LEVITICUS 1-8 & ROMANS 2
As we start this month in the book of Leviticus I think it is interesting to know that Hebrew children at the age of 5 start their Torah study in THIS book. The very book many of us would skip over starts their formal religious study. Jesus himself being a Hebrew would have started RIGHT HERE. Many of us do not like this book because of animal sacrifice and all the BLOOD talk. We do not understand why God would choose to be worshipped through sacrifices AND take pleasure in them. Most christians have so TAMED God that the thought of these things repulses us and we cannot comprehend how God could enjoy any part of sacrifices. We just slide right past the sacrifices and just live under the NEW COVENANT. In our hearts we say, Our Messiah fulfilled the sacrifices so GOOD RIDDANCE. By doing this we actually MISS the beauty of what Jesus did do on our behalf and everything WE CAN learn from the sacrifices. We ended Exodus with a problem. The presence of God had come down and taken up residence in the tabernacle BUT humanity could not draw near. The HOLINESS of God cannot dwell freely with the HUMANITY of man and this was a problem because God DESIRED to dwell with man. We must understand as we study Leviticus that it was GOD who ordained the sacrificial system and there was PURPOSE. How could a HOLY God dwell with UNHOLY men? The tabernacle has been built, the presence has come, but because of humanity the God who desires more than anything to be with man is UNAPPROACHABLE. God doesn’t GIVE UP, He doesn’t say too bad, He doesn’t walk away. He does what He ALWAYS does He CALLS to us. He called to Moses from within the tabernacle and laid out a plan so that man could APPROACH Him. God will always make a way for us to find Him because He desires us MORE than we could think or imagine.
So the entire concept of sacrifices is opened up in Leviticus chapter 1 with God saying when ANY MAN brings an offering. That word offering is the Hebrew word “KORBAN” and is translated in our english as SACRIFICE. Now the meaning of this word loses its meaning with our translation. WHY? When we read sacrifice we automatically think that we have to deprive ourselves of something. To sacrifice means I must deprive myself of something I desire, want, or love. The word offering implies a gift, a payment, or a fee. To make an offering is for us to make a payment to cover something or give a gift of some sort. Here is the problem, God does not desire to deprive of us of any good thing and He does not NEED anything from us. The word “KORBAN” actually means “to come near”. The person who brought a KORBAN was doing so with a desire “to come near” or to draw near to something. God was saying for those who desire to DRAW NEAR to me THIS is how my HOLINESS can interact with your HUMANITY. See man COULD NOT draw near to God and live but if he presented a KORBAN it would act as a vehicle that would allow him to DRAW NEAR. See we are often taught that the sacrifices where to pay for the penalty of their sins…SORRY NOPE. The KORBAN was brought so that man could enter communion with a HOLY GOD. For the most part the sacrifices are NOT about paying for sin. The animal does not stand in substitution for the sinner. The animal actually acts as a substitute to bring the sinner CLOSE to God. It provides a highway TO GOD. The sacrifices teach us that entering into relationship with God is a costly thing. Today we think TOO CASUALLY about our interaction with God. We think too casually of our sin and what it actually does in separating us from a HOLY God. It takes DEATH to be in communion with God. LET THAT SINK IN! It takes DEATH to LIVE in communion with God.
The first 8 chapters of Leviticus discuss 5 major categories of sacrifices and how the priest should perform their duties. We need to remember that because the temple was destroyed and there is no longer a priesthood these things DO NOT pertain to us as laws. However we can learn a lot about our christian walk by studying these scriptures. I am going to discuss some of that here. We need to understand a couple of things about the sacrifices. When an individual would place his hands upon an animal it was as if he was investing his IDENTITY into that animal. In other words the individual is saying I take all of me and place it here upon this animal and NOW this animal represents ME at the altar. When you read the word ATONEMENT it does not always mean the forgiveness of sins or removal of guilt. The Hebrew word “KAFAR” which our word atonement comes from has a much broader meaning, A COVERING OVER. It is a covering of anything that offends God and removes any obstacle to communion with Him. Without a covering man COULD NOT draw near. WHY? In scripture we learn that sin not only defiles our bodies but it defiles the land, the nation, our communities, and the very presence of God around us. See when we sin IT IS NOT just between me, myself, and I as we would like to think. Sin has a direct effect on everything that pertains to our life and communities. We underestimate the effect of our sin and that is why sin is so casually cast aside in our lives as not a big deal. Sin IS a big deal and still to this day has the ability to separate us from communion with God. The HOLINESS of God has not and does not change. Our sin STILL creates an obstacle between us and the Holy One. We cannot draw near to Him without a KORBAN that stands in our place. Jesus is our Korban. That is why Jesus himself declares NO ONE comes to the Father unless he comes through ME..the KORBAN. It is the ONLY way that the impurity of man can draw near in communion to the purity of GOD. In biblical times the life of something was found in the BLOOD. This is why the sacrifices are all about BLOOD. The KORBAN has always been about the LIFE of the animal not the death. The LIFE of the pure animal is what brought man close to God. The blood was placed upon the altar and the animal was burned and the smoke rose to HEAVEN. This is why scripture says that the aroma was pleasing to God. It is NOT because the burning meat of animals was pleasing it was because the aroma of the smoke was proof that man was desiring to draw near to God and that was pleasing. His treasured possession was obeying Him and drawing near to Him and this was pleasing to God. Voluntary lovers obeying their God all because they WANTED to be with Him. It is the BLOOD, the life, of Jesus that brings us near to God. When we read about the sacrifices we see different animals for the sacrifices from bulls all the way down to grain. WHY? A bull was an expensive offering for a family to make so God was making a way for any family to be able to draw near to Him. Cannot afford a bull ok bring a sheep, cannot afford a sheep ok bring a bird, cannot afford a bird ok bring grain. God just wanted HIS PEOPLE so He made a way for EVERYONE to draw near to Him. Wherever you are in life JUST COME. This is STILL His heartbeat today. JUST COME, I have already made a way for you. There is NO difference to God a poor mans bird was received with as much love as a rich mans bull because in God’s eyes NO ONE should be excluded from the altar of His presence. NO ONE!
Im not going to go through all the details of the sacrifices. I’m just going to point out a couple things from each one. The first set of sacrifices were the BURNT OFFERINGS or KORBAN OLAH. The sacrifice that rises. This offering was brought by an individual to simply surrender it ALL to God. The worshipper gained nothing from the offering. The ENTIRE offering was consumed on the altar. This offering symbolized a complete and total surrender to God. A RECKLESS, whole hearted devotion to God! It was a voluntary offering that was given with GREAT JOY to simply draw near to God. This is our life! WE ARE THE KORBAN OLAH. Everyday we offer our lives up to God in total surrender with Great Joy to be WITH HIM.
The GRAIN OFFERINGS were included so that NO MAN had a reason not to draw near to God. Just like life was found in the blood of an animal, in biblical times BREAD symbolized life. All the grain offerings had to be unleavened and salted. No leaven because no decay or corruption could be upon the altar and salt was added to keep it fresh. In the same way salt had to be added to all the meat offered as well so that it would not decay. Again this is just driving home Gods heart that the sacrifices were not about DEATH of an animal it was about the LIFE of something. The grain offerings were typically included with drink offerings and served as a reminder of the covenant meal shared with God.
The PEACE OFFERINGS were again a voluntary offering and were not meant for a penalty of sin or forgiveness of sin. The peace offerings were the ONLY sacrifice where the one sacrificing received a portion. Actually all parties share in the peace offering: the altar, the priesthood, and the individual. We read about the FATS being given to the Lord. That is because in biblical times those were considered the BEST portions and they always went to the Lord. The rest of the offering was shared in a huge meal with friends and family. This was a way of saying THANK YOU to God for doing something amazing in your life. You shared a meal and TESTIFIED to all those who knew you and declared the Wonders of God. This is an example of how we should be shouting from the rooftops of all the things God does for us on a daily basis. We should always thank God FIRST and then tell anybody who will listen how GREAT is our God.
The SIN OFFERING was a different type of KORBAN. Unlike the previous three a sin offering was not voluntary it was a MANDATE for anyone who INADVERTENTLY committed a sin. Notice that this offering is only for inadvertent sin NOT intentional sin. There is no sacrifice for the one who INTENTIONALLY SINS. WHY? If there would have been a sacrifice for intentional sin then it would have sanctioned disobedience by attaching a price tag to sin. A man could sin however much he desired because all he had to do was make an offering and it would be ok. The only answer in the Law for intentional sin is the same answer for us REPENTANCE. A turning away from ones sins. The offering DID NOT pay for the individuals sin. If one committed an intentional sin, after repenting, he would then go and present an offering but it was not mandated like unintentional sin because such a sacrifice did not cover the sin. If you notice the blood of the sacrifices was never applied to the person always to the altar. The sin of man actually was about defilement. When sin occurred the land, people, nation, tabernacle, everything was defiled and in order for Gods presence to STAY with man a COVERING had to take place. The sin offering is actually about impurity and left untreated God would have no choice but to withdraw His presence. See we think that the sin offering actually atoned for the sinner and that his sin was forgiven and that Jesus does that for us now so the sacrifices and THE SACRIFICE become at odds. This train of thought actually reduces the sacrifice of Jesus. If all he did was exchanged the sacrifice of bulls then why did he have to die. The sin offering did not pay the penalty for the sin, clear the sinners conscience, or purify his soul. What the sin offering did do was purify the Sanctuary so Gods presence could stay. See Jesus, GOD, applied his own blood on our behalf so that his presence could dwell with us forever. NEVER LEAVE US OR FORSAKE US. Sin always needs repentance, a turning away for a new way. The blood of Jesus makes a way for us to be in the presence of God which ultimately brings about lasting change in our lives.
The GUILT OFFERING is much like the sin offering and can be considered a class under the sin offering. It too is meant to purify the dwelling of God and not the offender. In both instances the offerings were made ONLY after repentance was made. The guilt offering was actually performed for those who have offended God by misusing His property or name. This was a serious offense and people feared the disasters that could come upon them. The guilt offering did not remove the individuals responsibility to make their wrongs right. The offering simply made a covering so that Gods presence could stay.
When we look at the five different types of offerings or KORBANS we understand greater the statement IT IS FINISHED by Jesus. When he died he was our BURNT OFFERING completely surrendered to God, our GRAIN OFFERING the bread of life broken open for us, our PEACE OFFERING through whom we share fellowship with God, our SIN OFFERING purifying the temple of God, and our GUILT OFFERING repaying the debt against God that we could have never repaid. IN HIM IT IS FINISHED and IN HIM we have open access to the throne of grace EVERY MOMENT of EVERYDAY.
The next couple of chapters have a lot to do with the duties of the priest and because through Christ we are a royal priesthood unto God we can learn a couple of things from the readings. The biggest thing to me is the continual burnt offering. It was the job of the priest to keep the fire burning before the presence of God. They had to remove the old ash and kindle a new fire. The same applies to us. WE carry the responsibility to keep the fire of our hearts continually burning. We continually need to remove the ash of yesterday and start fresh with the Lord. Just like the initial fire in the tabernacle was ignited by God, our hearts are initially captivated by God. In the same way the priest needed to attend to the fire and keep it going, we too need to attend to our spiritual lives and keep our hearts burning.
Look the laws of the sacrifices and priest can get overwhelming and all too often we just dismiss them. All these laws actually teach us that every drop of blood is sacred and that we should not treat it so casually. In the same manner the blood of Jesus is precious and sacred and our sin is not trivial and should not be handled so casually. The blood of Jesus actually demands reverence and should be sanctified in our lives because it makes a way for us to be forever in the dwelling of God.
Paul a DEVOTED SLAVE of Jesus, I only need to get one sentence in to the book of Romans to be gobsmacked. How many of us would declare our IDENTITY as not only a slave but a devoted slave of Jesus. Friend, beloved, daughter, son, priest any of those we are like YEEEESSSSSS DANG RIGHT but slave. This is how Paul chose to identify himself to the Romans. Speaking to the christians he says, we have received this generous gift of Jesus and the URGENT TASK of passing Him along to others. Paul is a devoted slave of TESTIFYING about Jesus and what he has done. Oh how I want to be found DEVOTED. He makes a simple statement in Romans 2, God is kind but not SOFT. It is the kindness of God that leads us by the hand into RADICAL life change. Do not think for a minute that you will get by with anything. Every refusal to listen to God adds fuel to the fire. OH man that grabs hold of my heart and squeezes. Gods kindness is SOOOOOOOOO misrepresented. His kindness calls us to die that we may truly live. His kindness says I WILL not let something slide because I’m coming after ALL of you. His kindness says every time you try to avoid me or blow me off it just adds FUEL to my fire. I WILL NEVER LET UP. I love it and hate it at times. This one thing I can be sure of, HIS KINDNESS will keep loving me even when I hate it and hopefully somewhere in the middle of all that kindness I will find myself SHACKLED TO HIM AS A SLAVE.