Burnt Offering 5

Hebrews 10:12-14

When one of our neighbors finished off his basement and turned that large, empty space with concrete walls and exposed rafters into a very nice family room, laundry room and office space many of his friends and neighbors stopped by to see the finished work. He enjoyed giving little tours of the new space, but as he went around the rooms he pointed out all of his mistakes, all the tiny flaws in his work. I always wondered why anyone would do that. Why point out what is wrong and take away what is good?

The author of Hebrews continues with his commentary on ritual offerings. Who is “this priest” mentioned in verse 12? What has he done? Who is being made holy?

Jesus has become our high priest. The sacrifices that had to be repeated over and over again are no longer necessary because Jesus, in his perfection and in his sacrifice, has eliminated the need for them. The sacrifices made to remove sin are no longer needed because Jesus has made all who accept him to be perfect.

We are perfect when we are saved through the death and resurrection of Jesus. We are made clean and whole when we confess Jesus as our Savior and when we live according to God’s laws and Christ’s teachings.

True, we cannot remain perfect as mortals. As human beings we have a tendency toward sin, and even when we are purified we will again fall into sinful behavior.

But there is no need to focus on our flaws. We should recall these words from Hebrews. “He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” We are the ones who were made perfect and we are the ones who are being made holy.

We do that by confessing Christ as Savior and by living – or at least trying to live – a holy life. Through our obedience to God we are sustaining our perfection and developing holy lives.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you be made more holy?

Burnt Offering 4

Hebrews 10:3-7

One day as a teen-ager I was wasting time with a friend of mine, the two of us playing pool and talking. While we were “hanging out” he took a chain and heated it in the flame of a candle (I know it doesn’t make sense! We were teen-agers!) When the chain was good and hot my friend pressed it down on my hand. It hurt – and it left a scar.

To this day, about thirty-five years later, I can still see the marks of that chain. No amount of time, washing or lotions will take away the mark and the reminder.

The author of Hebrews spends some time discussing the rituals and practices of sacrifices among the Jewish people. What does he say about such things as burnt offerings and wave offerings? What is the comment on their effectiveness? How was Jesus different?

While it may be important to remember the reasons behind the offerings called for in Leviticus, and while it may be interesting to know how these offerings were given, we need to remember that they have no point at this time. These sacrifices, although well-intentioned, have no ability to remove sin. In fact, they serve as a scar – a reminder, a recollection that wrong has been done.

In their place we have a true and perfect sacrifice that has removed our sin. Christ himself came, not to give a burnt offering, but to have a mortal body that would itself become the sacrifice.

Sometimes in our faith we can fall into the mistaken thinking that if we do something long enough and good enough we can be acceptable to God. If we keep saying our prayers the right way, if we attend worship enough, if we give enough money, we can have our sins washed away. But there is nothing we can do on our own to achieve salvation. Only the sacrifice of Christ – and that is the accepted sacrifice of Christ – can save us.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can wash away your sin?

Burnt Offering 3

John 3:16-17

One year for the holidays my cousin surprised me with a couple of Christmas gifts – a framed picture, a personalized mug and a bag of chocolates. I was dumb-founded and a little embarrassed at first. I had not gotten him anything – after all, we had never exchanged gifts before. He was quick to explain that the gifts were given just because he wanted to give them. He expected nothing in return.

Today’s passage is the keystone to the Christian faith, the central foundation to what we believe. What did God do? Why did God do it? What happens when we believe and accept it?

Jesus was God in human form, God here on earth. And he came for a reason. He came so that we could believe in him. And through believing in him we are given the promise of eternal life. We are given the promise of eternity in heaven.

It is a gift from God.

Jesus was an expression of the love of God, plain and simple. Jesus did not come so that he could point out who was wrong and who was condemned to hell. He came as an expression of grace and mercy. He came to benefit us.

And one of the key issues is that, like the burnt offering of Leviticus, Jesus offered himself of his own volition. He came out of his own choice, his own desire to be that gift of salvation to each one of us.

He was neither motivated by judgment nor requirement by God. Jesus came out of love to save us all from an eternal death, a death not only of the body but of the spirit as well.

We have been presented with the perfect offering, the unblemished sacrifice of Jesus. How will we respond?

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you show gratitude toward God?

Burnt Offering 2

Leviticus 1:3

I recall getting very angry one holiday when I had to go to the store the day after Christmas to exchange one of our children’s gifts. The toy we had purchased and wrapped, the gift that our child received, was broken inside its packaging. It was very disappointing to me and our child to have this long-awaited gift delayed even more because somehow the quality of the item was not where it should have been.

If we will give a gift to another we usually expect and hope that the gift will not only be acceptable, but be of excellent quality. In the Book of Leviticus God outlines exactly what type of offerings are acceptable and which ones are not. What are the specifications described for burnt offerings?

God has decreed that certain sacrifices should be made to Him. These sacrifices are signs of penance, or of commitment, or of gratitude. Commentaries describe the first such sacrifice – the burnt offering – as the oldest and most common offering made. In my mind it is also the most important.

These sacrifices are suggested by God, and are not mandatory. They are made on the decision of the one offering the sacrifice, made by choice and not by requirement. The person making the sacrifice was also to present the best of his animals, a perfect and unblemished creature, a flawless offering to God. It was not to have defects or problems.

The sacrificed animal then takes the place of the person making the sacrifice. The burnt offering suffers the punishment and destruction due to the person, and the one making the offering is cleansed of guilt through the perfect sacrifice.

Sound familiar? It should. Jesus Christ became the perfect offering to God, presented through his own decision, willingly destroyed on our behalf. And Jesus was a gift of the highest quality, flawless and without defect.

How do we react to such a sacrifice? First, we must accept it and embrace it. We must cherish such a sacrifice. And then we should strive to offer ourselves to God – flawless and without defect – in our faith and in our actions.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you become a perfect offering to God?

Burnt Offering 1

Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

At the store today we were greeted by a sign that wished us all a Merry Christmas. My daughter asked, “Are we skipping Thanksgiving?” I told her that we almost skipped Halloween – the Christmas holiday commercials have already begun.

Today’s passage is the start of a very familiar reading from Ecclesiastes 3, a statement about life. What does the first verse tell us? What specific times are mentioned in verse 2?

Although we do not as a family have exact dates when it is time for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and so on, we do have an order to our lives. We often find it amusing when folks put up their Christmas decorations in early November only to leave them up well into March. It seems a blurring of the seasons, a refusal to allow the holiday to fade.

As pointed out in Ecclesiastes there is an order to life. There is a time for all things. We will experience a time of growth, a time of rest, a time of joy and a time of sorrows. That is life. There is a rhythm to it, a flow, an order.

We are currently in a time of harvest. We are seeing the local farmers gathering in their crops and personally we are preparing ourselves and our home for the fast-approaching winter months and all the activities that involves.

Our faith life has its seasons as well. There is a time of renewal in our spirits, a time of confidence and security, a time of doubt, and also a time of struggle. We are given times of joy from God, but we also must prepare ourselves for times of sacrifice and times of loss.

We are called on by God to give offerings to the Lord and the Bible also gives us guidance in the offerings we are to give to God. For the next several weeks we will be examining three types of offerings mentioned in Leviticus – the burnt offering, the grain offering and the fellowship offering.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you remember that God is the Lord of all seasons?