God gave his decrees and commands and told the people of Israel to be careful to obey them so that they might experience peace, victory, and overflowing of crops. And above all the presence of God with His people. There were blessings for obedience and serious consequences for being disobedient. God gave direct instruction to the Israelites for everyday life to deal with sin and rebellion. God did not expect his people to be sinless, he asked them to be honest. This is something that still applies to this day. God gave specific instructions on how to draw near to Him. He gave these instructions in order for our benefit in this life and eternally with Him. He constantly reminds the Israelites that He has saved them in the past and will not forsake His promises with them. God declared “I will live among you and not despise you, I will walk among you, I will be your God, and you will be my people I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt so you would no longer be their slaves. I broke the yoke of slavery from your neck so you can walk with your heads held high.” We can be encouraged that the Lord will show favor to us when we walk in obedience to Him and that the ultimate blessing is walking with God in His presence.
Ok, this is kind of humorous. Giving the rule follower (me) the opportunity to blog about the ultimate rulebook of rulebooks.
I’ve read Leviticus a few times in my life, and the results have been mostly the same for me. Why all the rules? I get it the rules set out by God for his people in those days pretty much kept His people alive. One thing that I am still amazed and reminded of is Gods detail in the smallest of things and the gravity of not following His directives especially when it came to His temple and the Holy of Holies. Or when His people were to move into a new land that God deemed defiled.
But something hit me this time, and I am sure that it’s because we came off of the New Testament Challenge last year, but this time I found Jesus here. For example when Jesus cured the leper in Luke 17:14 he told the one healed to “Go and let the priest examine you.” Can you imagine the priest when the leper showed up? I’m pretty sure that he had to scratch his head wondering why there was this rush in leaper examinations and cures.
Yes, I confess that Leviticus is not on par with a Tom Clancy novel and will never be made into a blockbuster movie but, Leviticus is still profoundly relevant the way it deals with sin and the results of sin.
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!