Up In Smoke
The Bible term burnt offering is based upon the original Hebrew word pronounced oh-law, meaning ascending, as in going upward in smoke (the word holocaust is based on the same original Hebrew term, a word which in the twentieth century took on a much different, and far more wicked and horrible meaning - see Hate Jews?). Burnt offerings symbolized the total dedication of the offering unto God (completely consumed by fire so that it was available for nothing else), and the ascending (the rising smoke) of the offering to God in heaven.
Old Testament Examples
- "Then Noah built an altar to The Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar." (Genesis 8:20 RSV) (see The Flood)
- "After these things God tested Abraham, and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here am I." He said, "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains of which I shall tell you" ... "He said, "Do not lay your hand on the lad or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me." And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son." (Genesis 22:1-2,12-13 RSV)
- Then Pharaoh called Moses, and said, "Go, serve The Lord; your children also may go with you; only let your flocks and your herds remain behind." But Moses said, "You must also let us have sacrifices and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice to The Lord our God." (Exodus 10:24-25 RSV)
- "The Lord said to Moses, "Command Aaron and his sons, saying, This is the law of the burnt offering. The burnt offering shall be on the hearth upon the altar all night until the morning, and the fire of the altar shall be kept burning on it. And the priest shall put on his linen garment, and put his linen breeches upon his body, and he shall take up the ashes to which the fire has consumed the burnt offering on the altar, and put them beside the altar. Then he shall put off his garments, and put on other garments, and carry forth the ashes outside the camp to a clean place. The fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it, it shall not go out; the priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and he shall lay the burnt offering in order upon it, and shall burn on it the fat of the peace offerings. Fire shall be kept burning upon the altar continually; it shall not go out." (Leviticus 6:8-13 RSV) (see The Tabernacle In The Wilderness)
- Other examples: every Sabbath (Numbers 28:9-10), the monthly burnt offering (Numbers 28:11), Passover (Numbers 28:19-23), Pentecost (Leviticus 23:16-18), Feast of Trumpets (Leviticus 23:23-25), Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:27), the consecration of Aaron (Exodus 29:15-18), the dedication of the Temple (1 Kings 8:62-64), free-will burnt offerings (Leviticus 1:13), the accession of Solomon (1 Chronicles 29:21)
New Testament Perspective
"For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices which are continually offered year after year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered? If the worshipers had once been cleansed, they would no longer have any consciousness of sin. But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin year after year. For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins."
"Consequently, when Christ came into the world, He said, "Sacrifices and offerings Thou hast not desired, but a body hast thou prepared for Me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings Thou hast taken no pleasure. Then I said, 'Lo, I have come to do Thy will, O God,' as it is written of me in the roll of the book."
"When He said above, "Thou hast neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings," these are offered according to the law, then He added, "Lo, I have come to do Thy will." He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."
"And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God, then to wait until His enemies should be made a stool for His feet. For by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified."
"And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, "This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says The Lord: I will put My laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds," then He adds, "I will remember their sins and their misdeeds no more." Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin."
"Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way which He opened for us through the curtain [see The Day Of Atonement], that is, through His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."
"For if we sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins [see The Unpardonable Sin], but a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire which will consume the adversaries." (Hebrews 10:1-27 RSV)
Fact Finder: Should Christians offer themselves as living sacrifices, that is, by obeying God in our daily lives?