Therefore I urge you, brothers, in view of God?s mercy to offer your bodies
as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God?which is your spiritual worship.
Old Testament Ritual Sacrifice Points to New Testament Sacrifice
One evening a chicken and a pig were having a deep discussion about breakfast the next
day at Farmer Brown?s. The chicken said, ?Farmer Brown just doesn?t appreciate the
sacrifice we make for his breakfast. He just takes us for granted.? The pig replied, ?sacrifice;
you know nothing about sacrifice.? Ritual sacrifice was not a new concept when Moses
brought the Law to God?s people at Sinai. Archaeological evidence tells us that the
idea of taking an object of value and offering it up in order to appease some
sort of supposed greater power is an idea almost as old as humanity. In order to appease
the anger of some god or gods, people have offered their most prized possessions,
even their own children, at altars devoted to beings of their own imagination. When Paul
entered Athens, he saw altars devoted to any number of gods including non-Greek
gods such as Ishtar and Isis as well as many of the Greek gods, and of course,
Athena. In fact, just to cover themselves, they even had an altar with the inscription,
?TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.? (Acts 17:23).
Sacrifice has always been about giving up something of personal value in order
to express the sincerity of the giver and in order to obtain the favor of the
one to whom the sacrifice is offered. However, throughout human history, the problem
had always been that the sincerity of the giver did not have the power to appease
a god which did not exist. It is a pitiful thing to contemplate the amount of blood
and smoke devoted over the centuries in desperation out of the fear of the unknown
to creations of human fantasy.
The existence of sacrificial systems amongst virtually every human culture since
before the dawn of history tells us that it is somehow inherent in human nature
to believe that sacrifice is needed to achieve a right relationship with that
power which controls our destiny. It is God who put this instinct into the human heart. In all
?this, God was preparing the human heart and mind to accept the sacrifices ordained
in the Law of Moses. Even more so, God was creating us to receive and to offer the
sacrifices commanded in the New Testament, the greatest of which, of course,
is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross was neither
an accident nor an afterthought on the part of God. Jesus is ?the Lamb of God,
slain from the creation of the world.? (Revelation 13:8) Of course the skeptic has
every right to question this claim, but the evidence of type and antitype found
in this chapter will prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the God who inspired
the writing of the Bible had these sacrifices in mind from the beginning.
Sacrifices commanded in the New Testament? Which sacrifices are those? I do not remember any
sacrifices ordained in the New Testament. In this section we will see that each one of
the sacrifices described in detail in the law given at Sinai was intended to
anticipate and to teach about an important aspect of sacrifice as fulfilled
in their antitypes in the New Testament.
It would be safe to say that a good majority of Christians become lost in the
details when they read what may seem like a confusing array of sacrifices described
in the Old Testament Law, especially in Leviticus. Surely most Bible readers have asked
themselves why God put all that detail in there. God cannot expect us to get anything
out of all this. Wrong! Trespass offerings, sin offerings, burnt offerings, drink
offerings, grain offerings, thank offerings. Were the Jews able to keep all this straight? T
he answer is absolutely yes. The Mosaic sacrificial system to the Jews was a bit
like the game of baseball to the average American. For anyone raised in a culture unfamiliar
with the game, baseball is a confusing set of seemingly meaningless rules. Howev
er, for most Americans baseball is a part of daily life, understood and taken
for granted by all. The same would apply to the sacrificial system and the Jews. F
or us it may seem a confusing array of seemingly meaningless rules, but for
the Jews during the time before Christ it was a part of daily life, understood
and taken for granted by all?a national pass-time.
The sacrificial system given under the first covenant was of great significance
to the Jews. They understood that through offering these sacrifices they were able
to keep a right relationship with their God and to live a blessed life under
the protection of Jehovah. The sacrifices at the temple were at the heart of Judaism. How
ever, all along God intended them to be a foreshadowing of something far greater
for those who would come to have a relationship with him under the second covenant
in Jesus Christ.
The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes
of a heifer sprinkled on those who are
ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they
are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will
the blood of Christ, who through the eternal
Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse
our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that
we may serve the living God! (Heb 9:13,14).
If the Mosaic sacrifices have a fuller significance to us than to the Jews,
surely it is worth the effort to understand what God is trying to teach us,
even if it means slogging through a few details to reach that end. Believe it or
not, it is easier to understand the sacrificial system in Leviticus and its
signigicance to followers of Jesus than it is to understand the game of baseball!
THE LEVITICAL SACRIFICIAL SYSTEM
It will be helpful to go through a general introduction to the sacrifices ordained
under the Law of Moses before describing type and antitype in the two testaments. To beg
in with, the reader may be surprised to know that not all the sacrifices performed
by the priests were for forgiveness of sins (or the first covenant equivalent;
ceremonial cleanness). One can divide the sacrifices into those which were for worship and
?those which were intended to deal with sin. Another way to describe the division
is those sacrifices which were for worship of God and those which made it possible
to worship God in the first place.
When reading about the sacrifices in Leviticus, there is a straightforward way
to know whether one is reading about a sacrifice intended as worship or one
which is for dealing with individual or corporate sin. The book of Leviticus is
consistent in describing the worship sacrifices as ?an aroma, pleasing to the
LORD.? For example, consider Leviticus 1:9, Leviticus 2:2 and Leviticus 3:5. T
he sacrifices for sin definitely were not a pleasing aroma to God and they are
never described that way. On the contrary, they involve things which God hates. Lev
iticus chapters four and five do not mention anything about sin sacrifices pleasing
God. The distincti
on between the two types of sacrifice is also recognized in the
New Testament. ?Every high priest is selected from among men and is appointed to represent
them in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.? (Hebrews
5:1). In this case, the ?gifts? are the sweet-savor, worship sacrifices, while the
?sacrifices for sins? would be the sin offerings.
It is traditional to separate the sacrifices described in Leviticus and elsewhere
into five main types, with the other sacrifices as subcategories. The three main sweet savor
sacrifices were the burnt offering (olah in Hebrew), the grain offering (minc
hah), and the fellowship offering (shelem). The two sacrifices which were intended
by God to deal with sin are the sin offering (chatat) and the trespass offering
(asham). The details of these sacrifices, their purpose in the Old Covenant
and their antitype meaning in the New Testament are the main subject of this
Other offerings could be mentioned as well. One of these is the drink offering (
nesek in Hebrew). This offering was usually given along with one of the worship offerings.
Because the drink offering was always included when Jews gave a grain offering,
it is often not mentioned as one of the five principle offerings and is listed
under the grain offering. There are sub-categories under the fellowship offering as
well. One of these is the thank-offering (often called the peace offering). Another is the
vow offering, while a third is the free-will offering. These three sacrifices are very
similar; differing mainly in the intention of the worshipper. In fact, the traditional
name for these sacrifices gives away their purpose.
Each of these sacrifices were to be made, either at the tabernacle or later,
at the Templein Jerusalem. Each of these sacrifices were performed by priests
from the line of Aaron, although the Jewish worshipper was occasionally allowed
to take part in at least part of the ceremony, especially in the worship sacrifices.
Some of these sacrifices were to be offered on a regular basis, either daily,
or weekly or at a New Moon festival or one of the other ordained festivals. Others were
to be offered whenever the need or desire on the part of one of the Jews came
A secondary goal of this chapter is to separate and describe each of the sacrifices
so that the reader can understand the Jewish perspective on the sacrificial
system. The principle goal, of course, is to show how each of these sacrifices were
intended by God to teach us about aspects of sacrifice to God under the New
Covenant. Each of the sacrifices will be described in detail, along with their New Testament
implications. The worship sacrifices will be dealt with first because, for whatever reason,
God chose to put them first in the book of Leviticus. We will see that the sin sacrifices
prefigure the sacrificial ministry of Jesus. The worship sacrifices will teach
us about personal sacrifice in our daily lives and specifically about those
made by our greatest example, Jesus Christ.
THE BURNT OFFERING (olah)
The burnt offering is described in Leviticus chapter one. As already mentioned,
this was a sacrifice of worship?a sweet savor offering. This offering was in
general voluntary, although burnt offerings were also given ritually for the
whole community twice a day (see Numbers 28). For the Jew, the burnt offering
represented a voluntary dedication or commitment to the Lord. God asked the Jews
to take a valued possession and literally burn it up on an altar devoted to
him. This sacrifice speaks volumes about total commitment and dedication. Once you burn up
your possessions, there is certainly no getting them back. The burnt sacrifice maintains
the same antitype meaning in the New Testament as well, as we will see.
The details of the performance of this sacrifice may be summarized as follows. The
?burnt offering was to be an animal of the herd (a bull) or the flock (a sheep),
or for a poor person, a bird could be substituted. The worshipper first laid his hands
on the head of the sacrifice to symbolize that the offering represented himself. T
he animal had to be without defect. It was then sacrificed and the blood was sprinkled
on the altar. The head was burned entire as is, while the body was very thoroughly
washed before also burning it on the altar. ?It is a burnt offering, an offering
made by fire, an aroma pleasing to the LORD.? (Leviticus 1:13) When the burnt offering
was complete, there was nothing left but ashes.
The burnt offering held deep significance to the Jews. It represented for them a
total dedication of the life and heart to Jehovah. It is also loaded with meaning and
foreshadow for those under the New Covenant. Because it is a sweet savor sacrifice,
it bears signigicance both for the sacrifice of Jesus and for our own personal
It is not mere coincidence that in the burnt offering the head was not cleansed,
while the body was thoroughly cleaned. This is because this sacrifice is a foreshadowing
of the sacrifice and dedication of Jesus Christ and of his church to God. Jesu
s is the head of the church.
And God placed all things under his feet
and appointed him to be head over everything
for the church, which is his body, the fullness of
him who fills everything in every way.
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will
in all things grow up into the Head, that is Christ.
?as Christ loved the church and gave
himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her
by the washing with water through the word, and
to present her to himself as a radiant church?.
After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he
feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the
church?for we are members of his body.
Jesus certainly presented himself to God as a burnt offering. Yet he, as the head of
the body, did not need cleansing, as he was without sin. However, the body,
representing the body of Christ, the church, needed cleansing. The Aaronic priests
probably were not aware of the powerful imagery and prophecy in the washing
of the body but not the head, but God had something in mind all along.
In his lifetime, Jesus presented his own body as a living sacrifice. We are not talking
here about his death but his life as an offering.
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly
loved children and live a life of love, just as
Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a
fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
In this passage, Paul is making reference to the burnt offering. Notice that he is referring
to a fragrant offering and a giving up of himself. The poi
nt is that Jesus offered
his life as as a total dedication to God for our sake and that we ought to offer
ourselves to God as a burnt offering sacrifice of love as well.
God is asking for the same burnt offering from us, although we need washing
before we are prepared to give it! The burnt offering is not about salvation. It is not
?required.? It is a voluntary dedication of oneself to God?a thing which is very pleasing
to God. Look at Romans 12:1,2. It takes on a whole new and a fuller meaning in this context:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of
God?s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices,
holy and pleasing to God?this is your spiritual act
The reference to the burnt offering is clear, as is the application to those
under the New Covenant. God is calling us to make a burnt offering of our lives, not
in order to be cleansed, but because we have been cleansed. Note he says ?in view of
God?s mercy.? In other words, given that Jesus has already cleansed us and prepared
us for the burnt offering, let us come to God and present our lives on the altar
of our faith in total dedication and love to him. This is only a reasonable response.
Have you presented your life as a living sacrifice? Are you holding back something? It is not
a matter of salvation but a matter of love and response to that love. Are you willing
to have your life used up for God, leaving only a pile of ashes here on the
earth? If so, know that it will be a pleasing aroma to our God.
Our attitude ought to be the same as that of Paul;
I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no
way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage
so that now, as always, Christ will be exalted in
my body, whether by life or by death. For me to
live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on
living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for
me. (Philippians 1:20-22).
Paul?s sincere hope was that his body and his life could be presented as an
offering to God?a burnt offering of dedication to the Head, which is Christ. Is that
One of the great things about the burnt sacrifice?and therefore about the Christian
life?is that it is truly voluntary. There is a great difference between dedicating something
because it is required and dedicating something because your heart is behind
it. We learn from the Old Testament, of all places, is that this is the essence
of the Christian life. God is waiting in eager expectation that we will offer ourselves
to him as living sacrifices, not in order to be saved, but out of gratitude
becaused we are saved.
THE GRAIN OFFERING (minchah)
The grain offering is described in detail in Leviticus chapter two. Unlike the
burnt offering, the grain offering was not voluntary. The Jews were required to give
a grain offering, but it was the size of the offering which was voluntary. For the Jew,
the grain offering was a giving of the first fruits of their labor to God. It was
?a gift in response to the physical gifts that God had given them. From the grain
offering, the Christian can learn about contributing from the first fruits of
their labor: money! How does God feel about our contribution?
Actually, there was more to the grain offering than just grain. The worshipper was
to bring a mixture of grain, oil, incense (Leviticus 2:1-10), and in some cases
salt (Leviticus 2:13). The mixture was sometimes cooked as bread. A portion was
burned on the altar, and the rest was given to take care of the needs of Aaron
and his sons. The grain offering was at least partially intended to take care of
those who ministered before the Lord. It was a worship offering, ?an aroma pleasing
to the Lord.? (Leviticus 2:9).
Leviticus two specified some things that definitely were not to be combined
with the grain offering. It was forbidden to include any kind of leaven or yeast as
well as honey (Leviticus 2:11).
For the Jews, the purpose of the grain offering was two-fold. It was intended to remind
them that their physical blessings were from God, not simply from their own
effort. God expected them to return a portion of their blessings as tribute to remind
them of where their physical blessings came from in the first place. The grain offering
was also intended to take care of the physical needs of those who devoted themselves
in a special way to the ministry before the Lord?the priests and the Levites.
It is not very difficult to see what God intended the grain offering to foreshadow
for those who are under the New Covenant. God expects us to bring to him an offering
from the first fruits of our labor as well. God was telling us that giving from
what he has blessed us with in order to take care of the needs of the church
and of those who serve God in a special way is not an option. God expects us to give
from our first fruits. In other words, our giving should not be an after-thought,
or from what is left over after our own ?needs? are taken care of. It is a matter
of faith to give from our first fruits because when we have only gathered the
first fruits, we are not absolutely certain that the last fruits will be enough
to sustain us. Trust is involved in this sacrifice.
Let us look at type and antitype in the details of this offering. The grain offering
obviously included grain. Grain is the fruit of careful, sustained labor. God expects
us to work, to earn and to give from what we earn. One reason we work, of course,
is to take care of our physical needs. A secondary reason to work is so that we can
bring an offering to God.
The offering also included oil. One effect of the oil, of course, was to make the
bread taste good. In the Bible, oil consistently represents the anointing (choosing)
of God. Jesus was anointed with the oil of joy (Hebrews 1:9).
We all have an anointing from the Holy One (1 John 2:20). God has chosen each
of his children and their offering of the fruits of their labor reminds them
of that fact.
The grain offering also included incense. Incense consistently represents our offerings
of prayer to God (Revelation 5:8, Revelation 8:3, Luke 1:10). In this, God
is telling us that our offerings should be given with prayer.
The grain offering often included salt as well. Salt represents eterenity, something
permanent, a lasting covenant, an eternal reward. (Mark 9:49,50, Colossians 4:6, Matthew
5:13, 2 Chronicles 13:5, Numbers 18:19). Although the food which was offered
on the altar was perishable, it produced rewards in heaven which are eternal. Simi
larly for us; our earthly treasures are a temporary thing, but in giving of
our physical treasures to God, we are receiving a heavenly reward which will
never spoil or perish.
Do not store up for yourselves treasures
on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where
thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves
treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not
destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
For where your treasure is, there you heart will be
also. (Matthew 6:19-21).
God is teaching us a lot about our sacrificial giving to take care of the needs
of his kingdom through the grain offering.
The things which were not allowed to be included in the grain offering are important
foreshadows as well. Leaven was not allowed. Jesus used leaven to represent sin and evil
influences. ?Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and the Saducees which
is hypocrisy.? (Luke 12:1). Paul used the same theme;
Don?t you know that a little yeast works
through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the
old yeast that you may be a new batch without
yeast?as you really are. For Christ, our Passover
lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep
the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of
malice and wickedness, but with the bread without
yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.
(1 Corinthians 5:6-8).
In the grain offering, God is telling us to give of our first fruits, but to
watch for the influence of every kind of sin in our lives. An offering which is tainted
with greed and evil desire is worse than no offering at all.
The grain offering was to exclude yeast and also honey. For the Jews, honey represented
that which is decaying. Ours is to be a living sacrifice, coming from new wine skins,
made new in washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. (Titus 3:5).
Probably the most obvious New Testament application of the grain offering is
found in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9. The Macedonian churches pleaded with Paul for
the opportunity to take care of the needs of the saints. They gave first to God, then
to Paul?s needs, and presumably last to their own personal needs. They had a ?good
excuse? to be miserly in their giving because they were poor, but they gave
generously, nevertheless. Paul reminds them that Jesus set an example of giving a grain-offering
by giving to the point that he was made poor so that the saints could be made
rich. Giving to the needs of the local church is not optional, but the extent of
giving is, ?for God loves a cheerful giver.? (2 Corinthians 9:7). Paul associates
prayer (incense) with the offering (2 Corinthians 9:12,14) as well as eternal
blessings (salt) (2 Corinthians 9:6-11).
Jesus certainly gave a grain offering. In fact, he left all his earthly possessions
behind in order to pursue his ministry to the needs of his people. How are you doing
in your grain offering? Are you giving your first fruits? Are you holding back?wanting to
see how the harvest will finish before you give? Is your offering combined with
prayer, or is a routine. Is your offering mixed with the leaven of bitterness and greed?
If so, do not stop giving, but exclude the leaven from your gift. Let us give
an acceptable grain offering to God, an aroma pleasing to the Lord.
THE DRINK OFFERING (nesek)
As previoiusly mentioned, the drink offering was related to the grain offering. Dri
nk offerings were almost always given in tandem with grain offerings (Exodus
29:41, Leviticus 23:13and Numbers 28:31 for example). They were a worship offering;
a sweet savor sacrifice. The drink offering was the simplest of the sacrifices ordained
in the Mosaic system. It involved simply pouring wine out on the altar.
Although the drink offering was simple, it offered to the Jews a vivid picture
of their worship of God. When one empties a container of grain or other produce,
it is a simple matter to scoop it back up into the container, although some
may be lost. When liquid is spilled from a cup onto the ground, it is irretrievable. There is
something very final about pouring out a drink offering, which reminded the
Jew of their irretrievable and total dedication to God.
David made a sort of a drink offering in 2 Samuel 23:16. He had expressed his thirst
in front of three of his bravest and most loyal soldiers while his pursuer King
Saul was camped close by. At extreme risk of their own lives, these soldiers broke
through Saul?s lines and brought an offering of water to David stolen right
out from under the noses of King Saul?s troops. In a vivid scene, David turned their
devotion to him into a drink offering of devotion to God as he poured the precious
water out on the ground.
The drink offering is a foreshadowing of the kind of total devotion God wants
us to have for Jesus Christ, the son of David (by the way, the above incident
is another example of how David?s life is a prefigure of the Messiah).