The Gospel in Leviticus (cont.)
Study Guide, March 20, 2016
Pastor Clay Olsen
We are not used to calling the Old Testament Scriptures the ‘Tanakh’, but that is the Hebrew name for the writings of the Old Testament. And even that is not so much a name as it is an acronym for the three principle parts of the Old Testament; the Torah, or the Five Books of Moses, the Neviim, or the Prophets, and the Kethuvim, or the Writings. So the Tanakh refers to a collection of books. Actually, our word ‘Bible’ or ‘Biblia’ in Greek, means ‘books’.
This collection of books, this ‘Tanakh’, is what Jesus was referring to when He reminded the people that they should have understood His life and mission because as Luke recorded: “Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering His glory?” Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” Luke 24:25-27 NLT
They hadn’t paid enough attention to what Moses and all the prophets had been revealing about the life and mission of the coming Messiah. That’s part of what confused them between the triumphal entry of Palm Sunday and the substitutionary work of Jesus on Good Friday.
The Gospel that Jesus was communicating to them didn’t begin with His message to the Disciples – it began with the revelation that Moses gave the people in the earliest parts of the Tanakh, in the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, particularly in the sacrifices in Leviticus, or in these shadow pictures of the Gospel.
In our last study we looked into the wonder of the first three sacrifices. We saw how the Burnt Offering depicted the offering of the coming Messiah’s entire life. From the Manger to the Cross, Jesus’ whole life was marked by submitting to the will of the Father and living a perfectly obedient life so that He could grant us both the merits of a completely obedient life and the merits of His atonement or the complete covering of His sacrificial death for our sins.
Then the Grain offering depicted the essentials of Jesus’ service for others, service for us, in offering His entire life for our well being. The oil of this offering pictured the grace and power of the Holy Spirit at work through Jesus for our sake. The frankincense pictured the sweet mercy and kindness of Jesus’ character and love for us. We think of how the Apostle Paul picked up on that when He was teaching us about how to conduct our own lives. Eph 5:1-2- “Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children. And walk in love, as the Messiah also loved us and gave Himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God.” Holman Christian Standard Bible And note that last statement, as we’ll come back to that. And this grain also depicted Jesus as we mentioned last time, as the Bread of Life, given for us to have life.
Yet, it also depicted something else that Jesus said about grain. John 12:24-26- “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.” NASU
Of course Jesus was teaching about His own death and the fruit of saved lives that would result from this. But Jesus was also revealing key principles about the human condition itself. One, that we were never meant to be focused on the holding onto the life that God has given us, but on the giving away of the gifts God has entrusted to us for the growth of both these gifts in our lives and in blessing the lives of others. Like the way a grain of wheat multiplies: Life is not about the maintenance of life; it’s about the multiplication of blessings from a life that is given back to the Giver of life. The secret of true success is in the dying to self in order to live for Christ and to let Christ live through you.
And then was the Peace Offering, and what a great picture of the work of Jesus making peace between estranged Earthlings and the Heavenly Father. As in our memory verse for this week: 2 Cor 5:21- “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” NASU We know that we have peace with God because this peace is not just an idea, it’s not just a hopeful handle that we grab a hold of in times of doubt, it’s not just the absence of stress and anxiety about the future or even the present; No, this peace is a Person, the Prince of Peace, who has made peace with the Father for us because there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Jesus took our sin sentence for us and paid it in full, and there is no double jeopardy with God.
Which now brings us to the fourth offering, and that was the Sin Offering. Let’s look:
Lev 4:1-4- “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘If a person sins unintentionally in any of the things which the Lord has commanded not to be done, and commits any of them, if the anointed priest sins so as to bring guilt on the people, then let him offer to the Lord a bull without defect as a sin offering for the sin he has committed. He shall bring the bull to the doorway of the tent of meeting before the Lord, and he shall lay his hand on the head of the bull and slay the bull before the Lord.” NASU Now this sounds kind of unusual, doesn’t it…a sin offering for unintentional sins? Later on we even find the Apostle Paul talking about the fact that those who have not yet been converted are described as those ‘dead in trespasses and sin’. In other words, dead in both intentional sins and unintentional sins.
Have you ever noticed that sin is so pervasive in the human condition that even when you’re not trying to intentionally sin, you still realized you’ve sinned time and again without even trying! This is what Paul was wrestling with in Romans 7. See if you can relate to this: Rom 7:15-16- “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good.” 18-19- “And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.” 21-25- “I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” NLT
Why do we sin? Because we are sinners; sinners by both nature and practice. You see, Christ needed to save us both from our sin and also from ourselves; not only from what we have done, but also from what we had become; dead in trespasses and sin; dead in both our sinful deeds and also in our sinful nature. That’s why Jesus did not come to earth to make bad people good, but to make dead people live. T hat’s why Jesus did not come to clean us up, but to create new creatures; new creatures in Christ. 2 Cor 5:17- “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” NASU
That’s why we needed to be ‘Born Again’…needed to have a new birth of our spirit, because sin killed our human spirit and ruined our human nature. And that’s why we find, even now as reborn children of God, like the Apostle Paul, that if we are not careful, like pollution from an old well, sin from our old selves, can just spill out even when we’re not even willfully sinning. But thanks be to God for providing power from the Holy Spirit in our new nature to have victory over sin and our old selves. Amen to that? And thanks be to God in providing forgiveness when His children do stumble and fall in sin. As in 1 John 1:9- “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” NASU That’s the ‘family forgiveness’ verse and it provides for restored fellowship with God and for continued usefulness for God.
But before we consider the last offering we need to see just how intricate God has woven together our wondrous Scriptures. Another aspect of this sin offering is that it was taken outside the camp for it’s final removal. We could say, this sin offering bore it’s final reproach outside the camp. Now, look at what is said about this very thing in relation to the sacrifice of Jesus, our sin offering, in Heb 13:11-16- “For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest, as an offering for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come. Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” NASU
In the same way the the Old Covenant sin offering was taken outside the camp and bore its reproach, the New Covenant sin offering, Jesus Christ, was taken outside the city and bore His reproach. And now we are to take up that mantle of reproach, and humbly acknowledge that it was for our sin that Christ died, but by His grace through our faith we have been saved, and not of ourselves, but this salvation was His gift to us…and to all who will receive Him.
And the last offering, or the fifth offering, was the Guilt Offering, or the Trespass Offering. Lev 5:17-19- “Now if a person sins and does any of the things which the Lord has commanded not to be done, though he was unaware, still he is guilty and shall bear his punishment. He is then to bring to the priest a ram without defect from the flock, according to your valuation, for a guilt offering. So the priest shall make atonement for him concerning his error in which he sinned unintentionally and did not know it, and it will be forgiven him. It is a guilt offering; he was certainly guilty before the Lord.” NASU
This guilt offering even goes on to talk about making restitution for sins against God and others. And yet this offering provided atonement, a covering for sins, here for both intentional and unintentional sins. Still, as Hebrews points out, as much as the people counted this to be ‘good news’ to them, Gospel news to them, that they could have their sins forgiven through the sacrifice of an unblemished animal, these sacrifices could never take away their sin…it could only cover it from year to year. That’s why, as we pointed out before, when John the Baptist introduced Jesus as the Lamb of God, what he said to them about this sacrificial lamb could never have been said before: “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29 NASU John’s statement was the fulfillment of the Gospel that had been foreshadowed in the ceremonial sacrifices of Israel for over a thousand years. These five sacrifices made up the preview Gospel picture of the actual Gospel picture that the people would one day see in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, their Messiah, and ours.
And not only is it remarkable to find these Gospel pictures in Leviticus, but we find that these pictures are still valuable today for us who know the completed Gospel and enjoy the completed salvation in Christ, our Messiah. For catch this: In a study on ‘Worship’ by A.P. Gibbs, he points out that in the order of our spiritual understanding and appreciation of our relationship with our God, we actually still are to practice the implications of these five offerings, yet in reverse order. In other words, even today, as New Testament Christians, these five offerings portray our relationship and fellowship with God, but now in reverse order. For we come to God in (5) conviction of our trespasses, knowing that we need forgiveness in order to be right with God, like a ‘Guilt offering’. But we discover in the Gospel teachings that the problem is far worse than that. We learn that we cannot become right with God through remorse over our sins and then trying to do better, because if we could become righteous through our own works, then Christ died needlessly. So we learn that (4) Jesus not only died to put our sins away, He died to put ‘sin’ in us away; or He died for not only what we did, but also for what we were; sinners by nature and practice. He was our ‘Sin offering‘.
We then learn that because we have been made right with God through Jesus Christ that we not only now have peace with God, but (3) we can now also have the peace of God in our lives. And this peace can grow, like spiritual fruit, more and more in our lives in order to live with a sense of stability in the midst of a stressed out world. And our appreciation of this ‘Peace offering‘ grows. And along with that we are then called into a greater fellowship of service with Jesus, seeing that since our Master did not come to be served, but to serve others, (2) we need to commit more and more to serving with Him in our day to day tasks. And in this we come to understand the deeper meaning of the ‘Grain offering‘, a life given out to God and others. And with this we realize that what (1) God is really calling us to is a life of entire consecration. Just as the ‘Burnt offering‘ was an offering wholly devoted to the Lord, we realize that is what our lives are really to be about…a life wholly devoted to the Lord, where we can know something of what was said about Jesus: Ps 40:7-8- “Then I said, “Behold, I come; In the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart.” NASU
And so we see that even though these shadow pictures, these sacrificial offerings, were all fulfilled in the Person and work of Jesus, our Messiah, still, their Gospel message continues to speak to what is required to have a relationship with God and also to the wonder of what that relationship with God is all about. It calls us to a deeper life of communion and service to our God. And really, as those offerings were a ‘soothing aroma to the Lord’, as we offer ourselves in daily worship and service to our Savior, our lives, too, have that effect upon our God; we become that ‘soothing aroma to our Lord’. And what a great way to understand how your life of worship and service affects God; it’s like an offering of yourself that is a ‘soothing aroma to your Lord and Savior’.
(Gleanings on the reverse order of the Levitical offerings from: A.P. Gibbs, Worship, pp. 73-74)