I hysterically laugh at all of the gagging, coughing, dry heaving! Have you seen this video where the dad tries to change the baby’s diaper but he just can’t handle the smell? There are scenes of him with tissue stuck up his nose, a doctor’s mask across his face, and even him wearing a chemical suit – all because he can’t stand the smell of…yeah. What distinct smells are your favorite…your most hated?
The one statement that sticks out in Leviticus 1 – 7 regarding the sacrifices and offerings of the Israelites is about a smell, an aroma. Remember who Israel is and from where they have come. Israel is the chosen people of God whom He rescued from slavery to be His treasured possession, His firstborn son (Exodus 4:22-23). As God is personally leading them to His Land of Promise, He halts their journey at His chosen dwelling place: Mount Sinai. God uses the events at Mount Sinai to be like a boot camp – a time to teach and train His people how to be like Him. Leviticus 1 – 7 is covering one of the most important exercises of this endeavor – how to be forgiven. Israel has proven themselves over and over to be rebellious, impatient sinners before their God. But He loves them, and He wants to show them how He will forgive their sin – through a sacrificial bloody-death. In fact, God commanded Israel to perform 4 types of different sacrifices as a ritualistic way of forgiving them:
- Whole Burnt Offerings – Kill and burn whole animal symbolizing total devotion to God.
- Sin and Guilt Offerings – Kill animal, priest eat meat, burn the rest for unintentional sins.
- Grain Offerings – Burn a portion of crops as thanks to God and dedication for their crops.
- Peace Offerings – Kill animal and eat it as a meal together for thanksgiving to God.
Have you ever wondered the steps of sacrificing an animal? Every sacrifice was different, but here are some commonalities in many of them. The offender or family head would provide an animal as a substitute, then he would place his hand on the animals head as a symbol of passing sin over to the animal. Then the animal would be killed, and its blood would be sprinkled on and around the altar. The meat would be set aside as a meal for the priest or the family, and the rest of the animal would be burned…as a pleasing aroma to the Lord (stated 11 times in Leviticus). What is a pleasing aroma to the Lord? The burning flesh, bones, organs, fat, etc of the animal.
That doesn’t sound like a pleasing aroma at all to us, but it is to God.
One of my favorite trips to go on with my students is our annual ski trip to West Virginia. We have a blast carving down the mountain. When I was a teenager, we weren’t so fortunate. But one of my most unforgettable trips with my youth pastor is when he took us up to the pig farm in Michigan where he grew up. I had never smelled a pig farm before, but when we got near it we knew it. The farm reeked of pig poop, pig pee, pig feed, and pig everything else. We were holding our noses, gagging, and coughing like the dad changing the baby’s diaper, but our youth pastor loved the smell of all that pig mess because it reminded him of his childhood. As much as we humans are repulsed by the smell of burning flesh and dead corpses, somehow it pleases God. How? Because it reminds Him of His child, His Son, Jesus Christ. Only by the death of the righteous Jesus can the wrath of God be totally poured out on sin. Only by trusting your life to the same resurrected Jesus can God forgive our eternal debt of sin (Heb 9:22, 10:10).
How are we supposed to live knowing that Jesus’ one death perfectly fulfilled the whole burnt, sin and guilt, grain, and peace offerings? First, just as Israel were making daily sacrifices for forgiveness, we must look to and believe the cross of Jesus Christ and confess our sins to God daily. Secondly, we must love one another as Paul says, “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph 5:2). Live a life of sacrificial love because God has forgiven us through the sacrificial death of Jesus. Do you want to show others Jesus and share Him with them? There is no other way except through love!