Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “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 morning, and the fire of the altar shall be kept burning on it. And the priest shall put on his linen garment, and his linen trousers he shall put on his body, and take up the ashes of the burnt offering which the fire has consumed on the altar, and he shall put them beside the altar. Then he shall take off his garments, put on other garments, and carry the ashes outside the camp to a clean place. And the fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it; it shall not be put out. And the priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and lay the burnt offering in order on it; and he shall burn on it the fat of the peace offerings. A fire shall always be burning on the altar; it shall never go out. (Leviticus 6:8-13)
The Letter Of The Law Was The Law
Examining the Law of Moses it is easy to see there were many details that had to be followed. The daily sacrifices, offerings and many feasts would be an exhausting schedule to keep up with. There were thousands of people assigned various jobs to fulfill the requirements of the Law. What is notable about the instructions are the minute details that fill the pages with what to do and what not to do. The law of the burnt offering is an example of the careful manner the Lord expected the priest to follow. Earlier Moses had instructed Aaron and his sons the burnt offering could be either a bull, male goat or sheep, turtle dove or pigeon. There were two lambs that were offered every day – one in the morning and another at twilight. This would be a continual burnt offering throughout the generations of Israel.
There were specific things required of the priest to maintain the burnt offering. The fire of the altar was to be kept burning without ever going out. This would take a lot of diligence, care and effort to maintain the fire. Someone would have to make certain the supplies for the fire were kept constant. The letter of the law was the requirement to keep a fire going day and night. When the priest came to take the ashes of the burnt offering he was to put on his linen garment and linen trousers. He would then place the ashes beside the altar. The constant burning would create a lot of ashes and this would be a daunting task. It is important to note that while the duties of the priest were very important and filled with the grandeur of the position to honor God, some of his duties were humble reflections of his position before the Lord. Removing the ashes from the altar would remind the priest of his lowly state. Before removing the ashes to a place outside the camp, the priest would once again change his garments. He would then find a clean place outside the camp to dump the ashes. When the nation of Israel settled in a place all of the tribes would encircle the Tent of Tabernacle. Every day the people would see the priest carrying the ashes of the burnt offering far beyond their camp to be disposed out of their sight. This would have been a purposeful lesson every day for the people to remember the grace of a loving God.
Keeping the letter of the law as an important lesson God wanted to impress upon the priest and upon the people. There may have been those who questioned why the fire had to be maintained without end and why the priest had to put on certain clothing to remove the ashes from the altar and then change his clothes to take the ashes outside the camp. Often the Lord tests the faith of His people when He gives them a law to see how faithful they will be in the small matters so that He can see their faithfulness in the larger matters. If a man is unwilling to obey the Lord with small things he will not obey the Lord in weightier matters. What may seem unnecessary at first will be found necessary in the will of God. The law of God has never changed from that path. Before the Law of Moses was given to the people the Lord expected obedience in the small things as well as the larger. Obedience is a willingness to do all the Lord commands without question – because God is always right. This does not regard the wisdom of man whether he understands it or not. Nadab and Abihu (sons of Aaron) offered strange fire and God struck them dead. They failed to appreciate God’s attention to detail.
Religion today is driven by the wisdom of man instead of the law of God. Many things that people do in worship to the Lord are without Biblical foundation. Baptism is rejected as unnecessary because man cannot see the wisdom in being immersed for salvation. Assembling every first day of the week is asking too much. Remembering the sacrifice of Jesus each week is an option. Living a life dedicated to Christ is measured by the whims of carnal thinking. If a person argues the letter of the law they are accused of being ‘commandment keepers’ who deny the grace of God. What men fail to see is the grace of God is enormous but only when the law is observed in the manner prescribed by God. Grace was found in the burnt offerings under the Law of Moses because the Lord took the sins of the people away because of their obedience. When the priest did exactly what the Lord required God blessed the people with His love. Grace and works are inseparable. The letter of the law is the law and without the letter of the law there can be no salvation.