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The Priests’ Portion
“Likewise this is the law of the trespass offering: it is most holy. In the place where they kill the burnt offering shall they kill the trespass offering: and the blood thereof shall he sprinkle round about upon the altar. And he shall offer of it all the fat thereof; the rump, and the fat that covereth the inwards, And the two kidneys, and the fat that is on them, which is by the flanks, and the caul that is above the liver, with the kidneys, it shall he take away: And the priest shall burn them upon the altar for an offering made by fire unto the LORD: it is a trespass offering. Every male among the priests shall eat thereof: it shall be eaten in the holy place: it is most holy. As the sin offering is, so is the trespass offering: there is one law for them: the priest that maketh atonement therewith shall have it. And the priest that offereth any man's burnt offering, even the priest shall have to himself the skin of the burnt offering which he hath offered. And all the meat offering that is baken in the oven, and all that is dressed in the fryingpan, and in the pan, shall be the priest's that offereth it. And every meat offering, mingled with oil, and dry, shall all the sons of Aaron have, one as much as another.” (Leviticus 7:1-10)
We who believe are declared to be “a royal priesthood.” The Lord Jesus Christ has made us kings and priests unto God. Here the Levitical law gives us instructions about our priesthood, as God’s “royal priesthood” in Christ. Specifically, these ten verses of Inspiration tell us about the priests’ portion of the sacrifice offered to God.
In verse 7, the Lord God specifically declares, “There is one law for them.” By that statement, he tells us that all he has revealed concerning the sacrifices to this point was one law. All that has been stated in the preceding six chapters and all that is stated in these ten verses is intended by God to point us to Christ, teaching us to trust him alone as our Savior. The lessons to be learned from these verses are of immense importance.
Sometimes we think that the repetition of things is redundant. But in the Book of God, nothing is redundant. The repetition of instruction concerning the offerings in this chapter shows us that the things herein described are of immense importance. This repetition of instruction, specifically being given to the priests, teaches us that the priests, those who serve as God’s ministers in his house, worship him in the same way and upon the same grounds as all others.
The Lord God never tires of repeating his instruction with regard to these types. Many aspects of these types are repeated in the first seven chapters of Leviticus. Because of his wondrous, infinite love to needy sinners, the Lord God delights to show us these blessed pictures of redemption by Christ. Because of his infinite, indescribable love for Christ, his well-beloved, the God of heaven delights to display these pictures of him.
Verses 1 and 2 tell us that God demands blood.
“Likewise this is the law of the trespass offering: it is most holy. In the place where they kill the burnt offering shall they kill the trespass offering: and the blood thereof shall he sprinkle round about upon the altar.”
The holy Lord God, whose law we have broken, whose character we have violated, whose throne we have despised, whose Son we nailed to the cross, is ever looking for blood. He demands it; and he will have it, either our blood or the blood of a substitute by whom his holy wrath and justice can be satisfied for us.
The blood was to be “round about upon the altar.” Those who came to the house of God must have reckoned themselves terribly guilty, guilty sinners before the holy Lord God, because the Lord God seems to have spoken to them constantly of sin and guilt in the language of blood.
The constant sight of blood in the house of God constantly tells those who worship here two things.
Guilty, heavy laden sinners relished the never-ending sight of blood when they came to worship at the altar of God. Guilty, heavy laden sinners, men and women convinced by God the Holy Ghost of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment, relish the preaching of the crucified Christ. We who need him cry with Paul, “God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world!” We come here to preach about the blood, hear about the blood, sing about the blood, and give thanks to God for the blood, the precious blood of Christ.
Let others, if they dare, speak lightly of the blood and deride us for preaching it. All who know and worship God count the blood of Christ precious (Galatians 2:19-20; 1 Peter 1:18-20). It is impossible for us to speak too often or too much about the blood of God’s sacrifice. The Lord God said to Israel, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you!”
The trespass offering is declared by God to be “most holy” (v. 1). This offering, as we have seen, was an eminent type of our Lord Jesus Christ, the perfect, holy Lamb of God, who was intrinsically holy, representatively holy, and infinitely holy.
The blood must be shed and the sacrifice offered “in the place where they kill the trespass offering” (Leviticus 1:3, 5, 11; 4:24, 29, 33). The sacrifice had to be offered in God’s sight, at God’s altar, before the tabernacle. That portrays redemption accomplished!
The blood had to be “sprinkled round about upon the altar.” What a sight this must have been! Those who stood before the tabernacle and observed these things were, by their very worship of God, compelled to reckon and confess themselves to be base, vile sinners, guilty and undone before the holy Lord God, except for the blood. I can almost hear them singing…
“What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus!
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus!
Oh! Precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow!
No other fount I know –
Nothing but the blood of Jesus!”
The blood sprinkled portrayed redemption applied. The blood sprinkled (applied) “speaketh better things than that of Abel” (Hebrews 12:24). It was this, the sight of blood, blood required, blood provided, blood shed, blood sprinkled, blood accepted, that made the tabernacle the delightful place of worship. And it is this, the sight of blood, blood required, blood provided, blood shed, blood sprinkled, blood accepted, that makes the house of God in this Gospel Day the delightful place of worship.
The Fat and the Rump
The fat and the rump, the richest and best parts of the sacrifice are spoken of with distinct words of instruction, because Christ our Sacrifice is the richest and best of God’s gifts, and because he gives us the richest and best of all things (vv. 3-5).
“And he shall offer of it all the fat thereof; the rump, and the fat that covereth the inwards, And the two kidneys, and the fat that is on them, which is by the flanks, and the caul that is above the liver, with the kidneys, it shall he take away: And the priest shall burn them upon the altar for an offering made by fire unto the LORD: it is a trespass offering.”
Here we are again reminded that all the fat, the rump, and all that was the richest and best belonged to the Lord. That is Christ! That is what God required. That is what Christ gave. That is what the Lord God gives to us again (Psalms 63:5; Isaiah 55:1-2). The Triune God sacrificed his best, his all, for us. The Lord our God gives us all things in Christ. Let us give him our all. In all our services, in all our gifts, in all things, let us give to God the richest and the best.
Burnt upon the Altar
Verse 5 tells us that the fat taken off of the sacrifice was to be burned on the altar. This, too, was typical of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, as a sweet-smelling savor, bore the fire of divine wrath in the room and stead of his people, for a trespass offering, an offering for trespasses committed, to make atonement for our sins. This part of the sacrifice, the burning of the fat, was the Lord’s offering.
The Priests’ Portion
Now, look at the priests’ portion, applying it as God intends to this Gospel Day and to ourselves (v. 6).
“Every male among the priests shall eat thereof: it shall be eaten in the holy place: it is most holy.”
Only those who are God’s priests, serving God in the holy place, only those who worship God by faith in Christ can eat of the Altar, Christ Jesus (Hebrews 13:10). Do not forget that the fat and the blood of the sacrifice were never to be eaten. That is not a law forbidding us to eat fat or rare meat! It was a law concerning the sacrifices of God. The reason is quite clear. — The sin-atoning blood of Christ cannot be eaten by man, except by faith (John 6:54-55). The fat, which was necessary to fuel the fire, could not be eaten, because the sacrifice was offered to God alone.
By eating the trespass offering, the priest symbolically made the sins of his brother to be his own. Aaron’s family alone was allowed to eat of these offerings. But every male was required to eat of them. Eat them every male must, but only in the holy place. The significance is instructive, beautiful, and clear. — By eating the trespass offering, the priest made the sins of his brother to be his own. Here again this act is declared to be “most holy.” Obviously, this is a picture of Christ our great High Priest making our sins his own, when he was made sin for us as our Substitute (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:21-24; Psalms 40:12; 69:5).
This act of the priest eating the trespass offering also portrays that brotherly love that is to rule the house of God, that love which causes believers to make the sins of their brethren their own. This passage has application to us, those who are “holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling.” It is our privilege and responsibility to eat the meat offering and our given portion of the peace offering and the trespass offering together. — We must not fail to make the sins of a fallen brother our own. To condemn such is easy and natural. But to identify ourselves with the fallen is the privilege of the priestly family. Let us bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. If we are, indeed, one in Christ, we ought to deal with our fallen brethren in their weaknesses as members of our own bodies in need of help (Galatians 6:1-2).
In verse 7 we are told that there is one law for all these laws, one purpose, one object for the whole body of law given to Israel.
“As the sin offering is, so is the trespass offering: there is one law for them: the priest that maketh atonement therewith shall have it.”
“There is one law for them.” — This particularly refers to the sacrifices. They were all designed for one purpose: to fix our hearts and minds upon Christ. He alone has made atonement for sin. He alone is accepted of God. We are accepted in him. Because Christ alone has redeemed us, we belong to him entirely and alone. — “Ye are not your own, for you are bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20).
“There is one law for them.” — Those words should be understood in the broadest possible sense. There is one law, one purpose, one design, one intent on God’s part in all the commandments, laws, ceremonies, services, holy days, sabbath days, and sacrifices of the Old Testament. — The law of the law is “Look to Christ. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” The law is our schoolmaster unto Christ. It has no other purpose and serves no other purpose (Galatians 3:19-25).
Provisions for the Priests
Verses 8-10 give specific instructions regarding the priests and God’s specific provisions for those who served him in the holy place. The skin of the sacrifice belonged to the priest (v. 8).
“And the priest that offereth any man’s burnt offering, even the priest shall have to himself the skin of the burnt offering which he hath offered.”
I cannot avoid making a connection between this and what we see in Genesis 3, when the Lord God clothed Adam and Eve with the skins of the slain sacrifice. There, at the gate of Eden, the Lord Jesus Christ, acting as our great High Priest, who appointed and provided the sacrifice typifying himself, took possession of the skins. The skins belonged to him alone. He gave them to the fallen pair and put them on them; but they were his. Those skins, like the skin mentioned in Leviticus 7:8, represented his righteousness imputed to us, the garments of salvation, wherewith he clothes our naked souls with “fine raiment,” with “fine linen, clean and white.”
This is the righteousness of the saints in which we stand accepted of God (Revelation 3:18). But it is his righteousness, righteousness that could not be had but by his death as our sin-atoning Sacrifice. Still, it is our righteousness, the righteousness of God we performed in him!
The meat that was not burned as a sacrifice to God was given to God’s priests for food. These sacrifices were groceries for the priestly family (vv. 9-10).
“And all the meat offering that is baken in the oven, and all that is dressed in the fryingpan, and in the pan, shall be the priest’s that offereth it. And every meat offering, mingled with oil, and dry, shall all the sons of Aaron have, one as much as another.”
We discover the significance of these two verses by looking at a few verses in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 9:7-14). Those commandments of the law requiring a provision for the priests in Israel were specifically given to teach us that God’s servants are to be provided for by the gifts of God’s people.
Three lessons ought to be learned and laid to heart as we read the last three verses of this passage (Leviticus 7:8-10).
1. In all the offerings, as here in the trespass offering, the first thing to be understood is that the offering is the Lord’s. It was for the satisfaction of divine justice. God must do something for himself before he can do anything for the sinner.
2. Here the priest, as well as the offering, typified the Lord Jesus Christ, who is our great High Priest. The priest’s portion on which he fed and found satisfaction, speaks of Christ our Priest and Mediator having that for which he labored. — “He shall see of the travail of his soul and shall be satisfied. — The joy set before him.”
3. As the Holy Spirit uses this picture in 1 Corinthians 9, we are taught that those who preach the gospel shall live by the gospel. That is clearly the way the Holy Spirit himself uses this law in the New Testament.
This matter of supporting gospel preachers, maintaining God’s servants and their families in their livelihood needs to be understood in precisely the way it is presented here. The financial support of pastors, evangelists, and missionaries is not primarily to be viewed as a display of love and appreciation for them personally, though that is certainly a part of it. But, primarily, this is a matter of stewardship to God himself. It is not giving to a man, but giving as unto the Lord. If we give God his due, we will give his servants their due. If we are niggardly in the support of God’s servants, we are niggardly in our attitude toward the Lord God himself, whose servants they are.
After the Lord’s portions of the sacrifice were consumed upon the altar, the best of the residue was given to the priests. In some cases, the whole sin-offering was given to the priests. In other cases, what we would call the “choice cuts” were the priests’ portion, the breast, the leg, and the rump. The priests’ portion was always the best.
Today, it is a sad but common thing for churches to deal with pastors, missionaries, and evangelists as businesses deal with employees. — Get as much out of the man as possible for the least amount of pay. Such an attitude is shameful and shows an utter contempt for Christ, the gospel of his grace, and the church of God.
Let me be crystal clear. — God’s servants are not hirelings. Faithful pastors do not seek to enrich themselves. We labor not for yours, but for you. We seek no man’s gold, but every man’s good. Yet, as the servants of God, those men who faithfully give themselves to the work of preaching the gospel are to be highly esteemed for their work’s sake and properly maintained in their work (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13), “for the workman is worthy of his meat” (Matthew 10:10) and “the labourer is worthy of his hire” (Luke 10:7). God’s servants, faithful gospel preachers, are to be generously maintained in their livelihood by the generosity of God’s people. The Word of God teaches this plainly and emphatically (Galatians 6:6; 1 Timothy 5:17; 1 Corinthians 9:11).
When God’s servants are properly esteemed as God’s servants by those whom they serve, esteemed as men by whom God speaks to, ministers to, comforts, and edifies their souls, those who are served by them will count it a privilege and honor, indeed a part of divine worship and service to give them the best support they can (2 Corinthians 9:6-8, 10-11; 8:1-5).
Let us ever give thanks to God for his unspeakable gift. Thank God for the precious, sin-atoning blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us, as God’s priestly family, continually feast upon the Altar Christ Jesus, and the Sacrifice of the Altar. Let us seek, like the priests of Israel, to bear one another’s burdens before the Lord. Let us highly esteem God’s servants and do whatever we can to maintain them in their labors, and thereby maintain the gospel and the worship of our God in this world, for the glory of Christ.