Welcome to the Mountjoy Ministries Blog

This blog was authored by Bryan W. Sheldon, author and Bible teacher. His books are listed below. The studies in the blog are offered in the desire that they may be helpful in directing readers to the truths contained in the Bible.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Death of the Messiah (Continued)

Sacrifices and Offerings (Continued)

The Red Heifer Offering

The Red Heifer being led out of the Shushan Gate

The other offering which shares some common features with the expiatory offerings of Leviticus is found in the book of Numbers (chapter 19). The red heifer offering recognizes both the root and result of our problem with the Adamic nature. It provides purification at the beginning and end of life. The Numbers passage deals with the second of these, corpse defilement. For the Hebrew nation corpse defilement was a serious matter. The Mishnah declares that one who has contracted corpse uncleanness becomes a ‘father of uncleanness’, because everything he touches then becomes unclean. Death, of course, points its icy finger to the second death and if unremoved would exercise eternal sway. The connection between death and sin is given in several Scriptural passages, the first of which would be the judgment pronounced in the Garden of Eden. “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:16,17). Adam’s sin brought the predicted result: “in Adam all die” (1 Cor. 15:22).

Defilement by death, a corpse, a grave, a bone, rendered a person ceremonially unclean for seven days. Priests and Nazarites were forbidden to touch a dead body, except for their nearest kin. The High Priest was not allowed to approach the dead at all, not even his own parents. Therefore the law of the red heifer made exceptional provision for purification in these circumstances. “And for an unclean person they shall take of the ashes of the burnt heifer of purification for sin” (Num.19.17).

The offering was made on a special site ‘outside the camp’. The Levitical offerings stipulate, ‘in a clean place’ (Lev.4.12) for any sacrifice which was burned ‘outside the camp’. This was applied to the red heifer offering as well. The fourth verse requires the blood to be sprinkled directly before the Tabernacle, which the Rabbis interpreted as before the open entrance of the Tent. If, for any reason the flap or curtain of the tent was closed, then the sacrifice would be invalid.

But the red heifer differed from the other sin offerings in several ways. It was of pure red color, a female (signifying life in all its fruitfulness); upon which never came yoke (speaking of strength unimpaired) and it was wholly burnt, along with cedar wood (symbol of imperishable existence); hyssop (symbol of purification from corruption); and scarlet (the color being the emblem of life). It implied the sacrifice of highest life, and as far as possible, once for all.

During Second Temple times, the High Priest performed the ceremony on the Mount of Olives, at a place which afforded a direct view through the gate of the Golden Vine, that is, the entrance to the Temple building itself. To obtain the site on the Mount of Olives they needed to line up the three Eastern gates, that is, the Gate of the Pure and the Just which led into the court of Prayer, the Nicanor Gate which led to the Priests’ court and the Gate of the Golden Vine which was the entrance into the Holy Place.

The ashes of the heifer were taken and mixed with living water, to produce the waters of purification. This mixture was to be sprinkled on the unclean on the third and seventh days, both sprinklings speak of life, the seventh speaking of eternal life. Without the sprinkling an Israelite was to be ‘cut off’. This punishment could mean (i) to be denied the benefits of Temple and sacrifice; or (ii) to be put out of society (like a leper); or (iii) in severe cases, the loss of life. The red heifer sacrifice which was burnt ‘outside the camp’ is also analogous with the scapegoat, taken by a fit man, and let loose in the wilderness - which was to remove the personal guilt of the Israelites. Each suggests that the sanctuary did not have the answer for this level of sin.

The problem of sin was not only at the end of life but also at its beginning—it is then the Adamic nature is inherited. “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me" (Ps. 51:5). The rite of purification was designed to make the unclean clean, so it was used to provide purification for sin at birth as well as death. After the birth of a boy, a woman was considered unclean for forty day, after which she had to bring a sin offering to the Lord and go through the rite of purification (Lev. 12.2-6). The forty day period was extended to eighty days in the case of the birth of a girl. A very significant example in Scripture is given in the gospels when it is recorded that Mary went through the ritual after the birth of Jesus (Luke 2.22 ff). Since He was her first-born they had to go through the rite of redemption also.

Mary and Joseph attended at the Temple together for the two rituals. The sin offering stipulated for the purification ceremony was a lamb plus a bird but in cases of poverty it could be two birds (either doves or pigeons) - Mary made the offering of the poor. She had no lamb to bring, but the child she held was the Lamb of God. The identity of the baby boy was not unknown to those who walked close to the Lord. While waiting for the ceremony which would have taken place at the time of the afternoon sacrifice, a godly man, Simeon identified Jesus as the Messiah, the ‘light to lighten the Gentiles’ (Luke 2.26-32), and then Anna, a prophetess confirmed the witness.

The death of Jesus on Golgotha fulfilled the typology of the sacrifice of the Red Heifer. “Jesus ... that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate” (Heb 13:12). Moreover, as with all the sacrifices, the offering of Jesus for sin brought about a purification that could not have been obtained by the sacrifice of an animal: “For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb 9:13,14). The phrasing of these verses clearly includes the red heifer offering along with the other sin offerings, that is, “the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh”. But the glory of Calvary is seen in the “how much more” of verse 14.

The blood of the Red Heifer had to be sprinkled before the open entrance of the Tabernacle. During Temple times the sacrifice took place on the Mount of Olives on the sight line to the open door of the Holy Place through which the veil of the Temple could be seen. I would suggest that the site of Calvary had to be on that sight line for when Jesus died, the veil of the Temple was torn from top to bottom.

While the idea of the Red Heifer offering was a once and for all sacrifice, it was never possible because the numbers of people who needed purification were so great, and the ashes/water mixture ran out. So the sacrifice had to be repeated, although it was always many years between each offering. But Christ was a once and for all sacrifice as the inspired writer declared. He “... once ... appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb.9:26) and, He “was offered once to bear the sins of many” (Heb 9:28). Furthermore, “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb 10:10). Jesus is our guilt, sin and red heifer offerings providing expiation, propitiation and purification.

Next Time - Sweet Savor Offerings

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Death of the Messiah (Continued)

Sacrifices and Offerings (Continued)

The Guilt Offering (Continued)
The death of Jesus encompassed both elements of the ‘guilt offering’. He did not just take the penalty for our sins but also compensated those parties who had suffered loss because of transgression. First, the claims of the Father - Christ as the last Adam and our new federal head, acknowledged, honored and offered complete and perfect obedience to the will of His Father. And since He was of infinite worth and His obedience included the ultimate sacrifice, that is, He laid down His life in accordance with the pre-determined plan of God - in this way He compensated God for the rebellion and disobedience of Adam and his posterity. In fact, the value of the sacrifice of Christ means that Jesus restored more than Adam lost. Jesus, dying on Calvary, is a trespass offering that secured forgiveness for sins and provided compensation to God for all the honor, obedience and worship that had been withheld from Him by a fallen humanity. A righteous God demanded compensation and Jesus paid it!

This also applies to those who claim the value of the death of Christ for themselves. For them, the life received through the sacrifice of the Savior is greater, better, and more suitable to their eternal nature, than ever Adam possessed. The best way of comparing the value of these two offerings, and the light they shed on the death of the Savior, is to consider the first two sections of the book of Romans.

In the first chapters Paul deals with our many sins. He catalogues a number of them. “sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; ... whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful” (Rom. 1:29-31). And like the good theologian he is, he summarizes the situation with quotes from the T’nach. He wrote, “There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.” “Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit”; “The poison of asps is under their lips”; “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; Destruction and misery are in their ways; And the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Rom. 3:10-18; cf. Ps.14.1-3; Ps.53.1-3; Ps.5.9; Ps.14.3; Ps.10.7; Isa.59.7,8; Ps.36.1). To capture the thrust of all this sinfulness in one sentence would be a great accomplishment and this he does with the words, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

The essence of the ‘guilt offering’ is that our many sinful actions can be forgiven, whether they be sins of word, sins of thought, sins of deed, secret sins, open sins, sins against man or sins against God. And in Paul’s Christology, the first requirement placed on penitent sinners is to come to the cross for forgiveness of sins. We may not understand it fully at the time, but we receive forgiveness because Christ is our trespass offering. The trespass offering required a blood sacrifice and Paul declares that we have forgiveness only if we have faith in the blood sacrifice of Jesus (Rom.3.25), a thought repeated by the Apostle John also (1 John 1.7). A hymn poem captures this thought:

See here an endless ocean flows, of never failing grace.
Behold a dying Savior’s veins, the sacred flood increase.
It rises high and drowns the hills, has neither shore nor bound.
Now if we search to find our sins, our sins can ne’er be found.

Whereas, in the trespass offering, it was the sins that we committed that were central; that is the sins, transgressions and iniquities we had performed; in the sin offering the searchlight of God is on the on the individual, on the one that committed the unlawful and wicked deeds. The truth of the sin offering is that not simply that am I a sinner because I sin, but rather I sin because I am a sinner. In other words, I find inside me a wickedness that I inherited from my natural parents. I am a child of Adam and have a fallen nature.

Similarly, in Romans—while the first four chapters present the blood of Christ as the answer to the problem of our sins, Paul goes on to describe the continuing problem that arises out of our fallen nature. That there is a battle raging within us between (i) the desire to please God in our lives with good deeds and godly actions, and (ii) the desire to follow the lusts of the flesh. Our conduct in Scripture is often described as our walk. We want to walk in the Spirit, but too often we walk in the flesh. Paul’s own testimony describes the inner conflict. “... the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice” (Rom. 7:19). No wonder he calls himself a wretched man (v.24).

But the answer is Christ, our sin offering. Not only did He die to deliver us from the penalty due to us because of the sins we committed but His death also provides the power to live the new life. In the trespass offering, the truth could be summed up in the word ‘substitution’ - Jesus died instead of us. However, in the sin offering ‘identification’ would be a more appropriate word - we died with Jesus. Paul explains that when Jesus was executed, the problem of our old nature, our Adamic nature, was also in view. The sacrifice of the Lord not only dealt with what we do but also who we are. He wrote: “knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin” (Rom. 6:6). Those that tap into the full benefit of Calvary recognize that they need not be dominated by the old Adamic nature, because they have a new nature; they have the life of God now, and they are new creations in Christ. As Christ identified Himself with us by becoming man and living the life we live (without sin, of course), so we must identify ourselves fully with Him and seek to live the life He lived. It is called ‘walking in the Spirit’. Paul puts it this way: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:1-2).

Ultimately, Paul was able to testify: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). This identification with Christ is the equivalent of recognizing Him as our new federal head in place of Adam. We must be fully committed to Him and swear allegiance to His cause.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Death of the Messiah (Continued)

Sacrifices and Offerings (Continued)

The Offerings

The rituals regarding the five major offerings are described in the first seven chapters of the book, although further details are added in other places in the Pentateuch. There is also another major offering commanded in the book of Numbers. These are all listed below. There was no exact timetable prescribed for when the rituals should be performed, except for those that took place at the great Festivals (like the Day of Atonement), although some were adopted for daily morning and evening sacrifices.

The Primary Offerings were:

1. The whole burnt offering (Leviticus 1) also called the ‘ascending offering’ i.e. ‘that which goes up’.

2. The meat offering (Leviticus 2) also called the ‘cereal offering’ or ‘gift offering’.

3. The peace offering (Leviticus 3), a sacrifice for alliance or friendship.

4. The sin offering (Leviticus 4), a sacrifice for sins of ignorance.

5. The trespass offering (Leviticus 5) also called the ‘guilt offering’.

6. The red heifer (Numbers 19) for purification.

The five Levitical offerings were divided into two classes, sin offerings and sweet savor offerings. The first three, the ‘burnt’, ‘meat’ and ‘peace’ offerings were sweet savor offerings, while the last two were expiatory offerings. This second group of offerings was generally offered before the sweet savor offerings, because it was necessary to deal with sin before the penitent could stand before God and make an acceptable offering to bring pleasure to Him. The Red Heifer offering, because of its purpose and its effectiveness, was only performed as the need arose, and there were always several years between the sacrifices.

The expiatory offerings, also described as sin offerings, were designed to secure atonement and forgiveness from God. The phrase, ‘to make atonement’ occurs 29 times in the book of Leviticus, almost invariably relating to the sin and trespass offerings. They were efficacious only when offenses were inadvertent or unwitting. They did not apply to defiant acts or premeditated crimes. Whenever an individual Israelite, a tribal leader, a priest, the Chief Priest, or the Israelite community at large was guilty of an inadvertent offense or of failing to do what the law required, expiation through sacrifice was demanded. In substance, chapters 4–5 prescribe two principal sacrifices: the object of the ‘sin offering’ was to remove the culpability borne by the offender, that is, to purify the offender of his guilt. The ‘guilt offering’ or ‘trespass offering’ was actually a penalty paid in the form of a sacrificial offering to God. It applied when one had unintentionally misappropriated property that belonged to the sanctuary (or been contributed to it). In certain cases it was also required when one had sworn falsely concerning his responsibility toward the property of others for a false oath involved God in the transgression. The sacrifice did not relieve the offender of his duty to make full restitution for the loss he had caused another. In fact, the offender was fined 20 percent of the lost value, which is a double tithe. The ‘guilt offering’ merely squared the offender with his God, whose name he had taken in vain.

It is clear that the ‘trespass offering’ or ‘guilt offering’ was designed to make atonement for sinful actions, whereas the ‘sin offering’ was designed to restore the offender to fellowship. The ritual not only demanded a life but in some cases the complete burning of the carcass ‘outside the camp’. The sacrifices of the Day of Atonement were sin offerings. The sin-offering speaks of Christ; ‘who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree’ (1 Pet. 2:24) and who “was made sin for us” (2 Cor. 5:21).

Depending on the circumstances of the transgression the sacrifice could either be a ram, a lamb, a kid or the offering of the poor, that is, two doves or two pigeons. The transgressors brought the offering in evidence of their penitence and remorse, the priest made atonement, and God assured the forgiveness.

The expiatory offerings, along with all the other offerings, have something to say in respect of the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary. Firstly, the trespass offering required a substitutionary death - an animal took the punishment for the sins of the offender. This prefigured the work of Christ where He was “wounded for our transgressions” (Isa.53.4). The Bible declares that Christ was judged for the sins we committed. He “was delivered (up to death) for our offences (trespasses)” (Rom. 4:25); (compare also. Eph. 1:7 and Col 2:13). The Scriptures uses three words to indicate the different kinds of wrongdoing of which we are guilty – ‘sins’, ‘iniquities’, ‘transgressions’. The death of Christ provides the answer for them all. Daniel prophesied it - the coming Prince was to: “... finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity” (Dan. 9:24).

Secondly, a debt has to be paid. In the trespass offering, besides the life laid down, the value of the trespass, in the priest’s estimation of it, was paid in shekels of the sanctuary to the injured party; together with a fifth part more. If the trespass offering had simply called for the sacrifice of an animal or bird then the injured victim would still have suffered loss. But a compensatory payment was demanded by the Law. It had to be made in shekels of the sanctuary; “and all your valuations shall be according to the shekel of the sanctuary” (Lev. 27.25).

More next time

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Death of the Messiah (Continued)

Sacrifices and Offerings (Continued)

The Day of Atonement (Continued)

The High Priest’s work on the Day of Atonement included intercession for the people he represented when he was in the presence of God. This theme is also developed in Hebrews in respect of the work of Christ. The present intercessory ministry in heaven (the antitype to the most Holy Place) was drawn from a reflection on Psalm 110, in which “the Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool’” (v.1). The Messiah has been exalted to God’s right hand, as a priest of an eternal order. But this is after He has experienced an earthly life. Because of His incarnation, temptation and suffering He is able to help those who are weak and in need. “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God” (Heb 2:17).

The salient points of the intercessory ministry of this High Priest are as follows:

(1) Christ incarnate shared our humanity, therefore He knows our frame and He remembers that we are dust.

(2) Christ crucified was the perfect sacrifice for sin. This demonstrates God’s love for humankind. Believers can be sure then that God will freely provide for their need.

(3) Christ resurrected means He lives forever.

(4) Christ exalted means He is in the presence of God on our behalf. None can accuse them, since Christ is at God’s right hand and appeals to Him on their behalf. Therefore, they can be sure that no trial can separate them from God’s love in Christ.

Before the throne of God above I have a strong, a perfect plea,
A great High Priest, whose name is Love, who ever lives and pleads for me.
When Satan tempts me to despair, Telling of evil yet within,
Upward I look, and see Him there, Who made an end of all my sin. (Char.L.Bancroft)

The Offerings

Of all the passages included in the T’nach that present a prophetic picture of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus on Calvary, there is none that gives more detail or is more complete than that which is presented in the sacrificial offerings described in the first seven chapters of Leviticus. There are five major offerings described there, and all are needed to present the work of the Savior of the World. These five are supplemented by other offerings, especially that of the Red Heifer in the book of Numbers.

As an introduction to the subject we must again refer to the escape of Israel from slavery in Egypt. Because they had been oppressed for such a long time, they were ill-prepared for nationhood. They needed leadership, plus a moral and ethical code by which to live, and government that would produce discipline and order. The nation was to be ordered as a theocracy so the code by which they were to be molded would need to come from the God Himself. The regulations imposed from above would not be an end in themselves – they would be preparatory for a further outworking of the purposes of their divine Author. Israel was to be God’s ‘special treasure’, a ‘holy nation’ and a ‘kingdom of priests’, separated unto the Lord. They were to discern between holy and unholy, between clean and unclean. The offer of the Lord to take Israel as His special treasure was conditional. He said, “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exod. 19:3-6). To this offer they unanimously replied, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do” (Exod. 19:8).

Alas, as God had anticipated, they would be unable to give complete obedience to the requirements of the Law, and would need some vehicle which would allow them to demonstrate contrition and repentance, thus enabling them to return to communion with Him. To this end, He gave them a group of sacrifices that would serve as substitutes to bear the penalty of their disobedience and in some circumstances would represent an offering of thanksgiving for the protection, benefits and blessings He provided.

As previously remarked God took the tribe of Levi and inducted them into His service. Aaron, brother of Moses, was called to the office of High Priest and from his family thereafter would be drawn the priestly caste of the nation. The rest of the offspring of Levi, comprising the family groups of Gershon, Kohath and Merrari, were to be employed in the service of the Tabernacle, and later the Temple. The tribe of Levi then, would be the key to the service of the Sanctuary, the priesthood acting as intermediaries and intercessors, offering the sacrifices on behalf of the people. The third book of the Torah, ‘Leviticus’ (pertaining to Levi), contains the primary regulations governing the priesthood and sacrifices.

This book is one of the least read of all the books of the Bible containing as it does a great deal of detail regarding rituals that are no longer in use. The reason that they are no longer practiced is not simply because there is no more Temple, but rather because the Lord Jesus has died and fulfilled all that these offerings pre-figured. Therefore, if we examine what these sacrifices typify we will be more able to appreciate the magnitude of the work of the Saviour on Calvary.

The book of Leviticus differs in character to the first two books of the Pentateuch. The book of Genesis was a book of beginnings and in respect of the types has a dispensational flavor. The general character of the book of Exodus was that of redemption—a people redeemed from slavery. The general character of the book of Leviticus is that of communion and worship. It describes the rituals required of a people that have access to God. The types in Leviticus therefore display the work of the Lord Jesus in its bearing on worship and communion. In Leviticus we do not get the sprinkled blood to redeem from Egypt but rather it is used to meet the needs of a saved people in their approach to God through priest and offering.

More regarding the offerings next time: