What shall I look at today, Father?
(The law...ok.) Which chapter?
Four. (I like that number.)
And so this Sabbath morning reading began with Leviticus 4:1-12.
1Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2“Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘If a person sins unintentionally in any of the things which the LORD has commanded not to be done, and commits any of them, 3if the anointed priest sins so as to bring guilt on the people, then let him offer to the LORD a bull without defect as a sin offering for the sin he has committed. 4‘He shall bring the bull to the doorway of the tent of meeting before the LORD, and he shall lay his hand on the head of the bull and slay the bull before the LORD. 5‘Then the anointed priest is to take some of the blood of the bull and bring it to the tent of meeting, 6and the priest shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle some of the blood seven times before the LORD, in front of the veil of the sanctuary. 7‘The priest shall also put some of the blood on the horns of the altar of fragrant incense which is before the LORD in the tent of meeting; and all the blood of the bull he shall pour out at the base of the altar of burnt offering which is at the doorway of the tent of meeting. 8‘He shall remove from it all the fat of the bull of the sin offering: the fat that covers the entrails, and all the fat which is on the entrails, 9and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them, which is on the loins, and the lobe of the liver, which he shall remove with the kidneys 10(just as it is removed from the ox of the sacrifice of peace offerings), and the priest is to offer them up in smoke on the altar of burnt offering. 11‘But the hide of the bull and all its flesh with its head and its legs and its entrails and its refuse, 12that is, all the rest of the bull, he is to bring out to a clean place outside the camp where the ashes are poured out, and burn it on wood with fire; where the ashes are poured out it shall be burned.
This is the kind of reading selection that makes my head spin, because it reads like an instruction manual and of all the things I don't like reading about in scripture, killing animals and spilling blood is my least favorite. Yuck.
But today, the different steps were intriguing. There are three steps for dispersing the blood of the bull, three steps for the fat and a couple of organs, and one step for the rest of the body which is to be carried out entirely outside of the Tabernacle.
It's worth a closer look.
The Bull. First, the anointed priest is to sprinkle some of the blood of the sacrificed bull before God, in front of the veil to the sanctuary. He does this seven times. We see the number seven used over and over in relationship to God. Naaman in 2 Kings 5:10 is instructed to wash himself in the Jordan River seven times to be cleansed of his leprosy (uncleanness), and I believe we are to be cleansed of our shortcomings in seven key areas, as well. It's hard to explain that, but I'll just say I've been seeing a shadow of a pattern in those "sevens" and I feel certain that there's something significant that we are to learn.
Us. The important thing to understand is that there is simply no way for us to personally come to God without the blood being sprinkled by our Anointed Priest. Step one accomplished that for us when Jesus offered himself as a sacrifice for our sins, and the veil in front of the Holy of Holies was torn in two. Our blood contains our DNA - the blueprint our body follows for every cell. It's our physical essence. Perhaps it's sprinkled by our High Priest to announce to God that we are willing to return...? An interesting idea.
Step Two in the Journey
The Bull. Blood from the bull is put on the horns of the Altar of Fragrant Incense by the anointed priest. The significance of the altar of Fragrant Incense is is twofold. First, the horns of the altar could be grabbed by someone seeking refuge and mercy, like Adonijah in 1 Kings 1:50.
Second, the Altar of Fragrant Incense itself is a place where prayers were offered for the people and a closely guarded blend of ingredients was burned, giving off the scent of incense that filled the temple and even made its way into the Holy of Holies.
Us. On our journey back to God, we are to come to Him and trust in His strength (horns) to provide refuge and mercy from our sins. Does Jesus put our blood on the horns of the altar to demonstrate our willingness to trust in his strength to save us, and not our own when we express that desire through prayer?
Revelation 5:8 tells us that our prayers are incense. The first of those prayers is us coming before God and asking for His mercy. In that fragrant prayer, we seeking His refuge, symbolically grasping the horns at the altar to indicate we are placing our trust in Him alone for salvation. We are making Jesus Christ Lord over our lives at that moment.
Step Three in the Journey
The Bull. The remaining blood of the sacrificed bull is to be poured out at the base of the altar of burnt offering. It's not poured ON the altar, but rather at its base, presumably on the ground. In order to complete this step in order, the offering of the blood would have to have traveled back from the veil and altar of incense, through the courtyard, passing by the laver (of water), and to the Burnt Offering altar.
Us. How humbling to know that when we give our lives to Jesus Christ, we're pouring out our lives for him as a living sacrifice, and that we're poured out entirely on the ground. Being a person who is always looking for efficiency in movement, I stopped to wonder why the blood wasn't poured out there first. I mean, the entirety of the bull's blood would have to be pretty heavy and would slosh around in whatever container in which it was carried, right? Try carrying a full cup of coffee across the living room without spilling it and you'll see what I mean.
So why is the order veil, horns, then burnt offering altar? I think the key lies in the position of the laver. The laver is the brass basin of water in which the priests wash themselves. To me, the flow so far sounds a lot like Jesus providing a way for us to come to God, then us praying for forgiveness and making Jesus Lord of our lives, then us making the decision to be baptized in water. Then, we symbolically pour ourselves out at the altar of burnt offering by turning our lives over to God entirely.
Cool, right? Just wait.
The Bull. The fat from the entrails, kidneys, and lobe of the liver are to be removed from the bull and placed on the Altar of Burnt Offering. In addition, the kidneys and the liver themselves are also to be offered. That's a very short and specific list of organs, among the many to choose from.
Us. It's a little more tricky to figure out how this relates to our lives. First, let's look at what fat represents in our lives. If we're talking about that thin line of fat around a delicious grilled steak, you know it's the tastiest and best part. Don't even get me started on bacon because I'm trying hard to not eat it. Scripturally, fatness represents bounty, the best offerings, finest goods. We are to willingly offer that up to God by giving Him our best and and sweetest.
Next, we have the kidneys. The Hebrew word here is כִּלְיָה (kil-yaw) which can refer to the organ itself, or the organ that is the seat of our emotion and affection. It is also translated "reins," which refers to the innermost desires of our souls. If that's the case, then offering those things to our wonderful God is a beautiful offering, indeed.
Finally, the liver. Did you know that the liver stores up blood for when your body needs it, as well as filtering out toxins from the blood? Aside from skin, it's the heaviest organ in a body and the Hebrew word for liver, יֹתֶרֶת, is related to the word for "to be weighty" and the word for "glory".
In other words, the offering of fat, kidneys, and liver represent the offering we give to God of our best, our worship, and all glory. He definitely deserves all that.
Step Seven in The Journey
The Bull. The rest of the physical parts of the bull are to be removed not only to the outside of the tabernacle area, but even as far as outside the camp. Scripture specifies the bull carcass must be put in a clean place, where the ashes are poured out. I'm not sure how somewhere that has ashes poured all over it can be considered "clean," but I'm sure God has a good reason for calling it thus.
Us. The interesting part here is that removal of the carcass is step seven. It immediately (and obviously) follows the completion of steps 1-6. Think: six thousand years, seventh day of creation, seven days marching around Jericho, etc. This step involves the removal of the physical remnants of the bull, including dung, which are all the parts that God does not want.
It's much like a circumcision. Romans 2:29 refers to a circumcision of the heart, but when we are transformed from corruptible bodies to incorruptible bodies, our corruption will be circumcised away and will most definitely not be in God's camp. We have no more need for a corruptible body, either.
When you really look closely at the significance of the order of steps in the sacrifice for unintentional sin, it's absolutely beautiful and yet another place where even a few verses of Leviticus, that are probably skipped over by many Bible readers, tell us the entire story of salvation trough Jesus Christ.
I tricked you in this post, I confess. Verses 1-12 are really about the sacrifice that Jesus Christ first made for us. My bible has the heading "Sin Offering for the Priest" here. I hope you can see why I drew the parallel to us, first.
We're called to be like Jesus, are we not? Then you'd better forgive me. :-)
Now look at Leviticus 4:13-21 and see the sacrifice made for the congregation. It's essentially the same but it includes something even more beautiful in Leviticus 4:20-21:
20‘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 will be forgiven. 21‘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.
Did you see the most amazing part of verse 20?
So the priest shall make atonement for them, and they will be forgiven.
Eyes up, my readers. We are almost home. Please stay ready. If you want to talk about the gift of salvation, I'm here.