We have already covered the 5 main sacrifices in the first five chapters, but the next two focus on specific tasks and duties of the priests with regard to the sacrifices. Here, God is instructing Israel to obey carefully, making distinctions between holy and common, clean and unclean.
Leviticus 1: Ascension/Burnt Offering – God invites us to draw near with all that we are: the whole animal goes on the altar.
Leviticus 2: Tribute/Grain Offering – God provides our daily bread and all things, and therefore, He claims our full allegiance: bread on the altar.
Leviticus 3: Peace Offering – God invites us to have fellowship with Him and one another with a meal: the fat goes on the altar and we eat together in the presence of God.
Leviticus 4: Sin Offering – Sin defiles us and our land, but God takes it upon Himself so we can be clean: the blood goes in front of the veil and on the altar for cleansing, the carcass is burned outside the camp.
Leviticus 5: Guilt/Reparation Offering – All sin requires repentance and sometimes restitution: a ram for the Lord and restoring what was lost or stolen plus twenty percent.
“Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Command Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the law for the burnt offering…” (Lev. 6:8-7:38)
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
While the earlier chapters described God’s provision of sacrifice for Israelites to draw near, here God gives commands to the priests for carrying them out. Instructions include the continual sacrifice, every morning and evening for the Ascension Offering (6:9-14), which portions of the Tribute Offerings (grain) belong to the priests (6:15-6:23), how the blood of the Sin Offering consecrates whatever it touches (6:24-30), how the Reparation Offering is like the Sin Offering and who may eat it (7:1-7), as well as the skin and Tribute grain that belong to the priests (7:8-10).
Peace Offerings may be made on occasions of thanksgiving (with unleavened and leavened bread), or upon the completion of vows, or as a voluntary offering, but must be eaten on the day of the offering (thanksgiving) or on the second day (vows/voluntary) (7:11-18). The meat of the Peace Offering must be kept ceremonially clean, ceremonial cleanness is required for all who partake of the Peace Offerings, and any unclean who partake are to be cut off from the people (7:19-21). While the Israelites may use the fat of animals for other purposes, they may not eat it, especially from a sacrifice, nor drink the blood (7:22-27). Finally, while individual Israelites must bring their own the Peace Offerings, the priests are to receive their portion and see to it that the fat is burned (7:28-36). This concludes the law of all the sacrifices and offerings (7:28-38).
HOLY, CLEAN, UNCLEAN, & CUT OFF
We will have opportunity to consider these categories more as we go on, but just notice how God is requiring the priests and the people to pay close attention to details: clean (6:11), holy (6:18), most holy (6:25, 29), clean (7:19), unclean (7:20-21). These generally correspond to whom the sacrifice belongs (holy/priests, clean/congregation). And those who fail to honor these distinctions are to be “cut off” (7:21, 25, 27). This means they are excommunicated from the presence of the Lord while the uncleanness persists, often only requiring a washing (Lev. 22:3-7). While these instructions are primarily given to the priests, we see that individual Israelites are also responsible to make sure the priests are following the instructions (7:18). The overarching principle here is the holiness of God. On the one hand, one does not just saunter into the presence of God, and yet, on the other hand, the whole sacrificial system was God making a way for sinners to draw near.
These categories were training wheels for New Covenant holiness. In the New Covenant, the holy blood of Jesus has gone into the Most Holy Place and splashed on this planet earth, consecrating the whole world to the Lord. Zechariah foretells this when he described a day when the bells on the horses would be consecrated with “Holiness to the Lord” as well as every pot in Jerusalem (Zech. 14:20-21). This is particularly true of believers who have been sanctified with the blood of Jesus (Heb. 10:29). All that we do and touch is now holy to the Lord. In the New Covenant there is only “one baptism,” one washing, but we apply the promise of that cleansing through confession of sin: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 Jn. 1:7). This is also the goal of all correction (Gal. 6:1, Mt. 18:15).
This requires Christians to not be unequally yoked with unbelievers: “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you” (2 Cor. 6:17). And yet, if God saves you in a situation where you are already yoked to an unbeliever, trust Him to use it to sanctify the unbelieving spouse, otherwise the children would be unclean (1 Cor. 7:14). So an unbeliever is not a marital option for believers, but when it comes to friends and business partners, the question is: which way is the influence going? “Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And of some have compassion, making a difference: and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh” (Jude 21-23).
CONCLUSION: YOUR REASONABLE SERVICE
While God raises up teachers and ministers, all believers have priestly responsibilities in the New Covenant: “Ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ… But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:5, 9, cf. Rev. 1:5-6). The Bereans were more noble because they “received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11). “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1). “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:22).