OK, now that I have your attention let me lay forth several qualifiers. First, I don’t believe anybody can rightly (and objectively) claim that any book is “more important” than other books of the Bible. Second, the title is designed to get your attention in hopes you will read the article. Third, I hope you will read the article because it is about a really, really important book in the Bible. What book am I referring to you ask? I am talking about the book of Leviticus. WAIT! Don’t quit reading yet.
I know what you’re thinking. Leviticus? Really? How could anybody think that is an important book. Quite frankly, it is one of the most skipped over, ignored, and underappreciated (and misunderstood) books of the Bible. But I am here to tell you that the more we understand Leviticus, the more we will understand what Jesus did on the cross and the concept of Christianity as a whole. The less we understand Leviticus, the less we will understand what Jesus did on the cross and the concept of Christianity as a whole. Let me explain.
THE FIVE OFFERINGS IN LEVITICUS (Lev. 1-7)
When you read the book of Leviticus, you will notice that there are five specific offerings. There isn’t just one or three; no, there are five offerings for specific reasons and purposes. You will notice that there seems to almost be a repetition of these offerings given in the first seven chapters of Leviticus. However, the first five chapters of Leviticus are given in the context for the people of Israel as a whole to understand. Whereas, chapters six and seven are designed more specifically as instructions for the priests. Let’s quickly summarize the overall purpose and meaning of these five offerings and then we will see how they relate to us today through the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus.
(1) The burnt offering had to do with appeasing God’s wrath and holiness (Lev. 1:1-17; 2 Chron. 29:7-8).
(2) The grain offering had to do with dedication and trust in God (Lev. 2:1-16). Giving a grain offering represented Israel’s willingness and commitment to God as well as their trust in God to provide for their needs. According to Ligonier, “The cakes to which the text refers were something like a modern pancake and were a daily staple of the people. Offering such things symbolized the need to dedicate every aspect of their daily lives to the Creator, including the labor by which they coaxed the grain from the ground.”
(3) The sin offering had to do with providing cleansing for the people (Lev. 4:1-35; 6:24-30). While the burnt offering solved the problem of God’s wrath, it didn’t purify the one offering the sacrifice. Therefore, the sin offering cleansed the people of their unintentional and/or ignorant sins (Lev. 4:2, 13-14, 22-23, 27-28).
(4) The guilt or trespass offering had to do with making restitution to those you had sinned against (Lev. 5:14-19; 7:1-10). It was making a payment back to those you had wronged (Lev. 5:16).
(5) The peace or fellowship offering had to do with voluntarily praising and communing with God and others (Lev. 3:1-17; 7:11-21). This is the only sacrifice that wasn’t obligatory and where the actual people could eat the sacrifice (usually only the priests could eat the sacrifice). This sacrifice showed the peace one can have in fellowship and communing with God and others (On a side note, the wave or heave offering is associated with and part of the peace offering; it is not a separate offering – Lev. 7:28-36; 23:30; etc.).
MAKING THE CONNECTION TO THE ONE OFFERING OF JESUS
You may be asking yourself why there are five sacrifices in the book of Leviticus when Jesus was only “one” sacrifice. To the human mind, it might initially make more sense for there to have been only one offering in the book of Leviticus instead of five. However, what we will find is that Jesus was the perfect fulfillment of all of these sacrifices (Heb. 10:10-25). His one sacrifice fulfilled all five “aspects” of these offerings. However, all of these offerings foreshadowed and pointed to the one offering of Jesus Christ. Consider the following connections:
1. Burnt Offering – Jesus fulfilled this offering by making propitiation on behalf of our sins (1 Jn. 2:2; Heb. 2:17; Rom. 3:24-25). Propitiation simply means to “appease an angry, offended party.” The sacrifice of Jesus appeased God’s wrath (Isa. 53:10). While this is only one aspect of Jesus’ sacrifice, it needs to be noted that God’s holiness demands that sin be punished (Hab. 1:13; Isa. 59:2; Rom. 2:5; 6:23; Heb. 10:26-31). God made Jesus “who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).
2. Grain Offering – Jesus fulfilled this offering through His sacrifice by willfully committing Himself to the Father and trusting in Him (Heb. 10:5-9; 1 Pet. 2:21-24; Lk.22:42). Jesus “who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phi. 2:6-8).
3. Sin Offering – Jesus fulfilled this offering by shedding His blood and making us clean in the sight of God (Heb. 9:22; 10:1-4; 1 Jn. 1:7-9; 1 Cor. 6:11). This aspect of Jesus’ offering is very interesting and helps us in understanding how our relationship with God works today. The sin offering covered the ignorant and unintentional sins. Some have understood this to mean that any sin committed knowingly will not and can not be covered or forgiven by God. However, such is not the case.
We can know that God can, has, and will cover sins committed knowingly (See: Lev. 10:17-20; 2 Sam. 11-12; 2 Chron. 30; 1 Kgs. 22:43; etc.). In fact, Paul’s very struggle was doing that which he knew was wrong (Rom. 7:13-25). Therefore, what is the difference?
The difference is explained in Num. 15:30-32. When someone sins “presumptuously” where they have purposefully and rebelliously despised God’s Word and no longer care about trying to do the right thing – then and only then is the sacrifice rendered useless (Heb. 6:4-6; 10:29). This means that as long as one is striving to follow God (even though they will sometimes do that which they know they shouldn’t do), they are walking in the light and continually made clean by the sacrifice and blood of Jesus (1 Jn. 1:7-9; Phil. 3:12-14).
4. Guilt or Trespass Offering – Jesus fulfilled this offering by making the payment and restitution that we couldn’t make ourselves (Eph. 1:7). It was Jesus who “has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us…” (Gal. 3:13). The word redemption means “buying back from, re-purchasing (winning back) what was previously forfeited (lost).” When we sinned, we incurred a sin debt. “The wages of sin is death…” (Rom. 6:23). Jesus paid that debt by taking the penalty we deserve (Gal. 1:4; 2:20; Heb. 9:12-15).
5. Peace or Fellowship Offering – Jesus fulfilled this offering by bringing fellowship and peace between God and mankind as well as fellowship among mankind. Jesus is “our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity” (Eph. 2:14-16). Jesus’ offering was one of free will and out of love for His creation (Rom. 5:6-11). All believers can have peace and fellowship with one another and with God as we voluntarily commune together in His kingdom (1 Cor. 5:7; Lk. 22:29-30; Col. 1:13).
When properly understanding the five sacrifices in Leviticus, it helps us to understand what Jesus did on the cross. It explains why Jesus came to this earth, died for our sins, was buried, and was resurrected (1 Cor. 15:1-4). It gives us a proper perspective and insight as to the intricacies of His sacrifices and meaning behind it. It is one thing to say that Jesus died for our sins; it is another thing to understand what that means. Leviticus helps to answer that question.
While one can not definitively say which book is the most important one in the Bible, I pray this article will help you to realize the value of the book of Leviticus (especially as it pertains to the Christian life).
I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject and the book of Leviticus. Please share your comments below.
– Kevin Pendergrass
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