Summary: The offerings of Leviticus 1-7 are about sin AND fellowship with God. They connected the people with God at a visceral level. Application is made to our worship, with particular emphasis on Communion or The Lord's Supper. Selections from Leviticus 1-7 are carefully chosen to be brief.
GUT-LEVEL WORSHIP Selections from Leviticus 1-7
Maybe you have had the experience of going to a funeral or memorial service, where you heard things about the deceased that you didn’t know before. Maybe you thought, “I wish I had known about those parts of his life earlier; it would have helped me understand him better.”
We might know people through work or church or social contacts, but our knowledge is limited. If we could see them with long hair in their radical young days, or serving in Vietnam, or going through a life-changing illness, we would know them better. If we could see them with young children, or on a vacation with their spouse, or in the heat of athletic competition, we might have a fuller understanding of how they relate to people.
How well do you know God? Our relationship with God is anchored in life experiences. If you could observe God in a different time, a different culture, and different situations, would it help you know him better?
The Bible helps us know God, of course. Yet parts of the Bible, like Leviticus, are not read very often. In Leviticus, we see God in a different setting, at a different point in salvation history. We learn more about the God we love and worship, and we learn some things about ourselves as well.
(Project an OT timeline, and maybe a map of the Sinai Peninsula.)
Here is the setting of Leviticus: God called Abraham to go to the land of promise, and Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob lived in the land of Israel. Then a famine struck, and the descendants of Jacob moved to Egypt, where Jacob’s son, Joseph, took care of them. The people lived in Egypt for about 400 years, and during that time, they became slave to the Egyptians. God sent Moses to lead his people out of Egypt, and they spent 40 years in the dry, rugged wilderness of the Sinai Peninsula.
The Israelite horde of former slaves wandered in the Sinai desert, moving with their animals from one watering hole to another. There was no electricity, no maps, no horses, no houses, no dependable water supply, no sanitation, no doctors or dentists, no police, no medicine or personal hygiene products.
Leviticus is God’s instructions to those former slaves, living in a strange, almost alien, environment. It seems to have little to do with us, yet when we study Leviticus, we learn about God, and we learn how God establishes a relationship with people.
So imagine jumping into a time machine, emerging in the Sinai Peninsula in about 1650 B.C. You find yourself gripping the neck of a bull or goat, holding a flint knife, as you prepare to slit the throat of the animal you are offering as a sacrifice to God.
BURNT OFFERING. Read Leviticus 1:1-9.
What would the burnt offering mean to an Israelite, and what does it say to us?
First, God values our offerings. For 400 years in Egypt, God’s people had not brought offerings to God. Now, in the wilderness, God invited them to bring offerings to him, as an act of worship. God values the worship of his people—even former slaves!
I knew a man who was convinced that God did not value his worship. Like those enslaved in Egypt, he was a slave to a 30-year meth habit. Yet he finally understood that God valued his worship, and that when he brought his humble offerings to God, God would accept what he brought. God values the offerings we bring!
Second, God wants our best. The animal given for sacrifice must be “without defect.” Depending on the wealth of the individual, it could be a bull, a sheep or goat, or even a pigeon—but it must be the best the person could give. When we give God our talents, our resources, or our service, we must bring our best, not the little bit of time or money we have left at the end of the week.
Third, God is pleased with our offerings! Verse 9 says that the burnt offering had “an aroma pleasing to the Lord.” That might surprise us; the aroma of burning animal guts might not be so pleasing to us! Of course, it was not the smell that pleased God, but the offering of life.
God is pleased when we offer him our lives! Romans 12:1 says, “I urge you…in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.” We please God when we serve him, when we care for others, and when we pray. The God of the universe, who made everything, is pleased by our offerings!
Along with the burnt offering of animals, Leviticus also provides for a burnt offering of grain. The grain was mixed with oil and prepared on a griddle. It was fried without yeast, which symbolized impurity, but with salt, a symbol of covenants. Most of the offering was given to the priests to eat, and a small portion was burned. The entire offering was holy, set apart for God and his servants.