(Written for Israel Bible Society project) 14 Oct 2012
The third book of Moses — of the Torah — is Leviticus, and its central theme is the sacrificial system which YHVH God provided for His chosen people Israel, in order that He could dwell in the midst of a holy people, cleansed from all their transgression, sins, and iniquity against Him. The responsibility for mediating this system of reconciling sinful people to God was the privilege of the priestly tribe of Levi, especially through the family of Aaron, the appointed and anointed High Priest.
For those who know Yeshua to be the Rock, Messiah – the Son of God and Anointed One of YHVH to be Israel’s Prophet, High Priest, and King – we see Him throughout the specified sacrifices required by the God of Israel for His people to become a kingdom of priests and a holy nation unto Him. (Ps 40:6-7 Eng; Heb 10:5-7; Jn 5:39)
Firstly, in the goodness and love of God our Father, He provided a substitute to pay the deadly price of each person’s, and the whole nation’s, sin. These substitutes all needed to be without spot or blemish; they needed to be “without sin”. Yeshua is that sinless substitute whom God gave so that Jewish people (and Gentiles) can live in His presence: “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2Cor 5:21)
Each of the substitutionary offerings commanded by YHVH for Israelis to bring to be sacrificed by the priests speaks in some measure of Messiah’s character, and of His life and death. The bull speaks of service; rams of consecration (remember, God provided a ram in place of Isaac for Abraham to sacrifice); lambs remind us of redemption, especially at Passover; goats of our particular substitute, in that it is an animal worthy for sacrifice, but with an independent character unsuitable for people created in the image of God, our Shepherd King. Yeshua came in “the likeness of sinful flesh” to be our Atonement. (Rom 8:3; Lev 16); doves and young pigeons symbolize “heavenly” birds of peace.
The five offerings which YHVH spoke to Moses to give to Israel point to the necessity and reality of Yeshua’s sinless life unto God, demonstrating Him to be the all-encompassing acceptable sacrifice for sin to reconcile the holy God to a redeemed people for Himself (Is 43:25):
the whole burnt offering — Yeshua gave His whole being to God in sacrifice — both in His life and in His death on the cross — and was ‘burned up in full’ as He suffered the wrath of God and the separation from His Father while He bore our sins upon Himself on the cross;
the grain offering — Yeshua lived a pure, sinless, uncorrupted life; the only perfect Man. No blood sacrifice was ever needed for Him to offer. There was no malice or hypocrisy in His character, nor did He enjoy the natural sweetness of the pleasures which this life can offer, but which detract from the single-eyed purpose of God to sanctify and glorify His Name. No grain offering, or any offering by any Israeli under the Law could be offered with leaven or with honey. (Lev 2:11; but see Lev 23:17) All the grain offerings required seasoning with salt, which preserves against corruption and impurity. Yeshua’s life was wholly consecrated to God to preserve His covenantal purpose and promises for His people and creation: Holiness to YHVH!
the sin offering — Jesus bore on the cross the sinfulness of our nature, and the sin of the whole world in its contrariness to God;
the trespass/guilt offering — Jesus bore our guilt, uncleanness, and shame for our sins. We are saved by grace, and are [justified] sinners through faith till the end of our life;
the peace offering — On the basis of the previous sacrifices — and upon Yeshua’s one, comprehensive, sacrificial death — we have peace with God, with ourselves, and with others. Only of the peace offering could both the priest and the sinner eat, and if a thank offering, it also included leaven along with the unleavened bread.
(The Lord’s Supper, given to the Church, is the remembrance of all that Jesus has accomplished unto God and for us in His sacrificial atoning death. (Lk 22:19-20) At the last supper, He, the High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, shared the bread and the wine (the reminders of the flesh and blood of the sacrificial Passover Lamb) with His sinful apostles in anticipation of the peace of reconciliation He was making for them, and leaving with them.)
The truth of guilt upon a people because of the sins of its religious leaders – even unintentional sins through ignorance – and its transference through the generations until there is repentance, is written in the Law of YHVH God to Israel. (Lev 4:1-3, 13-14) In the haftarah reading from the prophet Isaiah, YHVH God says that Jacob and Israel have not brought Him the sacrifices He has called for to honor Him; therefore He will give Jacob to the curse, and Israel to reproaches. (Is 43:23, 28) If Yeshua be the true Holy One of Israel sent by the Father of Israel to redeem His people, then the false witness and unjust condemnation by the High Priest Caiaphas of this innocent Man has, according to the Law, brought guilt upon all the people of Israel, which the Holy Spirit is bringing to our knowledge, that repentance and restitution be granted to the people of YHVH God’s inheritance. (Lev 26:40-42; Mt 26:56-66; 27:20-25; Acts 5:24-32)
All of the multitude of animal sacrifices under the Law and the Levitical priesthood could not succeed in making the people depart from iniquity and to love righteousness. (Rom 8:3) Something more was needed for that, and God had already planned for this from before the foundation of the world. “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins.” And again He says, “Do not fear, nor be afraid; Have I not told you from that time, and declared it? You are My witnesses [,Jacob,]: Is there a God besides Me? Indeed there is no other Rock; I know not one!”; YHVH declares further, “Remember these, O Jacob, and Israel, My servant; I have formed you, you are My servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me! I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, and, like a cloud, your sins. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you!” (Is 43:25; 44:8, 21-22)
“But Messiah came as High Priest of the good things to come. . ., having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats . . . sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God! And for this reason [Yeshua] is the Mediator of the New Covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.” (Heb 9:11-15)