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Turtledoves or Pigeons
“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)
Sinners cannot come to God without a sacrifice. We all know that. God has stamped this fact upon the consciences of all men by creation. Every man in the world knows that God is, that God is both holy and just, and that he will punish sin (Romans 1:18-20). Everyone knows by nature that God demands both righteousness and satisfaction (Romans 2:14-15). Yes, every man knows, by nature, because God has stamped it indelibly upon his conscience, that sin demands blood atonement. It is for this reason that throughout history, in all parts of the world (civilized and barbaric), men and women have attempted to appease the wrath of God and ease their consciences of guilt by blood sacrifices, even by the sacrifices of their own children.
This natural God consciousness, from which no man in this world can ever completely escape, is never a saving knowledge of God, but condemning. The depravity of man’s heart and his heart enmity against God perverts his judgment and always turns him away from light into darkness. In obstinate rebellion, he holds or holds down and suppresses the truth of God in unrighteousness, and turns the truth of God into a lie, changing “the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like unto corruptible man” (Romans 1:23-25).
Four Undeniable Facts
Still, these are facts known by all men. The heathen know them and you know them. No matter how sternly you try to suppress them, you know these are facts, from which you cannot escape.
If you think about these things without Christ, they torment your soul. So, you try to put them out of your mind. But they keep gnawing at you. You will never be able to find the answer to the demands these things make upon your conscience until you learn from God’s own Word why these things are so, and how the great and glorious Lord God who made you can forgive your sin completely and make you completely and perfectly righteous, without sin.
Are you interested in these things? Would you like to have your conscience satisfied? What would you give to be able to think honestly about yourself, your sin, God Almighty, righteousness, judgment, and eternity, without fear?
From the very beginning, God has demanded satisfaction for sin; and from the very beginning, he has declared that he would get satisfaction from a Substitute, by blood atonement. From the very beginning, the Lord God has promised that he will forgive sin; but he has also declared that he will forgive sin only by blood atonement. It is written, “without shedding is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22).
The holy Lord God demands blood atonement; and he provides what he demands in Christ. That is what is taught in the typical sacrifices he demanded of Israel under the Mosaic law, as they are described in Leviticus 1. I want to show you from the Book of God what God teaches us about the glorious work of our great God and glorious Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, in the typical sacrifices of turtledoves or pigeons spoken of in Leviticus 1:14-17.
The sacrifices of burnt offering could be a sacrifice chosen from the herd, or from the flock, or from the fowls. If it was a sacrifice from the herd, it must be a male without blemish. If it was taken from among the sheep or the goats, it also had to be a male without blemish. However, if the sacrifice offered was from the fowls, it might either be male or female; and there was no requirement even that it must be without blemish. That was not by accident, but by divine decree. — In order to save us, the holy Lamb of God, a male who was taken from a woman and the Seed of woman, must be made to be sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Old Testament Examples
All who ever knew God, came to him with a blood sacrifice. Believing God, Adam (Genesis 3:15, 21), Abel (Genesis 4:3-5), Noah (Genesis 8:20-22), Abraham (Genesis 15:9-11; 22:8), and Moses (Exodus 12:1-13), all believed the promise God made in Genesis 3:15 and offered typical sacrifices which by divine institution represented the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. They did not trust those sacrifices that typified Christ. Those sacrifices could never take away sin (Hebrews 10:1-14). Thy were not heathen. They were taught of God.
They trusted Christ. God did not save sinners in the Old Testament either by their works or by their legal (typical) sacrifices and ceremonies. God did not save his elect in the Old Testament in a different way. They were saved just like we are, by grace alone, through faith alone, in, with, and by Christ alone. They were not saved on credit. Christ is the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8; Hebrews 4:3).
If you and I would find atonement and righteousness, if we would find acceptance with God, we must, like those ancient believers, look to Christ, the Lamb of God. We must believe on the Son of God (Romans 3:19-26; 8:1-4).
This gospel message of blood atonement and substitutionary redemption is taught in Leviticus 1:14-17, in typical sacrifices of turtledoves or pigeons.
Types of Christ
These sacrifices (the turtledoves and the pigeons) are distinct eminent types of the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior (v. 14). The Lord Jesus Christ, in his manhood, always identified himself with the poor and needy, because he came here to redeem and save poor, needy, helpless, destitute, bankrupt sinners, men and women who have nothing to offer God (Luke 2:21-30).
Turtledoves and pigeons are held out in Holy Scripture as excellent, eminent types of our Savior. The dove is not only the epitome of humility, meekness, devotion, purity, and chastity, it is also the constant emblem of peace and reconciliation. It is recognized as such the world over; but that fact is really insignificant.
The dove is held before us in Holy Scripture as the type, picture, and symbol of peace, of Christ who is our peace. It was a dove that brought the olive branch back to Noah, declaring that the storm of God’s wrath was over. And after our Lord Jesus Christ had, by the sacrifice of himself, completely and forever exhausted the wrath of God for his people, he sent the Holy Spirit (The Dove of Heaven!) to his church, declaring reconciliation by blood atonement (Acts 2). This is exactly what was symbolized in our Lord’s baptism (Matthew 3:13-17).
When the time of love comes for the calling of Christ’s redeemed ones, he sends the Dove of heaven with the olive branch of peace, declaring that justice is satisfied, wrath is gone, judgment is over, and reconciliation is accomplished! That is the message of the gospel. And that is what the blood of Christ speaks to the believing conscience (Hebrews 9:14).
As the dove was slain by the priest, with one violent stroke, so the Lord Jesus Christ, our all-glorious Savior, was slain by the violent stroke of God’s holy wrath when he bore our sins in his own body on the cursed tree (v. 15). If we did not understand by divine revelation what this scene represented, it would be an abhorrent thing to behold. But, blessed be our God, we do understand what was portrayed here. God explained it to us plainly by his prophet Isaiah.
“Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. he shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.” (Isaiah 53:10-11)
This thing was done before the Lord. And the dove’s blood was squeezed from its slaughtered body not upon the altar, but over the side of the altar, for all to see. There it ran down to the ground beneath the altar and symbolically spoke for God’s elect beneath the altar (Revelation 6:9), those for whom the blood was shed.
Like the blood of Abel, the blood of the slain dove cried from the ground. As Abel’s blood cried out for vengeance upon him who had murdered him, the blood of the dove, the blood of Christ, cries out from the altar of God, but it speaks better things than the blood of Abel. Our Savior’s blood cries out perpetually for the forgiveness of those very sinners by whose hands and for whose sins he was slain!
Sin Put Away
As this slain dove’s entrails (its crop) were ripped out and its feathers plucked out and thrown away on the east side of the altar in the place of ashes (v. 16), our blessed Savior has by the sacrifice of himself forever put away our sins!
Notice again that it was not the priest, but the sacrificing sinner who plucked off its crop with its feathers and cast it all by the place of ashes out of God’s sight. Though we have absolutely nothing to do with the putting away of our sins, when we come to God trusting Christ, we do by faith cast them away. The crop refers to the entrails, the waste, the dung, the filth of the animal. — Our sins. The feathers are the dove’s covering, picturing our righteousnesses. Both have been forever cast away. The Lord God has cast away our sins. And we have cast away our righteousnesses.
Like this dove, the Lord Jesus Christ was burned upon the altar of God, precisely as God himself ordained it (v. 17). The dove had to be split, but not divided. Though its body was violently split down the middle, it was not to be divided or torn into two pieces. Remember, this (like all the sacrifice) was done by divine order, exactly as God commanded, because it represented Christ who was crucified for us by the determinate counsel of God.
When he died in our place, our Savior’s soul was separated from his body; but his humanity was not divided from his deity. Though he was forsaken by his Father as our Substitute when he was made sin for us, he was never divided from him as the Son of God. The union of the holy Trinity can never be broken. And, though our Redeemer died for us and has gone away into heaven, he can never be separated from his church, which is his body, “the fulness of him that filleth all in all.” He said, “Lo, I am with you alway!”
Then, after the worshipper had split the dove of sacrifice, the priest took it and burned it upon the altar.
O blessed Son of God, my Savior,
Burned with the fires of hell for me,
Oh, make my heart to burn forever,
Forever burn with love for Thee!
This slain dove, like our Lord Jesus Christ, our crucified Redeemer, was “a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savor unto the Lord.” — “Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savor” (Ephesians 5:2).
When we read of these sacrifices, may God the Holy Spirit always remind us what they meant and send us to our knees with thanksgiving, praise, and rejoicing for God-given faith to believe the gospel here proclaimed. Since God has accepted the sacrifice, he has accepted the sinner for whom the sacrifice was made. Since God has accepted Christ, he has forever accepted those for whom Christ died. Since God has accepted the sinner’s Substitute, he has forever, immutably, completely accepted every sinner who trusts his dear Son, because the Substitute and the sinner for whom he died are one, perfectly, completely, absolutely, and forever one.
How absolute is this union? Hear what God says in his Word and rejoice and give glory to God! Is Christ called the Dove? He calls his church “My Dove.” Is the Lord Jesus called the Lily? He calls his church “a lily.” We delight to say to him, “Behold, thou art fair, my Beloved.” With equal, yea, with infinitely greater delight, he says to us, “Behold, thou art fair, my love!” Is our Savior the Son of God? We are the sons of God in him. Is this Man “THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS?” He declares that the name of his church is “The Lord our righteousness!”
Oh, how sweet the gospel is to poor, needy sinners! Blessed Son of God, we are the sin you were made, and you are our Righteousness! We the death you died, and you are our Life! You have taken from us all that we are and all that was ours; and you have given to us all that you are and all that is yours (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). — Blessed, blessed, blessed exchange of grace!