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Up In Smoke

Leviticus 1:9 - And the priest shall offer up in smoke all of it on the altar for a burnt offering, an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the Lord.

Leviticus 2:9 - The priest then shall take up from the grain offering its memorial portion, and shall offer it up in smoke on the altar as an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the Lord.

Leviticus 7:31-32 - And the priest shall offer up the fat in smoke on the altar; but the breast shall belong to Aaron and his sons. And you shall give the right thigh to the priest as a contribution from the sacrifices of your peace offerings.

Leviticus 4:19-21 - And the priest shall remove all its fat from it and offer it up in smoke on the altar. He shall also do with the bull just as he did with the bull of the sin offering; thus he shall do with it. So the priest shall make atonement for them, and they shall be forgiven. Then he is to bring out the bull to a place outside the camp, and burn it as he burned the first bull; it is the sin offering for the assembly.

Leviticus 7:5 - And the priest shall offer them up in smoke on the altar as an offering by fire to the Lord; it is aguilt offering.

Read all of Leviticus 1-7.

When we say that something went up in smoke, we usually mean that the time invested in it was wasted. The project amounted to nothing. The effort was to no avail. We do our best not to associate with anything that looks like it might possibly go up in smoke!

When we come to the Old Testament offerings described in the Book of Leviticus, we frequently read the phrase, "offered up in smoke." (See the New American Standard Translation.) In some cases it was the whole sacrifice and in some cases it was only part of the sacrifice that was offered up in smoke on the altar. In some cases a significant part of the sacrifice was burned "outside the camp." Why the differences? In fact, why is so much detail prescribed for the preparation and presentation of the Old Testament offerings if most of it was just destined to "go up in smoke?"

The basic answer, of course, to the question above is that all of the different details of the preparation and presentation of the offerings are symbolic of different aspects of the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was the great Sacrifice pictured in all the Old Testament sacrifices. He was the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world," announced by John the Baptist. All five of the different types of offerings described in the first seven chapters of Leviticus merge to form one grand spiritual picture of the perfect Sacrifice who was offered at Calvary. Just as God chose to have four Gospels written to fully describe the perfections of the Son of God as He lived on earth, so God chose to have five different Old Testament offerings to give a full and complete spiritual picture of our Lord as the perfect Sacrifice.

In the burnt offering (Leviticus 1:1-17, 6:8-13), where all of the sacrifice went up in smoke on the altar, Christ is pictured as the totally committed Son of God, who voluntarily offered Himself up before God the Father. The Son of God Himself spoke prophetically in Psalm 40, one of the Messianic psalms of David, "I delight to do Thy will, O my God." He was pleased to do the Father's will even to the point of death. Just as an animal which had no defect was chosen for the burnt offering and was totally consumed on the altar, so our Lord in total commitment "offered Himself without blemish to God" (Hebrews 9:14). What a model for us to follow! Let us "present our bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship" (Romans 12:1). Although the world considers such sacrifice a wasted life, we know that what is offered "up in smoke" before God is of eternal value.

In the grain offering (Leviticus 2:1-16, 6:14-23), the fine flour represents the perfectly even and balanced life of the Lord Jesus. The oil and frankincense associated with this offering are a picture of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of our Lord, and of the fragrance of His life before God the Father. It seems that the grain offering (known also as the meal or cereal offering), the only bloodless offering, was normally offered along with a blood sacrifice. (See Exodus 29:38-42 and Numbers 15: 1-12, for example.) Certainly this detail reminds us of the great truth that "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (Hebrews 9:22). When the grain offering was cooked in any way before it was offered, it was to be cooked without leaven. Since leaven throughout the Bible appears to symbolize evil, the preparation of the grain offering "under fire"before going up in smoke on the altar clearly portrays the sinless sufferings that our Lord endured throughout His life before the sufferings of the cross. (See Hebrews 2:18 and Hebrews 5:8.)

In the peace offering (Leviticus 3:1-17, 7:11-36), Christ is seen as the basis of our peace and fellowship. Without the sacrifice of Christ there would be no peace between us and God. Since the Lord Jesus "made peace through the blood of His cross" (Colossians 1:20), we are no longer "alienated and hostile" but reconciled to God. (See Colossians 1:21-22.) The fellowship that now exists between us and God because of Christ is particularly noticeable in certain features of the peace offering. In this offering, unlike the burnt offering, parts of the sacrifice were given to the priests for food. Thus both God and the priests had a portion of the sacrifice. As "believer-priests" today we have our portion in Christ and it is in Him alone that we have peace and fellowship with God.

An interesting feature of the peace offering which portrays our fellowship with God is the type of cakes or bread that were offered along with the sacrifice. The peace offering is unique in that leavened bread was allowed along with the unleavened type. (See Leviticus 7:12-13.) The truth pictured here is that we who are sinners, represented by the leavened bread, can have fellowship with a holy God. While we are now forgivensinners, we must never forget that we are not holy yet! But we can rejoice that because Christ is the peace offering, we (who still struggle with sin on a daily basis) can actually have fellowship with a holy God!

Because of the sacrifice of Christ, we are not only at peace with God but at peace with one another. We read in Ephesians 2:14 that "Christ Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall." The dividing wall spoken of here represents the Mosaic Law and all of the associated obstacles to fellowship between Jew and Gentile. All barriers to peace and fellowship for all believers have been removed in the cross of Christ. This great truth is also portrayed in the details of the peace offering. With this offering, and only in this offering, the offerer and his friends could eat a part of the sacrifice that was not designated to go up in smoke on the altar. When an individual brought the peace offering as a voluntary offering of thanksgiving, it was a time of great joy and happiness for that individual and for those who participated with him in the eating of the sacrifice. The sacrifice was obviously the basis of their fellowship and a practical picture of the happy unity that should exist between believers because of Christ.

In the sin offering (Leviticus 4:1-35, 5:1-13, 6:24-30), the sin-bearing aspect of Christ's work on the cross is emphasized. In the first three offerings we saw that the emphasis was on Christ's own perfections. In contrast, in both the sin offering and the guilt offering the picture which is emphasized is that of Christ as the substitute for sinners in the place of judgment. As 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, "God made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." In the sin offering, we see the central Figure of Psalm 22 crying out, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" In the sin offering, we see the suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 who was "smitten by God, and afflicted" (53:4). We know that it was because of our sins that He was forsaken and smitten by God. "He was pierced through for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities" (Isaiah 53:5).

One of the significant features of the sin offering is that it was burned outside the camp. It is important to realize that two different Hebrew words are used in reference to what was consumed on the altar and what was burned outside the camp. When all or part of a sacrifice was offered up on the large bronze altar, a particular Hebrew word that is translated "up in smoke" is used. The same word is used for burning incense on the golden altar inside the tabernacle. The translation "up in smoke" emphasizes that the sacrifice was ascending up before God as a fragrant offering. This emphasis is repeated in the New Testament in reference to the perfect Sacrifice. "Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God" (Ephesians 5:2).

In contrast, a different Hebrew word is used for the burning of part of the sin offering outside the camp. It emphasizes the removal of the body of the animal by fire. This detail of the sin offering, which stresses the judgment of Jesus Christ for our sin on the cross, is explained in Hebrews 13:11-12: "For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate." No kind of human religion or good works could save us. The Lord Jesus had to go to the place of judgment "outside the camp" and suffer the shameful penalty of our sins. The command to us in Hebrews 13:13-14 is, "Let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking a city which is to come." In thankfulness and gratitude to Him, we should now be willing to go "outside the camp" and identify with the Lord Jesus, even though He is still rejected by this world. Are we willing to share rejection with our Lord, no matter how much suffering or ridicule is involved, or would we rather enjoy ourselves "inside the camp" of a Christ-rejecting world system?

In the guilt offering (Leviticus 5:14-19, 6:1-7, 7:1-10), Christ is proclaimed as the bearer not only of our sins, but also of the consequences of those sins. The details of the preparation and presentation of the guilt offering (also called the trespass offering) was similar to the sin offering. (See Leviticus 7:7.) In the guilt offering, however, the offender had to make full restitution and add one fifth more for the injury caused by his sin--in addition to bringing the sacrifice! And there were no exceptions or adjustments allowed under this law. It did not make any difference whether a person was rich or poor, or whether he sinned knowingly or in ignorance. Whether it was an offence directed against the Lord and His tabernacle or a sin against a neighbor, the guilty individual had to bring the restitution plus 20 per cent on the very day that he presented his guilt offering. (See Leviticus 6:5.)

This detail reminds us of what our Lord said in Matthew 5:23-24 about reconciliation with those we've offended before we come to worship the Lord. How thankful we should be that on the cross the Lord Jesus not only paid the penalty for our definite acts of sin, but He also took care of all the bad fallout associated with our sin as well. Now we are obligated, in gratitude, to live righteously and to restore and make full restitution (as much as possible) where we have caused offense. As we read in 1 Peter 2:24, "He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness."

The above description of the five different types of Old Testament offerings mentions only a few of the varied details of this magnificent painting of the perfect Sacrifice! Some of the details are difficult for us to bring into sharp focus, and we'll just have to wait until we get to heaven to appreciate the full excellence of God's masterpiece. For example, why were the fat portions of the peace offering, sin offering, and guilt offering designated to be given to the Lord? (See Leviticus 3:3-5, 3:9-11, 3:14-16, 4:8-10, 4:19 4:26, 4:31, 4:35, 7:3-5, 7:23-25, 7:30-31.) Is the answer that in those days the fat portion was considered to be the choice food and the best was to be given to God? Or was it because God knew the health dangers that come from eating fat and He was protecting His people?! Maybe it was for both reasons--and maybe there's more picture truth here that we haven't even touched on.

As another example, consider the eating of the peace offering. Why could the offerer's portion be eaten for two days but never on the third day? On the third day the leftovers were to be burned. To eat anything that was left on the third day was to commit a serious sin. (See Leviticus 7:15-18.) Was it only because there was no refrigeration, and God was again protecting His people from disease? Or is there some additional spiritual significance to this regulation? Perhaps it illustrates that God isn't pleased with "leftover worship" and He wants us to bring "fresh peace offerings" of thanksgiving and praise. In any case, whether that's what is pictured here or not, we know from the rest of Scripture that stale praise is not worship that's worthy of our great God!

Some of the brush-strokes in God's painting of the perfect Sacrifice are quite bold and are seen again and again throughout the description of the five offerings. For example, the repeated emphasis on the shed blood of sacrifices which were without defect cannot be missed. How can we escape the truth pictured here that we "were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold...but with the precious blood as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ" (1 Peter 1:18-19)? Notice also the stress which is placed on the offerer laying his hand on the sacrifice as it was offered. Certainly the truth of identification and substitution and in some cases transfer of guilt is pictured here.

Some of the brush-strokes in God's painting are not as bold as those mentioned above, but they all add to the delicate beauty of the picture. In the grain offering, for example, oil was to be mixed in with the grain and poured out upon the grain. Can we not see portrayed in this fine detail the fact that our Lord was born of the Holy Spirit as well as baptized with the Spirit? In another small but meaningful brush-stroke in the grain offering we see the regulation that no honey was to be mixed in with the grain! Is this detail not added to illustrate that the moral beauty and attractiveness of our Lord's character needed no addition, and was quite apart from mere natural sweetness and charm?

The minutia of the preparation and presentation of the five offerings of Leviticus 1-7 may at first glance appear to be anything but meaningful. After all, so much of these offerings was destined to "go up in smoke." From our brief study of these offerings, however, perhaps we have a new appreciation for some of the details that God painted into His masterpiece portrait of the coming perfect Sacrifice.
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