An aroma pleasing to God!
“…it is a burnt offering, a gift of a soothing aroma to the Lord..“ – Leviticus 1:17 NET
OK, here we go. We’re now launching into the book of Leviticus. This is the point at which many of us begin to waver in our determination to read through the Old Testament. As we attempt to read through all the details and descriptions related to the various sacrifices, we will be tempted to give up and give in to the idea that this book is unnecessary for us as 21st Century believers. But let me encourage us to stay determined and to wrestle with these texts. God inspired Moses to write down these words, not only for the benefit of the priests, but for ours as well. Paul reminds us that “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right” (2 Timothy 3:16 NLT). This book is about holiness, the holiness of God. It is about sacrifice and, more importantly, atonement. It offers a picture of the requirements necessary for the people of God to remain in a right relationship with Him. That is what atonement is all about. The NET Bible study notes describe atonement in this way:
“To make atonement” is the standard translation of the Hebrew term כִּפֶּר, (kipper). The English word derives from a combination of “at” plus Middle English “one[ment],” referring primarily to reconciliation or reparation that is made in order to accomplish reconciliation. The primary meaning of the Hebrew verb, however, is “to wipe [something off (or on)]”, but in some cases it refers metaphorically to “wiping away” anything that might stand in the way of good relations by bringing a gift, “to appease; to pacify.” The translation “make atonement” has been retained here because, ultimately, the goal of either purging or appeasing was to maintain a proper relationship between the Lord (who dwelt in the tabernacle) and Israelites in whose midst the tabernacle was pitched.
The book of Leviticus is all about how the people of God could maintain a right relationship with Him. Within the book are found all kinds of sacrifices – from the burnt offering designed to atone for the sins of the people to the peace offering, an expression of gratitude and desire for fellowship with God. As we read through these pages, may we be reminded that God still desires sacrifice today. But the sacrifice required to stand before Him as forgiven and cleansed from sin has been made once and for all. Our sins have been atoned for by Jesus. I no longer have to pay for my sins. They have been paid for in full on the cross of Calvary. But God does expect a sacrifice from me. David reminds us, “The sacrifices God desires are a humble spirit – O God, a humble and repentant heart you will not reject” (Psalms 57:10 NLT). Paul echos those words when he says, “I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice––the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask?” (Romans 12:1 NLT). And Peter gives us our job description as priests of God. “And now God is building you, as living stones, into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are God’s holy priests, who offer the spiritual sacrifices that please him because of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5 NLT).
God is still interested in sacrifice. He still enjoys and finds pleasure in acts of sacrifice performed by His people. He finds them acceptable. He finds them a soothing aroma to His senses. They don’t earn us favor with Him. They don’t get us brownie points with Him. They don’t buy our way into His good graces. Jesus did that with His death on the cross. Any sacrifices we make are simply expressions of our gratitude, love, and worship to Him. We are to daily present our bodies as living sacrifices to God. We are to give Him all that we have – out of love and a desire to serve Him. As we grow in our relationship with God, we grow in our understanding that this world is not all there is. Materialism and money are not the goal. Being in fellowship with Him is the goal. Living a life that is pleasing to Him is our goal. Paul tells us, “For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God. And other people will approve of you, too” (Romans 14:17-18 NLT). Leviticus is all about God’s holiness and man’s sinfulness. It is about what God required of His people to remain in His good graces as His people. Just reading the first two chapters makes me eternally grateful that I am not held to those standards. I have a Great High Priest who has made the final sacrifice for my sins. But God is still asking me to live a life of sacrifice – as an offering to Him – and as an expression of my love and gratitude for all He has done for me. Is that too much to ask?
Father, may my life be a soothing aroma to You. May I live a life of sacrifice, gladly giving all that I have because of all that You have done for me through the death of Your Son. Help me to learn to live a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, so that I might bring pleasure to You. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men