Well, Cut Me Up and Place Me on the Altar!

Leviticus 1:3-13

 1 The LORD called Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, 2“Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When any one of you brings an offering to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of livestock from the herd or from the flock.

 3“If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer a male without blemish. He shall bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the LORD. 4 He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.

 5Then he shall kill the bull before the LORD, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall bring the blood and throw the blood against the sides of the altar that is at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 6Then he shall flay the burnt offering and cut it into pieces, 7and the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire. 8And Aaron’s sons the priests shall arrange the pieces, the head, and the fat, on the wood that is on the fire on the altar; 9but its entrails and its legs he shall wash with water. And the priest shall burn all of it on the altar, as a burnt offering, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD.

10“If his gift for a burnt offering is from the flock, from the sheep or goats, he shall bring a male without blemish, 11 and he shall kill it on the north side of the altar before the LORD, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall throw its blood against the sides of the altar. 12And he shall cut it into pieces, with its head and its fat, and the priest shall arrange them on the wood that is on the fire on the altar, 13but the entrails and the legs he shall wash with water. And the priest shall offer all of it and burn it on the altar; it is a burnt offering, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD.

In the Levitical sacrifice (Leviticus 1:1-13), particularly the Ascension Offering (incorrectly translated as “Whole Burnt Offering”) the animal was cut up into pieces and arranged a specific way on the altar. Head first was placed on the altar, then after washing, the body second. Now interestingly this corresponds to the pattern of resurrection as recorded for us in the New Testament (1 Cor. 15:23), Christ first (who is the head), and then us, only after we (the body) have received the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5).

As interesting as that is, I want to focus on something a bit more pastoral.

Hebrews 4:12 says,

12For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 

I believe that what this is alluding to is the cutting up of the Ascension offering. The Ascension offering represented the believer’s whole (total) dedication and complete surrender to God. The sacrificer understood that it was himself, in a symbolic way, being cut up into pieces and arranged on the altar and being consumed by the fire of the Holy Spirit and sent up as smoke into the presence of God.

What the author of Hebrews is saying here is, that the knife, or the sword that was used to cut apart the Ascension Offering, now in the New Covenant is to be understood as the Word of God. It is the sword of the Spirit which “cuts us up into pieces”, dividing even our very soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerns even the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. It is the Word of God, the sword of the Spirit that the minister is to wield on Sunday Mornings in order to “cut up God’s people” and “present them as a living sacrifice to God” “which is our spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1).

The worshiper then, is to prepare his heart and soul for the cutting that is about to take place. When the Word of God is read, and sang, and preached, and taught, we are all supposed to submit ourselves to the sharp blade of the sword of the Spirit, completely dedicating ourselves to God. We are to heed the word and search our hearts and see where we have fallen short in our duty, and see where we have sinned, and see where we need correction. And in so doing, we repent, and rededicate ourselves to God, being forgiven of our sins.

Let us then with all due diligence place ourselves on the altar, and present our minds  and bodies, souls and spirits, wholly to God, subjecting ourselves to that blade which is sharper than any two edged sword, or flaying knife. For then we make ourselves ready to be consumed by the fire of the Holy Spirit on the altar of our hearts and become a sweet smelling savor to our Lord.re his heart and soul for the cutting that is about to take place. When the Word of God is read, and sang, and preached, and taught, we are all supposed to submit ourselves to the sharp blade of the sword of the Spirit, completely dedicating ourselves to God. We are to heed the word and search our hearts and see where we have fallen short in our duty, and see where we have sinned, and see where we need correction. And in so doing, we repent, and rededicate ourselves to God, being forgiven of our sins. Only then can we ascend into the throne room of God as a sweet smelling aroma. If we reject the sharp cutting blade of God’s sword, and by so doing reject the Holy Spirit of God, we will be found to be a sacrifice which is a stench in God’s nostrils.