Today I began reading through Leviticus, one of the more difficult books in scripture for us to read as New Testament, Gentile believers. The original purpose of this book as given to the children of Israel was to provide the exact details surrounding all the sacrifices God required of them. You see, God had promised to go with them, to be in their midst, but they were an unholy, sinful people. God can not dwell with sin, so there had to be a continual aroma of sacrifices burning in the camp, a sign that the people understood His holiness and recognized the necessity of the blood that must be shed in payment for their sins.
In Leviticus 1-3, while describing the burnt, grain, and peace offerings, one phrase is repeated over and over. The sacrifices were an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the Lord (1:9,17; 2:2,9; 3:5,16). This tells us two things.
- Sacrifices are costly – they come by fire. Fire consumed everything that was left on the altar.
- Sacrifices touch God in a personal way. They are a “soothing aroma” to Him.
The immediate, obvious purposes of the Old Testament sacrifices of bulls, goats, lambs, grains, etc. are no longer in effect. The blood of animals was shed to atone for sin as a temporary covering until Christ came. You can read Hebrews 10, but the Bible is very clear that all sacrifice for sin was completed – paid in full, once for all by Jesus’ death on the cross. But the idea of sacrifice as it applies to our relationship with God is still a very real and necessary part of our worship. What kinds of sacrifices are we to make today?
God desires the sacrifice of humility – a heart that is broken for our sin.
Psalm 51:16-17 – For You do not delight I sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.
God desires the sacrifice of living righteously according to His Word.
Psalm 4:4-5 – Tremble, and do not sin; meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and trust in the Lord.
God desires the sacrifice of obedience to His will and His commands.
Psalm 41:6-8 – Sacrifice and meal offering You have not desired; my ears You have opened; burnt offering and sin offering You have not required. Then I said, “Behold, I come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart.
God desires the sacrifice of gratitude.
Psalm 50:14,23 – Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving and pay your vows to the Most High; … He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me; and to him who orders his way aright I shall show the salvation of God.
God desires the sacrifice of our praise.
Hebrews 13:15 – Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.
God desires the sacrifice of a generous heart.
Hebrews 13:16 – And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
Philippians 4:18 – But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God.
God desires the sacrifice of our very lives, willingly surrendered and conformed to the image of His Son.
Romans 12:1-2 – Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
I believe the life of sacrifice God expects and requires of us also comes “by fire.” It costs us everything, it is often painful, and it must undoubtedly consume our lives. The sacrificial life that is a “soothing aroma” – a pleasant fragrance filling the halls of heaven – is not the half-hearted life of appearing to serve God on Sunday and living for ourselves the rest of the week. It is not the life that justifies our sin or compromises with the world.
If we want our lives to be a pleasing aroma to God, we must lay everything down. We must see our sin for the offense it is to God. We must learn to praise Him and give Him thanks in everything. We must be willing to give of ourselves and our possessions generously. We must be willing to obey His Word and live according to His commands, not as citizens of this world, but as ambassadors on assignment from the kingdom of God.
No matter the cost.
No matter how painful.
No matter if consumes our very lives, as it most certainly will.
As you read Leviticus, read it through this lens. Jesus has given everything. He endured the fire and was consumed by the wrath of God so that we could be free from our sin and live eternally in His presence. May we also offer ourselves up in return as a constant aroma to God.