Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Burnt Offering A Sacred Temple Ritual

In my study of the Book of Leviticus, I have noticed some interesting insights concerning the procedure outlined for the Burnt Offering at the Tabernacle.

The person who desired to be cleansed brought the offering to the priest at the Tabernacle. The offering could be “from the herd”, “from the flock” or “of birds’. This designation was made according to the wealth and social standing of the offerer. For example, if the offerer owned a herd, then a bullock must be offered for a sacrifice. A lamb would not be an acceptable sacrifice for him. If however, he did not own a herd, but a flock only, then his offering must be a sheep or a goat. If neither a flock nor herd was owned, a bird, meaning turtledoves or pigeons, would suffice. We have been taught that to those who are given much, much is required in return. The Children of Israel were taught that lesson each day, as the smoke of the burnt offering constantly adorned the Tabernacle grounds.

Whatever their status in life was, the offerer was the one required to present the offering to be sacrificed. After he laid his hands upon the offering, the offerer was required to kill the offering himself. Everything was to be burned except the skin or feathers. It was a way in which the offerer could present himself, by way of transference on the offering, willing to “put off” or kill his “natural or sinful” nature in the act of complete submission of his will and seek for the change that would allow for a covering from the Lord. It was a great way of teaching them of the vicarious offering that would be made in their behalf, of the Savior himself. The skin “or covering” was the memorial of the sacrifice used to cover the priest with a “robe of righteousness”, or construct the garment of the holy priesthood, it served as a reminder of what the sacrifice meant to the individual.

The offering was then cut into portions and offered upon the altar. Each cut was symbolic of a covenant that was to be kept. Cuts and covenants are unilaterally the same thing. Today we may even use the euphemism, “to cut a deal” with reference to forming a contractual arrangement. It is interesting to note what parts were to be cut and what they might have represented.

The Head - representing the mind and the intellect

The Inwards - representing the emotions or heart

The Fat - representing health and virility and increase

The Legs – indicating the walk, which represent conduct and lifestyle

The head and inwards were symbols of the mind and heart. Oliver Cowdery was instructed that this process was the process of experiencing revelation when The Lord taught him in Section 8 of the Doctrine and Covenants:

2 Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.

3 Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground.

This process of turning ones thoughts to the Lord is the process involved in living the law of obedience and being willing to offer the sacrifice of ones own will. In turn, the beautiful gospel of Jesus Christ then enters the heart by way of the Holy Ghost, allowing one to have that change of heart needed to continually desire righteousness, and be taught all things.

The fat was always completely burned in every offering. It served as an example of exactness in offering complete fidelity to the Lord. It promised that putting the Lord first before any thing else would lead to a life of consecration in ones walk. In today’s vernacular, it is hard to give everything you have to something unless you are married to the idea. The legs represented the consecrated life, the complete “walk with Him” as Abraham was instructed. This consecration was only possible because of the willingness to sacrifice the fat, or increase.

The instruction that the Lord gave the Children of Israel, through the prophet Moses, concerning the burnt offering is such a beautiful way to view the application of the Atonement and our, as offering and offerer, relationship to our Savior. The sacred teachings of the LDS Temple are memorials of this same sort of instruction. Although the ceremony has changed from times past, and the “cuts” or portioning of the sacrifice are not quite as obvious to the participant, they are still beautifully taught in sacred ritual form. The understanding of what one is actually offering makes all the difference in the world in comprehending the beauty of the LDS Temple ceremony.


Zac said...

So would Jesus' family offer herd, flock or bird offerings?

In The Doghouse said...

Hi Zac,
It is interesting that you asked that. I was going to point out the fact that when Jesus was born, Mary brought an offering of a bird to the Temple. It is simply another testimony of the fact that he was born of humble birth, descending below all things. I believe that whatever we are given doesn't matter, it is simply the fact that we are required to give all we have.

Jelaire R. said...

Wow. Thank you for that beautiful insight! Especially about what the different "cuts" represent.