Have you ever wondered what the sacrificial system in the Old Testament was all about? Why did God tell the children of Israel to perform so many sacrifices? Have you ever wondered how such information as given in the book of Leviticus applies to Christians today? In the sacrificial system described in the book of Leviticus we learn some valuable lessons on the fundamentals of worship.
There are basically five types of sacrifices that the children of Israel were instructed to participate in. In Leviticus 1 we see the burnt offerings, in Leviticus 2 there is the grain offerings, in Leviticus 3 we have the fellowship offerings, Leviticus 4 contains information on sin offerings, and in Leviticus 5 we see guilt offerings. Each of these five offerings teaches a fundamental principle concerning worship. A study of these offerings provides a parallel of a life of worship.
As we begin this study on the fundamentals of worship it is important that we understand where such worship takes place. Notice what is recorded in Leviticus 1:1-2.
“AND the LORD called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man of you bring an offering unto the LORD, ye shall bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herd, and of the flock.”
The Tabernacle was a very important place in the life of the children of Israel. There were two basic things that occurred at the Tabernacle. (1) The Word of the Lord was proclaimed. It was at the Tabernacle that the people heard a Word from God spoken through one of God’s servants, particularly at this time from Moses. This is also the purpose of attending a local church. God ordains certain men to be His mouthpiece and proclaim that Word of God to the people. We can never underestimate the importance of the man of God preaching the Word of God from the pulpit of a local church. (2) Worship to God was made. The Tabernacle was a house of worship. It was a sacred place where the people came into the presence of God and worshiped Him. Thus, the sacrifices were brought to the Tabernacle as a way of expressing such praise and worship. This is the second purpose of attending a local church. It is a special place that is set aside where bring our praise to God.
The first set of sacrifices that the children of Israel were instructed to make was referred to as Burnt Offerings. There were three basic burnt offerings: the herd, the flock, and the fowl. These offerings are described in Leviticus 1:3-17.
“If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord. And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him. And he shall kill the bullock before the Lord: and the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall bring the blood, and sprinkle the blood round about upon the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And he shall flay the burnt offering, and cut it into his pieces. And the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire upon the altar, and lay the wood in order upon the fire: And the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall lay the parts, the head, and the fat, in order upon the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar: But his inwards and his legs shall he wash in water: and the priest shall burn all on the altar, to be a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord. And if his offering be of the flocks, namely, of the sheep, or of the goats, for a burnt sacrifice; he shall bring it a male without blemish. And he shall kill it on the side of the altar northward before the Lord: and the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall sprinkle his blood round about upon the altar. And he shall cut it into his pieces, with his head and his fat: and the priest shall lay them in order on the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar: But he shall wash the inwards and the legs with water: and the priest shall bring it all, and burn it upon the altar: it is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord. And if the burnt sacrifice for his offering to the Lord be of fowls, then he shall bring his offering of turtledoves, or of young pigeons. And the priest shall bring it unto the altar, and wring off his head, and burn it on the altar; and the blood thereof shall be wrung out at the side of the altar: And he shall pluck away his crop with his feathers, and cast it beside the altar on the east part, by the place of the ashes: And he shall cleave it with the wings thereof, but shall not divide it asunder: and the priest shall burn it upon the altar, upon the wood that is upon the fire: it is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord.”
“Although the occasions that evoked burnt offerings may have varied from one of thankfulness (Gen 8:20) to one of crisis (Judg 20:26), the purpose of the offering was to honor God and attract his attention.” This burnt offering was one of praise and thanksgiving to God. It was a way in which one would enter into the presence of God in hopes of God listening to their prayers. There are, in fact, a few lessons that we can learn from the burnt offerings that is applicable to us today concerning the fundamentals of worship.
Anyone can come into God’s Presence. Each of these burnt offerings made it possible for anyone from any status of life to come into God’s presence and worship Him. Those who were of great means were to bring the best of their herd. Those who did not have such an asset to give could come and bring the best of their flock such as sheep or goats. Those who had neither in their possession could bring a bird, particularly a dove or pigeon, as an offering to the Lord. The lesson here is that God provides a way for everyone to worship Him. No matter who you are: young or old, rich or poor; there is something that you can give. God made a way for all to come to Him through the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross. It does not matter who you are. An invitation into God’s family is available to all.
The sacrifice is to be complete. “This offering was distinctive among the Israelite sacrifices in that the entire offering, apart from the skin, was consumed and no portion of it was eaten by the priest or the offerer.” The point here is that when we come into the presence of God we are to offer our whole selves to Him. You cannot just give God part of your life; you must give Him everything. Faith in Christ involves the whole of man. It is either all or nothing. You cannot be saved by just giving God part of your life. You must believe on Him with everything that is about you and give your all to Him.
We are to give God our best. The offering had to be without blemish. It had to be pure. The principle here is that the offering had to be the very best they could offer. When it comes to our relationship with God we are to give our best to Him. In everything that we do we are to do for the glory of God, therefore, give our very best to Him in all that we do.
Worship is voluntary. God never forces anyone to worship Him. The offerings were made on their own voluntary will. God created us with a free will. He does not force Himself upon anyone. You can choose whether or not you are going to believe on Him and worship Him. Coming into the presence of God is always on a voluntary basis.
Our Worship should be structured. Notice the details given when it came to making these sacrifices. Every detail was laid out. It had to be well planned. You could not just stumble into God’s presence. It was a powerful thing to come into the presence of God and it required great planning and preparation. When it comes to our public worship in the setting of the local church, we should expect a well planned and structured time of worship. Much work should be made by the leaders of the church to plan and prepare for that special time of worship. It should not be taken lightly.
Worship always points to Jesus. Worship that does not bring the worshipper into a place of seeing the cross is not true worship. Too many church services are filled with elements of entertainment that we miss the entire purpose of worship altogether. The sacrifices that the children of Israel offered were a prelude to the cross of Jesus. “Jesus Christ was a sacrifice “without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:19), who gave Himself in total dedication to God (John 10:17; Rom. 5:19; Heb. 10:10).” When we come to our ‘tabernacle’ for worship: every song we sing, every prayer that is prayed, every sermon that is preached, should all point to the cross of Jesus Christ.
As we see throughout the Word of God, worship is a very serious matter. Coming into the presence of God should never be taken lightly. It should be well planned and prepared. We should also bring our very best to God. Most of all, our worship should point people to Jesus so that all may come into His presence through the cross of our Lord.
 The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Le 1:1–2). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
 The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Le 1:3-17). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.