"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." (Leviticus 1:4)
The Book of Leviticus contains a series of very blessed illustrations of the Gospel of our God, of the Person and of the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. When we are enabled prayerfully to read it with a spiritual eye, by the side of the gospel as recorded in the New Testament, and in the light of the Epistle to the Hebrews, we are favored to become somewhat instructed in the things that make for our eternal peace. It is Jehovah Himself who is speaking in nearly every verse in this book. I would draw your attention first, ere we pass on, to the very heart of the subject, to the place where the contents of the Book of Leviticus were spoken.
The Lord had been speaking to the people from Mount Sinai. When God spake to the people thence the "voice of the trumpet waxed louder and louder," (Exod. 19:19) the earth trembled and shook, the whole mountain was in a smoke; no beast might touch it. The people were afraid to draw near, and even Moses said, "I exceedingly fear and quake;" (Heb. 12:21) because when God spake from Mount Sinai, from that fiery mount went forth God's fiery and unalterable Law. But here, in this book, we have Jehovah not speaking from Sinai, but calling unto Moses and speaking to him out of the tabernacle of the congregation. The scene and the standing ground are absolutely changed. The tabernacle was God's dwelling-place in grace. The tabernacle, its courts, altar and sacrifices, were all constituted to set forth the way of a poor sinner's access unto God. In the tabernacle we see the flexible holiness of God, even that inflexible holiness which shone in blinding glory upon Sinai, united with perfect grace, God's glory and holiness united with His grace; the tabernacle setting forth the Person and the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the offerers setting forth the approach of poor sinners unto Him. Therefore the burden of the book of Leviticus is good news and glad tidings to the ear and to the heart of every sensible sinner,--redemption through blood and access unto God.
Now I would point out next that whilst the tabernacle--significant of Jesus Christ--was the place whence Jehovah spoke encouraging and gracious words to poor sinners, the five great offerings are set forth in the Book of Leviticus in a special order. In the first chapter (which we have before us) there is the Burnt Offering; in the second chapter the Meat Offering; in the third, the Peace Offering; in the fourth the Sin Offering; and in the fifth the Trespass Offering; all five offerings setting forth the perfection and the suitability of the one glorious Christ in His Person and in His work for the hungry and thirsty souls of poor needy sinners.
God speaks, and He begins with the Burnt Offering. God speaks, and He leaves off with the Trespass Offering. God leaves off where the poor sinner begins. God starts with the Burnt Offering, that is, with the perfection, with the infinite devotedness of the Lord Jesus Christ to His honor and to His glory in the salvation of men; but when God begins to deal with the soul of a sinner, he starts with the Trespass Offering. God starts with the Burnt Offering, the sinner with the Trespass Offering, and he is then led up from one offering to another.
Let me try to explain. When the first arrow of conviction--and this is the beginning of all real religion--when that arrow enters the soul, immediately there are deep searchings of conscience with regard to sins that have actually been committed. We begin with the Trespass Offering, the trespass being a definite act of sin--trespass unfolded under various titles in the subsequent chapters of this book. Hence the apostle Paul said, "I had not known lust except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet." (Rom. 7:7) The apostle begins with that trespass, the sin of covetousness; it was the opening up to him of the sin of covetousness that caused him to know what lust or concupiscence was in the sight of a holy God.
But then, as divine teaching goes on, not only does an enlightened memory see that every page of the past life has been stained with numberless trespasses, but the sinner begins to feel there must be a secret spring for all this. God's people, as they grow older, say with one accord, "We feel ourselves to become worse and worse; we know more of the evils of our own wretched hearts than when we first began." Speaking for myself, I had no idea I was so utterly and horribly wicked as subsequent discoveries have shown me to be. Now comes the Sin Offering. First the Trespass and then the Sin Offering. The Sin Offering in its nature and uses is set forth by the apostle Paul where he speaks of the "exceeding sinfulness of sin." How is it these trespasses are continually blotting and staining the pages of my life? Because they have a root, a fountain; because their branches spring from one root, a fountain; because they are bitter streams flowing from one fountain. And what is that root? It is the flesh, not something in you, but the flesh itself; not the material tissues of which our bodies are composed; the word "flesh" signifies that fallen and depraved nature which I inherit from my first father Adam. "But Lord, I did not know, and I have not discovered till quite recently, in large measure, the nature of my own sinfulness." Now comes the Sin Offering; it is for the sin of ignorance. A precious Christ is not only the Trespass Offering, our precious and glorious Christ is the Sin Offering. On Him was judged the sin of our nature the inward depravity from which the trespasses are continually flowing. "I find," says the apostle, "that in me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing." (Rom. 7:18) It is one thing to say this, and it is a totally different thing to discover it for yourself. I do pray that all these truths may be brought home to your consciences, that you may not simply come and say, "The truth is preached here, the doctrines of grace are set forth here." I hope and believe and know that according as God gives me light, the truth, the doctrines of grace, are set forth; but what is the use of it unless your conscience is affected, and you are brought into the place which I am attempting to describe? Trespass first--a definite act of sin; sin in its essence next--the Sin Offering.
What is the next offering? The Peace Offering, where the poor sinner who has had the kiss of forgiveness, the poor sinner whose trespasses have been forgiven him by his Father who is in heaven, the poor sinner who rests upon Christ the Sin Offering, knows something of what it is to commune with God in Christ--that is the Peace Offering. Read the history of it, and you will find the Peace Offering was an act of communion, typically setting forth a holy God and the hell deserving sinner brought nigh by the precious blood of Christ.
The next offering is the Meat Offering, and what does that signify? Our precious, glorious Christ in the infinite perfection of His nature fed upon by the poor sinner.
Then we come to the Burnt Offering, which forms the subject of our meditation this morning. Christ the Burnt Offering. What is that? Christ Godward, Christ manward, a precious Christ offering Himself without spot unto God. This is set forth first by the unblemished character of the victim that was to be offered upon the altar. All the inward parts--no blemish discovered therein--all consumed upon that altar. In other words we have here the perfection of our blessed Lord's devotedness to His Father and to His God. "Lo, I come, in the volume of the Book it is written of Me; I delight to do Thy will, O My God." (Ps. 40:7,8)
Behold our glorious Lord as our great Burnt Offering! Here are texts that set forth. "He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." (Phil. 2:8) Here is another, "He stedfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem." (Luke 9:51) Here is another, "I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened until it be accomplished." (Luke 12:50) And on that awful journey from Gethsemane to Calvary, we hear the Lord saying, "The cup which My Father have given Me, shall I not drink it?" (John 18:11) Here is Christ absolutely devoted to God as the sinner's Representative; absolutely devoted to God as the great Burnt Offering which satisfied in all its fullness the infinite and inflexible demands of the holiness of Jehovah the Father.
Now may God the Holy Ghost expound this to us with living power, so that this morning we may be helped and encouraged as we have a view of the great antitypical Burnt Offering, even of our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ, the Eternal Son of the Father, in the perfection of His Person, in the perfection of His work, and in the perfection of His supply.
Let us look at the fourth verse as setting forth the Sacrifice.
First, the offerer, "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." Now this is present truth, dear friends. When we turn to Leviticus we are not turning to an antiquated record of Jewish customs, but we turn to the words of God the Holy Ghost. If we desire to be scribes well instructed in the things that make for our eternal peace, it behooves us to seek that we may have light given to us with regard to the types recorded for us here. Our text today touches the vitals of godliness. There are some things that are important for our well being, and they are necessary to be brought forward in the ministry of the Word. But there are other things which are absolutely essential to our very being and to our soul's salvation. Now I speak to you this morning not upon that which is important for your well being, but upon that which is essential to your very being as a sinner hoping in the mercy of God in Christ. And what are the essentials that are set forth here? The blood of Christ and faith therein. Here are two essentials, without which no man or woman here can ever enter into the presence of God with joy.
First of all, then, in relation to the offerer, this cardinal truth stands out--confession of sin. Where is that to be seen? In the verse to which I have drawn attention. "He shall put his hand upon the head of the Burnt Offering." Wherever you read in the Levitical dispensation of the hand being laid upon the head of the offering, there you may always see the figure of confession of sin. Sin is implied; sin is expressed in all the offerings of the Levitical dispensation. In the Burnt, the Meat, the Peace, the Sin and the Trespass Offerings, sin is either expressed or implied, and your religion is not of God's giving if it has not in it a realization and confession of sin. The offerer was to put his hand upon the head of the Burnt Offering--not a light and passing touch; each offerer was to lean the whole weight of his person, through his hand, upon the head of the sacrifice which he had brought to the door of the Tabernacle of the congregation. The touch which a poor sinner has of the Lord Jesus is the touch of one who is consciously guilty. The hand was laid upon the head of the Burnt Offering; the soul, the mind, the spirit, your inner man, leans all its weight upon the Person of the Christ of God. O what an infinite mercy it is when a self-condemned sinner says with an aching heart, leaning upon the record that God has given to us here of His own dear Son, "Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Thy lovingkindness." (Ps. 51:1)
What is the measure of God's mercy? His lovingkindness. What is the measure of His lovingkindness? The gift of His well beloved Son as the great and glorious Burnt Offering, devoting Himself body, soul and spirit to the honor and to the glory of His Father and His God. "Unto you therefore which believe"--that means, unto you therefore which have laid your hand upon the Head of the Burnt Offering,--unto you therefore who can say,
"On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;"
"Unto you therefore which believe, He is precious." (1 Pet. 2:7) Precious! What does that mean? Without price--priceless; so great and so valuable as to be unable from a human point of view to be estimated. "Unto you therefore which believe He is precious." We sometimes learn from little children, and I remember some time ago reading of a child who was asked if she could give the meaning of the word "precious." She thought for a minute, and then said, "It means this; Father says of Mother again and again, 'She is so precious, whatever should we do without her?'" And the child said, "That means that she is precious." Transfer this to your glorious Lord. "Unto you therefore which believe He is precious," whatever should we do without Him! Where would be a fountain and spring whence our peace and pardon should come? "Unto you therefore which believe, He is precious." Lord Jesus, I cannot do without Thee. The offerer shall bring his offering and shall lay his hand upon the head of the Burnt Offering, and there confess his sin.
"My faith would lay her hand
On that dear head of Thine,
While like a penitent I stand,
And there confess my sin."
Now look again. Is not the glorious Gospel here? Confession! And what else? Covering. "But," you say, "there is nothing about covering in the 4th verse." Yes there is, but another word is used for it, atonement,--"to make atonement for him." The learned tell us the Hebrew word translated here "atonement" is the same as that used for "covering;" the same word that is used when in connection with the Ark which Noah was commanded to build, we read it was pitched or covered within or without. Now here stands the offerer with his hand upon the head of the Burnt Offering, and God the Holy Ghost says here, "it shall make atonement for him." In other words, it shall cover, it shall cover that poor sin-stricken offerer. What is the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ? It is the covering which He hath wrought for a poor offerer. At the cross of Calvary, with confession of sin, with reliance of soul upon the Person and the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, God says here the offerer is covered by the blood. He is covered by the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ; He is covered by the perfectness of Him who is the Father's delight and in whom He is well pleased.
The offerer was to bring the offering of his own voluntary will. Our blessed Lord, (looking at Him for a moment as the Offerer,) our blessed Lord came voluntarily as well as in connection with covenant engagements. He came voluntarily to do His Father's will, and to glorify Him.
Have you noticed that in this first chapter, three times is the Burnt Offering described as "of a sweet savour?" Now here is a poor sinner at the cross. Under the cross, looking unto, resting upon Jesus, he is covered with the sweet savour of Christ as the Burnt Offering. He is covered with the righteousness of Him who fulfilled the law and made it honorable. He is covered with the precious blood that was shed for his redemption. He says at the cross, "I deserved eternal punishment, but I lean wholly upon Christ the Burnt Offering."
Confession! Confession means covering. What else is set forth here? Acceptance. "It shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him." What was accepted in the case of a godly Israelite? Doubtless he came again and again with weeping, but his tears did not constitute his acceptance. He came again and again with this, that and the other, but nothing that he could bring could constitute his acceptance. He might have a very trembling hand as he laid it upon the head of the Burnt Offering. I am quite sure a multitude of them had. Why? Because they felt their sins, and sin makes a man tremble. But though the hand might shake, with all the weight that they could throw into that hand they leaned upon the head of the Burnt Offering, and they stood accepted because of the Burnt Offering, because of the sweet savour, because of the sprinkled blood, because of the righteousness which is "unto all and upon all them that believe."
But some were more accepted than others? Not a bit of it! Where can you find it? There were some who brought an offering of the herd, that is a bullock--a fairly well-to-do man was such. Some brought an offering of the flock, a sheep or a lamb--he also had command of means sufficient. But if the Burnt Offering were of fowls, turtle-doves, or young pigeons, the poorest could get those. If the offerer could not get a bullock, a lamb, or even turtle-doves, he could at least get young pigeons. Whether he stood there with the pigeons or a bullock, he was accepted. Here we have taught to us that there are no degrees of acceptance. God counts Head and member one--one in life, one in justification, one in righteousness. I grant you there are measures of enjoyment. I grant you there is, I was going to say, an almost infinite scale of decrees of knowledge, but no degrees of acceptance. Oh, this is your mercy, poor sinner! Are you at the cross? are your conceptions so feeble that you can only bring the pigeons? Yet you stand accepted equally with one who is able to speak with some measure of assurance of Christ as the complete and glorious Sacrifice for sin.
Now see, there is transference from the sinner to the sinner's Substitute. Here it was transference by type and figure. It was all typical, but now see, Jehovah hath appointed His own dear Son as the Burnt Offering; the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all. God has transferred it. Oh this is very blessed! We have here the Antitype, and not the type. God has transferred the whole of the sins of His Church and people to the Head and Person of Jehovah Jesus, our great and glorious Substitute. Now the poor sinner, made willing in the day of God's power, comes voluntarily to the Cross, voluntarily to the door of the Tabernacle, and there confesses his sins and his iniquities upon the head of the Lord Jesus Christ in all His perfectness as our great and glorious Burnt Offering.
But you say, there is faith. Yes, but faith is one of the "things that accompany salvation," and because the Lord laid on our precious Christ the load of your sins and iniquities, He has given to you faith accompanying the salvation which has been accomplished in its entirety on Calvary's tree, and which is handed over to the people by God as they are brought nigh.
Lastly, there is in the 5th verse the sacrifice--blood-shedding. The bullock should be killed, or in the case of birds, the head should be wrung off and the blood sprinkled round about the altar. Blood-shedding was absolutely essential or there could be no way of access. The fact that the offering was unblemished was a qualification for atonement, but it was not atonement. Christ is His Person, apart from His shed blood, is not atonement. Christ as an example would not meet the case of any poor, guilty, hell-deserving sinner. Blood was essential to the sacrifice. "Without shedding of blood there is no remission." (Heb. 9:22) "The blood is the life," (Levi. 17:11) and a gospel which is not the Gospel of the shed blood is an emasculated thing. Blood shed and sprinkled--that means life poured out. In other words, Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Christ made a curse, Christ spilling His precious blood to the very last drop, is the atonement whereby the poor soul is saved. What says all the glorified? "Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood." (Rev. 1:5) Sin is such a deadly thing that the blood of Him who is God could alone put it away.
What did death imply--the death of Christ? That He had borne the pain and the loss, the ruin and the separation, and the overwhelming that sin brings. That He had borne the actual sentence which God pronounces on sin.
"He bore on the tree, the sentence for me,
And now both the Surety and sinner are free."
Does conscience condemn? There is only one remedy for the troubled conscience, and that is the applied blood of Christ. Nothing else can quiet the conscience; nothing else can calm the storm. It is a mercy when at the altar of Burnt Offering you, as a poor sinner, looking upon the Lord of life and glory, can say, "Lord, it is enough." God says at that altar, "It is enough for Me." Poor sinner, is it not enough for you? Yes, you say, but I want all this brought home. I know you do, and so do I, and we have it brought home to us again and again by the power of the Holy Spirit, but remember, your acceptance does not stand in the work of the Holy Ghost within you, but in the covering of the sweet savour of the sacrifice of Calvary.
The Burnt Offering was such a great one. In His covenant character Christ did not suffer as a private individual, but as the representative Man, hence the words, "The Lord hath brought again from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the everlasting covenant." (Heb. 13:20) Accepted in that character, and in that capacity. May God the Holy Ghost then give to us blessed views of the holy, holy, holy, Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, God and Man in one Person. Oh sure I am that every drop of blood that that incomparable, ineffable glorious One shed--God manifest in the flesh--made an incomparable majestic recompense to the honor of eternal Justice. Sure I am that His merits were infinite merits. Hallelujah, to the Lamb that was slain! our hope, our solace, our glory, our victory. Joseph Hart shall end these remarks this morning.
"Come then, repenting sinner, come,
Approach with humble faith,
Owe what thou wilt, the total sum
Is cancelled by His death.
His blood can cleanse the blackest soul
And wash our guilt away,
He shall present us sound and whole
In that tremendous day."