Wood as a Symbol
“Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24).
When Jesus died at Calvary, he was mounted on a wooden cross. Wood was connected with other offerings offered daily by Israel’s priests. Every day of the year, a lamb was to be offered in the morning, and another later, “between the two evenings,” the time specified also for killing the Passover lamb (Numbers 28:4, Exodus 12:6, margin).
The daily sacrifice of these two lambs represents the same as the Passover lamb, namely, the ransom given by Christ at Calvary. This daily, continual offering symbolizes the once-for-all atonement given by Jesus that is always, continually, efficacious.
Daniel 11:31 refers to this daily offering, picturing the sacrifice of Jesus, that was displaced by the mass during a dark period of church history. “They … shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate.” The once-for-all offering of Jesus was displaced, in Papacy, by a repetitive offering that had no legal merit.
The daily offering was to be a burnt offering. This was one of three main kinds of offerings under the Law: burnt offerings, peace offerings, and sin offerings. The regulations for these are in Leviticus 1 to 7, just following the erection of the Tabernacle in Exodus 40.
The tabernacle was set up on the first day of a new year, one year after the Exodus (Exodus 40:2, 17), the new year representing a new age, the Gospel Age. When completed, “a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of Jehovah filled the tabernacle” (Exodus 40:34). No priesthood was yet established, that would come in Leviticus 8, requiring various sacrifices to inaugurate the priesthood. The rules for those sacrifices thus intervene in Leviticus 1 through 7, given on the same day as Exodus 40.
Three Kinds of Offerings
Leviticus 1 gives directions about burnt offerings. Leviticus 2 is about “meat” or meal offerings, which accompanied various animal sacrifices. Leviticus 3 is about peace offerings. Sometimes peace offerings were “for a thanksgiving” (Leviticus 7:12). In the consecration of the priesthood, the peace offering for that occasion was a “ram of consecration” for sanctifying the priests (Leviticus 8:22). Leviticus 4 is about sin offerings. Leviticus 5:6 introduces a trespass offering, which was a special kind of sin offering.
Leviticus 1 through 6:7 gives specifications for the various offerings. Leviticus 6:8 through 7 adds special features pertaining to the priests. The narrative in chapter eight then applies the three kinds of offerings to the inauguration of the priesthood.
Of interest to us here are the instructions regarding the burnt offering, for the daily offerings were burnt offerings. As the daily offerings were done one in the morning and another later in the day, so Jesus was put on the cross in the morning, and died later in the day. The two lambs offered daily represent the ransom sacrifice of Christ.
Perhaps in these two daily offerings there is an illustration, symbolically, of two classes for which Jesus died, namely, Israelites and Gentiles. Galatians 3:13 says that Jesus suffered the deepest curse of the Law by hanging “on a tree,” the wood of the cross, to deliver Israelites from the burden of the Law. However, when Jesus died in the afternoon, that was for all the children of Adam, including Gentiles. The time Jesus spent on the cross, 6 hours, reminds us that he redeems mankind from 6000 years of sin and death.
Leviticus 1:8,9 specifies that the offering was to be laid “in order upon the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar … a sweet savour unto Jehovah,” as the “sweet savour of Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:15). Notice that this offering was put directly “upon the wood,” just as Jesus was placed on the wood of the cross.
The peace offering in Leviticus 3 is related to this. A peace offering is an offering of appreciation, given after peace with God has been achieved through atonement. A peace offering does not generate peace, it is predicated upon peace. That is why a peace offering follows a burnt offering. When peace is achieved through atonement, then we can present ourselves as a cleansed offering to God.
Peace offerings represent devotion, or consecration. The “ram of consecration” in the inauguration of the priesthood was a peace offering. This connection between the two offerings — atonement, and then devotion — is reflected in Romans 4:25 and 5:1. Jesus “was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The atonement provides us peace with God. Having been justified, now we can be accepted into the new and living way, the heavenly calling. Thus “we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” We enter the hope of glory by giving ourselves in consecration, yielding ourselves as a peace offering.
A peace offering depends upon a previous atoning sacrifice. Notice how this is reflected in the law of the peace offering, in Leviticus 3:5. “Aaron’s sons shall burn it on the altar upon the burnt sacrifice, which is upon the wood that is on the fire.”
The atoning offering, the sacrifice of Jesus, is put right on the wood. The peace offering goes on top of that, showing that the acceptance of our consecration depends on the atoning merit of the sacrifice of Christ Jesus.
The sin offering that follows in Leviticus chapter four is given to cleanse offerers from on-going imperfections and transgressions. Even after we have been redeemed, and entered the narrow way, sin remains in us. The propensity for this needs to be purged from us. This is done by our high priest, who manages the experiences of our life to cleanse us from this propensity. While in the imperfect flesh, we will not attain perfection. But as the new mind is shaped with purer values, when we obtain our perfect heavenly condition, then we will be able to operate without sin.
Jesus was prepared for this role as our priest, to cleanse us from sin, by the experiences that he endured during his ministry. Likewise, the saints are prepared to become priests for mankind in the kingdom, by the experiences that we endure during our service here.
When Jesus Died
“Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the spirit” (Matthew 27:50). As Jesus died, an earthquake shook the land, expressing the momentous consequence of the death of our Savior, the son of God.
The earthquake also had two other results. (1) It rent the veil in the Temple, representing the death of Christ (Hebrews 10:20). (2) “The graves were opened” (Matthew 27:52), expressing that Jesus’ death leads to a universal awakening, “a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust” (Acts 24:15).
“When the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God” (Matthew 27:54). Truly he was. And truly, redemption and life flow from his offering, to every person.