The Law is the Law – Or Is It?

Sacrifices and Offerings, Priests, and Firstborn

Selected Sacrifices and Offerings
Priests and Levites

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Leviticus 1:1-9, OT, Selected Offerings: Burnt offerings (6/11/18)

Leviticus is a manual for ancient priests and Levites. It tells the proper way to make sacrifices and offerings; how to ordain priests; how to distinguish clean animals, people, and things from unclean animals, people, and things; and so on. Chapter 1 gives detailed instructions on how to perform the burnt offering, or holocaust. Vss. 1-9 tell how to sacrifice cattle; vss. 10-13, sheep and goats; and vss. 14-17, birds.

Since the majority of us are not priests, we don’t use Leviticus. Furthermore, most of the instructions in Leviticus can no longer be carried out by anyone, because sacrifices and many other priestly functions could only be performed in the Temple, which was destroyed by the Romans in the year 70.

Leviticus 2:1-13, OT, Selected Offerings: Grain offerings (6/12/18)

Ch. 2 of Leviticus tells how to make offerings of meal, that is, flour or grain. (Note that "meat" in the King James Version is a misprint that was copied into many other translations. Most modern translations are correct.)

Remember that the burnt offerings we studied yesterday are not eaten in any part: most or all of the animal is burned on the altar, the blood is poured on the altar, and the waste is disposed. In contrast, only a portion of the meal offering is burned, and the remainder is for the priests and their families; it is most holy.

Leviticus 3:1-11, 17, OT, Selected Offerings: Peace offerings (6/13/18)

So, burnt offerings are completely burned; they are for God. Meal offerings are divided between God (the part that is burned) and the priests (the part that is eaten). Peace offerings are divided between God, the priests, and the offerer. They are intended to thank God for benefits received or to ask God for a future benefit. In no case are the offerer or priests to consume the fat or blood; those belong to God.

Leviticus 4:1-12, OT, Selected Offerings: Sin offerings (6/14/18)

Leviticus 4 is about sin offerings. Vss. 3-12 say that the chief priest must sacrifice an ox (also called a bullock or bull). Vss. 13-21 present the means of sacrificing a bullock for community sins, which also require an ox. A leader who sins must offer a male goat (vss. 22-26). An ordinary person who sins must offer a female goat (vss. 27-31) or female lamb (vss. 32-35). Instructions for sin offerings continue throughout Ch. 5 and Ch. 6.

Sin is serious: the sin offerings get three long chapters. Sin is even more serious if you hold a position of responsibility; you must sacrifice an ox or male goat, even though a common person only has to sacrifice a female goat or lamb. God makes atonement possible for everyone, as we see in 5:1-11, where there’s a sliding scale that ends up at roughly a pound and half of meal for the very poor. Of course, if you are very poor, a pound and a half of flour or grain is quite expensive. Nobody gets off easy, because sin is serious.

Leviticus 7:1-18, OT: Who may eat of the offerings varies. (6/15/18)

I was having some trouble figuring out the different kinds of offerings in this chapter, so I looked at the study notes in the Jerusalem Bible. I was relieved to read, "It is difficult to determine the exact relationship between the three kinds." It’s worth repeating here that Leviticus is primarily aimed at priests, who also got instructions from older, more experienced priests.

When you are having trouble figuring out the meaning of something in the Bible, ask an older, more experienced reader, like your pastor, rabbi, or Bible teacher. Or send your question to me, and I’ll do my best. But here’s the bottom line: if something is really important to your salvation, it is clear. God loves you and always makes his path for your salvation clear. (Other life paths, not so much. Sometimes God is just watching to see what path you choose, because you are interesting. Choose wisely.)

Luke 1:5-11, 2:21-24; John 2:13-17; Matthew 5:24, 23:16-23; Luke 5:14; Acts 21:26; 1 Corinthians 9:13, NT: Temple sacrifice and offerings continued during most of NT time for both Jews and Christians. (6/18/18)

The Gospels, Acts, and letters (not to mention rabbinical sources) show us that the Laws we read last week about making sacrifices and offerings at the Temple in Jerusalem were still observed – and expected to be observed – by Jews and early Christians in the first century.

John 1:29-37; Mark 10:45; Matthew 26:26-28; Ephesians 5:1-2, NT: The New Testament is clear that Jesus is the perfect, lasting offering for the sins of all people. (6/19/18)

You have probably noticed that Jews and Christians no longer offer animal or grain sacrifices in the Temple; however, there are two different reasons for this. The Jews can no longer offer these sacrifices because the Temple no longer exists. After study and contemplation of the scripture (for example, 1 Kings 8:46-50; Hosea 6:6, 14:2), the rabbis deemed that repentance, prayer, and good deeds on their own are sacrifices acceptable to God.

Christians, on the other hand, felt that the old sacrificial system was made obsolete by the one, perfect, lasting offering that Jesus made of himself, for the forgiveness of the sins of all.

Hebrews 10:1-14; 1 Peter 1:14-21, NT: The New Testament is clear that Jesus is the perfect, lasting offering for the sins of all people. (6/20/18)

Peter and the writer of Hebrews continue to make the point that Jesus is the perfect, lasting offering for the sins of all people. No other sacrifice is needed, effective, or desirable.

Matthew 3:1-3, 4:17; Luke 13:1-9, NT: Repentance is still required. (6/21/18)

Although neither Jews nor Christians offer the animal or grain sacrifices required by the Law at this time, repentance is still a requirement for both. Jesus says that if you don’t change your heart, or repent, you will come to a miserable end, like the people slain by Pilate or crushed by the tower. They were no worse sinners than you, so look out! Something terrible and sudden could happen to you, and you certainly want to have repented by then!

The point of the parable in Luke 13:6-9 is that God loves you, and will do everything possible to save you. Nevertheless, if you are determined to reject God and retain your sins (like an unfruitful fig tree), you will perish.

Matthew 12:3-5, 19:4, 21:16, 22:29-32, 6:6-13, 6:46; James 5:13-16; Matthew 5:16; Ephesians 2:10; 1 Timothy 6:17-19, NT: Bible study, prayer, and good deeds (6/22/18)

Bible study, prayer, and good deeds do not bring about forgiveness for sin or acceptance by God, but they are expected of forgiven and accepted people. Bible study (even this Bible study, hah!) will not save you. Prayer will not save you. Good deeds will not save you. Once you are saved by the grace of God, however, Bible study, prayer, and good deeds are expected from you.

Exodus 28:1-12, 41; Numbers1:45-53; 1 Chronicles 24:1, 5, Priests and Levites – mostly no longer applied because there’s no Temple. (6/25/18)

By now you’ve got the idea about the Law and how it works in modern times for Jews and Christians: The Law is still the law, but I think after what we’ve read so far in the Law and the New Testament, you’ll be able to figure out on your own what’s going on with any part of the Law that you are reading. So now we’re just going to look briefly at a couple more parts of the Law that I find particularly interesting.

Quite a bit of the Law (much more than we are going to read) is devoted to commandments for priests and Levites. Priests and Levites had a really important job: acting as intermediaries between God and the people. You had to be born into the business, you had to train, and you had to do everything correctly, or people died. Not Good! The commandments for the priests literally cover everything from the skin out.

With the destruction of the Temple, most of the commandments pertaining to priests and Levites went on hold; however, the Jews keeps track of the families, just in case the Temple is rebuilt and they have to go back to the jobs given to them in the Law.

Luke 1:5-9; 1 Peter 2:1-10, Priests in Jesus’ time; the priesthood of believers (6/26/18)

The Temple still existed at the time Jesus lived, and all the sacrifices and offerings that we read about earlier were still being offered daily by the priests. Jesus’ mother Mary had a cousin, Elizabeth, who was from a priestly family and who was married to a priest, Zacharias. There were more priests than there were duties, so priests were selected by lot (1 Chronicles 24:5) to perform various functions.

Christian theology is that Jesus’ offering of himself on the cross was the one, perfect, and lasting offering needed for sin; therefore, no other offerings for sin are necessary or desirable. Nevertheless, there are still priests and offerings: Peter says that every believer is a holy priest, "making those offerings of the spirit which are pleasing to God through Jesus Christ."

Exodus 13:11-16; Numbers 18:1, 15-19, OT: Why and how to redeem the firstborn (6/6/18)

Remember that during the last plague in Egypt, every firstborn was slain – except in the households that redeemed their firstborn by smearing blood on the door. In recognition of the "passing over" of these firstborn by the angel of death, as a memory aid, and in partial payment, all firstborn males, both animal and human, belong to the Lord. Clean animals were given to the Lord as offerings, which were eaten by the priests and their families. Unclean animals either had to have their necks broken or had to be redeemed by the offering of a lamb, a clean animal.

Obviously, a human son can’t be sacrificed, so a monetary payment was made instead.

Hebrews 11:24-28, NT: Remembering Passover and protection of the firstborn (6/7/18)

As we saw earlier, Passover was still an important holiday in the time of Jesus, and it stayed important in the early Christian community as a part of the heritage of Jewish Christians. The writer of Hebrews was confident that his readers would know all about Passover and the protection of the firstborn from the angel of death in Egypt.

Luke 2:7, 22-24; Colossians 1:11-20; Revelation 1:4-6, NT: Jesus as the firstborn (6/8/18)

Luke is careful to point out that Jesus’ parents took him to the Temple and made the appropriate offerings for him as a firstborn son, according to the Law. Paul and John, looking back on Jesus; life and death, also point out that he is the firstborn of those to be resurrected from the dead.

More on the Law
Jesus on the Law, Nazirites, Dietary Law
Signs & Symbols, Civil Law, and Mixtures
Times and Seasons
Sacrifices and Offerings, Priests, and Firstborn
The Ten Commandments, 1 - 3
The Ten Commandments, 4 - 10
The Greatest Commandments

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