Summary: How our offerings are pleasing to the Lord!
MY ALL IS ON THE ALTAR
“And the priest is to burn all of it on the altar” (Leviticus 1: 9).
The sacrificial system of the Old Testament seems so far removed from us today.
We are probably very thankful that the slaughter of bullocks, sheep, goats, doves or pigeons is not part of our worship experience! At least I am personally thankful that I do not have to oversee preparation process – the slaughtering of the beast, sprinkling of the blood, and skinning of the animal, and washing of the inner parts (no thank you I say!). None-the-less, the record of the bringing of the various offerings and their preparation for sacrifice in this first chapter of Leviticus has something more to say to us other than a description of the ‘burnt offering’. Weaved into the description of this ancient worship practice of the Israelites are other significant notations.
These notations are not restricted to the yesterday of Israelite worship, but find themselves still relevant to the modern worshipper. We glean from the instruction given by Moses to the people, whatever the animal that was brought – bullock, sheep, goat, dove or pigeon (which by the way catered for the rich and poor amongst God’s people – the rich bringing a bullock, the poor bringing a dove or pigeon), all of it had to placed on the altar (v. 9). The individual brought the appropriate offering for their circumstance and the whole animal or bird was burnt. It may have been a different offering, but it was an equal sacrifice. A sacrifice made for the atonement of the individual’s sin (v. 4). We do not bring an offering for the atonement of sin for Christ atoned for our sin on the cross (Hebrews 10: 1-14), however, we bring differing gifts representing our financial position – differing gifts but an appropriate gift, differing gifts but equal sacrifice.
It was not the size of the animal that was acceptable to the Lord (v. 3), it was the attitude of the worshipper. Notice, the individual worshipper must present it (v. 3), and the person had to touch the animal (v. 4). At that moment there was an exchange – a transaction was made. As we bring our gift to the altar today and present it of our own accord we are not making atonement for our sin, no payment can be made for that, yet a transaction is being made. In a very tangible way we are expressing our love and devotion to God!
We should note that three times in the course of this chapter, that the offering must be brought to the Lord, and its sole purpose is that it must please the Lord. It was to be a sweet aroma unto the Lord (vv. 9, 13, 17). It is not the size of the gift that is important, the importance lies in whether our gift will be pleasing to the Lord. If we seek to please the Lord, God will accept the offering we bring. Surely, this is the intent behind Jesus’ words when he spoke of the rich and the poor widow, “I tell you the truth…this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on” (Luke 21: 1 – 4).
Another observation we make from the text is that the offering was made by fire (vv. 9, 13, 17). Fire was part of the purifying process - “burn[ing] up every trace of sin” (The Salvation Army Song Book, Song No: 203, v. 2). The fire sanctifies the offering that has been brought by the individual to God. The offering is made holy unto God. Symbolically we sing:
My all is on the altar,
I’m waiting for the fire:
Waiting, waiting, waiting,
I’m waiting for the fire. (SASB No: 511)
This morning as we bring our gifts, we can imagine that the fire is ‘descending’ and making the gift we bring holy – holy unto the Lord himself. As we place our gift on the altar it becomes a ‘holy gift’. A considered gift, that comes from his people of today.
Yes, I am glad that the unpleasant, but necessary sacrificial system of the past is no longer a requirement of the genuine worshipper. Yet, I am equally glad I can worship God it the giving of ‘tithes and offerings’.
May our offering be ‘pleasing’ to him.