Leviticus 9

 

This chapter describes the event of “the formal inauguration of the sacrificial system at the tabernacle”¹ and “the first services which Aaron conducted”² as high priest.

It consists of a sin offering and a burnt offering for Aaron, and a sin offering, a burnt offering, peace offerings, and a grain offering for the people. I know, so many offerings, and it’s confusing which one is which and what the differences and their purposes are. That’s how I feel every time I read about these offerings in the Old Testament.

Well, they have their distinctions and different purposes for different occasion and people, but after doing a quick research, there are some things I noticed.

The sin offering was performed first in this occasion just as it was in the case of the ordination of Aaron and his sons (Ex. 29; Lv. 8). Aaron was not a perfect man. He had sins. He was a sinner. Yet he had to perform these sacrifices on behalf of the people of Israel. So he had to offer sacrifices for himself first.

The sin offering involved laying on of hands to the head of the animal offered and killing it and putting the blood on the horns of the altar and pouring it out at the base of the altar. The priest’s sins were therefore symbolically transferred to the animal, and by killing the animal, the penalty of the sins, the moral debt which the priest owed to God was paid. The price was life because the wage of sin is death. And blood was the sign and evidence of the payment.

Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22).

The sacrifice points to The ultimate sacrifice, the sacrifice of Jesus. God is a gracious God. He knows our state, that we are utterly helpless when it comes to our moral capability of doing the right thing and loving sacrificially. Selfishness is the common disease of all human beings that we cannot escape no matter how our technology or science or psychology or even “spirituality” advances. So even from the time of the Old Testament, he offered a way by which our sins can be atoned for, forgiven, so that we’re accepted and renewed into the loving relationship with our Creator and Father God.

The Law of the Old Testament never meant to enslave us in the prison cell of fear characterized by the life of rule-keeping. In actuality, the chronology of the history of Israel shows that the unconditional redemption of the people of Israel from the slavery of Egypt came first, and then the Law was given through Moses. First salvation, and then the Law, is the order. And even the content of the Law largely points to the Messiah who is to come to redeem the people of God from the slavery of sin. The plan has been on God’s mind from the very beginning. (Gen. 3:15)

Yes, the practical purpose of the OT Law was to reveal our sinfulness by showing that no one can possibly obey the Law perfectly. “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20). However, it doesn’t mean that God’s purpose was to condemn his people by giving the law. Rather, it was simply the preparatory step for Jesus who is the Messiah to come and proclaim forgiveness and salvation to people who were ready to humbly accept it.

“But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.” (Gal. 3:22-24)

The ultimate sacrifice was offered. Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who was slain, who knew no sin made him to be sin for our sake, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor. 5:21) Now no more sacrifice of bulls and goats are needed. No more human “Aaron’s” are needed. Aaron had to offer sacrifice for himself first, and then offer sacrifice for the people. Something far better, infinitely better is available to us now, The High Priest Jesus Christ, which this OT sacrificial system has been pointing to all along.

“For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.” (Hebrews 10:1)

The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7) On the cross, the Work was finished. (John 19:39) The final transaction has been completely closed. There is no use trying to add to the Work ourselves. We can’t, it’s finished. And even if it wasn’t, we should dare not try to add anything to it. There is nothing we have that is worth the price of our moral debt. It cost the life of Jesus Christ. The only thing left for us to do is receive the gift by faith. And enjoy the loving fellowship with God in thankfulness by voluntary and passionate obedience.

“he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” (Hebrews 9:12-14)

 

 

Notes.

¹Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1579.

²Gordon J. Wenham, The Book of Leviticus, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1979), 147.

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2 Corinthians 2:12-3:18

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“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” (2 Cor. 2:14-16a)

No matter what we go through, in Christ we’re always going forward in triumphal procession, into glory, into Christ-likeness, into deeper appreciation of the cross and softer heart that genuinely loves God, into eternal life with Him, into God. There’s no such thing as back-sliding for Christians in the deepest sense.

We are the aroma of Christ. It’s not so much what we do as who we are just by our presence. People around us inevitably notice Christ within us, and respond in two different ways. One from death to death, the other from life to life. We can’t stay neutral, it’s impossible. We still love all, but not all respond with faith.

We are the “letter of recommendation written on our hearts, to be known and read by all” (2 Cor. 3:2). And “written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Cor. 3:4b).

“And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.” (Ezekiel 11:19)

We have “a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor. 3:6b).

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah … I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Jer. 31:31, 33b)

The old covenant of the letter written on the stone tablets killed. It was “the ministry of death and condemnation” (2 Cor. 3:7, 9a). It ended. (2 Cor. 3:7b) But the new covenant of the Spirit written on human hearts gives life. It is “the ministry of righteousness” (2 Cor. 3:9b). It is permanent. (2 Cor. 3:11b)

  • Old covenant: of letter, written on stone, of death and condemnation, ended
  • New covenant: of the Spirit, written on heart, of righteousness, permanent

Before, it was simply rule-keeping that enslaved us under the tyranny of condemnation. And there was nothing we could do to get out of it because we could never keep the law perfectly. But Jesus set us free. He died the death that we deserved and lived the life that we should have lived. Our death became his death, and his life became our life. In Christ, we’re completely accepted by God through the work of Jesus. Gazing upon this truth genuinely transforms our heart. It wins our heart. We start truly loving God. At every turn of our repentance, we’re a bit more convinced that it is God that we truly need and love.

Yes, we still fall, and every fall is deeper than the previous fall since our recognition of what we’re capable of in terms of our sinful nature gets deeper each time. But at the same time, as we stand up once again for the thousandth time leaning on the grace of the blood of Christ, our recognition of God’s love also increases proportionately. That’s the dynamic of real Christian growth. That’s what the Holy Spirit does, leading us to repentance every time and helping us learn the depth of God’s love and grace.

The new covenant of the Spirit, the law written on our heart, therefore gives us freedom.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Cor. 3:17)

Our motivation for keeping the law of God is no longer simply fear of condemnation and death. It is love. Our heart of stone is removed, and a heart of flesh is created. We love obeying God. It’s not simply a duty that we dread. It’s a duty that we love. In Christ, our duty and our desire finally meet and become one. What a life of coherence, of integrity, of peace and satisfaction, of thankfulness.

“Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God” (2 Cor. 3:4) “Since we have such a hope, we are very bold” (2 Cor. 3:12).