6 Lessons from the Levitical Sacrifices

This is the law of the burnt offering, of the grain offering, of the sin offering, of the guilt offering, of the ordination offering, and of the peace offering.

–Leviticus 7:37

I don’t think that I am going very far out on a limb to say that the Bible reading plans of many derail somewhere in Leviticus. It all seems so foreign to us. And in some ways, it is. We do not live by this law, but live in light of the fulfillment of the law in the Lord Jesus. Yet we still are able to learn much from this earlier period of God’s covenantal relationship with his people.

The first seven chapters of Leviticus describe the rules and regulations of the various types of offerings to be brought before the Lord. Verse 37 summarizes those offerings which have been described. What are some of the lessons we can learn?

Leviticus 1-7 Wordle

Leviticus 1-7 Wordle

Lesson #1: Christ is both our sacrifice and our high priest.

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands; that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

–Hebrews 9:11-12

The reason we no longer offer these sacrifices is that Christ has been sacrificed for us. His blood was shed to remedy the shattered covenant men had with God. We receive by faith all of the benefits of his sacrificial death instead of having to make sacrifices ourselves.

Lesson #2: Offerings of sacrifice waft a pleasing aroma to the nostrils of God.

This is spelled out with regard to the particular sacrifices in 1:9, 1:13, 1:17, 2:2, 2:9, 2:12, 3:5, 3:16, 4:31. That is nine times that we are told that sacrifices are a pleasing aroma to God.

We don’t often think about his feature of God’s face. We think of him speaking with his mouth, hearing with his ears, and watching with his eyes. But he also smells with his nose. I came across one study in which the question was asked, “How do you smell to God?”

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Lesson #3: Purity and holiness matter.

These seven chapters speak often of sacrifices “without blemish” and of the distinction between that which is “clean” and “unclean.” In fact, the summary verse for all of Leviticus is found later in the book,

“Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy; for I the LORD your God am holy.”

–Leviticus 19:2

This lesson of holiness continues even though the levitical system has been fulfilled. Peter urges us to holiness.

But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

–1 Peter 3:15-16

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Lesson #4: Provisions are made for those who handle holy things.

In these first seven chapters of Leviticus, we read several times that a portion of some of the offerings were to be set aside for the benefit of the priests. While we don’t have priests in this manner in today’s church, the New Testament does teach that the church should provide for those who labor among them.

In fact, some are worthy of double.

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.

–1 Timothy 5:17

Lesson #5: Their is an identification with the offering of sacrifice.

Several times in these chapters we read of the laying of hands on the animal of sacrifice. This is intended to convey that the sin, guilt, offense or uncleanness is transferred from the individual to the animal. These sacrifices were never intended to be impersonal. The laying on of hands was a picture of identifying with and transferring to the sacrifice. By faith we identify with Christ on the cross. Our sin and guilt was transferred to him. So God looked upon Jesus with all of our sin and looks upon us with all of his obedience. By faith he wore our filthy rags and we now wear his spotless robe.

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This type of identification is also in mind when Paul exhorts believers,

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

–Romans 12:1

Lesson #6: God is merciful.

God was never required to allow humanity to transfer their guilt onto a sacrificial animal…or upon Christ. He would have been just in requiring that we pay the price for our own sin. Today if you are living without faith in the finished sacrifice of Christ, you will eventually pay that price for your own sin. Even to you he has shown mercy by not requiring that payment immediately upon your sin. For those who look to Christ as their sacrifice, God mercifully has accepted Christ’s payment on your behalf. If you grasp this, you will never again think of God has being harsh and unjust. He has proven himself to be both just and merciful.

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As you can see, the levitical sacrificial system is not void of lessons for us today. These are but six lessons that should loose your tongue to offer a sacrifice of praise to this just and merciful God.