THE DIVINE ARCH OF HUMAN REDEMPTION (10)
THE MOSAIC LAW
Following their liberation from the servitude and might of their enemies, safely delivered through the waters of the Red Sea in which the armies of Egypt found a watery grave, the children of Israel after rejoicing together in the song of deliverance recorded in Exodus 15 journeyed through the wilderness of Sinai where some two months later they reached Mount Horeb and encamped. With all the miraculous events leading up to their deliverance still fresh in their minds therefore, God called Moses their divinely appointed leader and intermediary to ascend the mountain where he was told he would receive a direct message from the Lord to convey to the people. This initial message was a call to obedience by Israel to the Word of God as a response to His condescension and love to them in bringing about their salvation from bondage and death. The record in Exodus 19 gives us the details and their response:
“Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians and how I bore you upon eagles wings and brought you unto myself. Now therefore if ye will obey my voice indeed and keep my covenant then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people – for all the earth is mine – and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests and an holy nation”
to which the response was “All that the Lord hath spoken we will do”. It is, we feel useful in connection with our study to reflect upon these preliminaries to the giving of the Law, for they contain valuable lessons for our learning. In the first place God does not force men unto obedience. It is in the voluntary submission to His will on the basis of recognition of His supremacy and an appreciation of his character seen in action, that God is well pleased.
Moreover, before His Purpose and will are revealed, there must be in existence a right disposition. As the prophet Isaiah record, “to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit and trembleth at my word” (Is 66:2). Where these qualities are found God speaks and it is such a voice that is manifestly Divine as Israel were soon to discover. The words of God were spoken from the top of a mountain. They always are, for His thoughts are higher than ours, as the heavens are above the earth. To hear them demands an ascent from the dust which is the Serpent mind’s natural habitat, to that high plane which can only be reached by leaving the world behind and allowing the spirit word to elevate and purify the mind that we may think God’s thoughts after him. The very fact that we can, indeed must, become en rapport with the great Creator by the means he himself has provided through the word is a privilege almost beyond our finite minds to fully grasp. We can only stand in awe and reverence with an unquestioning desire to render obedience. It is a frame of mind which is essential before there can be any revelation of God’s will, the evidence for which is before us in Exodus.
But it is that expression of what constituted the objective set before Israel which interests us in relation to our subject. “If ye will obey my voice indeed … ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests and an holy nation”. We have already seen in our considerations that Divine Law and sacrifice demanding the service of a priest go back to the time immediately subsequent to the fall of our first parents. Abel, Noah, Job, Melchizedek, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, all, as a necessary function in their worship of God and the offering of sacrifice, acted as priests with all that it signified to them in relation to the Atonement. It was, as we have clearly seen, central to their understanding of the purpose of God and the means of its consummation, pointing forward as they recognised to the One perfect sacrifice who should be both Son of God and the seed of the woman. Now in God’s dealings with a whole nation, after receiving their “vows of allegiance” He was to give them laws, commandments and ordinances which were designed to cover every facet of their individual and collective existence. They were prefaced by such a manifestation of power and glory that there could be no mistake from whom they flowed.
THE TEACHING OF THE LAW
The Law given by Moses by God at Sinai is beyond and above all human laws and statutes of whatever age in the governance of a nation and is a reflection of the great mind which designed it. It’s divine wisdom is manifest in that all the factors relating to man’s fallen condition and his deliverance from it, form the basis of it’s operation as well as alleviating the ills arising from his estrangement from his Creator because of sin. The proper decorum between God and man is seen in its operation, putting God and His will and obedience to it as the first and prime object of man’s being. In its outworking it would constitute Israel a Holy Nation, a peculiar treasure unto the Lord for not only were they to be separate from all other peoples but the mainspring of their separation were laws and commandments which in their operation upon their minds would elevate, sanctify, purify, and make them holy. We find upon examination that these laws enshrined the same principles, knowledge and understanding of the atonement as activated the minds of those men of God we have previously had under review.
As the lives of these men in their worship of Yahweh revolved around altars and sacrifices, so now that of a whole nation was daily focused upon the same objects with all that they represented and expressed. In the Tabernacle and its appurtenances there was a continuing reminder of these things in the very fabric, so to speak; all the truths concerning the supremacy of Yahweh, of life and death and the God-provided means of deliverance from it. It was a pointing forward in every detail of it’s construction to the work of Jesus the Christ in all it’s facets. It was as the Apostle Paul declares, “our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ” (Gal 3:24). The contest of that statement is faith in the work of the Redeemer and the atonement. The Mosaic Law was, as Bro Roberts calls it, “a structural parable”. His book The Law of Moses needs to be read and read again in order to absorb the vital truths so essential not only to believe but form the basis of our lives as it was meant to form that of Israel. It encapsulated in a concrete form the whole purpose of God and the means of its attainment, revolving around the Atonement as the means of reconciliation to God with all the blessings so entailed. A visit to Israel and a journey through the wilderness or a part of it, focusses attention to these vital truths. To travel through the Negev south of Beer-Sheba one appreciates the words descriptive of it (an most of Sinai too) contained in the Song of Moses as recorded in Deuteronomy 32:10: “He (God) found Jacob in a desert land and in the waste howling wilderness, he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye”. Passing through the desert, One pictures the four-square encampment of Israel with the Tabernacle in their midst with all its activity and significance. Surrounded by barren land consisting of various shades of uninviting red earth, there was a people, an entire nation, whose whole life revolved around the purpose of God in Christ, the tangible evidence of which was constantly before their eyes.
It was as though everything that was naturally attractive was removed, in order to focus the mind upon spiritual things. We too live in an environment spiritually barren with the red earth of sin all round us, a howling wilderness indeed. So like Israel of old, we too must fix our sight upon the same spiritual truths so graphically portrayed and endeavour to live by them. With these facts in mind we now look very briefly at some of the more salient features of the Mosaic law which bear particularly upon our subject. From the time of the disobedience of our first parents we have seen that sacrifice has been the established, indeed, divinely ordained means of approach to God. “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins” (Heb 9:22). We have also seen that such sacrifices were typical and were a foreshadowing of the Lamb of God slain (in prospect) from the foundation of the world. This basic truth is constant throughout. But when the descendants of Abraham became organised into a nation, there was a necessity to amplify, order and specify in detail the various occasions, circumstances and form in which God could be approached ever having in mind the objective, namely, their salvation.
THE SIX SACRIFICES
We find upon careful examination of the Mosaic Law that it gave detailed instructions concerning six different types of sacrifice which varied according to the particular circumstances and reasons for their offering.
These sacrifices were: 1. Burnt; 2. Meat; 3. Drink; 4. Peace; 5. Sin; 6. Trespass
Why six we may well ask? Because sacrifice is an essential element and recognition of a state which falls short of perfection. Six is the number of fallen man. It is the number which has a correspondence with work and probation. Six sacrifices point forward to a seventh – that of Christ – which combined all six and both fulfilled and completed them perfectly. We note that there was nothing haphazard – all was Divinely regulated, controlled and detailed. This without doubt focused the mind on what was being portrayed and the meaning of it all.
Of the six types of sacrifices, four were voluntary or freewill offerings. These were the Burnt, Meat, Drink and Peace offerings. The Burnt offering was a sacrifice voluntarily offered to God as a token of complete obedience and dedication to Him. It signified and was a response by an offerer who recognised his sinful condition, the justice of God in condemning it to death, and his love in providing salvation. The next three offerings also were voluntary. They had thanksgiving to God for his blessings as their object. The remaining two offerings – those of Sin and Trespass were sacrifices of expiation for transgressions, and were compulsory on pain of death. Of these six types of offering, certain ordinances were common to all. We firstly briefly consider these before looking at those differences which occur and the reasons why.
SIMILARITIES AMONG THE OFFERINGS
First of all, in every case the offering had to be without blemish. Typifying as it did the one perfect sacrifice of Christ, this was a necessary requirement, the reason for which had to be recognised. But it was not only a matter of what it primarily represented, there had also to be a recognition by the offerer that he himself also was involved. God requires and will accept only the very best from those who approach him. Anything that falls below that either in intent or practice is dishonouring not to mention displeasing to Him. The principle is made clear in God’s condemnation of Israel as recorded in Malachi 1:7-8 “ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar any ye say Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The Table of the Lord is contemptible. And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? Offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy persons? Saith the Lord of hosts”. Translate that into spiritual terms and who does not tremble in these days of charitable minds, lest our worship fall below that highest standard expected by an Omniscient Creator?
Secondly, the offering had to be male with exceptions in one or two cases for particular reasons. It speaks of the fact that it is the man Christ Jesus in whom all sacrifice and redemption finds fulfilment. Man was created in the image and to the glory of God and that purpose in its reflection will be realised in the New Man (individual and corporate) which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him who created him (1Cor 3:10).
Thirdly, the offerer was to bring this male unblemished sacrifice to the door of the Tabernacle. Then he placed his hand upon it’s head thereby identifying himself with the animal. There was a tacit admission by this action that death was the just penalty for sin. His sins were ‘laid upon it’. Then the sacrifice was taken to the north side of the Altar and slain. Jesus, the perfect sacrifice, was crucified on the north side of Jerusalem at Golgotha. It is in passing, interesting to note that the table of Showbread was in the north side of the Tabernacle. This bread (of life) was a setting forth, as the original words mean, and represented our Master. But they did so particularly in respect of his atoning work, for the Apostle Paul in Romans 3:25 uses the same original word in stating, “Jesus Christ whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation”.
Fourthly, the blood of the Sacrifice was first sprinkled upon the altar, and then poured out at its base. This clearly foreshadowed the perfect offering, whose life signified by the blood was offered as an acceptable sacrifice and poured out on account of sin. The altar was first sprinkled because as the record in Hebrews 7:27 tells us, he offered first for himself, and then for the people. The altar itself, common to the six types of sacrifice also represented Christ.
THE BRASEN ALTAR
The record of it’s construction in Exodus 35:31-35 reveals that its design originated with God and was constructed by one man Bezaleel, who was divinely endowed with the sprit “in wisdom, in understanding in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship” – all of which finds its spiritual counterpart in Christ, and the manner of the man. The altar too was four-square, of shittim wood, overlaid with brass, five cubits long, five cubits broad, three cubits high, with horns at each corner (Ex 27:1-2). Five is the scriptural number for Grace, Three for Perfection. Horns represent Power. So the Holy City, New Jerusalem will be four-square, the living manifestation of which will be the multitudinous Christ, who will at the appointed time go forth with all power to the four corners of the earth, and cast out the four horns of the Gentiles who have for so long had the ascendency over God’s kingdom in the earth (Zech 1:18-21).
Finally, as to the ordinances common to all sacrifices, the fat of the animal was always burnt upon the Altar. Fat represents the choicest part. The expression “the fat of the land” is expressive of the best the land produces in grain or fruit. So fat is typical of the best of life, and must be offered to God. That is why there is the appeal to the young – the best time of life – to “remember now thy Creator, while the evil days come not nor the years draw night when thou shalt say, “I have no pleasure in them”. Jesus was in the prime of life when he submitted to death, as the perfect offering.
We see revealed in these instructions, common to all the various sacrifices not only different facets of the One who fulfilled them all in Himself, but the exhortation that we, as constituent parts of Him must train and discipline ourselves to give to God only that which is the best of ourselves, striving for perfection in loving and thankful service. As mere ritual, all the sacrifices under the Law meant nothing to God. It was the state of the heart and mind to which they gave expression which mattered. In that truth lies the lesson to us. We now briefly consider the differences between the various sacrifices and the instruction and lessons they convey.
THE BURNT OFFERING
The first – the Burnt offering – was one primarily of dedication. The sacrifice – be it lamb, goat, bullock or fowl, had to be totally consumed upon the altar. This was it’s distinguishing feature – hence it’s name. It was a public recognition on the part of the offerer of man’s nature, that of sin. Only it’s complete removal can bring that perfect concord between God and man which he intends. It is important to note that the Burnt offering was not in respect of any particular sin, there were other offerings as we shall see, for such cases; it was rather a response to the realisation that in the flesh “dwelleth no good thing”, that in it’s natural, fallen state, it generates an enmity against all things divine, strong, and powerful, which causes men to transgress, however much they resist. Who has not exclaimed in the experience of the daily warfare, and the disquietude brought about by defeat – “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom 7:24). Like the apostle Paul however, the intelligent Israelite, as well as ourselves, could in confidence say – amazing thought – “I thank God thought Jesus Christ our Lord”.
By the Grace of God, the Israelite in the ready response of his heart, could bring his offering, the very best that he had, see it all consumed, the smoke ascending as a token of God’s understanding and acceptance and go his way in the comfort and assurance of a new beginning with renewed vigour and determination to merit Divine approval. The Perfect Burnt Sacrifice has in Christ Jesus now been offered once for all. He too was sins flesh, made in all points like unto his brethren. His complete repudiation of it is seen in his voluntary submission to the death on the Cross. We have become incorporate in it and wait for the blessing of life for evermore which indeed is ours, provided we “present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God which is our reasonable service”. That means complete and continual dedication and conscious effort.
THE MEAT AND DRINK OFFERINGS
The other class of freewill sacrifices consisted of the Meat, Drink, and Peace offerings. The primary object in these was that of thanksgiving for blessings received, temporal and spiritual. The meat offering was not that of flesh but of meat in the sense of food. It was offered on the occasion of some specific divine favour or in response to a feeling of general well being. David in Psalm 116 exclaimed, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits towards me?” He goes on, “I will offer to Thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving”. The offering consisted of fine flour mingled with oil. These together with the wine of the Drink offering consisted of the chief products of the land, essential for life. The offering of them was a recognition of their source and a grateful acknowledgement for their continuing provision. In spiritual terms, we can readily perceive the life-giving heavenly Bread, the enlightening spirit oil of the Word, and the joyful Gospel Wine which cheers the heart.
There were other ingredients: Frankincense, representing prayer and praise was essential, as also was salt. Besides having cleansing and preservative properties, salt makes food palatable, and is essential to health. These qualities make it the emblem for that which makes food wholesome. So Jesus said to his disciples, “ye are the salt of the earth” (Mat 5:13).
They represent the agency by which the Word in its purity should be preserved and its cleansing properties maintained. As salt was required, so leaven in the meat offering was forbidden. We have already seen earlier in these studies the reasons why. It represents corruption, fermentation and sin. Honey too, was proscribed. This seems rather surprising, and difficult to understand in view of its commendation and use in other places of Scripture, as for instance in Son 5:1. The context there, however, is the Kingdom Age – and there is a time and place for everything. In Prov 25:27, Solomon associates honey with self-esteem and there can be none of that in our worship of God. Moreover, David tells us that the judgements and precepts of God are sweeter than honey (Ps 119:103). So that, as only the best is acceptable to God, that which is inferior is not to be used. When all is perfect, there will be no need for contrast, all will be to the praise and glory of God.
THE PEACE OFFERING
The other sacrifice of Thanksgiving was the Peace offering. This almost invariably so far as we can trace, followed the Burnt offering. We commented on this in respect of the offering of Abel, in our third article. The order is fitting in every sense. The Burnt offering was an acknowledgement of man’s helpless and hopeless state, destined only to be consumed in death. The peace offering was an acknowledgement of God’s love and mercy in providing the way of escape and communion with him. The first was designed to create that state of mind which when contrasted with the second, resulted in glory to God in the highest. The peace offering has unique features. The animals offered could be either male or female. Leaven was required to be used, and it was the only sacrifice of which the offerer himself partook. Taken with the Burnt offering, the significance of these features is enlightening. The Burnt offering was burnt wholly upon the altar, and was left to smoulder all night into ashes. In the morning, they were removed. That was the time for the Peace offering. Now is the long night of the sin constitution of things, a time of probation in a state of separation from God. A time when those who aspire to eternal life crucify the flesh with the lusts thereof, that in the morning of resurrection, there will be a change to spirit nature with the removal of sinful mortal flesh. Then will follow a time of harmony with God, of fellowship together, or peace among men, when among the redeemed there will be neither male nor female among the redeemed, but all will be One in Christ Jesus, all equally acceptable.
Leaven in the Peace offering as in the Feast of Firstfruits speaks of the fact that sinful mortal man (which it represents) can through the means provided, share in the eternal things that belong to our salvation, with all that is thereby signified in true fellowship with God. Only the fat of this offering was offered on the altar, and we have already seen the significance of that in the giving only of our best. The breast and right shoulder were given to the priests for their consumption. So we see that in our service to God, our hearts, the breast, and our wholehearted service, the right shoulder, are required. The remainder of that which was edible was eaten by the offerer and his family – a token of fellowship. In all this, we must remember that the sacrifice, whether bullock, sheep or goat had to be brought by the offerer. It could not be sent by a substitute – Leviticus 7 gives the instruction; all laying emphasis upon the great fact of personal responsibility, faith, worship and endeavour. As in the other offerings, the blood of the sacrifice had to be sprinkles upon the altar. There was to be no forgetting the abhorrence of sin, the reality of death, or the transcendent mercy of God in bringing about the means or reconciliation and life.
THE SIN AND TRESPASS OFFERINGS
Finally, we come to the last group of offerings which were expiatory – the Sin and Trespass offerings. The first was for sins of ignorance, and the second for sins knowingly committed. The sin offering related to sins committed, or uncleanness contracted unwittingly, or in ignorance. In coming to a realisation of either, the prescribed offering had to be made. The ritual involved was more elaborate than for a Trespass offering, as though God makes a point of the fact that ignorance of His Word will not be excused, but that in His eyes, it is more displeasing than sins due to the power of the carnal mind. Moreover, in contradistinction to the Trespass offering there were three different grades of offering according to the rank of the offender. Leviticus 4 gives the details. That of the common people was different from that for a ruler which differed from that of a priest or the whole congregation which were the same. We may well enquire why all this is. It surely points to the fact that according to ability and opportunity, so responsibility to know and to give, increases.
The parable of the Talents is here illustrated; for to whom much is given, much is required. In the Truth, those who have the greater mental equipment must use it in God’s service, for that is its true purpose. To each accordingly, account will be made. The same offering, a bullock, in respect of the whole congregation and of a priest is of particular interest and significance. It’s blood was to be sprinkled 7 times before the veil of the Sanctuary, and on the Altar of incense. So the whole priesthood, (for they were considered to be a nation of priests), must even for one sin be purged and cleansed, or if the offender was a priest, then the sin of one defiled all, for in spiritual things represented by a priest, they were to be one inseparable body, united in the One Faith. Then the fat was to be burnt upon the altar and the remainder of the sacrifice carried without the camp and burned.
None was to be eaten by the priests, as in other sacrifices. The apostle Paul in the letter to the Hebrews, explains that concerning this sacrifice of expiation, they had no right to eat for it typified a greater and more perfect sacrifice, outside, and beyond the Mosaic economy, who should be, and indeed was, offered without the gate. His perfect sacrifice, blood seven times sprinkled, brought salvation to all, comprising the sanctuary for by it he entered into that within the vail, the Holy of Holies, once for all, thus the Atonement.
The Trespass offering was for sins knowingly committed. The details are enumerated in Leviticus 5. It must be noted, that this offering was only effective for sins committed in the weakness of our frail sinful nature, and duly repented of, made evident in faithful action; mere words were not sufficient. For presumptuous, wilful, premeditated sin in deliberate and knowing disregard of divine command, whether in things large or small, there was no means of atonement. “The soul that doeth ought presumptuously, the same reproacheth the Lord. That soul shall be cut off from among his people” (Num 15:30). We can only read and tremble!
In all these six types of offering with all that they bespeak concerning the sacrifice of our Lord, it was that fact in the mind of the faithful Israelite which was vital for the mere mechanical motions of ritual were unacceptable to God – it was then, and is now what motivated the mind that mattered.
SIX PERIODIC ORDINANCES
In addition to the six types of sacrifice we have briefly considered, God enjoined upon His people six periodic ordinances which again pictorially illustrated the same vital truths. These were the daily, weekly and monthly, plus three yearly sacrifices. These comprised the Passover, the Firstfruits and the Feast of Tabernacles, which centred around the Day of Atonement. The daily sacrifice together with incense had to be offered morning and evening. These duties with the replenishing of the oil in the golden candlestick formed the unceasing, daily routine of the priests. They speak of that which in God’s service must be continual – without intermission. The main item – the Burnt offering of a lamb morning and evening – is the continual condemnation of sin, which together with prayer and the imbibing of the Spirit Word make up the very raison d’être of the believer’s life. With the Daily Sacrifice was offered a Meat or Peace offering as was the case with all the periodic sacrifices. Of the significance of this we have already spoken; it all serves to lay emphasis upon those things which should feature in the daily lives of those who aspire to life eternal. The weekly sacrifice was in effect a doubling of the Sabbath day of the daily sacrifice. Not a different service, but a redoubling of effort on that day when one was free from mere mundane matters. That freedom was to be used to the greater glory of God.
The monthly sacrifice was offered on the day of the new moon which was to the Israelite the first day of the month. Then was to be offered a Burnt offering of two bullocks, one ram and seven lambs. This type of offering, as we have seen, is an offering in acknowledgement of sin nature, its consequences and the need for redemption from it. The consumption by fire of these sacrificial animals represents the overcoming, the renunciation, by much tribulation, of that nature. The different animals represent different aspects of it as they are manifest. Young bullocks are renowned for their stubbornness, self-will and greed. That there should be two animals may well speak of Jew and Gentile. The ram is typical of human power, assertion and ambition. The seven lambs speak of that perfection and completeness in the sacrifice of the master in whom all aspects find a place. With this monthly Burnt offering, there was also a Sin offering made, consisting of a kid of the goats. This evidently was for all wrong doing, however unintentional, during the month so that in being atoned for, perfect justice and harmony with God could follow. This was followed by the Meat and Drink – Peace – offerings so signifying their communion with God and the rejoicing which ensues. Of the yearly sacrifice, we cannot now speak particularly, save only to draw attention to the fact that they enshrined all the same principles and lessons and by their nature involved all comprising the nation of Israel, whether natural born or adopted. We can only refer readers again to The Law of Moses by Robert Roberts for extended exposure of these most remarkable ordinances and the lessons they convey.
As we endeavour to project ourselves into the environment, both natural and social, which these considerations are meant to produce, three things stand out. Firstly, it is evident that the life of the Israelite in the wilderness was God centred. Secondly that that centre enshrined in the Atonement as the only means of reconciliation with God and the means of life eternal. Thirdly, that in practice there was no respite in the work of the priests in the slaying and offering of sacrificial animals with the shedding of blood, with all that we have seen as to their significance. What powerful lessons are here for our learning!
May we end on a personal note? During the last war, we worked for four years in a Government abattoir – quite a change from the staid conditions of an office!! The killing of bullocks, lambs and rams was a daily occurrence which at first, and to any sensitive mind was nauseating. It was certainly no place for ticklish stomachs. The gushing forth of blood, the inevitable staining of oneself, the death throes of the animals, the stench all had to be experienced to be really appreciated. All of which has to do with sin – its abhorrence – its pollution, involvement and final removal. It was constantly before Israel, individually and collectively. To what extent do we give thought to these vital truths?