Theme: The burnt offering pictures Jesus' whole dedication to God on our behalf.
The first two verses of Leviticus describe the setting of the whole book. It begins where Exodus ends. The cloud of God's glory had descended upon the tabernacle (Exodus 40:34-38). God is not now thundering from the mountain; but is speaking from the place of meeting to the people through His appointed spokesman. He speaks to Moses from the tabernacle and tells him what to tell the people; and the book of Leviticus is the content what He told him. It is, for that reason, a very holy book.
God did not leave it to sinful man to choose how he might approach His holy presence; but tells man what he must do. He even dictated the kind of animal that may be offered. It can only be "of the livestock—of the herd and of the flock" (v. 2). This is because a sinner cannot approach a holy God unless his sin is atoned for; and God commanded that those animals be used which would best picture the atoning sacrifice that His own Son would one day provide on behalf of sinners. These are creatures characterized by meekness and gentleness.
The first of the offerings described in the first few chapters of Leviticus is the "burnt offering". It is the first of the three "sweet aroma" offerings—which are pictures of Christ in His pleasingness to the Father (Matthew 3:17). Notice . . .
I. THE NATURE OF THE OFFERING.
A. It is to be a male. This pictures Jesus as the Second Adam (1 Cor 15:45).
B. It is to be without blemish. There was no imperfection in Christ; He was without sin
(2 Cor. 5:21).
C. It is to be of one's own free will. The offerer was not under compulsion to make the offering. this pictures Christ. No one took His life from Him, but He laid it down of His of Himself (John 10:18).
D. It is a burnt offering (that is, one that is completely consumed). Jesus delighted to be a complete offering to the Father (Psalm 40:6-8; Hebrews 10:1-9.
E. It will be accepted on the offerer's behalf as an atonement for him (Hebrews 10:10).
II. THE PROCEEDURE OF THE OFFERING.
A. The offerer brings it to the door of the tabernacle. He could not enter. That was only for the priest to do. But from the doorway, he could see the altar on which the offering would be made; and from the outside, he could see the smoke of his offering arise.
B. The offerer was first to place his hand on the head of the offering. This was to symbolize identification. The offering was being given for the offerer and in his place. The Hebrew word literally means "to lean his hand" (same word as used in Psalm 88:7).
C. The offerer was himself to kill it before the Lord. It was our own sin that made the death of the Savior necessary.
D. The priests then sprinkle the blood all around on the alter. There is no approach to God except through blood; and Christ has provided that blood (Hebrew 9:11-14).
E. The offerer was then to skin it. The offering is laid bare, as it were. There is nothing hidden about Christ's life.
F. The offerer finally cuts it into pieces. Jesus was holy in all of His being.
G. This concludes what the offerer could do. The priests must take it from there. They were to:
1. Prepare the fire and the wood on the altar. This pictures God's own provision of the Son.
2. Lay the parts, head and fat in order on the wood that is on the fire on the altar. This pictures the completeness of Christ's holiness—inside and outside.
3. Wash the the entrails and the legs with water. This pictures His whole purity.
4. Burn all on the alter. This pictures the completeness of Christ's offering of Himself to the Father. There is nothing held back.
III. THE KINDS OF OFFERING ALLOWED.
A. Of the heard (vv. 3-9)—probably offered by those who were somewhat prosperous.
B. Of the flock (vv. 10-13)—probably offered by those who were not wealthy but of the middle-class.
C. Of birds—specifically, turtle-doves or young pigeons (vv. 14-17)—an offering made by the very poor. No one was prohibited. All classes of people today can be saved by the sacrifice of Jesus. Note that, because the birds would be much smaller, the procedure of the offering is different—but still a whole burnt offering.
IV. THE ACCEPTABLENESS OF THE OFFERING TO GOD.
A. It is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire (vv. 9, 13, 17). It was fully consumed by fire; which is a picture of complete dedication.
B. It is a "sweet aroma" (that is, a soothing aroma) to the Lord.