Tending the Flame Part II: Sacrificial Offerings

Written by Dr. Christi Butler   July 2015

In yesterday’s blog post I began to teach about the need to tend the fire of God in our hearts. If you did not read the post entitled, “Tending the Flame Part I,” you may wish to read that now because it is the first half of this lesson.

In that previous post I discussed Leviticus 6:12-13 which says, And the fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it; it shall not be put out. And the priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and lay the burnt offering in order on it; and he shall burn on it the fat of the peace offerings. 13 A fire shall always be burning on the altar; it shall never go out.”

Under the Old Covenant the priests were given a command to tend to the fire of God and to see to it that the fire never went out. In the New Testament, the believer is the temple of the living God (1 Cor. 6:19), and the fire of the Spirit of God is to burn eternally on the altar of the human heart. Under the Old Covenant, the priests had to care for the fire that God had provided by grace. In much the same way, in the New Covenant, we (believers) are called to watch over, care for, and guard the fire of God that came into our hearts by grace through faith when we invited Jesus Christ to be our Lord and Savior.

With this in mind, I was considering the various offerings that were made by the priests, because in many ways the offerings were used to fuel the fire. They were used to keep the fire perpetually burning on the altar. Therefore, I wanted to see if there was something I could learn about fueling the fire of God in my life by looking at the various types of offerings that were ordained by God under the Old Covenant. This is what I found —

There are many types of offerings listed in the law. In Lev. 1, and also in chapter 6:8-13, the Burnt Offering is described. The burnt offering was of a male lamb, a male goat, a male dove, or a young pigeon depending on what the person who was giving the offering could afford. This offering was to be a voluntary offering given freely from the heart as a “propitiation” or payment for the sin of the person making the offering. The individual making the offering would lay his or her hand on the head of the animal that was to be sacrificed, thereby symbolically transferring their sin to the animal. The animal would then completely consumed by fire on the altar.

As New Testament Christians, this should remind us that all of our sins were completely transferred to Christ when we entered into a faith relationship with Him. He became for us the “lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). He also became our “propitiation,” or ransom payment for sin (1 John 2:2). Just as the burnt offering was completely consumed by fire on the altar, so to our sins were completely consumed by God Himself when Jesus died on the cross. Hallelujah!

So, what does this have to do with us maintaining the fire of God in our lives? I think the Lord placed all of these instructions about sacrifices in the Bible so we could consciously look at the Word and remember what Christ has done for us. God wants us to come before Him in prayer “voluntarily,” (just like the Old Testament saints did when the Burnt Offering was made), and He wants us to lay our hand on Jesus; He wants us to hand Him all of our sin and receive back the grace of forgiveness that is available to us because He has become our propitiation.

God wants us to remember that our sins were consumed by the death of Christ on the cross, and then He wants the reality of that truth to ignite thanksgiving and praise. God wants the revelation of Christ as our burnt offering to fuel a flame of passionate love for Christ that can never be extinguished.

The next type of offering that was burned on the altar was the Grain Offering or Cereal Offering (see Lev. 2, and 6:14-23). This was an offering of flour, bread, or grain made with olive oil and salt, and was also accompanied by the burning of incense. This was a voluntary first fruits offering. In other words, the worshipper gave the first portion of his or her grain harvest to the Lord as a freewill act of thankfulness for God’s provision in their life. The offering was made with incense to symbolize worship ascending to heaven as a sweet-smelling and pleasing offering to God.

This offering should remind the New Testament Christian about the reality of God as our provider. Just as God provided the grain for the harvest under the Old Covenant, Christ now provides for us both spiritually and physically under the New Covenant. He is the ultimate source for all spiritual and physical sustenance. Jesus is “the bread of life” (John 6:35), and He has become the “firstfruits” (1 Cor. 15:20-23) of those who will be raised from the dead. He is the first of the harvest of redeemed human beings from the earth.

Therefore, as Christians, we are to look at this type of grain offering under the Old Covenant and we are to remember with great praise and thanksgiving how Jesus is the first fruits of the harvest. He has gone before us into the grave and been raised up to the right hand of the Father. Therefore, we can know with certainty that because we believe, we will also be raised from the dead and given eternal life in the presence of God. Meditating on this truth should kindle fresh fire in our hearts to continually praise the Lord and give Him the first fruits of all of our increase. Furthermore, our prayers of praise and thanksgiving should ascend to God as a sweet-smelling aroma like the incense that was burned on the altar.

Next, Leviticus described the Fellowship Offering or Peace Offering (Lev. 3, and 7:11-36; 22:17-30; 27). This was also a voluntary offering of any animal “without blemish” (and in some cases this could be a grain offering). This offering was given to God as an act of thankfulness for God’s many blessings. Secondarily, this offering was made when a person wished to make a vow or special commitment to the Lord (see Gen. 31:43). As the name, “Fellowship or Peace Offering” implies, this offering was about being in covenant communion with God. Peace was made between God and man through the shedding of blood, and it is through the shedding of blood that a person can enter into covenant with God. For without the shedding of blood there is no remission for sin (Heb. 9:22).

As New Testament Christians, we should look at this offering and remember that Christ has made peace with God for us by dying on the cross for our sins (see Eph. 2:15). Jesus was the lamb that was offered “without blemish” so we could be brought into covenant relationship and fellowship with the Father. And now because He has made “peace,” we should give God our vow that we will serve Him in thankfulness all the days of our life. God has reconciled us to Himself through the death of Christ on the cross (Rom. 5:10). Let this truth fan into flame the fire of God in your heart.

The last couple of offerings that are mentioned in Leviticus are the Sin Offering and the Guilt Offering(Lev. 4:1-5; 6:24-30; 12:6-8; 13; and Lev. 5:14-6:7;7:1-6;14:12-18). The Sin Offering could be a bull, a male goat for the king, a male or female lamb or goat without blemish for the common person, a dove or pigeon for the poor, or a tenth of an ephah of flour for the very poor. The Guilt Offering was a lamb without blemish. Both of these offerings were mandatory and were for the purpose of cleansing a person from various sins.

The importance for the New Testament Christian is this: Jesus Christ has become our sacrificial lamb. He has become the mandatory offering to pay the penalty for sin on our behalf. Jesus Christ has paid for our intentional sins and our unintentional sins once and for all. As we meditate on this we should fully receive forgiveness for sin and lay hold of the tremendous power of grace in our lives. These truths should kindle the fire of God within us and keep it perpetually burning on the altar of our hearts. Praise God, Hallelujah, and Amen!

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