Over the next few months, I plan to share some brief reflections on the book of Leviticus. I’m not sure how far through the book I intend to get, but it should be a good exercise regardless. This is a reflection on the first chapter.
“He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.”Leviticus 1:4
When God created the world, he formed Adam and Eve and placed them in a garden where they could come and meet with Him. At the centre of the garden there were two trees. The first tree was the tree of life, which represented the perfect fellowship they had with their Creator. The second tree was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which God forbade them from eating, saying “in the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die”. Tempted by the serpent, they ate the forbidden fruit and plunged the world into darkness. As a ransom for their lives, God took a pair of animals and slaughtered them, covering Adam and Eve in their skins. He also drove them out of the garden, which He guarded with a pair of angels and a flaming sword.
This is why the Israelites brought burnt offerings to God. They would first lay their hand on the head of the animal, commissioning the animal as their representative before God. They would then slaughter the animal, just as God had killed animals to ransom Adam and Eve. By the hand of the priest, the animal would ‘pass through’ sword and fire on the altar, which reminds us of the flaming sword which God had placed outside the garden of Eden. It was almost as if the people of God were coming back into the garden, entering God’s presence once again.
Just as the animal was offered on behalf of the Israelites, so too was Jesus offered on our behalf. He has passed through judgement for us, ascending into the presence of God the Father to intercede for us. Yet in a burnt offering, the head is always offered first, then the body. Just as Jesus (the head) has ascended, so too shall we (the body) one day ascend to meet him in the clouds, to be with him forever, in the presence of the Father.