Suggested Reading: Chapters 1 & 6:8-13
“Speak to the Israelites and tell them: When any of you brings an offering to the Lord from the livestock, you may bring your offering from the herd or the flock. If his gift is a burnt offering…he is to bring an unblemished male…so that he may be accepted by the Lord.” Leviticus 1:2-3 HCSB
The burnt offering was a voluntary gift (Leviticus 1:3, 10, 14) the Israelites offered to God, signifying their dedication to Him and acknowledging their own sins. The offering gave them atonement, restoring their relationship with God (Leviticus 1:4) and deeply pleasing Him (Leviticus 1:9, 13, 17).
Unblemished sacrifices were required. God wanted to be given their best, but He let them choose “from the herd or the flock”, giving some flexibility. If they happened to only have one sheep, but five oxen, they could choose to give an ox and not run their sheep supply down.
The required animals were also very common and easy to acquire. God really wasn’t asking much in the grand scheme of things.
Ever since the Garden of Eden, God has given boundaries, but these boundaries have never been impossible. They still allow for some freedom in our choices. God may want our first and our best, but He never wants to burden us. He simply wants us to remember Him, thank Him, and drawn near to Him. In return, He promises us joy, peace, and life!
“Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome.” 1 John 5:3 NLT
As we read on, we notice it goes into grave detail about the individual parts of each sacrificed animal. The Israelites were instructed to cut the animal into pieces and offer all pieces – the head, the fat, the inner parts (Leviticus 1:8, 12, 15-16) – on the altar.
Why go into the disguising details of this process? Why list out all these individual parts? Maybe God was making a point, that we are to offer up all of ourselves – every single piece.
“And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.” Mark 12:30 NLT
The Greek word for heart is kardia (kar-dee-ah). It means “the inner self, the will, the center”. Could this be why God mentioned the specific inner parts of the animal sacrifices?
God wants our hearts, our inner pieces, to be aligned with His. He wants us to offer Him our love, our affection, and our devotion.
“O my son, give me your heart. May your eyes take delight in following my ways.” Proverbs 23:26 NLT
The head of the animal represents our minds. God wants all our thoughts to be focused on Him and His word. He wants our thoughts to be filled with His wisdom and His truths. The more we offer our minds to God, the more peace we have and the better choices we will make.
“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8 NLT
What about the fat? How can that possibly relate? The American Heart Association states that fats are essential to give our bodies energy (http://www.heart.org). Without fat, we have no energy. Without energy, we have no strength.
We can offer our strength, in full, to God because He ultimately is the one who empowers us. His strength never runs out and helps us accomplish His purposes. It allows us to endure trials and troubles of every kind without growing weary.
“I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.” Ephesians 3:16 NLT
The last part mentioned in Mark 12 is our soul. The Greek word for soul is psuche (psoo-khay). It means “the life, the self”. God wants all of us – our inner selves, our thoughts, our strength. He wants our whole life to be a “living sacrifice” to Him.
“Brothers and sisters, in light of all I have shared with you about God’s mercies, I urge you to offer your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice to God, a sacred offering that brings Him pleasure; this is your reasonable, essential worship.” Romans 12:1 The Voice
- What is one way you can sacrifice your whole self to God?
- What new habits might you have to obtain? What habits might you have to loose?
- How can you draw near to God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength?
- How can you give your life as a voluntary gift to Him?
Leviticus 6:8-13 gives information on how the Israelites were to dispose of the burnt offerings. Since the burnt offerings gave atonement for sin, the priest was required to take the ashes outside of the camp, removing the “sin” from the community, and bring it to a ceremonially clean place (Leviticus 6:11).
Through Christ, the ultimate sacrifice, God has removed our ashes and given us a “crown of beauty” instead (Isaiah 61:3). Our brokenness has been traded for wholeness. He has made us “ceremonially clean” and blameless in His sight (Colossians 1:22). The least we can do is offer up ourselves, our whole selves, back to the One who has given us true freedom.