Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, If any man of you bring an offering to the LORD…
Here is a singular conjunction of the legal and the voluntary. Jehovah fixes the particulars, but the man himself decides on the act of sacrificial worship. Observe how the Lord works from the opposite point from which the first of the Ten Commandments was given. There God called for the worship: here He leaves the man to offer the worship and proceeds to tell him how. The preparation of the heart and the answer of the tongue are from God. No man was at liberty in the ancient Church determine his own terms of approach to God. The throne must be approached in the appointed way. We are not living in an era of religious licentiousness. There is a genius of worship, there is a method of coming before God. God does not ask us to conceive or suggest methods of worship. He Himself meets us with His time-bill and His terms of spiritual commerce. God is in heaven and we are upon the earth; therefore should our words be few. The law of approach to the Divine throne is unchanged. The very first condition of worship is obedience. Obedience is better than sacrifice, and is so because it is the end of sacrifice. But see how, under the Levitical ritual, the worshipper was trained to obedience. Mark the exasperating minuteness of the law. Nothing was left to haphazard. The worship was to be offered through mediation. The priestly element pervades the universe; it is the mystery of life and service. The service was voluntary. Notice the expression, "He shall offer it of his own voluntary will." The voluntariness gives the value to the worship. We can only pray with the heart. There is in this great ritual a wonderful mixing of free will and Divine ordination; the voluntary and the unchangeable; the human action and the Divine decree. We cannot understand it; if we are able to understand it then it is no larger than our understanding: so God becomes a measurable God, merely the shadow of human wit, a God that cannot be worshipped. It is where our understanding fails or rises into a new wealth of faith, that we find the only altar at which we can bow, with all our powers, where we can utter with enthusiasm all our hopes and desires. So we come with our sacrifice and offering, whatever it may be, and having laid it on the altar, we can follow it no further — free as the air up to a given point, but after that bounded and fixed and watched and regulated — a mystery that can never be solved, and that can never be chased out of a universe in which the infinite and finite confer. The worship of the ancient Church was no mere expression of sentiment. It was a most practical worship, not a sentimental exercise; it was a confession and an expiation — in a word, an atonement. This fact explains all. Take the word "atonement" out of Christian theology, and Christian theology has no centre, no circumference, no life, no meaning, no virtue. If we could read this Book of Leviticus through at one sitting the result might be expressed in some such words as these — "Thank God we have got rid of this infinite labour; thank God this is not in the Christian service; thank God we are Christians and not Jews." Let not our rejoicing be the expression of selfishness or folly. It is true we have escaped the bondage of the letter, but only to enter into the larger and sweeter bondage of the spirit. The Jew gave his bullock or his goat, his turtledove or his young pigeon; but now each man has to give himself. We now buy ourselves off with gold. Well may the apostle exhort us, saying, "I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service." Wonderful is the law which lays its claim upon the ransomed soul — none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself; whether we live, we live unto the Lord; whether we die, we die unto the Lord; living or dying we are the Lord's. We have escaped measurable taxation, but we have come under the bond of immeasurable love. We have escaped the letter, we have been brought under the dominion of the spirit. Let us be careful, therefore, how we congratulate ourselves on having escaped the goat-offering and heifer-offering, and turtledove and young pigeon sacrifices; how we have been brought away from the technicality and poverty of the letter into the still further deeper poverty of selfishness. As Christians we have nothing that is our own; not a moment of time is ours; not a pulse that throbs in us, not a hair of our head, not a coin in the coffer belongs to us. This is the severe demand of love. Who can rise to the pitch of that self-sacrifice?
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.