3:16 – The Rest of the Story – God Reveals His Plan 5: Leviticus

A Bible Study exploring all the 3:16s in the Bible as they illuminate

  • the Human Condition
  • God’s Revelation of His Plan (Current location of study)
  • God’s Fulfillment of His Plan
  • Our Response

“And the priest shall burn them on the altar as a food offering with a pleasing aroma. All fat is the LORD’s.” – Leviticus 3:16

Last time we looked briefly at the role of the Levites in the nation of Israel. This week I’d like to focus a bit on the role of the Levitical priests. All the Levites were descended from the three sons of Levi (Gershon, Kohath, and Merari), who in turn was one of the twelve sons of Jacob (Israel). Each of the three Levite clans were given specific roles in regard to the tabernacle. The Gershonites took care of all the textiles (coverings, hangings, tent-like materials); the Merarites took care of all the structural components (bases, supports, pegs, cords, etc.); the Kohathites took care of the sacred objects of worship (the ark, lampstand, altars, etc.). From the Kohathite clan God selected Moses and Aaron to represent Him to the people. Specifically, he designated Aaron and all Aaron’s descendants to be priests, acting as intercessors between God and His people. All the Levites, though, served as intercessors in the sense that they alone were allowed to enter the tabernacle and they were to camp all around the tabernacle, occupying the space between it and the rest of the nation “so that there may be no wrath on the congregation (Numbers 1:53).”

The purpose of these regulations are linked with God’s revelation of his redemptive plan to His people. God is completely holy and there had to be a clear distinction between the holy and the unclean. As we saw last week, the Levites were designated as the substitution for the firstborn of the nation. God had said that the firstborn were His and were to be “set apart” and the Levites would be made the substitutes for these firstborn. They became the “intercessors” between God and the people. The descendants of Aaron were tasked with the most holy duties to stand before God on behalf of His people as priests.

The book of Leviticus details a lot of the duties of the Levitical priests. It opens in the first chapters with descriptions of the five main offerings that God demanded from His people. We’ll look at each of those below.

Leviticus 1:2-9 The Burnt OfferingWhen any one of you brings an offering to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of livestock from the herd or from the flock. “If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer a male without blemish. He shall bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the LORD. He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him. Then he shall kill the bull before the LORD, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall bring the blood and throw the blood against the sides of the altar that is at the entrance of the tent of meeting. Then he shall flay the burnt offering and cut it into pieces, and the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire. And Aaron’s sons the priests shall arrange the pieces, the head, and the fat, on the wood that is on the fire on the altar; but its entrails and its legs he shall wash with water. And the priest shall burn all of it on the altar, as a burnt offering, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD.

Burnt offerings were the most costly type of sacrifice. Unlike other offerings, none of the remains could be used for other purposes. It represented the requirement to atone, or pay, for the inherent sin that exists in all of us ever since the original sin of Adam. The fire for the burnt offering was to be kept burning at all times, representing the need for continual atonement. Individuals could bring a sacrifice and they would lay their hands on the animal and slaughter it, representing the acknowledgement of transferring their sin to the animal and it taking their place. The priest would then offer that sacrifice in its entirety on the fire.

Leviticus 2:1-3 The Grain OfferingsWhen anyone brings a grain offering as an offering to the LORD, his offering shall be of fine flour. He shall pour oil on it and put frankincense on it and bring it to Aaron’s sons the priests. And he shall take from it a handful of the fine flour and oil, with all of its frankincense, and the priest shall burn this as its memorial portion on the altar, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD. But the rest of the grain offering shall be for Aaron and his sons; it is a most holy part of the LORD’s food offerings.

Grain was highly valued by nomads such as the Israelites, since it could not be grown in the desert. Grain offerings were thus an act of worship and thanksgiving. It was a way for the offerer to demonstrate love and gratitude to God for His provision, and also the means whereby the priests, and all the Levites (Deuteronomy 18:1-6) could be provided for.

Leviticus 3:1-5 The Peace OfferingIf his offering is a sacrifice of peace offering, if he offers an animal from the herd, male or female, he shall offer it without blemish before the LORD. And he shall lay his hand on the head of his offering and kill it at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall throw the blood against the sides of the altar. And from the sacrifice of the peace offering, as a food offering to the LORD, he shall offer the fat covering the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails, and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins, and the long lobe of the liver that he shall remove with the kidneys. Then Aaron’s sons shall burn it on the altar on top of the burnt offering, which is on the wood on the fire; it is a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD.

Peace offerings were also called fellowship offerings. They expressed peace and fellowship between the person making the offering and the Lord. The portion that was not burned on the altar was to be cooked and consumed by the offerer and the attending Levites and priests (think a barbecue! – Leviticus 7:11-36). It demonstrated communal fellowship and right standing between the offerer, the intercessor, and God.

Leviticus 4:27-31 The Sin OfferingIf anyone of the common people sins unintentionally in doing any one of the things that by the LORD’s commandments ought not to be done, and realizes his guilt, or the sin which he has committed is made known to him, he shall bring for his offering a goat, a female without blemish, for his sin which he has committed. And he shall lay his hand on the head of the sin offering and kill the sin offering in the place of burnt offering. And the priest shall take some of its blood with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering and pour out all the rest of its blood at the base of the altar. And all its fat he shall remove, as the fat is removed from the peace offerings, and the priest shall burn it on the altar for a pleasing aroma to the LORD. And the priest shall make atonement for him, and he shall be forgiven.

The first three offerings were voluntary on the part of the offerer. They were to be used to acknowledge one’s general need for atonement and/or desire for fellowship with God. These last two were mandatory and demanded by God as payment for specific sins in the life of the offerer. A portion was burned and the rest was to be consumed by the priest. This demonstrated the necessary participation and intercession of the priest in the atonement of the believer.

Leviticus 5:15-16 The Guilt OfferingIf anyone commits a breach of faith and sins unintentionally in any of the holy things of the LORD, he shall bring to the LORD as his compensation, a ram without blemish out of the flock, valued in silver shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, for a guilt offering. He shall also make restitution for what he has done amiss in the holy thing and shall add a fifth to it and give it to the priest. And the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering, and he shall be forgiven.

The sin offering is sometimes identified as being for sins of omission, where the offerer sins unintentionally. The guilt offering is sometimes described as being for sins of commission in which the offerer has deprived someone of something resulting in monetary loss. The offerer must add restitution to the offering.

This is a brief overview of the prescribed offerings in Leviticus. Let’s return, though, to Chapter 3 and look at verse 16.

“And the priest shall burn them on the altar as a food offering with a pleasing aroma. All fat is the LORD’s.” – Leviticus 3:16

These offerings demonstrate God’s revelation of His plan of providing a means of redemption for His people. They involve the following things:

  • the willing participation of the offerer (e.g. free will)
  • the realization and acknowledgement that God’s holiness is incompatible with human coexistence without a means of restitution and atonement
  • the necessity of an intercessor to perform the requirements of the sacrifice on behalf of the offerer
  • acknowledgement of the offerer (by laying on of hands and participation in the slaughter) that he is in agreement with God on the necessity of the sacrifice
  • the consummation of the offering fulfills God’s requirements and therefore is deemed “pleasing” to Him

The repetitive nature of the sacrifices served as a reminder that they are ultimately insufficient for the job. We need a more permanent sacrifice to meet God’s requirements once for all. God’s plan was to provide us with an eternal solution to our problem through Jesus Christ.

  • For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God (Romans 6:10).
  • He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself (Hebrews 7:27).
  • he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God (Hebrews 9:12-14).

Trust God’s plan and accept for your own sin the sufficiency of the sacrifice and atoning work of our high priest and king, Jesus!

Our next study will take us to Deuteronomy 3:16. I hope to see you next week!

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