Give grace, our heavenly Father, that the preaching of Your Word may be proclaimed rightly with true and life-giving power. Help me to that end. And to all Your people, especially to this congregation, give Your heavenly grace that with reverent and obedient hearts they may hear and receive Your Holy Word and serve You in holiness and righteousness all the days of their lives. In Christ we pray. Amen.
Please turn in your Bibles to Leviticus, the third book of the Bible, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus. We are in Leviticus 6, beginning at verse 8. So far we have spent five sermons looking at the five sacrifices instituted by God in these opening chapters of Leviticus.
Remember at the end of Exodus, Moses has completed the building of the tabernacle and the glory of the Lord fills the tabernacle. He’s dwelling there but Moses is not able to enter in, which is indicative of our plight with God’s presence among us. Apart from God providing a way, we would have no access to Him. How can a holy God dwell in the midst of an unholy people?
We have seen these five sacrifices. The burnt offering, grain offering, peace offering, sin offering, and the guilt offering, and this morning we have one more section on the offerings before we turn in chapters 8 and 9 to a related topic, which is the consecration of Aaron and the priesthood. So this section, in chapter 6 and 7, is a kind of transition, bridging chapters 1 through 5, really into chapter 6 verse 7, and then Leviticus 8 and 9.
So this middle section, before we get to the consecration of the priesthood, we look at what did the priests do.
If you have your Bible open, you see in the ESV it gives the heading before verse 8, “The Priests and the Offerings.” So that’s to orient you. What have we had for 5+ chapters? We’ve had instructions for the worshipers. What would the Israelite do? When would they bring sacrifices? What would it look like? What are each of these five sacrifices for?
But in each one there is work not only for the worshiper, for the Israelite, but there’s work for the priests to do. So before we get to the installation of the priesthood itself, in chapter 8 we’re going to hear about their essential work, and the essential work of the priesthood was to administer this sacrificial system.
Now if you’ve been there through these five sermons, you know that we’ve already jumped to chapter 6 and 7 several times, because we’ve connected the dots to say, well, what were these sacrifices for? How else did it work? On what other occasions might they be given? So we’ve already through a good portion of these two chapters and I’m not going to read through the whole section again, or try to explain it line by line. Some of you are saying, whew, yes.
But here’s the plan. We’re going to get the big picture, just giving an overview of these two chapters, stopping along the way to make a few observations and understand the realities behind the instruction, and then we’re going to finish by pulling back, okay, we’ve had seven chapters on the sacrificial system. What are some lessons we can draw? And I have three lessons from the sacrificial system as a whole.
So first we’re going to just go through, kind of 30,000 feet overview. Now what you’ll notice as we go through is that the order of the sacrifices is different. I’ve said several times that there’s a logical and even more than that, a theological rationale to the order in chapters 1 through 6 verse 7.
First we are reconciled to God, atonement made in the burnt offering. That’s foundational. Then we dedicate ourselves to God in gratitude for His grace, in the grain offering. Then we enjoy fellowship with Him and with others in the peace offering. But this fellowship can be broke by continuing sin, so there’s a sin offering. And some sins are more serious and they can’t be forgiven just by words alone but you must make restitution, and that’s what the guilt offering is for, to show you are bearing fruit in keeping with repentance.
So that’s the logical coherence in chapters 1 through 6 verse 7. The order here, you’ll notice, is different. Instead of the order in the first chapters, here we have burnt offering, grain offering, sin offering, guilt offering, peace offering. So the peace offering is put at the end.
The order, as best as we can figure, seems to be based on the frequency of the sacrifices, the frequency. The burnt offering was most foundational, most constant, as we’ll see. The guilt offering was often put together with the burnt offering, and then there were certain occasions where you would do the sin offering and a little less frequently, because it involved financial restitution, would be the guilt offering, and then the peace offering was essentially a voluntary contribution, when it was moved in your heart to make a vow or some other kind of dedication, you would offer the peace offering. It also says something about the larger goal of the sacrificial system, which is to have peace with God and with each other.
Let’s just look at what we have here with these five sacrifices once again.
Look at chapter 6, verse 8. You’ll see the heading. It’s nicely delineated in each paragraph.
“The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Command Aaron and his sons, saying, This is the law of the burnt offering.”
So we’ve had the instructions for the worshipers, now here is the instructions for the priest. The main instructions, as we saw back on week one, related to the burnt offering is its constancy. Look at verse 13, end of the paragraph: “The fire shall be kept burning on the altar continually; it shall not go out.”
If ever there was a break in the morning and evening sacrifice, all the occasions when people would bring a bull for the burnt offering, if ever there was a break, and especially during the wee hours of the night, the attendant priest had to make sure that the fire was never extinguished. The big idea was to communicate to Israel every moment of every day is a moment when you need your sins forgiven. Every moment of every day is a moment when you and I need our sins forgiven so that our only hope is that God has provided an atonement for our sins.
If you stir and your spouse is snoring in the middle of the night, none of your spouses, others you’ve heard of, and you get up and you’re stretching and you peek outside your tent and you can see in the distance something of the glowing embers and the smoke going up in the middle of the night from the burnt offering, it reminds you – I am yet at this moment a sinner in need of grace. And at the same time, at this moment there is a provision for me.
Now it’s true. We can have an unhealthy focus on sin. Some people do. If they never realize their sin can be forgiven, if they never realize God can be pleased with you, but I dare say that most people in the Charlotte area think of sin too little.
Where do we find our identity? We find our identity, let me just put it in three “S” words, success, suffering, self-expression. Most people find their identity in those three things.
Success. Makes sense. What am I good at? What degrees? What have I achieved? That’s who I am. That’s how to I’m to think of myself first and foremost, my success.
Suffering. Now you may say, “Well, that’s strange.” Suffering, the Bible has a lot to say about that, but sometimes we can so fixate on it that becomes our identity – I am one who has suffered, or I am one who has been put upon by others, and that becomes the core of your own self-conception.
Success, suffering, or self-expression. I am what I choose to be, and if you don’t allow me to express my feelings, to choose for myself who I am, my own identity. That’s how we find our purpose, our meaning. How we name ourselves.
The Bible, of course, points us in a different direction. Not success, suffering, self-expression, but, I’ll give you two other “S” words, very simple: Sin and salvation. That’s our identity. It’s not that we can’t be ambitious, it’s not that we don’t think about suffering, it’s not that there isn’t even a proper realm of expression, but our fundamental identity, the burnt offering reminds is I am a sinner in need of a savior. I am one who needs atonement, every day, constantly, through the watches of the night was to reinforce my identity. A sinner who needs salvation.
How many problems in our lives, in the church, how much bad theology could be eliminated if we would simply realize our fundamental identity is a sinner saved by God’s grace? And the burnt offering was to remind them of that.
You see verse 14: “And this is the law of the grain offering.”
Remember, the burnt offering was burnt up entirely, the grain offering had a part for the Lord and a part that the priests could eat, then the peace offering had a portion for the Lord, a portion for the priests, and a portion for everyone to share together. The eating by the priests was for their benefit, it was a way that the priests could eat and you could bless them, but it was also a way to testify to the people that their sins had truly been forgiven. It was, if you like, a kind of priestly assurance of pardon.
We don’t, I’m not priest, there’s a reason because I don’t make sacrifices. You say, “Pastor, you don’t make any sacrifices for us?” Well, you know what I amen. I don’t make any sacrifices on an altar. That’s why I’m a pastor, not a priest. So it’s called in the bulletin, “Words of Assurance, Assurance of Grace.” I’m not making absolution for you, and yet there is something proper that the pastor might give expression, might confirm to you, that in Christ your sins are forgiven. That’s part of what the priest was doing.
Look at verse 15: “One shall take from it a handful of the fine flour of the grain offering and its oil and all the frankincense that is on the grain offering and burn this as a memorial portion on the altar,” so that’s to the Lord, “On the altar a pleasing aroma to the Lord.”
We’ve seen that phrase throughout these sacrifices. A pleasing aroma. It would smell good. You’re baking a loaf of bread. Some of the sacrifices you’re grilling a delicious steak. Even in the burnt offering, if you can’t eat it. So it was meant to be a pleasing aroma. When that would waft throughout the camp, it was a kind of olfactory assurance – it worked. God forgives me.
Then not only that, but you see with the grain offering, verse 16, “And the rest of it Aaron and his sons shall eat. It shall be eaten unleavened in a holy place. In the court of the tent of meeting they shall eat it.”
Even the act of the priest eating it in a holy place was to confirm the dedication and the forgiveness.
Now look at the next paragraph, verse 19. “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “This is the offering that Aaron and his sons shall offer to the Lord on the day when he is anointed.” This is a special subset of the grain offering. At the end of the chapter you’ll see a summary and it’s called the ordination offering and you’ll get confused – “Wait, there’s six? I thought there were five.” Well, sometimes it’s called the ordination offering. It’s a subset of the grain offering which was to be administered on the day when the priests were consecrated and then after that day to be administered twice daily, indicating that the priests also have sins to be atoned for.
Look at the third offering. “Then the Lord,” verse 24, “spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, This is the law of the sin offering. In the place where the burnt offering is killed shall the sin offering be killed before the Lord; it is most holy.”
Notice the next verse, verse 26: The priest is a type of sin eater. You’ve encountered that in books or stories before, even in various parts of the world they have that as part of their religious folklore. Well, look at what we read in verse 26: “The priest who offers it for sin shall eat it. In a holy place it shall be eaten, in the court of the tent of meeting.
Cultural anthropologists will tell you there are notions of a sin eater in various folk religions throughout the world. Now those often involved superstition, they involve someone who is made an outcast from the community, he is to be the sin eater, take the sin. Sometimes the practices are mixed with occultish sort of superstition, so that’s not what’s going on here. But it does show a universal and ancient impulse, which is here in Leviticus and we’ll say this again at the end, is really everywhere in the world. Namely, someone or something needs to eat up my sin. Someone or something needs to take care of my sin. I have to pay for it, an animal has to pay for it, a priest has to pay for it, some outcast must take it upon himself. Someone must be the sin eater.
This is universal. And if you don’t think that people in our modern world still think this way, well, we’ll come back to that at the end.
Look at chapter 7. So we’ve had the burnt offering, the grain offering, the sin offering. Now verse, chapter 7, verse 1: “This is the law of the guilt offering.”
We see again in verse 2 and 3 instructions related to blood and fat: “In the place where they kill the burnt offering they shall kill the guilt offering, and its blood shall be thrown against the sides of the altar. And all its fat shall be offered, the fat tail, the fat that covers the entrails.”
The mention of blood and fat is common to many of the sacrifices and will be a recurring theme throughout Leviticus. Why do you burn up the fat to the Lord? Because fat is what is best. Put it on a bumper sticker. It’s from Leviticus. Fat is best. It belongs to the Lord. He gets, it was considered the choicest part, the richest part. He gets the firstfruits of the harvest and He gets the better portion of the meat.
Tonight when we’re in Luke chapter 10 we’ll jump over to, after the Good Samaritan, to Mary and Martha. What does Jesus say to Mary? “But she has chosen the better portion.” Apparently some resonance here with the sacrificial system. You know what the better portion is, the best.
No one can be a faithful disciple of God who constantly calculates how little they can give to God, how much they can get away with. That was the lesion of the fat and of the firstfruits. God gets what is best, what is first. Don’t be a salvation minimalist. What’s the minimal amount of obedience I can do and still be saved? How many of these things do I actually have to understand? God, is there some sort of… How many, someone taking chapel attendance? How many times do I have to tithe? Do I have to volunteer for the nursery? Our children’s department says yes. What can I do? How bad can my sins be? That’s the mindset of a salvation minimalist. What’s the worst I can be? What’s the least I have to understand? What’s the smallest sacrifice I can make and still go to heaven? ‘Cause that’s what I’m interested in.
Now, certainly, we do not get to heaven because we make the greatest sacrifice and we come to church and we put our tithe in the offering, and yet if you’re attitude is of that salvation minimalist, you ought to wonder if you are really saved.
No, you say, the disciple says, not how much can I get away with, but how can I give to God what is first and what is best. The fat of the animal.
And then the blood. There’s going to be lots in Leviticus about blood because there’s a paradox surrounding blood in the Old Testament. On the one hand, because blood is considered the life of a thing, the life of an animal, it’s life so that on some occasions if you touch blood, you’re made holy. Blood splatters on the priestly garments, it’s made holy because the holy life of a thing has fallen on you. But on the other hand, eating it can make you defiled.
Blood is that which both signifies curse and blessing. Just think about that paradox and how that carries forward all the way to the crucifixion, that we are paradoxically cleansed by that one thing which is most difficult to rub out and clean, namely blood.
Then, finally, turn to chapter 7, verse 11: “And this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings.”
Remember, three main purposes for the peace offering. Look at verse 12: “If he offers it for a thanksgiving,” so that’s one purpose. Then go down to verse 16: “If the sacrifice of his offering is a vow offering,” second purpose, “or a freewill offering,” third purpose.
Largely voluntary. The peace offering was a kind of extra commitment, an act of extravagant generosity. You’re feeling extra thankful, you bring a peace offering. You want to make a vow and you want your promise to be sealed with something special, you make a peace offering. Free will. It’s not a metaphysical free will, it just means of your own accord you just said, “Why do I have to have a reason to bless God? I don’t. I’m a happy guy today. Let’s have a peace offering.” Goes to God, goes to the priests, and you would celebrate and you would share together.
As I said, the order is likely based on the frequency of the offering, and the peace offering being largely voluntary, was perhaps less frequent. But the order also tells us something about the climactic importance of the peace offering. What good is forgiveness, what good is acquittal, what good is atonement, if it does not result in communion?
It’s like if your friend or a family member forgives you and says, “But I never want to see you again or speak to you again.”
It’s like, what did the fish say to Dory in Finding Nemo? I do love you, that’s why I don’t what to be with you. It’s a very complicated emotion that we have.
No. What good is it for God to simply say, “Yes, you’re acquitted, yes, you’re forgiven,” “yes, whew, good, I’m cleansed” if it does not result in the goal, which is God with us. The goal: Communion with God and with one another.
We see this summary here then at the end of chapter 7, verse 37: “This is the law of the burnt offering, of the grain offering, of the sin offering, of the guilt offering, of the ordination offering,” that’s the one that was introduced here, “and of the peace offering, which the Lord commanded Moses on Mount Sinai, on the day that he commanded the people of Israel to bring their offerings to the Lord, in the wilderness of Sinai.”
What lessons can we draw? Though we’re going to have sacrifices, we’re not done with them, but we are turning a theme over to the priesthood and then we’re going to have lots of good chapters about mildew and leprosy and the food you can eat or not eat, so it’s just getting cranked up. But having finished these seven chapters about the offerings, the sacrificial system, let’s step back and think about some lessons to draw.
Number one. We see in this system the privilege and the peril of the priesthood.
Now next week we’re going to say a lot more about where did the priesthood come from and what do those chapters teach us about the priesthood, but here I just want us to think for a moment about the privilege and the peril of being an Old Testament priest. On the one hand, there was great privilege. The priests handled holy things. They were mediators between God and man. They provided forgiveness through God’s appointed means.
One of the commentaries I was reading this week mentioned this line from J.S. Stewart, “To bring a person closer to God is the highest service that one person can render another.” To bring a person closer to God is the highest service that one person can render another.
Now you don’t have to be a pastor or an elder to do that. Parents do that, friends do that, evangelists do that. But how appropriate for the pastor, or here in the Old Testament for the priest, to bring people closer to God? This was a great privilege.
But with the privilege also came danger, peril. Part of the danger was that inevitably as the priesthood went, so went the people. This is true in the Church today. As the pulpit goes, so goes the people. The pulpit is strong, the pulpit is true, the pulpit is getting the whole counsel of God, the people are blessed. If the pastor or the pulpit goes off, the people will be off.
This is a biblical principal. Hosea 4:9 – And it shall be like people, like priest. I will punish them for their ways and repay them for their deeds.
There was always a temptation for the priests to cut corners, to go through the motions. You know that expression, “go through the motions.” Well, it fits so literally when you’re talking about this sacrificial system. Going through the motions, slaying the animal, burning it, flaying it, offering it, eating it. No heart, no head involved. It’s just a ritual.
Turn, if you can for just a moment, to the last book in the Old Testament, Malachi. Before you get to Matthew and all the gospels, Malachi. You read, Malachi is a series of covenant lawsuits against God’s people and the longest one has to do with the priesthood. In Malachi chapter 1, verse 6, now this passage is going to make so much sense to you after we’ve encountered the sacrificial system.
Malachi 1, verse 6: “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the Lord of hosts, O priests, who despise My name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ By offering polluted food upon My altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted You?’ By saying that the Lord’s table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the Lord of hosts.”
You can understand what was happening. All along the sacrifices are calling for what is best. If you can’t afford the bull, you go the flock. If you can’t afford that, you go to the birds. But you give what is best. And some of these sacrifices, the priests would have to provide out of their own provisions, others they would accept as the worshiper came forward, and you can understand these priests were offering blind, crippled, injured, diseased animals. You say, “Well, how dare they!” Well, you can understand the temptation. You have all of these in your flock and you’ve got to, you do this every day, all the time, another animal. God’s in heaven. What, just give Him a bull. Give Him a goat. What does it matter? This one’s about dead. This one won’t mate anyway. This one doesn’t get along with any of the others. This one is diseased. This one, just give this one.
And the worshiper comes and, okay, I’ve got to do another one of these offerings. They bring to them what is second rate, hoping that no one will notice and the priest just says, “Fine, whatever.” Cutting corners, going through the motions. What does God care?
The priests were not ignorant of the command, but they didn’t want to do it right. They didn’t want to change their priorities. They thought, “It’s just a ritual. Save the good ones. Give God the bad ones. It’s not a big deal.” But, of course, God told them exactly what to do, which made it a big deal.
It’s a joke sometimes among Presbyterian pastors or elders, we sort of kid each other about this thing called the BCO, the Book of Church Order. It’s how Presbyterians do things decently and in good order. There’s always the sort of person who wants nothing to do with it and then there’s the sort of person who are like, “Do you sleep with that under your pillow? Did you take that on your honeymoon? Do you do your devotions in there?”
But it matters, it matters. It has important rules about how to do things right. It’s not Scripture, it’s not inspired, of course, but you pay attention to it. It tells you how to do discipline, how to have someone come under care of the presbytery, how someone gets ordained, what to do when people can’t agree with each other. It’s really useful.
Well, how much more so when you have from God Himself, on high, the inspired inerrant Word of God, not just how to do business in the church but how sins are to be forgiven and the priests don’t bother to do it right?
Look over at Malachi chapter 2, verse 2: “If you will not listen, if you will not take it to heart to give honor to My name… I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings. I have already cursed them… Behold, I will rebuke your offspring, spread,” this is serious language, “spread dung on your faces.” God said that. “The dung of your offerings, and you shall be taken away with it.”
See, they weren’t bothering to clean out the animal, to do all the things with the carcass they were supposed to do. God says, “If that’s what you think about Me, if you don’t care to remove the dung from your animal sacrifices, I will put it in your face, “So shall you know that I have sent this command to you, that my covenant with Levi,” that’s the priesthood, “may stand… My covenant with him was one of life and peace.”
So this covenant, though it will be superseded by the new covenant, was meant to provide life and peace. This was a gracious covenant.
Now we hear it and we think, “Oh, my, I could never get this right.” That’s part of the reason why it’s superseded by the new covenant. But at its core, in its essence, this was grace. God provides a way for sins to be atoned for.
“It was a covenant of fear, and he feared Me. He stood in awe of my name. True instruction,” verse 6, “was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, turned many from iniquity. For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction.”
So even in the Old Testament the priest was not just a butcher. He was a teacher, he is the messenger of the Lord of Hosts.
“But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant.”
To be a priest was to be in such a privileged position, and a perilous one, and they often fell afoul of their own temptations and dangers.
Second lesson to draw from the sacrificial system – the cost of discipleship.
We’ve already seen that. Give what is first, give what is best. There’s a cost of discipleship. There’s a verse that states this explicitly in the New Testament. Many of you have memorized it before. Romans 12:1 – “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as,” what? “A living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God… your spiritual worship.” There’s a lot going on in that verse.
By the mercies of God. So that’s key. Your sacrificial life is not what saves you. The mercies of God refer to everything Paul was talking about in Romans 1 through 11. Your justification, your sanctification, your election, your propitiatory sacrifice. That’s what God, God saved you unilaterally, sovereignly. That’s His mercy.
Now because of that, not in order to earn that but because of that, I want you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice.
You come to the end of these sacrifices in Leviticus and you sort of, whew, wipe your brow and say, “Wow, that’s confusing, a little interesting, but really confusing, daunting. I would have run out of sheep a long time ago. I’m just glad there’s no more sacrifice to make.”
Careful. Yes and no. There is no more atoning sacrifice, praise God, that you have to make. But there is the sacrifice of worship. You could put it like this. You and I do not have to die for our sins, but we all are called to live for God. You do not die for your sins, but you are called to live for God.
I heard one time of a husband and wife who were at odds with each other, couldn’t get along, and the husband, trying to prove his devotion, said to her, “You know, honey, I would die for you if it came to that. I would die for you.” And the wife responded, “I appreciate that, but rather than dying for me once as a hero, I wish you might live for me every day.”
It’s striking to think about this image of ourselves as living sacrifices. Of course, Christ is the One who died for us once for all, but He doesn’t just leave us after that. He then ever lives to make intercession for us. So our part is not to so punish ourselves that God might be pleased, but because God is pleased with us in Christ, we present ourselves as a living sacrifice. If you can picture what that altar, very simple, plain, bronze altar. You know, maybe the sort of height and width of a section here of this pulpit, and just stained with blood, sacrifice after sacrifice. Not, a little bigger than this, not overly large, but enough to flay animals in parts, and you picture, because this is what Romans is saying, all right, God, what do I do? And Romans 12:1 says, well, you can crawl up on that altar. Not to appease the wrath of God, not to make atonement for your sins, but because your sins have been atoned for, you now say, “God, it’s my turn. I give my body for Your glory. I give my brain, my abilities, my dollars, my cents, for Your cause.”
Here’s the good news, friends. No matter how little you may think you have, you always have yourself to give. You say, “Well, I don’t have all the things, I don’t have all the money, I don’t have all the resources, I don’t have all the abilities.” You have yourself, and that’s what God asks for each one of us who’ve been saved by His grace. Now in view of those mercies, would you lay your own life? Because some of say, “God, thank You, I appreciate it. Got it, got it. Ticket to heaven. Whew. So glad I’m a Calvinist, perseverance of the saints, once save, always saved. Haha, can’t take it back. Woo. Can’t get it. I’m going.”
Like some sort of mechanical view, rather than saying, “God, You have done everything for me. I never can repay You, but I will give You gladly the one thing I can give, which is my very life, however you want to use me. Whatever You want to do with me and to me, it’s Yours, it’s Yours. I’m on the altar for You.” Discipleship is costly.
And here’s the final lesson. Most obvious but it needs to be stated again and again. We see in the sacrificial system the necessity of a sacrifice for sin.
You lose track, don’t you? Of all of the, is that a bull or a goat or here I can do a sheep or here I bring some bread and here I bring some birds. It’s constant, the offerings, the animals, to show the necessity of a sacrifice for sin.
One of the common apologetic motifs throughout the Church to show the existence of God, now you can’t prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt, but you can offer good reasons, good supporting reasons, for someone to believe that God exists, it is ultimately something you accept because God has revealed it to us, but one of the reasons that had chiefly been given is people would say, “Look all around the world, at all times, in all places. You find people instinctively making sacrifices.”
They do it in different ways, they do it with blood-thirsty, cruel deities. They do it in a very mechanistic way, it’s just, I got to feed the deity, he can’t feed himself. Yet they would often say, just look around at all times and in all places, among peoples, there’s an instinctive sense that there’s a God who’s not entirely happy with what we’re doing here on earth. They said, “Look, the universal presence of sacrifices tells us that eternity is written into our hearts.”
Indeed, Psalm 19 says, “Creation day to day pours forth speech.” Or Romans chapter 1 says “God’s eternal power and divine nature is clearly seen.” Romans 2 says “the law of God is written on our hearts.”
People have instinctively known in their conscience, in the creation of the world, there’s a God out there and there’s got to be some way to atone for not being the sort of people that we want to be.
Now here’s where you may say, “Well, I can imagine Christians making that argument in the 16th, 17th, 18th century. There were a lot of primitive people around and maybe there are still some primitive people like that, but in our evolutionary development we simply don’t do that anymore. I’ve travelled all around the world. I don’t see people in our cities making sacrifices of animals. We’ve outgrown this. So how can you say that this is an indication of the law of God written on the heart, or an awareness of God in His deity, and His power, and even His wrath?”
Well, I would simply ask you, “You don’t think you see in your own life and in the lives of people around you, even in Charlotte, North Carolina, that people are desperate to assuage some sense of guilt? You don’t think you see that? You don’t think that when people are wanting to purchase carbon offsets?” I’m not even commenting on the environmental of it, that’s not what the Bible’s talking about. I’m just pointing out there’s an awareness of what people are doing.
“I have committed some act against the planet. How can I make myself right?”
In the Middle Ages, they called it “indulgences.” Now they call them “offsets,” okay, maybe I can still live my carbon shopping spree if I pay somehow for somebody else.
Or you may have seen that at various places, sometimes on college campuses, they’ll now have plaques or someone might have to say it at the beginning of a semester or the beginning of some public speech, and acknowledge that the land on which they’re standing or they’re building was constructed, belonged to Native Americans or indigenous persons. Again, I’m not commenting on the history of that or the practice, I’m simply indicating another way in which our very modern, sophisticated people feel like, “I’m not right. There’s something bad and how do I get rid of it?”
We’re apt to read through Leviticus and think, “What primitive people. All, everything is just sprinkled on them and you touched the wrong thing and then you’re impure.”
Don’t modern people have the same kind of casuistry with their own food laws? About where the food came from, how it was treated, was it ethically sourced? Again, not making a comment on those convictions, just stating again people feel that sense of guilt.
Or what do I do? How do I know where my clothes were made? How do I know where my devices were made? Where did my sneakers come from? Can I be sure that I’m not wearing something that’s tainted somewhere by something impure and defiled?
If you don’t feel it yourself, you find other people. They’re to be punished, they’re to be ostracized so that you might feel as if you’re vindicated.
We see J.K. Rowling, not a Christian, not a conservative person, but destroyed online because she believes men are not women. Must be made to be a sin-eater. If we could just but punish, if we could just demonize someone or something or some group of people that could then be the ones to bear the sins of us all. Maybe that outgroup for you is democrats or maybe it’s dead white men. If we could just put it on someone else.
No. We may not see animal sacrifices, but we see in modern men and women this undeniable urge to find self-atonement. To assuage for all the ways that they believe. And you know you are not living as you ought. That cannot be eradicated, not by any development of political philosophy or technological advancement. It is in human nature. It is in the creation order. Men and women will always find a way, how can I assuage the guilt? How can I deal with all the ways I’m not the person I’m supposed to be?
Here’s what the Gospel tells us. You were ransomed from the feudal ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things, such as silver and gold, not with animals, not with self-flagellation, not with carbon offsets, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. Indeed, every one of you know and all your friends and family, if they could be honest for just a moment and put down their phones and deal with their own thoughts and their own heart for an instant, could realize how do I get the spots out of my life? How do I have the blemishes you of my life?
Well, you know need One who is without blemish or spot, and the Gospel tells us that that sacrifice has been made for sinners like you. That sacrifice is Jesus Christ, the righteous. So if nothing else, from Leviticus 1 through 7, remember this. You need a sacrifice, there is a sacrifice. His name is Jesus.
Let’s pray. Father in heaven, we give thanks for this precious blood of Christ, the Lamb without blemish or spot, the Lamb of God, to take away not only the sins of the world, but our personal sins. So we come to Him, we run to Him, we look to Him for all that we know we lack, that He alone can be our blessed assurance. In Jesus we pray. Amen.