Take your Bibles this morning and turn to Hebrews chapter 7. I’m going to take several messages in Hebrews 7 because of its importance in the book of Hebrews. It’s actually is the focal point. It is the central chapter of this book. If you miss the understanding of chapter 7, you can miss the whole understanding of the book of Hebrews. So, I’m going to take some time.
I gave you a hand out so you can follow through on some of the blanks because I want to lay the background. So, I’m not going to really be a lot in chapter 7 today because I want you to get the main understanding of what the problem is. There’s a problem. And remember, our audience is basically Jewish. That’s why it’s called the Hebrews. And so therefore they’re going to have a problem too with Christ and who he really is.
And of course, they’re not the only ones who have that problem. Everybody has that problem today, it’s a big problem when you talk about Jesus. People don’t even know what you’re talking about. They have all kinds of definitions that are connected to that, but not a Biblical one.
So, when we talked about Jesus, we want to talk about the biblical Jesus. And so now we come to this chapter, and the author already (just to give some background) has already exposed, he has identified, he has given strong warning concerning the danger of remaining in a perpetual state of infancy. That’s been the message the last several times, then he encourages (once he gives a warning) his listeners, by saying that he is fully confident that they belong to Jesus Christ, they belonged to his house, they are partakers of Christ’s blessing — and the reason why he’s able to say — that and that’s a very important thing to say, to know that your people are coming to know Christ, as they are living for Christ, they are bearing fruit for Christ — and then let them know that listen, I have confidence that you have observed something much better this salvation that comes in Christ Jesus.
And so, this is what led him to have confidence in them. He observed that they had a faith that was living and working. That they had a faith in which he observed an outward and an inward evidence of what accompanies salvation, the fruit of Salvation. They were different, they were changed, they persevered in the faith they left their old religious system to follow Christ. So many things were going on in this passage of Scripture, in this book up until this point.
He further reminded them that Jesus had opened the way for all who desired refuge in him to the presence of God. He blew it wide open and anyone who would come in faith and repentance through Jesus Christ our high priest could be saved.
So, through Jesus Christ our high priest, a Believers hope is safe and securely anchored in heaven. And that gives us great assurance about where our salvation is and who’s taking care of our salvation.
And this should give us a settled confidence – it should give any believe who understands it a settled confidence that they gained that by maturing in Christ, by growing in the knowledge and wisdom of Jesus Christ. By growing in their knowledge and wisdom of God’s Word.
So, when these truths are understood and are firmly held to, what does it do to us? It frees us up from doubts, it frees us up from uncertainty, it encourages us to continue on to live our Christian lives with confidence. And although life’s storms beat against us and they will continue to do so, they can never destroy your position before God in heaven. Because your souls are securely anchored In God’s inner Sanctuary.
That’s where he ended last time. That’s great encouragement, great confidence.
So, when that foundation is laid, the author now moves ahead, pulling his audience out of their spiritual sluggishness and moves, them pushes them closer to the things of God. He points them to Jesus as the Great High Priest, one similar to Melchizedek.
Now, Melchizadek becomes very important. I’m going to begin to unpack the Son’s typological relationship with Melchizadek probably in the next weeks to come. But the book of the Hebrews has been little by little exposing us to Jesus as a merciful high priest who is interceding for his children, who is causing them to hold fast to your confession of faith.
We have seen so far that Christ is greater than all the prophets, that he is greater than angels, that he is greater than Moses, that he is greater than Joshua, that he is in a rank greater than Abraham, and even the first high priest Aaron, he is greater than him.
So now we come to the central chapter in the book of Hebrews, a chapter displaying Christ as greater than the Levitical priesthood.
Now, before delving into chapter 7 and unloading the contents on you, I believe that there was a great need (that the reason for the handout) for an Old Testament foundation. Especially concerning the proper ways a person may have access to God in the Old Testament. This is vital to understand chapter 7, that there were two proper ways that all the people, all of God’s people could access him, his presence according to this pattern. So God essentially made a way for Sinners to come to him for mercy.
And remember I want to remind you, mercy by way of definition is God’s provision for sinners to escape the punishment that they deserve for their sins. That’s what mercy is. And the stress on mercy is that’s its God’s provision. It is not what you can do, it is not what you can offer, it is not your good works, it is nothing you can do. Mercy depends on God’s provision for you. That’s a whole different thing than what people are trying to do.
In most religious systems, you’re trying to work their way to God when that is will send you straight to head hell it’s in here the Word of God is telling us listen it’s by God’s mercy that you’re saved. It’s because of God’s provision that anyone could be saved from their sin and escape the punishment that they deserve for everything they ever sinned in their thoughts and their words and in their deeds. So let’s look at what the first proper way to have access to God in the Old Testament was and how it how it relates to chapter 7. Before I do that, let me just have a word of prayer. Let’s pray.
Lord, this morning please direct our attention to the Word of God. Help us to begin to see what happens here and why it’s important for us. And Lord make it clear to us about our own salvation. Make it clear to us how a person becomes right with God and Lord do it in the next several weeks that we gain confidence that each and every one of us are sure of our own salvation and where we’re going when we die. And Lord that we have been made right with you based on God’s mercy. Help us to understand that now. In Christ name’s I pray, amen.
So, here’s the first proper way to have access to God. The first proper way is the law in the Old Testament. (The law is the fill-in there.)
So long as a person faithfully observes its commands, he or she is in a position of friendship with God and the door is open to him. That’s the message in the Old Testament when you read it.
But there’s a huge obstacle the kept interrupting the relationship with God. You know what it is what? Is it called sin. Right? It’s called sin. See, I have a sin problem. You have a sin problem. In fact, I like righteousness before God, and so do you. So, we also not only have a sin problem, but we have a problem that we lack righteousness before God.
So sin, remember, is not what we do, that’s part of it, but sin is who we actually are. Sin makes us slaves to itself. It tells us in Romans that Paul says this. Romans chapter 6, he says:
knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin
See, people think that they are free, but they’re not free at all. They are slaves to sin because they obey the dictates of their passions and desires that lead them into sin. They obey the pressure of the world on them to do this or that or to live this lifestyle or that lifestyle or to be engaged in this activity or that activity and all those lead to immorality, it leads to idolatry, it leads to everything that is against God.
And yet people think they’re free when the Word of God tells us, listen, when you were slaves to sin, you were also free in regard to righteousness. That means, again, what I just said is that when we are slaves to sin, we have no righteousness because our righteousness keeps up unrighteousness before God and we have we are not able to approach God on those grounds.
So see, sin is against God himself in our sin and sinful nature we prove ourselves to be hostile toward God, alienated toward God, enemies of God, like what Paul said in Romans again, we were enemies of God.
And then I like what David said after committing adultery and murder in the Old Testament. He wrote in Psalm 51 in verse 4:
Against You, You only, I have sinned
And done what is evil in Your sight
So, he understood that when he sinned, it was against God, even though it included sinning against other people. And it’s sinning in different ways.
He understood the main problem was that when he sinned, whether it was in thought word or deed, it was against the God of Heaven it was against the God of Creation. You know what that means? We’re all in trouble! Every single one of us is in trouble, but the point that I’m making here that is vital, is that people can’t keep the law. The law, in turn, actually exposes their sin. It magnifies their sin. It brings their sin to their own mind and shows them that they cannot keep it, and when they sin it severs fellowship with God, therefore severing access to God. And isn’t that the point? How can somebody be made right with God to have access to God?
When people say, “listen, are you going to die and go to heaven?” What they’re really asking is: “do you have access to God?” Or, “is heaven going to be barred from you? Is his presence going to be barred from you?” Where do you stand in those regards? It was not just the Old Testament, it is us today.
So that was the first proper way to have access to God. The law. But we couldn’t keep the law, the law actually magnified our sin, broke our fellowship with God, and barred us from God.
Here’s the second thing, the second proper way to have access to God in the Old Testament and that was through the priesthood and the whole sacrificial system. Through the priesthood and the whole sacrificial system. Now this was in the mind of people who were listening. A Latin word, the Latin word for priest actually is the word bridge builder. That the priest was a man whose function was to build bridges between God and man. And he did that by use of the sacrificial system. He could not do that on his own, he had no power to do that on his own, but it was the sacrificial system. And the law that guided the system so people could come to God.
So, if a person broke the law, his or her relationship with God would be interrupted and that they would be banned from having access to God. Then the priest could step in and offer the correct sacrifice to atone for that person sin. When he did that, the law was satisfied, the barrier was removed between that person and God and fellowship was restored. That was the basic understanding of the Old Testament sacrificial system.
Now if you ever read through the Bible and you get past Deuteronomy and you know, you go into Exodus, and then you go into Leviticus, you’ll find that Leviticus has a lot to say about the sacrificial system. Exodus also said some things about it, and then Deuteronomy, but it becomes a very central part of their life is to understand. That that the doctrine of atonement, the doctrine of that by the shedding of blood their sins would be covered became vital every day of their life they were confronted with it.
Confronted with this very thought that they have a priesthood that they can go to, he was the mediator, that the priest then would prescribe to them what sacrifice they needed to offer, and then they would do that so their relationship with God would be made right. So the doctrine of atonement during the Old Testament, the Sinner who came in God’s way was fully forgiven and released from the judgment due their sins.
See that’s what it was, it was a release from the problem that they had. But there again, in the priesthood and in the sacrificial system, there was one big huge obstacle interrupting the relationship with God. And you know what it is?
Sin. A continual sin problem. See, being a priest in the Old Testament was an exhausting occupation. Why? Because no matter how many sacrifices were offered, there will always be way more to be offered, and the worshipper even after sacrifice, after sacrifice, after day of atonement after day of atonement, never received perfect righteousness. so the priesthood will have to go on and on and on and on forever. That’s in the mind of the writer of Hebrews in Chapter 7.
Now, I would like to give you a sense of the important lesson the people in the Old Testament needed to learn in regard to their relationship to a holy God. Who is, of course also a loving and merciful in the gracious God, which is repeated over and over in the Old Testament, but the main thing was that he was a holy God.
So, here’s the lesson. How can I approach a Holy God without being destroyed? How can I approach a holy God without dying in his presence? I couldn’t just come before a holy God any old way I wanted to, because that would be a sure death penalty. Well, in the mind of the people, in everything in society, everything they did, every day was reminding them that God is Holy and that they were a sinner. And the only mediator between them and God was the priest.
And the only means the priest had to solve that relationship problem was the sacrifices. So, the first thing that they were daily reminded of was that God is yes, holy. That he was holy.
Now I put on your handout several illustrations there, because the first thing that you see there is the plan of the Tabernacle. All the Tabernacle, remember, was God’s design given to Moses saying this: listen that you were my people and I’m going to dwell in the middle of my people. But you can’t just rush to me anytime you want.
You can’t just come to me in any old way. You have to come to me in just the way I prescribe you to come. If you don’t, then of course that would be great trouble for you.
And so, he lays out the design of the Tabernacle, or the design of the tent of meeting, in the Old Testament that displayed that God was present and that God was a holy God. Now in that Temple, you see there’s two parts. There’s actually three areas. There’s the courtyard: that’s where the Brazen altar is. And then there’s two parts: you have the Holy place, and the holy of holies. Now in the courtyard, some of the medals were made of bronze and silver. And then when you get to the holy place, you’ll see that in the Tabernacle there are metals. There will be gold and pure gold, and the table of showbread and the incense altar: all those would be made of gold.
And the reason for that, and of course when you get into the Holy Place, The Mercy Seat where the blood sprinkled or poured out once a year by the high priest. That was made of pure gold.
The reason for that was, if you notice in letter C on your sheet, it says this: the closer one drew to the presence of God, the ground became progressively more holy while the materials used to construct the Tabernacle became more precious. So, you know that means? That even the materials which I didn’t mention, the cloth and the metals of the Tabernacle, symbolically represented the very fact that a holy God dwells in the midst of his people, and the closer they got to God, the more precious the metal got, the more intricate the embroidery got on the cloth that was prescribed by God.
And the only one who can go into the presence of God once a year was the high priest. But that was through very important and specific guidelines. He had to cleanse himself, he had to offer a sacrifice for his sin, and then he could offer the sacrifice for the sin of the people.
Now if you notice also, the second photograph there, it says that only the Levites were permitted to approach the area immediately surrounding the Tabernacle. And the reason for that is the Aaronic priesthood was holy unto the Lord. So, you see that the Shekinah Glory, which is the bright part there in the right over the Mercy Seat was there. Every day, the people woke up and they saw the Shekinah Glory. Their tents were all facing the Tabernacle. So as soon as they walked out of their tent, they saw the presence of God. As soon as they walked out of other tent they smelt the sacrifices. They understood the priests were ministering in their behalf in that place so the relationship of the people could be made right with God on a continual basis.
Now, that of, course meant that they were certain guidelines that the people had in the Book of Leviticus, that were guidelines to the priests and to the lay people concerning appropriate behavior in the presence of a holy God. That Leviticus actually teaches that God is separated from the present world, and the only ones who could be freed to enter his presence were those who have been cleansed of their sins and then permitted there.
So, in Israel, there existed a special relationship between God and his people. It was called a covenant relationship, told to us in Exodus 29, that God’s real and visible presence in the Tabernacle was at the heart of the Covenant.
And the Covenant relationship was related to the sacrifice in three ways.
The first way was that the sacrifice was a gift. If you read through the Old Testament, you see that oftentimes they give a peace offering or a grain offering. Those were voluntary offerings. And so those were gifts to God for particular reasons. People would give it just to be thankful Lord. “I’m thankful to you that your you’ve been good to me, you have been providing my needs, and I’m offering up to you a grain offering or a peace offering.” And so, they did that. And that was to show a gift and the part of the worshipper to his covenant Lord.
Another way was that a number of sacrifices included the notion of communion or fellowship between covenant partners, and that would be more of the peace offering, that they were at peace with God because of how God designed them to approach him.
And then a third way would be the sacrifice would play a major role in healing rifts in the covenant relationship by expiation, by a blood sacrifice.
So, Israel’s entire relationship with God was established by covenant. God, in other words, made an agreement with his people. He says: “Listen, this is what I want you to do. When you do this, you’ll be blessed. I will forgive your sins, I will keep our relationship going, but you have to come according to the way I prescribed.”
And so, at the heart of that was the sacrificial system that provided a regular reminder to the people. A reminder of sin, a reminder of their transgression and a reminder of the atonement they can receive by coming in the right way.
So, the people really had to get a handle on the holiness of God. And so that’s what you were up here, because God dwells in the midst of the tent of meeting. And the sacrifices carried out before him on the altar are described as being performed as Exodus 5 says or 11, “as before the Lord.”
So, everything is done in the sight of the Lord, everything is done before the Lord. There’s nothing at all whatsoever in God’s plan to hide anything. Especially on God’s side of things.
And so, the children of God were to be constantly aware of everything that happened, they were to be constantly aware of and reminded that God is a holy God, and must be approached in the way God prescribed. That’s why the model of Leviticus is what is simply this: “be holy for I am holy.”
Now, that same truth is transferred to the New Testament: be holy, once you would come to Christ, for I am holy. So see, we still have the same thing going on.
The difference is that here we have the New Covenant, and the New Covenant includes other things like the filling of the Spirit, the permanent filling of the Spirit, and of course the complete and full finished sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
But at this, time we don’t have that. This is before the cross, and so in the Word of God, the people had a really good a handle on the Holiness of God.
Now take your Bibles and turn to Leviticus chapter 11, verse 44. I just want to throw out to you some of the things that were presented to the people on a regular and a daily basis, and that was in their mind constantly. In chapter 11 of Leviticus and verse 44:
44 For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. And you shall not make yourselves unclean with any of the swarming things that swarm on the earth. 45 For I am the Lord who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy.’”
So God is saying: Listen! Because I’m a holy God, separated from sin and separated from Evil, separated from everything that is unclean and profane, you as my people must do the same thing!
You must do the same thing. So, if you look at the picture you have on your sheet there, this is a great rendition of how the camp was set up. That in the middle was the tabernacle, the Shekinah Glory, the priesthood and all the activities that were going on, the fence around it so that no one can come in and or climb over it or anything like. That they had to come through the front, they had to go through the priests.
And then all the tribes of Israel, the 12 tribes of Israel camped right around it. So, wherever you were, north, south, east, or west, as I said already, when you walked out of your tent, you saw the presence of God. And what came to your mind immediately was this: God’s holy, I’m a sinner, and I must be holy too. Is there anything in my life that makes me unclean, that makes me polluted, that makes me unable to going to the presence of God today? At least part of the community? And, of course, that was the question that was asked on a regular basis.
So, you see that there’s a second point that I want to remind you of on your sheet. That they were daily reminded that a person who becomes unclean must be cleansed of their uncleanness by a sacrifice. So a sacrifice becomes the thing between them and God. Their defilement, their uncleanness, their pollution that has to be removed. And so that’s what you have going on in Leviticus, and in the Old Testament.
And so we see terms scattered all over the place in Leviticus like holy, clean, unclean, common. The priests were given also the responsibility, the specific responsibility of distinguishing between what was holy and what was uncommon.
If you want to look right there at Leviticus 10:10, it says this:
and so as to make a distinction between the holy and the profane, and between the unclean and the clean
So that was his main job.
When somebody came to them and said to the priest: “you know what? I sinned.” And the priest says “Okay, let’s find out how you sinned, and how did you make yourself unclean? How did you make yourself profane?”
And so they would tell their story to the priest, and the priest said “okay, we have to offer this sacrifice in your behalf befor God.” And he begins to show them what they need to do.
And so in the mind of the Hebrew, in the mind of the Jew, everything was either clean, unclean, holy or common. Everything that is not holy is common. Common thing are divided into two groups: clean and unclean. Clean things become holy when they are sanctified. And you notice in the Old Testament, sometimes things were common and they were made holy because God wanted them to be holy and set apart for him. Like utensils in the tabernacle were things that were made of metal but they were set apart to God as common things, but they became holy when God said, “make them holy and put them in my presence.” And of course He gave them what kind of metals to use, everything. Because it had to do with His holiness, His character, who He was.
Clean things become holy when they’re sanctified. When they’re cleansed, when they’re set apart. Clean things can be made unclean if they are polluted. And holy items set apart to God may be defiled, or become common or even polluted and therefore unclean.
And so, this was in the minds of the people every single day of their lives. The cleanness, uncleanness. Is it common, is it polluted? But one thing they did know, that uncleanness and holiness could never come into the presence of God. It would be disastrous for that to happen.
And so, therefore that’s where the sacrificial system comes in. Now a few examples in Leviticus. I’m trying to give you a sense of what the people had to deal with every day when considering that God was holy and the only way that they could make it right is this sacrificial system. And so it had to be determined where they sinned, how they sinned, to what level of uncleanness that they were involved with, or defilement they were involved with, so a proper sacrifice could be offered before God so they could be cleansed again and restored to fellowship.
Was it a tedious system? Yes. It was tedious!
But I want you to notice Look at Leviticus 7:20-21. Because if an unclean person, for example, ate holy food, food that was set apart to be special, usually part of a sacrificial animal, what would happen to that person?
Here’s an example, Leviticus 7:20-21:
20But the person who eats the flesh of the sacrifice of peace offerings which belong to the Lord, in his uncleanness, that person shall be cut off from his people. 21 When anyone touches anything unclean, whether human uncleanness, or an unclean animal, or any unclean detestable thing, and eats of the flesh of the sacrifice of peace offerings which belong to the Lord, that person shall be cut off from his people.’”
So you see that if somebody participated in something that is holy with their unconfessed sin that an offering hasn’t been sacrificed on their behalf with, then what happens is that they are cut off from the people. They are excluded from the community of God’s people. They are banned from it.
Why? Because God was holy. And God couldn’t allow it in His presence. He can’t allow sin or defilement in His presence because that’s who He is.
Now there are other examples that I can give to you, but what I would just like to say is that the greater the deviation from the norm, the greater the degree of uncleanness and the difficulty of cleansing it. Those who neglected to undergo the appropriate decontamination procedures endanger themselves and the whole community.
Example again. Look at Numbers 19:13 and then verse 20.
Anyone who touches a corpse, the body of a man who has died, and does not purify himself, defiles the tabernacle of the Lord; and that person shall be cut off from Israel. Because the water for impurity was not sprinkled on him, he shall be unclean; his uncleanness is still on him.
And then down to verse 20:
‘But the man who is unclean and does not purify himself from uncleanness, that person shall be cut off from the midst of the assembly, because he has defiled the sanctuary of the Lord; the water for impurity has not been sprinkled on him, he is unclean.
So, you see that in this system, the people had to be mindful that God was holy, that they were sinful, and that at any of these junctures, that are all prescribed very clearly in Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy, that they can be unclean and unholy, not pure. So, they needed to be purified, they needed to be cleansed. Why?
So that they don’t bring that uncleanness into the sanctuary of the Lord and into the community of believers, therefore defiling the whole camp, which of course would be a great problem.
Now if you notice in the passages that I just read in Numbers, the point being made is that neglect of purity rights pollutes the tabernacle and leads to the death of the offender. Because to be excluded from the camp sometimes meant to be put out of the camp of Israel never to be able to return again, or to be put to death so that person would not continue to bring uncleanness into the camp.
So again, holiness characterizes God Himself and all that belongs to him. And God’s name which expresses His character should always be before and in the minds of the people. Like in Leviticus 20:3:
I will also set My face against that man and will cut him off from among his people, because he has given some of his offspring to Molech, so as to defile My sanctuary and to profane My holy name.
There it is. That God in his character, do you understand? God in his character cannot let sinful people into His presence without having their sins cleansed in the proper way.
And that usually meant the killing of an innocent animal, the shedding of that blood. And that animal, in a sense, would take their place as a substitute. So then, once the blood of the animal was shed, and that person went through the right procedures, then that blood then temporarily cleansed that person of any defilement, any uncleanness before the Lord. And so therefore he again treated the Lord’s name as holy, and came into his presence and approached him properly.
Remember, it was the priest, the sacrifice, and the Law. Once he kept that, he was able to come into God’s presence once again.
Now, let me just remind you that holiness is a state of grace to which men and women are called by God. And it is attained through obeying the Law and carrying out the rituals such as sacrifice.
Uncleanness is a substandard condition to which men and women descend through bodily processes and sin, and every Israelite in the Old Testament had a duty to seek release from uncleanness through washing and sacrifice because the uncleanness was very incompatible with the holiness of God and His covenant people.,
So see, Leviticus is particularly concerned with sacrifice, devoting seventeen chapters to the explaining of the occasions for and the correct procedures to follow that particular system.
Now let me just also lay this down. Let me just take one sacrifice and look at it, and what its really able to do. Now if you notice on your handouts, there’s a diagram I tried to put together. If you notice the arrows heading to the holiness of God or the presence of God, that would be the setup of the tabernacle. You see that something that is cleansed is cleansed by sacrifice, which is sanctified. And then once you bring it that way you are accepted before a holy God.
If, on the other hand, something is polluted or profane, or some kind of sin is committed or some infirmity is against the person, that person of course would be forced from the presence of God and actually rejected. That was the sense in the Old Testament of what was going on in the minds of the people every single day of their life.
Even down to the very clothing they wore, they couldn’t mix fabrics. Why? Because God said so. They couldn’t eat shellfish, because shellfish was unholy. Why? Because God said so.
And that would make them different than all the nations around them. That would make them a covenant keeping community in which God visibly, through the Shekinah glory, dwelt in their presence. And the people’s deepest desire in their heart was to worship this God, and to praise this God, and obey this God.
This was unlike what the nations were doing all around them! And so, Israel became a very peculiar people, a very strange people in the world. Because you know what? All the other nations had many Gods. They were doing all kinds of things with those Gods, all kinds of sexual perversion, offering up even their own children as sacrifices to those Gods.
Not Israel though. Israel was an orderly, holy, distinct people, that the blessings of the God of creation was on them. And everybody who looked at them knew it.
So, you can see, a defilement of sin was like a wrench in the mix. It had to be removed, it had to be taken out of that mix. And so, the sacrificial system was that protection that they had to enable them to cleanse themselves.
So, you see, Leviticus is concerned with sacrifice, and it devoted seventeen chapters. Sacrifice can undo the effects of sin and human infirmity. And sin and disease led to profaning the holy and polluting the clean. And that was really the main thing.
So how would they do it? How would they come before God, and what was the reason for them bringing, like the sacrifice? One of the main sacrifices was the burnt offering. You’ll see the burnt offering everywhere in Scripture, both in the Old and in the New.
What did it do, though? What was the purpose of them bringing this particular general sacrifice before God?
Well, I just want to throw out to you four things that this sacrifice did as they approached God. They brought this sacrifice, and in their minds, they understood that this sacrifice did at least four things in reference to God and them.
Here’s the first thing it did. And if you notice on your sheet, the purpose of the burnt offering was to approach his or her holy God in worship. The Old Testament was not dull and lifeless worship. Instead, it was very engaging. It engaged the ancient worshipper.
To bring a sacrifice was be something that was very engaging to them. When a person chose themselves an unblemished animal from the flock, as it says in Leviticus, without defect, they were to bring it to the Tabernacle, to the tent of meeting, to the priest. The priest, of course, would put it on the brazen alter inside the gate. But before that, many times it was the worshipper who killed and dismembered the animal. And the worshipper would prepare the parts and wash the hind legs, and remove every trace of defilement from that animal. And then he would give it to the priest, the priest would put it on the altar, and they would watch that burnt offering be burnt up before the Lord.
And so, the worshipper was convinced at that point. They were convinced that something very significant was achieved through these acts. And they knew that the relationship they had with God was profoundly affected by sacrifice. Why? Because God said so. That’s why! This is the way to do it. And if you say, “well, I’m doing it the way God says,” that’s exactly the point! They’re being obedient.
A second thing was this. This burnt offering was given to be accepted by the Lord. And isn’t that the point? Here is the point: How can I be accepted by the Lord? That was in their mind too, before the cross.
As a matter of fact, that is in the mind of every major religion. How can I be accepted before a holy God?
Leviticus 1:3-4 does tell us something very important concerning the burnt offering, because the general aim of the sacrifice that one is doing is to be accepted. Notice what it says in verse 3 of Leviticus 1:
If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer it, a male without defect; he shall offer it at the doorway of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the Lord.
There it is! If I have done it correctly, if I have done it according to God’s standard, and I didn’t make up some new, freewheeling standard of my own, I’m accepted by God. Wow! I can be accepted by God! I can be cleansed by God!
And so, if you notice some of the warnings of the prophets as you read through Scripture, one of the warnings of the prophets was the fear that the people, after giving their offering, wouldn’t be accepted because they did it in the wrong way. They did it without being cleansed before the Lord. Even Jeremiah 14:12 says this:
When they fast, I am not going to listen to their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I am not going to accept them. Rather I am going to make an end of them by the sword, famine and pestilence.”
So, you want to know why there’s so many wars and killings in the Old Testament? This is it right here. Because people moved away from God’s standard to make themselves clean, and God instead of blessing them, cursed them.
And he cursed them with sword, he cursed them with famine, he cursed them with pestilence, he cursed them with exile.
But, if you remember, when they turned back to God and prayed toward the tabernacle or the temple, what happened? God would listen again.
And he would listen to their cries, and he would act. All the time, you see that happening in the Old Testament.
There is a third reason they were to bring the burnt offering, and that was simply to please the Lord.
Look at Leviticus 1:9. It says this, I just read the one verse. This is really important, because not only did the sacrifice put in the mind of the one offering it that they would be accepted before a holy God, but secondly, God was pleased! Isn’t it good to know that God is pleased with you?
Look what it says in verse number 9.
Its entrails, however, and its legs he shall wash with water. And the priest shall offer up in smoke all of it on the altar for a burnt offering, an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the Lord.
It’s not that the Lord likes the smell of a barbecue, it wasn’t that. The Lord loved obedience. He loved when the relationship with his people was right. He loved that, that was the whole point of the Covenant.
See the Lord, as they offered up the sacrifice, it was a sweet smell to Him. It was an aroma. You know what aroma does to you. It could put you in a bad frame mind or a good frame of mind. Aroma therapy is a big thing today.
But in this passage of Scripture, the Lord was pleased. The point is, He was pleased with them. They offered it up correctly and He was pleased with them.
And then the last thing, a most important thing, was this: that the burnt offering in Leviticus 1:4 was to make atonement. It says in verse 4.
that it may be accepted for him to make atonement on his behalf.
Remember, the sins have to be taken care of, right? So, it was atonement, meant to, remember, cover. And so that’s what happens, that the clearest purpose of the burnt offering, it atoned for the worshipper’s sins. It makes atonement, though in a slightly different way than the other offerings, that were more of a purification offering.
This burnt offering makes atonement for sin in a more general sense, in this sense. That God’s attitude toward the person is reversed by the burnt offering. It’s no longer wrath that’s extended to him for their uncleanness or their sin or their disobedience, but now the offering changes God’s attitude towards the person. And God now looks at them in a pleasing way, in an acceptable way. And so that becomes the sense there in Leviticus 14:20:
The priest shall offer up the burnt offering and the grain offering on the altar. Thus the priest shall make atonement for him, and he will be clean.
There is it! The offering, the sacrifice, cleansed the people. Why? So they can approach, and come into the presence of, and worship, and please a holy and a just God. Who can’t change his character for them. He can’t do it because He is God. And He must do what His character dictates.
And then of course another passage in Leviticus 16:24:
He shall bathe his body with water in a holy place and put on his clothes, and come forth and offer his burnt offering and the burnt offering of the people and make atonement for himself and for the people.
Even the priest had to make an offering for himself before he can make an offering for the people, so his own defilement, his own sin, his own uncleanness can be made clean before God.
So. This sacrifice, at least the burnt offering, is designated to do something to God. It is designated to appease God’s anger, to turn God’s anger away, to prevent God’s displeasure at man’s sin. And that that displeasure would be turned away into favor instead of punishment. That’s what that was the point.
Now, I was only mentioning one of the five offerings in the Old Testament, but there’s a problem. There’s a problem.
You know the problem is, right? The problem is this: man keeps sinning, and sinning, and sinning, and sinning. That’s the problem. So what does that mean?
Well, it means that the two proper ways to have access to God were ineffective. The two and only proper ways to have access to God were in effective.
Why is that? Well, if you look on your sheet, now turn to the book of Hebrews with all that stuff in your head. And I want you to notice something Hebrews chapter 7, Look at verse number 18 and 19.
This is why it was ineffective. The first thing: the law was weak and useless, unable to make anything perfect. Look what it says in verse 18-19.
18 For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness 19 (for the Law made nothing perfect)
You see that? The law made nothing perfect. So that means this, that God is going to do something beyond what the law says. That God is going to do something beyond what the priests were required to do, and what the offerings accomplish. That God was going to do something.
Then look at the next one on your sheet. Also, the priests were weak! They were sinful, and they died. Look at verse number 23 of Chapter 7 of Hebrews. It says:
The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing
And then the first part of Verse 27:
who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people,
And then look at verse 28:
For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever.
So the priesthood, they were weak, they were sinful, and they ultimately died. And it went on and on and on.
And if you ever read the Old Testament, you’ll find that the priests were done by fifty years old because it’s such an exhausting ministry.
And then the last thing. It says the sacrificial system couldn’t make atonement for anyone perfectly. Look what it says in Hebrews 9:9.
which is a symbol for the present time. Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience,
And then in Hebrews 10:1-4.
For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins? 3 But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
What you’re seeing in all of these passages in Hebrews 7 is this. The law couldn’t make anyone perfect. The priesthood and all its details could not make anyone perfect. And the sacrificial system, by using the blood of bulls and goats, could not take away sin and make someone perfect before God.
So, the bottom line is this: that the law, the priesthood, and the sacrificial system could not give a person continual access to God and make one right before a Holy God. Why is that? Because there is no escaping, no matter what time you live, no matter where you live on this planet, there is no escaping the human estrangement from God which follows sin. And the problem was that not all the efforts of the priesthood and not all the sacrifices could restore a lost relationship.
That’s what the passages are saying. So! Here’s the argument of Chapter 7 of Hebrews and onwards!
What is needed is a new and a different priesthood. What is needed is a new and effective sacrifice. And I know who that is! But we’re going to explain why that is and the details around that and this mysterious character of Melchizedek.
So, in Christ, we are we are not given a system of sacrifices offered by one priest after another but one sacrifice for sin forever offered once for all by our great high priest Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. God’s promise was that He, not the people, would make atonement for all their sins, and the sacrifice would be His alone, once for all time.
So that’s why today, there is no sacrificial system in Judaism, and that’s why today in some religious systems that try to mimic a sacrificial system in their liturgy hasn’t understood the book of Hebrews. There is no longer any sacrificial system! There is no longer any Aaronic priesthood. There is no longer those things.
There is only one way to be made right with God, and that’s to come to Jesus Christ by grace alone through faith alone. Right? It’s not by what you do. It’s by the sacrifice that Christ has accomplished and finished on your behalf. Now you are to come and believe it, and live by faith.
And that’s how you get saved. Amen? Let’s pray.
Lord, thank you so much for the word of God. I pray Lord that you would really weld it to our hearts. And Lord, enable us to also apply it to ourselves, not someone else. Not someone who should have been here, but to ourselves, Lord. That Lord, we know that anyone in and of themselves with sin cannot enter even today to the presence of a holy God, unless they come through their high priest Jesus Christ. Not a human high priest, at least a man, but the God man high priest. They must come through him to be saved, to be forgiven, to be made right with the Holy God. I pray, Lord, of someone has not come in faith to trust you as their lord and Savior, maybe today, Lord, by your spirit and the convicting of your Spirit of their sin, they may bow their head and come to you with their sin. And by faith, receive and trust Jesus Christ alone for eternal salvation. Help us Lord to continue on in this chapter in the weeks ahead of us, to understand more of what you’ve done as the High Priest. And I pray this in the great and awesome name of Jesus Christ. Amen.