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Chapter 5

 

The Sacrifices of the Poor

 

“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. 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. 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: 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. 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. 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: 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: 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. (Leviticus 1:10-17)

 

I once read a story about a little boy, ten or eleven years old, whose sister needed a blood transfusion. The doctor had explained that she had the same disease the boy had recovered from two years earlier. Her only chance for recovery was a blood transfusion from someone who had previously beaten the disease. Since the two children had the same rare blood type, the boy was the ideal donor.

      "Would you give your blood to Mary?" the doctor asked. Johnny hesitated. His lower lip began to quiver. Then he smiled and said, "Sure, for my sister."

            Soon the two children were wheeled into the hospital room. Mary was pale and thin. Johnny was robust and healthy. Neither spoke, but when they met, Johnny grinned. As the nurse put the needle into his arm, Johnny's smile faded. He watched the blood flow through the tube. When the ordeal was almost over, the boy’s shaky voice broke the silence. "Doctor, when do I die?"

            Only then did the doctor realize why Johnny had hesitated, why his lip had quivered when he agreed to donate his blood. He thought giving his blood to his sister meant giving up his life. In that brief moment he had made a great, momentous decision, and was willingly resolved to lay down his life for the sister he so dearly loved.

            In actuality, though he thought it was necessary, Johnny did not have to die to save his sister. However, you and I have a condition far more serious than Mary's. And it required the blood of God’s own dear Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to cure us.

 

            It is written, “Christ died the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God. — With his stripes we are healed!” The Lord of glory poured out his life’s blood unto death at Calvary as the Lamb of God, that he might redeem us from the curse of the law and give us eternal life. Christ died that we might live. Why? Because he loved us with an everlasting love; and “having loved his own which were in the world, he loved us to the end.” Willingly, voluntarily, the Son of God laid down his life for the people he loved, his chosen bride, his church, his sister, his spouse, his beloved (Romans 5:6-11; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13-14).

 

I want us to look again at our Lord’s great sacrifice, asking God the Holy Spirit to make his work real and effectual to our hearts.

 

            In this 1st chapter of Leviticus, the Lord God describes the sacrifices of burnt offerings by which sinners drew near to God in the typical, ceremonial worship of the legal dispensation[1]. In the first nine verses of this chapter, the Lord God gave instructions concerning the burnt-offering sacrifice of bullocks. In verses 10-17 we read about the sacrifices of the flocks and the fowls. These sacrifices were the sacrifices of the poor.

 

            These burnt offerings, like all the sacrifices of the Old Testament, typified our Lord Jesus Christ, God’s one great, effectual, sin-atoning Sacrifice, by whose blood we have been redeemed.

 

Sacrifices of the Flocks

 

In verses 10-13, the Holy Spirit describes the sacrifices of the flocks. These were sacrifices taken from the sheep or the goats.

 

"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. 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. 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: 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."

 

            The worship of God is not a spectator sport. The worshipper was actively involved in the sacrifice, picturing the believer’s faith in Christ and confession of guilt before God.

            The victims offered from the flocks must be either from the sheep or from the goats.

            You cannot help noticing that there were many different sacrifices by which Christ and his redemptive work were portrayed in the Old Testament. In this one chapter, bullocks, sheep, goats, turtledoves, and pigeons are all used as types of Christ. Why so many types?

            No one type could ever accurately portray our Savior. Yet, as John Gill pointed out, each of these sacrifices were very good and fit types and emblems of the sinner’s Substitute. The bullock, or young ox, portrayed both our Redeemer’s strength and labor. The sheep, like our Lord, is harmless, innocent, and patient.

            The goat is also a proper type of Christ. Both because it is stronger than the sheep and because it is commonly looked upon as a dirty, unclean animal. Though our Lord had no sin and did no sin, he was thought to be a sinner and accused of horrid evils. Indeed, he came here in the likeness of sinful flesh, and was made to be sin for us, having all the sins of God’s elect made his, that he might justly die under the penalty of God’s holy law for sin.

 

Turtledoves and Pigeons

 

The turtledove and the pigeon beautifully portray our Savior’s meekness, humility, and grace, as well as the peace he brings to his people. The offering from the flocks could be either the sheep or the goats. Those who were wealthier in Israel offered sacrifices of bullocks or oxen unto the Lord for burnt-offerings. The princes in Israel all offered such sacrifices (Numbers 7). Those who were poorer offered sheep or goats. And the poorest of the people offered turtledoves or pigeons.

            Because God is no respecter of persons, even in the law he took great care to show that he is no respecter of persons. The upper class, the middle class, and the poor, all have access to and acceptance with the Lord God through the merits of Christ. In Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile, male nor female, learned nor unlearned, rich nor poor; but Christ is all and in all.

            The Savior of the world is equally within the reach of sinners among all people. Our great High Priest welcomes sinners under the broad, wide phrase, “Him that cometh unto me” (John 6:37). No sound is sweeter to the ears of our Aaron than the sound of a sinner, great or small, coming to God by him.

            These sacrifices of the flocks also point to our Lord Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God. The lamb stands out in Scripture as the eminent sacrifice of the Old Testament age, and rightly so. The morning and evening sacrifice, the every day sacrifice, and the every year passover sacrifice portrayed to Israel that which Isaiah declared. – “He was led as a lamb to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7). All the priests of Israel proclaimed exactly the same thing that all the prophets of God proclaimed. Pointing in their ceremonies and sacrifices to the Lord Jesus Christ, they said, every morning, every evening, every year, “Behold, the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world!

            The place of sacrifice for the lambs is distinctly described in verse eleven. — "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."

            There is a distinction made here which was not made regarding the sacrifices from the herds. The sacrifice from the flocks must be killed “on the north side of the altar.” Psalm 48 gives us the reason for this.

 

"Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness. Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King. God is known in her palaces for a refuge." (Psalm 48:1-3)

 

The Lord Jesus Christ, our sin offering, was killed by the priests of Israel in Jerusalem, in Mount Zion, which was on "the sides of the north." Specifically, our Savior was crucified on Mount Calvary, which was on the northwest side of Jerusalem, at precisely the spot where the morning sacrifice had been slaughtered every day for hundreds of years!

Do you not simply stand in awe and utter amazement when you realize how precise the Scriptures are in prophecy and in type? Any man who denounces the Book of God as a myth, a book of religious fables, and denies its infallibility, inerrancy, and inspiration reveals nothing by his words other than the insolence, rebellion, and enmity of his heart against God, by which he prefers willful ignorance, to the acknowledgement of the Almighty.

            Unlike the bullock (v. 6), there was no requirement that the sheep and goats be flayed. The flaying of the bullock portrayed the helplessness of the sinner stripped and naked, without a covering, before the holy Lord God. But the sheep and goat are naturally helpless, defenseless animals. Therefore, our attention is here fixed on the utter slaughter of the victim by the knife, hewing the slain animal in pieces, making it ready for the fire.

            Thus, when the Lord God cried, “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow,…smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered. (Zechariah 13:7), our Savior, the Lamb of God, was pierced to his very soul, smitten indeed of God, when the Almighty poured out the fire of his holy wrath upon our Surety’s head.

            Both the worshipper and the priests performed the ceremonial ritual of sacrificing the burnt-offering with great reverence, carefully observing the order God prescribed.

 

"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: 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." (Leviticus 1:12-13)

 

            The same honor was given to the sacrifices of the poor as was given to the sacrifices of the rich, because the only thing that gave either sacrifice significance and importance was the great antitype they represented, the Lamb of God.

            Commenting on verse 12, regarding the dividing of the sacrifice, John Trapp said, gospel preachers “must rightly divide the Word of God (2 Timothy 2:15) and evidently set forth Christ crucified (Galatians 3:1).”

            The washing of the inward parts and legs speaks of our Savior’s righteousness and purity, both inwardly and outwardly.

            The sacrificial laws were very simple and crystal clear. But we must not allow ourselves to be taken up with the ceremony. It is not the ceremony that made atonement, but the sacrifice.

            Understand what I am saying. – It is not the meekness and humility of Christ that saves us, but the meek and humble Lamb of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. It is not the righteousness of Christ that saves us, but Christ who is our righteousness. It is not substitution that that saves us, but Christ our Substitute. It is not the sovereignty of Christ that saves us, but Christ our sovereign God. Again, understand me. – We do not separate the work of Christ from the person of Christ. But the work of Christ is not the object of our faith. Christ is! The work of Christ is not our Savior. Christ is!

            In verses 14-17, the Holy Spirit describes the offerings of the fowls, the sacrifices of turtledoves and young pigeons, young doves, unto the Lord.

 

"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. 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: 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: 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." (Leviticus 1:14-17)

 

            The dove was a beautiful type of our Savior (Song of Solomon 2:12; 5:12) in its meekness and humility, chastity and purity, tenderness and peace. It was the dove that brought the olive branch back to Noah in the ark, declaring that wrath was done, judgment was over, the storm had ended. And it is the voice of Christ in the gospel that comes in the springtime of grace declaring peace to guilty sinners upon the ground of justice satisfied!

            Turtledoves and pigeons were bountiful in the land of Israel, so bountiful that any man, no matter how poor, could easily lay hold on one and bring it to God.

            The doves were free for the taking. What a picture! The Lord Jesus Christ is a bountiful, plenteous Redeemer, with whom is plenteous redemption! He is such a large, bountiful Savior that any poor sinner in all the world may lay hold on him and bring God Almighty the very Sacrifice he requires.

            Though we have nothing to offer God, he bids us come and buy without money and without price. Like the dove in Israel, the Lord Jesus Christ is free for the taking!

 

Slaughtered Violently

 

The turtledove was slaughtered violently. The priest wrung off its neck, squeezed out its blood, and cut it into pieces. And the priest burned it with fire. Thus, the Lord of glory was slaughtered under the violence of God’s holy, unmitigated wrath when he was made sin for us! Our Lord Jesus Christ was slain by our hands and slain by the purpose and justice of God.

            The sacrificing sinner plucked off its crop with its feathers and cast it all upon the ashes out of God’s sight (v. 16). The crop refers to the entrails, the waste, the dung, the filth of the animal. – Our sins. The feathers are the dove’s covering. – Our righteousnesses. Both have been forever cast away. The Lord God has cast away our sins. We have cast away our righteousness!

 

Sweet-smelling Savor

 

Like the bullock and the lamb, the sacrifice of the dove was a sweet-smelling savor unto God, a sacrifice accepted. That is what Christ has done for us (Ephesians 5:2).

            The great sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ is the glorious theme of Scripture from beginning to end. He is the one in whom alone and by whom alone sinners have hope. From the dawn of time to the end of time, all who trust God trust him who is the Seed of the woman, by whose death upon the cursed tree, God Almighty is just and the Justifier of all who believe.

            Adam and Eve worshipped God through a blood sacrifice in the Garden. Abraham offered these very same sacrifices unto the Lord (Genesis 15:9-10). Abraham spoke of our Lord Jesus Christ as both God and the Lamb, by whose sacrifice God would deliver his chosen from the sentence of death.

            I pray that God the Holy Spirit will grant you grace to lay hold on Christ, the Lamb of God. He is a Lamb slain. He is a turtledove near at hand. He is free for the taking. Bring this Sacrifice to God, and you will find acceptance with him forever. He will be for you a perpetual sweet-smelling savor before God. And he will make you a perpetual, sweet-smelling savor to God (Ecclesiastes 9:7).

 

 

 

 

 

Don Fortner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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[1] In the Old Testament, those who worshipped God did not trust those sacrifices they brought to the tabernacle to give them access to and acceptance with God. That would have been base idolatry. Those who worshipped God in that typical age, worshipped God trusting Christ, the Lamb of God, represented, typified, and pictured in those sacrifices.