The Gospel in Leviticus
Study Guide, March 13, 2016
Pastor Clay Olsen
When the question comes up of what the Old Testament is about, oftentimes the answers go right to things like; The Ten Commandments, The Great Flood, or The Wars of the Israelites and the Nations, or about Moses and the Law, and so on. Rarely do you hear someone answer that the Old Testament is really about Jesus. It’s kind of like looking at one of those paintings that are made up of all kinds of different scenes, but together they combine to show one overall image. It’s kind of like that, only it’s even way more than that. Here’s what we mean:In one particular encounter when Jesus was challenging the claim of the Pharisees that they were followers of Moses, Jesus said, “Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me.” John 5:45-46 NASU
Can you imagine their response when Jesus told them that Moses was writing about Jesus? The central message of Moses writings was about Jesus! They were the teachers of the Torah, but they didn’t even realize that the Torah was all about Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah! Moses had been describing the ministry of the personage of the coming Messiah, the Christ! And later on after Jesus’ Resurrection He pointed this out this same thing to some of the disciples on the Emmaus Road, as He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” Luke 24:25-27 NASU
The next time someone asks you what the Old Testament is about you can tell them that it’s actually about Jesus, ‘beginning with Moses and with all the prophets’. In fact, in the book of Leviticus, we have some preview pictures of the Gospel, as depicted in the Levitical offerings that the Israelites practiced for 1500 years, until these offerings were all fulfilled in the offering of Jesus Himself. Or we could call them what the Apostle Paul called them: “Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day – things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.” Col 2:16-18 NASU So these preview pictures of the witness, the works, and the Person of Jesus were shadows of the Substance to come. Or they were shadows of the Savior to come. And some of the most prominent shadows of the Savior were the offerings that Moses introduced and wrote about in the book of Leviticus, or we could say, in the Gospel in Leviticus. So let’s look.
Remember, a principle understanding that the people had about what was involved in order to have a relationship with God was this; forgiveness from God preceded fellowship with God. And ever since the Fall, when the sacrifice of an innocent was required to atone for or to cover the sin of the guilty, the people realized that these offerings, these sacrifices were ‘mediatory sacrifices’, so that they could be forgiven and have fellowship with God. And an interesting definition of ‘mediatory’ is ‘that which provides a link between two parties or persons’. In other words, when the people brought their offerings, especially like those of the burnt offering and sin offering and guilt offering, they understood these offerings were their ‘links to God’. And of course, we know that these temporary links, these shadows, would one day become a permanent link, or these shadows would become the Substance in the Person of the Savior, the Messiah – Jesus.
Notice how that’s described in Heb 10:1-7- “The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship. If they could have provided perfect cleansing, the sacrifices would have stopped, for the worshipers would have been purified once for all time, and their feelings of guilt would have disappeared. But instead, those sacrifices actually reminded them of their sins year after year. For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. That is why, when Christ came into the world, He said to God, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings. But You have given Me a body to offer. You were not pleased with burnt offerings or other offerings for sin. Then I said, ‘Look, I have come to do Your will, O God – as is written about Me in the Scriptures.’” NLT Again, these Levitical offerings were shadows, previews of the true Substance; of the witness and works and Person of Jesus Christ. But still, they were necessary ‘links’ or ‘mediatorial works’ in order to have a relationship with God.
Another way to understand what sin did is to realize that sin ‘disconnected’ people’s spirit from God’s Spirit. In other words, their spiritual ‘link’ to God was broken. And there was nothing they could do to fix it. God would have to do something to fix it, or to repair the spiritual link between their spirit and His Spirit. Actually, another thought provoking question to ask people is: “So, Who is your link to your relationship with God? Who is your ‘Mediator’?” Most people don’t realize they have to have a Mediator in order to have a relationship with God, nor do they realize ‘Who’ this ‘Mediator’ is or ‘what’ a ‘Mediator’ is! But we are clearly informed in 1 Tim 2:3-6 that we do need this ‘Mediator’: “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.” NASU Ever since the Fall of mankind into sin, no one is now able to come to God on their own…and in their own merits. A human being can only come to God through the one Mediator between God and man, and that is the God-Man, Jesus Christ. Remember how the Apostle Peter stated that? Let’s look at it in the Amplified Version for clarification: 1 Peter 3:18- “For Christ [the Messiah Himself] died for sins once for all, the Righteous for the unrighteous (the Just for the unjust, the Innocent for the guilty), that He might bring us to God. In His human body He was put to death, but He was made alive in the spirit…”
No one can come to God on their own. They have to be brought to God by Jesus, as their one Mediator between them and God. Essentially, Jesus is mankind’s only ‘Link’ to reconnecting with God. And so all of these offerings that Moses introduced for the people to practice were their temporary links to God. They were ‘mediatory’ sacrifices, foreshadowing the final sacrifice of the Mediator Himself, Jesus, the Messiah.
These five offerings combine to present the virtue and the value of Christ’s Person and His sacrificial work in five distinct aspects. So First, the Burnt Offering. Lev 1:3-4- “If the animal you present as a burnt offering is from the herd, it must be a male with no defects. Bring it to the entrance of the Tabernacle so you may be accepted by the Lord. Lay your hand on the animal’s head, and the Lord will accept its death in your place to purify you, making you right with him.” NLT Right away this shadow or preview picture of the Gospel of Jesus jumps right out at us. And, of course, the unblemished animal is a picture of the sinlessness of Jesus. And the subsitutionary aspect of the sacrifice pictures this: Rom 5:8-9- “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.” NASU
The theme of the Gospel is that God accepts Christ’s death in our place, in your place and in my place, in order to justly pardon our sin and to also save us from God’s judicial wrath. Speaking of ‘wrath’…how many people do you think would answer the question – “So, when we become saved, what are we saved from?” with Paul’s statement – “We are saved from the wrath of God through Christ!”? Most people who have a fair understanding of the Gospel would say that Jesus saves us from the penalty of our sins, and rightly so. However, not many would include “and from the wrath of God!” There are some concepts that seem to have slipped off onto the bottom shelves of religion in our modern secularized world: concepts like – Repentance, Hell, and here, The Wrath of God. But it’s clear that the Bible clearly teaches us about this wrath of God. Paul clearly points it out. And So does the Apostle John. Many people know about John 3:16, but not many seem to know what John continued to say in John 3:36- “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” NASU
‘The wrath of God abides on him’. How’s that for a sobering way to look at unsaved people around you? Try it! When you look at those who have not repented toward God and placed their faith in Jesus Christ to forgive their sin and to save them from the wrath of God, fill in this picture of this spiritual truth and reality. We need to get real with the real teachings of God. In order to see the unsaved in a Biblical way we need to see them with this ‘wrath of God’ still on them. That’s what the Apostle John is telling us. The unrepentant unsaved are already under the condemnation of the sentence of sin.
Be very clear on this; this is not a vindictive or a malicious thing with God towards people. God so loves the world, but justice requires judgment against sin, for it was sin which killed the spirit that God had placed within mankind; it was sin that caused a curse on God’s creation and His creatures; it was sin that has destroyed the lives and corrupted the works of people and nations throughout history; and it was sin that caused God’s eternal Son to have to endure the sufferings of the Cross and to be put to death in order to remove sin’s eternal penalty from those who would repent of their sin and trust in His Son to forgive their sin and save them from the sentence of condemnation, and…to save them from the wrath of God upon sin. God’s wrath is God’s judgment upon sin. Oh yes, “For God so loves the world”, but God must judge sin. And if the sinner doesn’t repent of their sin and come to Christ to have that sin penalty removed from himself or herself, then he or she will be condemned with their sin.
And once more, the fact is; they already are condemned. What each person needs is that they need to get this condemnation removed from them by coming to the one Mediator between God and Man, the God-Man, Jesus Christ. And when they do then the Lord will then accept Jesus’ sacrifice in their place. And this wrath of God which fell on Jesus at the Cross will then not have to fall on them. They are forgiven and ‘linked back’ to God forever, through Jesus, their Mediator, their Savior. (And if you have any question about that, or are not sure about your own standing with God, you need to make sure by turning your life over to God in repentance and trusting in Jesus as your Savior by faith. And you can talk to Jesus about that even now. If you’ve kept Him outside the door of your heart, it’s time to ask Him in, while you still have time.)
The second offering was The Grain Offering. Lev 2:1-3- “Now when anyone presents a grain offering as an offering to the Lord, his offering shall be of fine flour, and he shall pour oil on it and put frankincense on it. He shall then bring it to Aaron’s sons the priests; and shall take from it his handful of its fine flour and of its oil with all of its frankincense. And the priest shall offer it up in smoke as its memorial portion on the altar, an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the Lord. The remainder of the grain offering belongs to Aaron and his sons: a thing most holy, of the offerings to the Lord by fire.” NASU
Do you remember Jesus’ words in John 6:48-50? “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.” NASU For those who knew the Scriptures, the more they heard Jesus talk, the more these shadows from the Old Testament took on substance; these pictures in the Old Testament sacrifices took shape in the life of Jesus being lived out before their very eyes. Now, there was no shedding of blood in this offering, so it spoke of the perfections of Christ in His Person and in His works.
The third offering was ‘The Peace Offering’ or a ‘Thank Offering’. Lev 3:1-2; 5- “Now if his offering is a sacrifice of peace offerings, if he is going to offer out of the herd, whether male or female, he shall offer it without defect before the Lord. He shall lay his hand on the head of his offering and slay it at the doorway of the tent of meeting, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall sprinkle the blood around on the altar. Then Aaron’s sons shall offer it up in smoke on the altar on the burnt offering, which is on the wood that is on the fire; it is an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the Lord. NASU
Where have we heard that about Jesus, this aspect of being a ‘peace offering’? Rom 5:1-2- “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.” NASU This Levitical ‘Peace Offering’ pictured the peace that we can each have both in our relationship with God and in our fellowship with God. Notice this, it is really amazing. In the peace offering there was included a portion that was set aside for God and then a portion that was set aside for those offering this up to God. What a great picture of God communing with His people, communing with us not just on a ‘God to Man’ level, but on a ‘Father with His children’ level. God wants and desires and delights in our fellowship with Him as our loving God and Father. We each need to spend a long reorienting our thoughts about God concerning this wonder about Him.
We’ll have to pause and look into the wonder and meaning of the fourth and fifth offerings next time. But we do need to point out a preview about what we’ll study further next time in relation to these five offerings, and that is to realize that it took these five offerings to foreshadow what the substance, what the Savior, was going to accomplish in His life and death as the one Mediator and as the final sacrifice as the Lamb of God for them and for us. It took all of these pictures to show the glory of the one picture of the coming Deliverer, Lord, Messiah, and Savior.
And it also shows us that even with all of the many things going on in these people’s lives and going on in the nations they had to deal with and going on in the world around them, still, the central focus was to be on what Jesus said it the Scriptures were all about: “Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” Jesus is the central focus in all the Scriptures. Which means that Jesus is also to be the central focus of our own lives. Let’s make sure that He is, day after day.