If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish…
I. IN ITS CONTRAST TO THE OTHER OFFERINGS.
1. It was "a sweet savour" offering; as such in perfect contrast with the sin-offerings. We are not here, therefore, to consider Christ as the sin-bearer, but as the man in perfectness meeting God in holiness. The thought here is not, "God hath made Him to be sin for us," but rather, "He loved us, and gave Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God of a sweet-smelling savour." Jesus, both in the burnt-offering and sin-offering, stood as our representative. When He obeyed, He obeyed "for us": when He suffered, He suffered "for us." But in the burnt-offering He appears for us, not as our sin-bearer, but as man offering to God something which is most precious to Him. We have here what we may in vain search for elsewhere: man giving to God what truly satisfies Him. We too often omit this thought when thinking of the offering of Jesus. We think of His death, but little of His life. We look but little into His ways. Yet it is His ways throughout His pilgrimage, even to the way He laid down His life, which God so delights in. Our views are so selfish and meagre. If we are saved, we seek no further. God, however, puts the burnt-offering first: for this was peculiarly His portion in Jesus. And just in proportion as a believer grows in grace, we shall find him turning intelligently to the Gospels; from them adding to the knowledge he has of the work of Jesus, greater knowledge of His ways and person; with earnest desire to know more of the Lord Himself, and how in all things He was "a sweet savour to Jehovah."
2. But the burnt-offering was not only "a sweet savour"; it was also an offering "for acceptance" — that is, it was offered to God to secure the acceptance of the offerer. So we read — I give the more correct translation — "he shall offer it for his acceptance." To understand this, we must recur for a moment to the position Christ occupied as offerer. He stood for man as man under the law, and, as under law, His acceptance depended on His perfectness. God had made man upright; but he had sought out many inventions. One dispensation after another had tried whether, under any circumstances, man could render himself acceptable to God. But age after age passed away: no son of Adam was found who could meet God's standard. The law was man's last trial, whether, with a revelation of God's mind, he could or would obey it. But this trial, like the others, ended in failure: "there was none righteous, no, not one." How, then, was man to be reconciled to God? How could he be brought to meet God's requirements? One way yet remained, and the Son of God accepted it. "He took not on Him the nature of angels; but He took the seed of Abraham"; and in His person, once and for ever, man was reconciled to God. In effecting this, Jesus, as man's representative, took man's place, where He found, man, under law; and there, in obedience to the law, He offered, "for His acceptance."
3. The third point peculiar to the burnt-offering was, that a life was offered on the altar (ver. 5), in this particular differing from the meat-offering. Life was that part in creation which from the beginning God claimed as His. As such — as being His claim on His creatures — it stands as an emblem for what we owe Him. What we owe to God is our duty to Him. And this, I doubt not, is the thought here intended. Of course, the offering here, as elsewhere, is the body of Jesus, that body which He took, and then gave for us: but in giving God a life, in contradistinction to offering Him corn or frankincense, the peculiar thought is the fulfilment of the first table of he Decalogue. Thus the life yielded is man's duty to God, and man here is seen perfectly giving it. Am I asked what man ever thus offered? I answer, None but One — "the man Christ Jesus." He alone of all the sons of Adam in perfectness accomplished all man's duty to Godward; He in His own blessed and perfect righteousness met every claim God could make upon Him.
4. The fourth and last feature peculiar to the burnt-offering is, that it was wholly burnt on the altar. In this particular the burnt-offering differed from the meat and peace-offerings, in which a part only was burnt with fire; nor did it differ less from those offerings for sin, which, though wholly burnt, were not burnt upon the altar. The import of this distinction is manifest, and in exact keeping with the character of the offering. Man's duty to God is not the giving up of one faculty, but the entire surrender of all. So Christ sums up the First Commandment — all the mind, all the soul, all the affections. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." I cannot doubt that the type refers to this in speaking so particularly of the parts of the burnt-offering; for "the head," "the fat," "the legs," "the inwards," are all distinctly enumerated. "The head" is the well-known emblem of the thoughts; "the legs" the emblem of the walk; and "the inwards" the constant and familiar symbol of the feelings and affections of the heart. The meaning of "the fat" may not be quite so obvious, though here also Scripture helps us to the solution (Psalm 17:10; Psalm 92:14; Psalm 119:70; Deuteronomy 32:15). It represents the energy not of one limb or faculty, but the general health and vigour of the whole. In Jesus these were all surrendered, and all without spot or blemish.
II. ITS VARIETIES, that is, the different measures of apprehension with which it may be seen. There were, then, three grades in the burnt-offering. It might be "of the herd," or "of the flock," or "of fowls." These different grades gave rise to several varieties in the offering, the import of which we shall now consider.
1. The first difference is in the animal offered. We have in the first grade, "a bullock"; in the second, "a lamb"; in the third, "a turtledove." Each of these animals, from their well-known character, presents us with a different thought respecting the offering. The bullock, "strong to labour" — for "great increase is by the strength of the ox" — suggests at once the thought of service, of patient, untiring labour. In the lamb we have another picture presented to us; here the thought is passive submission without a murmur; for the lamb is the figure constantly chosen to represent the submissive, uncomplaining character of Christ's sufferings. The turtledove is different from either of these, and gives again another view of the offering of Jesus. In this class the thought of labour is lost sight of: the unmurmuring submission, too, of the lamb is wanting: the thought is rather simply one of mourning innocence; as it is written, "We mourn like doves"; and again, "Be harmless as doves." It may be asked, What do we learn by "the goat," which was sometimes offered in one of the lower grades of the burnt-offering? If I mistake not, this emblem suggests a thought of the sin-offering, reminding us of Christ's offering as scape-goat.
2. A second distinction between the different grades of the burnt-offering is, that while in the first grade the parts are discriminated, in the last this peculiarity is omitted: the bird was killed, but not divided. In the case of the bullock and the lamb, it is noticed that the offering is "cut into its pieces." Here "the legs, the head, the fat, the inwards," are all distinctly noticed and enumerated. In the last case — that of the turtledove — it is otherwise: "he shall not divide it asunder." "The legs, the head, the inwards," as we have already seen, represent the walk, the thoughts, the feelings of Jesus. In the first grade these are all apprehended: they are all lost sight of in the last. These grades represent, as I have said, measures of apprehension. Where the measure of spiritual apprehension is large, a saint will see the offering dissected: his eyes will be turning constantly to see the walk, the mind, the affections of Jesus. He will now observe, what once he regarded not, how Jesus walked, how He thought, what were His feelings. On the other hand, where Jesus is but little apprehended all the details of His walk and feelings will be unseen.
3. A third distinction between the different grades of the burnt-offering is, that while in the first grade the offerer is seen to lay his hand on the offering, in the other grades this act is not observed. Not a few see Christ as offering for us without fully realising that His offering was Himself. They see that He gave up this thing or that; that He gave much for us, and that what He gave was most precious. But they do not really see that "He gave Himself," that His own blessed person was what He offered. This is clearly seen in the first grade of the burnt-offering. It is lost sight of, or unobserved, in the other grades.
4. A fourth distinction, closely allied with the one just considered, is, that in the first class the offerer is seen to kill the victim — in the last the priest kills it. In fact, in the last class, the priest does nearly everything, the offerer is scarcely seen at all; whereas in the first class it is just the reverse, there are many particulars noted of theofferer. The import of this is at once obvious, when we see the distinction between the priest and offerer. The offerer, as I have already observed, sets Christ before us in His person. The priest represents Him in His official character, as the appointed Mediator between God and man. Where the identity between the offerer and offering is apprehended, the offerer is seen to kill the offering; that is, Christ is seen in His person, of His own will laying down His life; as it is written — "No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of Myself." On the contrary, where the identity of the offering and offerer is unseen or disregarded, the priest is seen to kill the victim, that is, Christ's death is seen as the work of the Mediator; and is connected with His official character as Priest, rather than with His person as the willing offerer. So with believers, where there is only a limited measure of apprehension, little is known of Christ save His office as Mediator: He Himself, His blessed person, is overlooked or but little seen. Such are the chief varieties of the burnt-offering: how full are they of instruction to the believer; how clearly do they mark the different apprehensions among saints respecting the work and person of our Lord! Some, however — I speak of believers — are content to know nothing of this; and they would rather not be told their ignorance. They can see but one truth — the Paschal lamb — and anything further they neither care nor wish for.
Parallel VersesKJV: If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the LORD.