When the Jews offered sacrifices, we note that God has something to say about what happened to the blood of the sacrifices. Eight times in Leviticus, we read where God expected the priests (or Moses) to put blood on the horns of the altar, and then the rest of the blood was to be poured “at the bottom of the altar” (Lev. 4:7, 18, 25, 30, 34, 5:9, 8:15, 9:9).
As I read these passages and thought about the animals offered, I got to thinking that it would not take long for this area to stink and, on occasion, have blood pooled up around the altar after the priests had offered many sacrifices. In the days of Solomon when the Temple was built, the Bible speaks of 22,000 oxen, and 120,000 sheep offered to God (I Kings 8:63)! Think of feast days such as the Passover and other times when the multitudes had gathered and offered their sacrifices! Can we fathom the volume of blood that poured from that altar?
Is there any wonder why God required the numerous washings by the priests and commanded them to wash their hands and feet before going into the Tabernacle and Temple? Their hands and feet would have been coated in blood! I wonder how long it would be before the laver itself, once filled with water for their purification, had become blood-red?
Why did God require blood in connection with the sacrifices? “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission” (Heb. 9:22). Blood was necessary in God’s plan. These people needed to see the price of sin. They needed to understand that the consequences of sin were bloody and ugly. They needed to know that sin affected more than just the individual and that, yes, sometimes the innocent will suffer for the deeds of the wicked!
Don’t we also need to understand the price of sin? Don’t we also need to see that the consequences of our sins are bloody, ugly, and affect other people besides ourselves? Don’t we need an object lesson that our sins will hurt innocent people? I believe if we truly faced what our sins do, then sin would not look the same to us anymore! It would repulse us, and we would want to get away from it. Just like when Judas threw the money back at the chief priests and elders in the Temple after Jesus was condemned to death (Matt. 27:1-5), we also would run away from our sins when we understand what it did to the innocent One!
Remember that Christ, the “Lamb of God” (Jn. 1:29), died as the sacrifice for man’s sin. He suffered, and His blood poured out from His various wounds as He died on the cross (Zech. 13:1)! Look with the eye of faith to His sacrifice and understand “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb. 9:14). Yes, the “Just” suffered for the “unjust” (I Pet. 3:18)! His blood was shed “for the remission of sins” (Matt. 26:28). After He died, a cruel soldier pierced His side “and forthwith came there out blood and water” (Jn. 19:34).
Every time blood was shed and poured at the altar in Old Testament days, it pointed to the blood of the innocent One whose blood could take away sin (Heb. 9:24-26, 10:4)! His blood poured down to the ground and pooled around the cross for a time. Perhaps folks there stepped in it? We know there were many gathered around His cross (Jn. 19:24-27; Mk. 15:29-32; Matt. 27:47-49). I am sure some Roman soldiers had Christ’s literal blood on their hands and clothes since some argued and gambled over His bloody garment (Matt. 27:35, Jn. 19:24), and others had whipped and beat Jesus’ back (Matt. 27:26; Mk. 15:15; Jn. 19:1)! No doubt Christ’s blood could be seen at the whipping post, and from here, one could follow His blood trail to Golgotha! Now, as Christ is suspended between heaven and earth, we see Jesus’ blood drip down and pool at the ground! What a bloody altar the cross is!
The people of the Old Testament knew something about blood and something about the cost of sin. Do we appreciate that cost? Jesus died so we might live (II Cor. 5:14-15; Rom. 12:1-2). His stripes heal us (Isa. 53:5; I Pet. 2:24)! His blood cleanses us (Rev. 1:5, 7:14)! His blood purchased the church (Acts 20:28; I Pet. 1:18-19)! Have we ever paused to consider the actual cost of sin and the magnificence of Christ’s sacrifice?
When the Jewish people looked at the bloody altar at the Tabernacle or Temple, they came to realize the reality of sin. What will we do when we look at Christ’s blood?
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
When we read through the book of Leviticus, we see God mandating what is necessary to do in the various sacrifices and offerings that are brought to Him. He is exact in the method of sacrifice, who is to do it, etc. He not only discusses these things but also talks about what was to be done with the entrails, skin, dung, and other aspects of the animals that people tend to forget when reading about sacrifices. As we noted in an earlier study, since we have fewer people familiar with what it takes to process an animal so that the meat is suitable for eating, fewer think about what happens to the parts of the animals that are not eaten!
God in His wisdom made provisions for every part of these animals. When we read such passages as Leviticus 4:11-12, 8:17, 9:11, and 16:27-28, we see God commanding the priests to take the skin, the entrails, the dung, and remove them outside of the city to be burned. This is repeated in Numbers 19:1-10 and other places.
Why was this important to God to specify that the bull’s head, the skin, the entrails, dung, etc., was to be taken and burned? Indeed, we can comment upon a spiritual truth. No doubt, these actions foreshadowed the time described by the Hebrew writer in Hebrews 13:11-13. Just as the sacrifice was taken outside the city walls, so also Jesus was taken, and killed outside the walls of Jerusalem (Mk. 15:20-24; Jn. 19:17-18)!
Might I suggest that this command also helped them in a physical way? Remember that these people did not know about communicable diseases, microbes, viruses, and other things we are aware of today. They had no understanding about how diseases might be spread! For centuries, many who had been wounded in war died excruciating deaths, not from their wounds, but from the gangrene, blood poisoning and other problems that crept up from the lack of hygiene in the surgery tents on the battlefields and in the hospitals.
Have we ever considered the fact that God was providing a way by which men might be safe from disease? This came not only in the destruction of the animal’s parts that carried disease but also in the various washings (Ex. 29:17, 30:20-21, 40:12; Lev. 11:25-40; Lev. 13-15; Num. 19:7-10)? What about the statement that, in some instances, men are “unclean” for a day? With certain skin diseases, they were considered unclean for a week, etc. This form of “quarantine” allowed the sick time to bathe and time to change clothes. If the disease demanded a longer quarantine time, then this permitted the person to recover and not expose family members, the tribe, etc., to the same illness!
Consider the fact that God forbade the people from drinking water that had first touched a dead carcass (Lev. 11:36). Might we venture a guess as to why God said don’t drink that water? Yes, I believe they (and we) could make a spiritual application to this, but might there also have been a physical, bodily reason why God wouldn’t want people drinking water that had first touched a dead thing?
In Leviticus 13:44-55, we see laws concerning the leprous people. Notice that they had to cry “Unclean” as people approached them. Why? Again, notice God expected them to cover their upper lips. Why cover the lips? Is it not for the same reason we teach our children to cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze? God went so far in this text as to say if the leprosy was on their clothes, then burn their clothes! Why do this? I think we understand now what God was doing.
God’s rules are not arbitrary. Though men might not always understand the purpose when it is spoken, there is reason and logic for God saying what He has said. These few examples bear this out. In a time when men thought nothing of diseases and spread them to others, God knew about them and caused His people to make provisions so that they might be healthy in spirit and also in body!
Once we understand this truth, look into the New Testament and think about the various rules concerning marriage (Matt. 19:4-6; Heb. 13:4), drinking (I Pet. 4:3-4), obedience to parents (Eph. 6:1-4), and numerous other statements of God. In light of what we have learned, we can know that God’s commands, His rules, are not just random thoughts. They have true meaning and purpose that allows us to not only prepare for the life to come but also allows us to enjoy life now!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
The worship of the Old Testament was certainly a “hands-on” religion! Several times, beginning in Leviticus three, God tells the worshipper or sometimes the priest to “lay his hand” on the animal to be sacrificed before dealing the death-blow (Lev. 3:2, 8, 13 4:4, 24, 29, 33). Reading these passages made me pause and think about why God thought it necessary to say, “lay your hand on this animal and then kill it.”
Laying a hand on something produces a connection that is not felt in any other way. It is one thing to have an animal killed for you, or even to watch it done from a distance. It is a different thing entirely to actually touch the animal, realize it has life in it, and know that in a moment, you will take its life. Our society is very much “hands-off” when it comes to preparing animals for meals. I know many who enjoy the food they eat but become squeamish, and some become visibly sick when discussing the finer points of “food processing!” This aspect of getting your meal from the pasture, or woods, to the table is something that they cannot contemplate. When I read a passage like Leviticus 3, 4, or other similar passages, I think how these people would cringe and even wretch if they had to stand at the altar and touch their cow, lamb, or goat (Lev. 3:1, 7, 12) and then take its life and continue the process of offering it to God!
Why touch the animal? Why not just have the animal sent to the priest and let them do the “dirty work?” It is not stated in this text, but may I suggest that actually touching the animal before its death brings a personal aspect to the offering that might not be realized in any other way. This animal that belonged to you, that you raised and kept healthy (Lev. 3:1), must now die for something that you did! You must touch it! You must look into its eyes, and you must hear the last gurgling sounds as its life ebbs away before you. This animal had its blood poured out and sprinkled around the altar (Lev. 3:2, 8, 13) because you wish to have peace with God once more!
We know that we are no longer subject to the Old Law (Heb. 9:15-17, 10:9). Yet, a Lamb was offered for our sins (Jn. 1:29). His blood was poured out (Jn. 19:34; Heb. 9:14) that we might have salvation (Matt. 26:28; Lk. 19:10). No, we were not there to actually touch Him as He died, but we need to think about this event and make it personal. Realize that Jesus was not there because of His sins but because of ours (I Pet. 2:22). Realize that His death was the death of the innocent! Just as the animal in the Mosaic period was innocent, so also Christ was innocent when nailed to the cross – even Pilate said so (Matt. 27:23-24)! If one’s emotions are stirred at the thought of an animal dying, how much more ought we be stirred when we allow the crucifixion of Christ to fill our minds!
In your mind and with the eye of faith, see yourself laying your hand upon the thorn-pierced head of Christ. Look into His eyes and tell Him He has to die so you can be cleansed! Yet, unlike the animals who suffered unwillingly, it was Jesus who went willingly to the cross (Jn. 10:18; Titus 2:14)! He knew exactly what He was doing and why (Jn. 18:36-37)!
We do not know the mental attitude of those people in the Old Testament following the peace offering, but we can know our attitude toward Christ when we understand He fills that place in our lives today. “He is our peace” (Eph. 2:14-15; Col. 1:20)! What will you do now that you know Christ is our peace offering? Will you give your life to Him (II Cor. 5:14-15)? Will you obey His will and be saved (Mk. 16:16)? How could you refuse?
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
Throughout Scripture, God overwhelmingly equates leaven with something sinful and spiritually deadly. In my observation, leaven is considered as a “foreign” substance that was added to an otherwise pure offering or pure sacrifice. Thus, God said no less than 18 times in Scripture to stay away from it. There are only two exceptions to this rule in the Bible, to my knowledge. Only two passages speak positively of leaven. One passage is Leviticus 23:17, and the other is Matthew 13:33 (parallel passage: Lk. 13:20-21). When you read those passages in context, you can see why God made the exception in those cases.
As we noted, leaven is condemned by God more often than not. In studying about leaven, we find God telling His people to make sure literal leaven was not in specific offerings (Ex. 12:15, 19, 13:7, 34:25; Lev. 2:11, 6:17, 10:12). In the New Testament, leaven was symbolic of false doctrine (Matt. 16:6-12; Mk. 8:15; Lk. 12:1) and sinful behavior (I Cor. 5:6-8). We are reminded on two occasions, “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (I Cor. 5:6; Gal. 5:9). This means that sin has no natural stopping place! If we allow a little sin to creep into our lives, or into the church, or into a nation for that matter (Prov. 14:34), it will not be long until this brings great ruin to that person, church, or nation. Remember, sin brings death every time (Jas. 1:15)!
When we read Leviticus 2:11, we see God telling Moses that when the people offer their grain (meal, KJV) offering, they need to make sure there is no leaven in it. Why is God this exacting? Perhaps understanding the spiritual side of this subject helps us to understand why. God did not want anything in the offering that would permeate or influence its environment the way leavening agents do with grain or flour offerings, just as He did not want the “leavening” influences of pagan or idolatrous worship in the people’s practices!
A little later, we will read about God forbidding the people to marry the Canaanite people (Deut. 7). Why say this? It was because He knew such an arrangement would cause those people “to turn away … from following me” (Deut. 7:4). Yes, “a little leaven” can do much damage! Is there any wonder why there are continued warnings about adding to or taking from God’s word in the Scripture (Deut. 4:2, 12:32; Josh. 1:7; Prov. 30:6; Matt. 15:8-9; I Pet. 4:11; Rev. 22:18-19)? Even minor changes can do significant damage to God’s revelation! If you are not sure about this, just ask Eve about what happens when someone adds a “not” to God’s word (Gen. 3:4-6)!
God was very exact in what He wanted in the offerings. This was an object lesson to the people to show He is also precise in His teachings and what He expects us to say to others! Let us then learn the lesson about leaven and make sure that the words we say are true words, and not mingled with anything that would corrupt God’s pure message (I Pet. 4:11)!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
Leviticus has been called “the first book that a Jewish boy would have read in Old Testament days, but the last book a Christian will read.” That is unfortunate because this book, like the 65 others, has something to teach us (Rom. 15:4). As soon as the Tabernacle was finished, God set forth His commands concerning how worship was to occur and then sent the Israelites forth to Canaan. Thus, we see that the book of Leviticus records events that took place in about a month (Ex. 40:17; Num. 1:1).
I am impressed with the phrase “in order” that is used in chapters one and six. All told, there are nine occasions between Exodus 26:17 and Leviticus 6:12 where God spoke about the Tabernacle or some facet of worship there and said something was to be “in order.” Our God is a God of order and structure (I Cor. 14:40). He had patterns for those in the Old Testament to follow and has patterns He wants us to follow (Heb. 8:5; I Cor. 11:1; I Pet. 2:21-22).
We see what happened when Cain did not follow God’s pattern for worship (Gen. 4:4-5). It is evident God cares that things are done in a particular order. What would have happened if Noah had not followed God’s design for the Ark (Gen. 6:14)? What would have happened had the people not followed God’s pattern for the Tabernacle’s construction (Ex. 36-40)? Would God have accepted just any structure, or just any kind of worship, or just any kind of cargo vessel? We know the answer and see God’s consistent nature shine when He tells His people to put things “in order” in Leviticus one!
Similarly, are there not patterns for us when we read the New Testament Scriptures? There are some who insist there is no New Testament pattern. We are told that the New Testament is a “love letter” and does not have commands for us to follow. Is this true? When we read the New Testament, is there not a pattern for worship (Jn. 4:24; Acts 2:42, 20:7; I Cor. 11:23-28, 14:40, 16:1-2; etc.)? Is there not a pattern for how the local church does her work (Acts 11:28-30; Eph. 4:12; Phil. 4:15-16; Rom. 15:25-26; etc.)? Is there not a pattern for marriage (Matt. 5:32, 19:4-9; Eph. 5:31), and for raising children (Heb. 13:4; Eph. 6:4)? How about just living day by day? Must we not also make sure that what we do is done by the authority of Christ and that our religion is “pure” (Col. 3:17; Jas. 1:26-27)?
Notice that there is a pattern with God. He has things he wants done “in order” and woe unto us if we get them “out-of-order”! I believe many of the problems we face today result from people doing things without regard for God’s order! When we read Leviticus, let us be impressed that God wants things done “in order,” and let us respect that principle today!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs