In the preceding pages, I have endeavoured to point out the distinctive character of the types in some of the earlier books of the Old Testament. We are now in a better position to estimate the distinctions in the types of this book, Leviticus.
Speaking generally, the types of Leviticus, as I have said, give us the work of Christ, in its bearing on worship and communion. We have not here, as in the earlier part of Exodus, the sprinkled blood to redeem from Egypt; but we get definite instruction respecting the Offering and Priest, to meet the need of a saved people in their approaches to God their Saviour. In a word, instead of seeing Christ as redeeming, we here see His work for the redeemed; His work, not in bringing them out of Egypt, but in bringing them into the place of worship, in keeping them there in happy fellowship, and in restoring them when they fail or fall.
And how varied are the aspects of Christ’s work, viewed merely in this one relation. To hold communion with God, the redeemed need Christ as the Offering; and this is the first view we get of Him in Leviticus: but they need Him also as the Priest and Mediator; and therefore this is also another aspect in which He is presented to us. And so we might go on step by step in the consideration of the blessed work of Jesus, passing from one part to another of His service in keeping up and restoring the communion of His redeemed.
The work of Christ, then, as connected with the communion of His people, may, and indeed, if fully apprehended, must be viewed under many different representations. The offering is the first representation; the priest, in close connexion with it, the second; because it is under these two great aspects that the redeemed in communion with God have most to do with Jesus. At present I purpose going no further than Christ viewed as the Offering. Christ as the key to the dispensations, as we see Him in the types of Genesis;—Christ as the ground of redemption, as shewn in the book of Exodus;—Christ the rearer of the tabernacle, and the substance of its many services;—Christ the guide of His people, whether through the wilderness or into the land over Jordan;—Christ as the rejected king while another holds His kingdom;—Christ as the glorious king who builds the temple in Jerusalem:—all these and many other aspects of the work and person of our blessed Lord will, for the present, in some measure by held in abeyance, that we may more particularly enter into this one aspect, this first aspect of Christ, as connected with communion, Christ the sum of the Offerings.
And how much is there to arrest and instruct us in this one simple view of Him. He is the Burnt-offering, the Meat-offering, the Peace-offering, the Sin-offering, and the Trespass-offering for His people (See Heb. 10:4-10). By His one oblation of Himself once offered, He has stood in all these different relations,—relations so precious to God, that through preceding ages He had the representation of them constantly presented to Him,—relations so needful to the Church, that it is on the apprehension of them that her joy and strength depend. And yet how great a proportion of believers have neither knowledge nor wish to trace these. They read of Him as the Sin-offering and the Burnt-offering; but no corresponding thought is suggested to them by this distinction. It is enough for them that the blood has been sprinkled on the door-post; and they care not to know more of Him who sprinkled it.
But these are not God’s thoughts, nor are they the thoughts of those who know the joy of communion with Him. Such go from strength to strength in the knowledge of the grace and work of Jesus. Have they known Him as the paschal lamb in Egypt? they seek then to know Him as the offering within the tabernacle. Have they learnt Him in His different relations as offering? they seek to know Him in all His offices as priest. Do they know Him as priest? they seek Him as prophet, as manna, as water, as guide, as everything. May the Lord only fill us with His Spirit: then we cannot but follow on to know more of Jesus.
But it is time we should turn to The Offerings.
In approaching them I would make a general observation or two on some particulars which are common to all the Offerings, the right understanding of which may lead us to a clearer apprehension of the principle on which they must be interpreted. Without definite thoughts on each of these particulars, the various types will be little more than unmeaning repetition to us.
(1.) The first point, then, which requires our notice is this:—In each offering there are at least three distinct objects presented to us. There is the offering, the priest, the offerer. A definite knowledge of the precise import of each of these is absolutely requisite if we would understand the offerings.
What, then, is the offering? what the priest? what the offerer? Christ is the offering, Christ is the priest, Christ is the offerer. Such and so manifold are the relations in which Christ has stood for man and to man, that no one type or set of types can adequately represent the fulness of them. Thus we have many distinct classes of types, and further variations in these distinct classes, each of which gives us one particular view of Christ, either in His character, or in His work, or person. But see Him as we may for sinners, He fills more than one relation. This causes the necessity of many emblems. First He comes as offerer, but we cannot see the offerer without the offering, and the offerer is Himself the offering, and He who is both offerer and offering is also the priest. As man under the law, our substitute, Christ, stood for us towards God as offerer. He took “the body prepared for Him” as His offering, that in it and by it He might reconcile us to God. Thus, when sacrifice and offering had wholly failed,—when at man’s hand God would no more accept them,—“then said He, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do Thy will, O God: yea, Thy law is within my heart” (Heb. 10:5-9; Psalm 40:6-8). Thus His body was His offering: He willingly offered it; and then as priest He took the blood into the holiest. As offerer, we see Him man under the law, standing our substitute, for us to fulfil all righteousness. As priest, we have Him presented as the mediator, God’s messenger between Himself and Israel. While as the offering He is seen the innocent victim, a sweet savour to God, yet bearing the sin and dying for it.
Thus in the selfsame type the offerer sets forth Christ in His person, as the One who became man to meet God’s requirements: the offering presents Him in His character and work, as the victim by which the atonement was ratified; while the priest gives us a third picture of Him, in His official relation, as the appointed mediator and intercessor. Accordingly, when we have a type in which the offering is most prominent, the leading thought will be Christ the victim. On the other hand, when the offerer or priest predominates, it will respectively be Christ as man or Christ as mediator.
Connected with this there is also another particular, the import of which must be known to understand the Offerings. I refer to the laying of the offerer’s hands on the head of the victim offered. This act in itself was nothing more than the expression of the identity of the offerer and offering. In each case the giving up of the offering represented the surrender of the person of the offerer. The offering, whatever it might be, stood for, and was looked upon as identical with the offerer. In the one case, in the sweet savour offerings, it represented the offerer as an accepted worshipper, wholly surrendering himself upon the altar of the Lord, to be a sweet savour to Jehovah. In the other case, as in the sin and trespass offerings, where the offerer came as a sinner with confession, the offerer in his offering surrendered himself as a sinner to God’s judgment, and was cast out as accursed into the wilderness. We know Him who stood in both these relations, when in the body prepared for Him “He gave Himself.”
(2.) Another particular to which I would direct attention respects the differences between the several offerings. These differences are not a secondary matter. The very definiteness and distinct character of the particular offerings is wholly involved in them. Any non-apprehension, therefore, or misapprehension on this point, must necessarily leave us in much uncertainty.
As to these differences, then, there are first several different offerings, as the Burnt-offering, the Meat-offering, the Peace-offering, &c.; and secondly, there are different grades of the same offering, as the burnt-offering of the herd, the burnt-offering of the flock, the burnt-offering of fowls; the peace-offering of the herd, the peace-offering of the flock, &c. The questions is,—or rather it is no question,—have these distinctions any meaning corresponding to them? With regard to all the great outlines in these typical ordinances, every Christian is satisfied that they represent Jesus; yet some doubt whether we are justified in expecting to find Him in every distinct and minute particular. And the fancies which have been vented upon this subject have, indeed, been enough to warn us. Still, my answer to such doubts is simply this,—Are not the particulars, as all Scripture, “written for our learning;” and can they be so if the words are without import, if they are meant to reveal nothing to us? But no. This God’s representation of the work of His Beloved will bear looking at as much as His other works. Doubtless here, where every addition is but to depict Christ’s fulness, each minutest particular, each variety, has a meaning attached to it. God’s words are not here, more than elsewhere, vain words. It is only our want of spiritual apprehension which makes these things so mysterious to us. The shadow may, indeed, be more dark than the substance, but for every shadow there must be a substance; and he that best knows the substance and reality will soonest recognise its darkened shadow. And just as the shadow of this our earth, as it passes over the face of another planet, leads the instructed eye by a glance to the knowledge of facts respecting the form and proportions of the globe we dwell on; so often does the apprehension of one of these shadows which God has marked as cast from the work of Jesus, reveal Him and His work to His people in a way which no less delights than it astonishes them.
The fact is, the true secret respecting the difficulty of the types is, that we are not sufficiently acquainted with the reality; and as a consequence, the representation of that reality is unintelligible or almost unintelligible to us. Only let us see more of Christ; only let us, in God’s presence, learn more of Him in all His relations; and then the things which God has thought worthy a place in His Word, because they represent something which may be seen of Jesus, will find an answering place in our intelligence, because they will each find a response in our experience.
But to speak of these differences. I have not a doubt that they are intended to represent different aspects of Christ’s offering. I cannot say how far the proof of this may commend itself to those who are comparatively strangers to such questions, for here as elsewhere a certain measure of previous intelligence is required to enable us rightly to estimate the value of the proof submitted to us. In this field of knowledge too, as in others of a kindred nature, the proof of a fact may be more difficult than the discovery of it; and again, the demonstration of the proof to those unaccustomed to such questions, far more difficult than the demonstration of the fact itself. I doubt not it will be so in this case. I am, however, satisfied as to the fact; I will now endeavour, as briefly as may be, to express what proof may be given of it.
To do this I must again advert to what has already been said respecting the offerer and offering. We have seen that the offerer is Christ, standing as man under the law to fulfil all righteousness. We have seen that the offering represents His body, and the laying on of hands the identity of the offering and offerer. Now in these types we have this offerer and His offering both presented to us in very different circumstances. The faithful Israelite is seen in different aspects, and according to the aspect in which he is regarded, so is his offering dealt with. In one we see him standing as a sinless offerer, offering a sweet-smelling savour for acceptance. In another he stands as a convicted sinner, offering an expiatory sacrifice which bears the penalty of his offences.
Now the offering of Christ, which all these shadows typify, was but one, and but once offered; but the shadows vary in shape and outline according to the point from whence, and the light in which, they are looked upon. In other words, the one offering had several aspects, and each aspect required a separate picture. Had Christ’s fulness and relations been less manifold, fewer emblems might have sufficed to represent them; but as they are many, and each to be variously apprehended, no one emblem, however perfect, could depict them all. As priest, or offering, or offerer, He fills a distinct relation, the representation of which necessarily requires a distinct emblem. Yet in each of these relations He may be variously seen, and each of these variations will again require a different picture. Thus as priest He may be seen interceding with God, or sprinkling the leper, or taking in the blood. It is plain that the emblem which might set forth one of these would by no means present another relation of Him. But God’s will is that all His relations should be seen; and the consequence is types many and various.
With respect, then, to the varieties in the offerings, I conclude that they are but different aspects of Christ’s work or person. Let us now advance a step further and inquire, What are the different grades which we find in the different offerings? Without doubt these proceed on the same principle. They are but different views of this or that peculiar aspect. Not only is Christ’s work one which has many aspects, but each aspect may be very differently apprehended, according to the measure of intelligence possessed by those who look at Him. Thus there may be different apprehensions of the same relation, and of the selfsame act in the same relation. For instance, as the offering, one grade of it is the bullock, another the lamb, another the turtle-dove. Now each of these emblems gives us a different thought respecting the value or character of the selfsame offering. One grade shews Christ, and one saint sees Him, as an offering “of the herd,” that is the most costly offering. Another gives a lower view of its value, or at least a different view of its character, as in the grade of “the turtle-dove.” In every grade, the lowest as much as the highest, the offering is seen to be free from blemish: in every grade it is seen a sufficient offering, meeting all the requirements of the sacrifice; but the riches of the offerer, and the value and distinct character of his offering, are very differently apprehended in the different pictures.
I conclude, therefore, that as the different offerings give us different aspects or relations of Christ’s one offering, so the different grades in the same offering give us different views or apprehensions of the same aspect.
An illustration may perhaps better express the difference. Suppose, then, several aspects of some building, the north aspect, the south aspect, the west aspect; these would correspond with the different offerings, as the burnt-offering, the meat-offering, &c. But there might be three or four views of the building taken from the same side, but under different lights, and at different distances: this would be the different grades in the same offering.
And the analogy of the other parts of Scripture directly supports this interpretation; for the different books, as we have seen, looked at typically, do but bring out different aspects or measures of apprehension of that great and perfect work of which all Scripture testifies. One book gives the experience of Egypt; another the experience of the wilderness; another the experience of the land. All these by one act of Jesus are true for the Church in Him; but they are not all equally apprehended; for our experience always comes far short of the reality, and the reality may be apprehended in very different measures. Christian experience, as I have before observed, is only our measure of apprehension of that which is already true for us in Jesus. And this measure of apprehension may vary, though the work apprehended be the same. Thus, one Christian, with little knowledge of his place in Jesus, sees himself as still in the house of bondage; but there, hiding within the blood-sprinkled door-posts, he waits with girded loins to depart from Egypt (Cf. 1 Pet. 1:13, and Exod. 12:11). Another by faith sees further, even to the experience of the wilderness, knowing that Pharaoh is judged (John 12:31), and the Red Sea behind him. A third sees further still, even into the land, and knows himself even now over Jordan (Eph. 2:6). In a word, one sees Exodus, another Numbers, another Joshua. Yet the reality, though differently apprehended, is the same,—salvation through the blood of Jesus. The difference is in our apprehension of it, and it is this difference that these books, if regarded typically, are so full of. It is, I believe, precisely similar in these types of Christ in His work as offering. The different offerings give us the different aspects of His offering; the different grades in the same offering, the different apprehensions of the same aspect.
The truth is, that Christ’s work is so manifold, and has so many different aspects, and each aspect may be so differently apprehended, according to the different measure of light in the believer, that one type or one history, however full, can never fully describe or represent Him. We see this unquestionably in the Gospels, in reference to the person of the Lord. One Gospel does not shew out all the glories of His person: the subject requires four distinct presentations. The Gospels are not mere supplementary narratives of Christ in one relation. Each gives a separate view of Him. Not of His work in saving,—this we get in the Epistles,—but of Himself, His perfect character, His blessed person.
I do not here enter into the distinctions of the Gospels, though few subjects of inquiry are more blessed, further than to refer to them in illustration of our subject, as shewing the way in which the Word is written. Take but Luke and John. In their narratives, as in the offerings, in each, as others have observed, we have a distinct aspect of Jesus. Luke gives Him as Son of Adam: John as Son of God. In the former of these, therefore, I read His “genealogy,” His “conception” of Mary, His “birth” at Bethlehem; His “increase in wisdom and stature,” and His “subjection” to His earthly parents; His “baptism,” His “temptation” in the wilderness, and His “anointing with the Holy Ghost.” In John not a word about matters of this sort, but “the Word which was with God, and was God.” Take any event narrated by the two Evangelists, not to say the general tone and tenor of their writings, and see how perfectly each narrative will be in keeping with the distinct character of each particular Gospel. Take, for instance, a scene familiar to most of us, the agony in the garden of Gethsemane. In Luke (Luke 22:42) we see Jesus, the suffering “Son of Adam,” in all points, sin excepted, tempted as we are; saying, “Father, if Thou be willing, remove this cup from me.” An angel appears strengthening Him. In an agony He prays more fervently. He seems to seek sympathy from His disciples: great drops of blood fall to the ground. Now turn to the same scene in John (Chapter 18), and mark the striking contrast. Not a word about His prayer or agony; not a word about strength ministered to Him by an angel; not a word of His drops of blood, or of His apparent longing for sympathy in His trial. Throughout He is “the Word” incarnate. “Jesus knowing all things that should come upon Him, went forth and said, Whom seek ye?” “As soon as He had said unto them, I am He, they went backward, and fell to the ground.” Here, instead of weakness and agony, is power appalling His adversaries. Then again, instead of seeking sympathy from His disciples, He is seen rather as possessing the power to protect them. “If therefore ye seek me, let these go their way; that the saying might be fulfilled which He spake, Of those whom thou hast given me I have lost none.”
Some saints see nothing of this. Like Israel in Egypt, the only truth for them is redemption. Little distinction can they see either in the work or offices of Jesus. Still less do they see of His character or person. But among those who do see these things, how vast may be the difference of spiritual intelligence. It is this distinction, I cannot doubt, which is brought out, as the subject demands, in the varieties of the Offerings.
But it is time that we turn to the Burnt-offering. Let us examine it, first, in its contrast to the other offerings; and then, secondly, in its varieties.
I. In its contrast to the other Offerings, at least four points may be enumerated. It was, (1.) A sweet savour offering, and, (2.) Offered for acceptance; in these two particulars it differed from the Sin-offerings. (3.) Thirdly, it was the offering of a life: in this it differed from the Meat-offering. (4.) Fourthly, it was wholly burnt; here it differed from all, and particularly from the Peace-offering.
(1.) First, it was a sweet savour offering: “a sweet savour unto Jehovah” (Lev. 1:9, 13, 17). I have already adverted to the difference between the offerings, and that they were divided into two great and distinctive classes,—first, the sweet savour offerings, which were all, as we shall find, oblations for acceptance; and secondly, those offerings which were not of a sweet savour, and which were required as an expiation for sin. The first class, the sweet savour offerings,—comprising the Burnt-offering, the Meat-offering, and the Peace-offering (Leviticus chapters 1, 2, 3),—were offered on the brazen altar which stood in the Court of the Tabernacle. The second class,—the Sin and Trespass-offerings (Leviticus chapters 4, 5, 6),—were not consumed on the altar: some of them were burnt on the earth without the camp; others the priest ate, having first sprinkled the blood for atonement. In the first class, sin is not seen or thought of: it is the faithful Israelite giving a sweet offering to Jehovah. In the Sin-offerings it is just the reverse: it is an offering charged with the sin of the offerer. Thus, in the first class,—that is, the Burnt-offering, the Meat-offering, and the Peace-offering,—the offerer came for acceptance as a worshipper. In the second class, in the Sin and Trespass-offerings, he came as a sinner to pay the penalty of sin and trespass. In either case the offering was without blemish; for the Sin-offerings required perfectness in the victim as much as the Burnt-offering. But in the one the offerer appears as man in perfectness, and in his offering stands the trial of fire,—that is, God’s searching holiness; and accepted as a fragrant savour, all ascends a sweet offering to Jehovah. In the other, the offerer appears as a sinner, and in his offering bears the penalty due to his offences.
Now the Burnt-offering was of the first class, a sweet-smelling savour; as such in perfect contrast with the Sin-offerings. We are not here, therefore, to consider Christ as the Sin-bearer, but as man in perfectness meeting God in holiness. The thought here is not, “God hath made Him to be sin for us” (2 Cor. 5:21), but rather, “He loved us, and gave Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God of a sweet-smelling savour” (Eph. 5:2). Jesus, blessed be His name, both in the Burnt-offering and Sin-offering, stood as our representative. When He obeyed, He obeyed “for us:” when He suffered, He suffered “for us.” But in the Burnt-offering He appears for us, not as our sin-bearer, but as man offering to God something which is most precious to Him. We have here what we may in vain search for elsewhere;—man giving to God what truly satisfies Him. The thought here is not that sin has been judged, and that man in Christ has borne the judgment:—this would be the Sin-offering. The Burnt-offering shews us man going even further, and giving to God an offering so pleasing to Him that the sweet savour of it satisfies Him, and will satisfy Him for ever. With our experience of what man is, it seems wondrous that he should ever perfectly perform his part to God-ward. But in Christ man has so performed it: His offering was “a sweet savour unto the Lord.”
Here, then, is the first thought presented to us in the Burnt-offering: God finds food, that is, satisfaction, in the offering. In other oblations we have Christ as the faithful Israelite, by His offering feeding and satisfying the priests. Here He is seen satisfying Jehovah. The altar is “the table of the Lord” (Mal. 1:12): whatever was put upon it was “the food of God” (Lev. 21:6, 8, 17, 21, 22, margin). The fire from heaven, emblem of God’s holiness, consumes the offering; and it all ascends as sweet incense before Him. (Note: The word used for the Burnt-offering, עלה, literally “ascending,” is the same as that used for burning incense. The burning of the Sin-offering is expressed by an entirely different word.) And just as in the Burnt-offering the fire from heaven fell and consumed the sacrifice of the altar,—a pledge to him who offered it that there was something in the offering which God found pleasure in,—so, typically speaking, did God find food in the unblemished sacrifice of Jesus. His perfect spotlessness and devotedness was a sweet feast to the God of heaven. Here was something according to His taste. Here, at least, He found satisfaction.
We too often omit this thought when thinking of the offering of Jesus. We think of His death; but little of His life. We look but little into His ways. Yet it is His ways throughout His pilgrimage, even to the way He laid down His life, which God so delights in. Our views are so selfish and meagre. If we are saved, we seek no further. Most saints, therefore, have very little thought of Christ’s offering, except as offered for sin, “delivered for our offences.” God, however, puts the Burnt-offering first: for this was peculiarly His portion in Jesus. And just in proportion as a believer grows in grace, we shall find him turning intelligently to the Gospels; from them adding to the knowledge he has of the work of Jesus, greater knowledge of His ways and person; with earnest desire to know more of the Lord Himself, and how in all things He was “a sweet savour to Jehovah.”
(2.) But the Burnt-offering was not only “a sweet savour;” it was also an offering “for acceptance,”—that is, it was offered to God to secure the acceptance of the offerer. So we read,—I give the more correct translation,—“he shall offer it for his acceptance” (Lev. 1:3). (Note: In the common version these words are translated, “He shall offer it of his own voluntary will.” The Septuagint, the Chaldee version, the Vulgate, and the Targum Hierosolymitanum, all render this, “to be accepted;” which is confirmed by Lev. 1:4,—“it shall be accepted for him.” The words are לרצנו and ונרצה. I may add, that the same expression, where it occurs in Lev. 23:11, is in our version also, as well as in those referred to, translated “to be accepted.”) To understand this, we must recur for a moment to the position Christ occupied as offerer. He stood for man as man under the law, and, as under law, His acceptance depended on His perfectness. God had made man upright; but he had sought out many inventions. One dispensation after another had tried whether, under any circumstances, man could render himself acceptable to God. But age after age passed away: no son of Adam was found who could meet God's standard. The law was man's last trial, whether, with a revelation of God's mind, he could or would obey it. But this trial, like the others, ended in failure: “there was none righteous, no, not one.” How, then, was man to be reconciled to God? How could he be brought to meet God's requirements? One way yet remained, and the Son of God accepted it. “He took not on Him the nature of angels; but He took the seed of Abraham;” and in His person, once and for ever, man was reconciled to God. In effecting this, Jesus, as man's representative, took man's place, where He found man, under law; and there, in obedience to the law, He offered, “for His acceptance.” The question was, could man bring an offering so acceptable as to satisfy God? Jesus as man did bring such an offering. He offered Himself, and His offering was accepted. Even with our poor thoughts of what Jesus was to the Father, it seems wondrous that He, the Blessed One, should ever have thus offered “for His acceptance.” But this was only one of the many steps of humiliation which He took, as our representative, “for us.”
And this explains the word “atonement” in the fourth verse:—“It shall be accepted for him to make atonement.” These words might suggest to some the thought of sin in connexion with the Burnt-offering. Such a view of the case would be erroneous. The word “atonement” here, as elsewhere, in itself means simply making satisfaction: and satisfaction may be of two sorts, depending on that which we have to satisfy. We may satisfy a loving and holy requirement, or satisfy offended justice. Either would be satisfaction: the Burnt-offering is the former; the Sin-offering the latter.
And that the atonement of the Sin-offering is of a very different nature from the atonement here spoken of in the Burnt-offering, will at once be seen by any who will compare what is said of the atonement of the Burnt-offering and of the Sin-offerings: for in the Sin-offering we find it expressly added that the atonement is an “atonement for the offerer’s sin.” (Note: See Lev. 4:20, 26, 31; 5:6, 10, 13, 16, 18; 6:7; where in every case the atonement of the Sin-offerings is expressly connected with sin. There is nothing like this in the atonement of the Burnt-offering, Lev. 1:4.) This is never said in the Burnt-offering: on the contrary, it is said to be “offered for acceptance.” The atonement of the Burnt-offering is the satisfaction which God receives from the perfectness which the offerer presents to Him. The atonement of the Sin-offering is expiatory: the offerer by his offering satisfies offended justice. In the Sin-offering the atonement is for sin; the offering, therefore, is not presented for acceptance; but as seen charged with the sin of the offerer, is cast out, the victim of a broken law: thenceforth, as under the imputation of sin, and regarded as unfit for a place among God’s people, it is cast out from the midst of Israel, and burnt without the camp. In the Burnt-offering the atonement is made by one who comes as a worshipper without sin, and in his sinless offering offers for acceptance that which is received as a sweet savour by the Lord. Man is under trial, indeed, and offering for acceptance: but he is seen accepted, as having satisfied God. I need not say that but One ever did this perfectly, and He gave Himself, and was accepted for us (Eph. 5:2; Tit. 2:14).
(3.) The third point peculiar to the Burnt-offering was, that a life was offered on the altar:—“He shall kill the bullock before the Lord, and sprinkle the blood upon the altar” (Lev. 1:5). In this particular the Burnt-offering stands distinguished from the Meat-offering, which in other respects it closely resembles. In the Meat-offering, however, the offering was “corn, oil, and frankincense;” here the offering is a life. The right understanding of the precise import of this particular will help us to the distinct character of the Burnt-offering. Life was that part in creation which from the beginning God claimed as His. As such,—as being His claim on His creatures,—it stands as an emblem for what we owe Him. What we owe to God is our duty to Him. And this, I doubt not, is the thought here intended. Of course, the offering here, as elsewhere, is the body of Jesus, that body which He took, and then gave for us: but in giving God a life, in contradistinction to offering Him corn or frankincense, the peculiar thought is the fulfilment of the first table of the Decalogue. Thus the life yielded is man’s duty to God, and man here is seen perfectly giving it. Am I asked what man ever thus offered? I answer, none but One, “the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). He alone of all the sons of Adam in perfectness accomplished all man’s duty to God-ward; He in His own blessed and perfect righteousness met every claim God could make upon Him. Again, I say, He did it “for us,” and we are “accepted in Him.”
(4.) The fourth and last feature peculiar to the Burnt-offering is, that it was wholly burnt on the altar. “The priest shall burn all upon the altar, to be a burnt sacrifice unto the Lord” (Lev. 1:9). In this particular the Burnt-offering differed from the Meat and Peace-offerings, in which a part only was burnt with fire; nor did it differ less from those offerings for Sin, which, though wholly burnt, were not burnt upon the altar.
The import of this distinction is manifest, and in exact keeping with the character of the offering. Man’s duty to God is not the giving up of one faculty, but the entire surrender of all. So Christ sums up the First Commandment,—all the mind, all the soul, all the affections. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matt. 22:37). I cannot doubt that the type refers to this in speaking so particularly of the parts of the Burnt-offering; for “the head,” “the fat,” “the legs,” “the inwards,” are all distinctly enumerated (Lev. 1:8, 9). “The head” is the well-known emblem of the thoughts; “the legs” the emblem of the walk; and “the inwards” the constant and familiar symbol of the feelings and affections of the heart. The meaning of “the fat” may not be quite so obvious, though here also Scripture helps us to the solution (Psalm 17:10; 92:14; 119:70; Deut. 32:15). It represents the energy not of one limb or faculty, but the general health and vigour of the whole. In Jesus these were all surrendered, and all without spot or blemish. Had there been but one thought in the mind of Jesus which was not perfectly given to God;—had there been but one affection in the heart of Jesus which was not yielded to His Father’s will;—had there been one step in the walk of Jesus which was taken not for God, but for His own pleasure;—then He could not have offered Himself or been accepted as “a whole burnt-offering to Jehovah.” But Jesus gave up all: He reserved nothing. All was burnt, all consumed upon the altar.
I do not know that there is anything more remarkable than this in the perfect offering of our blessed Master. Everything He did or said was for God. From first to last self had no place: His Father’s work, His father’s will, were everything. The first words recorded of Him as a child are, “I must be about my Father’s business.” His last words on the cross, “It is finished,” proclaim how that business and that labour were fulfilled and cared for. So entirely was His whole life devoted to spend and be spent for His Father, that in reading the Gospels the thought scarce occurs to us that He could have had a will of His own. Yet Jesus was perfect man, and as such had a human will as we have. In one point only did it differ from ours: His will was always subject to His Father. As a man, His thoughts were human thoughts; His affections human affections. But how much of these did He reserve for self, for His own ease, or credit, or pleasure? What one act recorded of Him was for His own advancement? What one word which was not in entire devotedness to His Father?
But it is vain to endeavour to describe His perfectness; words cannot express it: God only knows it. Of this, however, I am fully assured,—the more we are in communion with God, the more we shall estimate it. Out of God’s presence we see no beauty in Jesus: His very perfectness is so strange to our natural judgments. Had He been less devoted, we should have better understood Him. Nay, had His self-surrender been less complete, we should have valued it higher. Had He, instead of always refusing to be anything here, taken the glory of the world for a season, and then resigned it, we should probably have thought more of His humiliation in becoming the friend and companion of the poor. But so it was, and so it is still; the more humble, the more despised in man’s eyes; the more faithful, the less accepted. But the Burnt-offering was for God’s acceptance, not for man’s. He at least could estimate the full value of the offering.
Such was “the whole burnt-offering:” the entire surrender of self to God in everything. How utterly in contrast to what the world thinks wisdom; “for men will praise thee when thou doest well to thyself” (Psalm 49:18). Nay, how utterly unlike anything which can be found even in believers. With us how many thoughts are there for self; for our ease, our pleasure, our interest. How much of our walk, how much of our affections, is consumed on anything rather than the altar! It was not so with the blessed Jesus. “With all His heart” He lived for God, for “the inwards” were all consumed: “with all His soul and with all His strength,” for “the fat and head” were offered. His offering was not the surrender of one part, while He kept what He most valued for Himself. It was not the surrender of what cost nothing, or what cost but little, or what was comparatively worthless. “He gave Himself” (Eph. 5:2), in all His perfectness, and satisfied the heart of God.
Such is the general aspect of the Burnt-offering, as distinguished from the other offerings. It was a sweet savour, an offering for acceptance, the offering of a life, and wholly burnt upon the altar. Let us now proceed to examine,
II. Its varieties, that is, the different measures of apprehension with which it may be seen.
There were, then, three grades in the Burnt-offering. It might be “of the herd” (Lev. 1:3), or “of the flock” (Lev. 1:10), or “of fowls” (Lev. 1:14). These different grades gave rise to several varieties in the offering, the import of which we shall now consider.
(1.) The first difference is in the animal offered. We have in the first grade, “a bullock;” in the second, “a lamb;” in the third, “a turtle-dove.” Each of these animals, from their well-known character, presents us with a different thought respecting the offering. The bullock, “strong to labour” (Psalm 144:14),—for “great increase is by the strength of the ox” (Prov. 14:4),—suggests at once the thought of service, of patient, untiring labour. In the lamb we have another picture presented to us; here the thought is passive submission without a murmur: for the lamb is the figure constantly chosen to represent the submissive, uncomplaining character of Christ’s sufferings. “He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearer is dumb, so He openeth not his mouth” (Isa. 53:7). The turtle-dove is different from either of these, and gives again another view of the offering of Jesus. In this class the thought of labour is lost sight of: the unmurmuring submission, too, of the lamb is wanting: the thought is rather simply one of mourning innocence; as it is written, “We mourn like doves” (Isa. 59:11; 38:14); and again, “Be harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16).
Here, then, are some of the measures of apprehension with which the sacrifice of Jesus as Burnt-offering may be regarded; for a saint may see either His devoted labour, His uncomplaining submission, or His mourning innocence. All these are equally true, all equally precious, all equally acceptable: yet all do not equally bring out the distinct character of this perfect offering. The thought of the Burnt-offering, as we have already seen, is man fulfilling his duty towards God. But man’s duty to God is not merely a life of innocence, or a life of submission; it is also a life of labour. “The bullock” brings out this thought distinctly: the other classes, “the lamb” and “turtle-dove,” omit it.
It may be asked, what do we learn by “the goat” (Lev. 1:10), which was sometimes offered in one of the lower grades of the Burnt-offering? If I mistake not, this emblem suggests a thought of the Sin-offering, reminding us of Christ’s offering as scape-goat. This view of the case may seem to be open to an objection; and I may be asked how the thought of sin can be connected with the Burnt-offering? I answer, these different grades in the offerings are but different measures of apprehension; and there may be apprehension enough to see Christ bringing His offering, without clearly distinguishing the different aspects of that offering. Accordingly, we find that in the lower grades of all the offerings, the distinctive character of the particular offering is constantly lost sight of, while a thought or view of some other offering is partially substituted in its place. (Note: This is seen especially in the last grade of the Meat-offering, and in the last two grades of the Sin-offering. The last class of the Meat-offering gives us a thought of “first-fruits” (Lev. 2:14). The last grade but one of the Sin-offering is seen as “a sweet savour” Burnt-offering (Lev. 4:31); while the last grade of all is represented as almost a Meat-offering (Lev. 5:11, 12).) This is what we might naturally have expected as the result of a smaller measure of apprehension. It is what we find universally the case in those whose views of Christ are limited. So in the type; where the measure of apprehension is small, there is a confusion between two different aspects of Christ’s offering. The building, to recur to a former illustration, is viewed from so great a distance, that more than one side of it is seen, though neither of the sides is seen very distinctly. Thus with many the thought of Jesus as Burnt-offering is scarce distinguished from the thought of the Sin-offering. These different relations of His work are unseen, or at least they are very much confused together.
Such are some of the varieties of the Burnt-offering, corresponding to the different apprehensions which believers have of Jesus: for His offering may be seen as the bullock, the lamb, the goat, or the turtle-dove. Comparatively few, I believe, see Jesus as presented in the first class,—the patient, unwearied labourer for others. The lamb, the goat, the turtle-dove, are all more familiar symbols. The fact is, we need to be ourselves in service, and to know practically something of its toil and trial, before we can at all rightly estimate the aspect of Christ’s offering which is presented in the emblem of the bullock. The Gospels, however, are full of this view of the Burnt-offering: in fact, one whole Gospel is specially devoted to it. In Mark, Jesus is not brought before us as in the other Gospels, either as Son of Abraham, Son of Adam, or Son of God; He stands rather,—as another has observed,—the patient, untiring labourer for others. In Mark, turn where we will, we see Jesus always “the girded servant;” always at the disposal of others, to spend and be spent at their bidding. Thus when, after days of ceaseless labour, He retires alone for prayer or rest with His disciples, no sooner do the multitude disturb Him than He at once goes with them, or rises to minister to their need (Mark 1:35-38; 6:30-45; &c. &c.). So entirely does He give Himself to His work, that “He had no leisure so much as to eat” (Mark 3:20; 6:31); but He had meat to eat which the world saw not: “His meat was to do His Father’s will” (John 4:31-34). And oh, what touches of grace are there in all His service! He not only cures the blind, but “He takes him by the hand” (Mark 8:23). He not only raises the dead: His mission in that house ends not till, with careful foresight, “He commands them to give her meat” (Mark 5:43). Blessed Lord, shew us more of Thy footsteps, that, while we rejoice in Thy work, we may learn to follow Thee.
(2.) A second distinction between the different grades of the Burnt-offering is, that while in the first grade the parts are discriminated, in the last this peculiarity is omitted: the bird was killed, but not divided. In the case of the bullock and the lamb, it is noticed that the offering is “cut into its pieces.” Here “the legs, the head, the fat, the inwards,” are all distinctly noticed and enumerated (Lev. 1:6, 8, 9). In the last case, that of the turtle-dove, it is otherwise: “he shall not divide it asunder” (Lev. 1:17). “The legs, the head, the inwards,” as we have already seen, represent the walk, the thoughts, the feelings of Jesus. In the first grade these are all apprehended: they are all lost sight of in the last. These grades represent, as I have said, measures of apprehension. Where the measure of spiritual apprehension is large, a saint will see the offering dissected: his eyes will be turning constantly to see the walk, the mind, the affections of Jesus. He will now observe, what once he regarded not, how Jesus walked, how He thought, what were His feelings. On the other hand, where Jesus is but little apprehended, all the details of His walk and feelings will be unseen. Christ’s character will not be dissected, nor the different parts of His work appear.
It is further noticed in the type, that, in the first class of the Burnt-offering, “the inwards and legs were washed in water” (Lev. 1:9). Nothing like this is seen in the last grade: there even the parts are not discriminated. What are we to learn by this distinction? “The legs” and “the inwards” are the walk and affections. “The water” represents the Spirit acting through the Word; as it is written, “Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it by the washing of water by the Word” (Eph. 5:26, τῷ λουτρῷ του ὕδατος, ἐν ῥήματι); and again,—“Sanctify them through Thy truth; Thy word is truth” (John 17:17). Christ, though without spot or blemish, yet as a man in His feelings and walk submitted to God’s Word and Spirit. As a man He was Himself sanctified by them; for as He said, “By the word of Thy lips I have kept me” (Psalm 17:4). The law said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God” (Deut. 8:3; Luke 4:4); and Jesus, as man, fully did so: every step, every feeling, obeyed. But all this is lost sight of in the turtle-dove. The discrimination of the parts, and the washing of water, are both unnoticed.
(3.) A third distinction between the different grades of the Burnt-offering is, that while in the first grade the offerer is seen to lay his hand on the offering (Lev. 1:4), in the other grades this act is not observed. I have already adverted to the import of this action as representing the identity of the offering and offerer. In the first grade of the Burnt-offering this identity is seen: it is wholly lost sight of in the other grades. Not a few see Christ as offering for us, without fully realising that His offering was Himself. They see that He gave up this thing or that; that He gave much for us, and that what He gave was most precious. But they do not really see that “He gave Himself,” that His own blessed person was what He offered. This is clearly seen in the first grade of the Burnt-offering. It is lost sight of, or unobserved, in the other grades.
(4.) A fourth distinction, closely allied with the one just considered, is, that in the first class the offerer is seen to kill the victim,—in the last the priest kills it (Compare Lev. 1:5 and Lev. 1:15). In fact, in the last class, the priest does nearly everything, the offerer is scarcely seen at all; whereas in the first class it is just the reverse, there are many particulars noted of the offerer. The import of this is at once obvious, when we see the distinction between the priest and offerer. The offerer, as I have already observed, sets Christ before us in His person. The priest represents Him in His official character, as the appointed Mediator between God and man. Where the identity between the offerer and offering is apprehended, the offerer is seen to kill the offering; that is, Christ is seen in His person, of His own will laying down His life; as it is written,—“No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself” (John 10:18). On the contrary, where the identity of the offering and offerer is unseen or disregarded, the priest is seen to kill the victim, that is, Christ’s death is seen as the work of the Mediator; and is connected with His official character as Priest, rather than with His person as the willing Offerer. So with believers, where there is only a limited measure of apprehension, little is known of Christ save His office as Mediator: He Himself, His blessed person, is overlooked or but little seen.
Such are the chief varieties of the Burnt-offering: how full are they of instruction to the believer: how clearly do they mark the different apprehensions among saints respecting the work and person of our Lord. Some, however,—I speak of believers,—are content to know nothing of this; and they would rather not be told their ignorance. They can see but one truth,—the Paschal lamb,—and anything further they neither care nor wish for. Such, whether they are aware of it or not, shew too plainly that they know little either of the wilderness or of the tabernacle, that hitherto their home has been Egypt, and that as yet they are little better than bondsmen there. But after through grace we are out of Egypt, and have received a knowledge of the varied offerings; after we know and are assured of our deliverance, and have spiritual apprehension enough to see the different aspects of Christ’s offering; how much remains to be learnt of Jesus in any or every aspect of His work. There are babes as well as strong men in the wilderness, and the babes can know but little till they are grown. Yea, there are men of Israel, full-grown men, in the wilderness, who through unfaithfulness are almost strangers to the offering. With all such the measure of apprehension will be limited, and consequently their joy and strength but small. Lord, awaken Thy saints to know their calling, by knowing more and more of Jesus; that instead of boasting themselves as children of Abraham, while they are bondsmen in Babylon or Egypt, they may seek as sons of Abraham to walk as he did, as strangers and pilgrims with Thee!
Here I conclude my remarks on the Burnt-offering. In it we have seen Jesus as our representative. His offering was offered “for us;” therefore “as He is, so are we in this world” (1 John 4:17); the measure of His acceptance is the measure of our acceptance,—“we are made accepted in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:6). But in the Burnt-offering Jesus stands also as our example, “leaving us an example that we should follow His steps” (1 Peter 2:21); the measure therefore of His devotedness should be the measure of ours,—“we should walk even as He walked” (1 John 2:6).
May the Lord grant to His Church more fully to know and apprehend her calling, her union with Jesus dead and risen, and her hope when He appears; that so while she rejoices in her inheritance, and that Jesus represents her above, she may daily be found nearer to His cross, and more and more represent Him here. Amen.
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