The Burnt-offering—Leviticus 1
There is a very definite distinction between the first two sacrifices we have here, to which the third is an appendix, and the others. The burnt-offering and the meat-offering stand alone; dependent on these you get the peace-offering, and then those of another character, the sin and trespass offerings.
Wherever we meet the actual use and presentation of the offerings, it is in the opposite order to the revelation of them here. In the revelation we get them as God presents them, as He sees Christ: but in the use of them, my need comes first. Here, it is God’s side, a sacrifice by fire of a sweet savour to the Lord: that expression is never used of the sin-offering, except in one single verse.
It gives a very definite character to these two first, that it is their aspect towards God, His character and nature. When we come as sinners, we come in respect of what our sins are, but our apprehension of what the meaning and value of Christ’s death is, is greatly enhanced by seeing God’s part in it. I must confess my sins—it is the only true way of coming; and I find there is propitiation through faith in His blood, and then I find all that is essential in these sacrifices as regards God.
There is no particular sin here: it was for sin of course, but it was not an individual confessing some particular sin. It is striking enough, that until you come to the institution of the law, you never get sin-offerings, except in the case of Cain, of which I do not doubt myself (though I know it is a question of interpretation), that it is, “a sin-offering lieth at the door.” Sin and sin-offering is the same word; that word is never used again in that way, till the law—we get burnt-offerings and peace-offerings often.
The burnt-offering is the great basis, because it is God’s glory in what has been done for sin. We must come, as I said, by the sin-offering. “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins”; but it is another thing, beloved friends, when I look at Christ’s offering and sacrifice, as glorifying God perfectly in all that He is, and that in respect of sin. He said, “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life,” a very remarkable word, for none could give a “therefore” to God for His love; Christ could. The difference between divine love and human love is, that God commendeth His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. If man gets sufficient motive, he will sacrifice his life; but without any motive, Christ gave Himself, God gave His Son: it characterises the love. In John 10:11, He lays down His life “for the sheep”; but in verse 17, He does not say it is for the sheep. He has glorified God in death, in the place of sin, and He is glorified as man at the right hand of God. He goes up into that place where we get morally what the sacrifice was in God’s sight.
There is nothing about sins in this chapter, though sin was there, blood-shedding, death, shewing sin was the thing in question; and yet the sacrifice was absolutely a sweet savour, that blessed character of the sacrifice of Christ, which settles every question of good and evil in God’s sight. There was this terrible thing, that sin had come in, in the creature of God’s predilection. People say that Adam learned to know evil, whereas he had only known good before; but that is not at all the point. “The man is become as one of us, knowing good and evil.” It is knowing the difference between right and wrong.
Man was the one in whom God was going to be perfectly glorified; His delights were with the sons of men, and He did not take up angels, but the seed of Abraham; we are to be eternally conformed to the image of God’s Son. In the meantime, Satan had prevailed over the first man; after lust came transgression, and all was over as regards his responsibility. His state was made to depend on one single thing that required obedience. He might have eaten of all the trees in the garden, if God had not told him not; it was not a question of any positive sin, but the claim of obedience. It was a thing to put angels to confusion, God’s beautiful thing ruined! Lust and violence came in, till God had to destroy it all. Everybody knows what the evil is; you cannot go into a great city like this, without knowing that the evil is such, none but God Himself could have patience with it; it has been truly said, if trusted to one of us, we should destroy it in an hour. Man, in the hand of Satan, degraded himself and turned everything to confusion.
Another thing, beloved friends; God tried man in every way. The question was raised, was there any remedy for this? In the first place He destroyed them with judgment— then He called Abraham—then came the test of the law; all the things required by the law were duties already—the law did not make them duties, but it was God’s statement of the obligation of those duties and God’s claim upon man to fulfil them. The sacrifices were introduced consequent upon that. As to the state of man’s heart, nothing could have been more decided, than when he cast God off, for the one thing he was told not to do. Then came a totally distinct thing. Man being not only a sinner but a transgressor, God comes in goodness reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing trespasses. He came in perfect goodness close to man, touched man, so to speak—holiness in all His walk, but divine love in everything He did—made flesh and dwelt among us; not visiting merely as with Abraham; but He was down here as a man, manifesting what He was towards men. That was the last trial to which God put man, to see whether there was anything He could awaken in man towards God. Come in goodness from His Father, walking amongst men in grace, so that there was no sorrow He did not meet—and we know how it ended for the time; He was totally rejected, and that closed man’s history, his moral history. Not only had he sinned so that he had to be turned out of an innocent paradise, because he was not innocent, but he had rejected God’s Son, come in love.
But now came the accomplishment of the divine work of redemption; there was a sacrifice*. I get the blessed Son of God giving Himself, made sin in God’s sight, totally alone, and, as to the suffering of His soul, forsaken of God. I get the sin dealt with. I must come by my guilt, but this presents it from God’s end. I get absolute evil in man, and He met man with the perfect revelation of good. But it drew out hatred—that was the effect; the carnal mind, enmity against God—hatred against God manifested in goodness. I get Satan’s power complete over man; Christ’s own disciples forsaking Him, the rest wagging their heads at Him, glad to get rid of God and good. He had gone so low for our guilt and God’s glory, that even the thief hung with Him could insult Him!
With the blessed Lord Himself I find just the opposite: Man in perfect goodness, love to the Father and obedience at all cost: “that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do”: perfect in the place of sin, where this question had been brought to an issue, made sin in God’s sight in perfect love to His Father and perfect obedience. But further, in the cross, I see God in absolute righteousness against sin, in perfect love to the sinner; man in absolute badness; Satan’s complete power; man in absolute obedience.
That laid the basis of it all; it brought angels desiring to look into it, to see the Just suffering for the unjust! It was not weak mercy giving up holiness and righteousness, but the absolute expression of majesty and righteousness. “It became him,” that if God’s Son were made sin, He must be dealt with as such, there was no escape! He gave Himself for it, “a body hast thou prepared me.” Totally alone there, none to comfort Him, strong bulls of Bashan around; He says, “Be not thou far from me, O Lord,” and He had to be forsaken of God.
The condition man was in was that it was his delight to get rid of God, and God, too, not come to judge him, but to reconcile him to Himself! But God’s eternal counsels were in it, and Christ gave Himself. All that God is, was brought out and made good there, when man under Satan’s power had succeeded in getting rid of Christ, He giving up Himself. God was glorified in Him. There was the secret work of God, God using the very thing by which Satan sought to frustrate it, to accomplish it. Satan’s power seemed to have its way when he got rid of Christ from the world, but all was then brought to an issue before God; and that gives the immutability of the blessing. All was finished on which everlasting righteousness is founded. It was not a state of innocence whose preservation hung on yet unsatisfied responsibility: the unchanging blessing of the new heavens and the new earth, depends on that—the worth of which cannot change.
Morally speaking, the cross maintains it all. The question of good and evil, raised in the garden of Eden, was settled in the cross. I get the blessed Son of God, never using His divine power to screen Himself from suffering, not using it to hinder the suffering, but to sustain Him in it, to enable Him to bear what none could have gone through without it. When I come to God in this way, I apprehend what sin is, not merely my actual sins, but that in me dwelleth no good thing. I get One, hanging upon the cross, made sin before God at the very moment when the full character of sin was manifested in the rejection of Christ. And there, where man was wholly a sinner, and Christ stood in that place for him, all that God is, was brought out. Where could you find full righteousness against sin? In no place but the cross, which gives perfect righteousness against sin and love to the sinner in that same blessed work, and that in a man, and when sin was brought out in its worst character.
Look at Him at the grave of Lazarus; a wonderful scene! The Lord was there in perfect obedience, for when they sent the tenderest message to Him: “Lord, he whom thou lovest is sick”; He abode still two days where He was. Death was weighing upon their spirits: what made Him weep? He was not weeping for Lazarus. Death was there, and it seemed all over; but no, “I am the resurrection and the life.” I am come into this scene where death is lying on your hearts. I am the resurrection and the life in the midst of it; and when that was shewn, which even Thomas saw was on His path, He goes out Himself to die! There did not remain a slur or stain upon what God is. Not only was His righteous judgment against sin shewn, as it could be nowhere else, but His love, in that He spared not His own Son. That work and act of Christ, went up as a sweet savour to God; He gives Himself in perfect devoted love to His Father; perfect love was manifested, and all that God is. “Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him”: outward dishonour, but moral glory; what was in the nature of God, and what was in man as hatred against God, all brought out, Christ giving Himself up wholly and totally, that God should be perfectly glorified; so that in that sense of the word, God was a debtor to man for the infinite glory brought to Him, and that where sin had come in, where death had come in! He hung there as made sin, and God is more glorified, than if sin had never come in. It is a wonderful thing—nothing like it! He does bear our sins, blessed be His name, but when we see the blessed Son of God made sin, there is nothing like that! None of us can speak of it properly, but I trust your hearts will look at it and feed upon it.
But what I have not yet referred to is, that the offerer was to do it, for his acceptance. I leave the offering now, for the man who comes by it. “By faith, Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts.” Coming by that sacrifice—it is important our hearts should get hold of it— I am accepted in the Beloved, in all its sweet savour. I go to God in the sweet savour of all that Christ is; not simply that my sins are put away—there I can stand in righteousness as to my sins before God—but coming by that in which God delights, He delights in me as in it, loved as Christ is loved; it brings into fellowship and communion with God, as to the value of Christ’s place. I know He takes perfect delight in me—a worthless creature in myself—and the more I know it, the better; but there is no condemnation for them that are in Christ Jesus. I go to God in Him, in the perfect sweet savour of Christ. It is not a question of any particular sin, but I go to God with the consciousness of being received and delighted in; I go, as the fruit of the travail of His soul. God sees in me, the perfection of Christ’s work, and it is for ever and ever; but it rests upon our hearts now.
We must come by the sin-offering, but we get in this a great deal more; no actual sin spoken of, but the sense of what His glory requires, accomplished in Christ where sin was, so that there is nothing also in the character of God not perfectly glorified, and that in love to us. Not merely my sins are put away, but I go offering Christ, so to speak. I present Christ, and God testifies of the gift. I say, what is the measure of my righteousness? Christ; and therefore we are received to the glory of God. And now, in weakness and infirmity here, speaking of our standing before God, it is in all the delight He had, not merely in Christ as a living Man, but in all the perfection of His work in the place of sin, where all that He is was glorified—obedient unto death.
I do not like saying, Where are your hearts about it? but— what I do desire for us all—Does my soul go to God, owning that righteousness of God, that love of God, the gift of God in it, and that He testifies of the gifts?
May He give us to see, what we never can fathom, what it was to that Holy One to be made sin, He who was the delight of the Father’s bosom; that our souls may feed on Him, eat His flesh and drink His blood—not only know that we are washed from our sins.
The Meat-offering—Leviticus 2
In the burnt-offering, beloved friends, we had the way in which Christ, sin being in the world, offered Himself without spot to God. Here, we have more His perfectness in detail, brought down to us. The priests ate part of the meat-offering, they ate nothing of the burnt-offering. We get what Christ was in His perfectness down here, all the characters and traits of that perfectness, but brought to us; the burnt-offering was not brought to us, but was burned entirely before God. Sin was there, atonement made—not sins, but sin—and it was a perfect sweet savour to God. Here, it is more the detail of what He was as a man, but burned with fire—the test of His perfectness.
Verse 1. Here, I get the general character of the Lord: fine flour, perfect humanity, “this man hath done nothing amiss,” as the poor thief said on the cross. Then the oil (the Spirit) and frankincense put upon it: perfect in Himself, without sin, in every sense, and then the Holy Ghost sent in bodily shape like a dove, and abiding on Him. He could not join Himself with Israel, fof they were sinners and unbelieving, but there was a remnant called out of God by the ministry of John the Baptist, and He goes with them in their first right step. When He thus came out publicly, the Holy Ghost came upon Him. He takes His place, in a public way, among this remnant who were going right, under the testimony of John the Baptist, and so, blessed be His Name, He does with us in our first right step. We need redemption to bring us into the place where He stood by reason of His own perfectness. He was sealed with the Holy Ghost; we get it because of the blood; the leper was first washed, then sprinkled with blood and then anointed with oil. He made the place into which we are brought by redemption. Heaven opened, a Man upon earth, upon whom the Holy Ghost descends and abides; and the Father’s voice came, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” But He must die, to bring us into it. The gift of the Holy Ghost was confined to Him until redemption was accomplished, He had to finish the work and take His place on high.
We get the fine flour, and the oil, and the frankincense upon it, the perfect sweet savour of His life to God; not the sweet savour of the sacrifice, but all His life His words and works, a sinless Man, passing through this world; all He said and did was by the Holy Ghost. He was the Anointed Man, which is what the name Messiah or Christ means. “He whom God hath sent, speaketh the words of God, for God giveth not the Spirit by measure.”
Verse 2. Here we get what was very sweet, as to the path of Christ, in which we have to seek to follow Him. The handful was all burned to God. Christ, looked at as Man, was burned to God; “the flour thereof, the oil thereof, and all the frankincense thereof.” Here I get the perfectness of Christ in His path—that He never did anything to be seen of men; it all went entirely up to God. The savour of it was sweet to the priests, but it all was addressed to God. Serving man, the Holy Ghost was in all His ways, but all the effect of the grace that was in Him, was in His own mind always toward God; even if for man, it was to God. And so with us; nothing should come in, no motive, except what is to God. We see in Ephesians 4:32; ch. 5:1, 2, the grace towards man, and the perfectness of man towards God as the Object. “Be ye imitators of God as dear children.” In all our service as following Christ here, we get these two principles; our affections towards God and our Father, and the operation of His love in our hearts towards those in need: the more wretched the object of service in the latter case, the truer the love and the more simply the motive is to God. We may love down and love up; and the more wretched and unworthy the persons are, for whom I lay myself out for blessing, the more grace there is in it. “God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” But while that is true, yet as to the state of my heart, the higher the object, the more elevated the affection. With Christ it was perfect. How can a poor creature like me be an imitator of God? Was not Christ an example, God, seen in a man? And we are to “walk in love, as Christ also loved us, and gave himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God.” He gave Himself for us, but to God; it was God’s grace towards poor wretched sinners.
If we look at ourselves, we shall soon see how motives get mixed up, and things come in, even where there is right true-hearted purpose; and that is where we have to watch. In Christ, all was perfect; all, every bit of it, as to spring and motive, was for God’s glory in this world. No thought of men, as to pleasing them, but that singleness of eye which looked to God alone, though full of kindness to man—loving down, in that sense, but ever looking up, with His God and Father before His eye, which made Him perfect in everything. He was perfect, of course, could not be anything else.
Now, it is not that the priests could not smell the sweet savour of the sacrifice, but it was not offered to them, it was all burned to God: as regards His own path, not a feeling that was not entirely to God—for us, but to God. It was that which was perfectly acceptable to God.
Verse 3. Here is where we are brought, looked at as priests, our eye opened. It was the food of the offering of Jehovah, but it is our food too; we must be priests to have it, it is most holy to the Lord. I may see external beauties in Christ, I might write a book on the beautiful traits in His character— but that is not Christ’s life. It is an entirely different thing when the priest gets it as God’s food. (I am bold to use the word, for scripture does so.) The priests ate it, while as to the frankincense everything was burned wholly to God. In the burnt-offering the priest did not eat anything; it was the absolute offering of Himself to God. There was a sustaining power, a perfectly holy power, and all perfectly acceptable to God; but then at the same time, it is what we feed upon as priests. We get our souls formed into delighting in Christ, by realising in our spirits, what God Himself, the Father, takes such delight in. It is a blessed place; we need, and have to seek spiritual apprehension, to find what it is that makes Christ the delight of the Father—what was the expression of that grace, always well pleasing to Him.
We follow His path in the Gospels, and we see always perfect love to us poor things, but everything perfectly and absolutely done to the Father. Turn to Matthew 17 where we get a bright example of the condescending grace with which He associates us with Himself, while shewing Himself to be the Son of the Father, in divine knowledge and power. It was just after the transfiguration, where the heavenly glory of the kingdom was revealed; His ministry as come into the midst of Israel, according to promise, closed, so that He strictly forbade them to say that He was the Christ. But what does He give them instead, if not yet in the glory revealed on the mount? This tribute was not to the heathen emperors, but what had been ordained in Ezra’s time for the expenses of the temple services. They come and ask Peter, Does not his Master pay it? in fact, was He a good Jew? Peter says, Yes; he does not look further. But when he comes into the house, the Lord anticipates him; He shews who He is, He knows all divinely, the Son of the great King, Jehovah, and He joins Peter with Himself; children of the great King of the temple. Then He shews His divine power over creation, and makes the fish bring Him the money and the exact sum,19 and again puts Peter with Himself; “that take and give them for thee and me.” We find the place He took in lowliness down here, but while taking the low place, bringing us into the high place with Himself. We are changed from glory to glory as we gaze upon Him, but it is the humiliation side, as in Philippians 2, which wins our affections.
Satan sought to get Him out of that absolute singleness of eye, in which He was perfect: “command that these stones be made bread”; but He had no orders to do it, no word out of the mouth of God: that was His manna, and He came as a servant. In Philippians 3 you get the other side—Christ glorified, and Paul running after to win Christ; the energy which hinders other things getting possession of the heart. But it is the humiliation side we get here—Christ humbling Himself, making Himself of no reputation, that I may run in the same path and spirit, for the glory of the Father. Was He ever impatient? Did He ever do a single thing for Himself? It was always God, His Father, in one sense, His disciples and the poor world, in another. And where the affections are drawn out, it is always on this humbled side. It is touching to go through the gospels, and to get sufficiently intimate with Christ, to see His motives in everything; but this is much to say, and requires to live much with Him; but this is blessing. When I get “thee and me,” what a strange putting together that is! And He does it with us too: knowing who He is, the Son of the Father down here, He says, “thee and me.” If you get to trace Him through all the path, you never get anything but perfectness.
When I think of the death of Christ, His love to the Father, taking the cup the Father gave Him to drink, I find my delight, my soul bowed down at the thought of all the love and obedience that was in it. And He says, “Therefore doth my Father love me.” It is God’s food too! We shall soon see how far He is beyond our thoughts.
Now (verse 4) we get some details, to bring out Christ more perfectly. “Unleavened cakes.” The general truth was there before, but here we get no trace or form of sin in Him: nor indeed employment of mere amiability of nature, or what refreshes nature; neither can be in a sacrifice. Unleavened cakes with no honey in them. Leaven is not found in an offering except on the day of Pentecost, when we come in; there, consequently there is. The cakes were offered to God, but not burnt on the altar for a sweet savour, and a sin-offering was offered with them. There are two characters here: Christ, looked at as man, was born of the Holy Ghost, no sin in Him; we are born in sin, and get a new nature, but He was personally perfect, no leaven in Him at all. Instead of leaven, it was fine flour mingled with oil—as to His flesh, He was born of the Spirit. Then it is added, “unleavened wafers anointed with oil”: Christ received the Spirit as man, down here, to walk as man, in the power of the Holy Ghost, in obedience; and then, having gone up on high to the Father, He sends the Spirit down upon us. The Father (John 14) sends Him, that we may cry, Abba; and on the other hand, Christ sends Him from the Father, as the testimony to what He is at the right hand of God. We cannot get the anointing and the sealing, that is the Holy Ghost, till we are washed with water and have faith in the efficacy of Christ’s blood.
Verse 6. “Thou shalt part it in pieces”; every bit of Christ (in figure), every word He said, everything He did, all was perfect, the expression of what was divine in a man down here: not only that His general life expressed the fruits of the Spirit, but every word, every work, all absolutely perfect. Now, we may in a general way walk in the Spirit, but we often fail. But I can follow Him any day, and every day, and find “nothing amiss.” It is a wonderful thing to look round this world of sin and wretchedness, and be able to trace one Person everywhere and every when, and find nothing but what was perfect. No matter what it was—obedience, love, grace, firmness—all that came out was the expression of what was perfect, in and for the place where He was. Beloved friends, I am sure I trust you do, but I would exhort you, in that way, to feed on Christ; “he that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me.” In studying Him down here, the soul gets intimate with Him; we feed on that on which God our Father feeds.
Verses 7-9. Here I get another element. When the fire of God’s judgment tested Christ, there was only a sweet savour. Now, if we get tested, alas! often the flesh comes out—I do not say always. He got tested by the evil of man, the terrible-ness of death, the power of Satan, and finally by the judgment of God (the proper meaning of fire as a figure), and nothing came out but what was absolutely a sweet savour. God says He is the elect and precious stone, and to the believer He is precious too!
Verse 11. “Brought to the Lord,” that is the point; I must have a Christ, wholly and entirely giving Himself up to God. “Nor any honey”: mere sweetness of nature cannot come in. There are sweet things which God Himself has established, but Christ was entirely outside all these things: not as condemning them—when His work was over, He could commit His mother to John. There are things which God graciously gives us here, but you cannot put them as a sacrifice. They are of God in themselves: only sin has come in and spoiled the whole thing. The honey itself was not wrong. The coming of Titus comforted Paul; he got in the conflict, like Jonathan, a little honey on the top of his rod, so to speak. And the comfort was of God, who comforts them that are cast down. The poor woman at the well, the thief on the cross, were Christ’s comforters. Honey cannot come into the sacrifice: neither the sin of nature, nor mere natural joy, can come into the sacrifice of Christ. The condemning it is all a mistake; Christ carefully maintained what God had originally established: but now, we get a drunken husband beating his wife, children who are a torture to their parents; for sin has come in, though the relationships are of God. But when you come to what is for. God, there can be no more honey than leaven.
Verse 13. Another principle here. I get “salt,” that is not sweetness. It is complete separation of heart to God—the salt of the covenant of our God. God in sovereign grace has taken me up, and separated me to Himself; it is the positive side, which preserves me for God and with God; and that, beloved friends, is what we are to desire: it is not merely no leaven and no honey; that is the negative side. There is no separation by ourselves in us; we cannot make holiness: it is holiness to the Lord, the heart separated to God in everything; a separation of heart and spirit with no pretension in it, for we are bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body. Through the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, the everlasting covenant, we are brought to God. Do I go and leave God to go to some vanity?—I do not say sin: I do not care what it is—the savour of Christ, of God, is gone. But in Christ, and walking with Him in the heart, I see a Man always separated in heart to God; it stamped everything.
It is not that we are to be heroes every day. I may see a person energetic in his service, but it may not come directly from God; it is a totally different thing, as regards our service, when it does. Look at 1 Thessalonians 1:3; Revelation 2:1, etc. You get here the three things spoken of in 1 Corinthians 13; faith, hope, love. In 1 Thessalonians 1 I get the principle of direct association with God in each operation of grace, which gives it its power and character. It is work, labour, and patience, but “work of faith, labour of love, patience of hope of our Lord Jesus Christ before our God and Father.” I may go and serve the poor—very right and sweet—but is God’s love in it? Patience is a very good thing, but am I waiting for Christ to come? In Revelation 2 there was work and labour and patience; but they had left their first love; the freshness and spring was not as it had been, not coming forth from and in immediate intercourse with God, so as to carry it in the power of God to the person’s soul. There should be the salt of the covenant of our God j it is obligatory to have our service right, though sovereign grace; always serving in immediate intercourse with God. It is not merely that there is no sin, leaven, or honey, but positive spiritual energy, that associates my heart with God in all that I do. Only remember, that with us, there is no holiness without an object, “changed into the same image from glory to glory.” We cannot have holiness in ourselves; that is God’s prerogrative; we cannot do without that which is perfectly blessed before us—only God has so bound us up with Christ, that while He is the power of the life in which we walk in it, He is the expression of that divine life in a man down here, and beholding Him in glory, we are delivered from the motives which would have hindered our walking thus, and furnished with those which form us into His likeness.
Verse 14. Here, I get Christ as the first-fruits to God. And another thing: He has been in the fire. All this blessed grace in His life has been fully and perfectly tried, even to death and judgment—not looking at Christ’s death as atonement, but looking at Him in His trials to see whether nothing but a sweet savour would come out. The only time when He asked that the cup might pass from Him, it was piety. When it was the terrible cup of God’s wrath, He could not go through it without feeling what it was: it was piety, which shrank from the forsaking of God, it was the thing that tested His obedience absolutely. He had been tried by man’s hatred, by Satan’s power in death and the terror of judgment; but it was a very different thing, when He had to drink that cup, the Holy One of God to be made sin and He before God as such— the One eternally in the bosom of the Father, having to say, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” But here was His perfectness; “The cup that my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” He was tested and was always perfect. Supposing it had been possible He had not gone on, it would have shewn all His obedience to be imperfect, that when perfectly tested, it would not stand. But there was not a single thing but His own absolute divine perfectness that stood! His disciples forsook him. All else were against Him, and when He turned to God, it was, “Why hast thou forsaken me?” There was absolute testing, and He went through the fire as a sweet savour. “Therefore doth my Father love me.” Sin, death had come in, Satan’s power; and He goes through it all, in the power of absolute obedience and love to His Father— the testing to the end. There is the perfection of the thing which we have seen; perfect in its origin, perfect as sealed by the Holy Ghost, and now perfect when tested to the utmost, obedient unto death. Therefore God also hath highly exalted Him and given Him a Name which is above every name. He has gone back there as Man, in virtue of what He was down here. And here, beloved brethren, is what we have got to think of; all Christ’s perfectness in His life, and on the other side, perfectness according to the covenant of salt in His death: not then saying, “I know that thou hearest me always,” but, though doing that which perfectly pleased the Father, of which He could say, “Therefore doth my Father love me,” yet, as to relief and comfort at the time, none from man (there could be none from Satan), none from God. The basis of eternal blessing was laid then according to the glory of God.
I have got Him in all His life through, as the meat-offering, to feed upon, study, get acquainted with—to feed upon thai which was perfectly offered to God.
The Lord only give us to do it, and then, when we meet Him, it will be joy.
The Peace-offering—Leviticus 3
This portion is different in character from what we had before, and closes this particular class of offerings.
The burnt-offering was not for particular sins, but it was atonement: Christ made sin for us (the difference may be clearly seen in Hebrews 9: compare John 1) but offering Himself entirely to God, so that in the fact of being made sin, the highest perfection of love and obedience was found: all the perfectness of Christ Himself towards God, and surely of love to us; but more—all that God is, perfectly glorified.
Chapter 2 takes up Christ as a man upon the earth, the character of Christ as thus come: burned in the fire, that is, tested by the perfectness of divine judgment, and nothing but a sweet savour: all the frankincense went up to God. It is a wonderful description in detail of what Christ was in all His path—no leaven, no honey, no earthly affection, or comfort in His sacrifice (He was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief), but salt and a sweet savour to the Lord. In one case the cake was broken into pieces, and every piece was anointed, to shew that everything He did or word He spoke was by the power of the Spirit.
Chapter 3 gives us not only the offering, but the fellowship of the saints in the offering. While in the previous ones Christ Himself was presented, He is here presented along with our partaking of it: they ate it: the blood and the fat offered to the Lord, and then the offerer partaking in what was offered. Other elements were connected with it; but in all this there was nothing to say to sin—an immensely important principle as to what is properly worship.
In the burnt-offering, there was nothing of positive acts of sin, but we get the notion of sin being in the world, and approach to God referring to its presence there, and Christ glorifying God, as a victim for it, doing such a service that He could say, “therefore doth my Father love me”; but the work in itself was a perfect glorifying of God, as He could not have been glorified otherwise. “That the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father hath given me commandment even so I do.” There was perfect love to the Father, besides the question of our sins, and perfect obedience: perfect love when He was forsaken, and the obedience was perfected when it cost Him that forsaking. His motives too were perfect: love to us surely, but love to His Father, obedient when God was forsaking Him. The more terrible the suffering, the more dreadful the cup, the greater the sacrifice. It is such a comfort for us that that question of sin before God has been perfectly gone into and settled. That solemn question, Christ takes up and puts Himself forward in grace to glorify God in it and by it: where man was against Him, the devil against Him, all the world against Him, the disciples ran away, comfort He had none, and in death, God Himself forsook Him. When everything outward, human and devilish was against Him, and He cried to God, then He was forsaken of God: it was the righteous judgment of God against Him, because He was made sin for us: then He goes as man to sit down on the right hand of God. That is all settled; and I can look at Christ as the sweet savour, in the absolute perfectness in which He offered Himself to God and was tested in His obedience. Then in chapter 2 all the blessed perfectness of Christ in His life, tested, tried, broken to pieces, comes out.
In chapter 3 we get worship: they fed upon what God fed on. In our association with God, our intercourse with God, in worship, there is nothing about sin: it is that which is all gone, through Christ’s offering Himself for us, and then I come to God with Christ in my hand, so to speak, I present Him to God and I feed upon Him. I come with that which is perfectly acceptable to God. It is not that there are not faults and failings in us—but here I dwell on the offering itself; it was a perfect burnt-offering made by fire unto the Lord. All that was in the inwards, everything that is in Christ was absolutely offered to God. I get the blood, which was the life; the fat, the sign of the energy of nature, all given to God—no thought with Christ, no act, no object, but His Father. It was for us, thank God! but still absolutely to God: no infirmity, no listlessness of heart, but all given to God entirely, all the inward fat burned to God. Mark, not bearing our sins—that is never called a sweet savour except in one particular case. He was made sin, and that was not a sweet savour, though He was never so holy and perfect as then.
When we come worshipping, it is not even about Christ as the One who put away our sins; I can approach to worship because of that, my conscience being purged; but worship is in the sense that the thing I am feeding upon is a sweet savour to God, what my soul feeds on, nourishes itself by. The worshipper is connected with the sacrifice, and the question of sin is not touched in it, though blood always supposes it to have been there: it is the food of God become my food. It is a blessed thing to see Christ’s perfectness; that every thought, feeling, motive, everything He was, every movement of His heart was absolutely to God. “In that he liveth, he liveth unto God.” (I take the principle merely.) In everything in which there was energy, there was no energy of self-will; it was a perfect giving of Himself to God—the only One in whom it ever was in that perfectness. “Hereby know we love, because he laid down his life for us,” 1 John 3:16. We ought to walk like Him, love the brethren, lay down our lives for them, but then it should be to God.
I bless God, that in His sovereign grace, His blessed Son took my sins and bore them upon the cross; but when I go to God to worship, it is as occupied with that One who is perfectly acceptable to God. Abel came with the fat of his lambs and God gave testimoney to his gifts. Here, the worshipper comes and feeds upon it, and the Lord had His food of the offering; it was what characterised it. And see how close it brings us to God; why, so to speak, I am sitting at the same table with God, feeding on the same thing He is feeding on (only all was offered to Him and so I eat it)!—the Lord’s food of the offering. I sit down and eat, there is no question of my sins, but of the sweetness of Christ—I talking to God about it; our true intercourse with God is that. “He that eateth me,” etc. Here I get that the very thing my soul is feeding on, delighting in, is the food and the delight of God; we get this nearness to God, the soul enjoying what God Himself is delighting in; the offerer comes to God by it, has intercourse with God about it. It is not prayer, the peace-offering was never prayer; when I pray, I go to God about my wants, and prayer will occur even in the highest place—for when I think of the blessedness of Christ, I say, Would to God I were like Him! and it turns to prayer; but still that is a different thing from worship, though it may and will accompany it. I pray as regards my need; I worship in the sense of what I have got. God delights in what Christ is—inexpressibly of course; my soul draws near with Him in my hand, and I find I am going on with God. It was put upon the burnt-offering, identified with it. But all this worship of God supposes no more conscience of sins. “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” It is no question whether I can be accepted or not, but coming with Christ in my hand I come by Him, as having offered Himself, in the consciousness that my soul is occupied with that which is God’s highest delight. A wonderful thought! it shews what we ought to be and what our worship ought to be; and what we eat turns to be part of ourselves.
The character of the peace-offering was, it was presented to the Lord, not as bearing our sins; all true worship of God supposes the question of sin to be totally settled for ever. Chastening, we may get in passing through the wilderness, but the question of imputation, of having sins on us before God, is done with for ever. Sin is a dreadful thing, but it was all settled between God and Christ, when He was made sin for us. But the heart is apt to stay there in thinking of that. Well, without that, we could not get into heaven; but the proper worship of heaven consists in delighting in what God is, what Christ is, when He offered Himself a sweet savour to God. We cannot come at all except by that sacrifice: we turn to God and we find Christ bore our sins; but what I press now is, that as regards that, the whole thing is settled. “Where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.” “When he had by himself purged our sins he sat down.” We are not like the poor Jews—I enter into the holiest, but more than that: have I nothing to bring, my heart no offering to bring to God? Yes, in Christ there is that in which God delights, and I come to God presenting Him.
Chapter 7:13. Besides the unleavened cakes leavened bread was offered; here we have got ourselves. I come with the offering that has been slain, with Christ in my hand, and I find too all the blessed perfectness of the meat-offering, His perfection as Man, the fine flour, no leaven at all: God delighted in Him as a living Man. I get it anointed with oil, mingled with oil, the perfectness of His manhood and besides that, now leavened bread; there am I, the worshipper. If I come to God, I own the sin, the leaven in me, but that cannot be burned as a sweet savour. I come with the leaven. I cannot say I am sinless, as Christ; I cannot be “that Holy thing,” but I come with Christ in my hand. I come with the knowledge of my imperfection, but with that in which I am most perfectly accepted. God takes knowledge of that by which I come; all sins blotted out and forgiven, but I cannot say I have no sin, that is all a mistake; it is leavened bread, the leaven within, and we cannot help its being there, though not allowing it to act. The point is, I go with the sense in my soul that I have leaven: if I say I have no sin, as a present thing, I deceive myself, and the truth is not in me. There is no forgiveness for sin; for sins there is; but “what the law could not do,” etc., “God condemned sin in the flesh.” I get deliverance from any thought of this leaven hindering me, for I find God condemned it when Christ died. I do not talk of His forgiving it, it was all gone when Christ died. I cannot say I have none in me, but I can say I died with Christ, and I am hot in it. “I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake,” i John 2:12.
There is no such thing as an unforgiven Christian. It is very interesting to see the work of God in a soul on the road towards peace; all that has its place; but that is before I have got the knowledge of the blood which cleanses it all, of the blessed truth that the blow which rent the veil and opened the holiness of God upon me, presented me there without a veil, but fit to stand in it. A Christian is a forgiven person; but I cannot say sin is not there. When I see the sin, I say, why God must condemn me for it! and in one sense it is quite true, He must; but why condemn you when He has condemned it in Christ already? I do not come denying that I am leavened; I own it; but what I present to God is not myself, it could not be burnt for a sweet savour, and I have a title, in that sense, to forget it, because God has dealt with it in Christ, and then I come with unleavened bread to keep the feast.
When the offering was a vow, they could eat it for two days; when a thanksgiving, for one day only. If my heart is full of Christ in the power of the Spirit of God, it connects all my worship with the value of Christ’s offering to God, it is associated with that before God, I have fellowship with God as to it. But supposing I go on, and sing, say a hymn, and instead of thinking of the blessedness of Christ and of the Father’s love, I get enjoying the singing; I disconnect the worship from Christ. Take our common worship; is it connected with Christ’s acceptableness to God? if not, it has lost its savour; apart from that sacrifice, what is it worth? There may be enjoyment of the ideas, it may go as far as that, but it has lost its savour, and that is a thing that creeps in very easily. I cannot be with God to know the blessedness of what I have, unless it is connected with the sacrifice to God. And what a thought, beloved friends! that when I do go, it is with the acceptableness of Christ, with what God finds His delight in! If I go to pray—all perfectly right—I am a poor needy creature, who wants everything from God: but worship is another thing; I go with that in my hand which I know to be of God’s delight. I go, Christ having died for me, my soul having the consciousness of God’s positive delight in the sacrifice of Christ, and if my worship in any part gets separated from that, it has lost its sweet savour.
One other thing. The priest who offered it, ate part of it. It was a joy to all, but Christ takes His part, His joy in it too. God has His food in it, I have my food; but the priest has his part too. It is the fullest association of God with Christ and the worshipper. It was for all who were invited too—love to all saints, the heart takes all in to love. It shews what true worship is, when I get there: it is not merely my sins are borne, but I get my delight in what I know is God’s delight, and must be. It is what the whole community of the saints must delight in, and He says, “In the midst of the church will I sing praises unto thee.” It connects all with the glory in blessedness: being such in ourselves, we anticipate in the weakness we are in now, the worship of the saints in eternal ages.
I desire that the two great principles and substance of the thing may rest upon our hearts—that I am there with God, the heart giving itself up to God in thanksgiving. I go to God with this offering of Christ, and I know He does not impute anything to me; when I look up to God, I know He cannot. Here, God has found in Christ what His soul feeds on—what He delights in—we may say it reverently. I delight in it, a poor weak creature, and I know God delights in it. He receives me in worship according to His judgment of Christ.
How far do our souls so enter into God’s thoughts, that when we come to God in worship (all our lives ought to be in the spirit of worship) it is in the spirit of our minds, as connected with God’s value for the offering of Christ, in our every-day walk, never to lose sight of what the sweet savour of that offering was to God? The Lord only give us that it may be thus associated in our hearts with what Christ was towards His Father!
18 Notes of Addresses, 1880.
19 The word translated “piece of money” is Stater, just two Didrachmas, the name of the coin due for one, also found here.