Christ As The Burnt Offering

by Keith R. Keyser

The work of Christ is so unfathomable to the human mind that God has given us numerous
pictures of it in the Old Testament in order to help us appreciate the multifaceted glory
of the Messiah. Due to past abuses of typology, in recent days the typological
significance of many of the great events of the Bible has been either ignored or reviled
by many Bible teachers; nevertheless, the New Testament itself bears witness to the
presence of types and shadows in its ancient counterpart.

The Lord Jesus Himself
sanctioned the typological interpretation of the Scriptures in His discourse to the two
disciples on the road to Emmaus (Lk. 24:25–27) Likewise, by inspiration the writer to the
Hebrews employed many types in exhorting his audience to appreciate the superiority of the
Lord Jesus above all else (e.g. Heb. 8-10.) Other scriptures could be cited to prove this
point, but the aforementioned verses should be ample for justifying the study of Biblical
typology.

Among the many types of the Old Testament perhaps few are as comprehensive as the
Levitical offerings. In these five offerings we have a well-rounded view of Christ’s work
and the consequent benefits to the believer. In the initial instructions concerning the
offerings, the burnt offering stands first on the list. This position is no accident, but
rather has great significance to the careful student of Scripture. This offering speaks of
the Lord Jesus presenting Himself wholly to God. From the human standpoint, a repentant
sinner normally thinks of the truths that the offerings symbolize in reverse order (i.e.
beginning with the trespass and sin offerings and proceeding onward to the burnt
offering.) This notwithstanding, the burnt offering aspect of the Lord’s death is the
basis of all of the other facets of Christ’s redemptive work. Without the complete
presentation of Himself to God there could be no redemption, propitiation, forgiveness,
etc. From the divine perspective, the burnt offering character of the Lord’s death is
fundamental to all of the other sacrifices, and therefore, is first discussed in Leviticus
1.

The burnt offering’s Hebrew name, olah, comes from a root meaning “ascending”;
this speaks of the death of the Lord Jesus coming up before God. Like the meal and peace
offerings, the burnt offering was referred to as a “sweet savour” (Lev.
1:9,13,17; the author likes the New American Standard’s rendering: “a soothing
aroma.”) These three offerings present the work of Christ without emphasizing the sin
bearing aspect; consequently, the holy God, who despises all sin, found them especially
pleasing.

It is beautiful to consider how the offerings were first given. ne book of Exodus ends by
speaking of God’s awesome shekinah glory resting upon the Tabernacle. While such a scene
inspires wonder, it does not present a welcome for men who are tainted by sin! The
Israelites could not approach “the dwelling” (the literal meaning of the Hebrew
word for ‘Tabernacle”), for their sin kept them from a relationship with the Holiest
Being in the Universe. Like their ancestors Adam and Eve, their consciences were inclined
to tell them to run from the pillar of fire that hovered over the previously mentioned
structure, rather than draw near and commune with their Creator.

Unlike its predecessor, Leviticus commences with a far different tone; it begins by
saying: “And the Lord called…” (interestingly, this phrase is the name of the
book in the Hebrew Torah.) The nineteenth-century scholar S. H. Kellogg noted the
difference between Exodus and Leviticus in these words: “The first words from Sinai
had been the holy law, forbidding sin with threatening of wrath the first words from the
tent of meeting are words of grace, concerning fellowship with the Holy One maintained
through sacrifice, and atonement for sin by the shedding of blood. A contrast this which
is itself a Gospel!”1 How precious it is to know that the Divine heart longed to
commune with His creatures, rather than sovereignly execute judgment without possibility
of forgiveness. Based on the work of His Son, God can call to His redeemed ones and bid
them come near to worship Him. We must never forget, however, that this would not be
possible apart from the burnt offering aspect of the work of the Lord Jesus.

As to the sacrifice itself. the offerer was instructed to bring an unblemished male “of the cattle, of the herd, and of the flock.” (Lev. 1:2) These three classes
of animals were non-carnivorous and ceremonially clean, speaking of the Holy One who did
not take the lives of others, but “gave His life a ransom for many.”2 (Matt.
20:28) The person bringing the offering was then told to place their hands upon the head
of the animal, in front of the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. In the ancient world, this
action signified complete identification on the part of the offerer with the offering; in
other words, this innocent victim was taking his place. The Hebrew word that is translated
“lay” in verse four, really means to “to lay the hand as to rest or lean
heavily upon…”; thus it pictures the complete reliance of the offerer upon the
sacrifice.3 Likewise, the believer completely relies on the voluntary presentation of the
Lamb of God for his acceptance before God.

The first physical component of the sacrifice that is mentioned is the blood; throughout
the Old and New Testaments, this vital fluid is used as a picture of life. (e.g. Lev.
17:11,14) Although Christians delight to sing hymns like “There is a fountain filled
with blood,” “Power in the blood,”and “Precious, precious, blood of
Jesus,” it is God the Father who possesses the supreme appreciation of the shed blood
of the Lord Jesus Christ. Though thrilled by the redemption that we have in Christ Jesus,
our hearts and minds cannot enter into the pleasure that God received from seeing His Son
completely fulfill His will at Calvary.

The offering was flayed and cut into pieces before being placed on the brazen altar. This
action suggests that the Lamb of God was subjected to careful scrutiny of the tiniest
portions of His being. How precious it is to know that the Lord Jesus was wholly devoted
to His Father in mind, body, and spirit. He alone could say “The Son can do nothing
of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also
doeth the Son likewise” and “I have glorified thee [i.e. the Father] on the
earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” (Jn. 5:19; 17:4) The
total consecration of the inward motives and will of the Lord Jesus is seen by the
presence of the head, fat, and inward parts that were burned on the altar. Interestingly,
the inwards and legs of the sacrifice were washed with water before being offered up to
God. As water in Scripture frequently typifies the Word of God, we may conclude that this
speaks of the complete accordance that existed between the Lord Jesus and the Bible.
Throughout His life, He performed certain actions in order that the Scriptures might be
fulfilled. When tested by Satan in the Judean Wilderness the Lord Jesus repeatedly met
each challenge with the words: “It is written…” This pattern of obedience did
not end at Calvary; rather the Gospels tell us of various events surrounding the
crucifixion that were done in order that the prophecies might be fulfilled. (e.g. Mk.
14:49; 15: 18; Jn. 19:24,28)

While other offerings provided a portion for the priests or the offerer, the burnt
offering was entirely reserved for God. The only component of the animal that was not
presented to the Almighty on the altar was the skin. This reminds us that if the Lord
Jesus had not offered Himself up to God in complete perfection there could be no remedy
for our sin. Thanks be to God that Christ was the whole burnt offering, and thus brought
pleasure and satisfaction to the righteous heart of His Father.

Endnotes
1. S. H. Kellogg, The Expositor’s Bible: Leviticus (ed.W.Robertson Nicoll), (New York:
Eaton & Mains, n.d.), 29.
2. Ibid., 37.
3. Ibid., 43.

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