Bible Study with Jairus – Leviticus 7
The functions of offerings: Reinforcement and reduction
In past lessons, we’ve mentioned the significance of the order of the offerings in Leviticus 1:1- Leviticus 6:7, as well as the different order in Leviticus 6:8-7:38. In addition, I believe the different offerings represent different functions. Some offerings (grain offerings, burnt offerings) were for reinforcement, while others (sin offerings and guilt offerings) were for reduction. Let me explain what I mean.
Reinforcement and reduction are concepts in traditional Chinese medicine. Through reinforcement and reduction, we achieve balance. Our body reaches a balance of yin and yang. I believe the essence of the peace offering is achieving a balanced state, in which there is reinforcement and reduction.
Many people may have difficulty understanding this concept. Let me give a metaphor from Western Medicine. When our white blood cells carry away waste and help our bodies fight infection, this is the function of reduction. When our red blood cells carry oxygen, supplying us with life, this is the function of reinforcement.
In the same way, the sin offering and the guilt offering remove our sins and transgressions, helping us “reduce” unhealthy things. The burnt offering and the grain offering, on the other hand, provide positive life and nourishment. The grain offering not only pleased God but also provided food for the priests. The food provided God’s life supply to the priests, which is “reinforcement.” The sin offerings and the guilt offerings (“reduction” offerings), as well as the peace offerings, grain offerings, and wave offerings could all be eaten by priests, which is the effect of “reinforcement”. Such “reduction” and “reinforcement” allowed the priest to simultaneously cover their sins and receive God’s life supply, thus achieving a balance.
Just like we have to maintain the balance of yin and yang within our bodies to keep our bodies healthy, we need spiritual balance to maintain a healthy spiritual body. We need “reduction” offerings to remove our sins and “reinforcement” sacrifices to nourish us with spiritual bread so we can grow and mature.
What are reinforcement and reduction?
Reinforcement and reduction are concepts of traditional Chinese medicine. Chinese medicine believes that a healthy body lies in the balance of yin and yang. The balance of yin and yang is also related to qi. For example, the qi from sun and food is positive whereas qi from cold or wind is negative. If there is more negative qi than positive in our body, it is necessary to reduce the negative and reinforce the positive, so that our body can maintain balance and be healthy.
Although I have only a limited understanding of traditional Chinese medicine, I want to use traditional Chinese medicine to create an analogy. Many people in the West believe that concepts such as yin and yang and qi belong to the metaphysics of Eastern culture. But from my limited understanding, they are a good picture to help us understand spiritual things.
We know as Christians that the church is the body of Christ. Does this body need a balance of yin and yang? When Satan and sin attack us, it reminds us of being assaulted by freezing wind. This negative qi must be reduced. Meanwhile, Christ’s redemption (represented by the offerings) represents positive qi. The more Satan attacks, the more we need to nurture an awareness of Christ’s redemption.
According to the theory of Chinese medicine, qi exists and operates in our bodies, but it is invisible. The same is true of the Holy Spirit. He is invisible, but he operates within the body of Christ. The Holy Spirit is the Helper sent by the Father in the name of Jesus Christ (John 14:26) to give us heavenly “positive qi.” Through him, we have access to the Father in one spirit (Ephesians 2:18). Through the Holy Spirit, we are convicted of sin (John 16:8). He applies Christ’s redemption personally to our lives. The Bible says, “Now the Lord is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:17). His work is in line with the work of Jesus.
Jesus Christ became our redeeming sacrifice which takes away our sins. The Bible says, “the Son of God appeared to destroy the works of the devil” (ESV, 1 John 3:8). This reminds us of the concept of reduction. The work of reduction comes first, as our sins are removed through Jesus’ blood.
In addition, Jesus Christ is the bread that came down from heaven (John 6:58). He is the spiritual manna, the holy food for us to eat. This reminds us of the concept of reinforcement. The work of reinforcement is a further step in our Christian growth that manifests the glory of God.
If we understand the spiritual meaning of the five basic offerings, it will help us apply God’s truth to our everyday lives. The purpose of the offerings was not external obedience, but internal intimacy with God. The offerings were a living illustration of the removal of sin and the pursuit of fellowship with God. God’s purpose was to remove the worshipers’ sins so they could return to God and get to know him better. If you have accepted God’s gift of redemption through the blood of Jesus, God wants you to maintain fellowship with Him and grow closer to him. In this way, you will be filled with His holiness and glory. Redemption through His blood is the foundation. Intimate fellowship is the goal.
The five basic offerings in the Old Testament can all be categorized as either reduction or reinforcement. The sin offering and the guilt offering are for reduction, that is, taking away our sins. The grain offering and the burnt offering are not only offered to God, but also given to the priests to eat. This nourishing supply reminds us of the concept of reinforcement. Although the burnt offering is burned entirely, it benefits the worshiper by giving them a practical way to please God and receive his blessing. The peace offering represents both reduction and reinforcement at the same time. It not only includes a sin offering and guilt offering (reduction), but also a grain offering and wave offering (reinforcement). These offerings help us achieve spiritual balance.
Many people express doubts about the existence of qi and the concept of yin and yang because they cannot be seen or touched. But those who have experience in traditional Chinese medicine can verify through their experiences that the balance between qi, yin, and yang is real. Qi represents the Holy Spirit. His work is invisible and intangible, but we can feel his presence in our spiritual experience. When the Lord Jesus talked about the work of the Holy Spirit, He also likened it to the wind. He said, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8).
In Chinese acupuncture, practitioners hold the needle in the right hand and rotate it in a clockwise direction to achieve reinforcement. On the other hand, when they want to achieve reduction, they rotate the needle in a counterclockwise direction. Many people in the West accept acupuncture, but they may not know that a different rotation of the needle will have a different effect. Acupuncturists use different rotational methods to help adjust the patient’s balance of qi, yin, and yang, which they believe will treat the patient’s disease.
Just like acupuncturists seek to achieve balance, we as God’s children also need balance. To use an analogy more familiar to a Western audience, our white blood cells remove waste products from our blood, while our red blood cells transport oxygen to our body. In the same way, some offerings (sin offerings and guilt offerings) remove sin and waste from the worshiper’s spiritual body, while other offerings (grain offerings, burnt offerings, wave offerings, heave offerings, and peace offerings) please God and supply us with His divine life. The offerings remind us of the importance of not only reducing evil (removing sin) but also increasing goodness as we unite ourselves with God’s divine life. When we achieve balance, we will become spiritually healthy.
The function of the burnt offering and the grain offering
Burnt offerings are entirely burned to God to please Him. Whether it was Noah offering clean animals as sacrifices or Abraham offering Isaac, both were to please God. The grain offering contains a portion that is burned to God, and this portion pleases God. But the rest was reserved for the priests as their food, the staff of life. The food was holy in order to help the priests become holy. After we offer burnt offerings to please God, He begins to share food with us through the grain offering. This is the function of reinforcement. But reinforcement is not enough. For example, if a vessel is unclean and if you put food in it, you will contaminate the food. Therefore, the laws of the sin offering and the guilt offering are needed to cleanse the vessel.
The function of the sin offering and the guilt offering
Before you cook a meal, you first wash the dishes, pots, and pans you will be using. In the same way, the sin offering and the guilt offering remove the impurity from our vessel so we can receive the nourishment God wants to give. We must clean and detoxify our vessels first. Only after the poison of sin and transgression has been removed can we receive the nourishing, reinforcing spiritual food that God wants to give us.
Using another metaphor, God wants to remove the weeds from the crop. If we add fertilizer before the weeds are removed, the weeds will get an extra boost. If we put the fertilizer on first, it will be wasted. In the same way, we should remove the sins from our lives before nourishing ourselves with God’s spiritual food.
Leviticus 6 ends with the regulations regarding the sin offering, and Leviticus 7 continues to discuss the guilt offering. Although the main purpose of the sin offering and the guilt offering is to reduce, they also reinforce. Both offerings were also used as food for the priests. Speaking of the sin offering, Leviticus 6:26 says, “The priest who offers it for sin shall eat it. In a holy place it shall be eaten, in the court of the tent of meeting.” Speaking of the guilt offering, Leviticus 7:6 says, “Every male among the priests may eat of it. It shall be eaten in a holy place. It is most holy.”
Furthermore, Leviticus 7:8-10 says, “And the priest who offers any man’s burnt offering shall have for himself the skin of the burnt offering that he has offered. And every grain offering baked in the oven and all that is prepared on a pan or a griddle shall belong to the priest who offers it. And every grain offering, mixed with oil or dry, shall be shared equally among all the sons of Aaron.” I had not noticed before that the priests could use the skins of the burnt offering and eat the bread of the grain offering (reinforcement). These verses show us that God provides for us when we serve him.
As you can see, both the sin offering and the guilt offering have a reinforcing effect as well as a reducing effect. Although a given offering’s main goal may be reduction or reinforcement, they all may share both purposes. Let’s consider the example of acupuncture once again. When the acupuncturist rotates the needle, he rotates it to the left or the right at each acupuncture point. In different situations, he either reinforces or reduces the qi, to help keep the patient’s body in balance. In the same way, God used the offerings to simultaneously take care of sin and provide a blessing to the priests.
The peace offering is all-inclusive
In Leviticus 1-5, the peace offering is discussed in the middle of the list of offerings. But in chapters 6-7, it is mentioned last. I believe it comes last because it is an all-inclusive offering. It includes the sin offering, the guilt offering, the grain offering, the wave offering, and the heave offering. This is one of the reasons why the law of the peace offering is placed at the end of the list of offerings.
The peace offering is all-inclusive. First, it includes the bread of the grain offering (Leviticus 7:12). The sacrifice of the peace offering is also burned on the altar of burnt offering (Leviticus 3:5, 4:10). So, does the peace offering include an offering that removes sins? Though this is not mentioned explicitly, the law of the peace offering comes directly after the law of the sin offering and the guilt offering, so I believe the peace offering is rooted in the atonement.
The peace offering represents completion. After God removes our sin and we receive his life supply, we meet with God in a state of yin and yang balance. The peace offering represents the intimacy that Moses shared with God: “The Lord and Moses met on the mercy seat of the ark, and there the Lord spoke to Moses” (Numbers 7:89). Before Moses could meet God in glory and hear Him speak, the blood must be sprinkled on the mercy seat (Numbers 7:89).
In the same way, we can come boldly to the Holy of Holies (the throne of grace) through the blood of Jesus. We are not only covered by Jesus’ blood (the fulfillment of the sin and guilt offerings), but we also hear God speaking to us in glory (the fulfillment of the grain offering). The peace offering includes these two aspects. On the one hand, our sins are removed so that we can draw near to God. On the other hand, we are filled with His divine nature and glory. The peace offering reveals that as God removes our sins and supplies us with his love and provision, we can achieve a state of peace with Him.
The difference between the wave offering and the heave offering
The heave offering and wave offering are discussed in Numbers 8 and Exodus 30. Numbers 8:11 records that Aaron offered the Levites as a wave offering to the Lord. Exodus 30:11-16 states that the Israelites who were numbered were to offer half a shekel as a heave offering to atone for their sins. The rich should not give more, and the poor should not give less. From these two scriptures alone, we can surmise that the heave offering was used for basic atonement, while the wave offering represented further and deeper devotion.
Numbers 18:26 also mentions that the Levites were to tithe on the money they received from the people. They were to offer their tithes as a heave offering to the Lord. God seems to give more regulations regarding the heave offering than he does the wave offering. The Levites could offer their tithe to God as a wave offering, perhaps speaking of deeper holiness and devotion.
There are many similarities between the heave offering and the wave offering. I don’t fully understand the differences between them. As God continues to give me an understanding of the spiritual meaning of these offerings, I hope to share the insights he gives me.
The purpose of the sacrificial regulations was to not only remove sin (sin, guilt, and heave offerings) but also to please God and supply spiritual food to the worshiper (burnt, grain, and wave offerings). The first group of sacrifices reminds us of reduction, which removes the obstacles that hinder our fellowship with God. The second group of sacrifices reminds us of reinforcement, which deepens our fellowship with God. Through eating the heavenly food God gives, we can become partakers of His divine nature and be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. First comes redemption, then transformation. These two aspects are shown clearly in Romans 5:10: “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”
 All Scripture quotations are taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.