|BIBLE STUDY SERIES #224, 225 and 226|
3 March, 1996
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
Our ongoing series of Bible Studies, which began with God's Call to Abram in Genesis 12, has led us down the generations from that Patriarch to the foot of Mount Sinai. The children of Israel, have recently been relieved from the harsh bondage and oppression of their Egyptian taskmasters, through the miraculous Divine intervention called the Exodus. The period of stress endured under Pharaoh had apparently been designed to create a national experience of enforced schooling in all the varied aspects of secular civilization and an aversion to the harsher realities of slavery.
Now they are gathered to begin their formal national walk with Yahweh (Jehovah), their spiritual husband. The Almighty is bringing into being through the progeny of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as He promised, a people through whom He would act to re-constitute the Creation into a more perfect accord with His final design.
Sin having entered the picture as a result of the Fall of Adam and Eve, a "Second Adam", seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15), would be required to rectify the situation and form a door of escape for those who, though sinners, would seek this avenue of escape in accordance with the requisite repentant return before The Almighty. The plan had been anticipated by "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world", as we see in Revelation 13:8, a presentation of Himself in Love by that God Who "...so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life", as we read in that famous summary verse, John 3:16.
Now, having examined the Scriptural record of that Exodus, and the preliminary aspects of their new national relationship with The Almighty at Mount Sinai, we continue from the Book of Exodus on into the third Book of the Pentateuch, called Leviticus. The Companion Bible notes that the name of this Book, "Leviticus", is "From the Sept. and Vulg., because thought to be pertaining to the Levites. The Heb. name = vayyikra, being the first word = :'And He called'. Leviticus, therefore, is the Book relating to worship: for only those whom God thus calls does He seek to worship Him." Referring the reader to John 4:23, and comparing that with Psalm 65:4, the reference quotes the words: "Blessed is the man whom Thou choosest, and causest to approach unto Thee, that he may dwell in Thy courts." It continues by making this clarifying comment regarding the Book of Leviticus: "All its types relate to worship as those of Exodus relate to Redemption."
Keil and Delitzsch confirm this with some amplification, stating that it is called Leviticus "from the leading character of its contents, and probably also with some reference to the titles which had obtained currency among the Rabbins, viz. 'law of the priests,' 'law-book of sacrificial offerings.' It carries on to its completion the giving of the law at Sinai, which commenced at Ex. xxv., and by which the covenant constitution was firmly established. It contains more particularly the laws regulating the relation of Israel to its God, including both the fundamental principles upon which its covenant fellowship with the Lord depended, and the directions for the sanctification of the covenant people in that communion. Consequently the laws contained in this book might justly be described as the 'spiritual statute-book of Israel as the congregation of Jehovah.' As every treaty establishes a reciprocal relation between those who are parties to it, so not only did Jehovah as Lord of the whole earth enter into a special relation to His chosen people Israel in the covenant made by Him with the seed of Abraham, which He had chosen as His own possession out of all the nations, but the nation of Israel was also to be brought into a real and living fellowship with Him as its God and Lord."
It is sometimes the case that people set out with the best of intentions to read through the Bible from cover to cover. They begin at Genesis I with the fascinating stories of activities and emotional responses of real historical characters, with whom they subconsciously identify but, as they move on, they become somewhat disenchanted with the whole idea of trying to absorb something of God's Word in Scripture because they find these accounts of stirring times and peoples yielding place to a dry succession of more and more laws in the legal code of Leviticus which they do not see as having the slightest relationship to their own condition. However, as long-time listeners realise, we of the British-Israel-World Federation maintain that the vast majority of the present-day descendants of ancient Israel are now found within the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples. It is specifically for their great benefit that these laws, encampment accounts and genealogies have been recorded. When we read of a peculiar association of the LORD God with Israel, that relationship includes those who, today, derive their origins mainly from the Caucasus area where ancient Israel was deported by the Assyrians, and who subsequently settled the nations of North-Western Europe. Their descendants are included where the word Israel is spoken in the Scriptures, so we had better pay attention. At this point in the Keil and Delitzsch commentary, we may begin to see the ultimate purpose in all that is recorded, as we read further of their insights. They continue:
"And whereas Jehovah would be Israel's God, manifesting Himself to it in all the fulness of His divine nature; so was it also His purpose to train Israel as His own nation, to sanctify it for the truest life in fellowship with Him, and to bless it with all the fulness of His salvation. To give effect to the former, or the first condition of the covenant, God had commanded the erection of a sanctuary for the dwelling-place of His name, or the true manifestation of His own essence; and on its erection, i.e. on the setting up of the tabernacle, He filled the most holy place with a visible sign of His divine glory (Ex. xl. 34), a proof that He would be ever near and present to His people with His almighty grace. When this was done, it was necessary that the other side of the covenant relation should be realized in a manner suited to the spiritual, religious, and moral condition of Israel, in order that Israel might become His people in truth. But as the nation of Israel was separated from God, the Holy One, by the sin and unholiness of its nature, the only way in which God could render access to His gracious presence possible, was by institutions and legal regulations, which served on the one hand to sharpen the consciousness of sin in the hearts of the people, and thereby to awaken the desire for mercy and for reconciliation with the holy God, and on the other hand furnished them with the means of expiating their sins and sanctifying their walk before God according to the standard of His holy commandments."
"All the laws and regulations of Leviticus have this for their object, inasmuch as they, each and all, aim quite as much at the restoration of an inward fellowship on the part of the nation as a whole and the individual members with Jehovah their God, through the expiation or forgiveness of sin and the removal of all natural uncleanness, as at the strengthening and deepening of this fellowship by the sanctification of every relation of life. In accordance with this twofold object, the contents of the book are arranged in two larger series of laws and rules of life, the first extending from chap. i. to chap. xvi., the second from chap. xvii. to chap. xxv.
Curiously, as The Companion Bible notes, "The Holy Spirit is not once named, though referred to in all the other books of the Pentateuch, because all here relates to Christ; and it is the Spirit's work to glorify Christ (John 16.14)." It further explains that the whole of Leviticus and Numbers, Chapters 1 through 10:10 come between the first day of the first month and the twentieth day of the second month... on the hypothesis that Israel would forthwith advance and enter the land. Of course, as their subsequent history shows, they balked at the prospect of facing an enemy they considered too powerful for them to overcome, with the result that they had to endure wilderness wandering for the period of forty years before they were subsequently directed towards a successful invasion of the Promised Land.
As our time has drawn close to the end of today's allotment, let me leave with you this thought. God, Who has so carefully planned every minute detail in the whole of Creation, its beauty and its intensities of power, its microscopic wonders and its human relationships both with each other and with Himself, would not act out of character in regulating the requirements of those laws of the Book of Leviticus. All has meaning and the intent behind it all is ultimately the greatest love we can imagine. Let us not reject anything which is offered to us for our benefit, either as an individual or as a part of our nation. We will only benefit if we observe and learn the full meaning heralded by these Old Testament Commandments. We will only suffer, eventually, if we do not.
May you become more attuned to the mind of The Almighty as you contemplate the provisions for your well-being in His Holy word.
10 March, 1996
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
Our ongoing series of Bible Studies which began at the Call of Abram in Genesis 12 has traced The Almighty's inter-actions with the generations of his descendants as recorded in subsequent chapters of Genesis and through the Book of Exodus. We are presently beginning our studies in the third book of the Bible, that of Leviticus, and last week we had introduced some general statements which set the stage for our subsequent studies.
Today, I want to take a look at the principle of Atonement, and I will begin by repeating a part of a passage in Keil and Delitzsch which was quoted last week. They state that the laws and regulations of Leviticus aim "at the restoration of an inward fellowship on the part of the nation as a whole and the individual members with Jehovah their God, through the expiation or forgiveness of sin and the removal of all natural uncleanness", and at "the strengthening and deepening of this fellowship by the sanctification of every relation of life." The idea has been simplified by some Bible students in the words "at-one-ment." Let us begin by reading the opening verses of this Book of Leviticus, in order to find out by what means this objective was symbolically to be accomplished in those early days in the life of the Israel nation. I shall, as is our custom, break into the reading to insert what I trust will be useful comments as we read.
1. And the LORD called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying,
2. Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man of you bring an offering unto the LORD, ye shall bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herd, and of the flock.
3. If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the LORD.
Here we may note several things. First, as mentioned in The Companion Bible, the Book of Leviticus starts with the conjunction "And" which connects Leviticus very closely with Exodus, as Exodus is linked with Genesis, so this is part of the same account which we have been studying.
Second, the LORD, Jehovah, whose glory filled the tabernacle, and with Whom we may identify the Pre-Incarnate Christ, is directing Moses in what follows. Keep in mind that, even as it is today, and particularly so among some African tribes, the cattle from among which the sacrifices are to be chosen are often the main measure of wealth of the family. A burnt sacrifice was one wholly dedicated to God. Nothing was to be held back or retrieved. Nothing was to be retained from it.
Third, it was to be a male, as Jesus Christ was male, and it was to be an animal without blemish, as Christ was perfect in His walk. In John 8:46, in response to the attack of certain Jews who sought to kill Him, and to whom in consequence, Jesus had said "Ye are of your father the devil", Jesus had challenged His attackers with the words "Which of you convinceth me of sin?" Young's Concordance gives the meaning of "convince" as "convict." At this point, therefore, those who would most dearly have desired to make some charge against Him were unable to do so.
Fourth, the offering was to be given freely, not by compulsion, as Jesus freely gave Himself. In John 10:17-18, we find Christ stating of His life that "No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself."
4. And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.
Here we see the identification of the sinner with the substitute which would give its life's blood in place of that of the sinner. It is important to note that the symbolism of the hand placed upon the sacrificial beast must equate, in the reality, to the sinner's repentant attitude which forms a corresponding identification with Jesus Christ, "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." (Revelation 13:8). Here is the concept of the substitute victim, which was reflected in the incident recorded in Genesis 22:13. You may remember that ram which had its horns caught in the tangle of the thicket, and which Abraham took and slew in place of his bound son, Isaac, who was thus released from bondage and death. The Companion Bible notes that "There was a double transfer: the unworthiness of the offerer was transferred to the victim; and the acceptableness of the offering was transferred to the offerer. This is confined to the burnt offerings and peace offerings; never with the sin offerings" This act of placing the hand upon the sacrifice could not be done by proxy. The person had to do it himself. The word for "make atonement" is Hebrew "kaphar", to cover the sinner and his sin, so that neither is seen.
5. And he shall kill the bullock before the LORD: and the priests, Aaron's sons, shall bring the blood, and sprinkle the blood round about upon the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
6. And he shall flay the burnt offering, and cut it into his pieces.
The Companion Bible note continues by stating that the animal was flayed, the skin not being part of the burnt offering, only the sin offering. It indicates that the cutting apart was to show that all was without blemish.
7. And the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire upon the altar, and lay the wood in order upon the fire:
8. And the priests, Aaron's sons, shall lay the parts, the head, and the fat, in order upon the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar:
9. But his inwards and his legs shall he wash in water: and the priest shall burn all on the altar, to be a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD.
The Companion Bible states that the "wood" equates to "logs", and says that "no other fuel might be used." Washing the inward parts of the sacrificial animal would be a necessity even if the parts were to be eaten as digested fodder would have created some undesirable refuse within. It would also remove the blood and this may be symbolic of the loss of blood at the Crucifixion when the final thrust of the Roman soldier's spear brought forth "blood and water" from the dead body of Christ (John 19:34).
10. And if his offering be of the flocks, namely, of the sheep, or of the goats, for a burnt sacrifice; he shall bring it a male without blemish.
11. And he shall kill it on the side of the altar northward before the LORD: and the priests, Aaron's sons, shall sprinkle his blood round about upon the altar.
Here we may note the direction of the actual act of slaying of the victim. It was to be done "on the side of the altar northward." Christ was Crucified towards the north side of Jerusalem, on Golgotha, where His blood was sprinkled about.
12. And he shall cut it into his pieces, with his head and his fat: and the priest shall lay them in order on the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar:
13. But he shall wash the inwards and the legs with water: and the priest shall bring it all, and burn it upon the altar: it is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD.
14. And if the burnt sacrifice for his offering to the LORD be of fowls, then he shall bring his offering of turtledoves, or of young pigeons.
15. And the priest shall bring it unto the altar, and wring off his head, and burn it on the altar; and the blood thereof shall be wrung out at the side of the altar:
16. And he shall pluck away his crop with his feathers, and cast it beside the altar on the east part, by the place of the ashes:
17. And he shall cleave it with the wings thereof, but shall not divide it asunder: and the priest shall burn it upon the altar, upon the wood that is upon the fire: it is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD.
The act of making a cleft in the wings might equate to the piercing of the extremities during crucifixion. Certainly, even within this first chapter of Leviticus there is much food for thought, and I believe that we can see the equivalence of symbol to reality as we contemplate what Jesus Christ suffered in our place and on our behalf. It was a gift made through the priestly office of Israel, but its results could flow to all humanity that whosoever will may come to present himself or herself to The LORD through Christ's great gift of which John wrote in John 3:16. Our time has about expired for this lesson, so let me leave with you the meditation that if The LORD made historic long-term provision by way of such sacrificial observances through many generations of Old Testament progeny of the Patriarchs, the matter is worth examining and considering, in order to determine what lessons for ourselves lie beneath the surface of such a detailed account, given so long ago. It has an age-long, and age-ending scenario bound up in the meaning of these arrangements. May you find blessing as you re-examine the Biblical account during this coming week and in the weeks ahead.
17 March, 1996
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
Our ongoing series of Bible Studies which began with God's Call to Abram has followed the Scriptural account of that Patriarch's descendants through Isaac, Jacob (renamed Israel), and the tribal development within the schooling of Egyptian bondage, and the national "wedding" of Israel with Yahweh (Jehovah), their God at Mount Sinai. Their portable focus of national worship, The Tabernacle, has now been constructed in accordance with the specific and detailed instructions of The Almighty, and the preparation of the Aaronic priesthood has now begun.
On the last broadcast we were examining the instructions for presentation of a burnt offering made by fire, as we find such described in Leviticus 1. Animal sacrifice was not initiated with the Sinai instructions. We read of such sacrifices being given by Abel, and Noah, and also others prior to this time. Through the generations there appears to have been the development of a fuller understanding of what was intended by this act. As Keil and Delitzsch put it, "the sons of Adam offered their sacrifices to God from the fruit of their labour, in the tilling of the ground and the keeping of sheep, whereas Noah presented his burnt-offerings from the clean cattle and birds that had been shut up with him in the ark, i.e. from those animals which at any rate from that time forward were assigned to man as food (Gen. ix. 3)."
Abraham, in making preparation to offer his son, Isaac, must have held a more complete appreciation of what such sacrifices actually portended, and the present form of the ritual, described in Leviticus 1, which had as its objective an identification with Jesus Christ's future atoning sacrifice on Calvary, made for an understanding and appreciation of the meaning which was to be associated with such sacrifices on the part of the numerous descendants of Jacob within the nation of Israel.
Before we proceed further in the detailed instructions which we find in Leviticus, it may, perhaps, be of benefit to quote a passage which we find in Keil and Delitzsch, and which clarifies the chapter divisions of what we are now studying. Having stated that the fearful manifestations of God on Sinai had prepared the way towards an understanding of the laws of sacrifice, they continue:
"The laws of sacrifice in chap. i.-vii. are divisible into two groups. The first (chap. i-v.) contains the general instructions, which were applicable both to the community as a whole and also to the individual Israelites. Chap. i.-iii. contain an account of the animals and vegetables which could be used for the three kinds of offerings that were already common among them, viz. the burnt-offerings, meat-offerings, and slain-offerings; and precise rules are laid down for the mode in which they were to be offered. In chap. iv. and v. the occasions are described on which sin-offerings and trespass-offerings were to be presented; and directions are given as to the sacrifices to be offered, and the mode of presentation on each separate occasion.
The second group (chap. vi. and vii.) contains special rules for the priests, with reference to their duties in connection with the different sacrifices, and the portions they were to receive; together with several supplementary laws, for example, with regard to the meat-offering of the priests, and the various kinds of slain or peace-offering. All these laws relate exclusively to the sacrifices to be offered spontaneously, either by individuals or by the whole community, the consciousness and confession of sin or debt being presupposed, even in the case of the sin and trespass-offerings, and their presentation being made to depend upon the free-will of those who had sinned. This is a sufficient explanation of the fact, that they contain no rules respecting either the time for presenting them, or the order in which they were to follow one another, when two or more were offered together. At the same time, the different rules laid down with regard to the ritual to be observed, applied not only to the private sacrifices, but also to those of the congregation, which were prescribed by special laws for every day, and for the annual festivals, as well as to the sacrifices of purification and consecration, for which no separate ritual is enjoined."
They mention that the common term for sacrifices of every kind was "corban" (presentation...).
Before we proceed with our readings of specific passages, I ought, perhaps, to include a quotation from The New Bible Commentary introduction to Leviticus. Under the heading "Purpose and Application", this reference states: "The immediate purpose of this book is to set forth those laws and principles by which Israel is to live as the people of God. Their God is a holy God; they are to be a holy people. 'Ye shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy' is its emphatic demand. His sanctuary is in their midst; and when they worship there they stand 'before the Lord', a phrase which occurs about sixty times in this book. This means separation from uncleanness and sin, and, since they are sinful and prone to sin, it necessitates atonement for sin and purification from it and from all uncleanness. Hence the law of sacrifice is placed impressively at the beginning... .
The laws of Leviticus are very varied. They are both general and specific; they are both ceremonial and moral; they are severe and also merciful. They separate Israel from the nations and set her apart for the service of the God who has made this people His own by delivering them from Egyptian bondage. In so far as these laws are purely ceremonial, they are temporary and binding only during the Mosaic dispensation to which they belong. They had immediate reference to Israel as a nation which was to be governed in every aspect of its national and individual life by the Law of Moses. In this strictly historical sense this book still has great interest for the Christian reader. It tells him how God dealt with Israel as a people 'under age' and in need of training and preparation... ."
As British-Israel teaching supports the contention that the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples in the world today form the vast majority of the descendants of those ancient Israelites, we would point out that on our part this interest ought to be doubly intensified! The reference goes on to note of this Book of Leviticus that "The book is particularly notable in that it brings together in blended harmony two elements which are regarded by many as quite distinct and even as incompatible. On the one hand, Leviticus is the most thoroughly legalistic of all the books of the Old Testament. It seeks to govern either by broad principle or specific precept the whole of the life of the people of God. Its demands may be summed up in the words of the apostle 'whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God' (I Cor. x. 31). Its insistent challenge and persistent demand is: 'Ye shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.' On the other hand, there is no book in the Old Testament which more clearly sets forth the redemption which is in Christ than does Leviticus... . This is the New Testament gospel for sinners stated in Old Testament terms and enshrined in the ritual of sacrifice; and it finds its fullest expression in the ritual of the day of atonement."
As the New Bible Commentary passage puts it, "With Isaiah, the 'evangelical' prophet of the old dispensation, and with the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, we must turn to Leviticus and read of the great day of atonement, and of the explanation which is given of it there: 'For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul' (Lv. xvii. 11)."
As our time has about run out for this lesson, may I commend to your thoughts the concepts which this short commentary study has presented, to the end that not one person who follows the concepts presented herein shall fail to appreciate and grasp that great truth that the doorway to Salvation is manifested even here, in the Old Testament, as it is likewise in the New Testament accounts of Our Saviour. As British Israelites, we are sometimes accused of neglecting this basic necessity of life. Let it not fail of its fullest expression in the hearts and lives of all who hear, and who would number themselves among the tribes of Israel. May this meditation bless your life this week.
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