Some years ago, my brother and my two sisters and I were tasked with the responsibility of disposing of my mother’s possessions, due to her own physical incapacity to do so.
Recently, my bride and I, along with my younger sister and our brother, have been similarly challenged with a similar task to deal with my brother’s possessions and his belongings, since, due to health reasons, he is now unable to do so for himself.
Both of these tasks brought similar memories to light. We have discovered in my brother’s home various belongings that have triggered some very treasured memories of our parents – a special genuine gold necklace that belonged to my mother, my father’s first (and only) slide rule.
As well, I came across a letter that my grandfather had written to my father when he (my father) was only nineteen years old. That was indeed a treasured possession.
Also included there are treasured pictures which had been entrusted to my brother. These are family heirlooms that will always be honored and treasured by each of us as we grow older and ponder the legacy we leave for our children.
There are any number of family and individual portraits. There are bridal pictures and wedding albums from our weddings. There are graduation pictures, and birthday pictures, vacation pictures, and … well … and just everyday living pictures!
Thinking about all of those pictures, I am drawn to the picture drawn repeatedly throughout the Scriptures of the Messiah’s love for His chosen people. One cannot turn to the Old Testament book of Leviticus without almost seeing this as a family picture album depicting the relationships of the children of Israel with their Heavenly Father.
In the first five chapters of this book we see the depictions of the various offerings that the children of Israel were commanded to bring before the Lord. First, they were to bring burnt offerings to the Lord, thus signifying the worshipper’s complete and total devotion to God.
Second, they were to bring a meal or grain offering, pointing to the provision of God and His perfection in allowing the harvest to be completed.
The third offering described is the peace offering, the sacrifice here was intended to demonstrate the peace that God wishes to have with his children.
The fourth and fifth offerings described in these chapters are referred to as the sin offering and the guilt, or trespass, offering. These two sacrifices were obviously designed to demonstrate the recognition of the worshipper that he was indeed a sinner and therefore unworthy to come into the presence of the Lord at all.
These two offerings were attempts to “atone” for the sins of the worshippers and to make things right before the Lord.
It is interesting to note that there is a comment made in the Scriptures following each of the first three offerings which is not made after the last two.
Each of these three – the burnt, grain, and peace offerings – were said to be “an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the Lord.” (Check out Leviticus 1:9, for example). In other words, if these offerings were presented as described, they would be a sweet-smelling and satisfactory means to approach the Lord God of Israel.
These offerings thus were acceptable to the Lord.
This same comment is not made about the other two offerings – the sin and the guilt offering.
But it is not that they were not acceptable to God; rather it is that the reason they were necessary to be offered to God was a repulsive one – My sin and MY guilt!
Well, friends, these Old Testament offerings are a picture of the real thing! We can look at them and fondly remember what God was seeking from His children.
In fact, in Ephesians 5:1-2, we have the reality of those Old Testament pictures stated as well… that Christ “also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”
The reality is that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross at Calvary accomplished for good what those Old Testament sacrifices could only accomplish for a time. And the very same commentary is made about His sacrifice as about those Old Testament sacrifices – that it was a fragrant, or soothing, aroma, to God, a living picture of love.
And, as we enter into the holiest season of the year for those who follow Christ, that sweet-smelling aroma indeed is a memory, a legacy, a treasured remembrance!
And what’s more, God calls us to demonstrate that same love towards others – to give of ourselves rather than to grab for ourselves – when, in that same verse, He tells us to “walk in love.”
Will you treasure that picture of God’s love? I hope so. But I also hope you will do more than savor the memory of it. He commands you to share the ministry of it with others! That is the message of Easter!
God bless …
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the News Journal and a former pastor in the area. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.