The Old Testament Presents... Reflections of Christ
by Paul R. Van Gorder
- This book derives its name from ''Levi,'' the priestly tribe chosen by God to carry on the tabernacle service. Leviticus, the book of worship, work, and walk, naturally follows Exodus, the book of redemption.
The key word of Leviticus, ''holiness,'' is used 87 times.
The key verse is: ''Ye shall be holy; for I, the Lord your God, am holy'' (Lev 19:2).
In the Hebrew Bible, this book is called vayikra, meaning, ''and He called.'' [cp. Lev 1:1] The book consists almost entirely of words spoken by Jehovah from the tabernacle. Sacrifice is the basis of approach to God; priesthood is the means of access. Every offering, every drop of blood speaks of the One who is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption [1Cor 1:30].
- OUTLINE OF THE BOOK--
- Sacrifice (Lev 1:1-6:7)
- The Law of the Offerings (6:8-7:38)
- Consecration (8-9)
- A Warning Example (10)
- A Holy God Demands a Clean People (11-15)
- Atonement (16,17)
- Relationships of God's People (18-22)
- The Feasts of Jehovah (23)
- Instructions and Warnings (24-27)
- Few of the Old Testament books reflect Christ more than Leviticus. Over every offering, ceremony, feast, garment, utensil, and article (except leaven), you may write the word ''Christ.'' Let's focus briefly on how the offerings and the feasts portray the Lord Jesus.
- THE OFFERINGS--
- Two types of offerings are specified in Leviticus: (1) the sweet-savor offerings demonstrate that Christ was acceptable to God; (2) the nonsweet-savor offerings demonstrate that the sinner is unacceptable, but that God's justice fell upon Christ as He became the sinner's substitute. The sweet-savor offerings are Godward; the nonsweet-savor offerings are manward.
- The Burnt Offering (chapter 1).
- This was a sweet-savor offering (see Philippians 2:8). The burnt sacrifice was to be a male animal without blemish, portraying the One ''who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God'' (Heb 9:14). It was to be made voluntarily. Our Lord said, ''No man taketh it [life] from Me, but I lay it down of Myself'' (John 10:18). Every detail of the sacrifice was ordered by God. It was laid in order upon the wood. The offering was flayed and cut in pieces, exposing the inner flesh. The inward parts and legs of the animal were washed with water, which speak of the motives and walk of the believer, his manner of life. Our Lord could say, ''I do always those things that please Him [the Father]'' (John 8:29). The sacrifice, the burnt offering, was substitutionary, for ''it shall be accepted for him'' (Lev 1:4). The offerer put his hand upon the animal to identify himself with it. So also Christ ''hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor'' (Eph 5:2).
- The Meat (or Meal) Offering (chapter 2).
- This was another sweet-savor offering, and it pictured the perfect person and character of Christ. It consisted of finely ground flour with no lumps in it. Jesus Christ displayed no unevenness in His humanity. Oil, symbol of the Holy Spirit, was then poured out upon the fine flour. The Heavenly Father anointed the Lord Jesus with the Holy Spirit. Then frankincense was placed upon the oil and flour. This gave forth a fragrance when fire was applied. Our Lord stated in John 4:34, ''My food [meat] is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work.'' His death completed the picture.
In addition to the above, the sacrifice was seasoned with salt. Salt is a barrier against corruption. This word is sometimes used in Scripture in connection with speech. Colossians 4:6 says, ''Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt.'' The believer is told, ''Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly'' (Col 3:16). And they said of our Lord, ''Never man spoke like this man'' (John 7:46).
There was to be no leaven in the sweet-savor offering of fine flour. [Leaven, which works by a process of corruption, speaks of sin.] Christ was ''holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners'' (Heb 7:26). Furthermore, no honey was to be used in the offering, for honey is a symbol of nature's sweetness. The offering, made by fire unto the Lord, typifies the perfect man, Christ Jesus, enduring the fire of judgment.
A handful of this offering of flour, oil, and frankincense was presented to God. The rest was eaten by the priests. How beautifully this pictures our spiritual nourishment as we partake of Christ, our meal offering, who was sacrificed for us! We abide in Him, and His words abide in us.
- The Peace Offering (chapter 3).
- The law of this offering is found in Leviticus 7:28-36. It presents a beautiful picture of reconciliation, making possible communion with God. This offering was made by fire because it took judgment to bring peace. The offerer was to ''lay his hand upon the head of his offering and kill it at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation'' (Lev 3:2). Then Aaron's sons, the priests, sprinkled the blood upon the altar. The New Testament fulfillment says, ''And, having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself'' (Col 1:20).
Once the reconciliation was accomplished by the sprinkling of the blood, the priests were to eat of the sacrifice (Lev 7:32-34). This speaks of communion and fellowship. The priests and the ones presenting the peace offering both ate of it in the presence of the Lord. This sacrifice was the basis of their peace and fellowship. It was indeed a ''thank offering'' (Lev 7:11,12).
- The Sin Offering (chapter 4).
- This offering, not a sweet-savor offering, stands in contrast with the burnt offering. The burnt offering was all for God; the sin offering was all for man. In the burnt offering the believer is seen as identified with Christ. In the sin offering, Christ is seen as identified with the believer's sin. These factors apply:
- It was given for sins of ignorance.
Man is a sinner (see Romans 8:3), whether he knows it or not.
- The victim was to be without blemish. To be our substitute, Christ had to be sinless.
- The victim was the substitute for the sinner (see 2Cor 5:21).
- The blood poured out at the bottom of the altar was a picture of the shedding of Christ's blood.
- The victim was taken outside the camp and burned to ashes.
Christ died outside the city wall (Heb 13:12; Lam 1:12,13).
- The relation of the offerer to the offering was:
- he had to admit that he was a sinner.
- he had to accept God's estimate of himself.
- he had to identify himself with the substitute.
- he had to take the God-provided sacrifice.
- The relation of the sin offering to the offerer was:
- The blood was within the veil, indicating that the sacrifice had been accepted.
- The ashes were spread outside the camp, showing sins put away.
Christ outside the camp died for us; Christ inside the veil is living for us.
- The Trespass Offering (chapter 5).
- The sin offering was a sacrifice for the nature of sin. The trespass offering, another nonsweet-savor offering, was a sacrifice for the sins of nature.
The sin offering dealt with the root; the trespass offering with the fruit.
The trespass offering was of expiation; the guilt of sin was taken away. It was also of restoration; that which was lost by the first Adam is restored by the last Adam, the Lord Jesus. It also involved restitution; the offerer was to restore to the person that which he had unjustly taken, and he was to add a fifth part to it, to compensate for the wrong.
The cleansing from sins was made possible through confession (Lev 5:5). Likewise, the Lord Jesus died, not only for what we are by nature but also for what we do because of that nature. Furthermore, the Christian knows that ''if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness'' (1John 1:9). Read also 1John 2:1.
The levitical offerings began with the burnt offering and ended with the trespass offering. This is the order of God's provision for man, for ''salvation is of the Lord.'' Christians, however, see the meaning of these offerings in just the reverse order.
- Conviction of sins: the trespass offering.
- Recognition of the root of these sins: the sin offering.
- Peace with God: the peace offering.
- The desire to know more of the wonderful person of Christ: the meal offering.
- Unswerving devotion to God: the burnt offering.
- THE FEASTS OF JEHOVAH--
- Leviticus 23 outlines the sacred calendar of redemption. These seven feasts in the Jewish year foretell and set forth the plan of salvation from the death of Christ through His millennial reign. They give us in sequence the different stages in God's redemptive scheme.
I suggest that you study carefully the details of each feast named in Leviticus 23, for they are ''a shadow of things to come'' (Colossians 2:17).
- The Feast of Passover (Lev 23:4,5).
- The history of redemption begins with the passover. To Israel this was the first feast and the beginning of months to them. This feast commemorated their deliverance from Egypt, and 1Corinthians 5:7 says that ''Christ, our passover, is sacrificed for us.'' There is no way to God apart from the work of Christ upon the cross. We can know nothing of holiness, rest, or fellowship except on redemption ground. And that begins with passover.
- The Feast of Unleavened Bread (Lev 23:6-8).
- This feast began on the next day after the passover and continued for 7 days. It was closely associated with passover because the Israelites ate the roast lamb and the unleavened bread that night in Egypt (Ex 12:8). The blood was the foundation of fellowship with God; the feeding upon the lamb was the means of maintaining fellowship. Unleavened bread speaks of holiness, the condition necessary for the enjoyment of fellowship. ''For even Christ, our passover, is sacrificed for us. Therefore, let us keep the feast'' (1Cor 5:7,8). Fellowship is established on the basis of the applied blood. But fellowship is maintained as we walk in holiness of life, obedient to God.
- The Feast of Firstfruits (Lev 23:9-14).
- First Corinthians 15:20 states, ''But now is Christ risen from the dead and become the firstfruits of them that slept.'' The feast of firstfruits represents His resurrection. At the beginning of the harvest, the Israelites cut a sheaf of grain and brought it to the priest, who waved it before the Lord. He did this to show that it was accepted by God on the sinner's behalf (Lev 23:11). [Note that Christ was raised 'on the day after the sabbath'.] Christ's resurrection has been accepted by God for us and is the guarantee of our own.
- The Feast of Wave Loaves, or Pentecost (Lev 23:15-22).
- This feast took place 50 days after the feast of firstfruits. Its New Testament fulfillment is found in Acts chapter 2. Fifty days after the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit descended upon waiting Jewish believers. Later, the same was experienced in the household of Cornelius, a Gentile. Both Jews and Gentiles were formed into one body, the church the body of Christ.
The wave-loaf offering consisted of two loaves baked with leaven. Its counterpart, the church, has in it leaven (evil) because of the old nature of its members. Although evil is present, it has been taken care of by a burnt offering, a sin offering, and a peace offering.
This feast therefore pictures the Holy Spirit's descent at Pentecost to bind the waiting believers into one body.
- The Feast of Trumpets (Lev 23:23-25).
- This event was observed on the first day of the seventh month. A long interval of 4 months stood between the feast of pentecost and the feast of trumpets. This interval corresponds to the present church age. There were always two trumpets in Israel: one for assembly and another for war. First Corinthians 15:52 says, ''The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible.'' Likewise, Matthew 24:31 states, ''He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect.'' One trumpet sounds for the rapture of the church; another trumpet sounds for the gathering of Israel. Please read and compare Isaiah 18:3,4; 27:12,13; Joel 2:15-17.
- The Day of Atonement (Lev 23:26-32).
- This feast closely followed the feast of trumpets, occurring on the tenth day of the seventh month. The sacrifices of that day included a sin offering and a burnt offering for Aaron and his house; and two goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering for the congregation. The blood of the slain goat, sprinkled within the veil, pictures the [satisfaction] of the claims of God's justice. The live goat that was led away into the wilderness pictures our Lord bearing away our sins.
Three characteristics were evident in the celebration of atonement: first, affliction of soul (Zechariah 12:10-14; Jeremiah 8:20); second, atonement for sin (Zech 13:1); and third, rest from labor [Heb 4:9,10]. Just as the day of atonement closed with the appearance of the high priest from behind the veil, so Israel's future day of atonement will be climaxed with the appearance of their Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, from heaven.
- The Feast of Tabernacles (Lev 23:33-44).
- The time setting for this feast is given in Deuteronomy 16:13, ''After thou hast gathered in thy grain and thy wine.'' The fruit of the field and the vintage of the earth-- after these two are harvested, this feast is celebrated. The feast speaks of the millennial reign of Christ. There will be a time of rejoicing over a regathered and redeemed Israel. (Be sure to read of that important time in Zechariah 14:16-21). Life's battles will finally be over. Sword and spear will be changed into instruments of peace. Every man will sit under his own vine and fig tree, enjoying a balanced economy (Micah 4:4). Earth's glorious sabbath of 1,000 years will have begun.
Throughout the book of Leviticus, we are given glimpses of the holiness that is ours as God's redeemed, the holiness that becomes ours through a life of obedience, and the perfect holiness that will be ours in the millennial age to come.
For another look at the various offerings,
see the chapter on The Offerings in Christ in the Tabernacle.
Return to table of contents for ''The Old Testament Presents... Reflections of Christ,''
written by Paul R. Van Gorder, Copyright 1982 by RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI.
Used by permission [within The Book from thebookwurm.com].
Further distribution is not allowed without permission from RBC.
For another brief look at this book of the Bible,
see the related chapter in Christ in All the Scriptures, by A.M. Hodgkin.
Go to The Book opening page.