Our Burnt Offering - Love
Leviticus 1:1-3, 9 NIV
The Lord called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting. He said, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When anyone among you brings an offering to the Lord, bring as your offering an animal from either the herd or the flock. If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, you are to offer a male without defect. You must present it at the entrance to the tent of meeting so that it will be acceptable to the Lord. You are to lay your hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on your behalf to make atonement for you... You are to wash the internal organs and the legs with water, and the priest is to burn all of it on the altar. It is a burnt offering, a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord.’”
Burnt offering had its origin all the way back in Noah’s time.
Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. (Genesis 8:20-21 NIV)
The Bible didn’t record God telling Noah to make the burnt offering; he did it on his own accord. He was praising and thanking God for his and his family’s salvation. He also dedicated the new world to God. God was pleased with the aroma, not so much from the burnt offering but from the heart of Noah.
The next instance of burnt offering we find in the Bible is when God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.
Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love – Isaac – and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. (Genesis 22:2-3 NIV)
While God had told Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, it also required Abraham’s freewill to make the sacrifice.
How does the making of burnt offerings apply to Christians today?
Follow God's example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2 NIV)
Paul compared Christ’s love and sacrifice as an offering to God with the burnt offering the Jews made. Therefore, the burnt offering was a foreshadow of Christ’s love offering for us. Let’s look at the burnt offering in detail.
Leviticus 1 describes God’s instructions for the burnt offering:
Male without defect
The people were to slaughter the offering; while the priest splashed the blood on the altar
The people skinned the offering and cut it into pieces, while the priest put them on fire
The people cleaned the intestines and legs with water while the priest put them on fire
None will be eaten, all offerings are burnt.
To begin with, the burnt offering was not mandatory but made at the free will of God’s people. However, if anyone were to make a burnt offering, it had to be a male animal without defects. To burn an entire perfect male animal and not eat it after was a sacrifice indeed. The aroma of the burnt offering was pleasing to God; and Paul described Jesus’ offering of himself as fragrant to God too.
What then would our burnt offering be today?
According to Paul in the earlier passage in Ephesians 5:1-2, we are to “Follow God’s example... and walk in the way of love”, like Jesus. How are we following God’s example today? Do we love others like Jesus does? Do we spend time or reach out to people because a church leader asks us to do so, or because we want to offer this to God, at free will? God walked the talk by offering His one and only Son, at His free will, to love us.
Imagine a Jew preparing the burnt offering back in those days. It had to be a young bull. He would slaughter it, skin the animal, cut it into pieces and wash the intestines and legs. Then he would pass the pieces to the priest to place them on the altar’s fire. All these were done, at free will, for his atonement. How are we responding to God’s atonement for our sins? And how are we providing our ‘burnt offering’ to God? Every thought and every act of love that we pour out to one another is a fragrant offering to God, just like how Christ gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering. It is a freewill offering in response to the atonement we have received from God.
Those who made the burnt offering don’t get to eat it. The animal may cost a lot of money, but they don’t get to benefit from the sacrifice. In the same way, when God sacrificed his Son Jesus, it was done out of His love for us, with no expectation of benefits. He only hopes that we love Him in return out of our gratitude.
Sometimes I feel like I do what I do because it is expected of me. Do we come to church because we need to feel ‘saved’ but forget to make our own offering to God? We need to love like Jesus loves us. Call one another and looking into each other’s needs. Some may be having issues at home or at work. Ask them how they are doing and offer help to them? Love them and protect their faith. God desires a freewill offering, where the aroma is pleasing to Him.
Andy is the head of compliance for an international bank and is happily married, with three daughters. He became a disciple of Christ three decades ago, and studies God's Word passionately. He desires to be constantly led by the Spirit.