Introductory Note: We are spending all of January on Leviticus and unlike Exodus where a ton of action happens, this is mostly legalities and rituals and laws God institutes among His people. Thus, the reading will be frankly boring. The details here are unimportant. Try to read with a big picture view as to what kind of people God wanted and how he wanted them to live. How would these laws have set them apart from the nations around them and made them His?
Summary of passage: Exodus 40:34-35: The cloud covered the Tent of Meeting and God’s glory filled the tabernacle and Moses could not enter.
Leviticus 1: Lord speaks to Moses about the kinds of offerings He wants brought. If it’s from the herd or the flock, it must be a male without defect. It is to be slaughtered and the blood sprinkled on the altar. It is to be cut in pieces and burnt. If it be a bird, it is to be a dove or young pigeon, head wrung, and blood drained on the altar and then burned.
3a) The Lord had just inhabited the tabernacle with His glory.
b) The whole purpose of the tabernacle was to offer sacrifices to the Lord and now that it was complete and the Lord’s presence was there, it only made sense to begin offering sacrifices to God and to atone for their sins. Up until now, sacrifices had been made but haphazardly with no clear direction. Here, God makes it clear what He wants.
4a) A male without defect from the herd or flock (cows or sheep or goats) or a dove or young pigeon.
b) Present it at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting so that it will be acceptable to the Lord. The person is to lay his hands on the head of the burnt offering and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him. Then he is to slaughter it before the Lord.
c) It was killed, its blood was sprinkled on the altar. It was skinned and cut into pieces, placed on the altar by Aaron or his sons and burnt. It was to atone for sins and honor God with an aroma pleasing to Him.
5a) God dwells with His people through the indwelt Holy Spirit inside of us, given to us when Christ sacrificed himself for our sins.
b) Thank you, Lord, for sending your Son to die for me. For gifting us with the Holy Spirit and for being so near. Words are insufficient. Amen.
Conclusions: What I like about reading these passages in the Old Testament is they give me an appreciation of how lucky I am to live on this side of heaven and not have to do daily, ritual sacrifices. I get a new sense of gratitude and humbleness of God’s grace and majesty.
End Notes: Israel is still encamped at the base of Mount Sinai where they will remain throughout all of Leviticus. Chapters 1-5 of Leviticus deal with personal offerings. Chapters 6-7 deal with priest offerings. Thus, the first 7 chapters of Leviticus are all about offerings.
Sacrifices had to be made for sin. Offering sacrifices has been around since the beginning of time. Now, God just formalizes it.
The sacrifices had to be domesticated animals. They had to cost the person something. They had to be freely offered. They had to be male because the males were thought stronger and more valuable. They had to be perfect like Jesus was perfect.
With the placing of the hand on the animal, the person is transferring their sin to the animal to die in his place and accepting the sacrifice in place of his own–just like we must accept Jesus as our Savior.
The Hebrew word for atonement means to cover but this is different in the Old Testament than in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, that was all that was possible–to cover up one’s sins. With Jesus, sin is eliminated ‘at-one-ment.’
The point of all of these regulations was to surrender all to God and to do it His way, not yours. To do it with the right heart.
Fun Fact: Atonement appears over 50 times in the book of Leviticus.
Fun Fact: The phrase “before the Lord” is used more than 60 times in the book of Leviticus, more than in any other book of the Bible.
Interesting Fact: The word “holocaust” which means burnt whole comes from this practice of the Israelites of offering up the entire animal to God. The Jews themselves began referring to Hitler’s mass destruction of them by the gas chambers and ovens as “the Holocaust.”