The Lord is Holy. The Lord is Holy. The Lord is Holy. In a kingdom of priests, this is a fundamental truth that must permeate the whole community. A holy God among sinful people is dangerous, but good. It reminds me of the classic Chronicles of Narnia line that described Aslan the lion as not safe, but good.
There is to be a respect of the Lord. A recognition of His perfect and righteous wrath. So, to show up in His presence in a common way, in any way that I feel like, will not fly. Burnt offerings, grain offerings, and peace offerings help me approach God on His terms and in a way that I can honor Him and enjoy His presence without fear of being consumed. And that is to impact all my other relationships as well.
Burnt Offering – Lev 1.
We must not forget that God wants to meet with His people, He wants to be with them. And the people are to voluntarily come and sacrifice to be in the presence and fellowship with their God. He has made provision for people to come to Him and be safe, no matter their economic status…but this whole system is so they approach Him in a way that is consistence with His holiness. This is protecting the people so they can be in God’s presence.
When a person brings a burnt offering they are bringing a gift that is going to be completely given to the Lord, because they recognize He is not like any other and this offering is to set the tone with how a person views God and seeks to come into His presence. It really is the heart of the worshipper that comes into view as God is worthy of all honor and glory and no sacrifice of any size truly gives him the honor, He is due if the person’s heart is not worshipping God. In fact, He says…
Isaiah 40:16–17 –16 Even Lebanon is not enough to burn, nor its beasts enough for a burnt offering. 17 All the nations are as nothing before Him, they are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless.
Psalm 40:6–8 –6 Sacrifice and meal offering You have not desired; my ears You have opened; burnt offering and sin offering You have not required. 7 Then I said, “Behold, I come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me. 8 I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart.”
So, whether a person brings a cow, a goat or a bird…the heart of the worshipper that seeks to honor the Lord above all else, and ultimate devote their whole life to Him and do His will is supposed to define this kingdom of priests.
Grain Offering – Lev. 2
The grain offering reminds us that God is our King, and we are to have pure worship of our King and be devoted to Him. He again makes incredible provision for people to bring grain in multiple different cooked forms. The idea is everyone is to come and worship and bring God their best.
When people came with grain offerings, we see the value they attribute to God. Food was the majority of a person’s living expense. Also, a tribute in the ancient near east was often given to a king or nation that was providing protection for a smaller nation. The Lord was Israel’s rescuer, their protector, their king. They were to give fine flour, mixed with incense and oil as an act of worship to honor their king.
There is also an element through the whole tabernacle where food reminds us of fellowship, of closeness, of an intimate relationship, but a relationship where God is honored as our Holy King.
Again, we don’t worship Him in a way where we just do whatever we want. There are parameters in the way we approach God. In addition to the instruction on how to cook the bread, adding oil and frankincense there is to be no leaven or honey in the bread that is offered to the Lord. Also, the priest is to eat some of this unleavened bread.
Leaven is often used to symbolize sin in the bible (Mt 16:6-12, 1 Cor 5:1-8), and the idea is that it spreads…this is because it ferments and causes bread to rise. Leaven also reminds us of the Exodus where they needed to be ready to leave quickly and could not wait for bread to rise (Ex 12:39) Leaven also is used to describe the spread of the Gospel (Mt 13:33).
The way leavening bread often worked in the ancient near east is that you would leave some dough out on the counter and it would collect wild yeast and ferment and you would use that as a leavening agent in new dough, like a sourdough starter. So, there was an oldness and a fermentation process of something that was left out rather than something fresh and new offered to the Lord.
So much of this process is designed to honor God and to memorialize, to remember. To remember the covenant of God, remember the rescue from Egypt and the new life they now have as God’s special people and their unique purpose to be a kingdom of priests that is different than the people around them.
Honey is also not to be in the grain offering, but it says that honey can be given as an offering of first fruits (Lev 2:12, 2 Ch 31:5). It may be that leaven and honey are forbidden in that they may often go together. It may simply be there can be a fermentation process with both and there is something about that process that goes against the tenor God is setting in these sacrifices as treating Him holy. It was also common in pagan cultures to offer honey to deities, so perhaps this is a specific way sacrifices to Yahweh would be different, because He is different than all the other false gods.
Peace Offering – Lev. 3, 7:11-36
The main idea of this offering is to celebrate and give thanks for things being well between the person and God and that is to promote fellowship with one another. This is to be an animal and it follows the same initial process as the burnt offering. However, the peace offering is not entirely burnt up.
Certain portions are given to the Lord, the priests, and the people to eat.
- The fat is dedicated to the Lord, particularly different fatty internal organs like kidneys and liver.
- The breast is to go to the high priest, in this case, Aaron and his sons
- The right thigh goes to the priest who offers the fat and sprinkles the blood. This is to make provision for the priests and their families for all generations (Lev 7:36)
- The rest goes to the family to eat
The peace offering can be an offering of thanksgiving or just a free will offering. There are certain rules for how long you can save your leftovers, so something offered to the Lord does not spoil (Lev 7:15-18). If it was a sacrifice for thanksgiving you had to eat it on the same day, if it was a vow or freewill offering you could take leftovers for a day.
I think this reminds us of two things, first if you dedicate something to the Lord, it is associated with Him…don’t leave it on the counter to spoil or in your fridge for a week and then throw it out like just any old leftovers…Recognize this was a peace offering to the Lord and this is a special meal…and if it was an act of specific thanksgiving…enjoy it, feast, eat up, no leftovers….
This is a mini celebration that all is well with you and the Lord…make sure you go home full as being well with the Lord should satisfy and delight us. It also reminds us that the Lord is providing for the priests and the priests are helping the people delight and be secure in their relationship with the Lord.
Part of being well with the Lord is making sure to keep Him in his rightful place of honor. The fat and blood helped the people to do that.
Leviticus 3:16–17 –16 “The priest shall offer them up in smoke on the altar as food, an offering by fire for a soothing aroma; all fat is the Lord’s. 17 It is a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwellings: you shall not eat any fat or any blood.”
Fatty parts are often considered the best parts and there seems to be a focus on fat that is connected to organs rather than intermuscular fat that is marbled throughout meat.
- Psalm 147:14 –14 He makes peace in your borders; He satisfies you with the finest (fat) of the wheat.
- Genesis 45:18 –18 “…and take your father and your households and come to me, and I will give you the best (fat) of the land of Egypt and you will eat the fat of the land.”
- Numbers 18:12 –12 “All the best (fat) of the fresh oil and all the best of the fresh wine and of the grain, the first fruits of those which they give to the Lord, I give them to you.”
The fat and fatty organs are the richest part of the animal. They may be considered delicacies or some pagan nations may see specific value in these organs, but the idea is that the best belongs to the Lord, because everything ultimately belongs to the Lord.
The blood reminds us of this as well.
- Leviticus 17:11 –11 ‘For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.’
- Genesis 9:4–5 –4 “Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5 Surely I will require your lifeblood; from every beast I will require it. And from every man, from every man’s brother I will require the life of man.”
- Deuteronomy 12:23–25 –23 “Only be sure not to eat the blood, for the blood is the life, and you shall not eat the life with the flesh. 24 You shall not eat it; you shall pour it out on the ground like water. 25 You shall not eat it, so that it may be well with you and your sons after you, for you will be doing what is right in the sight of the Lord.”
The blood belongs to the Lord. I think the life being associated with blood helps us remember that all living things were created by God, He gives everything life and so all life belongs to Him. Some people may think consuming blood allows them to get the life force and power of something they killed, which really does not see the Lord as the one with all power over life.
Blood will be a theme that keeps coming up. We are reminded that God is to be associated with life as He is the giver of life and it is rebellion against Him that brought death into the world. This blood reminds the people they have entered into a covenant with the creator and sustainer of all life. When Moses sacrificed in Exodus, we see how he sprinkled blood on the altar to emphasize the blood of the covenant they were in with the Lord.
Exodus 24:4–8 –4 Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord. Then he arose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain with twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel. 5 He sent young men of the sons of Israel, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as peace offerings to the Lord. 6 Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and the other half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. 7 Then he took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!” 8 So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”
All of these sacrifices remind us of the holiness of our God, but also that these are His people, who are in a covenant relationship with Him and He is with them. He is the source of their provision, their security, their delight, and their purpose. They live and breathe in Him.
May we too seek to relate everything in our lives to our relationship with our God, and His amazing provision through the person and work of Jesus Christ. May the new covenant in Christ’s blood impact the way we live our lives as we wait for His return where we get to be in His presence forever.
1 Peter 2:9–12 –9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. 12 Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.