Leviticus 1 Commentary: Priestly services in the Sanctuary detailed
Leviticus begins with an assumption that the reader has been through the Book of Exodus. The Tabernacle is ready and the priests must perform their duty. So Leviticus lists detailed instructions on how the priests must go about their duty.
Our first stop is the outer court. Here we find the altar of burnt offering.
Regarding burnt offerings, the following points are important. The animal must be a male and in perfect condition. The animal must be one of the following: cattle (herd), sheep/goat (flock) or pigeon/dove (bird).
For the herd or flock, an entire animal is to be burnt. It is a food offering and an aroma that goes up before the LORD. The connection is made when the worshipper lays his hands on the animal. By this the scripture is teaching us that the worship of the LORD involves life. It’s in our day-to-day walk that the LORD is worshipped. It’s never impersonal for us though we know that the rest of creation exists in obedience to the word of the LORD [in an impersonal way], without an option of revolt. The altar of sacrifice presents the worshipper with a choice. It’s a choice to connect back to God in the right way.
Again the list of options means that the LORD doesn’t discriminate on the basis of money power. Birds, (young pigeon or dove) were equally acceptable means of worship. However, the system where a capable man offers a dove is roundly condemned in scripture. Equally, the feeling that big pledgers are the only ones doing it big in the presence of the LORD is false and altogether sinful.
The picture we get of this type of sacrifice is that of a meal presented to the LORD in the manner of Cain and Abel. At the same time the fact that an entire animal is burnt may point to need for us to fully and wholly dedicate our lives to the LORD. The LORD whose name is JEALOUSY will not accept ‘part payment’.
The choice of a male animal (instead of a female animal) may be in keeping with a tradition and also logical practice of slaughtering males for consumption. Females are for reproduction. In this way the general picture is that the worship of the LORD was never meant to reverse a worshipper’s economy. When the priests insist on an offering that reduces the worshipper to debt, we have every right to question the system.
One big question on many minds concerns the very practice of sacrifices. Why did the LORD command it? We would easily guess the answer by looking at this very chapter. Sacrifices are a food offering to the LORD. Back in the Garden of perfection the first couple enjoyed a prefect relationship with the LORD. They probably shared meals together. We can again easily say so because we know how Abraham enjoyed a meal with the LORD. We also know that the LORD Jesus enjoyed meals with his disciples. In fact the LORD Jesus specifically ordained the festival of Holy Communion in memory of the Last Supper. After resurrection the fearful and doubting disciples provided a piece of fish to the LORD and He consumed it right in their presence. Later on Peter, John and a couple of others were treated to a special breakfast meal prepared by the LORD Himself by the lake side.
We can think backwards and conclude that probably man still wanted to perpetuate these meal fellowships by still offering meals to the LORD who was now absent, for reasons well explained in Genesis chapter 3. Sacrifices are therefore good evidence of man’s continued search for the LORD. So Leviticus gives us a refined search or pathway to the LORD, but at the center of it all is a return to the contents of the golden box. The LORD is one. Hear all Israel, the LORD is one. Then follows other laws of righteousness, some of them right here in these pages. Let’s enjoy the journey!
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