Leviticus 1 – July 10
We have spent over half of the year examining Genesis and Exodus. At this point, we are going to speed up a little bit and hit the highlights of Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. As we begin our journey through Leviticus, I want you to notice two things from Chapter 1.
It is impossible to read through this book of Moses without observing the many occasions where the focus is on blood sacrifices. There are many different kinds of sacrifices and many different regulations for each one. The unifying factor is that they are all bloody. It is likely that just about everyone reading these notes is far, far removed from dealing with this level of blood. Even those who work in the hospital or as phlebotomists do not have the unsavory responsibility of slaughtering animal after animal, day after day. The priests would have been elbows deep in blood as a matter of daily ritual. As we saw here in Chapter 1, there are practices of butchering that had to be performed before the animals were to be burned.
Why is God so focused on blood? Simply put, we are going to see in Leviticus that God parallels the idea of blood with life. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.” The concept is actually very simple: sin requires a death penalty. Or to state it in a more Pauline manner, “The wages of sin is death.” (Rom. 6:23) Every single time a sacrifice was made, it was supposed to serve as a reminder that a death must occur to atone for sin. Hebrews 9:22 explains it like this: “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” Every time a blood sacrifice is mentioned in Leviticus, it is always pointing forward to the greater sacrifice that would be made by the Son of God who atoned for our sins “with His own blood.” (Acts 20:28)
A Pleasing Aroma
Perhaps you noticed that at the conclusion of each of the three sacrifices described in Chapter 1, there is a closing phrase that is repeated. “a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord.” This idea of a burnt offering smelling good to the Lord is not new. The first time we read about this is in Genesis 8 when Noah made sacrifices after the flood. However, the rate at which this idea is going to be stated is going to rapidly increase in Leviticus. (1 mention in Genesis, 3 in Exodus, 17 in Leviticus, 18 in Numbers).
The question is, why do some things smell good to the Lord? What makes it a pleasing aroma to Him? Ultimately it has nothing to do with the animal that is used, or how skillfully it was butchered. What made it pleasing to the Lord was the heart with which it was given and the trust of the person giving the offering. (See Cane and Abel) Those with faith would follow the regulations for the sacrifices. But, not every sacrifice was pleasing just because they went through the outward motions. For example, Amos 5:21-22 shows us how God felt about the religious practice of sacrifices when it was not accompanied by a heart of faith. “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them.” Their sacrifices were only pleasing if they were looking forward to the true and better sacrifice of Jesus Himself. He is the final sacrifice that was a pleasing aroma to the Father. “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”