LEVITICUS 1, 2, and 3
If you were a worship leader in the Old Covenant ‘church’, then you were in for a very messy time indeed! (And to think that we sometimes call it ‘Messy Church’ now!) Worship was seen primarily as sacrifice of some animal from the flock or the herd and was done to appease the anger of a holy God against the sins that you – or sometimes the entire nation – had committed. This was not an activity for the squeamish, but it was necessary at this time, it was commanded by God and it is a lesson for us now: who are we to choose how God is to be worshiped; that is entirely HIS choice. Since there is no similar New Testament equivalent of these Levitical instructions, we need the Holy Spirit to instruct us minute by minute on exactly how the Lord wishes to be worshiped. Indeed, this applies to our entire lives since our very existence and life is an offering of worship to the King of Kings. (See Romans 12:1+2 in The Message translation.)
There were FIVE main offerings (four of them found in today’s readings): Burnt-, Grain-, Fellowship-, Sin-, and Guilt- Offerings. The major theme of the Book of Leviticus was holiness: being specially set apart for God and his purposes (11:44). Consequently, each of these offerings had to be a perfect animal without defect, or the best of the grain harvest. No yeast was allowed to be used, because it ‘inflates’ or ‘puffs up’ and is therefore unreal; God wishes to have sincere, genuine, real worship from us. In the same way, no-one was permitted to offer a sacrifice on God’s altar if he/she was deformed, ill, blemished, diseased etc. This was a physical representation of a spiritual message today – and it in no way excludes the sick and disabled from the throne of God’s grace in our time.
Burnt Offerings were offered morning and evening for the whole of Israel, with double ones on the Sabbath. They were voluntary. They were completely consumed by the fire and expressed complete devotion to the Lord. Hands were first laid on their heads to express identification with that offering, it was slaughtered, and its blood sprinkled on the four corners (horns) of the great bronze altar. Then the carcass was thrown into the middle of the fire, and everything was burnt up. (This is the origin of the word: ‘Holocaust’; ‘Holo’ = whole, ‘Caust’ = burnt.) In New Covenant terms, this is a Romans 12:1 offering. A variety of animals or birds could be offered in this way, depending on the financial ability of the person making the offering.
Grain Offerings were, of course, bloodless, but usually accompanied the burnt offering. A handful of the grain’s flour was burnt in the flame, but the remainder was baked without yeast and eaten by the priests. It tasted similar to pie crust; I understand.
Fellowship Offerings were for peace and fellowship – peace inwardly and peace in the sense of fellowship between man and God. This offering was the only one that the donor themselves were able to eat of – a kind of fellowship meal, shared with God and with the priests. The carcasses of the Fellowship Offering were placed in the fire on top of the burnt offering.