Making Sense of Leviticus

Leviticus 1

3“If your sacrifice for a whole burnt offering is from the herd, bring a bull with no physical defects to the entrance of the Tabernacle so it will be accepted by the LORD. 4Lay your hand on its head so the LORD will accept it as your substitute, thus making atonement for you. 5Then slaughter the animal in the LORD’s presence, and Aaron’s sons, the priests, will present the blood by sprinkling it against the sides of the altar that stands in front of the Tabernacle.

10“If your sacrifice for a whole burnt offering is from the flock, bring a male sheep or goat with no physical defects.

14“If you bring a bird as a burnt offering to the LORD, choose either a turtledove or a young pigeon.
(Leviticus 1:3-5, 10, 14, NLT)

Leviticus 2

4“When you present some kind of baked bread as a grain offering, it must be made of choice flour mixed with olive oil but without any yeast. It may be presented in the form of cakes mixed with olive oil or wafers spread with olive oil. 5If your grain offering is cooked on a griddle, it must be made of choice flour and olive oil, and it must contain no yeast. 6Break it into pieces and pour oil on it; it is a kind of grain offering. 7If your offering is prepared in a pan, it also must be made of choice flour and olive oil.

8“No matter how a grain offering has been prepared before being offered to the LORD, bring it to the priests who will present it at the altar. 9The priests will take a token portion of the grain offering and burn it on the altar as an offering made by fire, and it will be very pleasing to the LORD. 10The rest of the grain offering will be given to Aaron and his sons as their food. It will be considered a most holy part of the offerings given to the LORD by fire.
(Leviticus 2:4-10, NLT)

Leviticus 3

1“If you want to present a peace offering from the herd, use either a bull or a cow. The animal you offer to the LORD must have no physical defects.

6“If you present a peace offering to the LORD from the flock, you may bring either a goat or a sheep. It may be either male or female, and it must have no physical defects.
(Leviticus 3:1, 6, NLT)

Leviticus 4

1Then the LORD said to Moses, 2“Give the Israelites the following instructions for dealing with those who sin unintentionally by doing anything forbidden by the LORD’s commands.

3“If the high priest sins, bringing guilt upon the entire community, he must bring to the LORD a young bull with no physical defects. 4He must present the bull to the LORD at the entrance of the Tabernacle, lay his hand on the bull’s head, and slaughter it there in the LORD’s presence.
(Leviticus 4:1-4, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

When I started going to Sunday School as a kid, I remember being told that it was good for Christians to read their Bible. EVERY DAY! The really serious followers would read through the entire Bible in a year. I was advised that I could accomplish this feat if I would read about 3 chapters every day.

I remember multiple times I made New Year’s resolutions that I was going to read my Bible more consistently and, on multiple occasions, I embarked on a daily “read through the Bible in a year” program. I never made it very far, partly because I was always easily distracted whenever I would read and also because I could never make it through the book of Leviticus.

Genesis was pretty interesting and though Exodus had it’s lengthy sections regarding the construction details for the tabernacle, there were also interesting narratives to keep my attention.

But whenever I would get to Leviticus, it was like slogging through a phone book. It all seemed the same, with endless instructions on the precise details and particulars for sacrifices and offerings which had no apparent connection to me. In short, it was boring and I usually gave up on the daily reading somewhere in this book.

The truth is, the book of Leviticus is more manageable and even interesting if you know what it’s about. The book is a set of instructions detailing for the Israelites how they could continue to live in a right relationship with God. The primary means of doing this was through sacrifices and offerings.

I don’t know about you, but I tend to think of the Old Testament sacrificial system as being primarily about atonement. But Leviticus outlines a number of offerings, not all of which are atoning in nature.

Leviticus 1 details the Burnt Offering, which was an offering of an animal from the herd, flock or in the case of the poor, a bird, made by a person as a primary means of making atonement for sin.

Leviticus 2 details the Grain Offering, which was a non-atoning offering of a baked good that was made for the purpose of expressing thanks to God for His provision. It was meant as a reminder that God provides all of our needs including our basic sustenance.

Leviticus 3 details the Peace Offering, which was an offering of an animal from the herd or flock that was made to show gratitude to God for fellowship with Him (hence, also referred to as “Fellowship Offering”).

Leviticus 4 outlines the details of the Sin Offering, which was a sacrifice of a bull that was made to atone for unintentional sins.

Perhaps you’re thinking to yourself, “Why do I need to worry myself about any of this? After all, Jesus died as a once for all sacrifice to pay for sin so there is no longer any sacrifice needed to pay for sin.”

This assessment is true, but as has been pointed out already, not all of the sacrifices and offerings were for the purpose of atonement. The grain offering was typically an offering from the first fruits of the harvest that was given as a means of demonstrating thankfulness to God. It was seen as an act of worship toward God that also had the added benefit of providing bread to the Levites, who had no land of their own to grow and harvest crops. In this way, the Levites were dependent on the Israelites for their own sustenance, via the Grain offering.

The Peace Offering, also known as the Fellowship offering, was the only sacrifice where the animal was eaten by the one making the offering, thus demonstrating fellowship with God (see Leviticus 7:15).

What does this have to do with us today?

It’s true that Jesus has made a once for all sacrifice of atonement on our behalf, so we’re no longer required to make sacrifices for the purpose of atonement. But what about the Grain offering and Peace offering? Those offerings were made out of the person’s material goods (whether crops or flock/herd) as a means of honoring God and also expressing gratitude toward Him for His material provision.

Today, we don’t offer up animals to pay for our sins. Most of us wouldn’t be able to do that even if was still required because we aren’t farmers and we likely don’t have our own sheep, goats, cows or birds.

But we do have material possessions from which we can make an offering.

Just as the Israelites gave from their material possessions to honor and/or worship God, so we too can give from our material possessions as an act of worship to demonstrate our commitment and gratitude to God.

The most common way we do that in the church is by giving our money. Giving a portion of our money to the church is a means of honoring and worshiping God by bringing the first-fruits of our labor to Him.

Interestingly, just as the Grain offering served the additional purpose of providing food for the Levites, so also, our monetary offerings provide sustenance for religious leaders and workers.

So maybe the book of Leviticus isn’t the most exciting book in the Bible as it contains a lot of details regarding the presentation of various sacrifices and offerings as opposed to the stories of Genesis and Exodus. However, we can still learn a lot from this book about God’s holiness and the means by which the Israelites maintained fellowship with God and demonstrated worship and commitment to Him.

Though we no longer need the sacrificial system as a means of atoning for sin and receiving forgiveness, we can still use the grain and peace offerings as a model for us to demonstrate gratitude to the Lord through the giving of our material possessions.

Reflection

What has been your experience in reading through the Bible daily? Have you ever read through the entire Bible? If so, how were you able to do it? What kept you motivated? If not, what were some of the barriers that kept you from reading through the Bible in its entirety?

What has been your experience with offerings? How is the offerings of today the same and also different from the offerings that were made in the Old Testament?

Research and data show that many Christians to not give to their church and to the needs of Christian ministries. Why do you think Christians don’t give? What might be some of the reasons and/or barriers keeping those who follow Jesus from worshiping Him via their monetary offerings?

What steps can you take to begin to express your worship to God more consistently through your “offerings”? 

 

Photo by Tobias Hort-Giess on Unsplash

 

 

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