Old Testament Sacrifices: What They Teach Us About God’s Character (Leviticus 1-4)

Daily reading assignment – Leviticus 1-4

Having introduced the Book of Leviticus in an earlier post, we turn our attention to today’s scripture reading, Leviticus 1-4.

Leviticus 1-3 states what God required of Israel in voluntary, sacrificial offerings and serves as a lesson for 21st century believers:

God demands His people be a holy, sanctified people.

Preacher and author, Warren Wiersbe writes in his “Be Series” on the Book of Leviticus:  “Leviticus tells New Testament Christians how to appreciate holiness and appropriate it into their everyday lives. The word holy is used 91 times in Leviticus, and words connected with cleansing are used 71 times. References to uncleanness number 128. There’s no question what this book is all about.”  [BE Series – Old Testament – The Bible Exposition Commentary – Pentateuch]

The Old Testament sacrifices were a figure, a type of which Jesus Christ was the perfect, complete, “once and for all” sacrifice for our sins (Hebrews 10:10).

The first offering in Leviticus is the “burnt offering” (1:1-17). The children of Israel were to bring to the Tabernacle “a male without blemish” (1:3); placing “his hand upon the head” of the bull, sheep or goat, the worshipper identified with the animal’s death as the substitutionary sacrifice for his sin (1:4-5, 10, 14-15).   The sacrifice was then killed and the priest would take the blood and sprinkle it on the altar (1:5, 11).

The second sacrifice is the “meat (meal) offering” (Leviticus 2).  Known as an oblation (meaning “gift” or present); the “meat offering” was a non-blood offering that consisted of grain (“fine flour”), oil and frankincense (2:1).  The priests were to take a portion of the “meal offering” for their families and the rest was to be offered as a burnt offering (2:10).

The third offering was a “sacrifice of peace offering” and was a blood offering (Leviticus 3).  Unlike the “burnt offering”, the “peace offering” could be male or female; however, the standard, “without blemish”, applied and the priests inspected the offerings to insure they were acceptable sacrifices (3:1, 12).  As with the “burnt offering”, the worshipper would “lay his hand upon the head of his offering, and kill it at the door of the tabernacle” (3:2); the priests would sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice on the altar.

Unlike the earlier sacrifices that were voluntary, Leviticus 4 introduces us to the “sin offering of ignorance (or error)that was mandated by the Law.  Notice the sin offerings of ignorance descended from the greatest offering, being that of a young bull, to the least costly, a female goat or sheep.

The sin committed by a priest (4:1-12) or the corporate sin of the congregation (4:13-21) demanded the sacrifice of a “young bullock without blemish” (4:3-4, 13-15).  Because it was a sin offering, the priests and their families were not to take a portion of the “young bullock” to be consumed by their households.

A “ruler”, a head of a tribe, was to sacrifice a “kid of the goats, a male without blemish” (4:23). The “common people” were to sacrifice the least valued sacrifice, “a female without blemish”, either a lamb or goat (4:27-35).

I close highlighting the “without blemish” standard the LORD required of sacrifices in His Law.  Sacrificial offerings were to be of the highest quality; however, I am sure the temptation was as it is today, to give the LORD something, but not necessarily the best.

The apostle Paul had the same standard in mind when he challenged believers to “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).

The LORD required of sacrifices the best and He requires no less of His people today. Holy, sanctified, set apart…Acceptable, pleasing and conforming to the will of God is His standard for His people.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith