Do you remember how exciting it was to start that Bible reading program on January 1st? Well, Genesis was fine, and Exodus seemed good, at least about half of it did, but now . . . Leviticus. Now you want to quit reading just because your bogged down in Leviticus.
Why do we find it hard to read Leviticus? Well it’s about all these sacrifices and rituals that no longer matter to us. There’s no Tabernacle or Temple, no more sacrifices today, so why bother reading Leviticus at all?
The key to reading Leviticus is to remember that Leviticus is the Word of God. It’s not just rules for ancient Israel but it has transferable principles for our lives today. It’s truth that transcends. For example, one great aspect of Leviticus is that it reminds us of the holiness of God. Even though God desired close fellowship with Israel, they couldn’t just enter His presence as if the Lord were some buddy or pal. He is the Creator of the Universe, the King of the World, and His essence is glorious purity and total holiness. When we read all the rules about approaching God in Leviticus, we need to be reminded of just how holy He is. Most of us know that Peter’s first New Testament letter reminds believers to be holy because God is holy. But do we realize that 1 Peter 1:18 is actually quoting from three separate verses from, you guessed it, Leviticus?
Another example of a transferable truth from Leviticus is found in the entire sacrificial system. There are principles in all the different kinds of sacrifices but the most foundational is in the sin offering. Found in Leviticus 4-5, it shows how a sinner is to present an animal sacrifice, place his or her hand on that animal as a symbolic identification with the animal, sort of a sin transfer from the person to the animal. The animal’s death would follow and the sinning person would be forgiven and live. This is sort of a divine transaction—an exchange of life. The reason this sacrifice is so important is that without it we couldn’t understand the meaning of the Messiah Jesus’ death for us. He presented Himself to God as our sacrifice. Jesus identified with our sin while remaining sinless Himself. Then Jesus died for us, paying the penalty for our sin. If we have faith in His death and resurrection, then the great transaction takes place, His exchange of life. He died that we might live. This whole idea of the Messiah Jesus’ substitution, that “God made Him who knew no sin to be a sin offering on our behalf, that we might be the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor 5:21), wouldn’t be even comprehensible without understanding the sin offering, found in (surprise, surprise), the book of Leviticus.
Here’s one more example of the value of Leviticus for today: when the High Priest was consecrated to serve God, Moses took the ram of ordination, slaughtered it and put some of its blood on Aaron’s right earlobe, right hand, and the big toe of his right foot (Lev 8:22-23). While this might seem weird, there was a purpose. The ear represents hearing; the thumb, doing; and the toe, walking. Basically, it was saying that the High Priest was to be consecrated to serve God every day in every way. He was separated for God’s service, not just when he went into the tabernacle, but every minute of every day. That’s a great reminder to us because in Revelation 1:6, we are called “priests to [our] God and Father.” We are mediating God’s love to this world not just when we are at our congregations or serving in some ministry, but like Aaron, our whole lives, whether at work, school, or play, are to be consecrated to serving God. And this great principle is found in . . . wait for it, Leviticus.
There’s so much more to Leviticus than I can address right here and now. But let’s say this, Leviticus is God’s Word and it can transform our lives. My paraphrase of Proverbs 16:20, says, “He who gives attention to the Word, even the more challenging parts of it, will find good and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord.” So go back and keep reading Leviticus.