the willing mind." In the balances of heaven a conversation in a garret by the bedside of a pauper may weigh more than the greatest sermon before the noblest audience.
III. THAT GOD REQUIRES THE FULL CONSENT OF OUR OWN MIND. "He shall offer it of his own voluntary will" (Leviticus 1:3). The excellency, the beauty, the acceptableness of our offering lies largely in the hearty good will with which we bring it. "The Lord loveth a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:7). (See 1Ch 29:6, 1 Chronicles 29:9.)
IV. THAT OUR OFFERING MUST BE MADE CONSCIOUSLY UNTO THE LORD. He shall offer it "before the Lord" (Leviticus 1:3); he shall kill it "before the Lord" (Leviticus 1:11). When the victim was slain the offerer was to have in his mind the presence of God, and was to present it consciously to him. Whatever form our sacrifice may take—prayer, praise, inquiry of the Lord, contribution, exhortation—it must be not mechanical, but spiritual; it must be religious; it must be rendered "as to the Lord, and not unto men."
V. THAT GOD DESIRES OBEDIENCE IN THINGS BEYOND OUR UNDERSTANDING. Doubtless the priests of the tabernacle failed to see the import of many of the Divine directions. The people also must have been at a loss to understand the reason of many details of the service (Leviticus 1:6, Leviticus 1:8, Leviticus 1:11, Leviticus 1:15, Leviticus 1:17). But both priests and people were required to conform under penalty of severe displeasure. In many things unintelligible to them do our children and the uninstructed conform, because they rightly trust to those who are older and wiser. There are many things concerning which we have all to feel ourselves to be the little children we really are in the presence of the heavenly Father, and we must do unquestioningly what he bids us. Let us try strenuously to understand, and when we fail to reach the Divine meaning, trustfully conform.
VI. THAT THERE CAN BE NO WASTE IN THE FULLEST SACRIFICE WE LAY ON HIS ALTAR. In the burnt offering the whole victim was consumed; no part was saved for food. "To what purpose is this waste?" is it asked? We reply:
1. That the God in whom we live and whose we are is worthy of everything we can offer him.
2. That we never so truly realize the end and reach the height of our manhood as when we are devoting ourselves to God.
3. That we may count on a large and generous response at his liberal hand.
4. That we gain in spiritual profit far more than we lose in material reduction.—C.
Leviticus 1:17 (latter part)
God's pleasure in man.
I. THAT GOD IS A BEING OF SUPREME BLESSEDNESS. He is the ever-blessed God, the source and fountain of all joy. He who gives such boundless bliss to his creation must be divinely blessed. He could not give what he has not in himself.
II. THAT SOME PART OF HIS JOY HE FINDS IN MAN. What constitutes the happiness of the Supreme? "The Lord will rejoice in his works;" but it is a larger truth that "the Lord taketh pleasure in his people" (Psalms 149:4); that "the Lord's portion is his people" (Deuteronomy 32:9).
III. THAT HIS GOOD PLEASURE IN US IS IN—
1. Our complete but conscious consecration of ourselves. The "offering made by fire" was "of a sweet savour unto the Lord," not as typifying the annihilation of our self, absolute absorption of self in God (the Hindoo theory), but as expressing the offerer's desire to dedicate himself and all that he had to God,—voluntary, conscious devotion.
2. Our self-surrender to his Son our Saviour. That which, above all else, God says to us now is, "This is my beloved Son: hear ye him;" and the initial, essential, decisive step for us to take, in order to give him pleasure, is to "receive," to "believe in," to accept Jesus Christ as Teacher, Saviour, Lord, and Friend.
3. Our conformity to his revealed will, by
(1) reverence (Psalms 147:11);
(2) holy confidence in his pardoning love (Psalms 147:11);
(3) patient endurance of wrong (lPe 2:20);
(4) generous service of others (Philippians 4:18; Hebrews 13:16).—C.
The first part of this book, which may be called the spiritual statute-book of Israel as the congregation of the Lord, is occupied with the laws of sacrifice, chapters 1-7. The underlying fact is that of sin as separation from God; but the book, as regulating the intercourse between the sinful people and the holy object of their worship, is itself a constituent part of the gracious covenant made with Israel. While it deepens the sense of sin, it provides the means of reconciliation and sanctification, and therefore the laws prescribed, while, as laws, restraining liberty and giving form to religious acts, at the same time embody in themselves the grace of God in the covenant relation between Jehovah and his people.
HOMILIES BY R.A. REDFORD
Law of the burnt offerings.
The object of worship, place, worshipper, offering, are all clearly set forth. The way of obedience made plain.
"And the Lord called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation." This is the foundation on which the whole of positive religion is built up, the Divine voice speaking through a mediator, at an appointed place, and in a distinct, authoritative manner. Notice—
I. THE DIVINE VOICE. "The Lord," Jehovah, that is, the God of revelation and covenant.
1. The beginning of all true religion is the gracious manifestation of God. It is a very different spiritual structure which is built upon this foundation from that which is raised on men's own thoughts. Compare the corruptions of traditionary religions, heathenism, with the Old Testament revelation; the vague and doubtful attempts of religions philosophy to provide an object of supreme reverence. The name Jehovah betokened a progress in special revelation. The Elohistic worship of the earliest ages, while resting, no doubt, on direct communications of God's Spirit, without which there can be no living intercourse between the creature and the Creator, was elementary in its character, suited to the childhood of the world—God revealed first as the God of creation, the object of reverential obedience in the sphere of natural life and the simplest laws of righteousness. As the relations of mankind to one another grew more numerous and complicated, the idea of religion enlarged; the object of worship was the God of a people, the God of families, the God whose name was distinctly named, as distinctly as the people's, between whom and a certain portion of mankind there was a direct covenant, involving gracious vouchsafements on one side, and faithful service on the other. This is the connection between the Book of Exodus and that of Leviticus, which the very opening words remind us is very close. In the former book we are in the presence of Jehovah. In this we are listening to his voice, a voice which speaks clearly and fully what are the ordinances of his will.
2. The invitation and summons. "The Lord called unto Moses." We must notice here the two elements of law and grace combined, which is the very essence of the book. All the regulations of the Mosaic economy were based upon the fact that Jehovah was in close fellowship with his people. Just as a made road brings the points between which it lies nearer, by opening the means of intercourse, so sacrifices were a token of covenant relation, and a perpetual call of Jehovah to his people to approach him. The Lord called that he might bestow his special grace on those who obeyed his call. He called with the voice of command and authority, that his people might henceforth know fully and without possibility of mistake what they had to do. So still there is a gracious call of the gospel, which invites freely and universally, but it is at the same time the proclamation of a new law of righteousness, as in the Sermon on the Mount, and in the whole revelation of duty in the Christian Church. Notice—
II. THE FACT OF MEDIATION. "The Lord called unto Moses, and spake unto him."
"The Law was given by Moses." "It was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator," through the instrumentality of an appointed servant, who should be between Jehovah and his people. Moses united in himself remarkably the three elements of the office—the prophetic, as echoing the voice of God; the priestly, as the medium of offered service; the kingly, as the legislator and ruler, both proclaiming and administrating the Divine Law. We see also represented in the case of Moses the union of the two qualifications for the fulfilment of the office of mediator—the personal merit and the Divine appointment. Moses stood apart from the people in his character and personal eminence. He was anointed to his office, and manifestly favoured of God with special communications. In all these respects he is the type of the perfect Mediator. Jesus Christ was in himself able to be between God and man. His mediation is fact, history.
III. THE FACT OF MEDIATION WAS BASED UPON THE FACT OF COVENANT, THE RELATION BETWEEN THE PEOPLE AND JEHOVAH, THE GOD OF REVELATION, MUTUAL PLEDGE, AND PROMISE. The whole structure of the ceremonial law was built up on reciprocal obligation. Living intercourse between God and man is the spiritual reality which binds together all the details of this book of the Law. A development, therefore, of the first and greatest commandment, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God," etc. The acceptableness of religious worship lies in the fellowship of love.
IV. THE PLACE OF MEETING BETWEEN GOD AND MAN. "Out of the tabernacle of the congregation," or "the tent of meeting." A temporary provision, afterwards superseded by a more permanent and elaborate structure, but in its external features betokening the dispensational character of the Law. The central fact was a gracious manifestation of God, a meeting-place inviting to intercourse, an appointed form of worship, the stepping-stone to a higher communion. "God dwelleth not in temples made with hands." The tabernacle was subsequent to the covenant. The life of fellowship preceded the act of fellowship. The people are God's before they receive the Law. There are three elements in the tabernacle, representative of universal and abiding truth.
1. The Lord speaks out of it. Positive revelation the foundation of positive religion. The soul waits upon God. Gracious messages the beginning of Divine work in and for man. There were gropings of natural religion worth nothing in themselves. The Spirit of God calls the spirit of man to a higher life. The true faith rests on the Word, honours the ordinances, seeks the place where God speaks in the most distinct and emphatic manner. This finds illustration both individually and in the history of God's people.
2. Tabernacle of the congregation. Fellowship an essential fact of the religious life. Man a moral being, only as he is in society. As it is the fruit of religion, so it is the seed from which springs the true life, both of nations and individuals. The tabernacle or temple the center of the Hebrew national existence. The tent of meeting also the palace-chamber of the Great King. Jehovah's throne amongst his people the true source of all power and centre of all authority. All places of worship, as meeting-places of the congregation or Church, witness to the presence of Jehovah, of Jesus Christ, the Lord, in the midst of his people, and to the kingdom of God in the world. No doctrine of the Church consistent with this fact of Jehovah speaking out of the tabernacle of the congregation but that which recognizes the position of all believers as the same. "Where two or three are gathered together," etc.
3. The place of meeting was both the center to which offerings were brought and from which blessings were taken. A true religion must embrace both the passive and the active elements—Mind, heart, will. Christianity did not abolish sacrifice and offerings, lifted up the lower into the higher, the local and temporary into the universal and perpetual. No material edifice, no priestly caste, no mere prescription of rites, can limit religious service. The temple of the Jews was destroyed, but in place of it we possess the risen glory of Christ, the spiritual presence of the Living One, the communion of saints, the ceaseless offering up of spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. The Law which was given on the mount from the lips of Jesus requires a higher righteousness than the righteousness of legalists.—R.
Speak unto the children of Israel
and say unto them, If any man of you bring an offering unto the Lord, ye shall bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herd, and of the flock." Here is the great fundamental principle, as it were the preamble of the law of offerings. Notice—
I. THE DIVINE LAW IS UNIVERSAL. "Any man of you." No respect of persons with God. Same law to rich and poor, wise and unwise, as to its essential requirements. These private offerings represented personal religion. There may be differences of official duty, but what we bring to God for ourselves must be without respect to anything but the real relation between our soul and God.
II. ALL OFFERINGS MUST BE VOLUNTARY. No compulsion with God but the compulsion of heart and conscience. True worship is not a mere objective obedience. "If any man bring an offering." It is brought by a willing mind, not out of caprice, not to any place or to any God, but with intelligent acceptance of the will of God as coincident with our own will. When we bring offerings we should know what it is in our hearts to bring, not trust to the impulse of the moment or the variations of fluctuating feelings.
III. THE ESSENTIAL CHARACTERISTIC OF THE OFFERING IS SURRENDER, ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF THE LORD'S CLAIM OVER US. "Out of the herd or flock." That is, out of our own possessions, valued, known, intimately associated with ourselves. A religion which costs us nothing cannot be real. The more of one's self there is in it, the more really offered it is. The mistake of all ritualism is that it leads us to offer up another's offering instead of our own. We observe the rite, we repeat by rote the words, we listen to the music, but is the offering out of our own herd or flock? Jesus will have no disciple who does not first count the cost.
IV. WHILE THE OFFERING IS VOLUNTARY, IT IS STILL PRESCRIBED. "Ye shall bring your offering of the cattle." An enlightened recognition of Divine commandments is necessary to acceptable worship. "Faith cometh by hearing, hearing by the Word of God." "Not every man that saith, Lord, Lord;… but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven"—"the things that I say." The liberty of the gospel is not license. The doctrines, rules, and practical teachings found generally in the New Testament, though not systematized there, are yet positively given. While we are delivered from the bondage of a legal dispensation, we are yet under law to Christ. Will-worship is unchristian. Tendency of our time is to an individualism which is dangerous. The study of the Old Testament in the light of the New a wholesome antidote. Yet our faith must always work by love (vide Galatians 5:1-26).—R.
The burnt sacrifice.
The most ancient, that which represents all others. Notice—
I. THE MAIN PRINCIPLE REPRESENTED—SELF-SURRENDER IN ORDER TO SELF-PRESERVATION THROUGH THE COVENANTED MERCY OF JEHOVAH. In this principle there are included these points:
1. Recognition of the supreme claim Of God.
2. Substitutionary surrender, a life for a life, the victim for the offerer.
3. Expiation of sin and acceptance, by the restoration of the covenant relations between God and man, proceeding from Divine love, but resting on the offering as representing a fulfilment on both sides of the contract—God forgiving, man obeying.
4. The union of the two elements of blood and fire, i.e; of atonement and purification, the negative holiness and the positive holiness, justification and sanctification, fulness of grace.
II. DETAILS OF THE SACRIFICE. Leviticus 1:3.—"Of the herd a male without blemish." God must have our best. We must make our religious service a reality, putting into it our strongest faculties, best opportunities, counting all things but loss for Christ. Examples in the offerings of great faith. Nothing should be blemished in the house of God, in private religion, in acts of charity. "Thou God seest me." "Of his own voluntary will." Although a law, it is of no validity but as an appeal to the free heart of man. Anticipation of the gospel, the Law a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. The highest state of life is when law is absorbed in the activity of the nature: we are likest God when we are by grace a law unto ourselves, "willing to do his will? "At the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord." Here are the three elements of religion recognized:
3. Divine order.
Secret religion is a contradiction. The profession is part of the sacrifice. "Thy vows are upon me, O Lord. The congregation is a cloud of witnesses, both sustaining personal religion and supplying a constant test of sincerity. And whatever we do, we do before the Lord. His face we desire to seek, and in the light of his manifested favour we rejoice. There are special appointments which all true worshippers will honour: the sabbath, the Word, the congregation, the ordered life of the Christian Church.—R.
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." A most significant commandment, full of gracious meaning for those who observed it.
I. ALL ATONEMENT RESTS UPON FREE GRACE. "Accepted for him to make atonement." God sets forth the propitiation, declares his righteousness for the remission of sins. It shall be accepted, not because it is in itself an equivalent, but because a merciful Father accepts it.
II. THE VICTIM ACCEPTED PROCLAIMS THE CONDITIONAL NATURE OF THE GRACE. It is free as being unmerited, and yet it is the expression of a loving will, and comes forth from an infinite nature. God forgives because he chooses to forgive, yet he forgives by the method which he proclaims. The lower sacrifice points to the higher.
III. THE OFFERER'S FAITH IS AS TRULY NEEDFUL AS THE VICTIM HE BRINGS. "Without faith it is impossible to please God." The hand put upon the head of the victim signified the identification of the offerer and offered. Whether the confession of sins was included or not is of little importance. Faith is self-surrender. In all atonement there are three parties represented—the offender, the offended, the mediator. The hand of the offender sets forth his whole activity and conscious self. His connection with the victim is itself confession of sin and acceptance of the covenanted mercy of Jehovah. We lay our hand on the head of Jesus by the spiritual identification which includes the application of the mind to his truth, the yielding of the heart to his love, and the consecration of the life to his service.—R.
The killing, flaying, and consuming of the victim.
Full, throughout, of the idea of atonement. The three main elements are—
I. The blood.
II. the fire.
III. The sweet savour unto the Lord.
I. THE SPRINKLED BLOOD. The offerer killed the victim. The priests received the blood and sprinkled it upon the altar. The two chief elements of atonement were thus trotted—the human and the Divine. Atonement is reconciliation on the ground of a restored covenant through sacrifice. The blood shed represented the fact of life for life offered by faith. The blood sprinkled by priests, represented the Divine offer of mercy through an appointed mediation, at the place and time prescribed by God's gracious will. His will is our sanctification. The sacrifice of Christ is an outcome of Divine love received on behalf of the sinner as being offered by him in believing surrender to God and renewal of the covenant.
II. THE FIRE. The offering flayed and cut in pieces. Fire and wood placed by the priests on the altar, etc. All these details belong to the one fact that the offering is not only presented, but consumed, and consumed in pieces. The idea is that of the mingling together of the will of Jehovah with the offered obedience of his creature. A representation of the promised sanctifying grace which renews the whole man, gradually, but with comprehensive application of the Spirit of God to every part of the being and character. The ablution would convey the idea of the washing of regeneration. All which is specially significant of life and activity, "the inwards and the legs," is washed in water before placed on the altar. The whole is then termed, "a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire." The fire represented at the same time purification and destruction. As applied in the name of God, it promised his bestowment of the supernatural power which should at once destroy the evil and renew the good. Hence the gift of the Holy Spirit was symbolized by fire. We must be wholly offered, we must be penetrated and pervaded by the Spirit. The application of the fire is not only in a first baptism of the Spirit, but in the sanctifying work of life, in which oftentimes consuming dispensations are required, which, while they burn up, do also renew and recreate. Are we yielding up all to this gracious process on God's altar?
III. THE SWEET SAVOUR UNTO THE LORD. Fragrant ascent of man's offering. Nothing is said of the addition of incense, therefore the mere smoke and steam of the offering itself is described as "sweet savour." The obedience of faith is acceptable to the Lord. Nothing can more decidedly set forth the freeness and fulness of pardon and reconciliation. The Divine will is entirely reunited with the human will. Thus every sacrifice pointed to the end of sacrifices. When it is offered, when the fire has done its work, there is peace with God. So the Lord Jesus, anticipating the conclusion of his sufferings and his return to heaven, exclaimed, "The hour is come, glorify thy Son." "I have glorified thee on the earth. I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do." Resting on that finished sacrifice, we can rejoice in our obedience as a sweet savour to the Lord, notwithstanding that in itself it is necessarily consumed by the perfect righteousness of the Divine Law. The blood and fire of the cross of Calvary are already upon the altar. We are able in the resurrection and ascension to behold the manifest tokens of acceptance. The fragrance of the Saviour's risen glory and eternal righteousness are not only before God, well pleasing to him, but are also ours by faith, mingling with the imperfection of a fallen humanity, and lifting it up to angelic life and spotless purity and joy in the presence of God.—R.
The offering from the flocks.
Sheep or goat. This is a repetition of the same law as applied to the offering of lower value. The great spiritual fact is thus set forth that God is no respecter of persons. His Law applies to all sorts and conditions of men, and his grace is coextensive with his Law. The rich man's offering and the poor man's substantially the same. The only unchangeable condition is the relation of the offering to the offerer. It must represent sincere, heartfelt surrender to God. It must not be a wild animal caught for the purpose, but that which, having been associated with the personality and life, represents both the man himself and his house and family. Hence in the early Church, baptism was a consecration both of the individual and of his household, an offering of all to the Lord. Many applications of this idea. All can give something. Religion sanctifies the world through the sanctification of souls. The Spirit creates afresh the inner man, then all follows.—R.
The offering of fowls-turtle-doves or young pigeons.
The great abundance of these birds in the East would make the provision one which was easy even for the poorest to fulfil. How gracious this appointment! God is no "hard master." He delights not in mere burdensome sacrifice—no costliness, suffering, or privation has merit with him. He demands the willing obedience of the heart. He asks for that which really represents a surrender of self. All these minute regulations were simply intended to develop the principle of voluntary obedience. There was the same subdivision in the case of the bird as in the case of the quadruped, to remind the very poorest and humblest offerer that he must not shelter himself in the insignificance of his offering from the obligations which it represented. The application of fire to the second bird denoted the application of the righteousness of God to the life of the offerer, and while it was as a prescribed offering a promise of acceptance, and therefore of renewing grace and spiritual restoration, it was on the part of the offerer the pledge and promise of an entire obedience in which body, soul, and spirit, all the life and all the possessions, should be consecrated to God.—R.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Leviticus 1". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany