Beauty for Ashes Print E-mail
Written by Victoria Radin   

Drawing Near to G-d

The Sacrificial System is central to the Torah (the first five books of the Bible). The English word, sacrifice, however, means something entirely different than the Hebrew word korban that it attempts to translate. While sacrifice means to offer something precious to a deity, korban is from a root that means to come near, to approach; to become closely involved in a relationship with someone. The true understanding of the sacrificial system can only be understood through its Hebrew root––the concept of drawing near to G-d in a relationship.

The goal of the Temple sacrifices was not to give up something of value to G-d in order to appease Him, but to dedicate one’s life to a higher awareness of and nearness to G-d. In the words of Rabbi Chaim Richman, in a sense, what happens to the offering is also taking place within the heart and mind of he who brings it..... The offerer must be elevated above the physical realm so that he can become a sweet savor unto G-d. The rabbis teach that the sacrifices did not serve as an end in themselves. The sin offering, for instance, did not atone for sin unless it was accompanied by the true repentance of the one bringing it. In fact, without repentance, the sacrifice was not valid.

In the sacrificial system, certain animals, which G-d called clean, represented purity. Only these animals could be offered to G-d as korban. The clean animal had to have a perfect outward appearance alluding to its inward perfection or sinlessness. The individual bringing the offering laid his hand on the head of the spotless animal to symbolize that a spiritual transfer was taking place. In this transfer, the sin or sinfulness of the one making the offering was transferred to the animal as confession was made; and the perfection of the animal was imputed to the repentant individual. He would then slay the animal, slaying his own sinful flesh in proxy, receiving the just punishment for his offense––death! The death of the animal and the ritual which followed, gave him a strong visual symbol of what he himself deserved were G-d to judge him instead of bringing his judgment on the animal.

All sacrifices were to be offered with salt (Leviticus 2:13). Salt being a valuable commodity and a preservative symbolized that each sacrifice was a valuable, imperishable covenant between the one offering the sacrifice and G-d (Numbers 18:19). The offering and the repentance that accompanied it would allow the one bearing it to secure an audience with G-d––to draw near to Him. The individual would then become a gift of sweet fragrance unto the L-rd. 

The Burnt Offering - Olah

The Hebrew word Olah means to ascend. The Burnt Offering was to be wholly burnt on the bronze altar of sacrifice, allowing the offerer to symbolically ascend as a sweet fragrance of satisfaction to G-d.

Although the Burnt Offering was voluntary, G-d Himself sent fire from heaven to consume it (Leviticus 9:24; 1 Kings 18:23, 38; 1 Chronicles 21:26; 2 Chronicles 7:1-3). The unique features of the Burnt Offering relate to the removal of man’s flesh, his sin-nature that was inherited from Adam through the fall. The NIV Bible renders the word flesh in the New Testament, sinful-nature, thus capturing the true essence of the word. This sacrifice alludes to the process of introspection and G-d’s sanctification that every individual must undergo in order to become a sweet fragrance to the L-rd.

When an individual brought a Burnt Offering, he would slay it, the korban carrying his sinful-nature (his flesh) in proxy for himself. The priest would then sprinkle the blood on and about the altar to make atonement for him. The flesh (skin) was then removed, symbolizing that G-d had removed his sinful-nature that was inherited from Adam. The priest would cut the animal into pieces to inspect for any internal defects, which would have to be removed. Then he would wash its unclean parts, illustrating that G-d declared the individual to be clean and blameless before Him. Finally, the entire sacrifice was offered on the bronze altar in total consecration as a pleasing fragrance of satisfaction to G-d.

Because introspection and G-d’s sanctification is a process that takes time, this offering had to be repeated as often as the individual found it desirable. The New Testament Scriptures describe the spiritual process of introspection:

“Submit yourselves, then, to G-d. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to G-d and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the L-rd, and He will lift you up.” (James 4:7-10) (Italics author’s)

Jesus was an example to us in all righteousness. He fulfilled the Old Testament requirements of the Burnt Offering to permanently remove our sin-nature in His once-for-all sacrifice on the cross. But the apostle Paul reminds us that we must put off the flesh (Colossians 3:8) and put on Christ (Galatians 3:27). He was alluding to the voluntary Burnt Offering when he admonished believers to:

“...present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to G-d, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1b).

Paul was saying that the believer should voluntarily choose to offer his own life as a Burnt Offering. This act gives the High Priest, Jesus, permission to inspect the inner parts––man’s thoughts, motives, and intents of the heart––for hidden defects; and if necessary, to remove any such defects through surgery. When an individual gets saved, all of the visible uncleanness of the sinful-nature are washed with the water of the Word (Ephesians 5:26). As the individual studies the Word, the Holy Spirit brings conviction on him concerning those things that need to be changed into the likeness of Christ. If he does not discern his own uncleanness, however, G-d will make him aware of the defects through affliction so that the finished product might be a pleasing fragrance of satisfaction to G-d.

After each surgery, the Burnt Offering is subjected to the fire of testing to be sure every cancerous trait is fully gone. It is a lifelong commitment for an individual to stay on the altar for inspection, washing, surgery, and testing. The readying of the Burnt Offering is in preparation for glorification in the fire of G-d that will consume the sacrifice––when that individual will be totally consumed with his G-d:

“Oh, bless our G-d, you peoples!...For You, O G-d, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined...You laid affliction on our backs. You have caused men to ride over our heads; We went through fire and through water; but You brought us out to rich fulfillment.” (Psalm 66:8a, 10-12)

Those servants who voluntarily offer themselves as living sacrifices will be purified as gold and silver in preparation for the coming of the L-rd. The Scriptures state that the L-rd will be coming in fire:

“For behold, the L-rd will come with fire... For by fire and by His sword the L-rd will judge all flesh; and the slain of the L-rd shall be many.” (Isaiah 66:15, 16)

The pain that is experienced during the sanctification process is the result of man’s own sin-nature. It is not the same as the sufferings of Christ, which suffering is endured but not deserved. The man who offers himself as a burnt offering strives for the high calling of G-d so that he may then have the privilege to endure ‘the sufferings of Christ’ and be glorified with Him at His coming:

“But rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.....But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer.... For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of G-d; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of G-d?” (1 Peter 4:13, 15a, 17)

At the time of the L-rd’s return, there will be those who have been saved, those who have been saved and sanctified, and those who have been saved, sanctified and glorified. For those who have been just saved, it will be as through the fire; for those saved and being sanctified, it will be as a refiner’s fire; and for those saved, sanctified and glorified, it will be the glory of G-d revealed in them (Romans 8:18-19).

Barukh HaShem (Blessed is the Name)

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