“He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, that it may be accepted for him to make atonement on his behalf. He shall slay the young bull before the Lord; and Aaron’s sons the priests shall offer up the blood and sprinkle the blood around on the altar that is at the doorway of the tent of meeting.”-Leviticus 1:4-5
The monumental event of history was when the second person of the Trinity, the Lord Jesus Christ, offered Himself as a sacrifice on the cross for His people. The time leading up to this grand event was a time when God would prepare His people for the coming of Christ. He did so through His written revelation; specifically, through the Ceremonial Laws of Israel. It would be through the sacrificial system that the work of the coming Messiah would be displayed, or rather would be expounded upon through the ritual sacrifices. Take for instance the Burnt Offering in Leviticus 1. The Burnt Offering was the most common offering given to the Lord during the administration of the Old Covenant ordinances. The worshiper would select an animal from the herd of flock, a male without defect, and offer it before the Lord at the Tent of Meeting. In this act of worship, the person bringing the offering would lead the animal into the courtyard of the Tabernacle, lay his or her hand upon the head of the animal, and slay it in order that atonement be made on behalf of the worshiper. The priests, then, collected the blood and offered it to the Lord signifying that a life had been taken. The priest skinned the animal, and placed upon the altar that the fire would consume the sacrifice entirely. Another interesting fact about this offering, is that the entire animal was offered. No part was kept for the priests, but the animal was completely given as a sacrifice to the Lord.
We may look at this and say, “Ok. So What? What’s the significance here?” The significance of the Burnt Offering is that Christ is all through his! His sacrificial work is put on display in this offering, and through this text, we are given more understanding of what Christ accomplished for sinners. Let me explain. First, the worshiper was to get an animal from the flock or herd. Why the herd or flock? It was because the Lord desired that a domestic animal be brought as a sacrifice. Again, why? Because a domestic animal will be a tame animal; it will not fight back. It will follow whoever is leading it into the place where it will be slaughtered. The Lord Jesus Christ was also a submissive offering. Isaiah 53:7 states, “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth. Leviticus 1:3 says, “…he shall offer it, a male without defect…” The worshiper was to bring the choicest of all the flock; that which was most valuable. The apostle Peter stated in 1 Peter 1:18-19, “Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things…but with the precious (most valuable) blood as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.” The Lord Jesus was without sin, but was, fully and actually, righteous; moreover, He was the perfect offering.
In addition, the Lord Jesus was a substitutionary offering. The animal from the herd of flock was slayed on behalf of the worshiper “that he may be accepted before the Lord.” The worshiper would lay his or her hand upon the animal, and this signified a transferring of sins from the person to the animal. As a result, the animal, as a substitute, was paying the penalty of the worshiper’s sins. The Scripture tells us in Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death.” This is exactly what our Lord Jesus did on the cross. Again, Isaiah 53:6 states, “But the Lord caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 states, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Christ became sin for us, and as a result took the wrath of God upon Himself as our substitute. Romans 325, Hebrews 2:17, 1 John 2:2, and 1 John 4:10 state that Christ is our propitiation; meaning, He took upon Himself the wrath of God as our substitute and satisfied God’s justice. This is signified in the Burnt Offering as the entire animal was consumed on the fire (representing God’s wrath) and the smoke of the offering was a soothing aroma to the Lord (signifying that the offering was accepted). Christ, having completed His work, said, “Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit.” Christ’s offering was accepted.
Understanding the Old Covenant sacrificial system is vital for us, because, as we have seen, the work of Christ is detailed in the offerings. Let us look to these often ignored Scriptures that give us so much description of what the Lord Jesus accomplished for us. These Scriptures are rich in content and will lift our hearts in praise to our Lord. Soli Deo Gloria!
Joshua Banks is senior pastor and founder of Shepherd’s Rock Bible
Church in Kingsport, TN. He holds a Bachelors degree in Ministry from
Luther Rice University, a Master of Arts in Theological Studies, and a
Master of Divinity both from Liberty University. Joshua and his wife
Amanda, along with their 5 children, reside in Gate City, VA.