Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church March 27th, 2011 “WE HAVE SEEN HIS GLORY: THE BURNT OFFERING”

The 3rd Sunday of Lent Leviticus 1:3-17

It doesn’t take us too long to figure out from Leviticus chapter one that going to worship in the Old Testament was much different than it is now in the New Testament era. Both then and now, worship services centered around the key theological truth that one perfect substitute is offered to make satisfaction for the sins of the entire group, and therefore, both then and now, the worship service centered in and focused hearts upon Jesus Christ – just from two different perspectives. They saw his glory in picture form. We see his glory in the revelation of Scripture, as all Messianic pictures in the Old Testament have found their perfect fulfillment in Jesus. We have already seen how the office of the High Priest foreshadowed the Great High Priest Jesus who does the work of mediating on the sinner’s behalf, presenting the blood of innocent sacrifice for the sins of the people so that the undeserving sinner is granted access to the Father and his eternal holiness. Jesus is the Great High Priest, the one who offers the One Great sacrifice on behalf of the people. But he is also that which IS OFFERED, the Great burnt offering, the sacrificial Lamb of God whose blood poured out is the life-giving, eternity-imparting flood by which we have assurance that our sins have been washed away forever. Thus, today, we continue to meditate upon that which enabled the Israelites to see the glory of the coming Christ, looking once again at the worship life of the Israelites, but this time, the burnt offering, the lamb without blemish that was wholly offered to atone for the sins of the people. And as we examine what it was like to worship in the Old Testament, in the tabernacle specifically, may we gain an appreciation once again for the striking, poignant, harsh pictures by which God’s people were shown the gravity of sin’s curse and at the same time, the length of God’s wondrous love for them. How different their worship life was! We can’t even begin to imagine what it was like to go to worship as an Israelite in the Old Testament. Today, we gather in God’s house. We take time to socialize. We find out what’s going on in each others’ lives. And here, when we gather in God’s house, there’s nothing threatening about what you expect in the divine service. You bring your sins with you. You confess them. You receive our God’s absolution. You are confirmed in the fact that you belong to him as his dear child. You receive the very body and blood that Christ offered over to death for you - in, with and under the bread and wine – those earthly elements connected with God’s Word. Other than perhaps thinking that maybe Pastor White picked a weird hymn that I may have to trudge through, or thinking about how we are going to wrangle and wrestle the kids into submission, there really isn’t anything scary about coming to worship on Sunday mornings. Think about how different their worship services were. When the people arose on the Sabbath, and prepared themselves to go to worship, they knew that they were going to see something die, right in front of them! Die! Just come to grips with what was all involved in a divine service in the tabernacle. Blood and death were the central elements of the worship service rites. At the site of worship, there were instruments of death, professional executioners, torture, splattering of blood, cutting of animal flesh and body parts, burning of carcasses...and then the sounds of worship, not pre-service organ music, but animals screaming and screeching in pain, unable to avoid the impending death...not the sound of socialization, but silence and solemnity as the people were brought face to face with the wages of sin! And then the smell of worship...not the smell of meticulously cooked Lenten potluck dishes, the smell of burning and death. Literally, the sound and smell of life being taken. Our worship services today are so inviting and non-threatening, comparatively speaking. Theirs was downright offensive to all the senses!

What a frightening, scary, terrible scene, and this would all happen in front of the people – even in plain view of the children! And how, exactly was this “pleasing to God?” Three separate times in these opening verses of Leviticus, you have the phrase which translates literally: “A sweet aroma, pleasing before the LORD!” Did God enjoy the death of that which he created? Surely not! Did he enjoy day after day seeing blood splattered everywhere, smelling death, hearing the sounds of his creatures being assigned to death, the creatures that he brought into existence? Death was never meant to be a part of God’s creation. It was a consequence brought upon the world and the people that occupy it by Adam and Eve, who lent their ears to the one who promised, “You will not surely die! You will be like God!” Death is sin’s terrible but fair consequence. But Ezekiel 33:11 tells us: “As surely as I live,” declares the Sovreign Lord, “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked.” So, what made this aroma of death pleasing? The fact that by the death of the innocent substitute, God’s people were allowed to live! There’s the point! That is how the Israelites saw the glory of Christ in the shadow of these gruesome, gory rites and rituals. The aroma of death for the children of God signified that their sins, which deserved death, received punishment to the fullest measure upon someone other than them! It wasn’t death that was pleasing to the Almighty! It was the death that gives life to all men, that grants freedom from sin, death and the power of the devil to all who believe! It was death that allowed God’s people to return home from the sanctuary of divine service alive! The unblemished lamb died – they went home alive! What a wonderfully clear portrait of Christ! Ephesians 5:2 makes the connection: “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Think of what a wonderful truth it is that when you dared to enter the presence of God in his house, that he allowed you to live! Did you come here today thinking that you were not going to leave? Did you come to St. Paul’s Lutheran Church fearful that you might not make it out of here? Did you get into your cars today fearful that you were going to come face to face with death in church today? Certainly not! But, if we take a survey of our lives, we should be fearful to stand before our God and be in his presence! Sin is not a light thing. It isn’t just a meaningless word that we say to try and strike fear in the hearts of others. Sin is real! It is a rebellious crossing of the line! And if we had things dying in front of our eyes in our own worship service, if blood and death were a regular part of our gathering, as it was in the tabernacle we just might have a better, clearer understanding of just how devastating and destructive our rebelliousness against God really is, and what really needs to happen in order to give us freedom from death! Thankfully, none of those rites and rituals need to be carried out today, or are a part of our worship service. No more animals being slaughtered, no more blood to be splattered upon the altar, no more burning carcasses. No more sounds or smell of death, because the sacrifice that fulfills and supercedes them all is the one given by Christ himself! The Israelites saw Christ’s glory in such a gory way, but Hebrews chapter 10:11-14 tells us: “11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. 13 Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, 14 because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” We too have seen his glory – not in portraits given through animal sacrifice, but in the clarity of Holy Scripture. We don’t have animals dying in our sanctuary today. Instead, we have the simple proclamation of the gospel that still teaches us what God taught his people in the tabernacle rites: that we get to approach God and are accepted by him because someone else died for our sins. That someone else was Jesus. He died so that we can live. He sacrificed himself so that we can leave today, having

been in the presence of our Almighty God and his Word, free to live to his glory and free to live forever with him in eternal glory. Truly “death has been swallowed up in victory.” Truly death has lost its sting! Let’s not lose an appreciation for the many and varied ways that God made his salvation known to the children of Israel. What they saw, what they smelled, what they heard, what they experienced in their rites and rituals of worship was nothing less than offensive to all the senses, because blood and death were the central elements of Old Testament worship. And yet, they saw the glory of Christ! As we forge ahead this Lenten season, let’s not forget the offense of our sin and how it caused our Savior to be nailed to the accursed tree. At the same time, may we never forget that the body and blood of Christ Jesus, given over to death as our substitutionary sacrifice, was the “pleasing aroma,” the “sweet scent” of our salvation! Amen.

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