The sacrificial system God set up in Israel teaches us how He wants to be worshiped. It also shows how Jesus Christ worshiped the Father perfectly. The details of these sacrificial laws correspond to the details of Christ’s offering. They help us zoom in on His perfect example so that we can better appreciate and follow it.
Read Hebrews 10:1. These sacrifices were offered continually for years. They didn’t actually perfect anyone, but they were a remarkable illustration foreshadowing good things to come. If you follow the shadow of something, it leads you to the real thing.
Continue reading in verse 6. This verse shows the two types of offering: the sweet savor (represented by “burnt offerings”) and “sacrifices for sins.” They are quite different from each other, and each points to a spiritual reality.
See what happened to those physical offerings in verses 9-10. All those physical offerings and animal sacrifices were taken away, replaced by the offering of Jesus Christ, which sanctifies God’s people.
Christ is our example, and we want to follow in His footsteps and offer ourselves as living sacrifices. But when you study how perfectly Christ fulfilled those types, you get a better idea of just how difficult this truly is!
A Perfect Offering
With some of the sacrifices we covered in the last article in this series, we see that God expected the Israelites to offer an “unblemished lamb.” But notice how detailed God gets about His desire that these animals be of the highest quality—even perfect—because of how they pointed to His Son. Read this in Leviticus 22:21-24. These animals pictured Christ, but this also shows that whenever we offer something to God, it should have the highest quality.
The quality of the animal the Israelites offered was an emblem of the quality of their love for God. Read Malachi 1:8, where God condemns Laodicean ministers for offering poor-quality spiritual offerings. “Do we realize what we are doing when we offer lame, puny, weak sacrifices?” Gerald Flurry wrote in The God Family Vision. “Can’t we muster up enough strength—through prayer, study, fasting and meditating on God’s Word—to give our best to God? He died for us! We would not even have this opportunity if He hadn’t done that. There is a tremendous cost for sin. Don’t take these sacrifices lightly.”
Look at the quality of Christ’s sacrifice! In Ezekiel: The End-Time Prophet, Mr. Flurry wrote, “If Christ had been a sick and lame sacrifice, you and I would have no future. God wants us to imitate His sacrifice (Philippians 2:5).” You are a spiritual sacrifice for God today—either a good one or bad one (Romans 12:1). He continued, “Are you giving God a lame sacrifice? A sick sacrifice? Or a royal, Christ-like sacrifice? God isn’t interested now in animal sacrifices. He is deeply concerned about you as a sacrifice.”
The Daily Sacrifice
God always works on many different levels. As we study these sacrifices, we are learning about Christ and being forced to evaluate ourselves. But there is still another dimension that we should remember: This sacrificial system typified the Work of God that we are part of. Consider the prophecy in Daniel 8 about the 1,150 days between Herbert W. Armstrong’s death and God beginning to reveal Malachi’s Message. In that prophecy, God expressed this period in terms of 2,300 sacrifices—evening and morning—that would have been offered during that time. Let’s briefly look at God’s command for that daily sacrifice.
Read Exodus 29:38-42. The priests gave these two sweet savor offerings every day on the altar, morning and evening. It was a type of the daily work of the Church today—the television program, magazines, booklets, websites and the other work of the ministry. Those constant spiritual sacrifices are even referred to in prophecy as “the daily” or “the continual.” When the Prophet Daniel described the Church becoming Laodicean, he referred to that spiritual tragedy as the “daily” being removed—the evening and morning sacrifices ceasing (Daniel 8:11-13; 11:31). When the Philadelphia Church of God began, it had to spiritually resurrect these evening and morning sacrifices. When we are taken to the place of safety, again Daniel describes that as the “daily” being removed (Daniel 12:11; this is explained in Gerald Flurry’s booklet Daniel Unsealed at Last!).
God told Israel’s priests He wanted the fire on the sacrificial altar to remain burning all the time. It was “holy fire.” See those instructions in Leviticus 6:8-9. The fire of the evening sacrifice had to be built in such a way that it would burn slowly and keep burning throughout the night. Then it had to continue through the day. See also verses 12-13. This vividly pictured God’s continual presence at the altar. God represents Himself or His presence as a fire (e.g. Exodus 3:2; 13:21-22; 19:18; Deuteronomy 4:24; 9:3; Malachi 3:2; Acts 2:3; Hebrews 12:29). The priests had to ensure this fire burned continually. “The fire was never to go out. Since the altar is a type of the ministry, they are responsible to keep God’s spiritual fire burning today. This is their duty. This is why they are here!” Mr. Flurry wrote. “God always speaks through those who tremble at His word. That is the real spiritual fire on God’s altar. … The fire continues to burn, even if God has to raise up another Church. That is exactly what He is doing in this end time” (Trumpet, August 1996).
Those priests constantly stoked that fire. Likewise, Paul commands us in 1 Thessalonians 5:19 to quench not the Spirit—an allusion to the continual fire on the altar. God tells us, Don’t let that flame die! Keep stoking it. This is a priestly responsibility for every one of God’s people today! Make your individual offerings to God morning and evening—and put as much fuel on there as is needed to keep the flame burning. “This is the fire that should have been ‘continual’ in all of God’s people. The Laodiceans are no longer doing God’s temple or Church Work” (ibid).
The Peace Offering
Having covered the significance of the first two sweet-savor offerings—the burnt and meal offerings—let’s look at the third: the peace offering. This is a beautiful and special offering because not only was it consumed by God and the priests, but it was also shared by the offerer and even by the priest’s family. The peace offering was like a “family dinner”—a communal feast.
Look at God’s part in Leviticus 3:1-5. God received His part first as it was burned on the altar as a sweet savor. His part was basically the blood, the fat and the innards. See who next received a part in Leviticus 7:29-34. The priest had his part as well—and even his children partook of it.
Now see how even the offerer has his part in verse 15. His and he refer to the offerer. The thanksgiving offering was one type of peace offering. For the thanksgiving offering, God said, Make sure to eat it all that day. God completely consumed the burnt offering. The meal offering was completely consumed, partially on the altar, the rest by the priest. But here, the offerer himself also enjoyed a portion of this meal! See an example of this in Deuteronomy 27:7.
The Israelite family that gave a peace offering came into a special communion with God and with the priesthood as they shared this meal together! How remarkable: In spite of our sins—our failures and limitations—God considers us Family. We are members of Christ’s body, fellow-heirs, sons—Christ’s Bride! This is a picture of man feasting with God.
Remember, it is only Christ in us that makes this possible; He makes the offering on our behalf (e.g. 1 Peter 2:5). But as we allow Him to live in us, it opens up this beautiful Family communion with God! Christ serves as our Mediator with God the Father. This offering even pictures Christ as the priest sharing in the meal. It gives you a sense of the joy Christ has in fulfilling that role (e.g. Hebrews 7:25). He loves to see us in fellowship with God, and at peace with God. On the night of the Passover, Christ said, “With desire I have desired to eat this [sacrifice] with you” (Luke 22:15).
Offerings Spread Joy
Read Leviticus 7:16 to see a couple more varieties of peace offerings: vow and voluntary (freewill). In these cases, the offerer was allowed to bring some of his portion home and have it the next day—though he couldn’t save it any longer than that (verse 17). God didn’t want him trying to preserve it and stretching it out over time. God wanted it to be fresh.
What do you do if you have a lot of extra perishable food that you can’t finish and can’t store? You invite people over and have a feast! In this case, God blessed the offerer in a way that inspired him to give this special offering—and God wanted him to spread that blessing and joy by sharing it with others! According to the Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary, the law requiring this meat to be eaten so quickly “clearly implied that the offerer was to entertain his friends in a festive manner. … The peace offerings … were to be eaten with festivity, communicated to their friends with liberality, and bestowed on the poor with great generosity—that these might partake with the offerers of those sacred [foods] with joy before the Lord.”
This follows the same basic principle as second tithe: We have quite a bit of money, and God instructs us to use it all for the specific purpose of keeping the Feast with joy! We’re not to save it or hoard it—we must enjoy it to the full, and be generous with it, taking care of those who don’t have as much.
What a lovely aspect of God’s sacrificial offerings. People tend to think of the sacrifices as being horrible and oppressive. But in reality, the offerings of a sweet savor were very positive—and the peace offering in particular was a joyful blessing that the person offering it could personally enjoy!
In the burnt offering, we have a picture of God completely pleased and satisfied with the offering of His Son. Here, we have the additional picture of Christ receiving satisfaction from having fulfilled that offering, and what that represents for the God Family. “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied …” (Isaiah 53:11). We likewise receive a great deal of satisfaction from giving ourselves in offering to God. For example, we start our prayers every day by sincerely praising God, focusing on His greatness. God surely appreciates that praise, but it is also deeply satisfying to us to set our minds on those wonderful, positive things about God! That is just one way that we have communion with God where we are satisfied with the offering. Getting our minds on the peace offering of Christ really gives us spiritual nourishment!
The Sin Offering
The burnt, meal and peace offerings were all sweet-savor offerings. As we have seen, Christ gave Himself as “an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour” (Ephesians 5:2). Now we come to the sin offering—probably the type we are best acquainted with. In this offering, the sacrifice was offered and killed as a type of payment for the sin of the offerer. It was not a sweet savor to God; it was payment, and it was mandatory. Christ also perfectly fulfilled this sacrifice (Galatians 1:4; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 2:2). He gave Himself as our sin offering.
Read about the sin offering in Leviticus 4:3. Like the others, the sin offering had to be without blemish. Any blemish would make this offering unfit to bear the sins of others. If Christ had committed a single sin, His death would have only paid for His own sin! Just a single wrong desire in His heart, a single misspoken word, a single unholy act, and He Himself would have needed atonement! Meditate on the perfectness of that sacrifice. Consider how hard He was tempted by Satan day after day after day—tried in every possible way. Yet He was always found to be holy.
Continue reading in verse 4. The bullock was personally slaughtered by the sinner. This is powerfully symbolic: Each one of us bears personal responsibility for killing Christ because we have committed sins.
The priest took some of the blood from this slaughter and sprinkled it on the incense altar. He poured out the rest of the blood at the base of the sacrificial altar. After that, he burned the fat from the entrails, kidneys and liver on the altar. This showed that, even though it bore the sins of others, the offering itself was perfect! But the rest of the animal, the priest carried outside the camp.
See more details in verses 11-12 and 21. All the sweet savor sacrifices were burned on the altar inside the tabernacle, but the sin offering was killed and burned outside the camp—in the wilderness. This was a prophecy of how Jesus Christ would be crucified outside the city, in Golgotha, and forsaken by His Father. Every sin offering in Israel pictured that coming sacrifice.
The penalty incurred by the sin of the offerer had to be paid. It is altogether too easy for us to take the forgiveness we receive for granted, but in Israel, it cost the life of the sinner’s best animal—a penalty that stung.
Notice what Paul wrote in Hebrews 9:22. This is talking about the need for animal sacrifice, of sin offering, when someone sinned. All that blood—spilled continually in ancient Israel—pointed to Christ’s blood. God created the concept of blood, surely in no small part to help us recognize the heavy price of sin! The wages of sin is death: the shedding of the life, which is in the blood. This offering gives us a grueling picture of what sin did to Christ!
Read Hebrews 13:11. This is speaking specifically about the sin offering. Continue in verse 12. Our sin offering had to perish outside Jerusalem. The geographical separation between Golgotha and Jerusalem was a type of the spiritual separation between Him and God! Christ loved Jerusalem: He preached and performed miracles throughout Jerusalem. He had chosen Jerusalem! He recognized it as a symbol of His vision for the eternal future. He wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19). But when He became sin, He had to be put outside the city. Christ was spotless—completely sinless—yet at that moment, He wasn’t a sweet savor. He was accursed of God. On the stake, He cried out, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” Sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2). God will not have sin in His presence. And to pay the death penalty for us, Christ had to become sin. This is why He had to be killed and buried outside Jerusalem. He was cast out so we could be “brought near” to God (Isaiah 53:3-8; Ephesians 2:13).
The better we understand what happened there, the better we understand how abhorrent sin is! “Can you imagine how vile and grotesque sin is to actually claim the life of our Creator?” Mr. Flurry wrote. “That was the cost. Think about that! That is what sin cost the God Family. … How much does the Father hate sin? What does Christ think about when He thinks about sin?” (Royal Vision, March-April 2010). They think about how a God being was slaughtered for it! “It takes the blood of God in the flesh to pay for our sins. God set that penalty for sin. We must strive to be sinless! If we don’t try to avoid sin the way Christ did, then it is clear we don’t understand this as we should.”
Understanding this sin sacrifice should motivate us to avoid sin and to obey God.
The Trespass Offering
God also commanded the trespass offering as payment for sin, but it was actually intended to rectify a particular wrong. In the sin offering, the specific sin isn’t mentioned—it only speaks of the sinner. When God commands the trespass offering, He specifies certain acts, but He does not mention the person. The sacrifice for trespass is offered to recompense a sin committed by a person; the sacrifice for sin is offered to recompense the sin within a person.
See how this is explained in Leviticus 5:15-16. Here is a case where someone sinned against God, “through ignorance, in the holy things.” Perhaps God showed the person something he was unwittingly doing wrong in his worship of Him. Whatever the details of the specific trespass, you see the uniqueness of this offering: The priest determined how much injury had been done, and the person who caused this wrong paid it back, plus 20 percent.
Continue in verse 17. A person’s ignorance didn’t remove his guilt. God determines right from wrong—He defines what sin is. You must not trust your reasoning, your opinions or your conscience to tell you right from wrong; only God’s revealed truth establishes the standard.
See the commands regarding trespass against another person in Leviticus 6:2-6. In this situation, the sinner had to give a trespass offering to the priest, typifying Christ’s sacrifice. But with the offering, he also had to recompense the person he had wronged—plus an extra 20 percent, equivalent to a double tithe. When we commit a wrong against someone, we actually wrong both that person and God. This offering shows the offerer fulfilling his obligation to both—by giving the offering to God, and then fixing the wrong against the person—plus 20 percent.
Consider the difference between sin and trespass. With sin in general—as far as our sinful nature is concerned—the death of the sinner fully pays for it. With the sin offering, justice was completely fulfilled with the death of the animal. With trespass, however, that death doesn’t satisfy the wrong of the trespass. This was committed against a particular party, and justice demands that that specific wrong be made right—that the damage be fully repaid.
Read Numbers 5:5-8. God saw to it that this wrong was more than repaid: The person who suffered wrong actually gained something from it. Certainly this penalty was corrective to the person who had committed the wrong, but for the person wronged, what had been a curse in the form of the thing lost actually became a blessing. This is a marvelous illustration of the true justice of God.
An Example to Follow
These daily, sweet savor, vow, voluntary, sin and trespass offerings give us a remarkable view of what Christ achieved both in life and in death. As Peter said, “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (1 Peter 2:21). This is what we should aspire to give God in our own lives! And with Christ in us, making those offerings on our behalf, we can do it.
Read the encouragement offered in Hebrews 13:15-16. God will actually be well pleased with our sacrifices! We too “are unto God a sweet savour of Christ”! (2 Corinthians 2:15). Paul praised the Philippians for offering “an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18). We can do the same!
“Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20-21).