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offering plate February 16 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Introduction to Leviticus. Go to today’s Bible reading: Leviticus 1, 2, 3, 4

Our Offerings

If we offend someone, how do we get back in their good graces? What do we have to do? What do we do if we offend God? What does He require? The Israelites did not have to ask; God told them what he requires. God requires holiness (separating from all evil and separated to God, who is perfect in every way). But, if we offend his holiness, what do we do? The book of Leviticus was a didactic manual, showing the Israelites what they must do. Even so, this book also leads us to the answers of what we must do to be holy.

The Israelites were God’s people. With ten awful plagues they had been miraculously delivered from 430 years of slavery to the Egyptians. At least two million Israelites were crossing the Sinai desert wilderness with only God to provide for their needs. Recently, as recorded in Exodus, God had established a covenant relationship with them. They had received God’s laws, built a tabernacle, and God’s presence was now among them. However, they (like everyone else) were sinners. They offended God by their words or deeds, or by failing to do something they ought to do. How were they to get back in God’s good graces?

Other so called “gods” from other religions required offerings; did the Israelites’ God, the creator of the heavens and the earth, their deliverer, their covenant God require the same? Yes, he did, but in a different way and for different purposes. Today, we will look at the individual responsibilities of the Israelites in dealing with their offerings. We will look at four of the five basic offerings and their significance: the burnt offerings, the fellowship offerings, the grain offerings, and the sin offerings. Finally, we will look at what kind of offerings we should bring to God.

The individual responsibilities of the Israelites who brought their burnt, fellowship, or sin offerings to the LORD at the tabernacle included bringing an acceptable sacrifice or offering, placing his hand upon it (a symbol of identification and transference of sin or guilt), slaughtering it, skinning it, and dividing it. The priests would then take some blood from the slaughtered animal or bird, wipe some of it upon the horns of the altar, sprinkle some upon the bronze altar, pour the rest of it at the base of the altar, and then burn only the good parts of it on the altar (except for the burnt offerings). The remainder of the animal was taken outside the tabernacle area and burned. The procedure and offerings differed slightly according to the type of offerings. We also bear the responsibilities for our sins, but there is good news: Jesus paid the price for our sins (Romans 3:23-24; Romans 6:23; Hebrews 10:14); we do not have to offer animal sacrifices.

The burnt offering was primarily a dedication offering. Although it was often done in conjunction with sin offerings and grain offerings, the primary emphasis was on the dedication of an entire male animal from a person's herd or flock (always one without defect). In the case of a very poor person, a dove or pigeon could be offered. Only the hide of the animal or the crop of the bird was not offered. What kind of dedication offering does God require of us today? Our sins are already forgiven by the blood of Christ. He gave himself in complete obedience to the Father’s will when he died as a sacrifice on the cross of Calvary for our sins. We in turn should give our lives in total dedication to God (Romans 12:1; Philippians 1:21).

The grain offering always accompanied the burnt offering and fellowship offerings; or in the case of a very poor person, the grain offering might be given in place of these. The ingredients for the grain offering were fine flour with no yeast, oil, and incense. They could be offered in their dry form or baked, grilled, or pan fried as unleavened cakes. Some of the grain offering was offered in dedication and burned up, and some was given to the priests for their food. It, too, was a dedication offering and typified Christ’s dedication, the bread of life who gave himself for the world (John 6:48-63).

The fellowship or peace offering was a voluntary offering (except for Thanksgiving time, the Feast of Weeks, which celebrated the harvest of their crops). It was an offering expressing thanks for some blessing of the Lord, and it was also an offering occasioned by the fulfillment of a vow (Leviticus 7:16; 27:9-10). Unlike the burnt offering mentioned above, the animal from the herd or flock could be male or female, so long as it was unblemished. Like the burnt offering, blood was sprinkled on the altar, and the rest poured out at the base of the altar. Again, unlike the burnt offering, just the fat and the kidneys were consumed. The rest of the animal was cooked on the altar and shared with the priest, the one who brought the offering, and his family. Though we, as Christians, are not required to offer sacrifices, we too need to give offerings of thanks to God for the blessings he bestows upon us (Psalm 107:1,2,8; Philippians 4:6). It is good to share times of celebration at Thanksgiving and other days when we remember the goodness of the LORD.

The sin offering was given for committing unintentional sins. The requirements differed somewhat depending on whether a priest, the entire community, a community leader, or just a member of the community sinned. The blood of the animal in this case, unlike the previous offerings, was sprinkled by the priest before the curtain of the sanctuary (Holy Place). As the fellowship offering, only the fat of the animal and the kidneys were offered as an acceptable sacrifice to the Lord. All this was done to make atonement (reparation) for one’s sin by substitution of the animal’s life for his life. Unlike the burnt offering and the fellowship offering, however, the rest of the animal was not burned up or shared; it was taken outside the camp and burned. Thus, forgiveness for the one offering the sacrifice was obtained and his relationship with God was restored (Leviticus 4:20, 26, 31, 35). The sin offering of the Old Testament typifies the sin offering of Christ.

The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering [on the Day of Atonement, which we will discuss later], but the bodies are burned outside the camp. And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. (Hebrews 13:11-12, NIV)

God made him [Jesus] who had no sin to be sin or us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2Corinthians 5:21, NIV).

God presented him [His Son, Jesus] as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished. (Romans 3:25, NIV)

…live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:2, NIV)

He [Jesus Christ] is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1John 2:2, NIV)

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1John 4:10, NIV)

Lessons to live by:

  • As the Israelites, we also bear the responsibilities for our sins, but there is good news: Jesus paid the price for our sins; we do not have to offer animal sacrifices.
  • Christ gave himself in total dedication when he died on the cross of Calvary for our sins. We in turn should give our lives in total dedication to God (Romans 12:1).
  • The grain offering typified Christ’s dedication, the bread of life who gave himself for the world.
  • Though we do not offer animal sacrifices or grain offerings, we Christians do need to give offerings of thanks to God for the blessings he bestows upon us.
  • Christ is our sin offering who died in our place so that we might be made righteous. He makes it possible that we might be forgiven and have peace with God (more...).

Today’s Bible memory verse:

Psalm 118:19-21

Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the LORD. This is the gate of the LORD through which the righteous may enter. I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation. (NIV)

Note: For a detailed but very helpful understanding of the Old Testament sacrifices and their significance, consult the study on Leviticus in The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the Old Testament by Walvoord and Zuck, ©1985, pp. 163-214. The charts on pages 168-171 are particularly helpful.

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