OLAH IS THE HEBREW WORD ordinarily used for burnt offering. It means "that which goes up, or ascends." Another word used at times is kallil, which means "whole." The Douay Version has the word "holocaust," that which is entirely burned up.
These words describe the burnt offering, which was wholly burnt on the altar, and of which no part was eaten. Of other offerings, a part only was burnt on the altar of burnt offering; the rest was eaten or disposed of in some other way. But in the case of a burnt offering, the whole animal was consumed in the flames. It "ascended" to God as a sweet-smelling savour. It was pleasing to God. It signified complete consecration. Nothing was held back. All was given to God. Lev.1:9,13,17.
The morning and evening sacrifice was called "a continual" offering. It was not consumed in a moment, but was to burn "upon the altar all night unto the morning, and the fire of the altar shall be burning in it." Lev.6:9; Ex.29:42. In the daytime the individual burnt offerings were added to the regular morning sacrifice so that there was always a burnt sacrifice on the altar. "The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar: it shall never go out." Lev.6:13.
The individual burnt offerings were voluntary. Most of the other offerings were mandatory. When, for instance, a man had sinned, he was to bring a sin offering. He had little choice as to what to bring. Nearly everything was prescribed. Not so with burnt offerings. They were voluntary offerings, and the offerer could bring a bullock, a sheep, a lamb, turtledoves, or pigeons as he thought best. Lev.1:3,10,14. In this respect they differed from most of the other sacrifices.
The burnt offerings were perhaps the most important and characteristic of all offerings. They contained in themselves the essential qualities and elements of the other sacrifices. Although they were voluntary, dedicatory offerings, and as such not directly associated with sin, yet atonement was effected through them. Lev.1:4. Job offered burnt offerings for his children, for "it may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts." Job 1:5. They are singled out as "ordained in mount Sinai for a sweet savour, a sacrifice made by fire unto the Lord." Num.28:6. They were "continual," always to be on the altar. Lev.6:9. Sixteen times in chapters 28 and 29 of Numbers does God emphasise that no other offering is to take the place of the continual burnt offerings. Each time another sacrifice is mentioned, it is stated that this is "beside the continual burnt offering." This would seem to indicate their importance.
As stated, the burnt offering was a voluntary sacrifice. The offerer could bring any clean animal ordinarily used for sacrifice. It was required, however, that the animal be a male without blemish. The person was to offer "of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord." Lev.1:3. When he had selected the animal, he brought it into the court for acceptance. The priest examined it to see if it complied with the regulations for sacrifices. After it had been examined and accepted, the offerer would put his hand upon the head of the animal. He would then kill the animal, flay it, and cut it into pieces. Verses 4-6. As the animal was killed, the priest caught the blood, and sprinkled it round about the altar. Verses 5, 11. After the animal had been cut into pieces, the inwards and legs were washed in water, that all filth might be removed. After this, the priest took the pieces and put them in their proper order upon the altar of burnt offering, there to be consumed by the fire. Verse 9. The sacrifice thus placed on the altar included all the parts of the animal, both the head, the feet, the legs, and the body itself, but did not include the skin. This was given to the officiating priest. Lev.1:8;7:8.
In case turtledoves or young pigeons were used, the priest did the killing by wringing off the head, and sprinkling or wringing the blood out at the side of the altar. After this, the body of the bird was placed on the altar and was there consumed as the ordinary burnt offering, the feathers and the crop being first removed. Lev.1:15,16.
Burnt offerings were used on many occasions, such as the cleansing of lepers (Lev.14:19,20), the cleansing of women after childbirth (Lev.12:6-8), and also for ceremonial defilement. Lev.15:15,30. In these cases a sin offering was used as well as a burnt offering. The first atoned for sin, the second showed the offerer's attitude toward God in wholehearted consecration.
The burnt offering was prominent in the consecration of Aaron and his sons (Ex.29:15-25; Lev.8:18), as well as in their induction into the ministry. Lev.9:12-14. It was also used in connection with the Nazarite vow. Num.6:14. In all these instances it stood for complete consecration of the individual to God. The offerer placed himself symbolically on the altar, his life wholly devoted to God.
It is not hard to see the connection between these ceremonies and the statement made in Romans 12:1, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service." We are to be wholly dedicated to God. We are to be perfect. Only when all filth was removed from the burnt offering was it acceptable to God and was it permitted to come upon the altar, an "offering made by fire, for a sweet savour" unto the Lord. So with us. All sin, all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, must be removed before we can be acceptable to God. 2Cor.7:1.
As an offering wholly consumed on the altar, the burnt sacrifice in a special sense represents Christ who gave Himself fully, completely, to God's service. In thus representing Christ, it constitutes an example to man to follow in His steps. It teaches complete consecration. It is rightly placed first in the list of offerings enumerated in Leviticus. It tells us in no uncertain tones that, to be a "sweet savour" unto God, a sacrifice must be one of entire surrender. All must be put on the altar. Nothing must be held back.
In the burnt sacrifice we are taught that God is no respecter of persons. The poor man who brings his two turtledoves is just as acceptable as the rich man who brings an ox, or as Solomon, who offered a thousand burnt offerings. 1Kings 3:4. The two mites are as pleasing to God as the abundance of the wealthy. According to his ability each is accepted.
Another lesson from the burnt offering is that of order. God wants order in His work. He gives specific directions regarding this. The wood is to be laid "in order upon the fire," not merely piled up. The pieces of the animal are to be laid "in order on the wood," not just thrown somewhere on the fire. Lev.1:7,8,12. Order is heaven's first law. "God is not the author of confusion." He wants His people to do things "decently and in order." 1Cor.14:33,40.
Another important lesson is that of cleanliness. Before the pieces were burned on the altar, "his inwards and his legs" were to be washed in water. Verse 9. This would seem unnecessary. These pieces were to be consumed on the altar. It would be merely a waste of time to wash them before burning them. Such, however, is not God's reasoning. The command is, Wash each piece; nothing unclean must come on the altar. And so the pieces are washed and carefully laid in order on the wood, which is laid in order on the altar.
Three elements of purification are used in the service: fire, water, and blood. Fire, emblematic of the Holy Spirit, is a purifying agency. When Christ comes "to His temple" He is "like a refiner's fire." "And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness." Mal.3:2,3. He shall purge His people by the "spirit of burning." Isa.4:4.
The question is asked: "Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?" Isa.33:14. "Our God is a consuming fire." Heb.12:29. The fire is God's presence, which consumes or purifies.
The fire on the altar was not common fire. It came originally from God. "There came a fire out from before the Lord, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces." Lev.9:24. God had accepted their sacrifice. It was clean, washed, and "in order," ready for the fire; and the fire came "out from before the Lord." It is supposed that this fire was always kept burning and not permitted to go out; and as it had come from God it was called sacred as opposed to common fire, and was to be used in the Levitical service.
Water is emblematic both of baptism and of the word, two cleansing agencies. "Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word." Eph.5:25,26. "According to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour." Titus 3:5,6. Paul was told to "be baptised, and wash away thy sins." Acts 22:16. When the pieces of the animal used as a burnt offering were washed before being put on the altar, it not only taught the people order and cleanliness, but also the spiritual lesson that before anything is placed on the altar, before it is accepted by God, it must be clean, washed, pure, holy.
In the burnt offering, -- as in all offerings,-- the blood was the vital, the important element. It is that which makes atonement for the soul. The classical passage dealing with this is found in Leviticus 17:11. "The life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh atonement by reason of the life." Lev.17:11, R.V.
The life of the flesh is in the blood. It is the blood that makes atonement "by reason of the life." When the blood was sprinkled on the altar and the fire came down and consumed the sacrifice, it indicated God's acceptance of the substitute. "It shall be accepted for him," or instead of him, "to make atonement for him." Lev.1:4. This atonement was made "by reason of the life" that was in the blood. But this blood, which represented the life, was efficacious only after the death of the victim. Had God intended to convey the idea that it was the blood as such that was efficacious without death, He would have so stated. A certain amount of blood could have been withdrawn from an animal without killing it-as blood is now given in blood transfusions. Blood could thus have been provided without death.
But this is not God's plan. The blood was not used until death had ensued. And it is the blood of one who has died. A death has taken place, and it is not until after death that the blood is used. We are reconciled by Christ's death, we are saved by His life. Rom.5:10. It was not until Christ was dead that there flowed out blood and water. John 19:34. Christ "came by water and blood, . . . not by water only, but by water and blood." 1John 5:6. The point cannot be emphasised too strongly that it is "by means of death" that we receive the promise of eternal inheritance, and that a testament is not of force until "after men are dead," that "it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth," and that "there must also of necessity be the death of the testator." Heb.9:15-17. We may therefore dismiss any theory of atonement which makes Christ's example the sole factor in our salvation. The example has its place; it is vital indeed, but the death of Christ remains the central fact in the atonement.
The burnt sacrifice, "an offering made by fire," "was a sweet savour unto the Lord." Lev.1:17. It pleased the Lord. It was acceptable to Him. Some of the reasons for this have been given. They will now be emphasised.
As the burnt sacrifice was first and foremost a type of the perfect offering of Christ, it is natural that it should be pleasing to God. As the sacrifice must be without blemish, perfect, so Christ was the "Lamb without blemish and without spot," who has "loved us, and hath given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour." 1 Peter 1-19; Eph.5:2. Christ stands for complete consecration, entire dedication, full surrender, a giving of all, that He might save some.
The burnt sacrifice was pleasing to God because it revealed a desire in the heart of the offerer to dedicate himself to God. The offerer said in effect: "Lord, I want to serve Thee. I am placing myself unreservedly on the altar. I am holding back nothing for myself. Accept me in the substitute." Such an attitude is a sweet savour unto the Lord.
The burnt sacrifice was a sweet savour to God because it was a voluntary offering. It was not required. It was not mandatory and was not to be brought at a stated time. If a man had sinned, God demanded a sin offering. But God never demanded a burnt sacrifice. If a man offered it, it was "of his own voluntary will." Lev.1:3. There was no compulsion. It was therefore of much more significance than a mandatory offering. It indicated a thankful heart.
There is danger that Christians do too many things pertaining to religion not because they wish to do them, but because it is the custom or because it is required. Duty is a great word; love is a greater. We must not minimise duty; rather, we must emphasise it. But we must not forget that love is a still greater force, and that rightly understood and applied it fulfils duty because it includes it. Love is voluntary, free; duty is exacting, compulsory. Duty is law; love is grace. Both are necessary, and one must not be stressed to the exclusion of the other.
As there was no compulsion whatever concerning the burnt sacrifice, it was in reality an offering of love, of dedication, of consecration. It was something done over and above what was required. This was pleasing to God.
"God loveth a cheerful giver." 2Cor.9:7. Some read this as though it said, God loveth a liberal, or a large, giver. While that may be true, the statement nevertheless is that God loves one who gives cheerfully and of his free will. The gift may be small or great, but if it is offered willingly, it is pleasing to God.
It would be well to apply this principle to everyday Christianity. We may be asked to do a certain thing, give to a certain cause, or perform a not-too-pleasing task. We do it, at times resignedly, believing that as it is in itself a good thing, perhaps we ought to do it, but we are not very cheerful about it. We feel we ought to do it, but we would be glad to be excused.
God must be displeased with the attitude we assume at times. He sends one of His ministers with a message. We are admonished to give, to do, to sacrifice, to pray. There is no cheerful response to the appeal. Again and again it must be repeated, and at last we halfheartedly do what we are asked to do. We put ten cents or ten dollars on the collection plate, not because we really care to do so, but because we would be ashamed to have others see that we have no part in the offering. We do our share in Ingathering for missions, not because we love to do the work, but because it is part of the church program.
It was doubtless because David was cheerful and willing that he was beloved of God. He had sinned, and sinned grievously, but he repented as deeply as he had sinned, and God forgave him. The experience left a vivid impression upon David's mind, and ever after, he was anxious to please God and do something for Him.
It was this spirit that led him to propose the building of a temple for God to dwell in. The tabernacle erected in the wilderness was several hundred years old. The material of which it was made must have been in a dilapidated condition. God would have been pleased to have some one build Him a temple; but He decided not to let His wishes be known, but to wait until some one thought of it himself. This David did, and felt happy in the thought that he could do something for God. He was not permitted to build the temple, but in appreciation of what David had in mind to do, God told him that instead of David's building God a house, God would build David a house. 1Chron.17:6-10. It was in this connection that God gave him the promise that his throne should be "established forevermore." Verse 14. This finds its fulfilment in Christ, who, when He comes, shall sit upon "the throne of His father David." Luke 1:32. This is a most wonderful and unusual promise. Abraham, Moses, and Elijah are passed by, and the honour is given to David. One reason for this, we believe, is found in the willingness of David to do something for God over and above what is required.
This is strikingly illustrated in David's wish to build the temple. As stated before, God had told him that he could not build the temple. David, however, greatly desired to do so. As he thought the matter over, he found several ways of making preparation for the building, without doing the actual building himself. David said, "Solomon my son is young and tender, and the house that is to be builded for the Lord must be exceeding magnifical, of fame and of glory throughout all countries; I will therefore now make preparation for it. So David prepared abundantly before his death." 1Chron.22:5.
The first thing David did was to begin to gather money. The figures given in 1Chron.22:14. total many million dollars in our money, which David gave or collected. Next he began "to hew wrought stones to build the house of God." 1Chron.22:2. David also "prepared iron in abundance for the nails for the doors of the gates, and for the joinings; and brass in abundance without weight." Verse 3. Before he could do any of this, however, it was necessary for him to have a pattern, or blueprint. This pattern, David tells us, he received from the Lord. "All this, said David, the Lord made me understand in writing by His hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern." I 1Chron.28:19. We can almost imagine David's saying to the Lord, "Lord, Thou hast told me that I may not build the temple. I would so much like to do this, but I am content to abide by Thy decision. May I make a pattern? That would not be building, would it, Lord?" So the Lord helped him make a pattern, being pleased with David's willingness to do something for Him.
In this connection there is an interesting statement in 1st Chronicles 28:4: "Howbeit the Lord God of Israel chose me before all the house of my father to be king over Israel forever: for He hath chosen Judah to be the ruler; and of the house of Judah, the house of my father; and among the sons of my father He liked me to make me king over all Israel." This unique expression shows God's high regard for David. And so David got permission to prepare the stone, the timber, and the iron for the temple of the Lord, as well as the plan itself. This may be the reason why later, in the erection of the temple, the sound of a hammer was not heard. David had prepared the material beforehand.
David, however, was not satisfied with making preparation for the building of the temple. He wanted also to prepare the music for the dedication. That was not building, and so he felt free to go ahead. David was the sweet singer in Israel; he loved music with his whole heart. So David began to prepare for the occasion by gathering together a band of four thousand who "praised the Lord with the instruments which I made, said David, to praise therewith." 1Chron.23:5. He also brought the singers together and trained them, as recorded in the twenty-fifth chapter of the same book. It is pleasing to think of David after the sad experience of his life, passing a few years in peace and contentment, making preparation for building the temple of the Lord and training the singers and musicians for its dedication.
Still David was not satisfied. The Lord had told him that he could not build the temple, but that his son Solomon should do so. 'What would hinder David from abdicating and making his son Solomon king of Israel? "So when David was old and full of days, he made Solomon his son king over Israel." 1Chron.23:1. Though there were political reasons for doing this, the setting of the statement indicates that the building of the temple was a vital factor.
No wonder God liked David. He kept pressing God to be permitted to do more for Him. He thought up the plan of making preparation for building the temple. He collected unheard of sums of money; he trained the musicians, -- all that he might do something for God, who had done so much for him. David was a cheerful giver of money and of service, and God liked him. We do not know how long David lived after Solomon became king, but when he did die, "they made Solomon the son of David king the second time." 1Chron.29:22.
Would that we had more men and churches like David, willing to sacrifice and work, and anxious to do still more! There would then be no more need of urging the people or the churches to arise and finish the work. If David were here and were asked to give $10, he would doubtless ask: "May I not give $20 or $100?" And the Lord would be pleased, and would say, "Yes, David, you may." It was because of this spirit that David, in spite of his sin, was chosen to be the earthly father of Christ. It was the same spirit that led Christ to give willingly, to suffer all, and at last to make the supreme sacrifice. God loves a cheerful giver.