Monthly Archives: April 2016

Leviticus 3

1If his offering is a sacrifice of peace offering, if he brings near cattle from among the herd, a male or female, he will offer it without blemish before the LORD. 2He will lay his hand on the head of his offering and will kill it at the entrance to the tent of appointment, and the sons of Aaron, the priests, will splash the blood all around the altar. 3And from the sacrifice of the peace offering, as an offering made by fire the LORD, he will bring near [offer] the fat covering the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails, 4and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins, and the long lobe of liver that he will remove with the kidneys. 5Then the sons of Aaron will send it up in smoke on the altar on the burnt offering that is on the wood that is on the fire; it is an offering made by fire—a soothing aroma to the LORD. 6If his offering for a sacrifice of peace offering to the LORD is from the flock, male or female, he will offer it without blemish. 7If he offers a young ram for his offering, he will offer it before the LORD. 8He will lay his hands on the head of his offering and kill it before the tent of appointment, and the sons of Aaron will splash the blood all around the altar. 9Then from the sacrifice of the peace offering he shall offer as an offering by fire to the LORD its fat, and the whole fat tail that he will cut off from close to the backbone, and the fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails, 10and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins, and the long lobe of liver that he will remove with the kidneys. 11Then the priest will send it up in smoke on the altar as a food offering to the LORD. 12If his offering is a goat, he will bring it before the LORD. 13And he will lay his hand on its head, and will kill it at the opening of the tent of appointment, and the sons of Aaron will splash the blood all around the altar. 14Then he will offer from it, as a fire offering to the LORD, the fat that is covering the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails, 15and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins, and the long lobe of liver that he will remove with the kidneys. 16And the priest will send them up in smoke on the altar as a fire offering with soothing aroma. 17All fat is the LORD’s. It will be a custom forever through your generations in all your dwelling places: you will eat neither fat nor blood.

 

This third offering is called the שׁלם offering, or the “peace” offering. It is commonly referred to as the “fellowship” offering, since the Hebrew word is associated with fellowship. This sacrifice is part of the ritual that provides reconciliation with God. The burnt offering expiated sin, the cereal offering was about worship, and the peace offering is about being in His presence. Though we may not feel like it, in our natural state we are enemies with God. Paul tells the Romans that before people come to Jesus they are God’s enemies (Ro 5.10), and he tells the Colossians that “you were alienated and hostile in your minds because of your evil actions” (Co 1.21). According to Mosely, there are five facts that form the theological basis of the sacrifice:

  1. God is holy, and no sin is allowed in His presence.
  2. God is just, and must therefore punish sin.
  3. The penalty for sin is death.
  4. People are sinners, so we’re not allowed in God’s presence, and we are headed toward death.
  5. God is gracious and loving enough to have provided the means by which we may be reconciled to Him.

It is important to note that this was an offering that could be set up at any time. Often offered on highest occasions in Israel’s history— Covenant at Mount Sinai (Ex 24.5), installation of Saul as King (1 Sa 11.15), David’s bringing of the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem (2 Sa 6.17-18) dedication of Solomon’s Temple (1 Ki 8.64). It was yet another acknowledgment that God had provided the means for atonement, just like He had with Abraham on the mountain with Isaac.

 

The worshiper would lay hands on the head of the animal. This was a symbol of identification with it—a ceremonial association with the animal. It symbolized the transfer of sins from the worshiper to the animal. On the Day of Atonement, the high priest would lay his hands on the sacrificial animal and confess the sins of Israel, transferring their transgressions onto the animal. Each individual worshiper did the same in the peace offering. In doing this, he was actually doing four things: (1) acknowledging guilt; (2) affirming God’s just penalty; (3) acknowledging principle of substitutionary atonement; and (4) seeking God’s atonement.

 

Some might ask: “why all the detail about the livers and kidneys and stuff?” Great question. In ancient Mesopotamian culture, livers were associated with Mesopotamian divination. Instead of trying to divine the future, the worshiper is trusting God for the future. The kidneys were associated with the seat of emotions, like the heart to English-speakers. Thus, the worshiper is trusting God with his inmost thoughts, emotions and motives. The fat was considered the best part of the animal. If the animal is analogous to man, the worshiper is then offering the best part of himself to God. As with the burnt offering, part of the priest’s job here is to splash the blood all around the sides of the altar before sending it up in smoke as a soothing aroma to God. This symbolized that God was pleased to accept the sacrifice on behalf of the offerer (Hartley).

 

I think it is important to note here that these sacrifices were never mindless rituals; there was so much detail that the worshiper had to stop and think about what he was doing, and how to obey God’s word. There was a careful diligence involved. Another important difference with respect to the peace offering is that it, unlike the burnt offering, is a meal. Specifically, it was a festive meal eaten in or near the sanctuary (Wenham). The priest was given the breast and right thigh of the animal (7.31), symbolizing that God intended for the priesthood to take its living from the full-time service to His people. Verses 11 and 16 show the worshiper eating. In the New Testament, the Last Supper is the transition ritual, and celebrating the Lord’s Table today is the New Covenant version of this peace offering. We are meant to be in fellowship, and peace and fellowship are symbolized by the breaking of bread. We are simply unable to “walk the Christian walk” outside the community of faith. How would that even be possible, given all the “one anothers” that exist in the New Testament (Ja 5.16, He 10.25, Ga 6.2, He 3.13, Jn 13.34, 1 Pe 4.10, Eph 4.32)?

 

Application #1: God has reconciled us to Himself through the ultimate sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. It is His will that we be reconciled to one another. While we no longer have to physically lay our hands on an animal to engage in reconciliation (again, this was already done by God), the celebration that we have each time we take the Lord’s Supper is a sort of New Testament ritual that demonstrates this reconciliation. It is a time of peace offering—fellowship with one another, as God intended. I think there is much to be learned in the biblical teaching of eating with one another generally, too….outside of the Lord’s Table, we should regularly break bread with one another. It is the ultimate peace and fellowship symbol.

 

Application #2: When we come before God each Sunday, do we just stand around mouthing some Chris Tomlin words? Or do we also acknowledge our guilt and His sacrifice that rectified it? Do we come before Him in reverence and submission, or are we doing a chore? The attitude is the difference. We are called to bring a sacrifice of praise.

 

Application #3: Do we offer our best to Him? Or do we give Him what we have left over at the end of a hectic week? If that’s our attitude, it’s very likely that we don’t even show up in His house at all over time. Tithing is one way to give God your firstfruits—your best—but giving Him the firstfruits of your time is even more valuable. It’s the one resource you never get back, once you’ve spent it. To invest it in His presence with His people is giving Him your best. And what about your gifts and talents? What about your skills? Can you type? Do you know Office software? Do you understand how to run a Power Point presentation? Can you vacuum a carpet? Can you mow grass? Can you watch the nursery? If you’re “giving your best” to a boss that pays you money and maybe kinda-sorta giving God what’s left over at the end of the week, you are doing this wrong.

 

Application #4: When you come before God, are you diligent? Do you care about how He has taught your worship to be done, or are you only interested in doing it the way you’ve always done it? Do you value and revere His word enough to follow His instructions—even when they conflict with your previously held views?

 

Application #5: Are you aware that God has always intended for ministers to take their livings from the ministry? From the Aaronic priesthood to the stinginess of the Corinthian church (chapter 9), biblical teaching has always been consistent: the people of God bring their tithes and offerings into His house, and their slave the priest takes his living from it. While the rest of the Israelites were allowed to inherit land and have possessions that God gave them from the Canaanites, the priests were not—their portion was service in God’s house. Are you mindful of this when you make decisions about the money with which God has momentarily blessed you?

 

These are all valid applications relevant to our modern worship. It is important in His prescriptions on worship that we are diligent in following His instructions. What are those, according to chapter 3? Are we bringing God our best, being faithful to those who serve us in His house, approaching His presence with reverence and gratitude, and breaking bread with one another?

 

 

 

 

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Leviticus 2:1-16

One of the key words in this chapter is מִנְחָה֙, which occurs 210 times in the OT. It typically means a gift or present, or more commonly a tribute. It is used here of a grain offering. Mesopotamian vassal nations paid מִנְחָה֙ to overlord kings as a sign of tribute or loyalty. The overlord king demanded what was due him, which was the loyalty tribute. When the Israelites offer this, they are offering God the worship that is due only to Him. It is telling that Leviticus 1 deals with the burnt offering for atonement; Leviticus 2 does not have anything to do with atonement. It is about worship. God knew His people would transgress His law, so He provided a means of atonement so they could come into His presence (Mosely). He is not only the Provider, but also is relational and desires communion with man. In this chapter, He is describing how they will come into His presence.

 

It is no accident that the cereal offering comes immediately after the burnt offering; the official daily burnt offering was always followed by the cereal offering (Nu 28). It’s not an animal sacrifice. Only a handful of this is burned, and the rest is given to the priest for food. He, in turn, burns a memorial portion as his own offering to YHWH. The cereal offering is the dedication of a man’s life and work to God (Wenham). “I dedicate myself and my possessions to You” (Mosely). He is demonstrating, rather than just saying. This was how God COMMANDED worship of His people.

 

Moreover, the use of “fine flour” tells us something about how God desires our worship to appear, as well: God’s people were only to bring the best to Him. We must also remember that frankincense was expensive. Ergo, it was costly in both time and money to worship YHWH. Nowhere in the book of Leviticus will you see a concern on God’s part that the Israelites be very comfortable in worship. Nowhere in this book do you see His provision for making sure everyone feels at home. The tabernacle is HIS home, not the Israelites’; they are to approach Him in a reverential and sacrificial fashion.

 

There were three ways of preparing the cereal offering: (1) the first is found in 2.4—in an תַנּ֑וּר, or an oven, which was typically a large ceramic pot. A hole was dug in the ground and the oven was put into the hole, and the bread was baked within it (Hartley); (2) the second, in 2.5, is in a הַֽמַּחֲבַ֖ת, which was a type of metal plate or griddle. In this would be made flat cakes, not unlike pancakes. These would then be crumbled by the priest and oil poured on them before they were offered as a cereal offering; and (3) the third is found in 2.7—in a מַרְחֶ֖שֶׁת, or a deep pan with a lid. This is a deep-fry method. One reason leaven was forbidden might be that it is associated with yeast, a living organism. Nothing living is offered on the altar. It is also associated with putrefaction, or that which can be fermented or corrupted. No one really knows, but this isn’t the worse guess in the world. All grain offerings were offered with salt (מֶ֚לַח), which could not be destroyed by calamity or time. It symbolizes the abiding, eternal nature of the covenant between God and His people (Num 18.19, 2 Chr 13.5). In the OT, salt is connected with covenant a couple of times (Nu 18.19, 2 Chr 13.5)…a reminder that the worshipper is in an eternal covenant relationship with the living God. God would never forsake him, and he himself had a perpetual duty to uphold and keep the covenant law. Note the cultural and religious emphasis on duty; no Israelite came to the tabernacle nonchalantly, without a keen sense of duty to His God and his community.

 

1If any soul brings near a cereal offering to the LORD, it will be of fine flour, and he will pour oil on it and will put frankincense on it. 2Then he will bring it to the sons of Aaron the priests, and he will take his handful from the flour thereof, and of the oil and all the frankincense, and the priest shall send up in smoke the memorial of it in smoke on the altar, and it will be a soothing aroma to the LORD. 3And the remnant of the cereal offering shall be to Aaron and his sons, a most holy thing of the LORD. 4And if you bring near a cereal offering baked in an oven, it will be unleavened cakes of fine flour, mingled with oil, or unleavened wafers anointed with oil. 5If the cereal offering is baked in a pan, it will be of fine flour, unleavened, mingled with oil. 6He will crumble it into pieces and pour the oil out on it; it is a cereal offering. 7If your cereal offering is fried in a pan, it will be of fine flour mingled with oil. 8You will bring the cereal offering that has been prepared from these things to the LORD, and when it has been presented to the priest, he will bring it to the altar. 9Then the priest will take away from the cereal offering the memorial portion, and will burn it on the altar; it is a soothing aroma to the LORD. 10And the remnant from the cereal offering will go to Aaron and his sons; it is a most holy thing of the offering of the LORD made by fire. 11No cereal offering that you bring to the LORD will be made with leaven, for you will not burn leaven or honey as a cereal offering made by fire to the LORD. 12As an offering of firstfruits, you will bring them to the LORD, but not on the altar as a pleasing aroma. You will season all of your cereal offerings with salt. 13You will not let the salt of the covenant with your God be missing from your cereal offering. 14If you bring a cereal offering of firstfruits to the LORD, you will bring as the cereal offering of your firstfruits fresh ears roasted with fire, and crushed new grain. 15And you will put oil on it and lay frankincense on it; it is a cereal offering. 16And the priest will burn with smoke as the memorial portion some of the crushed grain and some of the oil and all of the frankincense; it is an offering by fire to the LORD.

 

 

The firstfruits (רֵאשִׁ֛ית) is a word derived from the root רֹאשׁ, meaning “head, top, first.” These are the best—the choicest take from the harvest. Leaven and honey were included in the firstfruits, but these were usually offered during the Feast of Weeks (Lev 23.15-22, Ex 34.22). The worshiper is here remembering God’s deeds in saving and preserving him—particularly in providing for him—and gives God the best of that bounty as a sign not only of his gratitude but his faith in further provision. Those who aren’t grateful think they earned it. Being dedicated to God means gratitude and trust.

 

What can we take from this chapter? How might we apply this to our lives?

  • First, we can exclude corruption from our worship. When we worship, we come into God’s presence. This should be a reverential and holy time. You are coming into the presence of the living God. Though His grace is enough to have dealt with our sins past, present and future, we should yet have a little trembling associated with corruption in His presence.
  • We can express our communion with Him. He is there to meet us, and we are there to meet Him. We are not there to have a club meeting. We are there to meet with the living God. He desires this meeting. He actively wants it.
  • We can enact our dedication to Him and His community. We bring very best to Him—we bring the firstfruits of our income and increase, we bring our gifts and talents, we bring our best attitude. We bring our willingness to see our duty to Him and our fellow worshippers. Everyone—from the lay person to the minister—brings the best of what he has and lays it at God’s altar. It is an expression of gratitude for provision, and trust in future provision.
  • We can be quite thankful that our worship does not include the shedding of blood any longer. He took care of that already.

 

 

Leviticus 1:1-17

1And the LORD called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, 2“Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them: if a man brings an offering to the LORD, you will bring your offering of cattle from the flock or herd. 3If his offering is from the herd, let him bring a male without blemish to the entrance of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the LORD. 4Let him lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted of him, to atone for him. 5Let him kill the young bull before the LORD, and the sons of Aaron, the priests, will bring the blood and will sprinkle the blood around the altar that is at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 6Then he will flay the offering and cut it into pieces, 7and the sons of Aaron the priest will put fire on the altar, and they will arrange the wood on the fire. 8And the sons of Aaron, the priests, will arrange the pieces—the head and the fat—no the wood that is on the fire that is on the altar. 9But the entrails and legs he will wash with water. And the priest will burn all of it in smoke on the altar, and it will be a burnt offering, a soothing aroma to the LORD. 10If his gift for a burnt offering is from the flock—from the sheep or goats—he will bring a male without blemish. 11He will kill it on the north side of the altar before the LORD, and the sons of Aaron, the priests, will sprinkle the blood around the altar. 12Then he will cut it into pieces, the head and the fat, and the priest will arrange them on the wood that is on the fire that is on the altar. 13But the entrails and the legs he will wash with water, and the priest will bring it and burn all of it in smoke on the altar as a burnt offering; it will be a soothing aroma to the LORD. 14If his burnt offering to the LORD is an offering of birds, let him bring turtledoves or pigeons. 15And the priest will bring it to the altar and wring off its head and burn it in smoke on the altar, and its blood will be drained on the side of the altar. 16Then he will remove the crop with its feathers and throw it on the east side of the altar in the place of the ashes. 17Then he will tear it open by the wings but will not sever it completely, and the priest will burn it in smoke on the altar, on the wood that is on the fire, as a burnt offering: it will be a soothing aroma to the LORD.

 

The book of Leviticus details the sacrificial system of the Israelites before the Lord. Modern evangelicals are tempted to minimize its importance because of its ritualistic nature. But this is a mistake: ritual   is ever with us. It does not need to be empty; the real meaning is what is in a person’s heart when he observes it (Mosely). Moreover, these are given by God to His people. There are several observations we can make from this passage:

  • THE WORSHIP. The most obvious fact that we may glean from this work is how important worship is to God—and how He wants it done. If Exodus ended with a description of WHERE to worship, Leviticus is all about HOW to worship. It is a prescribed ritual, and it is liturgical—that is, the worshiper takes part in it. He did not just sing a couple of songs on Power Point and listen to a sermon. He took part in his ritual, and God intended for him to. The worshiper would select psalms to sing, such as Psalm 40, 51, and 66.
  • THE SACRIFICE.
    • The verb “bring” in this text (קרב) is a causative form of “draw near.” This entire sacrificial system is God’s invitation to His people to draw near Him. He was relational, not distant. Man was separated by sin, and God was providing the means for reconciliation. It was the appointed means whereby peaceful coexistence between a holy God and a sinful man became a possibility (Wenham).
    • The sacrifice would serve as an atonement (כפר), which has traditionally been believed to mean “covering” and also carries the meaning of “make a ransom payment for sin.” Because of Adam’s rebellion, the consequence of death was in place. The substitution of the animal’s life for the man’s life was powerfully meaningful. He was instructed to place his hand on the animal—an optic that will continue to the present day in the prayer ritual—and would transfer sin and guilt to the animal. The significance in Leviticus of blood (דָּם) shows the exalted worth of human beings, who are made in the image of God. The priest would splash the blood on the northeast corner of the altar, where it would hit the north and east walls, then he would go around to the southwest corner of the altar and do the same thing to the south and west walls. Once the temple was built, there would be a built-in trough that would take the blood to its destination.
    • It was a sacrifice because it cost something. The unblemished male was of high value in the culture. The burnt offering was the most common sacrifice of all, being performed every morning and evening and more frequently on holy days (Wenham).
    • The word for “the whole offering” is the Hebrew עֹלָ֛ה, which means to “arise.” It is the word from which we take “holocaust.”

 

This is a rough layout of the tent of appointment, or meeting. It is taken from Wenham:

tent of meeting

 

  • THE CULTURE. Note how God reveals Himself to THAT people in THAT time and THAT place and THAT culture.

 

God still reveals Himself to man today. He has revealed Himself already in His Word, to be sure. But He also reveals Himself in culture, as well. He reveals Himself in the beauty of nature and art and truth. All of these are understood through the community of faith that places a high value on the written Word of God. But the fact that God meets us where we live is still just as true today as it was in Leviticus. Where are you today? God meets you there and reveals Himself to you. Read His Word, be with His people. You will hear His voice.

 

Worship is serious business. It is not a slap-dash affair. It is a ritual full of meaning. In it, we come before the living God and offer ourselves in humility and adoration. We ask forgiveness and depend on His blessing. And He still cares about how we do that. This is not unimportant, and we evangelicals should stop seeing it that way.

 

Our guilt and sin have been transferred to the ultimate Lamb of God. He has taken our sin and substituted Himself for us. His blood has atoned for our sins—both covering them and paying our way out of them. Because of this, we are able to be reconciled to God and draw near to Him.

 

Are you reconciled? Are you drawing near to God in worship? Do you actively seek His presence and voice in His community?

Introduction to Leviticus

The book of Leviticus is named after its first word, וַיִּקְרָ֖א, which means “and he called.” The title in the Septuagint was Leuitikon, meaning “levitical.” It was most likely not meant to refer to the Levites, since they are only mentioned once in the book…but rather is simply a term synonymous during Hellenistic times with “priests.” Whereas the book of Exodus ended with a description of WHERE God was to be worshiped, Leviticus speaks of HOW He is to be worshiped. This is a significant observation, since by it we know that God demands worship in a specific way. How we do it is important, not just a throwaway concept. The book is divided up as follows: chapters 1-7 deal with the explanations of the rituals of sacrifice (the priestly code), 8-10 cover the consecration of priests, 11-16 are instructions about the maintenance of purity, and 17-27 are exhortations to holiness (the Holiness Code).

 

The author is traditionally believed to be Moses. This is nowhere stated in the work, but everything in here comes from a direct revelation from God to Moses. All four of the gospels have Jesus referring to Moses as the author (Mt 19.7-8, Mk 1.44, Lk 5.14, Jn 5.46-47), so that’s good enough for us. It is likely written during the exodus itself, which many conservative scholars place around 1446 BC. I always strongly caution too much attachment to numbers, given the differing meaning of “years” cross-culturally and the hermeneutical principles associated with basing calendars on particular biblical authors. That is not to say that this is a bad date—it’s not—only that anything that takes place before the kingdom of Israel stands on iffy ground, date-wise. There is less corroboration, more controversy, and the pitfalls associated with being locked in to a particular date—only to find archaeology arguing with you the next year.

 

It is wrong to think of Leviticus as a dated book of laws that are weird. This work tells us about God’s character and will, which found expression in His dealings with Israel and in the laws He gave them.[1] Christian theology is impossible to deduce without Leviticus, and the theology of Leviticus is focused on several key attributes of the God-Man relationship. The presence of God in worship is one, His presence is mundane daily life is another. This presence is reflected in the ongoing activities in the “tent of meeting,” (מֵאֹ֥הֶל מֹועֵ֖ד) or “tent of appointment,” also called the “rendezvous tent.” It is where God meets man. For Christians, this presence was made manifest at the Incarnation. For Pentecostals, we affirm the real presence of God in the experiential work of the Holy Spirit.

 

Another major topic in Leviticus is holiness. You will soon find that everything that is not holy is common or unclean. Additionally, you will note that Israelite sacrifice was concerned with “restoring the relationships between God and Israel, and between different members of the nation.” This is done with blood. In having been redeemed from slavery, Israel had also been redeemed from the realm of death and disorder—anything unclean disrupted this order and had to be made right. The divine call to holiness is significant in this context.[2]

 

Throughout this study, I will make use of the Hebrew text, Allan Moseley’s Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Leviticus, Gordon J. Wenham’s The Book of Leviticus (New International Commentary on the Old Testament), John E. Hartley’s Leviticus (Word Biblical Commentary), and class notes from Dr. James E. Allman on the Pentateuch at Dallas Theological Seminary.

[1] Gordon J. Wenham, The Book of Leviticus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979).

[2] Ibid.