Let us open our Bible to the first chapter of Leviticus. The whole text is like a tapestry of great teaching about Yeshua. Our English word for text is from the Latin texere, meaning to weave, and Leviticus is a great canvas of beautiful colors and textures portraying the Messiah is so well. The importance of the words in Leviticus is further emphasized when you consider that it is in this book where the Lord speaks the most.
God is the direct speaker on almost every page in this book. Even Moses is depicted differently here in Leviticus. He is far from being that vibrant and argumentative type we have seen in the other books of the Torah. Why are things different here? Because the subject matters of sin, salvation, holiness and eternity form the pillars of this book and therefore because this is so close to the heart of God, the Lord takes the lead as Speaker. The Gravity of our Offense Illustrated As soon as one opens the book, the stage is set. We are immediately confronted with a detailed and graphic set of laws dealing with sacrifices and offerings, including so much blood. This continues for six long chapters covering five of the main sacrifices. It opens with what may be the harshest one – the Burnt Offering. The animal is slaughtered, flayed, cut in pieces and then, except for the skin, it is completely burnt on the altar. But what is most striking here is that the sacrifice is not done by the priest. It is done by the individual himself, someone just like you or me. And what was required along with the sacrifice was confession of sin, confirming that they understood the reality and depth of sin.
The same description is given, and repeated almost word for word, for the other types of animals being sacrificed. It includes an explanation given for even the smaller ones as well, like doves or pigeons. It was the priest who would wring off the head of the bird by squeezing it between his thumb and index finger right in front of the offender. Offensive, is it not? But what is offensive is the sin itself. That is the point of these sacrifices. The Lord wants the reader to see and feel the gravity and consequences of sin which ultimately separates us from Him. How can one appreciate salvation without seeing the abyss of sin from which we have so graciously been saved? Following the Trail of Blood to the Messiah What do these sacrifices represent? How are they fulfilled today since there is no Temple? That is when the whole Bible directs us to the Messiah.
Prophecies tell us that He first comes to die for our sins. This particular book of the Hebrew Scriptures also gives us some new words which pull us right to Yeshua. For instance, one term that is emphasized throughout the book is the word kapar which means to make atonement. It is found most often in Leviticus where it is used 49 times. This word kapar means a covering or protection for this is what the sacrifice did. Its purpose was to provide temporary protection. We know that the blood of animals cannot save, but each drop of their blood was like a prophecy leading the Israelites to the Messiah. It’s all in the Hebrew Scriptures, there for all to see even before the New Testament was given. We find the mention of the word kapar, atonement, linked with the death of the Messiah in the powerful prophecy given by the highly respected prophet Daniel, in 9:24-27. Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement/ l’kaper, for iniquity… (v.24) This is where the word for atonement ends – with the Messiah. It is in our Bible as the last of the 102 mentions of the word. From Leviticus to the Messiah’s coming.
The Bible interprets itself. Cut off for Us Furthermore, one finds another word that is often used in Leviticus, right in this same prophecy. See how Daniel describes the death of the Messiah? Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off but not for Himself… (v. 26 NKJV) The Messiah will be cut off, that is He will die. The Hebrew is karat. The word karat is one which plays a major role in Leviticus as well, speaking of those people who would be cut off if they did not confess their sins and bring their sacrifices to God. They would be cut off from fellowship and a relationship with God if they were disobedient. Interestingly, it is also in Daniel 9 where we find the last mention of this word in our Bible. There we are told that the Messiah Himself was cut off, but not for Himself. For whom then? For you and me. He was karat for us because He is sinless. See, I did not need to go to the New Testament to explain these things. The Lord gave it all in the Hebrew Scriptures. Isn’t it too bad that by the first century, the rabbis refused to categorize Daniel as a prophet? Yet he explains the sacrificial system so well. But he is not the only prophet to do so. The reader of Leviticus is also brought to another prophet who reveals major insights in Isaiah 53.
The Only Way to Know God Let us briefly consider the different offerings. Three offerings were done before the presence of God: the Burnt Offering, the Meal Offering and the Peace Offering. These were done in order to maintain a relationship and communion with God. However, the question is, how does one get inside the perimeter of the Tabernacle to establish fellowship with God in the first place? How does one go through the door to get there? This is when we come to the two other offerings, the Sin Offering and the Guilt Offering. Pay attention to the Guilt Offering. It may be the most important one for us to understand because it is the one which permits us our first contact with God. It is the first step towards God. The most wonderful thing is that this is the offering where we can see Messiah’s death establishing reconciliation with Him. The name of this sacrifice, the Guilt Offering defines the work of the Messiah that we see in Isaiah 53, that famous chapter which speaks entirely of Him. In 53:7-10 where the work of the Messiah is described, this word is found fulfilled in Him. 7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, 10 …He would render Himself as a guilt offering. It is here where we find the Guilt Offering, the asham. This is the offering which is mentioned by name in v.10, the one that the Messiah became for us so that we can approach God.
In many ways, Isaiah 53 could be seen nailed at the entrance to the Tabernacle of God. Even today, with the Temple no longer standing, Yeshua is still standing at the threshold of this door to God as the asham, in order to welcome all those who choose to believe that He is the Messiah. This is how Leviticus brings us right to Yeshua – right at the outset of its pages. It confirms that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, for after the asham which He provides, one can then enter the sheepfold and begin to have communion with God.