God graciously shows people the nature of their sin and their need for a Savior, both of which are addressed only in the cross of Christ. The sacrificial system pictured perfect salvation, repeated a reminder of sin, and couldn’t compensate for sin. The sacrificial Savior satisfied God fully, substituted himself forever, and sanctified sinners finally. In this message on Leviticus 1–7, Pastor Jim Shaddix explains what the Bible teaches us about sacrifice in the Old and New Testament.
- The sacrificial system pictured perfect salvation, repeated a reminder of sin, and couldn’t compensate for sin.
- The sacrificial Savior satisfied God fully, substituted himself forever, and sanctified sinners finally.
All right, let’s open our Bibles to Leviticus. Woo! Leviticus! I heard that enthusiasm that swept across the congregation as our study this morning was announced. We’re going to spend some time in Hebrews 10. Some of you who are real aggressive may want to go ahead and put a marker over there in Hebrews 10. But Leviticus. When you’re going around in your small group and asking, “What’s your favorite book of the Bible?”, have you ever heard anybody mention Leviticus? I’m there.
Let’s be honest, this is one of those places in the Bible that we’re tempted—and those of you that are tracking with our weekly Bible reading plan will understand this—we’re tempted maybe to set an oscillating fan next to where we have our quiet time, and just let it accidentally turn the pages a little bit faster as you’re kind of working through that stuff.
If you’re like most people and you were getting into Leviticus this week, you drudged your way through these first chapters of this book, trying to make sense of altars and sacrifices and offerings and animals and blood and gore—trying to determine, “What in the world does this mean? What is this stuff about? And what possible relevance could it have for our lives in Birmingham, Alabama, in 2014?”
Well, I knew that in landing on this part of the Bible to teach on this morning, for us to study together, that I would have the responsibility of trying to answer some of those questions in the presence of a highly educated congregation, highly intelligent, shepherded by an absolutely brilliant senior pastor as well as a group of scary-smart elders and small group leaders. So I’ll be honest with you, and tell you I was just a little bit intimidated. I just spent extra time searching my library top to bottom, getting input and counsel, and finding just the right, the most profoundly theological and intellectual way to help us to really get a grasp on what we find in all of these offerings and sacrifices and blood sacrifices and stuff in the book of Leviticus.
So this is what I came up with. I’m just going to call your attention to the screen up here. Am I going too fast for anybody at this point? This is a Fisher-Price range, part of a kitchen set, much like the one that we bought for our daughter when she was a toddler. This is where I can say my daughter got her domestic start, with this Fisher-Price set. Now I’ll be honest with you. As a dad, I loved watching her watch her mom work in the big kitchen. And then her trying to go into her little Fisher-Price world and imitate what she saw her mom doing. That was just really, really cool to watch.
Now as a 20-year-old young lady, my daughter has moved on to bigger things. In fact, in about six weeks she’s going to get married and her new husband and her are going to move into an apartment where there is a different item there. One of these is going to be in that apartment. This is a Hotpoint range. And I actually did my homework—this is the model that’s actually in the apartment that they’ve already rented, that she’ll be in. So I’m not making this stuff up, okay?
And I’m confident that my daughter will still try to experiment with some of her mom’s recipes and all of that kind of stuff. But she’s going to be in her own real apartment, cooking her own real meals on her own real stove in her own real oven. And we’re excited to see her be able to do that. But when you think about these two together, you know it begs a question, “Why would we start with the Fisher-Price version instead of just going straight to the Hotpoint model?”
Well, those of you that are parents know the answers to that. There are many of them, and they’re quite obvious. To begin with, in her immaturity and her inexperience as a child, we wanted her to have fun. It’s a toy, right? And we wanted her to just have the joy of playing with something. But at the same time, we were hoping to plant some seeds in her tender, teachable heart, that one day, hopefully, would blossom into a love for cooking and a value for homemaking and a desire to prepare and serve meals to her family. A love for hosting people and showing hospitality by having them in her home—that’s what we were hoping in part would happen.
And at the same time, we didn’t want to overwhelm her with technology, so that she would become discouraged, and we certainly didn’t want to put something in her hands that she could burn her tender little hands with, or set the house on fire, or otherwise create some horror that developed a hatred for cooking as she grew up. Those are the reasons we do stuff like this when we think about Fisher-Price models and real models as parents.
But I think there’s actually some help in that relationship for us, some help in understanding why God did what He did in the Old Testament, and why we have passages of Scripture in places like Leviticus that have a whole lot of stuff that we look at sometimes, and we wonder, “What’s up with this? And is it actually relevant for my life?”
The Fisher-Price Range in Leviticus …
So I want us to explore than a little bit. It’s going to be a little bit different kind of message. You probably already picked up on that, obviously. I want us to explore that some and just kind of flesh it out. So, let’s start here in Leviticus, and let’s think about the Fisher-Price range in Leviticus. All right?
When we come to the book of Leviticus, Leviticus picks up right where Exodus left off. We find the children of Israel at the foot of Mt. Sinai basking in the glory of God that has just recently filled the tabernacle. And so now what they need is they need to know how to worship. Given this tabernacle, this God that is leading them and has led them out of Egypt, leading them through the wilderness, they need to know how to use all of this. They need to know how to approach all of this.
So what we have in Leviticus 1–7 is actually an introduction to the Levitical sacrificial system, and it comes in a unit that contains the description of five offerings that were really foundational for the Old Testament sacrificial system. Now, to put your mind at ease, I’m not going to read seven chapters of Leviticus to you. Many of you have already been there. But I do want to show you how we know that this is a unit.
Look at Leviticus 1:1. It says, “The LORD called Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, ‘Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When any one of you brings an offering to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of livestock from the herd or from the flock.’” Now, turn over a few pages to the end of chapter seven, and see if this doesn’t sound somewhat familiar.
Verse 37 in Leviticus chapter seven says, “This is the law of the burnt offering, of the grain offering, of the sin offering, of the guilt offering, of the ordination offering, and of the peace offering, which the LORD commanded Moses on Mount Sinai, on the day that he commanded the people of Israel to bring their offerings to the LORD, in the wilderness of Sinai.” Those are bookends. Those are bookends to show us that we’ve got a unit here that communicates to us and helps us understand the basic introduction to the Old Testament sacrificial system.
And in between those two bookends, there are described five offerings there that were part of this. You’ve got the burnt offering, you’ve got the grain offering, you’ve got the peace offering, you’ve got the sin offering, and you’ve got the guilt offering. And this passage of Scripture, these chapters, tell us what each one of those offerings was for and how it was to be offered.
So what we have here is a description of these offerings both from the worshipers’ viewpoint—in fact, in chapters one to five, that’s what you have, the people’s viewpoint on bringing their offerings and what they were supposed to do in order to make sure that their offerings were acceptable to God. Then chapters six and seven generally are the same offerings from the priests’ viewpoint, their role in that and how they were to help bring that together.
The first three offerings were voluntary offerings, not to be done on any particular prescribed occasion, but they were intended to be that which fostered “a pleasing aroma to the Lord.” And you’ll see, when you read through that, that phrase mentioned over and over again. And that’s what these voluntary offerings are. The final two offerings, however, were obligatory. They were prescribed offerings based upon the violation of one of the statutes, the commission of some sin that broke one of God’s rules. And so the intent there was then to secure forgiveness for the worshiper, for the one bringing the offering.
Now the thing that is common to all of these offerings is that they arose out of unpredictable circumstances that people found themselves in. They didn’t necessarily see these situations coming, but they were unpredictable circumstances that arose in the life of an individual, a person that was part of the children of Israel. And this distinguishes these offerings from the corporate public offerings that we’ll study a little bit later in Numbers 28 and 29 in particular.
But when you put these five offerings together, what you find is you find represented here three basic needs that were common to all people during that day and—listen to me—are common to all of us as well. They’re common to all people of all time. I want to take those three needs, and I want to use them to help give us a little bit of an overview to these five offerings in the book of Leviticus. So you just track with me as we kind of walk through this.
Leviticus 1–7 Teaches Us about the Faithfulness to God
The first need that’s common to all people is the need to be faithful to God. Faithfulness to God is something all of us need. And this shows up in these first two offerings in chapters one and two of the book of Leviticus. For example, the burnt offering in chapter one represented the obedience to God. This is what was going on here, and this was the reason for that. Now, listen, the burnt offering had already been part of Israel’s sacrifice before Leviticus. They were used to this, and consequently it was the most frequent, it was the most familiar, and it was the most important of all Israel’s sacrifices.
And here it actually served as somewhat of a catch-all. It was a catch-all atonement for all sins that are not specifically addressed by the sin offering that we’ll talk about in just a few minutes. The distinctive thing about the burnt offering was that just about every bit of the offering—the animal that was offered, whatever the offering was that was brought—just about every bit of it was consumed at the altar, leaving nothing for the priest and nothing for the worshiper. And consequently, it represented an expression of dedication to God that reflected a person’s total or complete obedience.
Now similarly, in chapter two you have the grain offering. And this grain offering represented the worship of God. Now, the term “grain offering” was used generally in the religious sphere of that day—it wouldn’t have been limited to the children of Israel—but it was used as a gift that a worshiper would bring and present to his god. So for Israel, this came out of the firstfruits of their flock or their field—you know, the crops that they planted—and it was given as recognition that God was the source of life and He was the source of the fertility of the land. And, consequently, when they brought of the first fruits, there was this expression of dedicating one’s life and his work and everything about him to God.
Now, oftentimes the grain offering was offered with the burnt offering, and sometimes with the peace offering that we’re about to talk about. We are putting those two offerings in essentially the same categories as offerings that were the worship of God, and they were a response to this need to be faithful to this God who had delivered them out of Egypt, who had created them, and who was the one true God.
Leviticus 1–7 Reminds Us of Fellowship with God
Now the second need that’s common to all people is the need for fellowship with God. And that’s where we come to chapter three in Leviticus, where we find this peace offering that’s described. The peace offering represented communion with God. The peace offering was something in chapter 3 that could be given in order to thank God for a particular blessing. It was used to make a vow to God, or just to express gratitude to God in general. And so the people would bring this offering to the Lord to reflect any and all of those things.
But here’s the cool thing. Here’s the distinct thing about the peace offering. The peace offering could be shared by the worshiper. So there was a part of the offering that was left, and left for the priest, but not only for the priest, but for the person that was bringing the offering to the Lord. So the worshiper essentially was God’s invited guest to experience the joy of intimate fellowship around a meal. And so the people would bring these offerings, and they entered into the peace offering with this on their mind, that they were being invited by God into communion.
However, there was one particular thing about the peace offering that’s incredibly important. The peace offering was always, always offered after the burnt offering—never before. And it always served as a reminder that atonement for sin was necessary in order for someone to have communion with God.
Leviticus 1–7 Teaches Us about the Forgiveness of God
Now the third offering, the third need that is common to all people, is the forgiveness of God. And that’s where these other two offerings that encompass chapters four and five and part of six come into play. And these two offerings—let me just remind you—were not of the same nature as the first three. Those were voluntary. They weren’t necessarily on prescribed occasions. People brought them at different times, whenever, maybe on the occasions of some of those things we mentioned.
But these last two offerings were offerings that were prescribed when someone violated one of God’s laws. They had broken one of God’s laws. So they brought these offering to secure His forgiveness. The first one, the sin offering in chapter four, represented the atonement of God for the inadvertent sins of people. So it was a reminder that sin needed forgiveness. And this atonement was brought on really a sliding scale, if you will, dependent upon a person’s leadership responsibility, depending upon their economic status—all of those different things came into play here.
But the distinct factor, the distinct characteristic of the sin offering is that the offerer was obliged to confess his or her sins when they made the offering, thus identifying them personally with the offering. So they had to confess their sin. And by the way, just as a little bit of a side note here, but something that’s really important — what you have in chapter 4 and going on into most of chapter 5 is the most extensive discussion on sin in the Levitical law. But listen to me. It’s also the most extensive discussion on forgiveness that we find in all of the Old Testament. This is an incredibly important sacrifice here.
Now the final offering we come to is at the end of chapter five going on into the first part of chapter six, and that was the guilt offering. The guilt offering represented indebtedness to God, and while we don’t know all of the distinctions between this offering and the previous offering, what we do know is that the guilt offering was brought when someone committed a sin that put them in debt in such a way that it required compensation. It required some type of restitution to be made because of the violation.
And it was a clear reminder that sin always puts people in debt to God. But not only to God, this offering underscored the fact that sin against one’s fellow man was tantamount to sinning against God, and they were not to distinguish between those two. And so the Israelites brought the guilt offering, understanding their indebtedness to God, but not just their indebtedness to God, their indebtedness to other people that they sinned against.
So what we have when we step back and we look at those are these three needs addressed in all of this ritual, all of this sacrificial system in Leviticus, that we’re going to categorize just for a moment as a Fisher-Price model of what God was doing.
The Hotpoint Range in Our Lord …
Now, with that in mind, I want to take you over to Hebrews 10, and I want to introduce you to the Hotpoint model in our Lord. Because this is where all of this stuff in Leviticus was headed, and Hebrews 10 is one of many places in the New Testament where we are given some help in understanding what all of this blood and gore and animal sacrifice and routine and repetition is really about.
So to bridge this gap, what I want to do is I want to summarize it first. I want to give you a summary statement that’s intended to be this bridge, to help us with this bridge, from the Fisher-Price range in the Levitical law to the Hotpoint range in our Lord in the New Testament. Here’s the bridge that brings those two together: God graciously shows people the nature of their sin and their need for a Savior, both of which are addressed only in the cross of Christ. That’s the bridge. God graciously shows people the nature of their sin and their need for a Savior, both of which are addressed only in the cross of Christ.
That’s the reason for all the blood and the guts and the gore and the animals and the altars and the offerings—it was so people could and would find their way to Jesus. So let’s unpack that for a little bit, and in order to do that, we have to make sure that we understand both of them. And the author of Hebrews, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, assists us in doing that.
The sacrificial system …
We start with the sacrificial system. I want to read you Hebrews 10:1–4. Verse 1 says, “For since the law….” And by the way, let me stop right there and make sure we’re on the same page with what we’re talking about. I want to make sure you know we’re not jumping things here. Just glance down to verse 8 in Hebrews 10. Let me show you what he’s talking about when he references the law. Look at what it says in Hebrews 10:8, “When he said above, ‘You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings’ (these are offered according to the law)…’”
He’s talking, church, about the same thing we just described in Leviticus 1 through 7. This is what he’s dealing with, and he says in verse one, “For since the law,” which includes all of that stuff, “has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sin? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” (Hebrews 10:1–4)
Let me show you what God was doing. Let me show you what He was doing in the Fisher-Price model of the Levitical system as the author of Hebrews helps us understand. First of all, he said the sacrificial system pictured perfect salvation. That’s what it was for, to picture perfect salvation. If you notice how he describes it in verse one—look down at your Bible. He says this law “has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form.”
If you just put it in reverse and back up to the end of chapter nine in Hebrews, you’ll see in verse 23 that he calls it “the copies of the heavenly things.” Again in verse 24, “the copies of the true things.” The Apostle Paul to the Galatians referred to the law as their guardian or tutor to help them to know the real thing. Listen, the Old Testament sacrifices were never intended to secure salvation. What they were intended to do was the same thing my daughter’s Fisher-Price model was intended to be, at least from the standpoint of her parents, and that was to whet her appetite for something that would be the real deal. The sacrificial system was to whet the people’s appetite for the real thing, for true salvation.
But God wasn’t done. He wasn’t done whetting the appetite. The sacrificial system repeated a reminder of sin. That’s what it did. Every time—day after day, week after week, year after year—every time they brought it, it was a reminder of something, and they just kept repeating it. Look at what it says in verse one. “It can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year…” Why? Look at verse three, “In these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin every year.”
Every time they brought the sacrifices, they repeated the same thing in their mind, and that was the insurmountable problem of sin that each and every one of them had. And guess what? It is the same problem that each and every one of us has as well. And God set up a system that would constantly remind people of the desperate need that they had for somebody to help them with this sin problem.
But if that was not enough to create a craving in the human heart for real salvation, for the true thing, the sacrificial system also couldn’t compensate for sin. You notice how he says that? He says, “It can never”—in verse 1, look at it—“It can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year,” do what? “It can never…make perfect,” make holy, meet God’s standard, “those who draw near.” Why? Look at verse four. “Because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”
Listen, there is absolutely no relationship between animal blood and human moral error. No connection whatsoever. You know what? Every time I saw my little girl, unbeknownst to her, kind of sneak in the kitchen behind her mama’s back, reach up on the counter, take a loaf of bread, open it and grab a real piece of bread out, run it into her Fisher-Price world, and shove it into that oven—every single time that piece of bread came out of the oven the exact same way it went in: Uncooked. Because that oven wasn’t capable of cooking anything.
In the same way, neither animal sacrifice nor any repeated ritualistic religious system is capable of dealing with the depth of the sin problem that humanity has. Did you notice how he describes this? He says, “It could never make perfect,” in verse one. But watch this, “Otherwise,” he says, “would they not have ceased to be offered?” (Hebrews 10:2) Would they have not stopped doing the sacrifices, “since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sin?”
What a troubling, frustrating thing, time after time, to bring a sacrifice to the Lord, to see an animal killed, and blood spilled and scattered, and to participate in sharing the meal, and in going back to your flock, and every time you come, having your conscience eased a bit and appeased, but going back, and when you put your head on your pillow at night, knowing full well it was still there. It could never cleanse the conscience, could never forgive sin and wipe it away. It wasn’t capable of doing that.
Listen, the only blood that could have done that would have been the blood of a human being, and then one who met God’s standard of perfect holiness and righteousness that’s described in all of that Old Testament law. That’s the only one that could have done anything about the depth of sin as it has seared the conscience and as it’s found its way into the fabric of the human being’s very innermost being. The only one.
The Sacrificial Savior in Leviticus 1–7
And that is what brings us to the sacrificial Savior. This is what all of that Fisher-Price stuff was trying to get people to—the sacrificial Savior—and His name is Jesus Christ. So I want you to see the glorious truths that the author of Hebrews identifies about this sacrificial Savior. Look at verse 5, “Consequently….” And that “consequently” is just saying, “Based upon all of this that’s been said, as a result of that, something else had to happen. Something else was needed.”
So he says, “When Christ came into the world, he said…” And the author of Hebrews, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, quotes from Psalm 40:6–8, and knowing that Jesus was the pre-existent One, that He was present there in the Old Testament, that He was present there when the psalmist spoke, takes the words of Psalm 40 and he puts them in Jesus’ mouth. And this is what Jesus says: “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,” he’s talking to God, “but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you,” look at it, “you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”
Now, just press Pause right there, and let me tell you what’s going on. The author of Hebrews is telling us that the sacrificial Savior satisfied God fully. Do you see? There are two things that are being emphasized here. One is what God was not pleased with. The other is what God was after. Notice, what God was not pleased with. “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,” he said. Look, he repeats it. “In burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure.”
And then what God was after, what God did desire, what brings Him pleasure, and that is—watch it now—total obedience. Not partial. Not compartmentalized. Complete, total obedience. This is God’s standard. This is what He desires, and it’s what He always desired. I want to show you, just representative, four passages, four sets of verses in the Old Testament—and note that, in the Old Testament—and I want you to note the common denominator that runs all the way through them.
So start with the familiar passage in Psalm 51. King David is talking after his sin with Bathsheba, and he says to God in his prayer—he recognizes this, “You will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:16–17) Look at the prophet; look at Samuel in 1 Samuel 15:22. This is what he says to God, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.”
Then the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 7:21–23), “Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices, and eat the flesh. For in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to your fathers or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. But this command I gave them: ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way,’” walk, conduct yourself, live, he says, “‘in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.’” This is what he says. He says, “When I brought them out of Egypt, the first thing I told them was not about sacrifices, it was about obedience.”
Look at the prophet Micah (Micah 6:6–8):
“With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
Do you see the common denominator? Listen, God never wanted animal sacrifices. That doesn’t mean He didn’t prescribe them. It means this was not in vain. This is not where He was headed. What He wanted, what He desired, what He required was total obedience, complete obedience. And the author of Hebrews said Jesus Christ did something that you can’t do, and I can’t do, and that is meet that standard. He obeyed God fully, and therefore He satisfied Him fully. Because this is what God desires.
If you keep reading, in verse eight, he references back and says, “When he said above, ‘You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings’ (these are offered according to the law), then he added, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will.’” And what was the expression of that will? What did Jesus come to do? Look at the statement at the end of verse nine, “He abolishes the first in order to establish the second.”
The second thing the sacrificial Savior did was to substitute Himself forever. The sacrificial Savior substituted himself forever. You see it there at the end of verse nine. He says he abolished the first and He established, through His sacrifice on the cross, the expression of ultimate obedience to the will of God. Jesus prayed in the Garden, “Father, take this cup from me. But nevertheless not my will, but your will be done.” And He yielded His life all of the way, and in doing that, He paid the ultimate sacrifice forever. He substituted himself.
And listen. Look at it. Don’t miss it. If you’ve ever wondered, if you’ve ever had somebody ask you, “Should we still be keeping all of those Old Testament sacrifices?”—here’s your answer. Look at it. “He abolished the first in order to establish the second.” The second had to happen in order to abolish the first. When Jesus Christ died on the cross, from that point on, there will never again be the need for a blood sacrifice. It has been put in place—He substituted Himself forever. Never again, never again.
But then, verse ten, “By that will we have been sanctified…” Do you know what that word means? It means to be made holy. And by the way, if you want just a one-word description of the book of Leviticus, that’s what it is: Holiness. The holy God, calling His people to be holy like Him. The author of Hebrews says, “By a single sacrifice, he has perfected, he has sanctified, through the offering of his body,” he says, “once and for all.”
And what we see here is the sacrificial Savior sanctified sinners finally. It finally happened, once and for all. What the Fisher-Price model could not do—take the human heart and the human conscience and make it holy—what the Fisher-Price model of the Levitical law fell short in was only intended to be a shadow or picture of something greater. Jesus Christ, when He died on the cross, He forgave our sins forever, cleaned our consciences forever. Not based upon our work, but based upon His.
In the language of the New Testament, the word “sanctified” here in verse ten emphasizes two things. One, in its tense it emphasizes an action that was completed in past time, but its implications continue into the present. What was the event that happened in past time? Jesus dying on the cross, right? But its implications continue into the present. And that means that the holiness, the sanctification, that He bought, that He lived out, that He purchased on the cross—it’s implications continue into the presence in each of our lives who have trusted Him as Savior and Lord.
But another form, another part of the construction of that word “sanctification” is something that indicates someone being acted upon from a force or a party from the outside. Who’s the party being acted upon? It’s us. Who’s the party acting upon us? Jesus Christ. What He did on the cross, He did on your behalf and He did on my behalf, and He finalized it once and forever.
You and I don’t come into the Christian life, and now that we’ve been saved by grace, we’ve got to earn points with God and figure out how to do this on our own. No. His life and His death provided the sanctification that would be needed forever and ever and ever, and His once-and-for-all sacrifice did that finally. What a relief! What a relief to those who had given their lives to religious ritual over and over again. All the animals, all the blood, all the guts, all of that stuff—now, it had been fully realized and fully fulfilled in the death of Jesus Christ on our behalf.
Let’s cook something!
Now, let’s cook something with that. What does this Hotpoint range in Hebrews tell us about all of those rules in the Fisher-Price model in Leviticus that makes sense for our lives in 2014? Well, I need to tell you that not long after the Fisher-Price years, my daughter’s interest in cooking went south. I mean, I don’t know, it’s like somebody flipped a switch, and all of a sudden, she wasn’t interested in that domestic stuff that she had imitated her mom doing. Even in those earlier years, right after the Fisher-Price years, we even offered to get her one of those Easy-Bake Ovens that was kind of an in-between deal. And she wasn’t interested. She just wouldn’t have it.
She went on into the teenage years, and she just found other things that just captivated her interest more than all of that kind of homemaking stuff. But I want you to look at a recent post on my soon-to-be-married daughter’s Facebook page, okay? This is what she put. “This time last year, a new DVD made me pretty excited. Now shower curtain liners and muffin pans make me one giddy girl.” Are you kidding me?
Now, I need to stop right there, for the benefit of all of you pastoral-privacy police out there who are concerned about us preachers using our families and our children as sermon illustrations. Okay? Two things I want to tell you about that. Number one, this was on Facebook, okay? I mean, I’m pretty much thinking, when you post it on Facebook, it becomes public domain, right?
But number two, just know that I got her permission to do this. Okay? I sent her an email, I said, “Baby, this is what I’d like to do. I’m using this in a sermon. I want to use this post from a couple of weeks ago that you had.” I sent her the post, and I said, “Now, I’m going to put it on a slide in front of several thousand people. Are you okay with that?” And she said, “Sure, Daddy, I’m okay with that.” And then being the opportunist that she is, she said, “Would you mind following it with a slide that lists all the places we’re registered?” I’ve chosen not to do that.
It’s utterly amazing to me what finding a husband has done for her interest in domestic things. I mean, all of a sudden, she’s giddy about shower curtain liners and muffin pans, and it seems like these desires for domestic things that have laid dormant for all of these years, all of a sudden are finding life and they’re suddenly resurrecting again. When the church, the bride of Christ, finds her Husband, it’s amazing what we can learn about the gospel from those plastic, synthetic shadows and pictures of the Old Testament Levitical law when we look at them through the lens of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
So I want to give you five applications, one from each of those five sacrifices that we overviewed in Leviticus 1 through 7, five applications for putting some of this stuff into real-life practice in our lives. And if you want to flip back over there to Leviticus, just track with me as we look at each one of these, okay?
Live a sacrificial life.
Application number one: Live a sacrificial life. I mean, in this burnt offering, there’s no doubt that Paul had this in mind when he wrote part of Romans. Let me remind you of these familiar verses. Romans 12, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1) Listen, sacrifice didn’t cease in the Old Testament. Animal blood sacrifices did when Jesus died on the cross, but sacrifice continues to be a defining characteristic of those whose lives have been impacted by the gospel.
And so when we think about this Old Testament law though the lens of Christ, we are compelled to ask the question, “What is it in our lives—in this Western world, part of the Western church in America with all of the conveniences we have—what is it really that characterizes our lives by way of sacrifice for the sake of the gospel?” And can I just tell you something? Do you know what’s on the back of this shirt right here, what we’re emphasizing? This is not a pass for sacrifice.
This doesn’t say, “You know, the people that get on the plane and go overseas, they’re making a sacrifice. But you know what? You can be a disciple-maker right where you are without being someone who makes many sacrifices.” No! Not according to the gospel. Do you remember that burnt offering? It was all consumed. Nothing left for the offerer or for the worshiper to partake of. Our lives, every day, are offered up to Christ to be consumed by Him. Nothing left to be expended upon us.
And that’s why everything on that insert in your worship guide requires sacrifice—everything. People don’t join a small group because it’s always convenient. They make a sacrifice because of the gospel. People don’t volunteer to work in the nursery or the children’s area because it doesn’t interrupt their lives in any way. They make a sacrifice to do that. Nobody signs up to host a “Rock the Block” without it causing them to choose some things and not choose other things, but to make sacrifices. And so I appeal to you, based upon the gospel, to let your life be characterized by sacrifice. The gospel is worth it. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is worth it.
Live a holy life.
Application number two: Live a holy life. We come to this grain offering, and we’re reminded that the Israelites were not to mix leaven or honey with their grain offerings, as was the practice of many of the pagan nations that surrounded them. Why? Because it was a reminder of the God that they worshiped, that they served, that He was distinct, that He was set apart from all of the false gods, and He wasn’t affected by the sinfulness of the world. And they were being called to that same nature.
Do you know what? The gospel compels us to the exact same thing, and that’s the holiness. It’s not limited to the Old Testament law, and now, “Oh, we’re under grace so anything goes.” Let me remind you about 1 Peter. This is what the Apostle Peter said in chapter 1 of his first Epistle. “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy,’” he’s quoting from the Old Testament here, “‘for I am holy.’ And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold,” but watch this now, “but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” (1 Peter 1:14–19)
So I ask you today, is your life at every point—in public and in private—is it distinct from the world? Let me just tell you that one of the things that concerns me in our day and time in the Christian church is that it seems like the popular thing to do—and all under the banner of grace is how we always put it—the popular thing to do is to see how close we can live to the line between us and the world. To see how close we can get to it. To see how close our consumption of certain beverages and our partaking of certain substances and the things we let our eyes see and the things that we do with our bodies—just to see how close we can get to the line.
Beloved, I will tell you, when we look at the Old Testament sacrificial system through the lens of the gospel and words like Peter’s, we are not compelled by grace to see how close we can live to the line. We are compelled to see how we can live as far away from the line as possible. That’s what holiness is. Nobody ever looked at God and said, “Boy, look how close He’s getting to the line. Look how close He gets to compromising his morals. Look how close He gets to compromising his values, and He’s all doing it so He can reach people on the other side.” No, there was a clear division in what characterized Him. So I ask you today, are you toying with the world by seeing how close to the line you can live?
Take communion seriously.
Application number three: Take communion seriously. Take communion seriously. You know, this peace offering in chapter 3 of Leviticus is never mentioned in the New Testament. It’s never mentioned. But you can’t read about this shared part of the offerer’s life and this invitation to the communal meal, if you will, without seeing the resemblances to the Lord’s Table that we share at the end of every one of our worship gatherings. And we know this in the New Testament: That we as believers in Jesus Christ are invited to feast regularly on the body and the blood of the Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world. We know that.
But you know, there’s an interesting commentary on the peace offering. It’s in the same text. It actually comes over in chapter seven during the discussion from the priest’s perspective. In Leviticus 7:20, it says this, and if you’re not looking at it, listen very carefully. “But the person,” talking about the peace offering, “who eats of the flesh of the sacrifice of the LORD’s peace offerings while an uncleanness is on him, that person shall be cut off from his people.” You make the peace offering with some uncleanness in you, you’re no longer an Israelite; you’re no longer part of the people of God. That is serious business.
And while we would like to think that on this side of the cross, under grace if you will, the seriousness has been lessened. But we’re confronted with Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 11 with regard to the Lord’s Table. This is what he says, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 11:26–27)
So I want to ask us this morning, how are we taking communion? How are you taking communion? Are you coming to the parts of the service that you like, only to rush out before we come to the Lord’s Table because you just don’t want to deal with it? Are you stepping out into an aisle, coming to the Lord’s Table because it’s routine every week, and it’s the way we close the service, without ever thinking about your living situation with someone you’re not married to, or what you’re looking at on the Internet, or how you’re treating your wife or not treating your wife, or disobeying your parents? Are you coming to the Lord’s Table without ever processing the condition of your own heart? The gospel compels us to take this seriously.
Be reconciled to God.
Application number four: Be reconciled to God. I want to just speak for a moment to those who are listening, who are outside of Christ. You can’t read the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah and the New Testament fulfillment in Jesus of Nazareth, without realizing that Jesus is the sin offering that was offered to reconcile sinful people with a holy God. There’s an interesting description in chapter four of the sin offering, and that is that in the sin offering in the Levitical law, most of the sacrifice was actually not made on the altar in the tabernacle or even within the camp of the Israelites. Leviticus 4:12 says, “All the rest of the bull—he shall carry outside the camp to a clean place, to the ash heap, and shall burn it up on a fire of wood. On the ash heap it shall be burned up.” Most of it was done outside the camp.
And if you’re without Christ today, I want you to know that Jesus died outside the city gate on your behalf and mine. Here’s what the author of Hebrews says in chapter 13, “For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify [to make holy] the people through his own blood.” (Hebrews 13:11–12) If you’re without Christ today, we appeal to you. We appeal to you to be reconciled to God by repenting of your sin and placing your faith in Jesus Christ. He is the only one that can forgive your sin, and he is the only one that can clean your conscience. He’s the only one that can bring you into relationship to God. Be reconciled to him today by placing your faith in Christ.
Be reconciled to others.
Application number five, and we’re done: Be reconciled to others. You remember that guilt offering? It not only emphasized being in debt to God, but it emphasized being in debt to others, and the need for that to be compensated. And so listen. Jesus told His disciples, His followers, to take care of offenses quickly. Remember this passage from Matthew, the Sermon on the Mount? Jesus was teaching His disciples about reconciliation, and He said this, “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23–24)
So is there someone that you’ve hurt, you’ve offended, you’ve caused to stumble? Is there a rift between — husbands listen — between you and your wife—wife listen—between you and your husband, or children, between you and your parents? Is there a co-worker that has been ostracized? Is there someone, by the way you’ve lived your life, you’ve caused to be confused about what the gospel is about? Beloved, for the sake of the gospel today, let’s run quickly. Let’s run quickly to be reconciled to people in our lives that we’ve offended, and even people that have offended us, offering to them the same forgiveness that God has given to us.
There are so many breakdowns of the illustration I’ve given you this morning, between the Fisher-Price model of the Levitical system and the Hotpoint model of our Lord. In essence, we need to understand the Levitical system was not a toy. It was not something to be taken lightly. We need to understand also that the Hotpoint model of a range in real life is much more complex, and we look back at the Levitical system, and it is way more complex than the simplicity of the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
But what the illustration does do is to tell us that God in His graciousness wanted to make sure that we knew the nature of our sin and we knew our need for a Savior, and that He has provided for both of those in the sacrifice of His Son on the cross.