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