2 Chronicles 25-27: Leprous Head

Chapter 25

Amaziah’s reign is already earmarked with a mixture of success and failure – while he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, he did not do so with a “whole heart” (v.2).  Yet, his decision to kill his servants who struck down the king his father is indicated as a compliance with the Law in the Book of Moses, so long as the children do not die of their fathers’ sins (v.4) (which does not indicate a rejection of the doctrine of original sin – c.f. Romans 3:23).

Yet, his decision to hire the Ephraimites was an unwise one.  Thankfully he turned to listen to the man of God and discharged the Ephraimites (although they were paid! v.9) and eventually was successful against the men of Seir not with the strength of men but by the LORD’s provision.  However, his decision to hire the Ephraimites, rather than see them join arms as brethren of Israel, has already made its impact – leading to the demise of 3,000 people in Judah and its various cities.  It would appear that although a tragedy this is, the tragedy of what would have happened (v.7) in alliance with the Ephraimites would have been far worse.  The Ephraimites, unlike those aligning with the house of David in Judah, were clearly not with the LORD (v.7) and were men thirsting for war, for blood, and not merely for money (v.13).  In spite of Amaziah’s victory over the men of Seir and the Edomites by the LORD, he still opted to worship the foreign idols which should have been destroyed like their worshippers – yet, just as the LORD has used Ephraim to shame Judah in Amaziah’s mistake, so also Israel was used to defeat Amaziah in response to his idolatry (v.17-24; esp. v. 20).  Indeed, Judah is but a thistle on Lebanon compared to the rest of Israel, compared to a “cedar on Lebanon” or even a “wild beast”.  Without walking with Jesus, Amaziah is but a thistle, ready to be trampled.  By defeating Edom, Amaziah is but a boaster (v.19); had he remembered the victory and glory belonged to the LORD, then King Jehu would have also recognized the rest of Israel to be the thistle, and Judah the cedar – for the LORD is with the house of David.  Yet, King Jehu spits on the house of David, on Judah, on Amaziah – not because Amaziah was walking as a Christian but because of his arrogance, contrary to the spirit of 2 Timothy 3:12.  It was therefore at the house of the sun (Beth-shemesh) where Amaziah’s true face was revealed; and though Judah was the elected tribe, it was defeated on its own ground (v.21, v.23).  Like his father, his life ended in tragedy (v.27-28) – will the lamp in David’s house be slowly extinguished as the light in his lineage continually dims to be akin to the life of non-Christian kings?

Chapter 26

Uzziah, too, walked in Amaziah’s footsteps – a life with Jesus filled with various compromises.  He sought to seek God in the days of Zechariah (v.5), but was struck down for his disobedience to the priesthood (v.16-23) – again highlighting the importance of the prophets and the priests as the crucial identity of Israel.  By the victory of Jesus (v.7), he broke through the wall of Gath (one of the five royal cities of the Philistines – Joshua 13:3), wall of Jabneh and wall of Ashdod (the winepress, building of God and stronghold respectively), all important landmarks in the Philistine geography; as well as against the Arabians in Gurbaal and the Meunites, so much that the Ammonites (v.8) actually paid tribute to Uzziah.  Yet, the remainder of the description of his life spells inevitable destruction – note v.9-15: Uzziah was not surrounded by priests or prophets, but by men of war, building towers and fortifying them; having an awesome army fit for war (v.11-15), all to strengthen Israel in the military sense.  Yet, our role in the world is not that of a warrior, but that of a worshipper first.  Have we yet to meet a person who would dance before the LORD as David did before identifying oneself as a soldier (2 Samuel 6:14)?

Thus, his inevitable downfall is described in v.16-21 as his pride led him to believe that he, like Jesus, can transcend the priest-king divide.  Yet, Amaziah forgets that he is but a shadow and not the same type of son as the Son of God Jesus Christ.  Uzziah should have known as king of Judah that it is not for him to burn incense to the LORD, but this is the role specifically ordained by the Spirit to the sons of Aaron (v.18; c.f. Exodus 27:21).  Had Uzziah understood the significance of the priesthood as a multimedia presentation of the gospel, then he would not have intervened and arrogantly believed that he could stand in the house of the LORD in his own holiness.  Nay, the holy priestly garb, the offerings and the various procedures all point towards the need for the priests to rely on Jesus to gift them the robe of righteousness and salvation.  Thus, the breakout of leprosy on Uzziah’s forehead is a suitable diagnosis of the sin in his heart, which (if not for the priests!) would not be dealt with vicariously in Christ.  Note Exodus 28:

“36  “You shall make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet, ‘Holy to the LORD.’ 37  And you shall fasten it on the turban by a cord of blue. It shall be on the front of the turban. 38  It shall be on Aaron’s forehead, and Aaron shall bear any guilt from the holy things that the people of Israel consecrate as their holy gifts. It shall regularly be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the LORD.”

Instead of a gold plate saying “Holy to the LORD” on Aaron’s forehead, the High Priest who shall bear any guilt from the holy things that the people of Israel consecrate as their holy gifts, we have Uzziah whose guilt is upon himself and equally marked on his forehead as he illegally burns incense on the altar of incense.  From that day onward, he lived in seclusion – far away from the house of the LORD, as he was reminded of his sinfulness against the LORD’s righteousness. Yet, Uzziah’s life is what characterises that of the climate of the kings of Judah now – forgetting one’s place as one of the kings in the promised lineage of David.  Instead of a king whose kingship is “Holy to the LORD”, we have a line of kings increasingly acting effectively as leprous heads of Israel, leading the entire nation into potential exile just as Uzziah was.

This also goes to explain the variant of Uzziah’s name in 1 Chronicles 3:12 where he is given the name Azariah, the same name as the High Priest around his era.  Uzziah’s attempt to do the work of the High Priest is mocked in 1 Chronicles 3, and laid bare in this chapter, reminding us that there is only one true High Priest.

Chapter 27

Unlike his father, Jotham walked in the way of the LORD and also did not arrogantly enter the temple of the LORD knowing this to be the role of the ordained priesthood.  The tributes from the Ammonites continued to be given – but unlike Amaziah and Uzziah, his ways were ordered before Jesus (v.6), his fights in the name of Christ, and his fortifications belonged not to military might, but to the temple (v.3).  However, his life is described in few words, an indication that the light in David’s house – except by the LORD’s grace – is rare and far in between.

2 Chronicles 25-27: Leprous Head

Joshua 23-24: The Next Generation

Joshua 23

Joshua’s Charge to Israel’s Leaders

1A long time afterward, when the LORD had given(A) rest to Israel from all their surrounding enemies, and Joshua(B) was old and well advanced in years, 2Joshua(C) summoned all Israel, its elders and heads, its judges and officers, and said to them, “I am now old and well advanced in years. 3And you have seen all that the LORD your God has done to all these nations for your sake,(D) for it is the LORD your God who has fought for you.

And so we come to the final chapters of Joshua.  How fitting a leader he has been, the entire book marking his unstoppable victory over the neighbouring races in Canaan.  v.3 in particular celebrates that these victories came from the LORD alone, it is the “LORD [their] God who has fought for [them]”.  This humility is fitting for a king, and indeed even Christ himself would proclaim that it is not His own will that he is to complete the redemption of creation through the cross, but His Father’s.

Does this mean that Christ is not glorified, and only His Father?  By no means, for he arose to the right hand of the Father; does this mean that Joshua is not glorified, and only Yahweh?  By no means, for by his obedience and faith in Christ is he clearly exalted, old and advanced in years suffering much persecution under the Egyptians and dwelling for such a long period of time being one of the last people who have lasted the entirety of the chronicles between Exodus and Joshua.  Even the great saints of old had been marred with sin – Abraham, Lot, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Miriam.  However, this book has narrated and characterized his story as that of Yeshua, a Hebrew name and term for ‘salvation’.  Although it is Joshua who has saved the Israelites by giving them the firstfruit of the land, it is through the true Yeshua that the Old and New Testament saints gain the firstfruit deposited through the Holy Spirit.

4Behold,(E) I have allotted to you as an inheritance for your tribes those nations that remain, along with all the nations that I have already cut off, from the Jordan to the Great Sea in the west. 5The LORD your God(F) will push them back before you and drive them out of your sight. And you shall possess their land,(G) just as the LORD your God promised you. 6Therefore,(H) be very strong to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses,(I) turning aside from it neither to the right hand nor to the left, 7(J) that you may not mix with these nations remaining among you(K) or make mention of the names of their gods(L) or swear by them or serve them or bow down to them, 8(M) but you shall cling to the LORD your God just as you have done to this day. 9(N) For the LORD has driven out before you great and strong nations. And as for you,(O) no man has been able to stand before you to this day. 10(P) One man of you puts to flight a thousand, since it is the LORD your God(Q) who fights for you, just as he promised you. 11(R) Be very careful, therefore, to love the LORD your God. 12For if you turn back and cling to the remnant of these nations remaining among you(S) and make marriages with them, so that you associate with them and they with you, 13know for certain that(T) the LORD your God will no longer drive out these nations before you,(U) but they shall be a snare and a trap for you, a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good ground that the LORD your God has given you.

Yet, like what is proclaimed in Deuteronomy 31:16, Israel will continue to whore after idols.  V.6-8 in particular uses the similar imagery and language of whoring, of prostitution, of making marriages with the remnant of these nations (v.12) – these remnants being a result of each tribe being too incapable and too disobedient to completely drive them out.  Such is the nation which does not hold onto Christ – the entangling of the whoredom epitomized in Abraham’s intercourse with Hagar, of the church of Ephesus losing her first love (Revelation 2:4), spawning off the seeds of destruction rather than the Seed of Promise whose first love is the church; the vine of Sodom and Gomorrah rather than the vine of Christ who is engaged to the Bridegroom.  Paul’s theology stems from the theology of these Old Testament saints, saying nothing beyond what Moses and the prophets had stated (Acts 26:22, 28:23), and the plucking of these Israelites from the vine of Christ will be most apparent in the first incarnation, and once more in His second coming where the spiritual church shall be revealed before the ashamed physical church which the unbelieving Israel is a type of.

Note also Christ’s words before He ascends: “…Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).  Again, in Luke 24:46-49, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.  And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you.  But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”  There is much similarity between his temporary departure and Joshua 23:14-16:

14“And now(V) I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that(W) not one word has failed of all the good things[a] that the LORD your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed. 15But just as all the good things that the LORD your God promised concerning you have been fulfilled for you, so the LORD will bring upon you(X) all the evil things, until he has destroyed you from off this good land that the LORD your God has given you, 16if you transgress the covenant of the LORD your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them. Then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you, and you shall perish quickly from off the good land that he has given to you.”

The difference is largely laying in the fact that Christ himself is no mere prophet – but he is the Sent One with the power to send the promise of His Father upon all Christians; the Person who can be with us to the end of the age.  Joshua, like Moses (end of Deuteronomy) and Jacob (Genesis 48-50) in their pre-sleep speeches laid out similar truths, but they were looking forward to the eternal Messiah.  As intimated in v.14, Joshua is about to “go the way of all the earth”.  What way is this?  The truth that is laid out on all the earth, as explained in Genesis 1 – that even seeds have to die and be reborn and bear new fruit; that saints are to go through the passage of death into resurrection; that the four seasons of the earth from the Jewish new year beginning at Fall (the American description of the season being more theologically poignant than the British term “Autumn”)in the month of Tishri, and the year ending in Summer, the month of full enjoyment of the harvest in the Spring-time which we are now in, beyond the Winter of death.  These are but a few tastes of the ways of the earth, of the gospel proclaimed to all of creation (Psalm 19; Romans 1), and even he must succumb to this natural process of life as Christ the head in Whom all creation holds together (Colossians 1) must forcefully resurrect even the non-believers on the Day of Resurrection, but unlike the rest of creation and the believers in Christ, they will receive no renewal nor redemption.

They were the definitive Messianic Israelites, yet they already preached the gospel in advance, the full expression of faith in Christ manifested in the central focus on the tabernacle.  As we see later in the books of Kings and Chronicles, we learn that Israel’s backsliding spirituality goes hand-in-hand with their inability to see beyond the shadows of the land, the sacrifice, and even the Name of God, beginning to call on other name(s) for protection.  V.15 in particular is proof that Israel is but a shadow and the failure of the majority in holding true to Christ so that the Gentiles should be given the gift of salvation to make them jealous (Romans 11:11), for despite Israel’s privilege and positive handicap of receiving the law of Moses, even those without the law (pre-Moses, and the Gentiles) would practice the law (c.f. Genesis 22) and become even more righteous than the Pharisees through their deeper understanding of the gospel which Israel will eventually lose.  The crux thus lies in Matthew 5:17 – “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”  Simon Gathercole investigates these statements of “coming” in “The Pre-existing Son: Recovering the Christologies of Matthew, Mark and Luke” as distinguishing between his Messiaship and his role as prophet like those before Him, from that of Joshua who is a typological Messiah-prophet.

Joshua 24

The Covenant Renewal at Shechem

1Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel(Y) to Shechem and(Z) summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel. And(AA) they presented themselves before God. 2And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Long ago,(AB) your fathers lived beyond the Euphrates, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and(AC) they served other gods. 3(AD) Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and(AE) led him through all the land of Canaan, and made his offspring many.(AF) I gave him Isaac. 4And to Isaac I gave(AG) Jacob and Esau.(AH) And I gave Esau the hill country of Seir to possess,(AI) but Jacob and his children went down to Egypt. 5(AJ) And I sent Moses and Aaron,(AK) and I plagued Egypt with what I did in the midst of it, and(AL) afterward I brought you out.  6“‘Then(AM) I brought your fathers out of Egypt, and(AN) you came to the sea.(AO) And the Egyptians pursued your fathers with chariots and horsemen to the Red Sea. 7(AP) And when they cried to the LORD,(AQ) he put darkness between you and the Egyptians(AR) and made the sea come upon them and cover them;(AS) and your eyes saw what I did in Egypt.(AT) And you lived in the wilderness a long time. 8Then I brought you to the land of the Amorites, who lived on the other side of the Jordan.(AU) They fought with you, and I gave them into your hand, and you took possession of their land, and I destroyed them before you. 9(AV) Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose and fought against Israel.(AW) And he sent and invited Balaam the son of Beor to curse you, 10(AX) but I would not listen to Balaam. Indeed, he blessed you. So I delivered you out of his hand. 11(AY) And you went over the Jordan and came to Jericho,(AZ) and the leaders of Jericho fought against you, and also the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites [people of Jerusalem]. And I gave them into your hand. 12And I sent(BA) the hornet before you, which drove them out before you, the two kings of the Amorites; it was(BB) not by your sword or by your bow. 13I gave you a land on which you had not labored(BC) and cities that you had not built, and you dwell in them. You eat the fruit of vineyards and olive orchards that you did not plant.’

Similar in style to the end of the last book of the Pentateuch, God repeats the works which he has done for Israel between v.2-10, from the time of Abraham to Isaac, from Isaac to Jacob the father of all Israelites, from Jacob to Moses – and under the banner of Moses, the end of the exodus of Israel finally in sight as they stand before the LORD in their own land.  For so many generations, the ancestors of the Israelites have been mobile in their witness and evangelism, and finally Israel has come to a halt.  Israel is the type of the church under the law of God, but the patriarchs themselves were also types of the church as well; the difference is the period.  Where the saints from Adam to Joseph were not under the law and in their mobility preached the good news of the promised Seed to come, typifying the Christians in the end times without a home, there are three layers to understanding what shadow Israel is portraying.

The first layer is that of Israel being the physical church, with the need to sift out those who are believing in Christ and those who, like the physical church today (but not the spiritual), attend church but do not have a relationship with Him.

The second layer is that of the difference in typology of church-hood between Israel and the mobile patriarchs – and it is that Israel represents the church in New Creation, in New Jerusalem, in True Canaan.  For we as a church today are hermits in the power of the Holy Spirit living in spiritual tents, but on the Day of Resurrection we will be ushered into the permanent physical kingdom where heaven and earth are united and we will still live under the laws of the kingdom but without compromise for we will be filled unceasingly with the intimacy of the Trinity – making the state of Israel’s kingdom so much more pitiful and less desirable when we compare her to the kingdom of New Jerusalem.

The third layer is that Israel is proclaimed as light to the nations – where the patriarchal Christians travelled in small groups, functioning as a fellowship of sorts, it is in Israel that we find a national Christocratic government of God.  Where Israel stood on the side of light, darkness confuses the pursuing Egyptians (where the narrative in Exodus shows the pillar of cloud and fire standing between the mixed multitude in Israel and Egypt c.f. Exodus 14:24, the narrative in Joshua interprets that as darkness which confounded the non-Christians for they were blind and deaf to the truth of God’s intervention for Israel).  Where Israel is incapable, the LORD fights entirely (v. 12 c.f. the hornets versus the natural weapons of the Israelites). In this manner, Israel is a type of Christ, for it is in Israel that we find the Holy Spirit; it is in Israel that we find the tabernacle, temple and shekinah glory of Yahweh, a truth foretold in the lives of the saints prior to Moses as listed out by God here.  What Israel represents is but a macro-perspective of what the patriarchs believed in; and what the New Jerusalem represents is but the true perspective of the golden times of Israel especially under the reign of David and Solomon.

And so, under these three layers of understanding the birth of the nation Israel from such a rich history of God’s provision do we see from v.13 that we as Christians will eat the fruit of vineyards and olive orchards that we did not plant as in New Creation, and as first prophesied in Genesis 2:15 when the first man was sabbathed in the garden planted by Christ.

Choose Whom You Will Serve

14(BD) “Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness.(BE) Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15(BF) And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD,(BG) choose this day whom you will serve, whether(BH) the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or(BI) the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.(BJ) But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

In v.14-15 we immediately see Joshua’s evangelism technique – he uses testimony, he uses history, he uses personal experiences to reach the conclusion of v.15 – “but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD”.  He gives the people an option – serve the gods beyond the River/in Egypt or even the ‘gods’ of the lands if they truly appeal to you still, after such a wealth and mound of witness as described at Gilead.  There is no need for him to re-iterate that there is only one true God, Yahweh, El, Elohim as the tribes on the east of Jordan had done in Joshua 22.  The historical evidence, the personal experience, the present witness of the tabernacle icons and sacrifices all witness and testify to the one true living God.  Hence their reaction in v.16-18:

16Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods, 17for it is the LORD our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight and preserved us in all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed. 18And the LORD drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.”

19But Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the LORD, for he is(BK) a holy God. He is(BL) a jealous God;(BM) he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. 20(BN) If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then(BO) he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good.” 21And the people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the LORD.” 22Then Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that(BP) you have chosen the LORD, to serve him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.” 23He said, “Then(BQ) put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your heart to the LORD, the God of Israel.” 24And the people said to Joshua, “The LORD our God we will serve, and his voice we will obey.”

This portrayal of God in v.19-20 is undoubtedly one of the many reasons why the Marcionites amongst other heresies believe the God of the Old Testament to be different from the God of the New Testament; or even Joachim of Fiore’s interpretation of the Old Testament to be the ‘age of the Father’, the saints living under fear, and the New Testament and the End Times to be the ‘age of the Son’ and the ‘age of the Spirit’.  This however directly contradicts what the New Testament authors themselves understood, for there has always been only one mediator between man and God (1 Timothy 2:5), the creation being through Christ in  the head (bereshit – the very first word of Genesis, commonly mistranslated as “in the beginning”), and the gospel of all ages preached even to Abraham (Galatians 3-4) before the law was given.

Why then do Joshua’s words seem so misleading?  Because we are built upon misconceived Christian traditions which do not see Christ in the Old Testament!  For even in Hebrews 3, the first two chapters speaking of the supremacy and mediatorial role of Christ, emphasizes that it was those who left Egypt and were disobedient who did not enter the Promised Land.  It was those with “unbelieving heart” which led them to fall away from the living God (Hebrews 3:12); and that in 2 Peter 1 we are called to “supplement our faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfast-ness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love” so that we do not act as though we have forgotten that we are cleansed from our former sins.

We are thus tested for the genuineness of our faith (1 Peter 1:7), and like the Christians of the New Testament so also these Israelites are commanded by Joshua to serve the LORD (c.f. 1 Peter 1:13-25).  The misnomer of ‘faith alone’ has taught lies to this generation as if we are ‘secured’ in salvation by our one profession of faith, when Scripture teaches us that we are preserved in faith, that we are to persist, and that our good works are emblems of our faith and that these are done solely by God alone through the Son and Spirit.  And what this means is that if we disobey, then we grieve the Spirit and he rightly disciplines us; and if we fall after tasting the Spirit but not being indwelled by Him then we fall eternally; but if we thirst for Him, then he will continually protect us in the midst of inevitable sufferings which Christ himself experienced.  The oaths which the Israelites made in v.22 will be held against them, just as our oath to be Christians when we professed to be born again will be held against us, for we now know the truth and made a marriage vow which we should enjoy and not persistently break lest our marriage vow was built upon deception and lies and Spirit-less!  And so v.24 here is reflected in Hebrews 3:15 which quotes Psalm 95:7-8 – “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion”, the rebellion in the wildernesses.

25So Joshua(BR) made a covenant with the people that day, and put in place(BS) statutes and rules for them at Shechem. 26And Joshua(BT) wrote these words in the Book of the Law of God. And(BU) he took a large stone and set it up there(BV) under the terebinth that was by the sanctuary of the LORD. 27And Joshua said to all the people, “Behold,(BW) this stone shall be a witness against us, for(BX) it has heard all the words of the LORD that he spoke to us. Therefore it shall be a witness against you, lest you deal falsely with your God.” 28So Joshua(BY) sent the people away, every man to his inheritance.

Once again, we should not overlook the specific locations provided in the Old Testament narrative.  Let us first consider what we know of Shechem and a particular terebinth which has already been mentioned before the book of Joshua:

Gen 35:1-5  God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.”  (2)  So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments.  (3)  Then let us arise and go up to Bethel, so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.”  (4)  So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods that they had, and the rings that were in their ears. Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree that was near Shechem.  (5)  And as they journeyed, a terror from God fell upon the cities that were around them, so that they did not pursue the sons of Jacob.

Jacob hid all the foreign gods under the terebinth tree that was near Shechem.  Here, Joshua sets up a large stone and sets it up there under the terebinth that was by the sanctuary of the LORD – no doubt, any Israelite with a familiar understanding of the history of his or her ancestor would know that Joshua did not randomly choose a place to set up the large stone.  It is at Shechem, that Jacob destroyed the idols; it is under the oak, the terebinth, that the idols were taken away from sight; and it is now under the terebinth in Shechem near the sanctuary of the LORD that Joshua commands the Israelites to hold true to their words, as if it was God himself telling Jacob to do the same.  The parallel is thus made between Yahweh commanding Jacob/Israel, and Joshua commanding the nation Israel; Joshua standing in as a type of Yeshua, and Israel standing in as a fulfillment of the prophetic imagery of Jacob in Genesis 35.

Joshua’s Death and Burial

29(BZ) After these things Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being 110 years old. 30And they buried him in his own inheritance at(CA) Timnath-serah, which is in the hill country of Ephraim, north of the mountain of Gaash.

Genesis 35 is not the only connection made, but also Genesis 50:26 when the patriarch Joseph also died at 110 years old.  Timnath-serah was Joshua’s inheritance as stated in Joshua 19:50, and Adam Clarke comments:

“The Septuagint add here, “And they put with him there, in the tomb in which they buried him, the knives of stone with which he circumcised the children of Israel in Gilgal, according as the Lord commanded when he brought them out of Egypt; and there they are till this day.” St. Augustine quotes the same passage in his thirtieth question on the book of Joshua, which, in all probability, he took from some copy of the Septuagint. It is very strange that there is no account of any public mourning for the death of this eminent general; probably, as he was buried in his own inheritance, he had forbidden all funeral pomp, and it is likely was privately interred.”

Burial is an important tradition, and also indicative of where the promises of these OT saints lay.  The additional insight in the LXX is most welcome – putting the knives of stone with which he circumcised the children of Israel in Gilgal, reminding us of the mystery of circumcision first instituted in Genesis 18, looking forward to the life-circumcision of Christ and its replacement with water-baptism after Christ has fulfilled his incarnate mission.  This theme of burial, of necessary death, of the ‘ways of the earth’, is the typical way of how the Mosaic books have ended, with the deaths of Jacob, Joseph, Miriam, Aaron, Moses and now Joshua.

31(CB) Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua(CC) and had known all the work that the LORD did for Israel. 32(CD) As for the bones of Joseph, which the people of Israel brought up from Egypt, they buried them at Shechem, in the piece of land(CE) that Jacob bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for a hundred pieces of money.[b] It became an inheritance of the descendants of Joseph. 33And Eleazar the son of Aaron died, and they buried him at Gibeah, the town of(CF) Phinehas his son, which had been given him in(CG) the hill country of Ephraim.

Thus, it is fitting to look at the fulfillment of the treatment of Joseph’s bones from Genesis 50:25 and Exodus 13:19, the burying of the bones most likely to take place when the land of Canaan was completely taken.  It is at this point we realize that Joseph and Joshua are both receiving their funeral procession, the burial of Joseph’s bones in the land of his forefathers, as promised; and Joshua’s acceptance of the end of his life on earth in present creation.  It is interesting how he was called the servant of the LORD, a phrase used especially in Numbers 12:7, Deuteronomy 34:5 and Joshua 1:1 in reference to Moses placing him in line with those who stood by the LORD.  This is quite interesting, because the theme of servanthood is aligned to Stephen’s description of those who stand with Christ and those who stand against Him (Acts 7).  Joshua is now directly expressed to be with Christ, and Moses also – enabling us to read the Old Testament by understanding who is truly a Christian saint, doing His will, and those who belong to a non-Messianic non-Christ-focused Judaism.  As these saints were in many ways types of Christ, just as we are reflections of His image especially after being redeemed and the Holy Spirit conforming us to the Son, so an affront to Moses and Joshua is also an affront to Christ.  Matthew Henry looks at the extra-biblical views of Joshua’s death in seeing Joshua’s death in relation to Christ’s death:

“Joshua’s burying-place is here said to be on the north side of the hill Gaash, or the quaking hill; the Jews say it was so called because it trembled at the burial of Joshua, to upbraid the people of Israel with their stupidity in that they did not lament the death of that great and good man as they ought to have done. Thus at the death of Christ, our Joshua, the earth quaked. The learned bishop Patrick observes that there is no mention of any days of mourning being observed for Joshua, as there were for Moses and Aaron, in which, he says, St. Hierom and others of the fathers think there is a mystery, namely, that under the law, when life and immortality were not brought to so clear a light as they are now, they had reason to mourn and weep for the death of their friends; but now that Jesus, our Joshua, has opened the kingdom of heaven, we may rather rejoice.”

Almost immediately (in the narrative) comes the death of the high priest Eleazar, the obedient and eldest son of Aaron.  It should be noted here that whether or not the narrative is accurate in its chronology, the more important message is the coalescing of all the saints who had witnessed God’s miracles in relation to Egypt, the Exodus and the arrival at Canaan, from Joseph to Moses to Joshua to Eleazar.  They are thus buried with their forefathers, and they are living among those who have set the example of faith for the next generations to come.  Yet, it begs the question: how many more saints were like these mighty men?  Yahweh had been merciful on this weak, rebellious nation and time and time again he has set them examples of imperfect Christians who are still exalted amongst people who are simply rebellious, unbelieving and completely condemnation-worthy for they have much access to God’s witnesses in the tabernacle, the testimony of these saints, and so forth.  As Adam Clarke commentates, this is the same necessity for all those who profess Christianity: to “enter into a covenant with God through Christ”, and such profession must come with it good works stemming from marital love deposited by the Holy Spirit.  He continues:

“It does not appear that Joshua was ever married, or that he had any children. That he was high in the estimation of God, we learn from his being chosen to succeed Moses in the government of the people. He was the person alone, of all the host of Israel, who was deemed every way qualified to go out before the congregation, and go in: to lead them out, and bring them in; and be the shepherd of the people, because the Spirit of God was in him. See Num_27:17, etc. He is called the servant of God, as was Moses; and was, of all men of that generation, next in eminence to that great legislator… they gave him Timnath-serah, in the barren mountains of Ephraim, and even this he asked Jos_19:50. But was not this the best city in the land? No – it was even No city; evidently no more than the ruins of one that had stood in that place; and hence it is said, he builded the city and dwelt therein – he, with some persons of his own tribe, revived the stones out of the rubbish, and made it habitable.”

In such a short paragraph, Clarke hits on all the things true also of our Messiah Yeshua Christ.  He who was not married, so that he would marry his first love the Bride, the Church (Colossians 1:16; Revelation 19:7); He who was persecuted (Hebrews 13:13); He who was humbled (Psalm 8:5); He who was the Servant of servants (Acts 3:13) – and yet Christ would still take Jerusalem, the place where he was murdered and framed, and re-frame, re-new it as the central glory of New Creation – so much as to call it the New Jerusalem (Revelation 3:12; 21:2), as intimated by Joshua’s treatment of this seemingly hopeless peace of land.  And yet, Joshua is just a man, and the Messiah has still not come, not for another thousand years the Israelites are given the temporary institution of the Mosaic law, completely sufficient to point their mind towards Christ’s first coming and their impending resurrection in New Creation – and so the book of Joshua ends abruptly, on the deaths of those notable saints.  Joshua ends with the spirited image of the eternal oath made at Shechem, the Israelites full of hope and future; Acts ends on the active proclamation of Christ to the ends of the earth – there is much in common, and yet in the End Times, the proclamation is with much more vigour, much more enthuasiasm, much more speed, the spiritual Bridegroom much more united – the centripetal force of the Spirit working in ways more than an indwelling in the saints of the Old.  However, where there are times of Christ-focused Christians, there are times of rebellion even in the last 2000 years, and thus the end of Joshua rightly sets up the time of the Judges and Kings just as we also are in the time of Judges and Kings today until the coming New Jerusalem embodied in David and Solomon’s Kingdom to come.

Joshua 23-24: The Next Generation

Leviticus 21-22: New Creation bodies

The last four chapters 16-20 spoke of the holy priesthood.  What of the priests?  What about their “lifestyle”?  What about what they eat?  Who can also eat?  What about what is offered by the people?  Leviticus 21-22 seeks to answer these questions, moving from the nation of priests to the true priests themselves and the pattern of our lifestyle.. in New Creation.

1.  Without Blemish: the renewed Bodies (Leviticus 21)

2.  Priestly food: the Tree of Life (Leviticus 22:1-16)

3.  Priestly sacrifices: the unblemished Lamb (Leviticus 22:17-33)

1.  Without Blemish: the renewed Bodies (Leviticus 21)

Matthew Henry points out the distinctions in Leviticus 21:

This chapter might borrow its title from Mal_2:1, “And now, O you priests, this commandment is for you.” It is a law obliging priests with the utmost care and jealousy to preserve the dignity of their priesthood.  I. The inferior priests are here charged both concerning their mourning and concerning their marriages and their children (Lev_21:1-9).  II. The high priest is restrained more than any of them (Lev_21:10-15).  III. Neither the one nor the other must have any blemish (Lev_21:16, etc.).

Note that while the priests themselves are ‘lower’ than the high priest, the priest witnesses to the high priest, just as the high priest witnesses directly to Christ.  However, note that there is no partiality in terms of blemish: both must be without blemish, whether high priest or not.  Let’s understand Jesus better by looking at the meanings of God’s establishment of holiness on these priests.

Lev 21:1-24  And the LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them: No one shall make himself unclean for the dead among his people,  (2)  except for his closest relatives, his mother, his father, his son, his daughter, his brother,  (3)  or his virgin sister (who is near to him because she has had no husband; for her he may make himself unclean).  (4)  He shall not make himself unclean as a husband among his people and so profane himself.

The meanings of these verses display the complete dedication of the priests to their duty, to the point where they have no ‘liberty’ to weep for peopl besides the immediate family.  This may sound harsh, but it reflects much about Christ’s work.  Christ indeed wept for people during his 30-year ministry on earth:

Joh 11:32-35  Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  (33)  When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.  (34)  And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.”  (35)  Jesus wept.

Who was this dead man? Lazarus: yet, did Jesus know him intimately?  No.  In fact, if we were to read Leviticus 21:1-4 correctly, it appears that the only people Christ would have wept for is Mary, Joseph, and James, depending on whether you see him as Christ’s blood brother or spiritual brother (I vouch the former, for not many other Christians in the New Testament were referred to specifically as the LORD’s brother).  However, Jesus’ weeping for Lazarus means something incredibly profound: that he would consider us so dear to him like the “closest relatives” (Leviticus 21:2), before Lazarus even rose from the dead!  That is the significance of Christ’s love for us, before we even loved Him; his faithfulness to us, before we even try to be faithful (Romans 3:4).

(5)  They shall not make bald patches on their heads, nor shave off the edges of their beards, nor make any cuts on their body.  (6)  They shall be holy to their God and not profane the name of their God. For they offer the LORD’s food offerings, the bread of their God; therefore they shall be holy.  (7)  They shall not marry a prostitute or a woman who has been defiled, neither shall they marry a woman divorced from her husband, for the priest is holy to his God.  (8 )  You shall sanctify him, for he offers the bread of your God. He shall be holy to you, for I, the LORD, who sanctify you, am holy.  (9)  And the daughter of any priest, if she profanes herself by whoring, profanes her father; she shall be burned with fire.  (10)  “The priest who is chief among his brothers, on whose head the anointing oil is poured and who has been consecrated to wear the garments, shall not let the hair of his head hang loose nor tear his clothes.  (11)  He shall not go in to any dead bodies nor make himself unclean, even for his father or for his mother.  (12)  He shall not go out of the sanctuary, lest he profane the sanctuary of his God, for the consecration of the anointing oil of his God is on him: I am the LORD.  (13)  And he shall take a wife in her virginity.  (14)  A widow, or a divorced woman, or a woman who has been defiled, or a prostitute, these he shall not marry. But he shall take as his wife a virgin of his own people,  (15)  that he may not profane his offspring among his people, for I am the LORD who sanctifies him.”

There is much to be said about v.5-15, but it would be entirely appropriate to classify these verses under the priest’s sexual purity.  v.5-6 speaks of holiness manifested through the priests’ obedience in not making marks on their bodies, most likely reflecting the pagan cultures surrounding them – and again, it is re-emphasised that they are not merely called to be clean – but to be holy (v.6).  Therefore, their purity is maintained by not marrying a prostitute, or a woman divorced from her husband – thus, a virgin (v.7-9, 13-15).  This is entirely significant, and follows on from the imagery of Adam and Eve in the Garden.  God created both in his image (Genesis 1:26-27), and both revered God as to embody the picture of Adam’s headship over Eve’s submission, which manifestly displays Christ’s love for the church which submits (Ephesians 5:22-33).  However, where is this picture shown when the priest, or High Priest, ‘goes into’ or ‘knows’ (both terms relating to sexual intercourse) or ‘marries’ a prostitute or a divorced person?  The reason simply given in Leviticus 21:7 is “for the priest is holy to his God“.  Holiness is readily defined time and time again throughout Leviticus, which ultimately speaks of God’s personality.  Leviticus is God’s biography – and he is manifestly telling us that Christ is not going to marry a corrupt, ungodly church.  That is the picture of adultery, when Israel has been constantly referred to as idolatrous and adulterous because of her unfaithfulness (c.f. books of Hosea and Ezekiel).  Thus, for a priest to marry a prostitute is akin to Christ marrying, for example, a Canaanite who still offers herself to other gods and idols. That is why in v.14 it says that he shall take a virgin from his own people – for Christ marries none other than his own.  What kind of gospel are we preaching when we, as Christians and as priests of God, date or marry a non-Christian?  It is a ‘gospel’ of universalism and open theism.  Let us not be false teachers people, and learn to devote ourselves to Christ in our relational life.

But why marginalise the ‘prostitues’, ‘divorced’ and ‘widowed’, over the ‘virgin’?  This is speaking about the purity of the person coming before the priest; the purity of the person coming before Christ.  The definition of ‘purity’ and ‘without blemish’ will come more into play in the later verses, but it is important to note that this seeming partiality towards the divorced and the prostitute is extremely important in our eschatological theology.  What the LORD is essentially telling us, is that in new Jerusalem, where we have our wedding feast with Christ – only there will we be officially married to Christ.  It is most important to remember however that before we can even stand before Christ in new creation, we must be in our wedding garbs of righteousness (Isaiah 61).  What this means is mani-fold, but just to pick out two: it means that we are completely righteous before Christ and the Father, as if we are Christ himself (since we are in Christ now).  Remember however that Christ is a virgin – that he never knew a person during his lifetime on earth.  This, along with other reasons why he remains celibate, completely contradicts the “Brownian effect” (a term I coin for Dan Brown’s ludicrous theology), and is just merely an expression of someone who simply did not understand Christ’s ministry on earth.

If we are in Christ, and we are presented to the Father as if we were Christ himself, that means we inherit his body, his resurrection, his ascension, his righteousness… and undoubtedly, his virginity.  Therefore, it is most important that the wife is a virgin – to emulate the virginity of Christ, as the church takes on Christ’s very being.

(16)  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  (17)  “Speak to Aaron, saying, None of your offspring throughout their generations who has a blemish may approach to offer the bread of his God.  (18 )  For no one who has a blemish shall draw near, a man blind or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or a limb too long,  (19)  or a man who has an injured foot or an injured hand,  (20)  or a hunchback or a dwarf or a man with a defect in his sight or an itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles.  (21)  No man of the offspring of Aaron the priest who has a blemish shall come near to offer the LORD’s food offerings; since he has a blemish, he shall not come near to offer the bread of his God.  (22)  He may eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy and of the holy things,  (23)  but he shall not go through the veil or approach the altar, because he has a blemish, that he may not profane my sanctuaries, for I am the LORD who sanctifies them.”  (24)  So Moses spoke to Aaron and to his sons and to all the people of Israel.

People may read v.16-21 and say that it is harsh.  Remember however, that this priesthood was not ‘gained’ by Aaron and his sons, because of their faithfulness.  It has always been God’s pattern to gift us with ministries and salvation (Genesis chapters 12, 15; Romans 9:6).  If we continually look at the priests Christologically, we are learning something valuable about the comparison of the human priests to our God-King-Priest Yeshua/Joshua/Jesus.  Because, the human priest is after all weak, and will succumb to God’s sovereignty over their birth defect, or defect eventually gained in their life (v. 18 ).  But the fully divine AND human priest is sinless, and without blemish.  The LORD, through the expression of these verses, is solidifying his holiness over man’s incapability of remaining holy without the LORD’s permission or sovereignty over even his own birth.  One cannot help but read these verses and completely kneel and give oneself to the living God’s interaction with us, and ability to humble us so we do not misappropriate the true role of priesthood in our own hands, when we have been given this privilege through Christ alone, who is our only sinless High Priest without blemish (Hebrews 4:15).  Without a High Priest without blemish, he would not be capable of representing the assembly of Israel to take the blood of the sacrifice before the ark of the covenant within the Holy of Holies (v.21 and 23).

However, do not be discouraged because you are born with, or you now have, a physical defect.  That is not God’s intention nor his expression in these verses: he is actually giving us a message of hope and humility to stand before him without arrogance, and trusting only in Christ.  Because Christ took on human flesh, he rose again in a renewed body.  In the same way, our Christ whose body was without blemish, who was a virgin, who ascended to heaven and sat at the right hand of God – WE also, will appropriate these things because of him.  Leviticus 21 is a picture of hope for us only if we stand by the unblemished High Priest, so we look forward to our new creation bodies without blemish.

2.  Priestly food: the Tree of Life (Leviticus 22:1-16)

If the holiness and unblemished character of the priests reflect that of Christ’s unblemished nature, what of the priestly food?

Lev 22:1-33  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  (2)  “Speak to Aaron and his sons so that they abstain from the holy things of the people of Israel, which they dedicate to me, so that they do not profane my holy name: I am the LORD.

The opening verses of chapter 22 follows on naturally from chapter 21 – firstly, if the priest is holy, so also the “things” are holy.

It is quite interesting as to why both priest and the offering are holy – for they speak of how Christ is both priest and sacrifice.  We play no role in creation nor redemption!  We are partakers, and taken up into that role of creation and redemption.  Here, we see a picture of God’s definition of redemption: that Christ the holy priest offers himself as holy offering.  Jurgen Moltmann in his “The Church in the Power of the Spirit: A Contribution of Messianic Ecclesiology”:

“It is not the church that has a mission of salvation to fulfill in the world, it is the mission of the Son and the Spirit through the Father which includes the church”

It is therefore through Christ that we can even partake in God’s work.  God continually reminds the Aaronic priests that it is not them actually remitting the sins of Israel, for they are actually sinful!  This is explained in v.2 – that the Aaronic priests should abstain from the holy things while he has uncleanness as explained in v.3 onwards:

(3)  Say to them, ‘If any one of all your offspring throughout your generations approaches the holy things that the people of Israel dedicate to the LORD, while he has an uncleanness, that person shall be cut off from my presence: I am the LORD.  (4)  None of the offspring of Aaron who has a leprous disease or a discharge may eat of the holy things until he is clean. Whoever touches anything that is unclean through contact with the dead or a man who has had an emission of semen,  (5)  and whoever touches a swarming thing by which he may be made unclean or a person from whom he may take uncleanness, whatever his uncleanness may be–  (6)  the person who touches such a thing shall be unclean until the evening and shall not eat of the holy things unless he has bathed his body in water.

This is actually a great verse, in exposing the truth of Genesis 3:22.  Here is the verse:

And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever…

Now, some people think there is a defect in the translation – and I think there is.  But it is better interpreted as such in the context of Genesis 3.  Remember that man has eaten from the tree of good and evil, celebrating the seeming autonomy of man pitted against God.  Satan has effectively influenced man through the tree of the law – and man attempted to do the works of the law and fulfill the law in itself.  However, man can at any time take from the tree of life, having already sinned against God.  Can man just live forever and God will look away at man’s great offence against Him?  No – and that is why God bars the way to the tree of life.  We simply do not deserve it: and our sin must be dealt with.  To live forever as self-proclaimed and self-righteous and self-justifying “God-men” (in terms of judging what is good and evil for ourself) is simply heresy.

However, we can eat from this holy tree, if we are clean.  Adam and Eve solidified their uncleanness by eating of the tree of good and evil, thus God barred the way to the tree of life signified by the cherubim and the burning sword, manifested in the veil with the cherubim pattern.  The only way we can enjoy the food, the feast, is if there is blood to cleanse us so we have renewed bodies.  Only with a renewed body can we take food from the tree of life – any other attempt is futile and we will only be caught up in the veil-flame between the Holy of Holies and the Holy Place.  Revelation 2:7 and 22:14:

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

and

Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.

And who can overcome?  Who can do his commandments?  Christ.  And in Christ, God looks at us as if we are Christ himself – and we stand as the righteous and blessed man, through His Son’s blood and water.

(7)  When the sun goes down he shall be clean, and afterward he may eat of the holy things, because they are his food.  (8 )  He shall not eat what dies of itself or is torn by beasts, and so make himself unclean by it: I am the LORD.’  (9)  They shall therefore keep my charge, lest they bear sin for it and die thereby when they profane it: I am the LORD who sanctifies them.  (10)  “A lay person shall not eat of a holy thing; no foreign guest of the priest or hired servant shall eat of a holy thing,  (11)  but if a priest buys a slave as his property for money, the slave may eat of it, and anyone born in his house may eat of his food.  (12)  If a priest’s daughter marries a layman, she shall not eat of the contribution of the holy things.  (13)  But if a priest’s daughter is widowed or divorced and has no child and returns to her father’s house, as in her youth, she may eat of her father’s food; yet no lay person shall eat of it.  (14)  And if anyone eats of a holy thing unintentionally, he shall add the fifth of its value to it and give the holy thing to the priest.  (15)  They shall not profane the holy things of the people of Israel, which they contribute to the LORD,  (16)  and so cause them to bear iniquity and guilt, by eating their holy things: for I am the LORD who sanctifies them.”

v.16 – “For I am the LORD who sanctifies them”.  What of this seeming intolerance of “lay persons”?  Let’s go through verse by verse.  v.7-8 is a re-iteration of the law on eating, and the refrain again: “I am the LORD who sanctifies them” (v.9).  Then, v. 10: a lay person shall not eat a holy thing.  Therefore, the contrast is established: a holy unblemished priest can eat of holy things: but a lay person, who is merely clean cannot eat of holy things.  v.11 explains: a slave bought as the priests property for a price, can eat of it.

Let’s stop here for a bit: a doulos (greek for slave) who is bought at a price for his life?  1 Corinthians 7:22:

For he who was called in the Lord as a slave is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a slave of Christ.

However, given the potential exegetical fallacy in comparing the NT greek for ‘doulos’ with the OT ‘ebed (עבד Hebrew for bond-servant), there is a high possibility that they convey subtle different meanings.  Indeed there is – the word doulos is in fact such a limited semantic choice the translators picked for the ESV.  Consider the LXX on v.11:  psyche (ψυχή), which actually means breath or spirit.  Thus, matching the LXX against the Hebrew, it can be re-translated as “but if a priest buys any soul as his property for money“.  The semantic range for “soul” (psyche in Greek, nephesh in Hebrew, נפשׁ ) is vast:  it can simply mean a breathing creature, a creature which has life or simply Spirit (though I think a living creature is more appropriate, since the Spirit is often referred to as wind, or ruah in Hebrew).

The Trinity in relation to those who take part in the House of the Priest

Let’s look at the first semantic choice: if a slave can now eat of the holy food as if he was actually born in the house of the priest (aka, becoming one of the priestly line), then he is adopted into the Holy family!  What a wonderful picture of the Holy Trinity!  Matthew 11 is my proof text for comparison:

Mat 11:25-27  At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;  (26)  yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.  (27)  All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

These verses from Matthew reveals just how closely intertwined one’s salvation is to one’s knowledge of the Trinity: one simply cannot be saved without acknowledgment of the Trinity.  When we are adopted into the Holy Family of God, we are now seen as sons of God (meaning the Father: c.f. Romans 8:14, so we are not sons of Christ), like Christ, because we are joined to, and in Christ! We NOW partake in Christ’s sonship and directly capable of speaking to the Father by the power of the Spirit making all of this possible.  Without the Trinity, salvation simply does NOT make sense.  The implications of this are vast – or should I say explicit nature, rather than implicit nature.  If we follow after Abraham’s faith in Romans 4, and Hebrews 11 states very clearly that these Old Testament saints had the same faith which we now follow, then how is it possible that the Old Testament saints can even be saved without any saving knowledge of the Trinity?  Leviticus 21-22 is a lesson plan, teaching them about the Trinity in the context of New Creation!  For the people alive during Moses time who not only had the passages of Genesis and Exodus to read concerning the Angel of the LORD, the Burning Bush, the Pillar of Cloud and Fire, the Passover Lamb, the Three Tabernacle Furniture described BEFORE the Tabernacle itself, the Father who descended on Mt. Sinai on the Third Day – these are all profound and explicit pictures of not the multi, but tri-Personal nature of the Trinity.  Otherwise, there is profound difficulty in Jesus being the sacrifice to himself – when he is clearly bringing his blood to the Father, and not to himself!  What we may end up with is a modalistic nature of God who ‘acts’ as sacrifice, Son, Father, Spirit when he wishes, which is clearly impossible given the separate actions of each to fulfil the fulsome picture of a Holy Family who are separate in number and persons, but not separate in entity.

That, however, is merely the limited semantic concerning the English translation ‘slave’ or ‘bondservant’.  What of the specific usage of psyche and nephesh – the spirited creature?  I have investigated the claim concerning fish which are the only creatures without breath, without a soul (Genesis 1:30 implies that only the birds in heavens, beast of earth and everything that creeps on the ground has the breath of God sustaining them).  This in fact is a picture of salvation, coloured by the salvation of spirited beasts in Jonah (Jonah 3: 8 ) – which points again towards New Creation (Isaiah 11:6-10) where only the creatures with the Spirit sustaining them will co-exist with us there peacefully.  Thus, v.11 isn’t exclusive of the beasts who, throughout Scripture, are mentioned to be saved unto God to new Creation – and the semantic range of v.11 simply refers to the salvation of every creature (including man and beast) to New Creation, by adoption through Christ, the true priest!

A layman is simply ‘clean’ – and even God says that is not enough.  That is the explanation of the Ascension: if we are left with death and resurrection, then as Christians, we are left with a blank slate whenever we return to Christ.  He is like an eraser, who erases our sins.  But that is merely a burnt and a sin offering for cleansing.  What about our priestly ordination?  What about our ability to eat of the holy fruit: we must become holy; we must be sanctified.  This is why the ascension is CRUCIAL to the work of the cross: without it, we will not be sanctified and go with Christ through to the Holy of Holies.  We would forever remain as clean laypeople but barred from even going through the veil of fire.  What good would that be?  What kind of God ‘saves’ us, but leaves us stranded on the proverbial limbo?  Not the Jesus of the Bible: for he desires not only to cleanse us, but to impute to us HIS holiness, so WE as a body of Christians can commune with the Triune God manifested through food, as symbolised by the great wedding feast which is the first thing that awaits us in New Creation!  He is, as He repeatedly says, the LORD who sanctifies us – through Jesus Christ alone.

3.  Priestly sacrifices: the unblemished Lamb (Leviticus 22:17-33)

(17)  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  (18)  “Speak to Aaron and his sons and all the people of Israel and say to them, When any one of the house of Israel or of the sojourners in Israel presents a burnt offering as his offering, for any of their vows or freewill offerings that they offer to the LORD,  (19)  if it is to be accepted for you it shall be a male without blemish, of the bulls or the sheep or the goats.  (20)  You shall not offer anything that has a blemish, for it will not be acceptable for you.  (21)  And when anyone offers a sacrifice of peace offerings to the LORD to fulfill a vow or as a freewill offering from the herd or from the flock, to be accepted it must be perfect; there shall be no blemish in it.  (22)  Animals blind or disabled or mutilated or having a discharge or an itch or scabs you shall not offer to the LORD or give them to the LORD as a food offering on the altar.  (23)  You may present a bull or a lamb that has a part too long or too short for a freewill offering, but for a vow offering it cannot be accepted.  (24)  Any animal that has its testicles bruised or crushed or torn or cut you shall not offer to the LORD; you shall not do it within your land,  (25)  neither shall you offer as the bread of your God any such animals gotten from a foreigner. Since there is a blemish in them, because of their mutilation, they will not be accepted for you.”

Now, we turn to priestly sacrifices which are also seen as without blemish (v.20-21).  If our priests are without blemish, and that the food they (and the other priests, including slaves of priests and those who return to the house of the priest as wholly devoted, like the woman who has returned to singlehood and no longer bound to another, so she can devote herself fully to Jesus in spiritual marriage to Him) eat gives them life as classified as a holy thing, then HOW can we receive these things?  Through sacrifices without blemish.

You may wonder: what does this have to do with v.24-25 – the sacrifice’s ‘testicles’?  This is because this is where the seed comes from: the seed that gives life.  I have investigated the truths behind ‘semen’, behind ‘seed’ theology (Genesis 1:11), behind circumcision (Genesis 17) – and that they find their definitive meaning of renewed eternal life in the Seed of Genesis 3:15.  Therefore, to provide an animal with crushed testicles, then that is to preach that the animal is incapable of giving new life – that the animal is not an appropriate sacrifice which preaches Jesus’ ability to give new life, as symbolised by the renaming of Eve as the mother of all living, and through Mary the literal mother of the Son of True living.

(26)  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  (27)  “When an ox or sheep or goat is born, it shall remain seven days with its mother, and from the eighth day on it shall be acceptable as a food offering to the LORD.  (28 )  But you shall not kill an ox or a sheep and her young in one day.  (29)  And when you sacrifice a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the LORD, you shall sacrifice it so that you may be accepted.  (30)  It shall be eaten on the same day; you shall leave none of it until morning: I am the LORD.  (31)  “So you shall keep my commandments and do them: I am the LORD.  (32)  And you shall not profane my holy name, that I may be sanctified among the people of Israel. I am the LORD who sanctifies you,  (33)  who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am the LORD.”

Again, let’s not smoothe over the details of the birth of the ox or sheep, which awaits the 8th day of Christ’s resurrection after Sabbath to be seen as acceptable as food offering to the LORD.  It is a forward looking sacrifice to new creation of the 8th day.  The cutting of the flesh through which seed is borne in the male genitalia (Genesis 17) is directly analogised to the cutting of the flesh of the beast – and both are suitable examples of Christ’s work on the cross – he is the God, the man, and the Lamb.

v28 is interesting and is a humane presentation of God’s view to sacrifices – he is not bloodthirsty: but the sacrifices are still necessary.  Here is Matthew Henry’s take on the verse:

That the dam and her young should not both be killed in one day, whether in sacrifice or for common use, Lev_22:28. There is such a law as this concerning birds, Deu_22:6. This was forbidden, not as evil in itself, but because it looked barbarous and cruel to the brute creatures; like the tyranny of the king of Babylon, that slew Zedekiah’s sons before his eyes, and then put out his eyes. It looked ill-natured towards the species to kill two generations at once, as if one designed the ruin of the kind.

And v.29-30 is again a re-establishment of the laws already taught in Leviticus 7:15; 19:6-7.

No Foreigners

v.10 and v.25 of chapter 22 speaks quite clearly against foreigners: this immediately symbolised the purity of Israel which we have already looked at.  It is a witness towards spiritual purity – and that the only acceptable person to eat of the Holy food, off the Tree of Life, is a Christian – not a ‘foreigner’ who confesses not Christ.  Secondly, the animal sacrifice shall be provided by a local, and not a foreigner – again to display the salvation of Christ through the Jews, explaining his incarnation as a Jew – to be part of their ethnic and spiritual identity.

Conclusion

The last two verses of chapter 22 summarise many of the truths spoken of since Exodus 20 to Leviticus 22: “I am the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am the LORD”.  Since Exodus 20, every statement has been a pattern of things to come – that even the 10 commandments are filled with “You shall” statement.  Statements of promise that we will do these things without blemish.  Similarly, v. 31 repeats it: “you SHALL keep my commandments” – not you must.  Remember this is no works-salvation: the Israelites are learning these commandments on the basis of having been already saved – the constant phrase of “I am the LORD who saved you out of the land of Egypt“.  A God who saves will not then require them to prove themselves as save-worthy – that would be akin to asking the Israelites to do as Nadab and Abihu did, and provide strange, additional hostile offering.  Rather, this is a God making promises: Here is a Father, and the Son, and the Spirit, authoritatively and confidently establishing what we will and we shall do eventually – in new creation.  Are you confident in your own ability to be the priest who provides an unblemished sacrifice of your own, whether in the form of your devotion in religion, the number of times you pray, or the number of pilgrimages and fasts you have committed yourself to?  Or are you confident in Christ’s ability to be the priest who provides himself (Genesis 22) as the unblemished sacrifice?

Let us inherit the hope of New Creation – looking forward to our own sanctification so we can finally eat of the Tree of Life which God had always intended for us to enjoy with us by His side.

Leviticus 21-22: New Creation bodies

Leviticus 8-10: Jesus, our only High Priest

We have covered the significance of the sacrifices, and just in how many multitude of ways they provide a 3-D rendition of the spiritual truth of Christ Jesus, in front of the tabernacle, which is also a physical manifestation of the truth of the heaven in relation to earth and the church of the Sent One.

From chapters 1-7, we have seen just how crucial the details are behind the sacrifices.  We have seen the intricacies, the types of animals, the ways the animals are cut, the way the blood is either drained or thrown onto the altar sides or horns… and the person at the center of all these sacrifices at large are the priests.  Thus, these next three chapters I will turn to understand the importance of the priests which we have touched upon in the previous 7 chapters.  One interesting thing to note is this: the sacrifice is a type of Christ, and the heart-circumcised Jews knew that in the OT.  The high priest is also a type of Christ.  Try meditating on the picture of a high priest sacrificing an animal – and both priest and animal are types of Christ and imagine the implications of Christ’s work on the cross.  I will be working through that in the latter part of this post.

1.  The Sanctification of Jesus Christ with the anointing of the Spirit (Leviticus 8 )

2.  The acceptance of Aaron’s offering (Leviticus 9)

3.  The Death of Aaron’s two sons – Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10)

1.  The Sanctification of Jesus Christ with the anointing of the Spirit (Leviticus 8 )

The first few verses sums up the chapters ahead:

1(A) The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2“Take Aaron and his sons with him, and(B) the garments and(C) the anointing oil and the bull of the sin offering and the two rams and the basket of unleavened bread. 3And assemble all the congregation at the entrance of the tent of meeting.” 4And Moses did as the LORD commanded him, and the congregation was assembled at the entrance of the tent of meeting.

Thus begins the detail about Aaron and his sons.  We knew from Exodus 4 that Aaron is going to be Moses’ assistant, chiefly his mouthpiece because of Moses’ ‘uncircumcised lips’ (i.e. speech problem); but slowly, Joshua exchanged the role with Aaron as his chief disciple and assistant, whereas Aaron became Moses’ helper, his peer – from bearing Moses’ arm during the fight against the Amalekites through Yeshua/Joshua’s victory.  Throughout Exodus, Moses’ work is inextricably tied with Aaron’s work – as if they were nigh inseparable.  Moses’ presence and faith in Christ is the picture which dominated the book of Exodus, until Exodus 28 points towards Aaron and his sons as the priests of the to-be-built tabernacle.  Now, the time has come, and Aaron is the prophesied high priest.  Yet, without Moses, Aaron’s work would not have occurred.  Moses therefore plays the role of the Christ in the Old Testament: the Christ who physically saves as the Angel, and as the LORD who brought them out of Egypt.  But in the New Testament, our Christ fulfills the meaning of that physical salvation by completing the true spiritual salvation by the blood.  So what if the Israelites are saved from the Egyptians?  They will still fall into idolatry.  It is the salvation by the blood of Christ which he brings into the room of the Holy of Holies which clinches that peace between us and the Father.  Moses – the type of OT Christ, the Rock, the Saviour, the type of the one who brought the Israelites out of Egypt, the land of no Jesus; Aaron – the type of NT Christ, the Lamb, the High Priest, the type of the one who emphasises that the physical exodus is only true if we are circumcised via the spiritual exodus to new Jerusalem (Galatians 4).  Make no mistake: the OT and NT are tied together; we are born under the Old Covenant so we can turn to the New.  And under both instances, we turn from law of Christ to the gospel of Christ – Christ is at the centre of both typologies of Moses and Aaron.

So, when we look at Aaron, we actually understand Christ better as he presented himself in the NT.  So often I hear that NT Christ sheds light on OT sacrifices; but that is not true.  If anything, without the OT, NT means nothing; however, with the OT, we can more of less shape the gospel save understand the fullness of the time in which Christ will come.  But the Israelites at this point already have a good grasp of the fundamental offerings, the mediator-nature of their Yahweh, and most definitely a visible concept of the Holy Trinity.  The NT is just a time of fulfillment (NOT ‘special’ revelation, for the entire OT is already special revelation of Christ); the OT is one of prophecy awaiting Christ who has already been specially revealed as Angel (Genesis 16, Exodus 3), as Lamb (Genesis 22), as animal sacrifice (Genesis 3), and now as High Priest.

So how can Aaron and co. be sanctified (i.e. set apart) for the LORD’s work?  How can they be holy?  This is different from being clean, as I hinted in the previous post.

The process of sanctification, of being set apart as Holy for the LORD, follows some procedure.  Adam Clarke sums it up nicely (and I put in the bracketed numbers to help you navigate):

(1)  Moses is commanded to consecrate Aaron and his sons, Lev 8:1-3.

(2)  Moses convenes the congregation; washes, clothes, and anoints Aaron, Lev 8:4-12.

(3)  He also clothes Aaron’s sons, Lev 8:13.

(4)  Offers a bullock for them as a sin-offering, Lev 8:14-17.

(5)  And a ram for a burnt-offering, Lev 8:18-21.

(6)  And another ram for a consecration-offering, Lev 8:22-24. The fat, with cakes of unleavened bread, and the right shoulder of the ram, he offers as a wave-offering, and afterwards burns, Lev 8:25-28. The breast, which was the part of Moses, he also waves, Lev 8:29.

(7)  And sprinkles oil and blood upon Aaron and his sons, Lev 8:30.

(8 )  The flesh of the consecration ram is to be boiled and eaten at the door of the tabernacle, Lev 8:31, Lev 8:32.

(9)  Moses commands Aaron and his sons to abide seven days at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, which they do accordingly, Lev 8:33-36.

Let’s quickly decipher them.  Moses, in this picture, is like the OT Christ baptizing the NT Christ – the reason I say that is because the New Testament picture provides that of John the Baptist baptising Jesus (Matthew 3:15), when Jesus began his public work as the Anointed One (“Christ” is the greek for the Hebrew term “Messiah/Mashiyach”, meaning “Anointed One” or the “Consecrated One” -משׁיח c.f. Psalm 132:10).  This explains why, in verses 4-12, Moses convenes a congregation (Hebrew: edah, meaning assembly, the Hebrew equivalent for ekklesia, church, in the NT) of Israel before the consecration of the High Priest.  The direct parallel is also shown in Matthew 3, when the church of Israel witnesses Jesus Christ being consecrated for his ministry as THE Anointed One, the High Priest fulfilling all righteousness.  More on this when we speak of the anointing with the oil as the third step of the ritual.

The establishment of the ministry of the Anointed One

The reason I make the typology of Moses as John the Baptist and as role played by Christ in the OT is twofold.  Firstly, John the Baptist is the very last prophet of the Old Testament prior to the first advent of Christ – and every prophet is merely a typology of THE chief prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15), THE chief messenger – Christ.  As Moses is playing the role of prophet, his role right here parallels the image of John the Prophet and Baptizer of Jesus.  Jesus as the Anointed One is now being portrayed by Aaron, the now consecrated High Priest, in front of the assembly/ekklesia/church of Israel.  Secondly, is the way I play with the name “Moses”, which means “drawn out of the water”.  How much more fitting is it therefore for Moses to baptise Aaron with the water for washing, drawing from the water of the Spirit (as represented by the oil later) after being kept alive by being drawn out out of the waters of punishment?

This is followed closely by the clothing of the priests AFTER the washing as the second step.  The clothing of the priests I’ve largely covered in the commentary in Exodus.  Primarily, the significance is to tie the burden and the hearts of the Israelites to this one High Priest – the stones on his shoulders and on his breastplace continually remind him that he is standing as the mediator between the Father and the church.  He is stepping temporarily into the shoes of Jesus.

The third step is the important ritual of anointing with oil.  v.10 reveals that Moses consecrated the tabernacle first, before consecrating Aaron and his sons.  1 Samuel 16:13 –

Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up and went to Ramah.

This shows just how important the Spirit is to any ministry.  Without oil, representing the Spirit, the work of the High Priests are in vain (1 Corinthians 2; 1 Corinthians 12).  Thus, the truth of the Spirit resting on Jesus, the Messiah, the Anointed One, is strengthened clearly in the picturing of oil everywhere (Isaiah 42:1-4, 61:1-3; Luke 4:14-21).  The oil comes again later in v.30.

The offerings in the preparation of Aaron & his sons

In v. 14-17, Aaron and his sons put their hands on the head of the bull as sin offering.  The bull, which “absorbs” the sin of Aaron and his sons is then destroyed away from the camp, so as not to threaten the purity of the camp or the Tent.  This “Great Exchange” of imputing our sins to Christ and his sins to us is spoken of in Romans 3 and 2 Corinthians 5:21 –

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Just is the essence of true Christian justification: we aren’t just made into a blank slate with the Father solemnly approving our entrance into heaven.  No no, much more!  We are actually pleasing in the Father’s eyes so long as Christ is our captain, and we are in Him, the true Noah’s ark!  The Father now looks on us like how he looks on his eternal Son!

Now that the altar is purified, the preparation of the priests is completed, to which we turn to the burnt offering for the atonement of their sins.  The first sin-offering cleansed them; and now, the burnt offering puts them in a position of pleasure before the LORD (refer back to 2 Corinthians 5:21) through the necessary substitute death of the animal sacrifice.  This anger of the LORD being soothed, the fellowship offering from v.22-29 takes the next stage.  First and foremost, all the offerings mentioned in these verses are forms of fellowship/peace offering (so they do not break-away from the 5-types of offerings in chapters 1-7, as if they are a sixth or seventh type of offering).

The reason why fellowship offering is so important is because it represents table fellowship with the LORD, so that we can eat with the Father and not only with the Incarnate Son (c.f. Last Supper).  Without the prior sin and burnt offering, this fellowship offering could not occur: this once against focuses on the truth of the importance of Jesus’ work on the cross before we can come before God as pleasing aroma of Christ and enjoy fellowship with Him.  Often, I have heard a simple phrase of “God is love” or “God is grace” – as biblical as the former is (1 John 4:16), the phrase is often taken out of 1 John’s context.  God is love through the propitiating blood of Jesus Christ.  God is love because of the propitiating blood of Jesus Christ.  Too often “Christ” and “blood” and “sacrifice” and “propitiation” is taken out of the picture, and we see a God who isn’t ‘judgmental’, but simply a God who is nice and loving – and this has caused the reason of so many heresies like contemporary pop-Marcionism: the OT God is full of wrath, the NT God is full of love.  Both the LORDS spoken of in OT and NT are Jesus Christ (yes, even the Old Testament usage of “LORD”, for who has known the Father without firstly knowing the visible Son of God (Luke 10:22)), and the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all angry at sin, yet the work of the cross fully deals with our punishment on the tree, and that is no blind grace – it is a true and legally justified salvation by grace.

One interesting difference is however found in the ordination/consecration (in the KJV) offering (v. 22-24).  The blood is applied on the priest’s lobe of the right ear, thumb of the right hand, and big toe of the right foot.  The right hand side is often seen as more important throughout Scripture (Genesis 48:14; Exodus 15:6; Deuteronomy 33:22; 1 Kings 2:19; Job 40:14; Psalm 16:8, 18:35; Ephesians 1:20), whether as a blessing on the next generation or as a powerful and protective force.  Jesus himself sits at the right hand of God, and many times people take refuge in the right hand of God, which depicts the power, protection and refuge of Jesus Christ.  Thus, the blood on the right hand side displays a full-allegiance not only to “God”, but to the right hand of God, Jesus Christ.  This right-hand side smearing of blood is practised later in Leviticus 14 on a leper, who through doing so is restored to full fellowship with God.  The priest is thus similarly cleansed and accepted into table fellowship with the Trinity.

The conclusion of the ordination ritual

The ordination ritual thus comes to an end with oil in v.30, covering the priests and their clothing once again.  The oil thus begins and ends as bookends for the offerings and depicts a clear message of what the Anointed One will do for spiritual Israel.  When priests are therefore engaged in their work, we will definitely think – “this, also, is what the Anointed One will do!”  This is far more profound than the shy provision of oil for prophets and kings: the priest is completely covered in the Spirit!  Psalm 133:2 –

“It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes!”

This section of Psalms presents some deep theology: the precious oil on the head of Aaron runs down his beard to the collar of his robes and later covering his clothing.  So also: the Spirit on the head of Christ, runs down to his body, the church, and through the work of the Consecrated and Anointed Priest – the work of the Great Exchange of imputing our sin to him and his righteousness to us so we can have table fellowship with the LORD – is then the church manifested by the firstfruits of the Holy Spirit to come to new life.

When these rituals are completed, Aaron and his sons are given the offerings to eat at the entrance of the tabernacle, and so these prototype mediators stand between the LORD and His assembly, eating the LORD’s meat whilst in the priestly clothing representing the church.  This is very similar to the eating and drinking before the LORD in Exodus 24, the table fellowship with the seen Jesus.  Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu are now re-experiencing that wondrous moment in the thickness of the clouds of Mt. Sinai, on the border of the cloud of darkness and pillars of fire – the boundary between heaven and earth, between east of the garden of Eden and the Garden itself.

The final five verses of Leviticus 8 finishes the ritual of the priests:

31And Moses said to Aaron and his sons, “Boil the flesh at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and there eat it and the bread that is in the basket of ordination offerings, as I commanded, saying, ‘Aaron and his sons shall eat it.’ 32And what remains of the flesh and the bread you shall burn up with fire. 33And you shall not go outside the entrance of the tent of meeting for seven days, until the days of your ordination are completed, for it(U) will take seven days to ordain you. 34As has been done today, the LORD has commanded to be done to make atonement for you. 35At the entrance of the tent of meeting you shall remain day and night for seven days, performing what the LORD has(V) charged, so that you do not die, for so I have been commanded.” 36And Aaron and his sons did all the things that the LORD commanded by Moses.

Thus, if the priests fail to eat of the remainder of the flesh, the pronouncement of judgment on the sinful flesh, it shall be burnt with fire – a picture of the true punishment via the lake of fire (Revelation 21).  This is mildly preached when Jesus ate the fish (Habbakuk 1:14 and Genesis 1 – the fish and sea creatures have no life in them, c.f. my post on Genesis Day 2 and 5), as a pronouncement of judgment on the mindless fish – the unsaved men.

And unsurprisingly, the seven days focus takes us back to the creation of the world in 6 days, and sabbath on the 7th.  This picture of creation of heaven and earth completed in 7 days is a foretelling of the re-creation of the world also told in the symbolic 7 days through the priestly work of Christ.  From the 8th day, the work of re-creation has already begun, just as Christ was resurrected on the 8th day (c.f. Genesis 17 circumcision, and Christ rising again on the 8th day AFTER the Sabbath on the 7th day, a picture of the new work of re-creation of heavens and earth, taking into account the symbolic second set of 7 days).  Hence, we move onto the 8th day in Leviticus 9.

A final note on the ordination is the question of whether modern-day ordination has similar significance.  Yes and No – Yes, in the sense that (as I will later cover in Leviticus 10), the ordination of these high priests is akin to the ordination of ministers and pastors.  They are given a highly responsible role of stewarding the sheep in the Shepherd’s stead, though of course, aligning to the Shepherd’s teachings.  The pastoral epistles such as Timothy and Titus were not written for any laymen, just as the 70 elders of Israel were chosen with specific character qualities.  However, the ordination of Leviticus 8 is not the same as the ordination of ministers at the same time – because the ministers are not made “holy” because of the ordination.  Rather, the holiness is one which all Christians inherit by the power of the Spirit.  We are to be a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:6), not a kingdom of laymen and minority of priests!  The message spoken of here is a message of us taking on the nature of Christ through his propitiating and cleansing work of his own blood and the waters and oil of the Spirit.  In that sense, today’s ordination of ministers does not make them any more “holy” than the time that they were, when they first came to Christ prior to their ordination.  Therefore, a minister’s state of ‘holiness’ is no more than the state of ‘holiness’ that we are given by the power of the Spirit in whatever ministry we are anointed to perform.

2.  The acceptance of Aaron’s offering (Leviticus 9)

The significance of the 8th day shouldn’t be downplayed.  You should feast your eyes on Bullinger’s Numbers in Scripture’s chapter on the number 8, and here is just a small excerpt which is by no means enough to show the parallel of 8th day and new creation:

EIGHT BY ITSELF:  It is 7 plus 1. Hence it is the number specially associated with Resurrection and Regeneration, and the beginning of a new era or order.

When the whole earth was covered with the flood, it was Noah “the eighth person” (2 Peter 2:5) who stepped out on to a new earth to commence a new order of things. “Eight souls” (1 Peter 3:20) passed through it with him to the new or regenerated world.

Hence, too, circumcision was to be performed on the eighth day (Gen 17:12), because it was the foreshadowing of the true circumcision of the heart, that which was to be “made without hands,” even “the putting off of the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ” (Col 2:11). This is connected with the new creation.

The first-born was to be given to Jehovah on the eighth day (Exo 22:29,30). But RESURRECTION is the great truth which is signified. Christ rose from the dead on “the first day of the week,” that was of necessity the eighth day.

So what happens on the 8th day is of serious importance to the understanding of God’s work of re-creation.  Adam Clarke’s commentary comes in useful again, with my edited numbering and extra notes in italics:

(1)  Aaron is commanded to offer, on the eighth day, a sin-offering (bull calf) and a burnt-offering (ram), Lev 9:1, Lev 9:2.

(2)  The people are commanded also to offer a sin-offering (male goat), a burnt-offering (calf and a ram, a year old without blemish), peace-offerings (ox and a ram), and a meat-offering (I think A.Clarke meant grain offering – mixed with oil) , Lev 9:3, Lev 9:4. They do as they were commanded; and Moses promises that God shall appear among them, Lev 9:5, Lev 9:6.

(3)  Aaron is commanded to make an atonement for the people, Lev 9:7. He and his sons prepare and offer the different sacrifices, Lev 9:8-21. Aaron and Moses bless the congregation, Lev 9:22, Lev 9:23.

(4)  And the fire of the Lord consumes the sacrifice, Lev 9:24.

The centrality of the verses above drives on two verses:  “so that the (Glory of the) LORD may appear to you”.  Part (1) relates strictly to Aaron and sons (with sin and burnt offerings), but part (2) involves the work of Aaron and sons for the congregation of Israel, which doesn’t just involve sin and burnt offerings, but also fellowship and grain offerings as fellowship and dedication to the LORD respectively.  Everything that priest has done is to involve themselves and to involve the congregation so that their own sins and the congregations’ sins are tied to these sacrifices, imputed onto them, and so that the LORD may appear to them.  This may sound odd, given that they were ALREADY witnessing the glory of God as a pillar of cloud and fire in the tabernacle!  No – what is meant here is the significance of these sacrifices in ORDER to meet with God.  They cannot just expect to dwell with Jesus, given their sinful nature (including the priests, who are after all only acting as the True Priest who is entirely sinless).

Lev 9:22  Then Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them, and he came down from offering the sin offering and the burnt offering and the peace offerings. 23 And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting, and when they came out they blessed the people, and the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. 24 And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.

This chapter ends on a high note – the work of re-creation, on the 8th day, is powerfully shown through the sacrifices made – and the “glory of the LORD appeared to all the people” as the High Priest lifted his hands to bless the people (an image of Melchizedek, who is Jesus, the Sent One who blessed Abraham the model of faith – Romans 4).  This “glory of the LORD” of course is no mere glory, for who has seen God except the visible person Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:15)?  Sometimes I hear people today saying things like “I saw God’s glory”, which they usually mean as “I felt the intimacy of God today”.  However, in Scripture, to see God’s glory is to actually see Him – not just to feel the intimacy, but to see Him with the eyes of our hearts, when a particular mystery in the fullness of Christ is revealed by the Spirit.  Can you see the glory of God through the music of a worship song?  Sure.  Can you see the glory of God through a pastor praying for you?  Indeed. Only if both take us back to Jesus Christ, and not because we feel like we are being loved.  It is important to distinguish the feelings from the fact of God’s revelation to us, for often the feelings of a compromising Christian precede that of fact: and this leads to all types of spiritual troubles in store for them.  Let the true glory of God, Jesus Christ, reveal more of the truth of his work on the cross for us, so we worship Him with more reverence.

The picture of fire coming out from before the LORD and consuming these offerings is one of acceptance of the people, while simultaneously pronouncing judgment on the now sinful animal sacrifices.  This rejoicing is bittersweet – they live, because of the death of another; yet, our rejoicing in Christ is not bittersweet – he will not only die on the cross, but will live and ascend to bring us up again to the new heavens and earth as fully righteous and not just a blank slate.

3.  The Death of Aaron’s two sons – Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10)

Although the last chapter ended optimistically, it is no mistake that Moses chose to juxtapose the glory of Aaron’s work, prophesying Jesus’ completed work on the cross starting from the 8th day (after Sabbath), with the decadence of the examples of Nadab and Abihu.

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them.  (Lev 10:1)

Because of this “unauthorised” fire, v.2 goes on to say that Nadab and Abihu were immediately consumed by the LORD’s fire.  What a horrific image: one moment, the church of Israel is rejoicing, because Aaron and his sons went through the steps with a mixture of solemnity (of imputing their sins onto the sacrifice), and joy (of the imputation of righteousness onto them); and another moment, Nadab and Abihu fail to remember these important steps to God’s love and are consumed!

Let’s decipher ‘unauthorised’ fire first.  In the KJV, this is “strange” fire.  The LXX translates this as “αλλοτριον” (from the lexical root allotrios), meaning strange, alien or hostile.  This is different from the “heteros”, also meaning strange but more akin to “different”, used in Jude 7 referring to different flesh.  While I understand the cultural and semantic distinctions between LXX greek and NT greek, the context helps us understand that this strange fire is very different from ‘strange flesh’ which refers in the latter part to angelic flesh.  This strange fire, however, is unauthorised as the ESV translators put it: it is alien, and it is most importantly hostile.

If we just read the narrative, the message is quite simple: both the sons of Aaron took his censer and put fire in it and literally gave a hostile offering before the LORD.  Of course, they did not think it was hostile – but the LORD did, hence His reaction in v.2.  Paul Blackham notes that some people have read v.8-9 of chapter 10 and came to the conclusion that Nadab and Abihu are drunk, though I agree with him that actually, this seems not so feasible since chapter 10 follows immediately after chapter 9.  There is no indication of a time gap, especially v.12-16, explaining how the food offerings haven’t yet been consumed.  Since v.3 follows on from v.2, the judgment on Aaron’s sons, it would perhaps give the best explanation of why Nadab and Abihu were punished:

“This is what the LORD has said, ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.'” And Aaron held his peace.

Moses’ explanation is straightforward: without committing to the right steps to salvation, committing ourselves to God’s glory through Jesus Christ, our prayers and desires are unheard.  This is extremely important: for we remain under wrath outside of Jesus Christ (John 3:16-18 ) – and so Nadab and Abihu show just how they were under judgment, if they provide unauthorised offerings.

But surely Nadab and Abihu were just adding to the offerings?  No – it isn’t that simple.  The significance of the entire sacrificial system, the priestly ordination, is that it is the LORD’s commandment.  He has ordained salvation to be wrought in an extremely specific and detailed way, and any subversion or alteration of it is to preach one thing: that we know it better than the LORD.  That we can take or add from the word of God (Revelation 22:18 ).  Some can even go as far as to say that what Nadab and Abihu were doing is a great example of works-salvation:  it is as if Aaron’s sons felt that the sacrificial offering through Jesus Christ is not enough, and they have to add their own to justify themselves.  Either way, the LORD is furious that we would want to alter, or add onto the salvation of Jesus.  HE is our rock, HE is our righteousness – not our unauthorised and hostile offerings which has no bearing on our justification before Him.

v.3-6 is a sad image of Nadab and Abihu’s relatives carrying the two brothers’ corpses out, while Aaron their father holds his peace.  Nadab, whose name means “generous”, and Abihu, whose name means “he is my father” (possibly referring to God), is carried out by their relatives Mishael (“who is what God is”) and Elzaphan (“my God has protected”), sons of Aaron’s uncle Uzziel (“my strength is God”).  I find it, however, quite touching how they still refer to Nadab and Abihu as brethren (in the KJV, and “brother” in the ESV), and carry them with their coats still covering them – though it is indeed a solemn reminder that the physicali clothing is not what makes them holy; the physical robes of “righteousness” still needs to be true spiritually.  Moses tells Aaron and his sons not to bewail the death of Nadab and Abihu; instead, the house of Israel will now mourn for Nadab and Abihu.

Why can’t Aaron and his sons mourn for his eldest and 2nd eldest son?  Because they are still anointed with the Spirit:

And do not go outside the entrance of the tent of meeting, lest you die, for the anointing oil of the LORD is upon you.” And they did according to the word of Moses.(v.7)

This corresponds to what Jesus taught in Luke 14:25-26 – if you do not hate your parents, your wife, your brothers and sisters, your sons and daughters compared with God, then you cannot approach Jesus.  This is the intense devotion to the living God, and the mark of the Spirit on Aaron and his sons is a mark not merely of cleanness, but holiness.  God isn’t asking us to hate our human family; rather, he is teaching us to respect his authority even above the authority of our family.  If Aaron mourned, then he is akin to those who Christ are condemning in Luke 14.

Then v.10-11 implies that Aaron and his sons do not have the mere job of managing the sacrifices: they also have the duty to teach the people the meaning of the sacrifices.  How fitting it is that Moses is reminding Aaron of such a duty, after his two sons have died because they failed to understand the statute fully.  I think this is a crucial verse: so often we practise baptism, communion, sacraments, marriage and many signs of God’s grace to us, but we fail to understand its meaning.  This is why we have denominations preaching damaging lies like works-salvation, believer’s baptism, inter-faith or homosexual marriages.  They fail to remember what Scripture taught about these practices, and looked upon the physical truth and bound their subjective spiritual definitions to it.  The story of Nadab and Abihu is profound: it is telling us to listen to God, and rest on Christ alone as the definer of our faith.

v.12-18 then sees Moses asking the sons of Aaron to do as they were told and ensure that the remains of the sacrifice are dealt with as already told.  The key word in v.16, is diligent.  Moses is not half-hearted, and the message again is especially poignant after the death of Aaron’s two sons.

v.19-20 sees Aaron admitting his mistake in failing to serve the LORD properly, but there is a mark of humility and repentance in his actions: “If I had eaten the sin offering today, would the LORD have approved?”- indeed, the LORD would approve, as Moses stated.  Aaron was inwardly and spiritually mourning as the Father of the two sons, and just like those who fast because they mourn for the days of Jesus’ return (Matthew 9:15), Aaron’s fasting is a mark of his love for his two sons.  Thus, the difference between Aaron’s mistake and his sons mistake is quite significant: the former is one who continually feared and revered God and acknowledged his mistake.  However, the latter represents two people who impudently and rashly entered His presence with hostile sacrifices even though they should already know the statutes well.  Thus, the responses from the LORD are proportional and appropriate.  Here is Matthew Henry on Aaron’s repentant heart:

Moses charged the fault upon Eleazar and Ithamar (Lev_10:16), but it is probable that what they did was by Aaron direction, and therefore he apologized for it. He might have pleaded that this was a sin-offering for the congregation, and if it had been a bullock it must have been wholly burnt (Lev_4:21), and therefore why not now that it was a goat? But it seems it was otherwise ordered at this time, and therefore he makes his affliction his excuse, Lev_10:19. Observe, (1.) How he speaks of affliction: Such things have befallen me, such sad things, which could not but go near his heart, and make it very happy. He was a high priest taken from among men, and could not put off natural affection when he put on the holy garments. He held his peace (Lev_10:3), yet his sorrow was stirred, as David’s, Psa_39:2. Note, There may be a deep sense of affliction even where there is a sincere resignation to the will of God in the affliction. “Such things as never befel me before, and as I little expected now. My spirits cannot but sink, when I see my family sinking; I must needs be heavy, when God is angry:” thus it is easy to say a great deal to aggravate an affliction, but it is better to say little. (2.) How he makes this an excuse for his varying from the appointment about the sin-offering. He could not have eaten it but in his mourning, and with a sorrowful spirit; and would this have been accepted? He does not plead that his heart was so full of grief that he had no appetite for it, but that he feared it would not be accepted. Note, [1.] Acceptance with God is the great thing we should desire and aim at in all our religious services, particularly in the Lord’s supper, which is our eating of the sin-offering. [2.] The sorrow of the world is a very great hindrance to our acceptable performance of holy duties, both as it is discomposing to ourselves, takes off our chariot-wheels and makes us drive heavily (1Sa_1:7, 1Sa_1:8 ), and as it is displeasing to God, whose will it is that we should serve him cheerfully, Deu_12:7. Mourner’s bread was polluted, Hos_9:4. See Mal_3:14.

Leviticus 8-10: Jesus, our only High Priest

Leviticus 3-7: The Sacrifices pt.2

We saw how in every day the gospel is imprinted every morning and every night: that when the Israelites wake up, they see the burnt offering which preaches the message of both sin and reconciliation simultaneously (so as not to ‘guilt-trip’ them every morning, yet also remind them of their position in God’s grace!); and every night they thank God for the day through the grain offering which also preaches the message of urgency with the combination of oil and unleavened bread.

Let’s turn to the last three types of offerings in Leviticus.

1.  Fellowship Offering (3:1-17; 7:11-21, 28-34)

2.  Sin Offering (4:1-5:13; 6:24-30)

3.  Guilt Offering (5:14-6:7; 7:1-7)

4.  Conclusion for the fundamental five offerings

5.  Breakdown of the Priests and the (Peace) Offerings (7:11-21)

1.  Fellowship Offering (3:1-17; 7:11-21, 28-34)

In the ESV subtitle it is also named as “peace offering” which is suitable, but does not actually reflect the expression of thankfulness and love for the LORD like “fellowship” offering.  Fellowship implies a certain sense of unity amongst diversity, but “peace” offering sounds very much like an overly personal affair; as if salvation is something personally wrought and personally experienced, when it is just as much something experienced as a church body of Christ.

Voluntary Offering and the “fat” portions

Unlike the previous two offerings of burnt and grain offering, this one is a bit different: it is voluntary.  Secondly, where the previous offerings required the worshipper to give up the sacrifice in totality (through different means), the person who sacrificed the animal can actually eat the sacrifice.  The relevant passages are found in chapter 7:11-21:

11“And this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings that one may offer to the LORD. 12If he offers it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the thanksgiving sacrifice(DZ) unleavened loaves mixed with oil, unleavened wafers smeared with oil, and loaves of fine flour(EA) well mixed with oil. 13(EB) With the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving he shall bring his offering with loaves of leavened bread. 14And from it he shall offer one loaf from each offering, as a(EC) gift to the LORD.(ED) It shall belong to the priest who throws the blood of the peace offerings. 15And the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings(EE) for thanksgiving shall be eaten on the day of his offering. He shall not leave any of it until the morning. 16But(EF) if the sacrifice of his offering is a vow offering or a freewill offering, it shall be eaten on the day that he offers his sacrifice, and on the next day what remains of it shall be eaten. 17But what remains of the flesh of the sacrifice on the third day shall be burned up with fire. 18If any of the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offering is eaten on the third day, he who offers it shall not be accepted, neither shall it be credited to him. It is(EG) tainted, and he who eats of it shall bear his iniquity.

19“Flesh that touches any unclean thing shall not be eaten. It shall be burned up with fire. All who are clean may eat flesh, 20but the person who eats of the flesh of the sacrifice of the LORD’s peace offerings(EH) while an uncleanness is on him, that person shall be cut off from his people. 21And if anyone touches an unclean thing, whether(EI) human uncleanness or an(EJ) unclean beast or any(EK) unclean detestable creature, and then eats some flesh from the sacrifice of the LORD’s peace offerings, that person shall be cut off from his people.”

There is a lot of detail behind these verses.  And there is much similarity between this offering and the grain offering, save the voluntary nature of the type of sacrifice to be given (an animal from the herd, lamb, goat – all covered between v. 1-17 of chapter 3).  What unites these three types of peace offerings is this (v.16-17):

All fat is the LORD’s. 17It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations, in all your dwelling places, that you eat neither(O) fat nor(P) blood.”

We understand that in the blood is the life (Genesis 9:4), and now we also understand that fat and blood are somewhat related.  Genesis 4:4 compared with Genesis 45:18 suggests that what is ‘fat’ is the best portion (the “fat” of the land; the “fat” portions) – therefore, Abel understood quite clearly the meaning not only of burnt offering, but also of this peace offering combined.  Burnt offering speaks of propitiation, but it is also a matter of thankfulness – hence, the worshipper is not only providing the LORD with the life of the sacrifice, but also the best portion of the sacrifice!

Of course, we learn much about Jesus through the peace offering, and something about the worshipper as well.  The worshipper should give the best portions to the LORD in response to his initiating love for us; yet this “best portion” business stems from Christ offering the best of himself to the LORD.  It is the Christ who, as a male young and without blemish, in the prime of his life (~30 years old), who offered himself willingly and voluntarily to appease the wrath of Himself and of His Father against sin and sinner.  This offering is one that is given wholeheartedly, expressed through the message of giving the “best portion” of the sacrifice to the LORD.

There is more to be said about fellowship offering in Chapter 7 v.12 and v.16 pertaining to the priestly duties which I will cover below.

Eating the offering and the Holy Communion

On the point about eating the offering, the person sacrificing the animal is shown to be allowed to invite brethren to enjoy the meat at the tabernacle in the presence of the Seen God in the Holy of Holies.  This is the reason why I think ‘fellowship’ offering is far better than relying on the ESV translation of ‘peace’ offering – because there is now an image of the smaller fellowships of Israel congregating outside the tabernacle, having their self-sacrificial meal with the LORD.

This message is quite profound.  Unlike the last two burnt and grain offerings; and the following two concerning sin and guilt offering, the voluntariness and the grounded nature of this offering points to the importance of this offering is a natural outshoot of our Christian lifestyle.  Do we want to enjoy our fellowship with God, or do we want to go to ‘heaven’ where God does not preside (i.e. the Islamic heaven)?  Do we want to eat with God, or do we want to make God our omnipotent genie?

The fellowship offering therefore points towards the Marriage Feast of the Lamb in Revelation 19:6-9 – we will take part in consuming from the same table which the LORD eats; we will take part in consuming from the same food which the LORD partakes.

There is only one time that the fellowship offering is made compulsory, which is the Feast of Pentecost mentioned earlier in Exodus and later in Leviticus 23.  I have already spoken that the Feast is one which prophesies the coming of the Holy Spirit, and is a clear expression of the forward looking hope of New Creation – and there is no doubt that this fellowship offering speaks the same message of the Marriage Feast with the LORD which even Exodus 24, the manna, and the bread of presence merely point towards.

As application: the fellowship offering as we know it should be a time of spiritual intimacy and further bonding within the family (Deuteronomy 12:7):

7And(A) there you shall eat before the LORD your God, and(B) you shall rejoice, you and your households, in all that you undertake, in which the LORD your God has blessed you.

and Jude 12:

12These are hidden reefs[a](A) at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear,(B) shepherds feeding themselves;(C) waterless clouds,(D) swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead,(E) uprooted…

May we try and understand the utter importance of the Holy Communion and that though it is a physical manifestation of the spiritual truth, our LORD isn’t only Spirit, but he is also MAN – and he will come down to eat with us in New Jerusalem in physical form, just as we partake the meal with him in our physical bodies.

2.  Sin Offering (4:1-5:13; 6:24-30)

The purpose for sin offering is cleansing.  This is easily explainable by just how there is so much focus on hygiene in these few chapters.  What is interesting to note again is how the priest represents the people of Israel, just like Christ represents us:

3if it is the anointed priest who(S) sins, thus bringing guilt on the people…

Here, there is no real concept of sin being something entirely personal.  If anything, sin affects other people: in the context of the high priest, his sin and his righteousness is imputed onto the people of Israel because he stands as a representative for us before the Father in heaven.

What is very interesting about sin offering, and unlike burnt offering, is the focus on the different types of unintentional and intentional sins.

Unintentional and intentional sins

The division may be a bit technical, pedantic or perhaps artificial: is there such thing as an intentional or unintentional sin, or even a ‘level’ of sins?  In fact, yes!  However, remember that all sins are seen as a breaking of covenant (Galatians 5:3), each and every sin explains something of our standing with Christ, and the consequent of the sin.  The sin of the high priest is far more serious and needs more sin offering cleansing than failing to testify at court – because the implication of the high priest sinning actually concerns the entire congregation which relies on the high priest as mediator, just as we rely on Christ as mediator.  If Christ sins, then the implications are gigantic.  However, by failing to testify at court, the implication isn’t comparatively as destructive, although both sin represents a lack of our faithfulness to Him.  Yet, these laws, these 613 commandments from God, are just there to add to our transgressions, to show how utterly incapable it is for us to be like God, unless we stand IN the everlasting ark, Christ.

Numbers 15:28-31 displays unintentional sin with defiant sin:

28(A) And the priest shall make atonement before the LORD for the person who makes a mistake, when he sins unintentionally, to make atonement for him, and he shall be forgiven. 29(B) You shall have one law for him who does anything unintentionally, for him who is native among the people of Israel and for the stranger who sojourns among them. 30(C) But the person who does anything with a high hand, whether he is native or a sojourner, reviles the LORD, and that person shall be cut off from among his people. 31Because he has(D) despised the word of the LORD and has broken his commandment, that person shall be utterly cut off; his iniquity shall be on him.”

However, there are times when we DO sin defiantly, knowing that we ARE sinning.  What does that mean?  Does that mean we should be cut off permanently?  NO – the “defiant” and the “unintentional” sin has very specific definitions.  The definition of the sin lies in the heart of the sinner.  Do you have a heart of repentance, of true repentance whatever sin you may have committed?  The defiant sin is done wilfully without repentance of any sort; but the unintentional sin, which the sinner later realises or the sin is brought to his/her attention and knowledge, causes deep sorrow in the heart of the Christian.  That is why Paul’s heart is one of repentance, despite his sinful nature in Romans 7:19:

19(A) For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.

That is why the context of Numbers 15 is important, given the example of a man gathering wood on the Sabbath: this man is completely unrepentant, and doesn’t even say anything nor show any expressions of remorse.  Numbers 15:28-31 indicates that this man should simply be executed.  In the physical church of God, we should not allow non-seekers remain; they should be ostracised.  To remain within the physical church, to claim to be a spiritual descendant of Abraham, but to continue a life of non-repentance, a life of non-redemption, is to live a life of defiant sin, ignorantly denying the knowledge of God and his statutes.

This is actually quite different from saying that if you still sin (even after repenting of other sins), then you are going to lose your salvation.  No.  The message preached in Hebrews (about running the race of faith, hearing God when he speaks to you, and especially chapter 10:26-29) is that of defiant sin, exemplified by the unrepentant man gathering wood on the Sabbath.  Here is a man who had always belonged to the physical Israel: he expresses no remorse and presumptively assumed that being physically part of Israel is sufficient.  But he misunderstood the significance of the Sabbath and wants to continue in his ignorance.  Thus, the unregenerate heart, which rejects Jesus will continue to reject Jesus for failing to look to Christ. But the regenerate, with the Spirit dwelling within, will continue to look to Christ for he is the perfecter and founder of our faith (Hebrews 12).

Common similarities and differences of the sin offering

There is a common refrain for each subsection of sin: that the sin is brought to the attention of the sinner, or that the sinner becomes aware of it.  This is very important.  The current Catechism of the Catholic Church sees the Pope explaining there is no condemnation for unintentional or ignorant sins.  But, the message shown in Leviticus is very different: each unintentional sin needs the cleansing offered from the blood.

Another common refrain is the fat of the animal is offered to the LORD, as well as the rest of the animal being brought outside to a clean place, to the ash heap, and burnt up on a fire of wood; on ash heap it is burnt up.  (Chapter 4:8-12, 19-21).  This refrain however only refers to the unintentional sin of the HIGH PRIEST and the CONGREGATION.  For the LEADER and the COMMON PERSON/PEOPLE, only a sacrifice and blood needs to be given: there is no mentioning of burning of the flesh at the ash heap, although there is mentioning of the fat being offered (Chapter 4:26, 35).  Finally, for the rest of the sins mentioned in Chapter 5:1-11, only atonement needs to be made: no mentioning of fat, nor ash heap/burning of flesh.

For all the sin offerings, the priest does the offering either for himself, or for others, representing the mediatorial nature of the priest.

The different types of sin offering

Thus, we begin with the high priest’s unintentional sin:

4He shall bring the bull to the(U) entrance of the tent of meeting before the LORD and lay his hand on the head of the bull and kill the bull before the LORD. 5And the anointed priest(V) shall take some of the blood of the bull and bring it into the tent of meeting, 6and the priest shall dip his finger in the blood and(W) sprinkle part of the blood seven times before the LORD in front of the veil of the sanctuary. 7And the priest(X) shall put some of the blood on the horns of the altar of fragrant incense before the LORD that is in the tent of meeting, and(Y) all the rest of the blood of the bull he shall pour out at the base of the altar of burnt offering that is at the entrance of the tent of meeting.

Then we continue with the congregation’s unintentional sin:

the assembly shall offer a bull from the herd for a sin offering and bring it in front of the tent of meeting. 15And the elders of the congregation(AH) shall lay their hands on the head of the bull before the LORD, and the bull shall be killed before the LORD. 16Then(AI) the anointed priest shall bring some of the blood of the bull into the tent of meeting, 17and the priest shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle it seven times before the LORD in front of the veil. 18And he shall put some of the blood on the horns of the altar that is in the tent of meeting before the LORD, and the rest of the blood he shall pour out at the base of the altar of burnt offering that is at the entrance of the tent of meeting.

Then we continue with the leader’s unintentional sin:

he shall bring as his offering a goat, a male without blemish, 24and(AO) shall lay his hand on the head of the goat and kill it in the place where they kill the burnt offering before the LORD; it is a sin offering. 25(AP) Then the priest shall take some of the blood of the sin offering with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering and pour out the rest of its blood at the base of the altar of burnt offering. 26And all its fat he shall burn on the altar, like(AQ) the fat of the sacrifice of peace offerings. So(AR) the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin, and he shall be forgiven.

Then we continue with the common people’s unintentional sin

he shall bring for his offering a goat, a female without blemish, for his sin which he has committed. 29(AU) And he shall lay his hand on the head of the sin offering and kill the sin offering in the place of burnt offering. 30And the priest shall take some of its blood with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering and pour out all the rest of its blood at the base of the altar. 31And(AV) all its fat he shall remove,(AW) as the fat is removed from the peace offerings, and the priest shall burn it on the altar for a(AX) pleasing aroma to the LORD.(AY) And the priest shall make atonement for him, and he shall be forgiven. 32“If he brings a lamb as his offering for a sin offering, he shall bring(AZ) a female without blemish 33(BA) and lay his hand on the head of the sin offering and kill it for a sin offering in the place where they kill the burnt offering. 34Then the priest shall take some of the blood of the sin offering with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering and pour out all the rest of its blood at the base of the altar.

Then we have a multitude of sins:

(i)  Failing to testify as a witness (Chapter 5:1)

(ii)  Touching unclean thing (v.2-3)

(iii)  Rash oath (v.4) – verses shown here:

1“If anyone sins in that he hears a public(BD) adjuration to testify, and though he is a witness, whether he has seen or come to know the matter, yet does not speak, he shall(BE) bear his iniquity; 2or(BF) if anyone touches an unclean thing, whether a carcass of an unclean wild animal or a carcass of unclean livestock or a carcass of unclean swarming things, and it is hidden from him and he has become unclean, and he realizes his guilt; 3or if he touches(BG) human uncleanness, of whatever sort the uncleanness may be with which one becomes unclean, and it is hidden from him, when he comes to know it, and realizes his guilt; 4or if anyone utters with his lips a(BH) rash oath to do evil or to do good, any sort of rash oath that people(BI) swear, and it is hidden from him, when he comes to know it, and he realizes his guilt in any of these; 5when he realizes his guilt in any of these and(BJ) confesses the sin he has committed, 6he shall bring to the LORD as his compensation[d] for the sin that he has committed, a female from the flock, a lamb or a goat, for a sin offering. And the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin.

For these sins, if the sinner cannot bring a lamb for atonement, then they should bring two turtledoves and two OR two pigeons.  If the sinner cannot bring two turtledoves OR two pigeons, then they should bring a tenth of an ephah of fine flour like a grain offering – however, these three options are all sin offering and are offered similar to burnt offering, or grain offering (for the fine flour) – but they are all considered as sin offering.

Concluding thoughts on Sin Offering

There is clearly a progression over the seriousness of the sin in these various instances, from the gravest to the least offensive.  However ‘small’ the sin may be, a sacrifice of life needs to be given.  Can you imagine how many animals were killed innocently in the process?  A lamb for atonement, just because you fail to testify at court?  Two pigeons killed innocently, because you touched a carcass of an unclean wild animal?

God is teaching something entirely important here: the necessity of cleansing; which is synonymous with holiness.  The flip side, therefore, points to sin as being dirty.  Many may consider sin as a corruption of morality/ethics – but not many consider sin as something dirty.  We know that dirt does not coagulate only in one person’s heart: it effectively influences other people as well.

Beginning with the first two: the high priest’s and the entire congregation’s sin identically needs the blood of the bull, the laying of hands on the head of the bull, the blood being sprinkled onto the dividing veil 7 times (a number representing the Sabbath, representing God, representing perfection), and then the blood being smeared onto the horn of the altar of incense and the rest on the altar of burnt offering.  The blood is everywhere!  Yet, the blood covers the veil; it covers the altar of incense (Revelation 5:8; Malachi 1:11 – the incense representing the prayers of the church); it covers the burnt offering altar (meaning propitiation).  Thus, the blood of the animal sacrifice will provide the cleansing for the veil which protects us from the Father, through the prayer of us, the saints, which cannot be heard if there is no blood on the propitiation!  This is very thorough, and indeed points out the seriousness of the sins of the high priest as akin to the entire congregation.  The high priest is tied up to the congregation: he doesn’t just die for the individual; our High Priest Jesus Christ died for the entire church.

This is also an interesting thing to note: unlimited atonement does not actually teach universalism (the idea that Jesus died for the entire world, therefore the entire world will be saved regardless of whether they acknowledge Christ’s death on the cross or not as their personal salvation).  Rather, the message of the high priest and the congregation offering the same offering when they commit unintentional sin shows just how the high priest acts only for the congregation, and that the blood only works for the congregation.  Yet, the congregation is ever expanding – the numbers in Israel are always growing.  The blood which the high priest offers will continually apply to those who JOIN the church in Christ, their true pre-destination (Eph 1) – the blood of the high priest does not elect who should or shouldn’t take part in this blood sacrifice.  If you may, it is blind to the individual person: but it is simply applying the blood to the entire church in the Elect One.

The extra message of the ash heap for the HIGH PRIEST’s and the CONGREGATION’s unintentional sin preaches the message of the remaining flesh which has neither fat of the flesh, nor blood – it is subsumed in the fire of punishment far away from the tabernacle, far away from the presence of the LORD.  That is what happens to the sinner’s body – and that is the message preached for the high priest’s/congregation’s sin.  If Jesus had failed to complete his duty, then all of us would have had that same destiny.

This is why I think the message of the ash heap and the wood-fire is not preached for the leader’s and common people’s sin.  Not that the sin is less offensive in God’s eyes, but the message of the church’s/Christ’s sin is tied up together, as we are part of Him; we are in Him.  So if He sins, then we all sin and will partake in the death in the ash heap.  But Jesus’ body did not see corruption, which is why the next two sins concerning the LEADER and the COMMON people’s need not refer to the ash heap – but just referring to the necessity of both fat and blood.

And then the ‘smaller’ but equally deadly sins, which require the death of an animal.  This brings us back to the most important message preached in Genesis 3: that however grave the sin may be (even if Adam and Eve were simply to eat from the tree of good and evil), an animal still needs to be sacrificed.  Such is the gravity of our sin!  If the Israelites were subjected to this visual portrayal of the gospel of death and their life at the cost of an innocent animal’s death, then their ability to understand the death of the Lamb of God for their own life should be far more profound than ours!

A final note before we move onto guilt offering: is the absolute necessity of knowing God’s commandments clearly.  If even such a little thing can offend and display our lack of faithfulness to God, and we choose to defiantly sin (i.e. to not know what is required of us in marriage, whether we should date non-Christians or even date at all, whether we should tattoo our bodies, whether we could smoke, whether we should work hard at our secular jobs rather than actively pursue a missionary attitude in preaching at the work place… just to name a few examples), then it is a mark of a hard heart.  Worse yet, it is the mark of an unregenerate heart.  If you wish to know Him, Him who saved you, then you would simply not short-change God by failing to study the Scriptures, by failing to know Him in clarity, and look to Him who uses you and sanctifies us by the power of the Spirit.  If you wish to know Him, you will learn to obey Him in the Spirit, and learn to humbly accept his commandments however ‘out-dated’, or ‘irrational’ they seem, for God transcends contemporary culture, and He defines logic by the Logos Christ.

To cut the paragraph short – look to Christ when you read the Scriptures in the Spirit!

3.  Guilt Offering (5:14-6:7; 7:1-7)

Contrarily, this is a repayment offering, displaying a facet of the understanding of incurring a debt against the LORD God and human beings.  This offering is one of restoration.  Burnt offering is one of propitiation; sin offering is one of cleansing; guilt offering is one of repayment and restoration.

The concept of guilt offering is restoration in full, and then adding a 1/5th to it. This effectively means a 120% restoration, but Exodus 22:4, and Leviticus 6:4-6 implies that it may be 220% restoration. The fundamental message is that not only is restoration in full restoring the innocent party’s position to prior the sin – but even better than before the commission of the act of the sinner!

Chapter 5:14-17:

14The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 15(BU) “If anyone commits a breach of faith and sins unintentionally in any of the holy things of the LORD,(BV) he shall bring to the LORD as his compensation, a ram without blemish out of the flock, valued[h] in silver shekels,[i] according to the(BW) shekel of the sanctuary, for a guilt offering. 16He shall also make restitution for what he has done amiss in the holy thing and(BX) shall add a fifth to it and give it to the priest.(BY) And the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering, and he shall be forgiven.

17(BZ) “If anyone sins, doing any of the things that by the LORD’s commandments ought not to be done,(CA) though he did not know it, then realizes his guilt, he shall bear his iniquity. 18(CB) He shall bring to the priest a ram without blemish out of the flock, or its equivalent for a guilt offering, and(CC) the priest shall make atonement for him for the mistake that he made unintentionally, and he shall be forgiven. 19It is a guilt offering; he has indeed incurred guilt before[j] the LORD.”

And again chapter 6:4-6:

…will restore(CJ) what he took by robbery or what he got by oppression or the deposit that was committed to him or the lost thing that he found 5or anything about which he has sworn falsely, he shall(CK) restore it in full and shall add a fifth to it, and give it to him to whom it belongs on the day he realizes his guilt. 6And he shall bring to the priest as his compensation to the LORD(CL) a ram without blemish out of the flock, or its equivalent for a guilt offering.

What is different in guilt offering is the focus on the financial restitution. Chapter 5:15 speaks of the valuation in silver shekels, according to the currency of the sanctuary.

Secondly, is how everything is attributed to the LORD (Chapter 6:2):

2“If anyone sins and(CD) commits a breach of faith against the LORD by(CE) deceiving his neighbor in(CF) a matter of deposit or security…

When was the last time you thought that your sin against someone is first and foremost your sin against God himself? The deception of one’s neighbour is a breach of faith against the LORD! (Psalm 51:4)

Another thing which people normally miss out is chapter 5:15 –

15(BU) “If anyone commits a breach of faith and sins unintentionally in any of the holy things of the LORD…

Paul Blackham makes the distinction that compensation needs to be made against the holy things of the LORD. Why against the holy things, and not directly to the LORD? Surely the holy things were merely symbolic? 2 Samuel 6:6-7:

6And when they came to the threshing floor of(A) Nacon, Uzzah(B) put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. 7And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah, and(C) God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark of God.

I think this is really quite significant. The story of Uzzah has angered many Christians and non-Christians alike, but I feel that it betrays something of their theology of Sacraments. Many Christians today over-spiritualise things and end up espousing ‘philosophies’ which actually have no biblical bearing. God takes the physical and the spiritual equally seriously: if one defiles and sins, the tabernacle is effectively seen as corrupted (Leviticus 16). If one touches an unclean person, the LORD doesn’t just expect you to understand the spiritual meaning of being unclean, but to actually go through the act of cleansing by blood. If the LORD expected you to commit to infant baptism and communion, then don’t over-spiritualise it.

The visual is just as important as the spiritual. Christ is both man and God. Glen’s essay on “Creation and Redemption – the One work of the One Word” covers these antinomies (a term coined by JI Packer in “Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God” which explains the accepted ‘paradoxes’ of Scripture – like human responsibility vs. God’s sovereignty). Our Christ is both Creator and Redeemer; Alpha and Omega; God and man; Within time yet Eternal; Spirit and Flesh. This understanding of both physical and spiritual truth undercuts Gnosticism and shapes our eschatological theology of new creation entirely.

4.  Conclusion for the fundamental five offerings

If one may quickly sum up the differences of the five offerings: the burnt offering uses a personal picture of man, the guilty sinner, and the innocent and clean animal dying in his place.

The sin offering is a medical specimen, of sin making the world dirty so much that God cannot dwell there until His re-creation.

The guilt offering is thus an example of a financial, a commercial picture of sin – it is a debt which man accumulates against God, and it also can be paid through the offered animal.

The grain offering shows a picture of a present pre-new-creation view of life – that we thank God for his blessings, but after the grain offering, we enter the night and the inevitability of the day returns to preach the truth of the inevitable second coming of the Light of lights.

The fellowship offering looks forward to renewed creation, that we may partake of the Holy Wedding Feast with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

5.  Breakdown of the Priests and the (Peace) Offerings (7:11-21)

11“And this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings that one may offer to the LORD. 12If he offers it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the thanksgiving sacrifice(DZ) unleavened loaves mixed with oil, unleavened wafers smeared with oil, and loaves of fine flour(EA) well mixed with oil. 13(EB) With the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving he shall bring his offering with loaves of leavened bread. 14And from it he shall offer one loaf from each offering, as a(EC) gift to the LORD.(ED) It shall belong to the priest who throws the blood of the peace offerings. 15And the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings(EE) for thanksgiving shall be eaten on the day of his offering. He shall not leave any of it until the morning. 16But(EF) if the sacrifice of his offering is a vow offering or a freewill offering, it shall be eaten on the day that he offers his sacrifice, and on the next day what remains of it shall be eaten. 17But what remains of the flesh of the sacrifice on the third day shall be burned up with fire. 18If any of the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offering is eaten on the third day, he who offers it shall not be accepted, neither shall it be credited to him. It is(EG) tainted, and he who eats of it shall bear his iniquity.

19“Flesh that touches any unclean thing shall not be eaten. It shall be burned up with fire. All who are clean may eat flesh, 20but the person who eats of the flesh of the sacrifice of the LORD’s peace offerings(EH) while an uncleanness is on him, that person shall be cut off from his people. 21And if anyone touches an unclean thing, whether(EI) human uncleanness or an(EJ) unclean beast or any(EK) unclean detestable creature, and then eats some flesh from the sacrifice of the LORD’s peace offerings, that person shall be cut off from his people.”

If you notice in v.11, the laws are addressed to the priests.  We already understand the significance of the priests in relation to the assembly, the church of Israel.

What is really confusing here is the fellowship offering being split into three types (v.12 and 16): thanksgiving, vow, or freewill.  These three represent the three facets of fellowship offering: that we thank God, that we vow our commitment with Him as a response to his unwavering faithfulness to us, and that there is much freedom in our desire to fellowship with Him (the last one has already been shown via the freewill offering of the giving of silver and other things for the building of the tabernacle).

Then in v.12-13, there is the detail of the (i) offered animal, (ii) yeast-free bread with oil, (iii) yeast-free wafers with oil, (iv) cakes with oil and (v) bread with yeast.  We already understand the significance of the yeast symbolising one’s stay in the world (shown through the history of Egypt).  Thus, the fellowship offering having bread with yeast represents the time when we arrive at our eternal new home, along with the oil representing the Holy Spirit.  This image is further amplified with the food fellowship with God after atonement; and for those Christians whose sins are already atoned for by the blood of Christ, we can enjoy the fellowship of the Spirit shown in the oil right now as a seal (Esther 8), firstfruit and deposit of new creation (Eph 1).

We then move to the detail of v.16-18 which speaks of the meat which the people are allowed to eat on the day after the sacrifice, extending the eating for 2 days, and then destroyed on the third day.  This example of the third day, destroying the symbolic bread, displays the significance of the ‘third day’ even in eating.  On the third day there is new life – the resurrection of Christ.  Perhaps this points towards the significance of the sign of the third day, the sign of Jonah: that after the resurrection of Christ would people have something to rejoice in.  After the resurrection of Christ, the prophetic eating of the flesh is ended by the prophecy fulfilled, replacing this Old Testament law with the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

v.19-21 serves to substantiate the point in Numbers 15 – either we are clean… or we are unclean (the distinction between clean and unclean is not the same distinction between holy and unclean – I will dwell on this point in the next post on the sanctification of the priests; therefore, “clean” is merely the middleground between holiness and uncleanness), in which case we must be sent out of the city of God which we cannot live in.  Either we are wearing the wedding garments of the robes of righteousness… or we are kicked out of the wedding.  This message cannot be preached enough.  Let us dwell on this truth: the truth of animal sacrifice, of pleasing aroma, of partaking in the food and reminding ourselves that we cannot even wear the robes of righteousness, bear the oil representing the Holy Spirit, eat of leavened bread of the wedding feast if not for Jesus’ magnificent work on the cross.  Matthew 22:1-14:

1And again Jesus(A) spoke to them in parables, saying, 2(B) “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave(C) a wedding feast for his son, 3and(D) sent his servants[a] to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4(E) Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared my(F) dinner,(G) my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.’ 5But(H) they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6while the rest seized his servants,(I) treated them shamefully, and(J) killed them. 7The king was angry, and he sent his troops and(K) destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not(L) worthy. 9Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10And those servants went out into the roads and(M) gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there(N) a man who had no wedding garment. 12And he said to him,(O) ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and(P) cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14For many are(Q) called, but few are chosen.”

Leviticus 3-7: The Sacrifices pt.2

Leviticus 1-2; 6:8-18 – The Sacrifices pt. 1

The book of Exodus, like Genesis, ended on a forward-looking hope. Genesis ended with the people of Israel, the 12 sons of Jacob, looking forward to the Exodus despite their stay in Egypt. Jacob re-stated the importance of his burial in Israel, where his forefather Abraham was also buried. Exodus ended with the Shekinah glory of the Angel of the LORD dwelling in the Most Holy Place of the tabernacle, and the people of Israel were standing around the tabernacle in awe.

Like the first few chapters of Exodus, which continues the story of Genesis, Leviticus begins immediately after the Angel fills the Holy of Holies. It is now that the Angel called to Moses from within the tent and gives him the commandments of sacrifices, holy days, festivals and priestly ordinations.

Paul Blackham states that the ancient Hebrew title of the book was Wayyiqra (“and He called”). This, being the first word in Hebrew, shows how the book follows right after Exodus. The Greek translation of the Hebrew title gave the new name “Leviticus”, undoubtedly because the book concerned much of the behaviour of the Levites.

Genesis laid the back-bone for the history, and the story of what the Bible is expecting. Exodus is the back-bone with flesh, fleshing out the theology of what Genesis had looked towards. Leviticus is a further fleshing out, with the laws explained and detailed painstakingly (to the point where some people find it a bit too detailed, and perhaps even trivial). I have heard many say that Leviticus as a boring book, because it doesn’t literally spell out the gospel story as clearly as the other four books of the Pentateuch (and Numbers comes in second, seeing that it seems to cover the numbers of Israelites and their genealogy). This is a lack of foresight, and we continue to maintain the Christological interpretation which Christ himself offered (John 5:39; 1 Timothy 2:5) when we read the Old Testament.  Here is an example of a 18th-19th C preacher Charles Simeon, whose conversion was triggered by the Book of Leviticus:

In Passion Week [the week up to and including Easter], as I was reading Bishop Wilson on the Lord’s Supper, I met with an expression to this effect—“That the Jews knew what they did, when they transferred their sin to the head of their offering.” The thought came into my mind, What, may I transfer all my guilt to another? Has God provided an Offering for me, that I may lay my sins on His head? Then, God willing, I will not bear them on my own soul one moment longer. Accordingly I sought to lay my sins upon the sacred head of Jesus; and on the Wednesday began to have a hope of mercy; on the Thursday that hope increased; on the Friday and Saturday it became more strong; and on the Sunday morning, Easter-day, April 4, I awoke early with those words upon my heart and lips, “Jesus Christ is risen to-day! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!” From that hour peace flowed in rich abundance into my soul; and at the Lord’s Table in our Chapel I had the sweetest access to God through my blessed Saviour.” (H.C.G. Moule, Charles Simeon, London: InterVarsity, 1948, p. 25f.)

Remember that the people of Israel are sitting around the tabernacle as they listen to the Angel explain the law to Moses. The significance of the tabernacle has already been considered when we looked at Exodus: that it represents the very format of Heaven (Third Heaven – Most Holy Place) and the Church on Earth (Holy Place), and the rest of the people on Earth who are not part of the Church (the Courtyard).

Unlike the book of Genesis and Exodus, it serves to separate the study of Leviticus into their separate categories.

1. Burnt Offering (1:3-17; 6:8-13)

2. Grain Offering (2:1-16; 6:14-18 )

Introduction to Sacrifices (pt.1)

The best way to introduce the view of the Sacrifices is follow the theology laid down in Hebrews 10:1-16

“For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sin? 3 But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin every year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; 6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. 7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

Keep in mind these sacrifices, therefore, point only to CHRIST. Christ is not the definitive revelation of these sacrifices; he is not the final and “best” meaning of the sacrifices – he is the only meaning, from beginning to end (1 Timothy 2:5). He is the God whom these sacrifices have always pointed towards. Hence, the biggest focus of the sacrifices is the “blood”, which is the life of the creature (Genesis 9:4) – which just makes Jesus’ death even more profound as he pours on us his blood of eternal life.

Here is a table from Dr. Blackham’s Book-by-book on Leviticus which may help you look at the offerings in general:

Offering Purpose Jesus Animals Division
Burnt offering/food offering Propitiation; sweet aroma Bearing the anger of God for us Bull, sheep, goat, doves or pigeons All meat for the LORD; skin left for priests
Grain offering Dedication; sweet aroma Perfectly dedicated to His Father Grain or flour, oil and incense Portion burned; priest ate the left-overs.
Sin offering Cleansing His blood cleanses us Bull, goat, doves, pigeons or flour All fat for the LORD.
Guilt offering Repayment He pays our debt to God Ram

Fat for the LORD.Other parts for the priest.

Fellowship offering Fellowship; sweet aroma In Him we have the fellowship of the Spirit Bull, sheep or goat

Fat for the LORD.Portion for the priest; portions for worshipper

To begin with, the first two verses of Leviticus start at the tent of meeting. This is interesting: this tent of meeting should not be confused with the tabernacle. In Exodus 33, Moses had pitched a tent of meeting outside of the camp, and the Son would speak to him face to face there. The same is happening here: there is every reason why the Angel does not meet him in the Most Holy Place, for Moses is not the High Priest – Aaron is. Yet, the focus here is that the Angel can easily meet where he wants: the tabernacle is not made to contain Him. The tabernacle is made to portray an aspect of the gospel that needs to be preached: the unity of heaven and earth by the tearing of the veil between the two rooms of the tabernacle. The previous meeting at the tent of meeting in Exodus 33 is very significant: for Jesus is not asking us to go to where he dwells to receive the Word; he is coming outside (symbolically) of the rightful place where he should be (the Most Holy Place), and decides to go outside the camp, where the lepers and the outcasts are placed, to give Moses the law. Jesus is speaking to Moses face to face in a place which is not privileged, nor special: it shows Jesus’ humanity, the suffering that he will face as an outcast, and the significance of the sacrificial laws in displaying the wrath of God, and Jesus being ostracized from the camp of society by fulfilling the meaning of these very laws.

But now, the tables are turned: Jesus speaks from the throne room of the new Tent of Meeting: he is providing not the structure for the tabernacle, but he is providing the meaning and the functions of the tabernacle. Although Jesus temporarily dwelled with them as an Angel, his presence in the Tent of Meeting displays his divinity just as well; and now that the tabernacle is built, it is most fitting to display his divinity by giving commands from within, rather than remain as the Sent One when he rightfully belongs to the right hand of the Father.

1. Burnt Offering (1:3-17; 6:8-13)

I’ve listed the commands in chapter 1, the types of burnt offerings:

(a) Male from the herd without blemish – brought to the entrance of the tent of meeting; hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him (v.3-4).Then, kill the bull before the LORD, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall throw the blood against the sides of the altar, to the entrance of the tent of meeting. The offering should then be flayed and cut into pieces (v.6), and the priests shall put fire on the altar, and arrange wood on the fire. The pieces, the head, the fat and the wood on the fire on the altar shall be arranged accordingly by the priest (v.7-8 ). However, its entrails and legs shall be washed with water; the priest shall offer all of it and burn it on the altar as a burnt/food offering with a pleasing aroma (v.9).

(b) Male without blemish from the flock, sheep, or goats – he shall kill it on the north side of the altar before the LORD, and the priests shall throw its blood against the side of the altar. Again, the animal shall be cut into pieces, with its head/fat, and the priest shall arrange them on the wood that is on the fire on the altar; entrails and legs washed with water. Again, this is a type of burnt/food offering (v.10-13).

(c) Birds: turtledoves or pigeons – priest shall bring it to the altar and wring off its head and burn it on the altar. The blood is then drained out on the side of the altar; the crop with its contents/feathers shall be removed and cast beside the altar on the east side, in the place for ashes. It shall be torn open by its wings, but shall not sever it completely. Again, the priest shall burn it on the altar, on the wood on the fire: a burnt/food offering.

The immediate thing to note is the common refrain for the three types of burnt offerings: they are all required, unsurprisingly, to be burnt, on wood, over fire (i.e. the animal is completely consumed by the fire).  They are all male without blemish. For the offering from the herd (bull), or a sheep/goat, the offering is cut into pieces, arranged on the wood, and the insides and legs washed with water. Finally, as it says in Leviticus 1:5 – each person had to kill the sacrifice himself. This bloody method of burnt offering is not impersonally or ‘professionally’ done by the priests: it is very personal, and the cost of sin is graphically shown to the person who needs to be atoned for.

The only difference for the sheep or goats is that the blood is killed on the north side of the altar before the LORD.

On the contrary, the burnt offering of birds is different: the head is wringed off and then burnt on the altar.  The crop with its feathers removed and cast on the east side, where it is the place for ashes. The bird is torn by its wings, but not severed completely.

Before going into detail about each burnt offering, there are some general comments we can make.

Burnt offering has not only been introduced in Leviticus. If anything, Abraham, Noah, and Abel all had firm understanding of the burnt offering (Genesis 22, 8:19-21, 4:4). This is because the prototype of the offering has been introduced to Adam and Eve when animal skin was provided for them: the first death of life in the history of man (Genesis 3:21) for the protection of man, itself a prototype of the clothing of righteousness which God will provide for man at the cost of the Passover Lamb (Isaiah 61). You can say the burnt offering therefore is the most fundamental of all offerings: which explains why the first offering mentioned is this burnt offering. It is used primarily as a propitiation for sins (the word used in the ESV and older translations like KJV) – c.f. Romans 3:25, 1 John 2:2. Romans 3, if exposed, correctly, tells us that everyone has sinned and fallen short of His glory: this is a serious statement of extremity. We aren’t merely ‘fallen’, our ‘natural powers wounded’ (quoted from the Catechism of the Catholic Church). The glory of God is not an idealistic perfection – it is something we can never attain because of how corrupt we really are (Romans 1). Our image of God is not found in ourselves, but found in Christ, the true image of God (Colossians 1:15). For us to restore that image, that ‘natural power’, then we can only find it if we unite ourselves under the banner of Christ – in Christ alone. This is what the burnt offering essentially means: we are uniting under the banner of the burnt offering which propitiates (literally meaning directs away, or leads away) the wrath of God. Jesus propitiates, and leads that wrath away from us, onto Himself.

BURNT OFFERING: HERD – BULL

Bull

Exodus 32; Psalm 69:30-33; Ezekiel 1:10; Ezekiel 39:17-19; Jeremiah 52:19-21; Revelation 4:7

The significance of bulls and oxen has not been short throughout the OT. We have considered a few of the possibilities when we looked at the reason why the Israelites would make a golden calf of all things: because Ezekiel saw that the face of a cherub is akin to the face of a bull. In addition, Ezekiel 39 suggests that there is a wide provision of not only bulls, but other animals (who are included as suitable sacrificial offerings) in the land of Bashan (meaning “light soil” or “fruitful”) – as part of the great sacrificial feast of the fat beasts there. Not only that, but Jeremiah 52 suggests that there is some significance behind the 12 bronze bulls which Solomon made for the Temple of the LORD. Why 12 bronze bulls? Perhaps its significance is aligned to that of the 12 tribes of Israel; along with the Psalmist’s call to the Father in Psalm 69 that our faithfulness shall exceed that of bulls and oxen with horns and hooves, this suggests a few things about their views of bulls in the OT. Firstly, they resemble angelic creatures; secondly, they are fat, fulsome and pleasing creatures in terms of sacrifice; thirdly, they are humble before the LORD. These definitely embody the characteristics of the Saviour who is both strong, full of pleasure to the father, humble and above all the “one sent” from the Father (hence angelic) to only fulfill the Father’s will (John 6:38 ).

Fire

So what of the significance of the little details? First and foremost, the consumption by fire to make atonement (Leviticus 1:4). This is extremely important, because fire has already been seen as a tool through which God demands his judgment, simultaneously displaying his majesty. The fire barrier between Garden of Eden and the East of Eden (Genesis 3); the fire of God (Exodus 3); and of course, the ultimate lake of fire which these things point towards (Revelation 21). This is as if the animal enters the fire and thus pays the price of the sin: the animal being consumed by the barrier which stands between heaven and earth in the tabernacle (again, remember that the Angel is speaking from the tabernacle!), the veil with cherubim worked into it, reminding them of the barrier of fire. Because the animal is consumed by the barrier, the barrier is, under the Levitical law, temporarily open to the High Priest. But when the true Passover Lamb, Christ, is consumed by the fire of the barrier between heaven and earth, there need no longer be further propitiations for the schoolteacher of the law has served its purpose to point everyone to the fulfillment (NOT revelation) as the everlasting propitiation (Hebrews 10:12-14). The very fact that the people had to regularly propitiate reminded them that these are only signs and shadows; that they cannot be saved by their own works of propitiation, just as the people today cannot be saved by the continual repetition of the transubstantiation of the Holy Eucharist.

Arrangement on the wood

This arrangement on the wood is akin to that in Genesis 22: yes, I am aware that the traditional manner of burning is wood and fire combined. But note the irregularity: the way the altar is made is so that the fire is under the wood, not over. Note that the wood is not the source of the fire: the fire comes from under the wood! The wood therefore makes no contribution to the fires of punishment. Then what is the significance of the wood? Again, this is a fleshing out of the story of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, his firstborn, on a piece of wood: as it inevitably foreshadows the story of God’s sacrifice of Jesus, his firstborn, on a piece of wood. If the Passover Lamb is THE meaning of these sacrifices, then there being sacrificed on wood over the fire which consumes both wood and flesh, is meant to signify the importance of the latching of the flesh to the food; the arrangement of the flesh to the food.

Some Jews (e.g. Messianic Jew Joseph Steinberg, ex-director of the Jews for Jesus in England) have interestingly noted that the arrangement of the wood is cross-shaped, and the meat is accordingly pitched in the same shape. If that is true, I need not say more of this prototypical view of the cross of Christ.

Cut into pieces

The fact that our Christ will be cut on the cross, his flesh cut, has been prophesied by the message of circumcision in Genesis 17. Our Christ has been so severely punished; so severely mocked by the majority before and during the bearing of his cross at Golgotha. Indeed, Christ has been cut into pieces, his soul, his spirit, and his body. It is easy to say that the burning of the flesh is made easy if the meat is cut into pieces, but let’s not forget the arrangement of the pieces over the wood which we have just considered. Such small detail need not be recorded, if they speak not of Christ: and a Christological reading affords the significance of our Christ being cut, in the shape of a cross over the wood of the cross.

Insides cleansed with water, washed entrails and legs and male without blemish

Yet, our Christ the male was born with the water of the Spirit, and further anointed by John the Baptist for his work as High Priest. He is clean, he is sinless, yet he was made to bear the punishment of others. This is meant to focus on the cleanness of the offering, as opposed to the sin of the person who lays hands on the offering.

Psalm 147:7-11; Songs of Solomon 5:14-16; Ezekiel 1:6-8; John 19:32-34; Revelation 10:1-3

There is much significance behind legs: you may find it odd to read Psalm 147 and ask yourself why the LORD would even adore ‘our legs’. The terminology seems to find its meaning in the other verses: the “legs” are what carries us from one location to another; they find their purpose in upholding the body, the temple, and hence they are the columns mentioned in Songs of Solomon. The legs and the inner parts were washed with water prior to the burning of the sacrifice, a mark of Jesus’ legs not being broken like the other prisoners on the cross (John 19) – and the allusion to the legs being the supporting columns is shown again in Revelation 10, with the angel’s legs being seen as ‘mighty fiery pillars’.

I find it odd that both the inner parts/entrails, and the legs are taken out to be washed prior to the burning of the sacrifice. Why both at the same time? My best guess is that the legs, being the external cornerstone and pillars of the body concords to the inner cornerstone of the body: the inner parts. Without the inner parts, the body cannot internally heal and regulate the consumed food and drink to make a person grow healthily; without the outer part, the column of the body (the legs), the body cannot go anywhere and will find no support. The significance of the washing of the two can very much point to the significance of the legs and the entrails in supporting our physical body as two fundamental cornerstones, reminding the priest or the person who is sacrificing the animal that the spiritual and the physical message of the sacrifice is equally important, for we will inherit new bodies, and not go to a generic spiritual ‘heaven’, with a generic spiritual ‘body’.

Blood thrown onto the sides of the altar

Perhaps to show how the blood covers every corner of the altar, not only the top of the altar on which the sacrifice lay, but also the sides – very much alike the robes of righteousness (Isaiah 61) which cover our bodies in entirety and not only in part, as if we have to compensate to attain the LORD’s favour.

Pleasing aroma to the LORD

Ezekiel 20:41; 2 Corinthians 2:15

For we shall be a pleasing aroma among those who are saved and among those who are perishing: that is the witness of the pleasing aroma offered to God, and staunchly noticeable to both the elect and reprobate.

BURNT OFFERING: FLOCK – SHEEP or GOATS

We have covered the main similarities between this burnt offering and the burnt offering of the bulls, so we need not cover them again. Let’s look at the main differences.

Killed on the north side

Job 26:6-8; Job 37:21-23; Psalm 48:1-3; Isaiah 14:22-24

The far north is significantly pointing to the splendour of God; even Satan wanted to imitate the LORD who resides in the far north. But the significance of ‘north’ is different when it comes to the ‘north wind’ and the ‘northern kingdoms’ spoken of in Ezekiel and Jeremiah, for both bring rain, punishment and judgment.Perhaps, like fire, the meaning of ‘north’ can have synonymous connotations – good if you are looking at the north in remembrance of the throne of God; bad if you are looking at the north but simply laughing at the face of God’s inevitable verdict on the fallen people.

BURNT OFFERING: BIRDS – TURTLEDOVES and PIGEONS

We have covered the main similarities between this burnt offering and the burnt offering of the bulls, so we need not cover them again. Let’s look at the main differences.

Birds

Why birds?

Genesis 1:20-22; Genesis 1:25-29; Exodus 25:20; Job 12:6-8; Job 28:20-22; Job 35:10-12; Psalm 61:4; Psalm 63:7; Psalm 91:4; Psalm 148:9-10; Ezekiel 1:11; Ezekiel 29:4-6; Ezekiel 31:5-7; Matthew 13:4; Matthew 13:32; Romans 1:22-24; Revelation 19:17-21

Birds and animals and creeping things were always seen as different from fish. The creatures in the heavens and on earth have the capability of worshipping the LORD (Psalm 148 ) where fish is absent; and this is focused again in Ezekiel 29 where the fish is fed to the birds and animals. Hence, Romans 1’s mystery: why are birds, animals, creepy things made as idols – but not fish or sea creatures?

Because these birds and animals resemble spiritual things. We have considered that oxen/bull are like cherubim; and birds are no different, for they are winged creatures in the heavens. They, too, resemble a character of the angelic creatures – and it is the birds which devour the flesh of the kings, captains, mighty men, horse and riders, flesh of all men, slave and free.

Principally, it appears that the birds are very similar to angels in that they take solace on the branches of trees, and yet, at the command and sovereignty of God, devour the seed on the path (e.g. seed which does not grow). Like the angels who will be reaping on the Day of Judgment, the seed which does not grow will be devoured by them; yet, even the angels have to nest themselves on the branch of Christ, the vine, the very Tree of Life.

Wringing off the head, burning the head on the side of the altar

Like the burnt offering where the blood is spilt on the side of the altar, the head is now burnt on the side of the altar as well. 1 Corinthians 11 and Ephesians 5 speaks very clearly about ‘headship’, and if Christ, the chief commander of all the angels which the birds symbolize, is manifested in this prototypical imagery of birds as sacrifices – then the burning of his head on the side of the altar can mean a number of things. Given that the blood is on the side of the altar, then sacrificing the head on the side of the altar perhaps symbolizes the joining of the headship and the blood as part and parcel?

Blood drained out on the side of the altar

I imagine there is much to be said about the blood being drained rather than being thrown onto the side of the altar. What say you? (Psalm 75:8; Revelation 16:19) – Perhaps it is a picture of the blood of the wine being poured out from the cup of wrath onto Christ. Is this prophesying to the very cup which Christ wished not to drink from when he struggled in the Garden (of Gethsemane)?

Removal of crop and its contents/feathers and cast to the east side of the altar

The east side has always had negative connotations: namely one of exile. And yet, the Garden had an exit and entrance only on the east side. Adam’s exile from the Garden is a prophetic image of Christ’s exile from Gethsemane – though with different implications. The former exited having lost the battle by eating the fruit of the forbidden tree, though the war has already been won for him through Christ. The latter, however, is the victor himself – the battles and wars are all won by him alone.

If we follow the possible explanation of birds as representative of angels, and Christ being the chief uncreated and only divine angel, his “feathers” and “contents” which display his glory are thrown to the east side. Christ is undignified, he is unrecognized, and he is spat upon. So the bird without contents/feathers is without dignity, and is stripped bare naked. This, along with the tearing of the wings (as we now come to) very much preaches the ostracism which our LORD and all his saints would experience and have experienced (Hebrews 11).

Torn open by wings, but not severed completely

Wings represent shelter, and yet this bird which can shelter us is torn open by its wings, the very symbolism of protection. But the wings are not severed completely, meaning that our Christ is not severed from his Father’s love – he returns to the rightful place next to the Unseen God on the throne with a temporarily bruised heel, but not enough to kill the Son permanently (imagine the implications if the wings were severed completely!).

THE PRIESTS and the BURNT OFFERINGS (Leviticus 6:8-13)

Besides the key features of the wood being burnt every morning, the most important thing to note is the fire Between v. 8-13, the word ‘burn’ or ‘burning’ is repeated 5 times, not including the word ‘Burnt Offering’! This suggests the utter necessity and significance of the fire continually burning. This is the furnace in which Daniel was refined alongside the son of man Christ (Daniel 3, esp. v. 25; Revelation 1:15). This refiner’s fire, representing the Spirit and also the oncoming judgment, will keep burning. This is akin to the emphasis on the golden lampstand being continually lit. In any case, the detailed account of priestly activities in chapter 6 very clearly shows the dedication and the intricacies of the priests’ work in ensuring that the image of the Father is portrayed through these visible images, which are only shadows of the true image of God found in Christ alone. which continues to burn.

2. Grain Offering (2:1-16; 6:14-18 )

This grain offering is offered alongside the burnt offering. The burnt offering and grain offering were both offered in the morning and the evening at the tabernacle. This, unlike the burnt offering, is not clearly defined in its purpose. The feast of firstfruits in Deuteronomy 26:8-11 provides some insight:

8And(A) the LORD brought us out of Egypt(B) with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great deeds of terror,[a] with signs and wonders. 9And he brought us into this place and gave us this land,(C) a land flowing with milk and honey. 10And behold, now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground, which you, O LORD, have given me.’ And you shall set it down before the LORD your God and worship before the LORD your God. 11And(D) you shall rejoice in all the good that the LORD your God has given to you and to your house, you, and the Levite, and the sojourner who is among you.

Salt

Leviticus 2:13; Genesis 19:26; Deuteronomy 29:23; Judges 9:45; Psalm 137:34; Jeremiah 17:5-6; Zephaniah 2:9; Jeremiah 48:9

Salt is therefore simultaneous in its meaning like fire: it is a refiner’s fire, tongues of fire and it is a punishment of the lake of fire for those standing outside of Christ. Thus, the salt is both a symbol of covenant faithfulness as well as judgment on all those standing outside of the covenant. Thus, when we are called to be salt and light the meaning is two-fold: salt and light are both positive and negative, both positively shining light into the darkness of hearts and providing the covenant faithfulness to the Christians through Christ. At the same time, salt and light is an annoyance to all those standing outside of Christ – those hearts which remain in the dark despite the light shining into them (John 1:1-18 – the light shines in the darkness but the darkness has not understood it) and the salt alluding to the predicament of Lot’s wife.

Thus, the grain offering is mixed with salt to show the dedication and gratitude to the LORD as essential.Thus, the burnt offering shows the seriousness about sin with the blood; and the grain offering makes the same two-fold point with salt. Unlike the burnt offering which deals directly with the seriousness of sin, the grain offering is about both commitment and gratitude to our own exodus from judgment. However, the grain offering is very much connected to redemption, because of the exemption of salt from yeast and honey.

Yeast and Honey

Exodus 12:39 – the dough was without yeast because they have been driven out of Egypt, and had no time to prepare food for themselves. If one had to wait for their bread to rise during the night of Exodus in Exodus 12, then it displayed their commitment to Egypt. This is the same as Lot’s wife’s yearning for her home in Sodom and Gomorrah, rather than look to the Angel of God – a sign of worldliness. The yeast-free bread is a sign of being ready to move at the LORD’s will; the readiness of redemption by the LORD, rather than redemption by self.

Honey, contrarily, is a foretaste of heaven. Like the heavenly manna (meaning “What is this?”) which tastes like honey, the promised land also is a land flowing with milk and honey (Ezekiel 20:14-16). Hence, the usage of honey and yeasts in celebrations is meant to point towards new life, where we can fully enjoy the eternal Sabbath in new Jerusalem, the time when we are fully redeemed (not just with the firstfruits/deposit of the Holy Spirit).

Oil

Thus, the final element of the grain offering, being oil, is referent to the anointing oil of the Holy Spirit (1 Samuel 16:13). We have explained this when we looked at the golden lampstand of the Spirit in the tabernacle series in my Exodus commentary, and the oil which is used represents the filling of the Holy Spirit.

THE PRIESTS and the GRAIN OFFERINGS (Leviticus 6:14-18 )

The elements necessary for the priestly actions is covered for the grain offering in the sub-section above (oil, unleavened bread, etc).

Conclusion: Burnt and Grain Offering

Thus, the Christian in the Old Testament prior to the law of Sinai being fulfilled at the advent of Christ, would offer the burnt offering as an atonement for sin, displayed by the seriousness of how and why certain animals were burnt and killed in particular ways. This is immediately followed by the grain offering which re-affirms their need for redemption, signified by the salt, the lack of yeast and honey, and the oil of the Spirit always present in our life. This two-fold step is reminiscent of our two-fold step in our faith: initial redemption, and life as an outcast in this world by the power of the Spirit. The truth of these sacrifices shed light on issues of whether the practice is barbaric, or a mere copycat of the sacrificial rituals worldwide, or even animal rights issues. Just a few comments on that now.

Firstly, the view of animal rights and barbaric practices are human made: in one sense, yes – it is definitely barbaric to sacrifice animals for the sake of the LORD. The LORD has planned for man and beast to co-exist peacefully in new creation (Isaiah 11:6-9). In another sense, it is even more barbaric that the Son of God is killed for our sins. Yet, the LORD chose to use this method to display this self-sacrificial love for us: that indeed, we should realize how utterly ridiculous, dirty, and barbaric this method of salvation is – the death of God for the unlimited (but not universal) atonement of all. But this also concentrates on how divine, instead of how human this method of salvation is. It is not clean; it is not compartmentalized; it is not convenient. It is everything but. A sacrifice of life for another life is a truth which we partake in everyday when we consume food, and (possibly seed-bearing) plants in our meals – yet, somehow we think there is nothing barbaric with that. We should remember that any element of barbarism is but a shadow of the true barbarism against the Son of God.

Secondly, it is a chronological fallacy to say that the rituals worldwide are copied by the Mosaic covenant: it is the other-way-around. Firstly, a majority of sacrificial non-Christian offerings were made between 1-3 thousand years prior to Christ’s incarnation (that is not to include the number of sacrificial offerings of cults today). The Mosaic covenant was established between 1 to 2 thousand years prior to Christ’s incarnation as Messiah; and the sacrifices of burnt offering has begun since the time of Adam and Eve, ranging between 3 to 5 thousand years prior to Christ on the cross. That is not to say that non-Christian offerings have not occurred during this time (if anything, they seem to overlap); but like every worship of pagan gods especially during the time of the Pharoah, they are false representations of true God of Israel, the God of the world and universe. They may display some vague hints at the prototype of the burnt offering, but they know not the significance of the offering. The worship of stars, the worship of idols, the sacrifices of their own sons and daughters as a sign of reverence to their self-made gods are all false representations of the true law laid down in Leviticus. Chronologically speaking, however, the earliest burnt offering (recorded in Scripture) being at the time of Abel means that the allegation of Old Testament Christianity ‘copy-catting’ other religions is unfounded, since Abel is Adam and Eve’s first son alongside Cain.

This is but a display of what happens to man when we fail to look at things Christologically – we think the action itself as barbaric; or we think the action itself as our works of salvation. Put Christ in the picture, and the action itself points to the true pain of Christ on the cross; put Christ in the picture, and it is Christ’s work of salvation which is gifted to us, not our work of salvation. Our mind should begin and end with Christ now that we are saved by the power of the Spirit: let us learn to look at the rest of Leviticus with Christological lenses as redeemed people of Christ.

Leviticus 1-2; 6:8-18 – The Sacrifices pt. 1

Exodus 31-33: The 10 words destroyed (pt. 1)

1.  The Filling of the Holy Spirit (Exodus 31:1-11)

2.  Sabbath (Exodus 31:12-18 )

3.  The Golden Calf (Exodus 32)

4.  Leaving Sinai – marks of the Holy Trinity (Exodus 33)

1.  The Filling of the Holy Spirit (Exodus 31:1-11)

Now, we see two specific mentioned; one of whom is specifically filled with the Spirit of God.  Bezalel (“in the shadow (protection) of God”) from the line of Judah was given the ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, working in gold, silver and bronze.

Oholiab (“the father’s tent”) contrarily, from the line of Dan, is appointed as Bezalel’s helper.

Then in v.6:  “…And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you…”

Why were Bezalel, from the line of Judah, and the Danite Oholiab specifically mentioned?  I’d like to hear your say on them: perhaps something to do with the scepter not departing from Judah, and justice coming from the tribe of Dan?  He who is in the protection of God, in the line of Judah vs. he who is in the father’s tent (i.e. the Father, 1st person of the Trinity) in the line of Dan?

I’d like to focus on another aspect: which is the mentioning of the Spirit filling someone specifically for the first time in Scripture (v.3).  What is the meaning of this?  Many people have decidedly interpreted John 8 that the Spirit is only given in part to the Old Testament saints, but there is no evidence of the Spirit dwelling within Bezalel, let alone (as v.6 says) all the able men who were also given the ability.  Can we be filled with the Spirit of God, without the indwelling of the Spirit?  Must we differentiate technical categories of illumination, regeneration, indwelling salvation, sanctification/filling of the Spirit?  Perhaps these distinctions are akin to the three-fold distinction of the Levitical law: completely trivial.

But this is not the first time the Spirit of God is in someone – look at Genesis 41:37-38 – The Spirit of God is in Joseph.  Numbers 27:18 – the Spirit of God is in Joshua.  Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves, but this happens many times throughout the Old Testament, prior to the giving of the Holy Spirit at the Pentecost.  But how do you reconcile that with John 7:37-39?  The Spirit is not yet given, as Jesus was not yet glorified!  Did Jesus contradict himself?

The problem is that people actually have a misinterpretation of John 7:33-39 – many think it refers to a different way of salvation; as if Christians are sealed with the Holy Spirit in the New Testament (post-Pentecostal age), and OT saints were saved differently.  But we have always had one mediator, Christ (1 Timothy 2:5); and only one mystery.

The Mystery of God

Some people think the “Mystery” refers to the Holy Spirit, but not really.  Dev has written a good post on the ‘mystery’, but here is my quick summary of his “quick” summary:  Ephesians 3:2-6 and Colossians 1:25-27, just two small examples, show that Paul’s explanation of the mystery as the inclusion of all nations within the blessings of Israel.  The revelation therefore isn’t the sudden arrival of the Holy Spirit (since he is so active in the OT), but the extension of His work to all nations.  The mystery is the global inter-racial church of both Jews and Gentiles.  That is the symbolism of Jonah 3-4; only after the sign of Jonah, the 3 days in death, resurrection and ascension, can Jonah then preach directly to a Gentile nation.  The response is national-scale salvation for Nineveh: but this story is prophetic of the necessity of Christ’s glorification for the Spirit to be given to the Gentiles as well.

So if we come back to John 7:33-39:  the Jews were actually concerned that Jesus is about to go and teach the Gentiles, but Jesus’ response affirms that the gospel is not just for the physical Israelite nation.  Anyone and everyone who comes to Him will receive the Holy Spirit; but AFTER he has been glorified (i.e. which is a direct reference to the cross John 12:23,34; 17:5), then the dividing curtain between the Jews and the Gentiles is destroyed.  Only then can the Spirit be given to anyone and everyone who believes on Him.  Only after the sign of Jonah, after the sign of the cross, can Nineveh be saved.  Jonah was a prophet unheard of in his time; no other prophet went out to evangelise to other nations.  Jesus was a prophet, priest and king unheard of in his time – yet he affirmed that this is the sign and meaning of Jonah’s minsitry.

The division between the indwelling and the filling of the Spirit is not yet laid at rest, because we haven’t considered comparing the difference between the ways the Spirit worked in the Old and in the New Testament; but the passages of 1 Timothy 2:5; 1 Corinthians 2; Jonah 3-4; John 7:33-39 point not to the Spirit given to the Jews only in the New Testament.  The Jews were already partakers of the gifts of the Old Testament, and the mystery of the New Testament fulfilled is the inclusion of the Gentiles in a different way from the OT (e.g. Rahab had to be assimilated into the Israelite community; but we don’t assimilate ourselves into the Israelite community today).  If the mystery is simply that of the inclusion of Gentiles, then that means the Gentiles are given the same gifts of salvation through the Spirit in the same way the OT saints have been enjoying all along.  This means that effectively, just as we are sealed and have the Spirit indwelling in us – so also the OT saints are possibly sealed by the Spirit, and He is indwelling in them.  We will come back to the Holy Spirit in the next post on chapters 34 onwards.

2.  Sabbath (Exodus 31:12-18 )

16Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. 17(U) It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that(V) in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and(W) on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.'”

God has repeated the significance of the Sabbath a number of 11 times between after the salvation of the Jews until now.  Clearly, this is quite important – and v. 17 etches it into their heads – it is a sign forever between me and the people of “the-God-who-fights”.  And how does God justify that model of the Sabbath?  Again, it is found in the model of creation, which is sufficient in preaching the gospel in itself.  Not observing the Sabbath will result in death; and this crime is therefore seen as heinous as that of intentional murder, and striking one’s parents.  There is a link between these heavy-sins – and it has nothing to do with the Catholic response to ‘grave’ or ‘mortal’ sins by HOW we repents.  Rather, these heavy-sins have something to do with a characteristic of God; and the Sabbath, like the respecting of one’s parents, are facets of the highest representation of God’s personality.  As I’ve stated, Sabbath represents our time in new Jerusalem where our time of rest (Genesis 2:15) in Paradise is restored and renewed.  If we forget the meaning of Sabbath, then we forget our purpose on earth; we thrive in the curse of God to toil on this earth, but God is deliberately pulling us away from that idolatrous mindset.

3.  The Golden Calf (Exodus 32)

The irony of this chapter is how quick the Israelites forgot about the LORD; especially the elders and those who ate with the LORD on the mountain of God – how is this possible?  And why does this terrible and infamous incident occur between the instructions of the tabernacle and the building of the tabernacle?

And in this period of testing, of 40 days and 40 night – the people wavered.  They had problems in waiting for Moses to come down, in the same way we have problems with waiting for Christ to return.  v.1 is very interesting: “Up, make us gods who shall go before us.” Why gods?  I think this has very much to do with the fact that they are faced with Two LORDS, the Angel and the Unseen Father; and one Spirit, thus numerically three Persons in the Triune God.

v.2-6 display a use of the gold which should have been used to build the Tabernacle with.  Instead, the gold is taken to create for themselves gods.  God makes clear that there is one golden calf (v.8 ), but the people are saying “these are your gods”. Clearly, there is a misunderstanding of some sort – but this is also a depiction of their understanding of Triune Oneness.  There may be one calf, but there are gods.  There may be one God, but THREE Persons.  However far this analogy can go, their golden calf is a perversion of the Three-in-Oneness of our God.

v.11-14 is very important: Moses asks God to remember the covenant between Him and their forefathers Abraham, Isaac, Israel, His servants.  Moses does not say: “Look at what we have done!  Look at our faithfulness!  Look at the signs which we kept!” – rather, he says “Remember what you promised us”.  Salvation is from the LORD, and only the LORD need remember what he has promised the Israelites.

Then comes v.19 – Moses threw the two tablets with the 10 words on them and broke them at the foot of the mountain.  Is he insane?  Does he not value the 10 words written by the finger of God?  Of course not – the significance of the breaking of the two tablets at the foot of the mountain is significant in the context of Moses’ righteous anger against the idolatrous Israelites.  Why did he break the tablets?  We’ll come to answer that in the next post when Moses receives two new tablets. The saddest thing of this ordeal, along with their idolatrous relationship with the idol outside of God, is that their evangelistic attempt to be a holy priesthood and a witness for all nations is crippled by this event, Exodus 32:25:

25And when Moses saw that the people had broken loose (for Aaron had let them break loose,(AH) to the derision of their enemies)

The enemies derided them; how much better would it have been if they remained loyal and faithful?  Indeed, salvation is of the LORD, but our interference and disobedience will lessen the credibility of the gospel given their lack of faith displayed by worshiping a golden calf.

Just three other things to quickly note in this chapter before coming back to that point of receiving 4 tablets in total in the next post:

(a)  Aaron’s nature to blame inherits that of Adam:  v.22-24 – “You know the people, that they are set on evil.  23  For they said to me, ‘Make us gods who shall go before us…24… So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf‘.  Firstly, the ridiculous logic of Aaron’s argument – did he not realise that Moses is spending time with the LORD?  Wasn’t Aaron meant to be Moses’ aide?  Instead, he sided with many and perverted justice (Exodus 23:2).  Secondly, how can a calf just come out of a fire refining gold, unless the calf was carefully sculpted?  Adam also said the same thing to God:  ‘it was the woman whom “YOU” gave me that led me to sin’.  How easy it is to place our blame on others.

(b)  Why did they create a golden calf of all creatures?  Ezekiel 1:10 – we see that the spiritual creatures have four faces: a lion, eagle, man and a bull.  Ezekiel 10:14 – again, the four faces appear but there is an alteration in the terminology: a lion, eagle, man and a cherub.  Ezekiel is referring to the same creature, but cherub and bull is interchangeable here.  It is likely that the face of a cherub is akin to the face of a bull, and this may help us understand why some world religions/cultures worship the calf because some divine creatures resemble bulls (i.e. Hindus who regard the cow as a sacred animal), or treat the calf as a sacred animal.  If Satan, as explained in Ezekiel 28 is a guardian cherub, then it is possible that the worship of the calf is a form of Satan-worship, explaining the LORD and Moses’ righteous anger.

(c)  v.26 speaks of the sons of Levi gathering around to kill three thousand men of the people (v.28 ).  Why this, and how is this related to their consequent ordination (v.29)?  Firstly, we should understand that this is the 50th day after Israel reached Sinai.  After reaching Sinai, they waited three days at the prompting of Christ, the Angel, to wait for the Father to descend to the top of the mountain of God.  Then Moses waited another 7 days before he spent another 40 days and 40 nights with the LORD (Exodus 19 and 24).  That totals to 50 days.

The sign of the third day and Jesus and the Father meeting on the third day is a prototypical display of Jesus’ victory over sin at the cross.  At the Pentecost, in Acts 2, 50 days after Jesus’ victory over sin at the cross, the LORD shook the earth and sent fire and the mighty Spirit to both Jews and Gentiles.  This is why in Acts 2:41, “3000 were added to their number that day”.  This is in direct contrast to the 50th day event here: the Levites ‘celebrated’ their Pentecost with the slaughter of 3000 as a sign of judgment; but the Christian disciples celebrated their Pentecost post-ascension with the addition of 3000 to the church of Christ, as a sign of salvation.  If you would (also notice, it is 50 days after which they left Egypt that Moses meets with the two Lords on Mount Sinai; and another 50 days before the 3000 were taken away by the Levites).  Any connection between the two sets of 50 days?

4.  Leaving Sinai: marks of the Holy Trinity (Exodus 33)

Remember throughout this chapter and previous chapters the fundament of Deuteronomy 4:12 – “no form” was seen, although this is the voice of the Yahweh-Person.  The GOD in the thick darkness is never seen – but then later, in v.7-11, Moses meets the LORD face to face as a man speaks to his friend in a tent pitched at the bottom of the mountain.  This is the seen Lord!  (v.9-11). Most importantly, note how Joshua/Yeshua, the son of Nun, remains in the tent when Moses turns to the Israelite church.

But Moses wants more than seeing the seen Lord face-to-face – he wants to also see the Unseen LORD, the Unseen Father!  But the Unseen LORD explains some very specific things: v.14 states that the LORD is happy for his presence (i.e. Christ, as explained in earlier posts) to go with them, but (v.19-23):

19…he said,(CX) “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And(CY) I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for(CZ) man shall not see me and live.” 21And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22and while my glory passes by I will put you in a(DA) cleft of the rock, and I will(DB) cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall(DC) not be seen.”

So v.20 solidifies that this is the Unseen Father speaking to Moses; and the Unseen Father wishes to reveal his backside to Moses, but only if Moses hides inside a cleft of a rock.  So also, when we hide inside the cleft of the Rock of Ages (Psalm 18:12) will we even bear the real existence of being before the Father, but that rock which Moses hid in is just a shadow of the true Rock which will completely cover us with His righteousness:

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure;
Save from wrath and make me pure. – hymn “Rock of Ages” by Augustus Montague Toplady on Moses hiding in the cleft of the rock

So Moses is not rejected by the end of this chapter; rather, he is already encouraged that the Father’s ‘presence’, in whom is the proclamation of the name “the LORD” (v.19), is already a sufficient goodness to reflect the Father’s glory.  But, as it still stands, v.20 shows that we cannot live if we meet with him face to face.  Which is why we must rely on the Angel whose name is “the LORD”; we must rely on God’s presence who will go with Moses; we must rely on the rock of ages cleft for us – and only through this mediator (1 Timothy 2:5) can we even come to meet the Father who resides in the Holy of Holies.

Conclusion

There are again marks of prophecy not only in these three chapters, but in the mysteriousness of why this incident of the golden calf occured in between the instructions and the making of the tablets; why the first set of tablets were destroyed and the meaning of the changes in the second tablets (as we will later see in the next post); why there are signs and allusions to the Pentecost (i.e. 50 days after leaving Egypt; 50 days after arriving at Sinai; 3 days waiting period vs. 7 days waiting period; 40 days and 40 nights of testing for those waiting at the bottom of the mountain) – and in general how this, like Abraham’s early actions by travelling in and around Canaan is a blueprint of the future.  I will try to wrap these points up in the next post.

Exodus 31-33: The 10 words destroyed (pt. 1)