Leviticus - The Burnt Offering
I have always loved to study and read the Bible since I came to faith in Jesus.
In the beginning years of my faith, I used to spend several hours a day reading the Bible, trying to learn and absorb as much as I could.
I would listen to sermons, read books, and ask questions to those I looked up to.
One book I avoided was the book of Leviticus. It had a lot of information about sacrifices and other things that needed to be done, and I didn’t feel like there was anything relevant for me and my life, so I would skip over it or just read certain sections.
I have been in ministry for several years now, and I have noticed that most people do not hear sermons or have ever done Bible studies from the book of Leviticus.
We might understand the Old Testament stories, and we probably get a wealth of sermons and Bible studies from the New Testament, but the book of Leviticus remains a book whose pages are probably stuck together.
I hope, after reading this, you will find a new appreciation for the information you can find in the book of Leviticus because, remember, every word from God is full of life.
Why Study Leviticus?
If we are new covenant believers, why spend any time looking at the book of Leviticus or any other book in the Old Testament?
I believe the writer of Hebrews helps us to understand why this is important:
Hebrews 10:1 (NKJV) — For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.
The writer tells us that the law was a shadow of the realities that we have in the new covenant.
In context, the writer clarifies that all the animal sacrifices pointed to the true sacrifice, the true lamb. – Jesus Christ.
Another translation says, “The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview.”
Therefore, when we understand how to read the Old Testament, we will start to appreciate and discover the truths it’s trying to convey in the shadows.
When you read the Old Testament, in our case, the book of Leviticus, we may see things on the surface that don’t seem to apply to us or say anything relevant.
But if we understand that it points to something or someone greater, then I believe this will cause us to study the book even more.
Now that you understand the Old Testament as having shadows and types, we can now look at the book of Leviticus to study the burnt offering.
The first few chapters of the book of Leviticus discuss in detail the offerings the people were to bring to the tabernacle so they could be offered by the priest. There were five basic offerings:
The Burnt offering.
The grain/meat offering.
The peace offering.
The sin offering.
The trespass offering.
We will only look at the first offering. These offerings, in some form or another, point to the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross.
We can only know this to be true because we have the New Testament to help us see the shadows and their fullness.
The Burnt Offering
Leviticus 1:1–3 (NKJV) — 1 Now the Lord called to Moses, and spoke to him from the tabernacle of meeting, saying, 2 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When any one of you brings an offering to the Lord, you shall bring your offering of the livestock—of the herd and of the flock. 3 ‘If his offering is a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish; he shall offer it of his own free will at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the Lord.
I want you to notice that these are the Lord’s desires for his people. He wants them to bring an offering of the livestock or herd.
As you read further down in Chapter 1, you will discover that the offering could also be a dove, a pigeon, or even a lamb.
Why does the writer feel the need to list all of these different types of offerings that can be offered for a burnt offering?
The reason for different types of animals being able to be used during this offering is because they represent different classes of people:
Wealthy- Bull (Leviticus 1:2-3).
Middle- sheep, lamb, goats (Leviticus 1:10).
Poor- Dove or Pigeon (Leviticus 1:14).
The people of Israel were not all financially wealthy, but based on their class of wealth, they could offer what they could afford.
Also, because this points to Jesus’ work for us, I believe it helps us to understand that it does not matter if you are rich or poor. We all need the work of Jesus to be done on our behalf.
We have all fallen short and sinned, and because of this, we need his substitutionary work (see Romans 3:23-24).
Another great truth from this scripture is the word “offering.” If you study the word, it can mean “draw near.”
In other words, they were to draw near through the sacrifice, and if you know the New Testament well, we can only draw close to God by coming through his son Jesus Christ (see John 14:6).
Let’s see if we can discover any other truths!
Other Truths From the Burnt Offering
Leviticus 1:3 (NKJV) — If his offering is a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish; he shall offer it of his own free will at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the Lord.
The offering had to be a male without blemish. This detail cannot be overlooked quickly because, again, it speaks to something greater. Look at what Peter says about Jesus:
1 Peter 1:18–19 (NKJV) — 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.
This is amazing! Peter lets us know that Jesus was a lamb without blemish.
This, again, lets us know that what is written in Leviticus all points to Jesus Christ. The lamb for the burnt offering could not have any blemish because it points to Jesus Christ, the one without spot or blemish.
I hope you are starting to see clearer how even though these were literal animals, there is a greater truth when you start to look at them through the work of Jesus Christ.
We know that sometimes, even people in the Old Testament pointed to greater truths in the new covenant.
The apostle Paul, in his writing to the Galatians, lets them know that Sara, Hagar, and their children point to the distinction between the old covenant and the new (see Galatians 4:21-31).
Place Your Hand On It
Leviticus 1:4 (NKJV) — Then he shall put his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him.
The placing of the hand on the sacrifice represented substitution. The sacrifice received the individual's sins, and the innocence and the sacrifice were transferred to the individual.
We also see this in the work of Jesus Christ. He took our sins so that we could take his righteousness (see 2 Corinthians 5:21).
Each verse is filled with tremendous truth, and if I covered everything in detail, this study would be a lot longer.
I encourage you to study and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal to you what some of the verses we skip might mean in connection to Jesus Christ. Let’s continue down to verse 6 of Leviticus.
Leviticus 1:6 (NKJV) — And he shall skin the burnt offering and cut it into its pieces.
The offering being skinned shadows and speaks to me of Jesus being scourged by the Roman soldiers during his trial (see John 19:1).
This is what one commentary had to say about the scourging during the time of Jesus. Pay attention to how it describes the skin being stripped from the body.
"The Roman scourge consisted of a wooden handle to which several rawhide thongs were fastened. Into each thong small butterfly shaped pieces of metal or bone were fixed. Wielded by a powerful arm, the scourge was a deadly weapon, which in a few strokes would strip the flesh from a man’s back."
Merrill C. Tenney, “John,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: John and Acts, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 9 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 176–177.
The body of Jesus was totally ripped so that our bodies could be made whole. Jesus paid a great price because of the fathers love for us.
If you continue to read the rest of Leviticus 1, down to verse nine, you will discover how the sacrifice being offered included its head and fat, internal organs, and legs (see Leviticus 1:7–9).
This shows how Jesus gave everything - his complete being as the ultimate sacrifice for our redemption. He held nothing back! What an amazing love.
The Sweet Aroma
If you read Leviticus 1 carefully, you will notice a phrase that continues to pop up.
Again, as I stated before, I don’t think it is a minor detail, but it plays an important role in understanding the shadow and its pointing to Jesus Christ.
Notice these three verses:
Leviticus 1:9 (NKJV) — but he shall wash its entrails and its legs with water. And the priest shall burn all on the altar as a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the Lord.
Leviticus 1:13 (NKJV) — but he shall wash the entrails and the legs with water. Then the priest shall bring it all and burn it on the altar; it is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the Lord.
Leviticus 1:17 (NKJV) — Then he shall split it at its wings, but shall not divide it completely; and the priest shall burn it on the altar, on the wood that is on the fire. It is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the Lord.
At the end of each of these verses, the phrase “a sweet smelling aroma to the Lord” is used.
How could such sacrifices be a sweet aroma when their lives are being laid down? It’s because, as we are learning, they were to point to the beautiful work of Jesus Christ.
Does the Bible say Jesus’ sacrifice was a sweet, smelling aroma?
Ephesians 5:2 (NKJV) — And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.
The sufferings and crucifixion of Christ were beautiful to the Lord because of the redemption he brought for his creation. It was a sweet, smelling aroma to the father.
I hope, as you read this article that it has stirred a desire in you to look more at the Old Testament and find the hidden riches of God’s love for us.
The book of Leviticus doesn’t have to be boring when you study it through the eyes of redemption- the new covenant.
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LAST UPDATED: 9/26/23
About Pastor Larry
Larry is the co-pastor of New Covenant Church in El Campo, Texas. He has served in ministry for over 10 years, teaching and preaching the Gospel of grace. He continues to serve as a pastor and run newcovenantway.com.