|Series Theme: Meditations in Lessons from the Law of Moses|
Meditation No. 27
Meditation Title: What is an Offering?
Lev 1:1,2 The LORD called to Moses and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting. He said, "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: `When any of you brings an offering to the LORD , bring as your offering an animal from either the herd or the flock.
Again and again in these early chapters in Leviticus we find reference to the Lord speaking to Moses (see also 4:2, 5:14, 6:1, 6:9, 6:19, 6:24, 7:22, 7:28), nine times in all. There is therefore, no question in the writer's mind that this sacrificial Law originated with God. The second thing to note is that is was Law for Israel, for God's covenant people. Making offerings was part of the expression of their relationship with the Lord.
The third thing to note here is that it appears that the Lord is regularising the habit of bringing offerings. Because Leviticus is one of the less well read books of the Bible, we need to lay out the structure of the first 7 chapters to help us see what is being covered:
From this you will see that there were five different sorts of ‘offerings'. But what is an offering and how does it differ from a ‘sacrifice'? The concept of an ‘offering' focuses on the fact that there is one bringing an offering (or gift) and one receiving it. The receiver is always God. The first ‘offering' in Scripture is brought by Cain (Gen 4:2-5). His brother Abel brought a sacrifice. So what is the difference between an offering and a sacrifice? Well essentially, most of the time, they are the same thing but the word ‘sacrifice' denotes the giving up of something of value.
So, ‘offering' speaks of a gift being brought, and ‘sacrifice' refers to the cost of bringing that gift. When we briefly look at each of these ‘offerings', we will see the reason behind it, which varies according to the offering. For an offering to be meaningful, it had to be a heartfelt giving; you gave because you wanted to or you needed to. When it became a ritualistic formula it lost its meaning. Thus we find centuries later Isaiah prophesying, “Stop bringing meaningless offerings!” (Isa 1:13). In the New Testament, a teacher of the law, commenting on ‘the great commandment' affirmed, “To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Mk 12:33). Giving to God is to be a heart thing. If we do it just as a required ritual, it is meaningless.
Today the Old Testament Law of Sacrifice no longer applies to us because Jesus has come and died as the ultimate sacrifice (Heb 7:27, 9:26-28), yet understanding what happened in the Tabernacle on God's command, will help us appreciate more fully both how God provided access for Israel and what Christ has done. Ask the Lord to give you understanding of these things as we briefly consider this much unread passage of the Bible! This part of the Law is all about how the Israelite could express himself before God through the means of an offering, a gift brought to God.