And he shall flay the burnt offering, and cut it into his pieces.…
What was the significance of the burning? It has been often answered that the consumption of the victim by fire symbolised the consuming wrath of Jehovah, utterly destroying the victim which represented the sinful person of the offerer. And, observing that the burning followed the killing and shedding of blood, some have even gone so far as to say that the burning typified the eternal fire of hell! But when we remember that, without doubt, the sacrificial victim in all the Levitical offerings was a type of Christ, we may well agree with one who justly calls this interpretation "hideous."... While it is quite true that fire often typifies the wrath of God punishing sin, it is certain that it cannot always symbolise this, not even in the sacrificial ritual. For in the meal-offering (chap. Leviticus 2.) it is impossible that the thought of expiation should enter, since no life is offered and no blood shed; yet this also is presented to God in fire. We must hold, therefore, that the burning can only mean in the burnt-offering that which alone it can signify in the meal-offering, namely, the ascending of the offering in consecration to God, on the one hand, and, on the ocher, God's gracious acceptance and appropriation of the offering. This was impressively set forth in the case of the burnt-offering presented when the Tabernacle service was inaugurated; when, we are told (Leviticus 9:24), the fire which consumed it came forth from before Jehovah, lighted by no human hand, and was thus a visible representation of God accepting and appropriating the offering to Himself. The symbolism of the burning thus understood, we can now perceive what must have been the special meaning of this sacrifice. As regarded by the believing Israelite of those days, not yet discerning clearly the deeper truth it shadowed forth as to the great Burnt Sacrifice of the future, it must have symbolically taught him that complete consecration unto God is essential to right worship. There were sacrifices having a different special import, in which, while a part was burnt, the offerer might even himself join in eating the remaining part, taking that for his own use. But in the burnt-offering nothing was for himself: all was for God; and in the fire of the altar God took the whole in such a way that the offering for ever passed beyond the offerer's recall. In so far as the offerer entered into this conception, and his inward experience corresponded to this out, ward rite, it was for him an act of worship. But to the thoughtful worshipper, one would think, it must sometimes have occurred that, after all, it was not himself or his gift that thus ascended in full consecration to God, but a victim appointed by God to represent him in death on the altar. And thus it was that, whether understood or not, the offering in its very nature pointed to a Victim of the future, in whoso person and work, as the one only fully consecrated Man, the burnt-offering should receive its full explication. And this brings us to the question, What aspect of the person and work of our Lord was herein specially typified? It cannot be the resultant fellowship with God, as in the peace-offering; for the sacrificial feast which set this forth was in this case wanting. Neither can it be expiation for sin; for although this is expressly represented here, yet it is not the chief thing. The principal thing in the burnt-offering was the burning, the complete consumption of the victim in the sacrificial fire. Hence what is represented chiefly here, is not so much Christ representing His people in atoning death as Christ representing His people in perfect consecration and entire self-surrender unto God; in a word, in perfect obedience. How much is made of this aspect of our Lord's work in the Gospels! The first words we hear from His lips are to this effect (Luke 2:49); and after His official work began in the first cleansing of the Temple, this manifestation of His character was such as to remind His disciples that it was written, "The zeal of Thy house shall eat me up" — phraseology which brings the burnt-offering at once to mind. And His constant testimony concerning Himself, to which His whole life bare witness, was in such words as these: "I came down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him that sent Me ...." And so the burnt-offering teaches us to remember that Christ has not only died for our sins, but also consecrated Himself for us to God in full self-surrender in our behalf. We are therefore to plead not only His atoning death, but also the transcendent merit of His life of full consecration to the Father's will. To this the words three times repeated concerning the burnt-offering (vers. 9, 13, 17) blessedly apply: it is "an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord." That is, this full self-surrender of the holy Son of God unto the Father is exceedingly delightful and acceptable unto God. And for this reason it is for us an ever-prevailing argument for our own acceptance, and for the gracious bestowment for Christ's sake of all that there is in Him for us. Only let us ever remember that we cannot argue, as in the case of the atoning death, that as Christ died that we might not die, so He offered Himself in full consecration unto God, that we might thus be released from this obligation. Here the exact opposite is the truth; for Christ Himself said in His memorable prayer, just before His offering of Himself to death, "For their sakes I sanctify (consecrate) Myself, that they also might be sanctified in truth." And thus is brought before us the thought, that if the sin-offering emphasised the substitutionary death of Christ, whereby He became our righteousness, the burnt-offering as distinctively brings before us Christ as our sanctification, offering Himself without spot, a whole burnt-offering to God. And as by that one life of sinless obedience to the will of the Father He procured our salvation by His merit, so in this respect He has also become our one perfect example of what consecration to God really is.
(S. H. Kellogg, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And he shall flay the burnt offering, and cut it into his pieces.