When I read Leviticus I was struct with a new thought. If you take a loftier view of the detailed instructions to make offerings to God and the various roles, I saw a language of relationship. How do I, the one created, stay in relationship with a Perfect Holy God. This was unique to the Old Testament times.
It is the key idea that gets expressed. It is easy to read this book and just get lost in the details of this offering and that offering, for correcting different states a person, a leader, a community, or a people have done or not done. It is strange to me, a person living in a predominately, information/technology rich world, to think of all the animal and grain sacrifices required in this language of relationship. I did not grow up on a farm!
It was the Old Testament that really introduced to me to the essential idea of a Perfect Holy God. A superior being that cannot be in the same space as anything evil. God crushes anything evil, sinful, or unrighteous. It is not comfortable to know this. Nor do I fully understand it. Why it has to be this way. The grand narrative does hang together for me. I see how the OT and NT support each other. Jesus is the glue between the two.
The cost for NOT being in good relationship with God is high. Justice is swift when any sinful creature breaks the protocol when serving a Perfect Holy God. Aaron’s two sons, Nadab and Aliha, were set on fire for a simple mistake that was egregious to God. God’s grace is revealed in the dialog between Moses and Aaron when Aaron responds on behalf of his other two son’s mistakes when they failed to eat a certain sacrifice.
‘ “Today my sons presented both their sin offering and their burnt offering to the LORD. And yet this tragedy has happened to me. If I had eaten the people’s sin offering on such a tragic day as this, would the LORD have been pleased?” And when Moses heard this, he was satisfied.’
The ritual language maintains a dialog between humankind and God through the ‘ aroma ‘. The visible smoke and smells God senses from these offerings. The verbs or actions of this ritual relationship language are:
1. Burnt Offering
2. Sin offering
3. Guilt Offering
4. Voluntary Offering
5. Peace Offering
6. Ordination Offering
7. Special Offering
There is tremendous symbolism in what parts are for God, for the priests, for the people, and what needs to be kept away from a Perfect Holy God. The Israelites lived in a nomadic and then an agrarian society. There is tremendous ongoing cost in terms of giving to God my defect free animals/grains for sacrifice (wealth), my attention, my time, and self-awareness of how to be ‘righteous’ and ‘clean’ before God in the world that is unrighteous and unclean before God. The OT presents a never ending set of rituals!