This article on Leviticus 1:3 is about the burnt offering.

Source: Clarion, 2003. 2 pages.

Leviticus 1:3a - Offerings

If the offering is a burnt offering...

Leviticus 1:3a

A burnt offering! Should we be bringing such an offering to the Lord God? In today’s selfish world, the whole idea of offering oneself in the service of someone else is considered silly. Instead they say, you’ve got to look out for yourself! In today’s world of “me, myself, and I,” offering oneself for the service of someone else is definitely out!

And yet that is what God required of his people in the past. And that is what He requires of us today. As you open the Scriptures to the first seven chapters of Leviticus, you will read about five kinds of offerings which God required of his people: burnt offerings, cereal offerings, peace offerings, sin offerings, and guilt offerings. Indeed the holy God of Israel required that his people be holy as He is holy. And part of being holy, was bringing offerings to the Lord God! The first offering mentioned in the book of Leviticus was the burnt offering.

This offering was to be made on the bronze altar. There were two altars in the holy place of the tabernacles. There was a small altar, the golden altar of incense, but then also a large altar, the bronze altar. It was on the latter that God’s people were to bring the burnt offering.

So we can read in the opening verse of chapter 1: “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When any of you brings an offering to the LORD, bring as your offering an animal from either the herd or the flock.’” It was clear: God’s people were to have a thorough knowledge of his revelation; knowledge of the different offerings; knowledge on how to make these offerings. Bringing these offerings was very much a part of the life of God’s people.

As we read in Leviticus 1:3 and following, God’s people had a choice as to what to offer up as a burnt offering. They could choose a bull from the herd, but also a sheep or goat from the flock or a bird. A choice had to be made by each of God’s people: what do I bring to the Lord?

Certain burnt offerings were required of the people by the Lord God. For example the burnt offerings, brought each morning and evening in the tabernacle, were required. Also the burnt offerings brought on the Sabbath and on the other feasts days were required. But the burnt offering mentioned here in Leviticus 1:3 was an offering, which the people could give of their own accord. It was a voluntary burnt offering.

And so they came with their choice of animal. And taking this animal, they went to the tent of meeting. They would lay their hand on this animal and it would be accepted as atonement for their sins. But there is more to this burnt offering than the aspect of atonement! In fact, atonement is not the central aspect of the burnt offering.

For with a burnt offering everything literally went up in smoke! A more accurate translation of “burnt” would be “it goes up!” And that was so with this offering: it would all go up in fire and smoke! It would go up to the Lord God. Indeed after laying their hand on the animal, the entire animal was to go up in fire and smoke on the bronze altar of the Lord. This was the only one of the five offerings where the Lord God required that the whole offering go up to Him.

Think of the burnt offering Abraham was about to bring to the Lord. He was about to offer up his son, his only son Isaac, on the altar. Abraham was ready to offer him wholly and completely to the Lord God. And it was the Lord God who himself gave his Son as the burnt offering. His Son was wholly and completely offered up for our sake. At the cost of his life, He was wholly offered up for us. And so it was required in Israel that the whole or burnt offering cost the one bringing it.

So there was choice as mentioned earlier: of a bull or sheep or a goat or a bird. It depended on your financial position at the time! Yet this offering was expected to be a real sacrifice, according to the measure of God’s blessing. They gave of their best in accordance with what God had given them. It was to be a denial of oneself! As King David would later say to Araunah: “I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing” (2 Samuel 24:24).

So the burnt offering a child of God brought had to cost him or her. It was to be a sacrifice. So it cost our Saviour his life. He sacrificed his life! And believing in Him, are we ready to offer ourselves wholly to the Lord God? As the apostle Paul writes in Romans 12:1,

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.

How is this to be done? Through the power of our Lord Jesus Christ. As the apostle Peter writes in his first letter: “like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

So let us offer ourselves to the Lord God. The sacrifice that God expects of us is our undivided hearts. Our hearts are to be wholly devoted to Him. And so may our lives, that is our thoughts, words, and actions, be wholly devoted to our Lord. May our entire being be directed heavenward to our God. May we by his grace be a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to our Lord and God.  

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