The Lord’s Day Evening
January 2, 2005
“Blood on the Altar”
Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III
If you’ll open your Bibles to Leviticus chapter one. If
you’ll look at chapter one, for instance, we studied there the burnt offering,
the offering that is called the holocaust, that is entirely consumed in the
fire. And when we studied Leviticus 1, we saw that that offering taught us about
the importance about right worship to God. God is clearly concerned how we
worship Him, because He spends all this time telling us how it is to be done,
how we ought to approach Him, how we are not to approach Him, what our attitude
is to be in approaching Him.
And we also said as we looked at chapter one, that
this offering highlighted the principle that communion with God requires
atonement, because we are sinners. And so if we are going to commune with the
holy God, there must be a provision of atonement.
Then if you look at chapter two, we studied there in
verses 1-16, the whole of the chapter, the grain offering. It’s also called the
pledge, or the dedication offering. It was symbolic of the self-giving of the
worshiper. The worshiper brings this uncooked or cooked grain, an indication of
God’s provision of His daily bread, and gives it back to the Lord, not only
acknowledging that God has provided everything that we need, but as a testimony,
as a dedication, as a pledge of giving the whole of ourselves back to God in
Then if you look at chapter three, we have recorded
there the fellowship offering, or the sacrifice of peace. And we said that it
finds its New Testament counterpart in the Lord’s Supper. It’s a meal that the
worshiper shares with the living God. The living God invites the person from
Israel making this fellowship offering to slide his knees up under the table of
the Almighty and share fellowship, break bread, share a meal with Him. And it
points forward to the New Testament glories of the Lord’s Supper.
Then, in chapters four and five we have instructions
on the unintentional sin offering. All the way to the thirteenth verse of the
fifth chapter, these instructions are found. And we said that this emphasizes
just how seriously God takes sin.
And then the guilt offering, or the reparation
offering, covers the remainder of chapter five to chapter six, verse seven. And
Derek led us in this subject, and we’re coming back to that offering tonight,
but now from the perspective of the priests. As we studied each of those in
chapters one through six, it was from the perspective of the worshiper, the
sacrificer, the one that is bringing the offering to the tabernacle.
Then, beginning in chapter six, verse eight, we
started repeating each of those five great sacrifices, now from the standpoint
of the responsibilities and the prerogatives of the priests. In chapter six,
verses eight to thirteen we looked at the burnt offering, or the holocaust
offering again, and we saw there that the demand that the priest keep the fire
continuously burning reminded the Old Testament believer of the ongoing need
that he had for provision for atonement.
And then, in verses fourteen to eighteen of chapter
six, we looked again at the priests’ portion of the grain offering–God’s
instructions on what was to be done with the priests’ portion of the grain
offering. And we said that that priest’s portion was not so much priestly
pay–although we’re going to look at an example of that very thing tonight–as it
was an assurance for the worshiper. The reason that the priest was to eat of
that grain offering in the temple courts was to assure the worshiper that his
sacrifice was holy, was acceptable to the Lord, had in fact been accepted by the
Lord, and therefore, that that worshiper was assured of the Lord’s acceptance
Then in verses 19 to 23 of chapter six, we see again
the grain offering from the perspective of the priest. And that passage
emphasized the importance of the priest’s consecration, and again, the symbolic
acts that are commanded of the priests there are to indicate God’s acceptance of
the worshiper’s sacrifice, and therefore, of the worshiper.
Then finally, the last time we were together, at the
end of November in the Book of Leviticus, we looked at the sin offering, or the
purification offering, in verses 24 to 30. And again, that sacrifice pointed to
the people’s need to know the Lord’s forgiveness and acceptance, as well as
conveying the holiness of the atoning sacrifice. And that brings us to the
passage that we’re going to look at tonight: the guilt offering, or the
reparation offering, in chapter seven, verses one to ten.
Now before we read this passage, let me ask you to
look at a few things in your Bible. First of all, notice the title of the
section. You see it there in verse one: “This is the law of the guilt
offering.” Notice that three times it is emphasized that it is holy: at the
end of verse 1, “it is most holy”; and then at the end of verse six: “it shall
be eaten in a holy place”; and then, “it is most holy.” So three times it is
emphasized – the holiness of this sacrifice.
Notice in verse two how the burnt offering is to be
offered in the same place as the guilt offering–or perhaps I should say it the
other way around. The guilt offering is to be offered in the same place as the
And then, notice in verse seven how the guilt
offering is like the sin offering, in that the priest has a right to a portion
of that offering. Now that fact is emphasized four times in verses seven to
ten. Look at the end of verse seven: “The priest who makes atonement with it
shall have it.” The end of verse eight: “The priest shall have for himself the
skin of the burnt offering which he has presented.” The end of verse nine:
“Everything prepared in a pan or griddle shall belong to the priest who presents
it.” And the end of verse ten: “Every grain offering mixed with oil, or dry,
shall belong to the all the sons of Aaron, to all alike.” And so it’s
emphasized that a portion of this offering is to belong to the priest.
Now, having given those words of explanation, let’s
look to the Lord in prayer and ask His blessing on the reading and preaching of
Our Lord and our God, we thank You for Your
mercies to us. We thank You for the mercy that You showed to old covenant
believers in giving them this law which pointed to Your provision of grace. We
thank You, O God, that this law not only pointed them to Your readiness to
forgive, but it ultimately pointed them to the way in which You would forgive:
in the atoning death of the mediator, the Messiah, Your Son, our Lord Jesus
Christ. As we consider this passage tonight, then, as new covenant believers,
we ask that you would help us to see Christ; that we would be refreshed again in
the sense of blessedness which is ours because we have a Mediator who is at the
right hand, who is very God, begotten, not created. And we pray, O Lord, that as
we rest and trust in Him that You would give us a corresponding sense of peace
and assurance, even as we study Your word tonight. These things we ask in Jesus’
Hear God’s word in Leviticus 7:1:
“Now this is the law of the guilt offering: it is most holy. In the place where
they slay the burnt offering they are to slay the guilt offering, and he shall
sprinkle its blood around on the altar. Then he shall offer from it all its
fat: the fat tail and the fat that covers the entrails, and the two kidneys with
the fat that is on them, which is on the loins, and the lobe on the liver he
shall remove with the kidneys. And the priest shall offer them up in smoke on
the altar as an offering by fire to the Lord; it is a guilt offering. Every
male among the priests may eat of it. It shall be eaten in a holy place; it is
most holy. The guilt offering is like the sin offering, there is one law for
them; the priest who makes atonement with it shall have it. Also the priest who
presents any man’s burnt offering, that priest shall have for himself the skin
of the burnt offering which he has presented. Likewise, every grain offering
that is baked in the oven, and everything prepared in a pan or on a griddle,
shall belong to the priest who presents it. And every grain offering mixed with
oil, or dry, shall belong to all the sons of Aaron, to all alike.”
Amen. And thus ends this reading of God’s holy, inspired,
and inerrant word. May He write its eternal truth upon our hearts.
This passage divides in two parts. You’ll notice
them in verses 1-5 and then in verses 6-8. Verses 1-5 covers–and you’ve seen
this before, if you’ve been with us in our study of Leviticus 1-7–it covers the
priestly actions which were to be done by those officiating these sacrifices;
actions which were designed to assure the worshiper. The spreading of the blood
on the altar, the burning and the lifting up of the smoke–all of these actions
and more were designed to assure the worshiper, and so verses 1-5 remind the
priest again of his responsibility, his role, in giving assurance to God’s
Then in verses 6-10, we see the rights of those
officiating priests to parts of the animal sacrificed. But it’s important for
you to remember the context of this offering. The one bringing this offering–a
guilt offering, or a reparation offering–would have been someone who needed to
make reparation or restitution for a sin. That sin might not be known to anyone
else but the one against whom the sin was committed. It might have been a case
of financially defrauding another person, or defaming a person in some way.
This worshiper, under the conviction of sin, perhaps at the very urging of the
priest, as the priest pressed home the obligation of the believer to live in
accordance with God’s law towards his brother–not unlike Jesus in the Sermon on
the Mount saying that if you are on your way to the temple to worship and you
remember that your brother has something against you, first go be reconciled to
your brother; then come to the temple to worship.
Perhaps the priest has pressed home the obligations
of God’s word on this worshiper, and this worshiper is convicted of sin. And of
his own voluntary, spontaneous response, he comes and he says to the priest, ‘I
need to offer a guilt offering, a reparation offering, as well as doing
restitution to the person whom I have wronged.’ And so you see joined in this
ritual, this ceremonial offering, a heart which has been convicted of sin and
which is responding to God in contrition and with a desire for restitution and
reparation; and so, this sacrifice would have been brought when someone need to
make reparation or restitution for sins.
I. the Lord repeats these types
for a reason.
Now there are four or five things that I
would like to say about this great passage tonight. And the first is
simply this: notice that we have here again the Lord repeating the same kinds of
assuring actions as we have seen in other sacrifices. Look through the first
five verses of the passage with me. First of all, notice again that this
offering is to be given in the same place where the burnt offering is slain.
This offering’s blood is to be sprinkled around on the altar. The fat and the
entrails of this offering are to be burned up in smoke on the altar. In all of
these ways, the worshiper is assured that God has accepted his offering.
Now, you’ve seen that before, several times already
in verses in chapters one through seven. Why is the Lord repeating these
things over and over?
First of all, the Lord is a good teacher. And the
first rule of teaching is repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat…so that it’s
second nature. He’s repeating Himself so that we get the point and learn it,
and can’t get it out of our minds.
Secondly, it demonstrates His wondrous love–that we
have a God that is so concerned that we would be assured that over and over and
over He repeats the responsibilities of the priests in the ceremony to extend to
us assurance when we have come with a right heart to worship the Lord.
It also reminds us of the seriousness of sin,
doesn’t it? —that the Lord has to go into this intricate detail in order to
bring about a restoration of the believer with himself, or with his brothers
whom he has wounded and wronged.
But finally, it points us to Christ. By repeating
these things over and over, we are pointed to the unique ways in which Jesus
Himself fulfills these rituals. And so, that’s the first thing that I want
to make a point of tonight, is to say that the Lord repeats these requirements
to the priests on purpose, because He’s a good teacher; in order to draw
attention to his love for us; in order to remind us of the seriousness of sin;
and, in order to point us to Christ.
II. Joyful involvement in the ceremonial worship of the
OT necessarily entailed a sense of conviction of sin, and assurance of pardoning
The second thing I want to draw your
attention to is this: have you ever thought of it? Joyful involvement in this
kind of worship–joyful involvement in this kind of ceremonial worship in
the Old Testament–would have necessarily entailed a personal sense of conviction
of sin, and of assurance of pardoning grace before you could have been joyful
about this kind of worship.
Listen to this slightly edited version of Horatius
Bonar’s comments on this passage:
“None but a heavy-laden sinner could relish this never-varying exhibition of
blood to the eye of the worshiper. The pilgrims to Zion in later days must
often as they journeyed through the Valley of Bekaa, wondered what they were
going to see and hear in the courts of the Lord’s house, where the worshipers
were singing, “How lovely are Your dwelling places, O Lord of hosts; my soul
longs and even yearns for the courts of the Lord. My heart and my flesh sing
for joy to the living God; even Your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my
God. How blessed are those who dwell in their house.”
And when they arrived at that house, they saw in those courts–blood:
Blood on the altar; blood in the bowls of the altar; blood on its four horns;
blood on its sides; blood on the ground; blood meeting the eye at every turn.
No one but a deeply convicted soul, no one but a soul really live to the guilt
of a broken law, could enter into that song and cry with the worshipers, “How
lovely are Your tabernacles, O Lord.”
This again points to the experiential aspect of this
Old Testament ceremonial religion; and if that was the case with old covenant
religion, how much more for those of us who gather Lord’s Day after Lord’s Day,
remembering Christ’s resurrection from the dead after the ultimate sacrifice of
III. Moral holiness is entailed in
the ceremonial holiness of the OT ritual.
Thirdly, let me remind you that this passage points
to the truth that moral holiness is entailed in the ceremonial holiness of the
Old Testament ritual. This offering was one of the more significant
offerings for spiritual life, and its performance was evidence of true
repentance, because the guilty person who brought this sacrifice was also moved
to repay what he had taken from another, even though reparation would cost him
more than what was taken; sometimes, many times more than what was taken. And
this shows us the moral holiness that was required alongside the ceremonial acts
of holiness in the Old Testament ritual.
IV. The ritual acts are secondary
to the supreme fact — death for sin.
Fourthly, we’re reminded again in this passage that
these ritual acts that are described in such intricate detail in Leviticus 1-5,
all of them are secondary to a supreme fact; and that supreme fact is the death
of the animal. Notice that before any of these ritual actions can be
occur, the animal has to die. And so, repeatedly the point is made: death for
sin. Death for sin. It would have been second nature, when Paul said to Jewish
Christians in Rome, “The wages of sin is death.” ‘Well, of course. We’ve read
Leviticus, Paul. Of course the wages of sin is death.’
V. The priests were supported
through the sacrificial offerings.
Finally, this passage reminds us that the
priests themselves were supported through the sacrificial offerings. The
priests had rights to certain parts of the sacrificial offerings, and they
partook of them not only for the assurance of the believer, but for their own
sustentation. In some of the sacrifices, they could keep the hide and use it
for themselves, or sell it and use the proceeds of it. In other sacrifices they
were allowed to share parts of the animal with their families, and to make
provision for them. And do you remember that Paul will appeal to this very
principle for the support of new covenant ministers in I Corinthians 9:13?
Remember what he says?
“Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the food of the
temple? And those who attend regularly to the altar have their share from the
altar. So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their
living from the gospel.”
And so Paul draws his principle for what we do to
this very day, that is, support those who work full time in the work of the
gospel through the offerings that are given to the church. He draws that
principle right here from Leviticus 7 and from other parallel passages.
All five of these things–and we could say
more–remind us again of the richness of these obscure, intricate, ceremonial
commands, and how they point us not only to new covenant ministry, but
ultimately to Jesus Christ.
Our Lord and our God, we thank You for Your
word. We ask that as we come to You in prayer tonight and always, that we would
be mindful that we come the blood-sprinkled way, and that our communion with You
has been purchased at the dear cost of the atonement of Your only Son. But even
as we remember that great cost, may we also remember, O God, that because of
this we have a fuller assurance than our brothers and sisters under the old
covenant ever could have attained in these rituals that had to be repeated day
after day, and week after week, and year after year. For our Savior has died
for us, once for all; and having done so, He has put away sin. Praise God, from
whom all blessings flow. We give You praise in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Would you stand for God’s blessing.
Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith,
through Jesus Christ our Lord, until the day break and the shadows flee away.
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