In Old Testament times, believers could bring offerings on different occasions and in different personal circumstances. Different objects they were allowed to “offer” included clean animals, grain, or drink, as well as other things. The animal sacrifice is the oldest element in the sanctuary service, and together with the priestly service, it belongs to the center of the Israelite service. Religious life without sacrifice was inconceivable.
God established the sacrificial system so that believers could enter into a close relationship with Him. This is why offerings could be brought in all different kinds of situations: for thanksgiving, for an expression of joy and celebration, for a gift, for a petition for forgiveness, for a penitential plea, for a symbol of dedication, or for restitution.
Among the most important types of offerings were the burnt offering (Leviticus 1) and the grain offering (Leviticus 2), as well as the peace, or well-being offering (Leviticus 3), the purification offering (Leviticus 4), and the reparation (trespass) offering (Lev. 5:14–6:7). The first three were voluntary offerings, which were to remind the giver (and us) that, in the end, everything that we are and all that we have belong to God. The burnt offering symbolizes the total dedication of the one making the offering. The grain offering symbolizes the dedication of our material possessions to God, whether they be food, animals, or something else. The well-being offering is the only sacrifice in which the participant receives a part of the offering for personal consumption.
The other two sacrifices were obligatory. They reminded the people that, though wrongs have consequences, those wrongs can be“healed.” The purification offering, often called “sin offering,” was offered after ritual defilement or after the person became aware of a moral defilement through sin.
The widespread function of the offerings shows that every aspect of our life must come under God’s control. How can you learn to surrender completely everything you have, or are, to Him? What happens when you don’t do this?