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What the Bible says about Sacrifice, Sweet Smelling
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Leviticus 1:1-17

Leviticus 1 gives instruction on the whole burnt offering, which represents Christ's total devotion to God, revealing in broad strokes the ideal we are to strive for in our relationship with God. The burnt offering has four distinctive characteristics that set it apart from all others. To glean the most from it, it is essential that we remember that these characteristics all describe the same person but from different perspectives, much as the gospel accounts present four views of Christ, or as one would turn a piece of art or craftsmanship to inspect it from different angles. With each little turn, the viewer picks up a new feature that pleases or instructs.

The four distinctive characteristics are:

1. It is a sweet savor to God, given not because of sin but out of sincere and heartfelt devotion.

2. It is offered for acceptance in the stead of the offerer. The animal represents the offerer.

3. A life is given, representing total devotion in every area of life.

4. It is completely burned up, also representing total devotion but from a different angle: that it was truly carried out.

The animal was cut into four distinct parts, each signifying an aspect of Christ's character and life: The head represents His thoughts; the legs, His walk; the innards, His feelings; and the fat, His general vigor and health. Every part was put on the altar and totally consumed by the fire.

The variety of animals sacrificed as burnt offerings identify additional characteristics: The bullock typifies untiring labor in service to others; the lamb, uncomplaining submission even in suffering; the goat, strong-minded leadership; and the turtledove, humility, meekness, and mournful innocence.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Three): The Meal Offering

Leviticus 4:20

The English word atonement appears in Leviticus 4:20, 26, 31, 35 in reference to these sin offerings, as it does in Leviticus 1:4 in reference to the burnt offering: "Then he shall put his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him." This is the last time "atonement" appears in reference to the sweet-savor offerings in Leviticus 1-3.

"Atonement" may mislead some because we almost automatically think of a covering for sin. Atonement for sin normally makes one acceptable before God, but sin is not present in the sweet-savor offerings. Nonetheless, the word indeed conveys the sense of acceptance but on a different basis than in the sin and trespass offerings. The basis for acceptance in the sweet-savor offerings is the offerer's perfect devotion, picturing the devoted, sinless Christ worshipping God.

Concerning the sin and trespass offerings, "atonement" is used in the way we normally understand it: as a covering, payment, expiation, or propitiation made for sin. It is as though the offerer is charged just as the police charge a person with a crime. In this case, though, the offerer is charged with sin, and something must expiate it. The sin and trespass offerings, then, indicate the payment of a legal obligation to an authority, one that meets the legal requirement of that authority. To expiate sin, the payment must be in blood; a life must be given. The Authority is God, as His law has been broken.

The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Whenever a person sins, the law has the power to take that person's life. It has such power over us that, for our debt to be paid, a life is required. Nothing less is suitable to expiate sin. In the symbolism of the sin and trespass offerings, the life of an animal is given, covering the indebtedness and breaking the power the law has over us.

In actual practice, the ritual proceeded like this: The offerer brought his animal before the priest and then laid his hand upon the head of his offering. Symbolically, a transfer took place so that the animal is understood as portraying the sinner making the offering. The animal then died, and the penalty was considered paid.

In Romans 6:2, Paul writes that we are "dead to sin," and in Romans 7:4, that we are "dead to the law." The ritual portrays these truths. The sin and trespass offerings picture a convicted sinner coming before God to receive the judgment of death. However, the animal's death portrays Christ's vicarious death in our stead, for in reality, since He is the offering, our sins have been transferred to Him. In this way, we are atoned for and redeemed.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Six): The Sin Offering

Ephesians 5:1-2

Living a life activated by loving-kindness in the keeping of God's commandments, following the example of Jesus Christ, and being tenderhearted to forgive is a sweet-smelling sacrifice to God.

Three of the offerings were sweet smelling, and two were not. The sweet-savor offerings were burned on the brazen altar, while the others were burned outside the camp. No sin is seen in the sweet-savor offerings; the individual Israelite gave them completely voluntarily and not because of guilt. They are simply sweet-smelling offerings. Christ does not appear in them as our sin bearer, but, even more, He is shown offering something so pleasing—so satisfying—it is sweet to God. It symbolizes the way He lived His life. Jesus Christ was a living sacrifice long before He became the sacrifice for sin by crucifixion. "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends" in service, living a sinless life (John 15:13).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Two): The Burnt Offering

Ephesians 5:2

Notice that Paul says Christ has given Himself for us and that the offering he refers to is a sweet savor. Paul's reference, therefore, is not that Christ gave Himself for us as a sin offering but as one not involving sin: He was a burnt, meal, and peace offering. He gave Himself for us in the manner in which He lived His life.

Even as Christ's sin offering is for us, and we find acceptance before God, satisfaction, and peace when we understand and believe that our sins are forgiven, so also is His life, as He lived it, for us. It is as though when God looks at us, He sees Christ! This is an incredibly wondrous aspect of His grace and part of the doctrine of our being "in Christ," that is, part of the spiritual body of which He is the Head.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Four): The Peace Offering


 




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