Leviticus 1:3–4 (HCSB)
3 “If his gift is a burnt offering from the herd, he is to bring an unblemished male. He must bring it to the entrance to the tent of meeting so that he may be accepted by the Lord. 4 He is to lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering so it can be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him.
Leviticus begins with the rules for a variety of sacrifices. In this first section, God provides Moses rules for the burnt offering. Following are points of note:
- The animal that is sacrificed, whether bull, sheep, or goat, should be unblemished. A sacrifice of birds does not state they should be unblemished, but rather note specific species, presumably as an equivalence of the unblemished state. This is surely a foreshadowing of Christ, the ultimate perfect sacrifice to end all sacrifices (Hebrews 10:5-7). It is not that God delighted in the death of his created animals, but He delights in what the act symbolized and foreshadowed: Jesus Christ. As such, it surely would be unacceptable to present a sacrifice that is flawed, or not perfect. After all, does God not deserve the best?
- The offerer of the offering, except when offering birds apparently, performs a sort of “turning over” of the sacrificial animal by laying his hand upon its head. The sacrifice is an offering of entirety, turning over what was once the offerors’ wholly to God. Further, the sacrifice is fully incinerated, other than the skin, leaving no part of it for the offerer or priest. It is the perfect symbol, in a way, of our surrender to God, keeping nothing back, but giving all to God.
- The burnt offering is participatory on the part of both the offerer and the priest. The offerer does not just drop off his check and leave, similar to how so many of us might treat Sunday and tithe. Instead, the offerer takes part in the sacrifice, is a part of it, by skinning and washing parts of the animal. At the same time, the priest sprinkles blood, stokes the fire, and places the animal on the altar. So we see early on that God has designs for collaboration, for the laity to not be separated from Him and participation in his worship, but instead to come alongside the priesthood in worship and works. We should never think that our pastor will just “take care of things” on our behalf, we should actively work alongside him.
- Note that God does not “consume” the sacrifice. This is not a sacrifice in which man is providing something God needs, similar to how a pagan religion might practice a sacrifice. This is a sacrifice that pleases God through our obedience and desire to please Him, or worship Him, not due to a demand or a need on His part.
Lord, thank You for preparing us from the very start for Jesus, revealing Him through the burnt offering. I pray that even though Christ has replaced the burnt offering forever with His perfect sacrifice, that we would not lose the heart of the act and continue to worship You whole-heartedly. Amen.