When reading about the rules and regulations of what can and cannot be used in the various offerings to God, it can all be more than a little overwhelming. It is therefore easy for the Christian to think, “Since we don’t do this anymore, it does not really matter.” But such thinking robs us of some of the rich connection between the Old and New Testaments and how “the New is in the Old concealed and the Old is in the New revealed.”
While not intended to be a comprehensive list, allow me to offer some general remarks about the various offerings. One word frequently translated as “offering” (minha) bears the idea of a “gift” and even a “tribute” A tribute is what a lesser pays to a greater, it is an acknowledgment to a ruler of one’s submission to and acceptance of that ruler’s protection. So an offering is not a sign of personal benevolence but rather of giving of that which is due. A number of offerings stand out in the Old Testament.
First is the burnt offering. The idea here is that of consecration. The animal is fully consumed in the fire as a symbol of giving oneself fully to God. A bull or ram or bird could be used. It is a voluntary act of worship.
Second is the grain offering. This is an act of thanksgiving for the goodness and provision of God in our lives. A portion of it is burnt and the rest is available to the priest to be consumed.
Third is the peace offering. Animals without defect are offered to God, accompanied by a vow or an act of thanksgiving. This is done to establish communion or fellowship with God. The fat portions of the animal are burnt and the meat is available for the priest’s use.
Fourth is the sin offering. This can be a bull or goat or lamb or bird or even a small portion of flour, depending upon what the giver can afford. This is a confession of sins committed and an act to make atonement for those sins. The meat can go to the priest.
Fifth is the trespass offering. This is an act of making restitution and seeking cleansing. A ram is used here, with the fat being burnt and the meat going to the priest.
The writer of Hebrews goes to great detail in portraying Christ as both Victim and Priest. As such He is the fulfillment of all of the Old Testament offerings and we are the ones blest by His acts. As the sinless One, He is the unblemished sacrifice that atones for the sins of the world (sin offering). Our sins and trespasses are blotted out, not because they do not exist, but because He has taken them upon Himself and He has paid the price for them (trespass offering). He established peace between God and man and between man and man (peace offering). He fills our lives with thanksgiving, giving us Himself in the Eucharist (grain offering) and He calls upon us to consecrate ourselves to His loving service as He consecrated Himself to do His Father’s will (burnt offering).
“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:1,2