1. Leviticus is the Heart of God’s Law, and It Reveals the Hidden Sins of the Heart. The Bible proclaims: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;” (2 Tim. 3:16). Most believers would agree that the Book of Leviticus is inspired. Many might also agree that it is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;” Yet, few churches actually teach through the book. To many, it is inspired in name only. Yet, Leviticus is the central book of the “Torah”, the five holiest books of the Old Testament. It is the “heart” of God’s Law. It was also the heart of Jesus’ Bible when He walked the Earth. Yet, many sadly assume that if Christ came to fulfill the Law, there is no need to study it. But Paul made clear that “through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.” (Rom. 3:20). By studying the heart of God’s Law, we learn of our hidden sins. For “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9).
The first five chapters of Leviticus are the most important because they teach us how to restore our fellowship with God, a primary reason for our existence (1 Jo. 1:3). Chapters 1 through 5 describe: (1) the burnt offering (described in detail below); (2) the grain offering; (3) the peace offering; (4) the ram offering for restitution; and (5) the goat offering for sin.
(1) The Burnt Offering. (Chapter 1). The blood of the animal previously atoned for or paid for a person’s sins. This covered, but did not fully remove, a new believer’s prior sins. Atonement was a necessary step (but not by itself a sufficient step) for a believer to restore true fellowship with God. The reason why atonement does not automatically bring fellowship is that we were “enemies” of God before we were reconciled through Christ’s blood (Ro. 5:10; Phil. 3:18-19). Enemies don’t automatically become friends when they end their hostilities. For Christians, Christ’s death ripped the temple “veil” and gave us direct access to God through Christ (Matt. 27:51; Mk. 15:38). Yet, our “access” to God does not automatically mean that we have “fellowship” with Him (Rev. 3:20). Thus, atonement was merely the first step to finding fellowship with God.
(2) The Grain Offering. (Chapter 2). The grain offering symbolized the act of a believer giving the best of his or her life back as a thank you to God for his or her salvation. This symbolizes a believer who is filled with the Holy Spirit and looking for ways to devote his or her life to the Lord out of devotion. This is the next step to finding fellowship.
(3) The Peace offering. (Chapter 3). The Shalom or peace offering is one of the most important chapters in the Bible. The Shalom offering was so important that the twelve tribes once gave God as part it: 24 bulls, 60 rams, 60 goats and 160 lambs (Nu. 7:88). The Shalom offering symbolizes a believer who was in peaceful fellowship with the Lord. It is not a temporary condition. It instead is a state of being. This offering was the only offering that was voluntary. It was also the only offering where the believer could eat a part of the sacrifice that was given to God. It symbolized a higher walk with God. Christ also offered to believers that they could enjoy spiritual intimacy with Him, symbolized by dining together with Him, like the Shalom offering: “'Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” (Rev. 3:20). Christ offered this so that we could find both fellowship and peace through Him (Jo. 16:33). Sadly, many pastors teach that Jesus was speaking to non-believers. Yet, this is mistaken. He was speaking to the “church in Laodicea.” (Rev. 3:14). Some of the members of this church professed Jesus as Lord. Yet, they were not in fellowship with Him. Likewise, many believers have been sadly led to believe that being saved is the end-all be-all of being a Christian. But it is only the first step in a person’s walk with Christ. If we want true peace and fellowship with God, we must accept Jesus’ knock on the door of our heats and carefully study the rules for the Shalom offering in the forgotten heart of God’s Law.
(4) The Sin Offering. (Chapter 4). The goat offering for sin symbolizes the act of a believer (already saved by the blood of atonement) who still needs blood shed to cleanse the daily sins in the believer’s walk. This was like an alcoholic renouncing an addiction. The washing of the blood could wipe away a believer’s ongoing and daily sins. Yet, a believer still needs to renounce the old ways of the flesh to restore true fellowship. This was symbolized by the goat being cast out of the community with the people’s sins. In summary, the five offerings had the peace offering at the epicenter. The first two offerings were necessary prerequisites to finding peace with God. The last two offerings were necessary to bring a believer back into fellowship with God after a believer sinned.
(5) The Guilt Offering. (Chapter 5). The guilt offering was designed to maintain fellowship with God by forcing a believer to become aware of and repent of even the smallest sins. It also required that a sinner pay restitution to God and anyone else that the person may have harmed. Although Christians are frequently taught that an apology is enough, God expects a believer to also restore another person after a believer hurts someone else. For example, an apology after a theft may bring God’s forgiveness. But, without restitution to a victim, it is not enough to restore fellowship.
Christ came to fulfill the sacrificial Law: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matt. 5:17). His death was a one-time sacrifice for all generations: “For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” (Heb. 10:14). Yet, this does not mean that Christ left us without anything to do when it comes to the sacrifices listed in Leviticus. We study the details of the animal sacrifices to learn how to make “spiritual sacrifices” to Christ: “you also . . . are . . . to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet. 2:5). “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Rom. 12:1). The bull symbolizes strength. Christ gave His strength for us. We give our strength to Him. The grain offering symbolized the gift of the best of your labors to God. Christ gave the best of His labors to us. We are to give the best of our labors back to Him in gratitude. The lamb symbolized submission. Christ submitted Himself to the will of the Father in death. We are to submit to Christ’s will for our lives. The ram symbolized the payment of restitution for wrongs. Christ paid for our wrongs. We are to respond by making whole anyone that we have wronged. The goat offering symbolized shedding of the sins of our old lives. Christ became the scapegoat of our old lives and made us a new creation. We are to respond by renouncing the flesh and making our bodies “living sacrifices” that are wholly acceptable to God (Rom. 12:1).
Chapters 6 and 7 repeat the sacrificial laws. Yet, they explain the Priest’s role in preparing the sacrifices for others. God taught the Levities His Law so that they could serve those around them who wanted to be reconciled to God. The Levities were commanded to keep the sacrificial fire burning “day and night” in case any person wanted to come forward to be set right with God (Lev. 6:9, 12-13). Helping others to be reconciled to Christ fulfills “the law of Christ.” “Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal. 6:2). “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.” (Rom. 15:1).
Chapters 8 through 10 explain what we must do to be priests for God. Many believe that “priests” are the people who preach on Sundays. Although some Christians use this title for a leader of the congregation, God uses the term more broadly. He makes clear that all of His believers were meant to be His “nation of priests”. This included the Jews: “you shall be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation.” (Ex. 19:6). This also included Christians: “you . . . are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood . . .” (1 Pet. 2:5). “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God.” (1 Pet. 2:9). Christ “has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father--to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.” (Rev. 1:6). If you fail to accept that you are part of God’s “nation of priests” you fail to acknowledge one of the reasons why God made you, and you have not fulfilled your calling.
As a nation of priests, God gave the instructions in Leviticus so that we could be holy: ‘“For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy.”’ (Lev. 11:44). ‘“Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.”’ (Lev. 19:2). “You are to be my holy people.” (Ex. 22:31). These instructions also apply to Christians: “for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” (1 Pet. 1:16). If we want to be Holy in God’s eyes, we must study Leviticus. The book teaches us what types of things of the world we may touch or consume with our eyes without defiling ourselves. Chapter 11 explains the dietary laws. Christ cleansed the animals we eat (Acts 10:10-15). Yet, the chapter still has meaning today. The Word of God is considered our spiritual food (Matt. 4:4). The restricted animals each symbolize what we may consume with our eyes. Chapter 12 explains how we circumcise our hearts. Chapters 13 through 15 (the laws regarding leprosy and hygiene) teach us how to deal with our hidden sins and to help a brother or sister deal with the sins in their hearts. Chapter 18 teaches us regarding the laws of sexual purity. Chapters 19 and 20 teach us to be holy through the Ten Commandments and God’s other laws for righteous living. Chapters 21 and 22 teach us that being holy involves being set apart from the sins of the world around us. Part of being holy involves carefully distinguishing the things that Christ fulfilled (the blood sacrifices and dietary laws) and those things which He did not fulfill. For example, Christ raised to an even higher standard for sexual purity by examining our thoughts, not just our actions. The Jews were meant to be a light to the rest of the world (Is. 42:6; 49:6). So are Christians (Matt. 5:14; 1 Pet. 2:4-5). If we are not holy, the light that comes from us does not serve to draw others to God. Instead, it may push them away.
7. Leviticus Teaches Us How to Honor God. Finally, the book of Leviticus teaches us how to honor God. Chapter 16 instructs us about the holiest day on God’s calendar (a day most Christians sadly ignore) the Day of Atonement. Chapter 17 teaches us to honor the blood that gives us communion with God. Chapter 23 teaches about of the seven festivals of the Messiah and how we should observe them to honor God. Chapter 24 teaches us life lessons in honoring God and serving others through the table of “shewbread” and the golden lamp stand. Chapter 25 teaches us about freedom from bondage and debt through the Jubilee laws. Chapter 26 teaches us about the blessings that come from a life honoring God and the curses for those who live a life that dishonors God. Chapter 27 concludes Leviticus with a discussion regarding the costs of breaking a vow to God. As a “nation of priests” for God, we should only make vows to Him that we will keep. Yet, if you can make a vow to God that you will keep, like your wedding vow, it is one of the highest ways to honor Him.
Introduction: There are seven messages for every believer in the first chapter of Leviticus. First, every person must accept that sin creates a barrier between them and God. Second, only through a proper blood sacrifice can a person atone for their sins. Third, the sacrifice had to be without blemish or sin. Fourth, the blood sacrifice only worked if the person had faith in God’s ability to transfer their sins to the sacrifice. Fifth, the Old Testament left the Jews with the need for a better way to atone for sins. Their system could only “cover” sin, not remove it. Their system also broke down when the Romans destroyed the Second Temple shortly after Jesus’ death. Today, there is no way for the Jews to strictly follow the sacrificial laws to atone for their sins. Christ provided the answer. His blood was without blemish. Our sins can be transferred to Him if we have faith in Him. He further came as a one-time sacrifice to fulfill the sacrificial Law. Sixth, this chapter also reveals that a person must still wash of their daily sins after they received atonement through the blood sacrifice. Believers today cannot just accept Christ and never look back at Him again. Believers must wash in His Word to cleanse themselves on a daily basis. Finally, although believers no longer need to make physical sacrifices, they are called upon to make “spiritual sacrifices” out of gratitude for what Christ did for them (1 Pet. 2:5). This includes making their lives a “living sacrifice” for Him (Ro. 12:1).
Sin separated Moses from God. Leviticus begins where Exodus leaves off. God’s presence has entered the just completed tabernacle, where God could dwell with his people (Ex. 40:34-35). Sin, however, separated Moses from God. For this reason, Moses could not be in God’s direct presence in the tent of meeting. If Moses had tried to enter with his sins, he would have died. God cannot be in the presence of sin. To solve this problem, God called to Moses to obtain animals to make an offerings to God. “Then the Lord called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, ‘Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When any man of you brings an offering to the Lord, you shall bring your offering of animals from the herd or the flock.”’’ (Lev. 1:1-2). If Moses could not stand before God, we must suffer from the same problem.
Sin has also separated us from God. Like Moses, sin has also separated us from God: “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God . . .” (Isaiah 59:2(a)). God has looked down from heaven and observed that not one person is holy and without sin: “[I]t is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.”’ (Rom. 3:10-11). “[T]here is no one who does good.” (Ps. 14:1; 53:1). “Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you.” (Ps. 143:2). “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 Jo. 1:8). Thus, if we say that we are going to heaven because we are good people, the truth is not within us. Likewise, if we are going to heaven because of our good works, Christ’s death on the cross was unnecessary.
Sin can also “hinder” your prayers to God. In the Old Testament, God warned that as a consequence of the separation caused by sin, He would not hear the prayers of sinners: “So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.” (Is. 1:15). “And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken falsehood, your tongue mutters wickedness.” (Is. 59:2-3(b)). “We know that God doesn't listen to sinners, but He does listen to anyone who worships Him and does His will.” (Jo. 9:31; Prov. 15:29; 8:9; Ps. 66:18). In the New Testament, He warns that sin can “hinder” a believer’s prayers (1 Pet. 3:7).
The penalty for our sins is death. The animal sacrifices were performed in the courtyard of the Tabernacle at an altar called the mizbeach (Ex. 27:1-8). This altar was made of acacia wood with bronze overlaid on top of the wood (Ex. 38:2). Bronze represents judgment in the Bible (e.g., Jesus’ “bronze” feet (Rev. 1:15) will crush Satan (Rom. 16:20)). The fire inside the altar where the fire burned also symbolized God’s judgment: “for our God is a consuming fire.” (Heb. 12:29; 10:27; Ex. 24:17; Dt. 4:24; 9:3; Ps. 97:3; Is. 33:14; 2 Thess. 1:7). The animal was also cut into pieces (Gen. 15:10, 17). This showed that nothing is hidden before the Lord at the time of judgment (Ecc. 12:14). It also symbolized a solemn covenant. We also cannot treat sin lightly (Rom. 6:26). “For the wages of sin is death, . .” (Rom. 6:23). Unless we accept that we are destined for judgment, we will feel no pressure to repent. Thus, are we helping others when we stay silent about God’s judgment of sin?
God’s Law for the atonement on sin. Once we recognize that sin has created a barrier between us and God, we must ask how we can remove this barrier to fellowship with God. God ultimately choose blood as the symbol of atonement. “3 If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer it, a male without defect; he shall offer it at the doorway of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the Lord. 4 He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, that it may be accepted for him to make atonement on his behalf. 5 He shall slay the young bull before the Lord; and Aaron’s sons the priests shall offer up the blood and sprinkle the blood around on the altar that is at the doorway of the tent of meeting. 6 He shall then skin the burnt offering and cut it into its pieces. 7 The sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire. 8 Then Aaron’s sons the priests shall arrange the pieces, the head and the suet over the wood which is on the fire that is on the altar. 9 Its entrails, however, and its legs he shall wash with water. And the priest shall offer up in smoke all of it on the altar for a burnt offering, an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the Lord. 10 ‘But if his offering is from the flock, of the sheep or of the goats, for a burnt offering, he shall offer it a male without defect. 11 He shall slay it on the side of the altar northward before the Lord, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall sprinkle its blood around on the altar. 12 He shall then cut it into its pieces with its head and its suet, and the priest shall arrange them on the wood which is on the fire that is on the altar. 13 The entrails, however, and the legs he shall wash with water. And the priest shall offer all of it, and offer it up in smoke on the altar; it is a burnt offering, an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the Lord. 14 ‘But if his offering to the Lord is a burnt offering of birds, then he shall bring his offering from the turtledoves or from young pigeons. 15 The priest shall bring it to the altar, and wring off its head and offer it up in smoke on the altar; and its blood is to be drained out on the side of the altar. 16 He shall also take away its crop with its feathers and cast it beside the altar eastward, to the place of the ashes. 17 Then he shall tear it by its wings, but shall not sever it. And the priest shall offer it up in smoke on the altar on the wood which is on the fire; it is a burnt offering, an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the Lord.” (Lev. 1:3-17). Each detail of the blood offering pointed to Christ.
Why God chose the symbol of blood for atonement. Why would God choose blood as His symbol of atonement? God chose blood for several reasons. First, it is gross to look at. it lets us know how gross our sins are before God. Second, blood is the agent of life for all the organs in the body. It brings life giving oxygen. Third, blood is also a cleansing agent. It carries impurities from the body to the kidneys where the impurities are filtered and removed from the body. “[T]he life of every creature is its blood.” (Lev. 17:14). “[Y]ou must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it.” (Gen. 9:4). Fourth, the shedding of the blood symbolized the exchange one life for another life: ‘“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.”’ (Lev. 17:11). The rule requiring that the blood or life of one be used to pay the price of another still applies in the New Testament: “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Heb. 9:22). Besides the shedding of blood, God does not leave any way other in either the Old Testament or the New Testament to remove the barrier of sin between man and God. If you say that you are sorry to God for your sins but fail to offer a blood sacrifice to atone for your sins (as Jews do today), this does not comply with God’s law. Some might be tempted to protest that there must be a better way to pay for our sins. But what do you have to offer God to pay for your sins? God will not accept money, silver, or gold to pay for your sins (1 Pet. 1:17-19). God created the universe. You have nothing that He needs. Moreover, your money is worthless in heaven.
The sacrificial offering was to be an animal “without defect.” Once we realize that we need to substitute the blood of one life for another, we should ask what blood will suffice. Long ago, people would sacrifice virgins or captured slaves to appease their gods. But such a sacrifice would never be acceptable to God. In addition to being barbaric, the blood of another person could not pay for our sins because that other person’s blood is also contaminated by sin. Thus, God would have never accepted Abraham’s son as a sacrifice. An animal, by contrast, cannot sin because it lacks the self-consciousness that comes from a soul unique to humans. Thus, its blood is free from sin and could be used as a substitute. Yet, the person could not offer any animal. Unless the person was poor, they had to give a bull “without defect”, the most expensive kind of animal: ‘“If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer it, a male without defect; he shall offer it at the doorway of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the LORD.”’ (Lev. 1:3). ‘“If the offering is a burnt offering from the flock, from either the sheep or the goats, he is to offer a male without defect.”’ (Lev. 1:10; 3:1). “The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats.” (Ex. 12:5; same Lev. 22:20; Dt. 15:21; 17:1). If a male bull without defect was the most valuable thing that a person owned, the person could take this process lightly. Do you ever give thanks that you don’t have to give up your most valuable things to have your sins forgiven? Imagine if you had to sell a car or your house each year to forgive your sins.
Christ’s blood was without defect. The sinless blood foreshadowed Jesus Christ, who died without sin: “If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.” (1 Pet. 1:17-19). The sacrifice also could have no broken bones (Ex. 12:46). This again foreshadowed Christ’s death. He died on the cross without having His bones broken (Jo. 19:32-36). Separately, the altar of judgment, where the blood was spilled, was made of acacia wood. This was an incorruptible wood that oozed out a medicinal substance when pierced (Ex. 27:1). This also symbolized Christ because He healed us through His suffering. “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” (1 Pet. 2:24). “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.” (Is. 53:5).
The transfer of sins from the blood of the sinner to the sacrifice. During the atonement process, a person put his or her hands on the animal that he or she was sacrificing. The person’s sins were then cast onto the animal (Lev. 1:4; Ex. 29:10, 15, 19). This, however, required that the person have faith. If they did not believe that their sins were being transferred to the blood of the animal, the process was meaningless to God. “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Heb. 11:6).
The transfer of our sins to Christ. The transfer of sins from the sinner to the blood of the sacrifice also foreshadowed what Christ did for us: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor. 5:21). “God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.” (Rom. 3:25). “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, . . .” (Gal. 3:13). ‘“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,’ [Christ] said to them.” (Mk. 14:24; see also, 1 Pet. 1:18-19; 2:24; Isaiah 53:4-5, 10, 12). If you don’t believe that your sins today were transferred more than 2,000 years ago onto Christ at the time of His death, does His death have any real meaning to you? Likewise, if you think you will be saved because you are a good person, was Christ death really necessary?
The power of faith in the atonement process. The altar had four horns. Horns symbolize power and refuge in the Bible (Ps. 18:2; 89:17; Lk. 1:69; Lam. 2:3; 1 Kgs. 1:50; 2:28). If the horns symbolized power or refuge, this meaning of the pouring of the blood on the horns had great power. In fact, the power of Christ’s blood is so strong that anyone who believes in it has “no condemnation” for any prior sins: “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 8:1). Is any old sin holding you back from serving God? If so, how much faith do you really have in Christ’s power? Likewise, are you willing to forgive another sinner who has repented of his or her sins against you and accepted Christ?
The problem with the daily bull and lamb sacrifices. For individuals ready to come forward to atone for sins and find salvation, the priests were commanded to be ready to make the sacrifice: “Each day you shall offer a bull as a sin offering for atonement, and you shall purify the altar when you make atonement for it, and you shall anoint it to consecrate it.” (Ex. 29:36). On behalf of the nation, the Jews also had to sacrifice each day two one-year old male lambs as a burnt offering (Nu. 28:3; 7:15). The lambs, like the bulls, also had to be without defect (Nu. 28:3; Lev. 1:3; Ex. 12:5). Yet, while these sacrifices complied with God’s Law, they could not by themselves take away sins. They could only cover the sins of the people: “Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. . . ” (Heb. 10:11). “For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near.” (Heb. 10:1). Thus, the sacrifices of the Old Testament were imperfect. Also, when the Romans destroyed the second temple 30 years after Christ’s death, they left the Jews without a way to comply with God’s sacrificial Law. The Jews needed a long-term solution.
The one-time blood sacrifice of Christ. Christ offered a solution to the need for a one-time sacrifice for all. “For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” (Heb. 10:14). “Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood.” (Rev. 1:5). If God was willing to accept the sacrifice of animals on our behalf, we have no reason to doubt Christ’s ability to atone for even the worst sinners: “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb. 9:14). Maybe you accept that your sins are forgiven. But will you accept that a murder or a terrorist can be forgiven? If not, how much faith are you showing in Christ’s blood?
Jesus is the only door leading to God in heaven. The blood of the burnt offering was sprinkled around the altar, “that is the doorway of the tent of meeting.” (Lev. 1:5). This again foreshadowed Christ: “So Jesus said to them again, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.”’ (Jo. 10:7). “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” (Jo. 10:9). According to Jesus, the road leading to heaven is also narrow: “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matt. 7:14). “A highway will be there, a roadway, and it will be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean will not travel on it, but it will be for him who walks that way, and fools will not wander on it.” (Is. 35:8). There is simply no other way to find salvation without Christ’s atoning blood. “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” (1 Tim. 2:5). “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12).
The washing of the entrails and legs. The priest washed the “entrails” and the legs with water (Lev. 1:9). These parts of the animal were dirty. Water frequently symbolizes the cleansing of the Holy Spirit (Ez. 36:25-27). Many Christians have been lead to believe that Christ fulfilled all the details of this sacrifice, and there is nothing left for us to do. But this is simply not true. We only need to read the details of the Last Supper to prove it.
We must wash our sins by reading the Word and confessing our sins. Jesus makes clear that our entrails (our inner thoughts) and our legs (what we do each day) still need to be washed after we have been saved. “Its entrails, however, and its legs he shall wash with water. And the priest shall offer up in smoke all of it on the altar for a burnt offering, an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the Lord.” (Lev. 1:9). At the Last Supper, Peter initially refused Jesus’ offer to wash his feet. Jesus responded by rebuking him: “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” (Jo. 13:8). Peter then asked Jesus to wash his feet, hands, and head. Jesus responded: “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet.” (Jo. 13:10). In other words, Christ died once for our sins, but our flesh gets dirty each day and must still be washed. Thus, the bull sacrifice directs us to do two things. First, we must cleanse our daily sins. How do we do this? We read God’s Word to first expose our sins: “so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word . . .” (Eph. 5:26). Second, we must confess the sins that the Word reveals to us: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jo. 1:9). Are you regularly reading the Word to cleanse yourself? Are you confessing the sins of your daily life to have them forgiven?
Give up your strength (your bull), and let Jesus be your strength. Even though Christ was the blood sacrifice of atonement, are commanded to make spiritual sacrifices: “offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet. 2:5). Christ (as the bull) gave up His strength for us by being beaten and pierced on the cross. In return, we must also give up our strength (our spiritual bull) and let Christ be our strength. If we are faithful not to rely upon our own strength, Christ will be faithful to give us the strength to do His will: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:11-13; Hab. 3:17-19). Are trusting only in what you can do? Or, are you acting in faith where fulfilling God’s plan is impossible based upon your own abilities?
Create a soothing aroma for God through daily prayer. The smoke from the burnt offering was a “soothing aroma” to God (Lev. 1:9; Ex. 29:18). This also foreshadowed Christ’s blood, which created a soothing aroma to God: “just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” (Eph. 5:2). Today, we can create a “soothing aroma” for God through our prayers: “May my prayer be counted as incense before You . . . ” (Ps. 141:2). “each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” (Rev. 5:8). “And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel's hand.” (Rev. 8:4). Are you offering a daily soothing aroma of prayers to God?
Let God clothe you in righteousness. After the priest scarified an animal without blemish, he was given the animal’s skin to wear (Lev. 1:6; 7:8). This was symbolic of the provision of animal skins that God gave to Adam and Eve after they sinned (Gen. 3:21). We also are in need of new clothes. Our own acts are but filthy rags to God: “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; . . . ” (Is. 64:6). Like He did for Adam and Eve, God also offers to clothe us in His fine clothes: ‘“He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”’ (Rev. 3:5). Are you looking for credit for things that glorify yourself? Or, are you looking to be clothed in God’s righteousness by doing things that glorify God?
Make your life a living sacrifice for God. While the sinner had to offer his or her most expensive animal for atonement, Christ sacrificed His own life as a “free” gift of life to anyone who will believe that He is both Lord and savior: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 6:23). If you are grateful for what Christ has done and you are looking to be in fellowship with Christ, He tells us what we must do. Out of love, we should offer our lives as a living sacrifice: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Rom. 12:1). “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” (Heb. 13:15). Chapter 2 of Leviticus tells us precisely how to offer yourself as a living sacrifice. Are you keeping your body holy for God? Are you devoting your labors to Christ out of love?
To whom much is given, much is expected. Finally, there were three types of atonement offerings. These included a bull, a sheep or goat, or a bird (Lev. 1:5-17). The type of animal offered depended upon how much money the person seeking atonement had (Lev. 5:7). God does not expect us all to give in the same way. “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.” (Lk. 12:48). Are you giving back in proportion to what you have been given? In addition to money, are you offering your time and your talents to serve God’s kingdom?