In the first chapters of Leviticus, God prescribes a number of offerings that the children of Israel must bring before the Lord, and each one is for a specific purpose.
First to be mentioned is the Burnt Offering. It is typically an animal, either from the herd or the flock Lev 1:3, 10). It could also be a dove or a pigeon (Lev 1:14). After the sacrifice had been killed by the worshipper, the priest will splash its blood on the sides of the altar and place the pieces of the sacrifice on top of the altar. The Burnt Offering will be left on burning on the altar all night until the next morning (Lev 6:9).
The Burnt Offering is the foundational offering. I say it is ‘foundational’ (not the Sin Offering, although it is understandable why one would think that) because it is the first offering that must go on the altar. All other offerings: the Meal Offering and the Peace Offering, even the Sin and Trespass Offerings, will then be placed on top of the Burnt Offering on the altar (Lev 3:5). In fact, the first offering of the day, and the last also, was to be offered by the priests (Ex 29:38-46). This offering, the tamid, is also known as the morning and evening sacrifices.
What role does the Burnt Offering play? It allows the worshipper to ‘come near’ to God. It has an atoning function of forgiving the sins of the worshipper, as seen by Lev 1:4, but does not replace the Sin Offering. However, its primary purpose was to please the Lord. As the sacrifice is being consumed by fire on the altar, the smoke that rises heavenward would be received by the Lord as a sweet aroma. No one is exempt from making this sacrifice; not even the priests who serve at the altar.
The effort needed by the worshipper to make this offering: slaughtering the animal, skinning it, cutting it into pieces, and wash its internal organs with water, gives meaning to “diligently seek Him” in Hebrews 11:6 (KJV). This verse has assured Christians that those who seek God would find Him. But seeking God is not as simple as calling a friend on your mobile phone. There is a process of preparing to surrender oneself and the act of finally surrendering.
Once the Burnt Offering has been placed on the altar and is burning, the other offerings can now be made.
The Meal Offering is next. The Hebrew word used here is minchah, indicating that this offering is a gift; more precisely a tribute or required gift.such as the bunga mas (golden flower) that rulers in the Malay peninsula used to send to the kings of Siam, or the Tribute of the Maltese Falcon that the Grand Master of the Order of St. John used to send annually to the Viceroy of Sicily in order to rule Malta. It might also involve attendance by the subordinate ruler at the court of the hegemon in order to make a public show of submission” (1).
What was allowed to constitute a minchah seemed to have evolved over time. In Genesis, both Cain and Abel brought a minchah to the Lord but the Lord “looked with favor on Abel and his offering” (Gen 4:4). Apparently, a meat offering was the only acceptable minchah back then but the reverse became true in the days of Moses and beyond.
The third offering that an Israelite may bring to the Lord is the Peace Offering (or Fellowship Offering). Further details provided in Leviticus 7 tells us that this offering can made as an “expression of thanksgiving” or simply as a “freewill offering”.
The Peace Offering establishes fellowship, shalom, between the worshipper and God Almighty, that could not occur until God found the worshipper acceptable to Him, and a tribute, that could also be viewed as a ransom, was paid. Together, the 3 offerings, the ‘Olah, Minchah, and Zevah, established and maintained peace and fellowship with Yehoveh despite man’s inherent sinful nature. (2)
R.C. Sproul explains that it would be wrong to assume that “there was no room for spontaneous praise under the old covenant” given the complex legislation and rituals found in the Mosaic law. On the contrary, “God has always been delighted to receive special offerings from those whose hearts have been set apart to serve Him (Deut. 10:12–22).” (3)
As we read the New Testament passages about the life, death and resurrection of Christ, we find that the first thing they accomplished was to make sinful man into the “righteousness of God”. “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ (2 Cor 5:21 NLT). “And now, because of our Lord Jesus Christ, we live at peace with God” (Rom 5:1b CEV). This is crucial because if we are not acceptable, then our gifts to Him are not acceptable also.
I have earlier highlighted the fact that the Burnt Offering had an atoning function as well. By it, the sins of the Israelite worshipper were forgiven. For us, New Testament believers, Christ’s sacrificial death has more than atoned for our sins, it has broken the power of sin over us. “We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin” (Rom 6:6-7).
You see just as with the sacrifices ordained in Leviticus, there is much that has to happen before God is even interested in dealing with our sinful behaviors. First our nature must be dealt with; then our behavior can be addressed. This is the God-ordained order of things. (4)
(2) torahclass.org, Leviticus Lesson 6
(4) torahclass.org, Leviticus Lesson 6
This is an example of what members of the Torah Club will learn. Contact me if you wish the Torah Club today.