Thursday, November 02, 2006

The War of the Five Sacrifices

There are five basic types of sacrificial offerings described in Leviticus: the Burnt Offering, the Grain Offering, the Peace Offering, the Trespass Offering, and the Sin Offering.

The offerings are all so foreign and strange to our current-day sensibilities. If you're reading this, then your daily activities likely concern computers, electric toasters, electronic fuel injection automobiles, a hot shower, processed meat and perfectly symmetrical loaves of bread. You don't keep a sword at your side in case a band of unruly Arameans come over the hill, you don't depend on capricious wadis for your potable water, light pollution prevents you from seeing the glory of God in the dazzling stars every night, and you don't speak with your child in the heat of the day about the laws of God, because before the heat of the day arrives you have commuted to your job to earn money to pay for the electricity to run the toaster.

Nevertheless, those offerings are meaningful. They are brim full with meaning for us today.

Those five basic types of offerings described in Leviticus all foreshadow the life and the single, once-for-all-time death of Jesus Christ. And they do it in myriad ways. The apostles who were inspired to write the New Testament said so, and Jesus said so himself.

The offerings are bloody and gory and smelly and greasy and smoky and messy. Most of them involve the terrified death of the sacrifice. Believe it or not, but the offerings are incredibly beautiful!

Each one of the five describes specific and distinct functions performed by the savage torture and crucifixion of God, the man Jesus Christ, in approximately 30 anno domini. And at least one of these offerings (Grain Offering) also describes the real physical actual bodily resurrection of the broken body of the Christ.

Obviously Jesus Christ didn’t die five times, once for each offering. He died once, at the consummation of the ages. The five different offerings show us five different views of the cross, and communicate five different efficacies of Jesus' horrible death that day.

The first three are known as the “sweet savour” or "fragrant aroma" offerings, and they actually brought pleasure to God. The imagery we are given is the smoke of the offering ascending up as a sweet savour to the nostrils of God. He enjoyed them. That's right... God enjoyed the death of Christ in a very real sense, and he enjoyed the ancient Israelite Burnt Offerings, Grain Offerings, and Peace Offerings that foreshadowed this death.

What a horrid notion! How and why could God enjoy Christ's death?! The answer is to be simply found in the narration of the offerings.

In Leviticus 1, we find that the Burnt Offering was voluntarily presented, and was a sacrifice without any blemish whatsoever. It was perfect in every way. It was examined inside and out to assure this. And it was completely consumed upon the altar. God accepted it completely. It's a wonderful picture of the perfection of the Son of God, his voluntary determination to walk to Jerusalem to present himself for examination by God and man, the inability of mankind to find true fault in him despite looking for it furiously, and the delight that God displayed when He found no fault in the Christ. The Burnt Offering describes the love that the perfect Son had for the Father. Only God could fulfil the ultimate spotlessness required by the Burnt Offering, and only God could love enough to make such a holy and pure offering. The Father absolutely breathed in and reveled in this display of love by the Son. The cross was the voluntary goal of the Christ all the days of his life.

In Leviticus 2, we find that the Grain Offering was the fruit of the field, tilled by human hands and offered in gratitude for the harvest. Leviticus is chock full of types, words and themes that are consistently used throughout the Bible to represent other words and themes. The Grain Offering is the celebration of a human life, the loftiest human life ever lived (grain and fruit are a common type for humanity), one that was without sin (leaven), one that was empowered and anointed by the Holy Spirit (oil, and in fact the very names Christ and Messiah mean "anointed one". The Grain Offering was literally doused with oil.). The Grain Offering was used to celebrate the Feast of First Fruits (when God planned from the foundation of the earth for Jesus the human being to arise from the dead), and was used to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost (when God planned from the foundation of the earth for the anointing of the Holy Spirit to fall upon his Church). Where the Burnt Offering celebrates Christ the Son, the Grain Offering celebrates Jesus the sinless human. The Father absolutely breathed in and reveled in this memoriam of the human life as perfected in Jesus the second Adam. The cross was the culmination and end of this human life (at least until the third day!).

In Leviticus 3, the Peace Offering celebrates the reconciliation of God and man. It marks the end of war, the assuaging of the wrath of God that formerly abode upon man. In this offering God's heart's desire is realized: the sweet fellowship of man and God, unbroken by sin and death. How could the Father not enjoy this aspect of the crucifixion? The cross was the end of the enmity between created and Creator.

The final two sacrifices are not about enjoyment. We are not told in Leviticus that God enjoyed them. They merely did the job. I say merely, but were it not for the sin-atoning nature of the Trespass Offering in Leviticus 4 and then later and finally the Sin Offering, nothing else would really be of note for us sin-infested humans. The Trespass Offering atoned for "minor" or "unintentional" sins. But the Sin Offering covered it all. The cross of Calvary was a place where God conducted great business, and that fraught with justice, mercy and grace. The Trespass and Sin Offerings were Jesus Christ taking on the sin of his friends, friends who as yet did not know they were his friends. The Trespass and Sin Offerings were Jesus dying for his enemies, showing greater love than has ever been shown. These aspects of the cross were Jesus becoming sin behalf of His friends and imputing His righteousness to them. This didn't bring pleasure to God, because it involved meting out justice for sin. The wages of sin is death, and death had to be delivered to God's own Son before the gift of God, eternal life, could be put under the Christmas tree.

That spring day in Jerusalem approximately 1,975 years ago was the moment that all the violent evil of mankind perpetuated from Eve right on down to you and me (and our great-great-great-grandchildren should the Lord tarry) came to a head . No, God is not bound by time. Remember, He created spacetime. The sins of all time were addressed on that day. That was the day for action. It was the culmination of the glorious Son's mission as a sinless human being to reconcile humanity to God.

Slaves to our depraved wills, we were at war with God. Nevertheless, while we were yet sinners, Christ the helpless crucified warrior battled with our slavemaster Sin. Leviticus describes the five-pronged attack.

In a thrust completely unforeseen by human eyes, Christ won the war by dying. Then he proved the victory by rising.

3 comments:

Even So... said...

Good post...thank you...

Nathan said...

Gummby, we may not want you back if this keeps up...

Good stuff.

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