The Psalm of the Burnt Offering
The death of our Lord Jesus Christ is presented in different ways in Scripture. God, in type and shadow, has set it forth most marvelously in the first seven chapters of the book of Leviticus. There we read of five offerings: the burnt offering, the meal offering, the peace offering, the sin offering, and the trespass offering. These are all different but they all set forth various aspects of the person and work of our Lord Jesus. The meal offering pictures His humanity linked with His deity. The peace offering presents Him as the One who made peace by the blood of His cross. The sin offering shows us the sinless One made sin that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. The trespass offering tells us that Christ died for our sins, that He bore our sins in His own body on the tree. But the burnt offering presents in some respects the view of the work of the cross that was more precious to God than all the rest for it presents the Lord Jesus dying upon that cross primarily in order that He might glorify God His Father in the scene where He had been so terribly dishonored by man’s sin. The remarkable fact about all the other offerings is this, parts of them were presented on the altar and went up to God, other parts were divided among the people and the priests. They were the food of the people of God. But the whole burnt offering was placed on the altar and it was all consumed, it all went up to God. He calls it “My offering, My food.” There was something in the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ that no one could understand but God Himself. There was something about it that you and I could never enter into, could never appreciate in its fullness, something that God alone could enter into, God alone could appreciate.
This 40th Psalm is really the Psalm of the burnt offering. The 22nd is the Psalm of the sin offering and that is the Psalm where we hear the Lord crying out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1). The 69th is the Psalm of the trespass offering and there we hear the Saviour exclaim from the cross, “I restored that which I took not away” (verse 4). The 85th is the Psalm of the peace offering and we read there, “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other” (verse 10). But in this 40th Psalm we have the Lord Jesus presented as coming into the world and going to the cross for the express purpose of doing the Father’s will, and that is the burnt offering.
The first five verses tell of the depths of anguish into which He went and the deliverance that God gave Him. He says, “I waited patiently for Jehovah; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.” We take these words rightfully into our own lips and we who are saved look back to the hole of the pit from which we were saved and sing sometimes, “He took me out of the pit and from the miry clay.” Through grace we have a right to sing those words but the pit in which we lay was as nothing to that into which He went in order that He might redeem us. He had to know infinitely more of the awfulness of sin and the horror of separation from God than you and I ever could possibly know. The most abject soul in the pit of woe will suffer only for his own sins but our blessed Lord on the cross bare the iniquity of us all. He had to drink to the full the cup of divine judgment against sin. The pit into which He sank was a horrible one indeed but He came up again in triumph.
We hear Him say in verse 3, “And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord.” The new song is the song of redemption. Naturally when we read of a new song, the question arises in our minds, what is the old song? The old song is the song of creation. Away back in the book of Job we read, “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? …when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:4 and 7). What a song that was when this world in all its pristine beauty sprang fresh from its Maker’s hand and went circling off into space! Holy angels in rapture sang at the sight of it and all the hosts of God shouted for joy but that song soon died away into a sad, bitter wail for sin came in and blighted that fair creation and God was dishonored in the universe that He had made. Then our Lord Jesus came and He went down into the depths in which sin had cast men in order that He might lift us out. He went to the cross to glorify God who had been so terribly dishonored by man’s sin and folly. And when He came forth from the tomb He was prepared to start the new creation singing. He leads the chorus. “He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God.” we read in the 22nd Psalm, “In the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.”
“Join in the singing that He leadeth,
Now to God your voices raise;
Every step that we have trodden
Is a triumph of His grace.”
He is the leader of the Heavenly choir. When we turn to the book of the Revelation, where we get a sight into heaven itself, we see the elders gathered about the throne and they sing a new song. It is a song of praise “unto him who shed his blood to redeem us to God.” Do you know that new song? No one will join in the new song over yonder and sing with the heavenly choir who has not learned the words down here. Unless you can say on earth, “Unto him that loveth us, and hath washed us from our sins in his own blood” (Revelation 1:5) you will never be able to sing it over there. We learn the song down here, we sing it here in our poor feeble way but after “this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave,” up yonder we shall sing as never before. When the resurrection of these bodies takes place and we gather about our great Choir Master in the glory how we will make the courts of heaven ring with this new song. And so our blessed Lord Jesus indicates what would be the blessed portion of those that trust Him, “Blessed is that man that maketh the Lord his trust, and respecteth not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies.” Then as He looks back to the depths of sorrow through which He went and sees how wonderfully God His Father has brought Him through, He exclaims, “Many, O Lord my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.”
In verses 6 to 8 you have Him very definitely as the one who fulfills all these sacrificial shadows. Listen to Him speaking, “Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt-offering and sin-offering hast thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.” What is He really saying here? God had no real pleasure out of all those sacrifices and offerings under the law. Why? Because they could never put away sin. They were just figures, types, shadows. They bore practically the same relationship to the work of the cross that a promissory note bears to the payment of a debt. It is getting the hard cash when the note falls due that gives one satisfaction. And so whenever an Israelite under law presented his offering, if he came as a repentant man to God in faith he was like a man giving his note to God acknowledging his indebtedness and the Lord Jesus was the endorser of every note and said, as it were, “Someday I will settle them all,” and when He came to the earth and went to the cross, He paid everything.
“Jesus paid all my debt,
Oh wondrous love!
Widest extremes He met,
Oh wondrous love.
Justice is satisfied,
God now is glorified,
Heaven’s gate thrown open wide,
Oh wondrous love.”
Sacrifices and offerings of old did not please the heart of God but Jesus says, “Lo, I come”—I will go down into that world; I will become man; I will become a servant, and as a servant I am going to do the will of Him that sent me; I will go to the cross to do Thy will O God, for “Thy law is within my heart.” It is the burnt offering, the blessed Saviour going to Calvary to do the will of God, and if not one soul were ever saved as a result of the work of the cross, if everybody spurned it and if every one rejected it, yet God has gotten more glory by the perfect obedience of His Son unto death than He ever lost by all of Adam’s sin and all the sin that has come into the world since, because every sinner was but a finite creature but He who came to do the will of the Father is the infinite One. Our sin is finite but His obedience is infinite. At last One has been found to whom the will of God was the most precious thing in all the universe. We need to dwell on that side of it. We are apt to become too occupied with the work of the cross for us. But God has been glorified in the work. And so in the 17th of John, anticipating the cross, we hear the Lord Jesus say, “I have glorified thee on the earth, I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.”
And now the Psalm carries us on to the resurrection. “I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo, I have not refrained my lips, O Lord, thou knowest.” God’s righteousness has been sustained and maintained in the work of the cross and now the message of righteousness goes out to a lost world for that is what the Gospel is,—it is God’s message to lost men telling them that the righteousness of God which once was against them is now for them. “I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy loving-kindness and thy truth from the great congregation.” And so, speaking to the Father as man He can count on him to bring all this to fruition.
“Withhold not thou thy tender mercies from me, O Lord.” We think of Him again as the man on His way to the cross. “Let thy loving-kindness and thy truth continually preserve me. For innumerable evils have compassed me about.” Now notice this next expression, Mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of mine head: therefore my heart faileth me.” These words could not possibly be used by the Lord Jesus Christ because He had no iniquity but He went into judgment and confessed our iniquities as His, and by refusing to speak, He was “brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). They laid to His charge things He knew not but He had nothing to say and they took silence for guilt. He stood there silent in the judgment and went to the cross to bear our guilt, made our sins His own, and died for them in order that we might live. So He turns over everything to the hand of God. “Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me: O Lord, make haste to help me. Let them be ashamed and confounded together that seek after my soul to destroy it, let them be driven backward and put to shame that wish me evil. Let them be desolate for a reward of their shame that say unto me Aha, aha.” That is, if men will not put their trust in the work of the cross, there can be nothing but judgment for them. If they spurn the death of Jesus there is nothing but sorrow and desolation left. On the other hand, if men put their trust in Him oh then, “Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: let such as love thy salvation say continually, The Lord be magnified.” Are you saying that? Are you able to say from the heart, “The Lord be magnified?” Paul says, “I have only one object in life and that is that Christ may be magnified in me whether in life or in death.”
But now we hear Messiah speaking once more as from the cross just before He died, “But I am poor and needy; yet Jehovah thinketh upon me: thou art my help and my deliverer, make no tarrying, O my God.” How do you know that the Psalm refers to the Lord Jesus Christ? How do you know that it really presents Him as the Great Burnt Offering? Turn to Hebrews 10 and get the divine comment on this Psalm. The first verse, “For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by years continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins.” But there was not value enough in those sacrifices to purge a guilty conscience. “But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” But now listen, “Wherefore when he cometh into the world (and now you get the 40th Psalm), he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: in burnt-offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt-offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; then said he, “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first (that is, the Old Testament sacrifices, He puts an end to them), that he may establish the second.” His cross stands eternally as the witness that God has been glorified and the sin question settled. “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”