Leviticus Chapter 1
Because I'm teaching a sermon series on the book of Hebrews, I've been digging into the book of Leviticus from which Hebrews gets much of its foundation. I know many believe Leviticus to be legalistic boredom at its finest, however, I find relevance in it's invitation for real people to please God. Pleasing God sounds like something I want to do! How about you?
Leviticus is full of priests and tabernacles and sacrifices and starts off with a series of offerings the Hebrew people were to offer to God. The first is found in Leviticus chapter 1 and it is called a Burnt Offering. It's called that because the entire offering is burned away as verse 9 says, ". . . It is a burnt offering, a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the LORD." The offering can be one of three things. It can be from your herd such as a bull. It can be from your flock such as a sheep or a lamb, or it can be a young dove or pigeon if you're financially strapped. What is it that makes this a pleasing aroma to the Lord? Is it just that God loves the smell of good barbeque like you and I, or is there something deeper going on here?
There are a few particulars about how this burnt offering is to be made that should grab your attention. First, it has to be a male. That's probably because the males were considered to be more valuable. This offering is about our heart and what we are willing to give to God. Are we giving that with the most valuable or the leftovers? It also says that "You are to lay your hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on your behalf to make atonement for you."(vs. 4). By laying your hand on the animal to be slaughtered, you are identifying yourself with the animal. It's taking my place. Then the person who had their hands on the animal would slit the animals throat. The priest may help you, but you as an individual have to sacrifice that animal. You have to take its life because its life is in exchange for yours. Each of us has to make a decision for Christ and no one can do it for us.
After that, the priests would take the blood from the animal and splash it on the altar. The animal would then be cut into pieces, however, before the pieces were put on the fire, the organs and the legs would be washed. I believe that's because that's were the excrement would be; in the organs or on the legs after being excreted. We don't want that nasty stuff to be a part of an offering we are offering to the Most High God! Then the priests take the pieces and arrange it on a fire on the altar to be completely consumed by the fire and it makes a pleasing aroma to the Lord.
So what does this teach us about pleasing God? I mean, that's what you desire, right? What is it that you offer to God and how does it compare to what God finds pleasing according to Leviticus 1? First of all, the offering came from your own livestock. It wasn't some random wild animal that wasn't yours. Our offerings to the Lord cost us something. They belong to us and we give them to God. Does your offering or ministry to God cost you anything? Is it just roadkill? Is it the leftovers? If so, is that offering or ministry really pleasing to God?
Second, the offering was given of our own free will. We weren't coerced or forced into making this gesture. Are you ministering, giving, loving, serving or obeying God freely or do you truly feel forced or coerced.
Thirdly, the offering is consumed completely. It all belongs to God. Again, we don't give God the bad parts to be burned while we enjoy a delicious brisket. This is a true sacrifice that is all for God. Is your ministry, giving, loving, serving or obeying all for God or is it partly for you? For your pride? For your reputation? For your gain?
Finally, we find that there are different options for offering depending on whether you are well off or poor. If you have the financial means to offer a bull, then you should offer a bull. If you can offer a lamb, then offer a lamb and that will be pleasing to God. But if you are strapped and can only offer a dove or pigeon, God is just as pleased with the aroma from that offering as He is with the bull, because the offering is about the heart of the giver and not the size of the offering. But what if you have the means to offer a bull but bring to God a pigeon instead? Will God be equally pleased with the smell of that offering? I think you know that answer is no, because the offering reflects your heart. Are you giving God your first and best? Is your ministry, giving , loving, serving or obeying simply chump change from your life, or is it something of great value and cost? If so, it is a pleasing aroma to the Lord.
*References - Guzik - Blue Letter Bible; NIV Bible