Category Archives: The Burnt Offering: Part 4

THE BURNT OFFERING: PART 4

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE BOOK OF LEVITICUS CHAPTER 1, VERSES 14 TO 17

1:14  And if the burnt sacrifice for his offering to the Lord be of fowls, then he shall bring his offering of turtledoves, or of young pigeons.
1:15  And the priest shall bring it unto the altar, and wring off his head, and burn it on the altar; and the blood thereof shall be wrung out at the side of the altar:
1:16  And he shall pluck away his crop with his feathers, and cast it beside the altar on the east part, by the place of the ashes:
1:17  And he shall cleave it with the wings thereof, but shall not divide it asunder: and the priest shall burn it upon the altar, upon the wood that is upon the fire: it is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord.

SECTION 3    VERSES 14-17        THE OFFERING FROM THE FOWLS

1:14  And if the burnt sacrifice for his offering to the Lord be of fowls, then he shall bring his offering of turtledoves, or of young pigeons.

We now come to the third section of this interesting chapter.  If the bullock represents Christ in relation to the Father, and the sheep and goat emphasise His own exercise, then the birds would suggest Christ’s relation to the other person of the Godhead, namely, the Spirit of God.  In the very first mention of the Spirit, in Genesis 1:2, He is spoken of as “moving” or as the marginal rendering is, ‘fluttering’; so at the very beginning of the Scriptures He is spoken of under the figure of a bird.

Again, when a new world emerged from the waters of the flood, the dove was sent forth by Noah, and at first found no rest for the sole of her foot, but at last the waters of judgement receded and she returned no more; for the earth was now a suitable place for this clean bird.  The Spirit of God can only find rest in conditions in harmony with His Person, which is why the unbeliever cannot receive the Spirit of God; John 14:17.  Not until faith is exercised, and God creates anew, 2 Corinthians 5:17,18, are there fit conditions prevailing, enabling Him to dwell within the heart of the believer.  This was a lesson that Noah needed to learn, for it was not until the dove was happy with her surroundings that Noah was permitted to step out onto a new world.  All the time that the raven, the bird delighting in flesh, was satisfied, Noah was to remain in the ark.  Once the dove had indicated that suitable conditions were present, Noah could remove the covering of the ark on a significant day, namely, the first day of the first month.

These things are full of lessons for the believer.  Just as the “old world” was not spared, but rather “being overflowed with water, perished” 2 Peter 2:5; 3:6, so as far as the believer is concerned, “old things are passed away,” 2 Corinthians 5:17.  Swept away, so to speak, by the floods of Divine wrath against sin which Christ endured Psalm 88:7,16.  Just as Noah was able to step out into the new world that had emerged from the waters of the flood, so the believer enters into a new position in Christ, where new things that are of God are found.  Just as the new world of Genesis 8 was to be filled with the savour of a burnt sacrifice, so the believer is to live a life of self-sacrifice, or as the apostle puts it in 2 Corinthians 5:15, “they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them and rose again”.  Noah took of every clean beast, and every clean fowl and offered them upon the altar.  That which is clean in its nature, and that which finds the new creation congenial, can fittingly be consecrated to the service of God.

It was not only upon the new world that the dove found rest, but also on Noah and the ark.  In fact, there seems a special relationship between Noah and the dove, expressed, for instance, in Genesis 8:8, “he sent forth a dove from him”.  Again in verse 9, the dove “returned unto him into the ark…then he put forth his hand, and took her, and pulled her in unto him into the ark”.  Further on in verse 11, “the dove came in to him in the evening”.  So not only does the dove associate with the new world, but also with the one that found grace in the eyes of the Lord, and who was responsible for bringing others with him into conditions fresh and new.

There is another with whom the Spirit of God can associate happily, even Christ, who brings His people through death and judgement safely and introduces them to a new world of peace and purity.  See Romans 6:1-13; 1 Peter 3:18-22.

Let us notice some of the ways in which the Spirit of God is linked with the Lord Jesus.  Remember He shares Deity equally with the Father and the Son, a fact emphasised in Matthew 28.19 where new believers are to be baptised in “the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”. Three Persons but only one name.  Not only is there a special relationship between the Spirit and Christ because of their Deity, but also as a man the Lord Jesus was in fellowship with the Spirit in a remarkable way.  Hence in Galatians 4:6 the Holy Spirit is described as the Spirit of God’s Son, and in Romans 8:9 as the Spirit of Christ.  There is no reason why the believer should not display the dignity of sonship, nor is there any excuse for lack of Christ-likeness, for the Spirit of God’s Son resides within, and empowers the Christian for a life which meets Divine approval.

There is a very marked contrast presented in Romans 1, for at the end of the chapter is a list of twenty-three of the gruesome iniquities of men, whereas at the beginning Jesus Christ is declared to be the Son of God with power, in accordance with the Spirit of Holiness.  How great is the difference between sinful man and that Holy One that was born amongst them!  One of the things that made the difference was that Christ and the Spirit were totally in harmony, whereas sinful men and the Spirit are totally at variance.

The whole of the life of the Lord Jesus was marked by holiness, total separateness from sin and its results.  Instead of the Lord looking down from heaven and concluding that there was none good and that they were unprofitable and filthy, He could look down upon Christ and not only say that He was well-pleased, but also signify it by the descent of the Holy Spirit in bodily shape as a dove, Luke 3:22.  In that scene beside the Jordan there is enacted a miniature of the history of the Saviour, for the descent into the Jordan, the river of judgement, is a preview of His descent into the waters of death and judgement at Calvary when that baptism for which He was straitened, was accomplished; Luke 12:50.  But then He came up straightway out of the waters, Matt 3:16, for when at last Christ would enter into death, it could not be that death should detain Him; as Peter said, “it was not possible that He should be holden of it,” Acts 2:24.  The grave must give up its conqueror “straightway”.  But then the heavens were opened unto Him at the Jordan, just as later they would open again to receive Him back in glory, 1 Timothy 3:16.  For, as Peter said again, “whom the heaven must receive,” Acts 3:21.  Consequent upon His return to heaven, He has prayed the Father, (and Luke says that Christ came up out of the waters of baptism praying), and He has sent another Comforter, even the Spirit of truth, John 14:16,17.  So whether it be the descending or the emerging, or being received by an opened heaven, or praying, each part of the baptism of Christ was a foreshadowing of glorious things that were yet to be.

Mention is made in all four of the Gospel records of this particular event in the life of the Lord Jesus, but it is characteristic of John’s approach that he records it as John the Baptist recalls it, and shows that the Deity of Christ is attested thereby.  John is heard saying “There standeth One among you, whom ye know not,” John 1:26, and by his use of the perfect tense for the word “know”, he indicates that their ignorance of Christ in the past was continuing into the present, but when he refers to himself and his ignorance of the Lord, he uses the pluperfect tense, thus putting his ignorance in the past but not continuing into the present.  What had changed John’s ignorance into insight?  Simply this, as he explains in John 1:33, that the God who sent him to baptise with water, also said that the One who would baptise with the Holy Spirit would have the Spirit of God descend upon Him and remain upon Him.  And this same One would baptise with the Holy Spirit.

Clearly, One who can administer a Divine Person, even the Holy Spirit, must Himself be a Divine Person.  Hence John says he saw and bare record.  That is, he saw the Spirit descending as God had said He would, and on the basis of that, he bare record of the implication that here was indeed the Son of God upon the earth amongst men.  Thus John the apostle records these things to further his God-given design of affirming the Deity of Christ.

Not only are there allusions to the connection between Christ and the Spirit to be seen in Leviticus chapter one, but also thoughts of resurrection also.  Firstly, the word for “dove” in the Hebrew is “yonah”, the direct equivalent of “Jonah”, (there being no ‘J’ in Hebrew).  Jonah was the prophet singled out by the Lord Himself as being a sign; for just as Jonah had been three days and nights in the whale‘s belly, so He, the Son of Man, would be three days and nights in the heart of the earth, Matthew 12:39,40.  Doubtless there are contrasts between the Lord Jesus and Jonah, especially with regard to Jonah’s disobedience, but nonetheless there are comparisons.  We must not forget in this connection the Saviour’s words, “a greater than Jonah is here” Matthew 12:41, meaning Himself.

Thus we find that Jonah experienced the great tempest, being cast into the midst of the raging sea, Jonah 1:15.  Christ also endured the tempest of Divine wrath, saying in the language of Psalm 42:7, “all Thy waves and Thy billows are gone over Me”.  And because He was afflicted with all God’s waves, the believer can say “there is no condemnation,” Romans 8:1.

Not only did Jonah experience the storm, and was subsequently “buried” in the great fish for three days and nights, but he was also brought out by God’s command and made to stand upon dry land again, thus becoming a figure of Christ risen.  As Jonah went to preach to the Gentile Ninevites and as he subsequently prophesied in Israel, he did so as a man who had gone through a death and resurrection experience, Jonah 3:3; 2 Kings 14:25.  So Christ, risen from the dead, has “preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh” Ephesians 2:17.   

We have already alluded to another Old Testament character who had a special association with the dove, namely Noah.  We have noted that the dove could only rest upon either the olive tree, Noah, or the new and cleansed earth.  So much for the dove set free by Noah, but what of her six companions, Genesis 7:3?  We read that Noah builded an altar to the Lord and took of every clean fowl and offered burnt offerings on the altar, and the Lord smelled a sweet smell, or a savour of rest.  So at last the turmoil and upheaval of the sinful pre-flood day, is replaced by a scene of rest that satisfied God.

There is a special significance in the use of the word “rest” in the marginal rendering of the expression “sweet savour” and it is just this, that it is the word for Noah.  Now when Noah’s father gave him his name, he uttered a prophecy, saying, “This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed,” Genesis 5:29.  Again, the word for “comfort ” is “Noah”.  Thus he is marked out by prophecy as a rest-bringer and a comforter.  Whether Lamech knew how his son would live up to the name he gave him, we are not told, but certainly there was deliverance in a very real way from a sin-cursed earth by means of the ark which Noah by faith prepared.  Thus through Noah there came rest for God and man; for God in the sweet savour of a sacrifice which rose from an altar on a renewed earth, and for man, in the deliverance from the world of violence and sin which prevailed before the flood.

So too by Christ there is rest from sin and its consequences.  Comfort, also, for when the Lord Jesus promised the Spirit of God to His people He expressed Himself thus, “I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter,” John 14:16.  And the word He used for “another” means another of the same sort.  So that by implication Christ is the Comforter of His people.

It may be asked why the thought of resurrection is found in the burnt offering at all.  The answer is surely this, that acceptance for Christ as a man was not only denoted by the word from heaven at His baptism, and every evidence during His life that He was approved by the Father, but also by the fact that He was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, Romans 6:4.  The idea of acceptance for Christ in resurrection is a Scriptural one, for when the apostle Paul is speaking of the acceptance of believers in 2 Corinthians 6:2, he quotes from an Old Testament passage, Isaiah 49:8, which speaks of the acceptance of the Messiah.  Though God’s servant through whom He would be glorified, nevertheless the Messiah would seem to have laboured in vain and moreover would be despised by the very nation He came to bless.  But He would be vindicated in resurrection and the despised of men would be shown to be accepted with God.  The One for whom there was no help or salvation upon the cross, would be saved out of death in accordance with His prayer, see Hebrews 5:7.  He who is heard in Psalm 22 praying to His God but receiving no answer, is at last answered at the point in the Psalm, verse 22, where it breaks out into the triumph of His rising from the dead.  Thus salvation, help and acceptance are found by Christ in resurrection conditions; and so they are also for believers, since the verse that initially spoke of Christ is applied to believers.  In fact, the theme of acceptance, of receiving one another, of commending one another, runs throughout the Second Epistle to the Corinthians.  The present age is one in which those who believe may be brought into full acceptance with God, and that atmosphere of acceptance should mark the dealings of the Lord’s people with each other.

So the salvation and acceptance of the believer is inseparably linked to Christ’s acceptance at God’s right hand, and that epistle which especially mentions the idea of being “accepted in the Beloved”, is also the one where salvation is spoken of in terms of being quickened, raised and seated in heavenly places in association with Christ.  See Ephesians 2:4-8.  It is by grace believers have been saved from death in trespasses and sins and linked to Christ in a heavenly way.

In confirmation of this, we recall that it was just before Jonah was brought to dry land that he uttered, (no doubt anticipating deliverance), “salvation is of the Lord”.  Salvation for Jonah meant being delivered from the tempest, from the whale’s belly and from all their accompanying distress, by being brought safely to dry land.  So the believer is brought to the security of a standing before God in grace, Romans 5:2.  But only because he is associated with a greater than Jonah, who not only rose from the dead, but rose to heaven also.

Let us return to the offerer of Leviticus 1:14.  He has a choice, so will he bring the turtle-doves or the young pigeons?  He has no large bullock to bring, but he will bring that which he used great energy to obtain, for clearly a dove is not so easily caught as a bullock.  In that connection, note the specific mention in Matthew 21:12 of “the seats of them that sold doves”, which the Saviour in His zeal overturned.  “Seats” and “sold” do not go with “doves”, for the latter speak of spiritual energy and of that which money cannot buy.

Thus the offerer unashamedly brought the poor man’s offering, not because he was lacking in spirituality, but rather the reverse, for “God hath chosen the poor of this world rich in faith,” James 2:5.  His gift was a foreshadowing of that time when He who was so rich, should become so poor, 2 Corinthians 8:9.

Again we ask, which will the offerer choose?  Will he select the turtle dove, a summer visitor to Palestine, or the young pigeon, the resident in the land?  Whichever he chooses will speak of Christ, for was He not at one and the same time a visitor and a resident in the promised land?

We might well think of the days of the prophets as the days of decline, with dark shadows approaching, the autumn of Israel’s experience.  The days of Malachi were winter indeed, with no warmth of love to God from the masses of Israel, no growth of appreciation of His Person, no fruit to His praise, but rather cold indifference and the idleness of apathy.  But Israel’s spring came with the arrival upon the scene of John the Baptist.  He it was who echoed the cry of the Song of Solomon 2:8, “Behold He cometh!”  At long last the winter is past, the rain is over and gone, the flowers appear on the earth and the sure sign of approaching summer is heard, the song of the turtle dove, verse 12.  Truly as Jeremiah said “the turtle observes the time of her coming,” 8:7 and “when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth His Son,” Gal 4.4.

Thus the choice of the turtle dove would remind the heart of God of the time when His Son would be in the world, and a spiritual man who had “come from above” would be able to tell what He had seen and heard with the Father.  The “voice of the turtle would be heard in their land” and there would be a response in the hearts of some, who would, by receiving the testimony of the One from above, set to their seal that God was true, and to them, as to Christ, the Father would give the Spirit without measure, John 3:31-34.  Well might we worship the Father for such a Visitor as this!  And like the self-abasing Psalmist say, “What is.. the son of man, that Thou visitest Him?”

The pigeon was a resident in Canaan and especially common in the valley of the river Jordan.  But it was a dove from heaven that descended upon the Lord at His baptism in that river, for heaven’s smile was upon Him.  In a very real sense the Lord Jesus was at home in the Land of Israel, for it was the land promised to Abraham and to his seed in Genesis 12:7.  That seed was Christ, as Galatians 3.16 indicates, and hence the land belonged to Him because of the promise of God.  But Christ had another and a prior claim, for He is Jesus-Jehovah, and as such could say, “the land is mine”, Leviticus 25:23.  Therefore as the God of Abraham, and the Son of Abraham, the Lord owned the land- it was His home.  The tragedy was that when He came to His own (home), His own people received Him not, John 1:11.  Like Simon the Pharisee, they washed not His feet to refresh Him after His journey to them, gave Him no kiss of welcome and affection, and refused Him the anointing that would have indicated they thought Him to be the Messiah, Luke 7:44-46.  Just as in Simon’s house there was one who gave to Him these things, so in the midst of the nation there were those who received Him gladly and to them gave He the authority to take their place as children of God, John 1:12.

1:15  And the priest shall bring it unto the altar, and wring off his head, and burn it on the altar; and the blood thereof shall be wrung out at the side of the altar:

There is a measure of intelligence in this sacrifice which is not at first apparent if we only consider the physical size of the animal brought.  There was an appreciation by the supplier of this dove that God is not so much interested in quantity, as in quality.  This principle applies to every aspect of the service of the Lord.  See 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 for instance, or Mark 12:41-44.  Not that He disregards quantity altogether, but He is not pleased with quantity at the expense of quality.  The man is not embarrassed by the apparent smallness of his present, for he is coming to One who reads the heart and who sees not as man sees.  He has no reservations as he delivers the bird to the priest to bring to the altar.

There might be a measure of pride and boastfulness lurking in the heart of the one who brought a bullock, for he was publicly bringing what all would recognise as a valuable animal, especially in the midst of a desert.  But there would be no such conceit with the man who brought a dove.  As believers, we might well learn a lesson from this, lest whilst professing to minister to the heart of God, we are in fact ministering to our own ego.  Let us remember the words of the Lord Jesus as He quoted Isaiah’s prophecy “This people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honoureth Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me,” Matthew 15:8.  By drawing near in such a way they displayed a grave lack of priestly intelligence as to the requirements of God.  And was it not sadly true that even amongst the believers at Corinth there were those “who had not the knowledge of God”?  They had a very limited grasp as to who the God of Christianity really was.  Let us not forget that fundamental statement of God in Hosea 6.6, “I desired mercy and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.”  In other words, the attitude of heart and mind of the offerer is more important than the animal offered.  May the Lord deliver us from the hypocrisy of appearing to bring a large and impressive offering, when in fact our hearts are not enlarged in love to God and His Son.

The wringing off of the head of gthe bird is clearly the equivalent of the killing of the bullock or sheep before the Lord.  Having been wrung off, the head is burnt as incense upon the altar, by itself.  Moreover, the head of the bird is said to be dealt with by the priest, whereas with the bullock or sheep all the parts are spoken of as being cut up by the offerer.  Thus the head is physically separated by being wrung off, and is also separated from the rest of the bird by being burnt first.

This separation highlights the importance of the head of the dove, and the incense of the burning of the head gives character to the subsequent actions of the priest, for the sweet savour arises as he proceeds further with the ritual.

Isaiah chapter one speaks of the ox knowing his owner, and this is indeed true, for a bullock will recognise the one who habitually feeds it and works with it.  But the head-knowledge of a dove is of a different sort, for Jeremiah says that the dove “knoweth the time of her coming”, and the context shows he is referring to the marvel of migration.

But the insight of the pigeon is slightly different, for that bird has a homing instinct; so whereas the dove knows how to leave home, the pigeon knows how to go back home.  How like Christ these thing are!  For He left the Fathers’ House to come into this “world of woe”, and then left the world, and went back to the Father.  While He was here, the Lord Jesus displayed insight in four main areas: His knowledge of the Father, e.g. John 8:55.  His knowledge of men, e.g. John 5:42.  His knowledge of the Cross beforehand, e.g. John 18:4.  His knowledge of His going and its time e.g. John 8:14; 13:1.

See how this fits in with the dove of the burnt offering.  As the one who knows the Father uniquely, Christ lived down here upon the earth for the Father’s delight, and manifested those features which mark Him out as God’s Beloved.  And as we have seen already, it is as Beloved that He renders His believing people acceptable.

As One who knew the hearts of men, He came to earth so that on the Cross He might deal with their shortcomings, and place believers in a position of favour.  The work of the Cross was executed by One whose knowledge of the Old Testament was total.  This is not to say that He went to the Cross in any fatalistic or automatic way, but He was not satisfied until He could say “It is finished”, and the whole of the ancient prophecies relating to His death were fulfilled to the very letter.

Like the dove, He had known the time of His coming, for it was “the time appointed of the Father,” Galatians 4:1-5.  The book of Genesis had begun with a man, Adam, who was “figure of Him that was to come,” Romans 5:14.  And it had ended with the ancient patriarch foretelling that Shiloh would come, and exclaiming, “I have waited for Thy salvation O Lord,” Genesis 49:18.  The word he used for salvation being the equivalent to Jesus.  So all down the years the prospect of Christ’s coming sustained the hearts of His waiting  people; it was almost as if He was already on His way!  For did not Micah say that His goings forth have been from of old?  Micah 5:2.  He also said “from everlasting,”  and thus we learn that it has ever been in the heart of Christ to come into this world for the sake of His Father’s interests and ours.

Like the pigeon, moreover, He knew the time to go home.  Time and again in John’s Gospel we read the expression, “His hour had not yet come”, but as last He can lift up His eyes into heaven, as if with longing gaze, and say “Father, the hour is come” and “I come to Thee”, John 17:1,11.  His occupation, when back home, will engage our thoughts a little later on.

Before we pass on from this consideration of the head of the dove, let us not lose the lesson for ourselves in all this.  Believers are bidden to “present their bodies a living sacrifice”, this being their “reasonable (logical, intelligent) service,” Romans 12:1.  There is a great need for the Lord’s people to surrender their sanctified intellectual powers to God, that, instead of using them for personal gain and advancement in this world, they may be at His disposal to use in the furthering of His interests.  May the Lord challenge us in these things.

Too many of the people of God have apparently lost the ability to think, and have settled down into a passive acceptance of all that reaches their ears, whether from the platform or, alas, from the world.  This is a potentially disastrous situation, for by being in such a state we lay ourselves open to the attacks of the enemy.  We need to be “casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ, 2 Corinthians 10:5.  Let us “prove all things; hold fast that which is good,” 1 Thessalonians 5:21; seeking true nobility, like those of Berea, who “received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so,” Acts 17:11.

The greater amount of blood from the bullock is sprinkled round about upon the altar, to give, as we have suggested, the assurance at eye-level of the acceptance of the offering, and the offerer’s acceptance through it.  With the dove, of course, there will be less blood, but to counteract this it is wrung out at the side or wall of the altar.  In other words, the blood is put where it may be easily seen, despite its smallness in quantity.  Does this not emphasise to us that the effect of the blood is governed, not by its quantity, but by its quality.  This lesson is taught again in Leviticus 16, where to effect the atonement for the whole house of Israel Aaron sprinkled the blood with his finger. The blood that can be held on a finger is all that God requires.  And if this is true of the blood of an animal, how much more of the blood of Christ?  For the Scriptures are absolutely silent as to the amount of blood that was shed at the Cross, but they are very insistent as to its quality.  “The precious blood of Christ” is the word of 1 Peter 1:19, whilst Paul says “in whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature,” Colossians 1:14,15.

Let us rejoice in the effects of the blood of Christ, which effects accrue because of whose blood it was that was shed at Calvary.  Let us not, on the other hand, be influenced by the school of thought which wishes to remove the word blood from the Christian’s vocabulary, and in particular, from the preacher’s.  Let there be no mistaking the fact that “without shedding of blood is no remission,” Hebrews 9:22; and “it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul,” Leviticus 17:11.  Whilst there should not be an over-emphasis on the more harrowing details of the crucifixion of Christ, nevertheless we should remember that it was a cruel and violent death that was meted out to the Son of God; but then, sin is cruel and violent.  Coupled with this, the life of the soul is in the blood, and His soul was poured out unto death.  Everything that touched the altar was to be holy, Exodus 29:37, and the fact that this blood did so touch the altar indicated its holy character.  We would do well, then, to only have holy thoughts about the blood of Christ.

1:16  And he shall pluck away his crop with his feathers, and cast it beside the altar on the east part, by the place of the ashes:

This most interesting operation is, of course, only carried out in the case of the bird-offering.  First of all we may notice where it is the crop and feathers of the bird are cast.  If in the case of the lamb, the killing of the animal at the north side of the altar is specially mentioned, then here we have the east part specified as being the place of the ashes.  If the north side was the place of the shadows, then the east part was surely the place of the sun-rise.  For the rays of the rising sun would first strike the east wall of the altar, which, in fact, was the side nearest to the offerer as he approached it.  It is not too difficult to relate the place of the sun-rising with the place of resurrection.  The words of Mark are interesting in this connection, “And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.” Mark 16:2.  Couple this with the fact made known by John that the garden-tomb was in the place where Jesus was crucified, 19:41, or to put it another way, was in the “place of sacrifice”.  Then we readily see that the sun is rising on the east wall of the altar, so to speak, and is lighting up the place of the ashes.  For the ashes were evidence that a sacrifice had been offered and were carefully deposited, with due ceremony, (Leviticus 6:8-11), firstly at the base of the altar, and then without the camp in a clean place.

Correspondingly, the body of the Lord Jesus was reverently taken down from the cross and laid in a new tomb.  And all this took place “without the camp” Hebrews 13:12,13.  So like the ashes in the ancient ritual, his body was not only associated with the place of death as it lay buried, but at the same time was disassociated from the uncleanness of the camp of Israel.

Thus the link is maintained between the Christ who died, and the Christ who was buried, and the link is formally broken between Christ and Judaism.  But not only was He buried in a garden, but having risen from the dead, He appeared to Mary in that garden.  And these are the very things that the apostle links together in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, “Christ died…He was buried…He rose again…He was seen”.  There can be no gospel without the setting forth of these fundamental doctrines, and they who preach, yet ignore them, betray the Son of God again.  Beware of a so-called gospel which appeals to some supposed good in man, whilst forgetting that it was man that put the Lord of glory on a cross.

But returning to Leviticus chapter 1, we note that it was the crop and the feathers of the bird that were cast onto the place of the ashes.  Incidentally, the word “cast” is the same as is used of Jonah, (whose name as we have said means ‘dove’), when he was cast into a watery grave during the tempest.  So this further reinforces the idea of resurrection present in these verses.  For Jonah was the man who died and rose again, in a figure,  Matthew 12:39,40.

The crop of the bird is the receptacle that holds undigested food; that which has been received and taken in, but which has not yet been assimilated and turned into energy.  Has this anything to teach us about Christ?  His own words were, to disciples who had gone away into Samaria to buy bread, “I have meat to eat that ye know not of”, and again “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work” John 4:32,34.

We learn then that what sustained the Lord Jesus in His pathway down here was His doing of the will of God.  When in the wilderness being tempted of the devil, He had fasted for forty days, and yet it was only afterwards that He felt hunger.  What sustained Him during those forty days without food?  The answer is found in the first response of Christ to the devil, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God,” Matthew. 4:4.  It was the Word of God which gave Him strength and energy.  The lesson for believers is clear- they shall only overcome temptation to the degree in which the Word of God is their spiritual food.

So Christ’s meat, his food, his bread, was to do the will of God, and all the instructions the Father gave to Him were taken into His very being and translated into energetic effort for the Father’s honour, so that He can say at the end of His earthly ministry “I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do,” John 17:4.  So that which spoke of food undigested, energy unused, was absent when the dove was laid upon the altar, to present us with a fitting picture of Christ.

There is more we may learn from this, however, for the crop was cast on the spot which suggests resurrection, the east of the altar.  Certainly the work of revealing the Father has been gloriously completed to God’s evident satisfaction, John 12:28, but Christ has taken up further ministry in resurrection manhood.  He serves still and in fact has taken the servant’s place for ever.

This present, unfinished work He hinted at to Mary, in the garden, near the tomb, near the “place of the ashes”.  Said He “I ascend (and the word is the direct equivalent of the word “ascending offering” as found in Leviticus 1), unto My Father and your Father; and to My God and your God,” John 20:17.  What does this statement mean?  Notice first of all, that the Lord Jesus does not say “Our Father”, “Our God,” but carefully distinguishes His relationship to God from that of believers.  Whilst the true believer has God for his Father and for his God, yet it is on an entirely different basis.  The Lord Jesus is the Son of God from all eternity, for in the Scriptures sonship involves the sharing of nature, and God’s nature is eternal.  God is love, and love must have an object to love, hence we may say that Christ, the Son of His love, is His eternal Son.  Believers on the other hand, are children of God by new birth, and sons of God by adoption, and because of this are able to call God their Father.  Thus we have the same Father as the Lord Jesus has, but on a different basis.

We have the same God, too, but again the reason is different.  The Spirit of Christ in the psalmist expressed Himself thus: “I was cast upon Thee from the womb: Thou art My God from My mother’s belly,” Psalm 22:10.  So from the moment of His taking manhood the Lord regarded God as His God, for He had come into a position of submission and dependence, and needed the support and succour of His God whilst down here.  There was never any suspicion of independence with Christ, for He ever relied in faith upon God.  In fact He is the Author and Finisher of the true life of faith.

How different it is with unbelievers!  From our birth we rebelled against the will of God, for the mind of the flesh is “not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be,” Romans 8:7.  How often we demonstrated that our will was contrary to God’s, going astray as soon as we were born, speaking lies, Psalm 58:3.  But then God intervened in mercy, and because of the person and work of His Son we were given a new place before Him, with a new nature which responds to His will.  The life of faith then began for us, and there was given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.  The only true God had become our God and Father.

Something more is needed, however, for we need One in the presence of God who can maintain us in our new-found position.  And this One we have in our ascended Saviour, who represents His people before God, and ministers as Advocate and High Priest.  This word “advocate” is the same as “comforter,” thus the support that Christ gave His own as a comforter on earth is continued for us in heaven, for He is Jesus Christ the same yesterday, (on earth), today, (in heaven), and for ever.  How appropriate that this should be suggested in the dove section of the chapter, for the Holy Spirit of God, who appeared as a dove at Jordan, is ‘another comforter’; another, that is, of a same sort as Christ, John 14:16.

The Lord Jesus acts as a advocate in relation to the sins of His people.  Note, in 1 John 2;1, the word “if”, “if any man sin.”  Not when, as if it would be habitual, but if, as being occasional and unusual.  The believer is expected to have done with sins, 1 Peter 2:24 margin, but should, unhappily, the need arise, communion with the Father and the Son is restored by the advocacy of Jesus Christ the righteous.  Christians are stated to be by constitution those who, far from denying they have a sin-principle within, confess that sometimes they allow it to assert itself, and sin spoils their relationship with their Father.  They are assured, however, that upon confession, this fellowship is restored.  See 1 John 1:8-2:2.

The basis upon which this can happen is two-fold, namely, the person and the work of Christ.  His personal presence with the Father as Advocate, representing their cause, defending their interests, ensures forgiveness and restoration when they confess.  And, says the apostle, “He is the propitiation for our sins.  Not ‘He was’, but “He is”.  For the same One who at Calvary became the satisfactory sin-offering by which propitiation was made, is now in heaven to plead His people’s cause when the accuser of the brethren seeks to do his diabolical work against them.

So much for our relationship to the Father, but the Lord also said “I ascend to…your God”.  This involves His priestly ministry as set out in the Epistle to the Hebrews.  As a Great Priest over the House of God, a position granted to Him at His ascension, (see Hebrews 4:14; 5:6; Psalm 110:4,1; Acts 2:34; Hebrews 9:11,12), the Lord Jesus is engaged in a ministry of succour, Hebrews 2:18, sympathy, Hebrews 4:15 and intercession Hebrews 7:25.

With regard to the latter, the Scripture assures us first of all that as High Priest He continueth ever, for His priesthood is not transferable.  Not only will His priesthood never degenerate into the lower order of Aaron, but, in contrast to the high priests of Old Testament times, who passed on their garments of office at death, He shall never hand over to another, for He continueth ever.  We can absolutely rely on His unfailing support.  There is no limit to His abilities and He is able to save to the uttermost those that come unto God by Him; no extremity is too hard for Him to deal with.  What a contrast to Aaron in Leviticus 10:3, for faced with an extreme situation, Aaron held his peace!  Our High Priest ever liveth to make intercession for us.

Hebrews 7.26 says such an High Priest “became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens”.  It is these things that distinguish Him from all others and interestingly, these words are used of the dove as well.  The dove was suitable for sacrifice and was therefore holy; we are exhorted to be harmless as doves; The Song of Solomon describes the bride as “my dove, my undefiled”; and we remember that after the Flood the dove would have no contact with the debris of a judged world, and in that sense was separate from sinners; and finally, we remember the words of David, written in the year of Absalom’s rebellion, when he was forced to flee over the brook Kidron, up the Mount of Olives- “Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away and be at rest”! Psalm 55:6.  A foreshadowing of the occasion when David’s Son and David’s Lord would cross that same stream, climb that same hill, and after death and resurrection, would be made higher than the heavens and be at rest on the right hand of God.

Whilst in one sense He is “at rest”, in another sense, He is very active, occupied with the ministry of advocacy and priesthood we have briefly touched upon, and He successfully maintains His people in the place of acceptance into which His sacrifice at Calvary has brought them

The feathers are the glory of the dove, its beautiful plumage giving it distinction.  Yet they have no place on the altar.  We know that when Christ the Messiah of Israel came to that nation, they saw no beauty in Him that they should desire Him, Isaiah 53:2.  He did not match their expectations of a ruthless warrior treading down their enemies and giving them peace and stability in the land of Israel.  Nonetheless He was “glorious in the eyes of the Lord” Isaiah 49:5, and there were a few believing souls who “beheld His glory,” John 1:14.  He had deliberately chosen a pathway of no reputation, having taken a servant’s form, Philippians 2:7.

The nation of Israel had chosen for their first king one who was head and shoulders above them, 1 Samuel 9:2, whereas God’s choice was one described as the least, 1 Samuel 16:11, margin.  Thus God’s thoughts are shown to be different to man’s, in this, as in all matters.  He delights in those who take the low place, and He “resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble,” 1 Peter 5:5.

So the feathers, which drew attention to the dove, and gave it glory, are taken from it, to remind us of the One who humbled Himself even unto death, and that the death of the Cross with all its shame and abuse.  But from this lowest place Christ has ascended to the highest, and the apostle Paul describes that ascension in words from Psalm 68- “Thou has ascended up on high”.  And whether we regard the thirteenth verse of that psalm as referring to the comparative obscurity of the ark as it was kept in the house of Amminadab, amongst the common and everyday cooking pots on the grate, to be followed by a position of glory in a Temple adorned with silver and gold; or whether we adopt the marginal rendering “sheepfolds” and think of David’s humble occupation as a shepherd, followed by the glory of sitting on Israel’s throne, the principle is clear, that the once despised and lowly one is surely to be placed in a position of glory.  And just as when the sun shines on the plumage of a bird it brings out beauties which are unseen on a cloudy day, so hidden glories shall yet be seen in Christ.

When those glories shine forth in the earth, His “time” will have come, of which He spoke in John 7:1-18.  His brethren according to the flesh sought to suggest that He should show Himself to the world, but they were unbelieving, as verse 5 says, and hence were ignorant of the purposes of God.  For the hour of which the Saviour spoke so often in John’s Gospel, the hour of His suffering at the Cross, when He would drink the cup of wrath from God (c.f. Mark 14:35,36), must transpire, before the “time”, the period of His glorious reign upon the earth, could run its course.  Their time of opportunity for blessing was always at hand, if they would but believe.  In a world full of hatred for Him, Christ’s present work was to testify of its evil and to go to the Cross to bring this world-system to an effective end as far as God is concerned, John 7:7,33.

In John 7 the season was the Feast of Tabernacles, when Israel commemorated their journey through the wilderness and their arrival in the Land of Promise.  The festival was a foretaste of the glorious Millennial reign of Christ on the earth, when Israel’s wandering among the nations will be over and they will enter into the rest that God has prepared for them, Hebrews 3:7-4.11.  What more suitable time, it might be thought, for One Who claimed to be the Messiah to manifest Himself.  But Christ does not move and act in line with natural reasoning, but in harmony with the counsels of the Father; hence He goes up to the feast, not as one who makes a display, but rather, in secret, so that He had to be sought out, and men asked “Where is He ?”  Thus He demonstrated that far from seeking His own glory, He sought only that of the One who had sent Him, and by this was demonstrated to be the true Messiah with no unrighteous motives or self-interest, John 7:18.

There is an important lesson here for believers.  We are not to be occupied with self and its aspirations, but rather should actively seek the lowly place, for “before honour, humility”.  Let us humble ourselves under the Mighty Hand of God, that He may exalt in due time.  Let us learn from the heap of feathers on the ashes beside the altar.

1:17  And he shall cleave it with the wings thereof, but shall not divide it asunder: and the priest shall burn it upon the altar, upon the wood that is upon the fire: it is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord.

We draw our consideration of the burnt offering to a close by taking account of a very precious thing.  The animals used as burnt offerings were cut in pieces and exposed fully upon the altar in clear view of the offerer, and consequently the excellence of the animal was fully known.  With the dove the procedure is different, for whilst the process of dividing was begun, (cleave it with the wings), it was not completed, (not divide it asunder).

We rejoice to know that the love, devotion, and energy of Christ have been fully exposed at the Cross, and there brought into full display.  But we also rejoice to know that there are depths in the person of Christ that we shall not know because we cannot know.  His own testimony was that “no man knoweth the Son, but the Father,” Matthew 11:27.  For whilst the Father may be known as the Son reveals Him, with the Son it is not so.  The Father is simply God, but the Son is God manifest in flesh, and great is this mystery of godliness.

Shall we not be content to allow Divine Persons to enjoy their infinite knowledge of One Another?  For “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever,” Deuteronomy 29:29.

    O precious Saviour, we now Thee adore,
    We praise Thy Name;
    The Lord from heav’n, where Thou wast e’re before;
    We own Thy claim.
    Beloved object of the Father’s heart,
    His own dear Son, Thou didst of flesh take part.

    Thy sinless manhood, holy, pure and right,
    Hath fitted Thee
    To do God’s Will, and in that Will delight,
    Well pleased is He!
    For Thee the altar was the goal in view,
    There Thou didst go, with purpose glad and true.

    There all was yielded as an offering
    Of savour sweet
    On our behalf – for we had naught to bring,
    Nor could God meet.
    Thou didst the north, in shadows occupy,
    But rose in glory, and went up on high.

    Thy Father’s heart is fully satisfied,
    Thou hast done well.
    Nothing remains to do, since Thou hast died,
    We joy to tell.
    Accepted in God’s Well-beloved Son,
    In Him we stand, Who all God’s Will hath done.

    May be sung as a hymn to the tune “Sandon”.