Brings Us Into Fellowship With God

March 7, 2021

Pastor John Hering

Leviticus 1:1-9, 3:6-11

Leviticus 1:1-9, 3:6-11

Then the Lord summoned Moses and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting. He said, “Speak to the Israelites and tell them these things.” When any of you present an offering to the Lord, when it is from the livestock, you may present your offering from the herd or the flock.

If a person’s offering is a whole burnt offering selected from the herd, he shall present a male without blemish. He shall present it at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting so that it will be accepted before the Lord. He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering so that it may be accepted for him to make atonement on his behalf. He shall slaughter the young bull before the Lord. Then Aaron’s sons, the priests, shall present the blood and splash the blood against all the sides of the altar at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. They are to skin the burnt offering and cut it up into sections. The sons of Aaron the priest are to stoke the fire on the altar and lay out wood on the fire. Then Aaron’s sons, the priests, are to lay out the sections, together with the head and the fat, on the wood that is on the fire on the altar. Then they are to wash its inner organs and its lower legs with water. The priest shall send it all up in smoke on the altar as a whole burnt offering, an offering made by fire, with a pleasing aroma to the Lord.

If he presents a male or a female from the flock to the Lord as the sacrifice of a fellowship offering, he shall present an animal without blemish. If he presents a sheep as his offering, he shall present it before the Lord and lay his hand on the head of his offering. He shall slaughter it in front of the Tent of Meeting, and Aaron’s sons shall splash its blood against all sides of the altar. Then he shall present the fat from the sacrifice of the fellowship offering as an offering made by fire to the Lord. Include all of the fat tail, which is cut off from the base of the spine, the fat that surrounds the inner organs, and all of the fat on the inner organs. 10 Also include the two kidneys with the fat around them on the muscles and sinews, as well as the protruding lobe of the liver, which he shall remove with the kidneys. 11 The priest shall send it up in smoke on the altar as food, as an offering made by fire to the Lord.

It was a dark cold night when the man pulled his car up to the house.  He turned off the motor and the lights and turned to look at the house now in front of him.  From where he was parked he could see into the dining room.  A woman was serving diner to man and a daughter.  The family laughed and talked.  It broke the man’s heart as he looked on because the woman was his wife—or at least she used to be.  He didn’t really know the man but he sure knew his daughter.  The house used to be his house.  But he wasn’t welcome anymore.  A new husband had taken his place.  It’s a moving scene because we can all understand how much it would hurt to lose the love and unity of our families.   The Lord wanted to impress upon his Old Testament believers how important it was to have love and unity in God’s family.  In the church today we have a special term for this unity.  We call it “Church Fellowship.” It means we are one with God and one with one another.  The Word of God from Leviticus points to two offerings—the fellowship offering and the burnt offering—to teach this lesson.  The offerings were given thousands of times between the days of Moses (1500 bc) and Jesus and were a shadow of the gifts promised to come to all people through the promised Messiah.  What do we see in these shadows? 

We See Jesus Giving Us Fellowship With God

Because of Jesus the Lord Welcomes Us

I know it’s a stereotype, but every time Lutherans get together what do you expect to see?  Food and Coffee!  And depending on the local cuisine there are bars, or donuts or Sloppy Joes.  We do this because we recognize that sharing food together expresses love and unity.  Now during Covid we haven’t had many opportunities to do this at church, but you can still hear it when it’s time to start the Kingdom Kids devotion and the adults are all standing around drinking their coffee and talking.  We enjoy this fellowship before we gather together to enjoy Church Fellowship as we worship the Lord.  God gave his Old Testament believers the opportunity to enjoy this fellowship with one of his commanded sacrifices.

The fellowship offering was a meal.  If he presents a male or a female from the flock to the Lord as the sacrifice of a fellowship offering, he shall present an animal without blemish. After the priest killed the animal he butchered it.  He took the fattiest parts of the sheep, what they considered the choice parts (kidneys, liver, fat and fatty tailbone – tell Gunnar story)—and 11 The priest shall send it up in smoke on the altar as food, as an offering made by fire to the Lord.  These fat parts of the animal were given up to God.  They burned them up and Moses calls them food for the Lord!  Then the people who brought the offering and the priests who prepared it would eat the remaining parts there at the tabernacle before the Lord.  It was a rich meal of lamb or cow and in most cases involved many people who eat it all up in one day.  There were to be no left-overs.

God had a lesson for his people in this fellowship sacrifice.  Isaiah describes God’s meaning behind this meal: On this mountain the Lord of Armies will prepare for all peoples a banquet of rich food, a banquet of aged wines, with the best cuts of meat, and with the finest wines.” (Is 25:6).  Think of this beautiful description of the Lord preparing a wonderful meal for his people when their time on this earth is complete and they begin eternal life in heaven.  Because of Jesus the Lord Welcomes Us into Eternal Fellowship with Him!

But, there was more to this fellowship sacrifice.  You see, no one could participate in this meal unless they were ritually clean. If he presents a sheep as his offering, he shall present it before the Lord and lay his hand on the head of his offering. He shall slaughter it in front of the Tent of Meeting, and Aaron’s sons shall splash its blood against all sides of the altar.  Every time they brought an offering they had to repeat this process and be reminded of their sins and their need for forgiveness by the shedding of blood.  It taught the people that to come before the Lord God they had to be perfect.  It had to be repeated because it was only a symbolic perfect sacrifice—without blemish.  The sacrifice was made and then a miracle happened!  God threw open the doors of his house and welcomed them into fellowship with him!  You know why they had to repeat this sacrifice every time—because they needed the bloody sacrifice (life) of The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).  They needed Jesus.

We need Jesus, too.  The sin nature still lurks in our hearts.  Before we knew Christ it was in full control of our hearts and lives.  It still keeps crawling out of our hearts like maggots and keeps showing itself.  It shows itself when husbands and wives forget to stick to each other like glue!  When we look to satisfy our own desires (buying more clothes than we need, manipulate people) instead of the desires of people in need.  It shows itself when you hear people talking about wearing masks or no masks because of their selves rather than for their neighbor who may be at high risk if they catch the virus!  It shows itself when I’d rather use my time for my personal pleasures (wasting time on the perfect selfie, arriving late to a function or not going at all) than to help and love my neighbor.  Over and over we deny our love for Christ by sinning when we put our desires ahead of what God wants.  Our sins keep us out of fellowship with God.  All that sin should cast us into hell.  But, God had mercy on us.  He sent the perfect fellowship sacrifice and Because of Jesus the Lord Welcomes Us into Eternal Fellowship with Him!   Jesus was fully committed to his relationship to the world.  Jesus came to heal the sick as he unmasked his glory.  Jesus often gave up his time in order to proclaim the kingdom of God to others.  Jesus then exchanged his perfect life for you.  Jesus took the punishment as the Substitutionary sacrifice to endure God’s wrath.  Jesus freed us from the curse of sin, the power of the devil, and the eternity of hell.

God was so rich in his love and forgiveness that he graciously gave us a fellowship meal to remember what Jesus has done for us.  Jesus knows how the guilt can rise up in our hearts and he graciously replaced the fellowship sacrifice with his Holy Supper.  St Paul talks about this glorious meal!  The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a communion of the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a communion of the body of Christ?“ (1 Cor 10:16).  This is our Fellowship Meal with the Lord God!  With the bread we receive the body of Christ.  With the wine we receive the blood of Christ. The Fellowship Sacrifice that God gave the OT believers was a shadow of the NT Lord’s Supper we treasure!  No wonder we love to call this celebration of the Lord’s Supper a foretaste of the heavenly banquet prepared for us—the very banquet our loved ones who believed in Jesus are enjoying right now!  Together, we have fellowship with each other, with all the saints of heaven and earth, and with God himself!  Because of Jesus the Lord Welcomes Us into Eternal Fellowship with Him!  And how are we going to respond to love like that? 

Because of Jesus We Dedicate our Lives To The Lord!

The season of Lent gives us a special time to reflect on our sins and what it cost Jesus.  But, Lent is also a time for commitment inspired by God’s mercy.  The Gospel of Jesus reaches into our hearts and changes our lives.  That was the lesson God was teaching when he introduced the Burnt Offering to his OT believers. I can’t think of a better illustration then the one Tom Shollack likes to use.  How would you react if we gathered the offerings in cast today and took them outside and burned them up?   Our financial secretary might have to be restrained.  You might think, “What a horrible waste of our gifts to God!”  So, why would God tell the people to bring a perfectly good animal, kill it and burn the whole thing up?  What a waste!  Or was it?

If a person’s offering is a whole burnt offering selected from the herd, he shall present a male without blemish. He shall present it at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting so that it will be accepted before the Lord. He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering so that it may be accepted for him to make atonement on his behalf…..Then Aaron’s sons, the priests, are to lay out the sections, together with the head and the fat, on the wood that is on the fire on the altar. Then they are to wash its inner organs and its lower legs with water. The priest shall send it all up in smoke on the altar as a whole burnt offering, an offering made by fire, with a pleasing aroma to the Lord.

They took great care to prepare this animal.  They even washed it before burning it up!  What do you suppose a healthy bull is worth today?  The article I read said it costs about $3000!  God said to take this bull, kill it and burn it up.  It does appear that burning up this bull was a total waste!  Why would God give such a command?  Ans:  God was showing his people that he didn’t need their offerings. They weren’t to give their offerings to balance the budget to feed the priests, pay the utilities, or carry on programs.  The offerings were not gifts to the Levites or the people.  They were gifts to God!  The Burnt Offering revealed total commitment, devotion & dedication to God.  God doesn’t want offerings, he wants everything.  The Burnt Offering was a visual of this lesson.   It was a strong message that said, “This is complete dedication to God!”

As with the other offerings, this one also pictured Atonement: He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering so that it may be accepted for him to make atonement on his behalf. He shall slaughter the young bull before the Lord. Then Aaron’s sons, the priests, shall present the blood and splash the blood against all the sides of the altar at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting.  Let’s be clear, this dedication and devotion to God could not bring them close to God.  Even if you dedicate your life for full-time public ministry, or if you give until you make your family poor, you sacrifice everything you enjoy in order to proclaim the gospel to others—none of these things makes us righteous before God.  And since you’re like me, I know you’re tempted way down deep to think what all you do for God shows how good you are.  But, it truly shows how unacceptable we are before God.  Nothing we can offer God is worthy of God.  He should spit on all we offer him and then send us to hell for even attempting to approach his holy presence.

But, there was something that changed it all.  Blood!  The blood of the sacrifice made Atonement (At-one-ment) between God and people.  That’s exactly what Jesus’ blood has done for us all.  God received Jesus’ total sacrifice and for his sake declared us not guilty of our sins.  God counts all our gifts and service to him as the most precious gifts ever made because he sees Jesus in them all!  Therefore, our joyful response is this: Because of Jesus we dedicate our lives to the Lord who brings us into Fellowship with God! When we serve God, he considers us as if we were Jesus.  Our lives of dedication to God come from Christ living in our hearts through the gospel.  We love God and our neighbor, because Christ first loved us!

It hurts our hearts to see families who don’t have fellowship.  But, in Christ we are not on the outside looking into a wonderful family, we are sitting at the table in fellowship with God.  Trust in Jesus who brings us into God’s presence.  Trust in Jesus who motivates us to dedicate our lives to God.  See Jesus Who Brings You Into Fellowship with God!  Amen!

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