Category Archives: The Burnt Offering: Part 2

A continuation of a consideration of the burnt offering of Leviticus chapter 1

The Burnt Offering: Part 2

THE BURNT OFFERING:  PART 2

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE BOOK OF LEVITICUS CHAPTER 1, VERSES 4 TO 9.

 1:4  And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.                                                                                                                         1:5  And he shall kill the bullock before the Lord: and the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall bring the blood, and sprinkle the blood round about upon the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
1:6  And he shall flay the burnt offering, and cut it into his pieces.
1:7  And the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire upon the altar, and lay the wood in order upon the fire:
1:8  And the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall lay the parts, the head, and the fat, in order upon the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar:
1:9  But his inwards and his legs shall he wash in water: and the priest shall burn all on the altar, to be a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord.

1:4  And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him. 

Two grand truths are made known in this verse, namely, identification with the sacrifice, and acceptance by means of the sacrifice.  The identification is suggested by the laying on of the hand.  We see this in principle in Acts 8:14-17, where Peter and John make the journey from Jerusalem to Samaria expressly to lay their hands upon those who had recently believed in that country, and thereby to publicly associate with them on behalf of the Jewish Christians.  The Jews as a nation had no dealings with the Samaritans, John 4:9, but in Christ national barriers and prejudices are broken  down.  So we read of Peter, the apostle to the Jews, going down to Samaria to lay hands upon the Samaritans, to show that there remains no historical enmity.  And John goes with him to show that there is no personal enmity; for it was John and his brother James who had wanted to call down fire upon the Samaritans in Luke 9:51-54 because of their hostility to the Lord.  Now this attitude was gone, and instead of fire from heaven, there is the Holy Spirit from heaven as the apostles lay hands upon the Samaritans.

The same idea of identification is found in Acts 9:17, where Ananias lays hands upon Saul of Tarsus and his sight is restored.  Saul would have laid hands on Ananias in a very different way before he was saved!  But now they are brothers in the Lord, and the one is identified with the other.

Thus it is that the offerer, as he lays his hand upon the head of the offering, is identified with it.  The result being that the acceptableness of the offering is credited to the offerer.  In the case of the sin offering the process was reversed, for then the sinfulness of the offerer was attributed to the offering, which was then slaughtered and consumed out of God’s sight, together with its burden of sin.

Paul brings these two thoughts together in 2 Corinthians 5:21, 6:1,2.  He writes, “God hath made Him to be sin for us”, and then declares, “now is the accepted time”, or time of acceptance.  Those who personally identify themselves with the Lord Jesus, have attributed to them all the acceptableness of Christ in the sight of His Father.  Contrariwise, they find that all their sin, which made them so unacceptable in the sight of God, has been attributed to Christ when upon the cross, and He has finally dealt with that sin to God’s entire satisfaction. 

But how is this identification, with its blessed  results,  brought  about?  The clue is found in the meaning of the word “put”, for it means to lean; thus faith is suggested, a leaning upon the sacrifice, a reliance upon it, for blessing.  Romans 5:2 declares that believers have access by faith into the grace wherein they stand, and this way of faith is the only avenue to blessing, being God’s appointed way for men.  But how hard it is for man to realise this; how much rather would he seek to rely upon himself and his own efforts.  But this is an impossible task, as the following Scriptures make clear:
 “Therefore by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin”, Romans 3:20.
“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ”, Galatians 2:16.
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast,” Ephesians 2:8,9.
For we ourselves were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving diverse lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.  But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness that we have done, but according to His mercy he saved us,” Titus 3:3-5.

Not only is it an impossible task, but it is one which God has cursed, for He has said “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man,” Jeremiah 17:5.  Despite this, man would rather lean upon good works, church-going, sincere intentions and suchlike, but fulness of blessing is only found in the sacrificial work of Christ at the cross of Calvary, where, concerned for the honour of God, and the salvation of the sons of men, He gave up His life in sacrificial death.  May the writer of these pages urge any one of his readers who does not personally know God’s Son and the salvation that is available through Him, to earnestly consider these matters in the light of the Scriptures.  Rest assured that the Lord is “rich unto all that call upon Him.  For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved,” Romans 10:12,13.

Note the result of being identified with the person of Christ and His sacrifice.  It is nothing less than full acceptance in the sight of God.  Ephesians 1:6 speaks of believers as being “accepted in the Beloved”.  The inspired apostle does not say “accepted in Christ”, or “in the Lord Jesus”, although that would be a precious thing, but rather “in the Beloved”.  This title emphasises the love that exists between the Father and the Son and it is in that sort of atmosphere of love that the believer finds acceptance with God.  And not only so, but all that the Father finds delightful about His Son is attributed to the believer, in the gracious dealings of God.

The word “accepted” as used in Leviticus 1:4, may also very well be translated “be pleased with”.  Hence when the word came from heaven to Christ as He emerged from the waters of the Jordan, “this is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased,” Mathew 3:17, He was marked out by God as the One He fully accepted.  The words came to distinguish Him from all others, even though they had come to John to repent and be baptised.  It is not to these that the word from heaven comes, even though God had said through the psalmist “the saints that are in the earth…in whom is all my delight,” Psalm 16:3.  There is One who is fairer than these and He receives the Divine approval of thirty private years, as the word from heaven comes to Him, and to Him alone.

In Matthew 12:14-21 the Beloved is found amongst the Pharisees who criticise His work.  But Matthew is able to quote God‘s words through Isaiah, “Behold My servant,” for He is doing the works of Him that sent Him.  If they seek to drag Him down, God says “whom I uphold”.  If men vote for His death, God says “Mine elect”, and if they condemn and complain, God says, “In whom My soul delighteth”.  Thus His Father counteracts and contradicts the wicked dealings of scornful men with regard to His Beloved.

Another instance of God’s relationship with His Beloved is found in Luke 9.28-36.  There upon the Mount of Transfiguration, the Lord is found amongst the saints, both of the Old and New Testaments.  Each of them had a strong character, Moses being renowned for his meekness and faithfulness, Elijah for his determination and persistence, Peter for his zeal and energy, James and John, the sons of thunder, for their strong feelings and their patience in suffering.  To none of these does the word “I am well pleased” come, only to Christ, who excelled them all in these characteristics.  Each of them had unusual features about their death.  Moses, for instance, (who should have taken the people into the land), had died and been buried by God outside the lan, because of his disobedience to the command of God, Deuteronomy 34:5,6.  But Christ died in obedience, John 10:18; Romans 5:19 and subsequently entered in to the place to which He shall at last bring His people, even heaven itself.  Elijah had a remarkable exodus from this world, for “there appeared a chariot of fire…and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven,” 2 Kings 2:11.  But still it remains true, that “no man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man which is in heaven,” John 3:13.  For there is all the difference between being rapt to heaven by Divine power, as Elijah, and ascending of one’s own authority, as Christ.  Then again, the death of Peter was described by the Saviour Himself in John 21:18,19, as the death of an old man, and unwilling, in contrast to His own, which, although in the midst of His years, was one to which He pressed willingly.  And as for James and John who declared they could drink of the cup of suffering that Christ would drink, and be baptised with His baptism, they could certainly be the first to say that their Saviour suffered much more than they could have endured.  No wonder it was His decease that they spoke of upon the mountain!

Then again, Moses and Elijah represent the Law and the prophets through whom God had spoken in the Old Testament, whilst Peter, James and John represent the writers of the New Testament.  But despite their importance in this connection, the command, “Hear Him” comes from heaven with regard to Christ alone, for the voice of the prophets in both Old and New Testaments, and the voice of the Law are His voice.  No wonder that when Peter sought to put the Lord on the same level as Moses and Elijah by making them each a tabernacle, the bright cloud overshadowed them and “they saw no man, save Jesus only,” Matthew 17:8.

In the instances cited, then, the Beloved is separated from either the saints or the scorning sinners by the approving word from heaven.  In Ephesians 1:6, however, He is deliberately associated by God with His people.  They find themselves sharing the acceptance that God’s Son enjoys with His Father.  And all this as a result of His sacrificial death on their behalf, for the apostle goes on to write of “redemption through His blood”, Ephesians 1:7.

1:5  And he shall kill the bullock before the Lord: and the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall bring the blood, and sprinkle the blood round about upon the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

The idea behind the word atonement is that of cover or shelter  Thus the animal sacrifice is said to cover or shelter the one who offers it.  Having sinned, Adam and his wife realised that they were no longer what they had been, or what they might have been, for they sought to cover themselves with aprons of fig leaves and to shelter amongst the trees of the garden.  But they were taught of God that there was only one way to be covered and sheltered, as He made for them two coats from one skin, sacrifice having been made, Genesis 3:7,8,21.  In this way they learned that only by means of a life laid down on their behalf could they be acceptable in the Divine Presence.  But the coats of skin are only an illustration of the character and excellencies of Christ which were manifested perfectly in His life, and attributed to believers because of His death for them.

There were three vital parts to any animal sacrifice, and they find their counterpart in the sacrifice of Christ.  There was the killing of the animal, the consequent shedding of blood, and then the burning in the fire.  Because of his shortcomings, (and all come short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23), the life of the offerer had been forfeited, and he had no right to continue to live upon the earth.  He therefore needs to bring an animal that will die instead of him, that he might continue upon the earth  The man’s past, however, has still not been dealt with, for although the animal has died his death, his shortcomings are still on God’s record and “God requireth that which is past” Ecclesiastes 3:15.  Hence blood needs to be shed in atonement on his behalf.  But if the animal victim is to be accepted as his substitute, then it must be able to endure the fiery test of the flames of Divine Holiness; for if God is going to accept the offering, and through it the person of the offerer, then He must do so on a holy basis.  We often forget the intensity of Divine Holiness, that infinite separateness from all that is evil.  In Isaiah’s vision, in chapter six of his prophecy, just the mention of the subject of God’s holiness by one seraph to another was enough to make the posts of the doors of the temple move.  If then those flames of holiness can feed upon the parts that have been laid upon the altar, and if the smoke of the burning is one of sweet-savour, with no noxious fumes intermingling, then indeed Divine holiness is satisfied, and Divine requirements have been met.

Now what was foreshadowed at the altar, was fulfilled at Calvary.  For Christ has died, his blood has been shed, and He has been exposed to the fires of God’s Holiness.  And not only so, has risen again to impart the blessings of His death to those who believe.  Christ has died on behalf of His people, so that instead of being swept away from the earth as sinners in Adam, they might continue before God as believers in Christ.

In addition, the blood of Christ has been shed.  And that pure and holy soul of the Lord Jesus has been poured out unto death, without reserve, Isaiah 53:12 declared it would.  The life (soul) of the flesh is in the blood Leviticus 17:11, and at last there was One found who was without fault, and whose life given up in sacrifice on behalf of others could be acceptable in the sight of God.

But there is more still, for the Son of God was subjected to the searching flame of Divine Holiness, with the result that there ascended to God an odour of a sweet smell, delighting His heart, and with which He could be satisfied.  Strange it is, but nonetheless true, that even whilst the Saviour was accomplishing the work of sin-bearing, He was still the object of His Father’s deepest affection, continuing to be the Only-begotten in the bosom of the Father, with nothing changed as to His eternal relationship to God.

We must not think that because the Lord Jesus is said by the Scriptures to have been made sin, that this means He became a sinner, or sinful.  Far be the thought!  The sin-offering is expressly said to be holy; in fact, “most holy,” Leviticus 6:25,29.  These words are also used to describe the innermost sanctuary of the Tabernacle.  If the animal sacrifice was holy, how much more so the One who it prefigured.  There was never a moment when the Lord Jesus was personally unholy, even when He was bearing the heavy load of others’ sins.  So whilst God’s fiery anger consumed the sin-offering together with its accompanying sin, yet it is also true that the same fire, searching and penetrating as it was, only served to bring out the acceptableness of the burnt offering.  The same fires of Divine holiness which burnt against Christ at Calvary, also served to bring out the acceptableness of His person.

Notice that the three things we have mentioned are all said to have taken place under the close scrutiny of the Lord.  For the killing is “before the Lord”.  The blood is said to be “sprinkled round about upon the altar,” and the parts are laid upon the altar to be consumed by the flame, and this altar is “before the Lord,” Leviticus 16:18.  How reassuring to the offerer as he looked back to the occasion when he brought his  sacrifice, that all had met the approval of the Divine gaze, and all had been found acceptable when tested. And how reassuring also to the believer who looks back to Calvary and sees a work which in all its aspects was acceptable in the sight of God.  He need not fear that some matter has been overlooked, and when noticed will be dealt with in the future.  The Scripture is clear about the sacrifice of Christ at Calvary, that “by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified,” Hebrews 10:14.

With the burnt offering everything was upward in its tendency.  The parts of the animal were lifted up upon the altar, the blood was sprinkled round about upon the altar, (and the altar being about three cubits high, this would be at eye-level), and the smoke and savour arose heavenwards.  Interestingly, the altar of burnt offering was three cubits high, and three times in John’s gospel the death of Christ is spoken of as a lifting up, John 3:14: 8:28; 12:32.  But with the sin-offering things were different, for the animal was burnt upon the ground, the blood was poured out upon the ground, and the flame descended to consume out of sight the offending article, sin.  So there were these two aspects to the death of the Lord Jesus.  In one sense His death was part of the journey back to heaven, His leaving of the world to go to the Father, John 16:28.  And in another sense He was “brought into the dust of death,” Psalm 22:15, and “laid in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps,” Psalm 88:6.

1:6  And he shall flay the burnt offering, and cut it into his pieces.

Next the offerer is commanded to skin the animal, and later we learn that the skin is to be the portion of the priest that offers the sacrifice on the part of the Israelite, Leviticus 7:8.  The skin of the sin-offering was burnt with the rest of its flesh, so that apart from the fat that was burnt upon the altar, all was done away.  In the case of the burnt offering, on the other hand, there is that which remains to be used by the priest subsequently, so that the desire of the individual offerer to present a sacrifice not only gratifies God and is the means of the man’s acceptance, but it goes towards the maintenance of the priesthood.  We note from 1 Peter 2:5 that all who are born again are priests to God, so in the present era the offerer and the priest are one and the same person, engaged in the presentation of spiritual sacrifices, not animal ones.  We can easily see from these things that the spiritual exercises and desires of the individual believer all tend to the maintenance and development of priestliness, so that, when met together as a holy priesthood, the sense of having a share in what has satisfied God’s heart so fills the soul with gratitude, that true and fervent worship is fostered.  May it be that our personal exercises result in something which we can value as priests, and which we may make our own. To think that we are allowed to share God’s thoughts about His Son! 

Note that the priest took to himself only that skin which was from the animal he had dealt with, as we learn from Leviticus 7:8.  Spirituality is not contagious.  Nor can it be developed by another on our behalf.  It can and must come only through intense and disciplined exercise of heart, as 1 Timothy 4:6-16 indicates.  One of the reasons why there may be barrenness at the gatherings for worship, is that there has not been during the previous days the development of spiritual qualities.  Let us not think that godliness is some sort of mantle that may be put on at the entrance to the meeting-place.  We may assume pious attitudes and use pious expressions, but the God with whom we have to do reads the heart.  He hates hypocrisy, the putting on of a mask of respectability and pseudo-spirituality, and His word to the hypocrite now is the same as it was in the days of Christ’s flesh “Woe unto you…hypocrites!” Mattew 23:13.

The word used for “flay” in Leviticus 1:6 is the same as that which is used of the “stripping” of Joseph’s coat of many colours from him, Genesis 37:23.  Alas, there have been, and are, those ready to strip the coat of many colours from the Greater than Joseph.  They have no appreciation of the varied features of the character of Christ, which like Joseph’s coat, mark Him out as the firstborn, the beloved of His Father, Genesis 37:3; 48:22; 1 Chronicles 5:2.  There were those like this at Colosse, calling themselves Gnostics, “knowing ones”, who sought to deprive Christ of His distinctive glories and unique character.  Paul responds positively to their evil threat by reminding the Colossian believers of the titles which belong exclusively to the Lord Jesus, such as God’s dear Son, Image, Firstborn, Creator, Upholder, Head, The Beginning, the Pre-eminent One, the One in Whom dwells all fulness, Colossians 1:12-19.  A coat of many colours indeed!

But it was with different intentions that the offerer stripped the hide from his bullock.  This action began the process of exposing the inner perfections of the animal, so that every part might be tested by the flame of the altar.  If all met with Divine approval, then the man was accepted in the value of his substitute.  We may be sure that what was true of the man’s bullock, is also gloriously true of the Lord Jesus, for no part of His person needs to be hidden from view, no part of His life fails to meet with God’s full and unreserved approval.  There were no aspects of the person of Christ that were unacceptable, and it is in the value of such an offering that the believer has God’s full and unreserved approval too.

1:7 And the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire upon the altar, and lay the wood in order upon the fire:

Next we come to a part of the ceremony needing a considerable degree of intelligence and skill, to so separate the parts of the offering that they might be exposed to view upon the altar for the eye of God.  By this means the inner excellence of the animal was revealed.  Externally there must be no blemish, but there must be corresponding perfection internally also.  Whilst there might be many animals able to stand this test, there was only one person.  Only He could utter the words of Psalm 139:23,24 with perfect freedom. The psalmist had said, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:”  All, including the psalmist, would have to admit to grievous shortcomings after such an examination, but not the Lord Jesus.

What a privilege to come as worshippers to the Father and “rejoice in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 3:3; to have that spiritual intelligence to speak to Him concerning the varied aspects of His matchless person.  Not that God does not already know, of course, but He delights to have the appreciation of His people.  As Joseph said, “Ye shall tell my father of all my glory,” Genesis 45:13.  Laban’s sons reckoned glory in terms of what a man had acquired for himself Genesis 31:1.  (The only other mention of glory in the book of Genesis which covers over two thousand years of human history). But Joseph’s glory lay in what he was able to be and do for others, as the ‘saviour of the world’, the meaning of his name in Genesis 41:45.
This exercise cannot be carried out mechanically, but must be spontaneous, and the outcome of a life lived in the enjoyment of what Christ truly is.  Contemplating Him with holy wonder, we shall develop in the heavenly art of appreciating His varied features, each one of which is finely balanced and perfectly integrated with the other.  We shall never find a flaw or a short-coming in Him of whom the Father said, “in whom I am well-pleased”.  Looking within, the Father saw everything that He sought for in the way of moral excellence.

The fire of the altar was never to go out, Leviticus 6:13.  So what are we to understand by the putting of fire upon the altar?  Is it not that the priest was to bring burning embers onto a vacant space on the altar ready for the burning of the sacrifice?  Exodus 27:3 speaks of the fire-pans and the shovels by which this may have been done.  This was a holy exercise, to handle fire which had originally come down from heaven from God.  It was not something to be done lightly, with a careless attitude.  Even the seraphim in God’s presence cannot directly handle the fire of the altar, but must needs use tongs, Isaiah 6:6.  Should not the Christian priest therefore fear lest he become over-familiar in the presence of God?  Let us remember that He who is equal to the Father ascribed holiness to God in the words, “Holy Father,” John 17:11.  Is this not the prime example of the way to handle the fire of Divine Holiness?  Christians should respond to that word, “Let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire,” Hebrews 12:29.

Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, found that God was indeed a consuming fire, for when they offered that which was strange in the presence of God, then “there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them,” Leviticus 10:2.  They had erred in the use of fire and paid the price for so doing.  And let us not think that because we live in an age marked by grace, that we may abuse our priestly position by not giving God the reverence due to His Holy Name.  Our God is, (not just was in the law-age), a consuming fire.  A case in point is the use of “You and Yours” in addressing Deity.  If there were no alternative in the English language whereby the Person of God could be sanctified in our speaking, then there might be an excuse.  But in fact the practise of addressing God with the words “Thee and Thou” is one which is easily learned, and presents no real difficulty to the spiritual mind.  The same principle applies to the use of so-called translations of the Scriptures which adopt the modern form of address to God.  For this reason, and for other strong reasons besides, they should be whole-heartedly jettisoned by all who wish to sanctify the Lord God in their hearts.  Of course, patience may have to be exercised with regard to those newly saved, or those who have previously met with those who are not particular about these things, but patience must not be allowed to degenerate into indifference.

But if the fire came down from heaven, the wood grew up on the earth.  Nonetheless it was valued by God, for in Nehemiah 10:34 it is described as a wood offering.  May we suggest that the wood represents those spiritual thoughts of Christ that are available when worship in engaged in, so that the fires of true devotion may be kept burning?  There were those in Israel who were known as hewers of wood Joshua 9:27.  May the Lord increase the number of their spiritual counterparts, who consider it their duty to see that the fire continually burns.  Such will need to renounce worldly ambitions and hopes of financial gain, but may be assured that nothing which they do to further God’s interests will be forgotten by Him “who is not unrighteous to forget,” Hebrews 6:10.

After his humbling experience when he had proudly numbered Israel, David reared up an altar on the threshing-floor of Araunah, 2 Samuel 24, where the hand of the destroying angel was stayed, and he sacrificed the oxen to the Lord, using the threshing instruments as wood for the fire.  These he refused to accept as a gift from Araunah, but said, “neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing”.  An important principle this, and one we would do well to follow, by ensuring that a sacrifice is really a sacrifice.

Proverbs 26:20 says that “where no wood is, there the fire goeth out”, and how sadly this may be true in the lives and gatherings of the Lord’s people.  It will not be the case if there is a constant and diligent study of the Scriptures, our only source of material if our minds are to be stocked with that which will please our Father as we draw near in worship.  The adoption of a regularised ritual, and of man-appointed ‘leaders of worship’, or extensive singing, is surely no substitute for the fresh thoughts of Christ which the Spirit of God is so ready to impart to the one desirous of such things, John 16:14.

1:8 And the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall lay the parts, the head, and the fat, in order upon the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar:

Note the reversal of the order of the words in the mention of the priests in verses 7 and 8.  In the one instance it is “the sons of Aaron the priest”, whilst in the other they are described as “the priests, Aaron’s sons”.  In the one their descent as sons is in view, in the other their dignity as priests is emphasised.  These two things are presented to us by the apostle Peter as he writes about the Christian priesthood in his first epistle.  He uses various expressions which lead us to think of these two aspects of the believer as a priest.  For instance, in the first chapter, he writes of “being begotten again,” verse 3, of “obedient children,” verse 14, of “calling on the Father,” verse 17, of “being born again, not of corruptible seed (offspring), but of incorruptible,” verse 23, and in the second chapter of “new-born babes,” verse 2, and of a “chosen generation,” verse 9.

We learn from these phrases, coming as they do in the context which deals with Christian priests, that all who are truly born again are priests unto God, without exception.  How successful has Satan been for so long!  Centuries of the Christian era have rolled their course and the generally accepted idea amongst the ranks of professed believers has been that priesthood is the reserve of the clergy, who act for the laity in the presence of God.  This is not Christianity in action, it is Judaism, with pagan overtones.  No doubt through the age there have always been those who have appreciated the truth, and have enjoyed ministering to the heart of God in private, but the public image of Christianity has been one of a priestly class acting vicariously for others.

There is no need for any of us in our day to follow the trend.  We need to clear our minds of any notion that the ordinary believer is under-privileged and has no right to act in God’s presence without assistance.  As believers we need to ensure that the circumstances in which we meet for worship do in fact foster the free exercise of our birthright.

As we have suggested, priesthood is not only a matter of descent, but of dignity also.  So we find Peter describing priests as “laying aside all malice,” 1 Peter 2:1, as “chosen”, “royal” and “holy”, and as “a peculiar people,” (that is, a people for God’s own possession), and as those who “show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light, 1 Peter 2:9.  Darkness surrounded the top of Sinai when the Law was given, Hebrews 12:18, but believers have not been called by God into darkness, but rather, have been invited to draw near into the marvellous light of His glorious presence.  What more dignified position could possibly be given them?  And not only this, they have the holy privilege of seeking to display His excellencies.  Priests under the law wore garments of glory and beauty, Exodus 28:40.  How much more should priests under grace “put on the Lord Jesus Christ,” Romans 13:14, having “put off all malice,” 1 Peter 2:1.  So shall His glory and beauty be displayed in this world of shame and dishonour.

So it is that in the full dignity of their office the priests handle the sacrifice and lay the parts in order.  The two parts mentioned in this verse being the head and the fat.  The head is that member which controls the rest of the body and therefore speaks of the mind and the intelligence, whereas the fat of an animal constitutes its stored-up reserves of energy.  The word used for “fat” is not the same word as is used in connection with the peace offering, where particular concentrations of fat in the body of the animal are in view, but rather, the grease which occurs throughout the entire body.  So we have in these two items that which affects the whole of the rest of the body.  The mind governing the action and reaction of every part and the fat supplying reserves of energy to the whole.
Do we not see in Christ the perfect combination of intelligence and energy?  His was no “zeal without knowledge” Romans 10:2, but He was ever governed by an intelligent insight into the will of His Father.  How often we read in John’s Gospel of “Jesus knowing” and such references as John 2:24; 3:11; 4:1; 5:6; 6:15; 7:29; 8:14; 11:42; 13:1,3; 13:11; 18:4; 19:28, would well repay further study.  The basis of this awareness was His knowledge of the Father Himself.  John’s testimony was that “no man hath seen God at any time; the Only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him,” John 1:18.  The verb John uses means to see with the eye or with the mind and both these meanings find their place here.  For it is certainly true that no man has physically seen God at any time, nor has gained full insight into the nature of God, but this Christ claims to have, as the Only-begotten of the Father.  In His earthly ministry He imparted this knowledge through the words He spoke, telling men things about God of which the Law could never have informed them, see John 1:17.  As the Only Begotten in the Father‘s bosom He tells out the heart of God, and as the Word, He tells out God‘s mind.  It is this knowledge of the Father that governed the activities of the Lord Jesus, as in the language of the type we are considering, the head and the fat were together.  May the Lord grant that as His people, in our measure, we may combine knowledge with action, that Mary-like, we may sit at His feet and learn of Him, and Martha-like, may busy ourselves in service for Him, Luke 10:38-42.

Let us never despise knowledge.  It is true that the apostle Paul wrote “knowledge puffeth up,” 1 Corinthians 8:1, but the context will show that he meant knowledge without love.  May the apostle’s prayer for the Ephesians be answered in us too, that the Spirit of God in His character as the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, may so affect us, that the eyes of our understanding may be enlightened, as we develop in the knowledge of Himself, Ephesians 1:17,18.  The word the apostle used for “enlightened” is the one from which the English language derives ‘to photograph’.  Just as light passes through the ‘eye’ or lens of a camera onto the sensitive film at the back, producing an impression of the object focussed upon, so believers, as they concentrate on the things of God and as they allow the Spirit to do His work of revealing Divine things, 1 Corinthians 2:9,10, will find that their souls are flooded with the light of the knowledge of God, and permanent impressions are thereby produced.

A further lesson is apparent from the verse under consideration, for we read that the head and the fat were to be laid in order.  Does this not mean, in the absence of any indication otherwise, that these items were to be arranged on the altar in the same way as they were distributed through the animal’s body?  Thus there was a Divine order about the sacrifice as it lay upon the altar, for the Creator of the animal had distributed the parts as He willed, and now they are found in that same order in sacrifice.  It is well for Christian worshippers if they are able to intelligently review the person of Christ in God’s presence so that He is reminded afresh of those features in the life of Christ which were found there in an order and arrangement which satisfied His desire.  This order was never disturbed, not even in death, for whilst all around there was uproar and turmoil, there was a calm repose about the bearing of the Lord Jesus, even when He was under the most extreme pressure of abuse, injustice and pain.  Never at any time were Divine principles jettisoned, or Divine commands flouted.  Always there was an energetic accomplishment of the will of His Father, in accordance with His perfect insight into that will as the Son.

Thus the fat that the animal would ‘burn up’ to supply it with energy during life, is now burnt up upon the altar to assist the action of the fire. Correspondingly, the energy of the life and ministry of Christ are matched by the enthusiasm of His sacrificial death.  In fact, one of the words used in the New Testament for sacrifice is “thusia”, from which comes the English word for enthusiasm.

Again two parts of the animal are mentioned together, one being internal, the other external.  In this respect they are like the head and the fat.  Every aspect of the person of Christ was alike pleasing and acceptable to His Father, whether during thirty largely secret years or three and a half years of public ministry.  Whether days of preaching and healing, or nights of praying.  Whether closeted with His own in the Upper Room, or discoursing amongst the throng in the Temple Courts.  Whether welcomed by the multitude with their hosannas, or hounded to death with their blood-thirsty cry.  The ‘unseen years’ were pleasing to God, for at the end of them the word of approval came to Christ on the banks of the Jordan.  And the public years were alike satisfying to God’s heart, for again there came the word from heaven to the Lord when He was upon the “holy mount”.  His death too, met with Divine approval for He was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, Romans 6:4.  The Father’s glory demanded that such a person be raised from the dead.

1:9 But his inwards and his legs shall he wash in water: and the priest shall burn all on the altar, to be a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord.

What are we to glean from the fact that the water needed to be applied to both inwards and legs in the burnt offering, thus cleansing away any defilement that would make it unfit to offer?  Was there defilement with Christ that needed to be washed away before He was acceptable as a sacrifice?  Far be the thought!  The reverse is the case, for He was “ready to die from His youth up,” Psalm 88:15.  John the Baptist could look upon Jesus as He walked and say “Behold the Lamb of God!” for He was fit and ready even then, although the right time had not come.  Peter, John and Paul when they allude to the sinlessness of Christ, do so in connection with His sacrificial work.  “Who his own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree”, “Who did no sin” 1 Peter 2:24,22.  “And ye know that He was manifested to take away our sins; and in Him is no sin” 1 John 3:5.  “For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin,” 2 Corinthians 5:21.  So the writers of the New Testament are united in their testimony regarding the sinlessness of the appointed sacrifice.

So what is the washing indicating to us, since it is not the idea that Christ had defilement needing to be purged?  It is the lesson of contrast.  When the animal provides a comparison with the person of Christ, then we may draw the comparison, but when a certain detail, because of the nature of things, supplies contrast, then the lesson must be drawn from contrast.  We see this done constantly in the Epistle to the Hebrews, with its inspired commentary on the Levitical system.  For instance, Aaron and Christ are both spoken of as priests, and as such are compared.  But they are also contrasted, for whilst Aaron was of the Levitical order, Christ’s priesthood is after the order of Melchizedek.  Again, both the bodies of animals and the body of the Lord Jesus are spoken of as sacrifices, thus affording interesting comparisons, but they are also seen in sharp contrast, both in nature and effect.

Applying this principle, what do we learn?  The ceremonial washing of the animal was to make it typically, what Christ was actually.  He alone of all men that have walked upon the earth was both inwardly and outwardly pure.  He was no whited sepulchre, appearing beautiful outwardly, but within  full of dead men’s bones and of all uncleanness, Matthew 23:27.  No defilement found its rise in His heart, nor could the pollution of this wicked world gain an entry from without.  Conceived in the virgin Mary by the action of the Holy Spirit, He was free from that fallen nature which all other men inherit from their federal head Adam.  Free also from the state of sin which possession of that fallen nature entailed, and free from its tendency to sin.

So it was that the “Holy thing” which was born of Mary was called the Son of God, being totally separate from this world, Luke 1:34,35.  Whilst all other men are “of this world,” He was “not of this world,” John 8:23,  not sharing its corrupt life, not “of it” in any sense at all.  This truth has its implications for believers as well, for the Lord Himself described believers as “not of the world, even as I am not of the world,” John 17:14.  Crucified with Christ to cut them off from the life of Adam’s world, and born from above to give them a share in the life of heaven, they have the joy of fellowship with the Father, and with His Son, Jesus Christ, Romans 6:6; Galatians 2:20; 1 John 1:1-4.