When people desire to read the Bible all the way through, and they begin with Genesis, they can typically make it through Genesis and Exodus pretty easily. Genesis has a few genealogies that are sometimes difficult to make it through, and the second half of Exodus is about the Tabernacle and priestly garments and these sorts of things that are “boring”. But most people have the determination to make it through Exodus…
And then comes Leviticus.
When we read of Paul saying we are no longer “under law”, we think of Leviticus. This is by far the one book of the Old Testament that has caused for nightmares in many Christians. Yet, it is easily within my top five favorite books of the Bible. So, it seemed like when starting a new series of teachings for my faithful blog readers to go through, Leviticus was the best choice for attracting a lot of attention.
The book of Leviticus starts the same way that anyone would write a book… with a lot of rules and regulations regarding sacrifices…
I want to restore the beauty of Leviticus. Why would we have this book in the Bible if in a few thousand years after it is written it is suddenly “obsolete”? We find in Leviticus 1:2 the words, “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them: When any man brings of an offering to the LORD, bring as your offering an animal from either the herd or the flock.” In this, the people of Israel knew what was happening. God was essentially saying, “If anyone wants to draw close to me, this is how you do it.” So, the book starts with this idea of offering, which in the cultural context of that day was how you appease the gods. Here we find that God is about to give the regulations to appease Him, and how to draw close to Him through relationship with Him. At this point, many people like to scoff and say, “This is total crap. Why would God require a sacrifice?” Two things. First, this is a culture that wasn’t as “enlightened” as you. Second, there is something bigger being communicated that we are too quick to skip by.
In Leviticus 1-7, we find that there are several offerings that are to be brought to God, the Lord. The first one is called the burnt offering. We find in Leviticus 1:4 that the person places his hand upon the head of the animal to transfer his sin to it. So, basically this offering is to take away our sins and wash us clean before God. So, because I know that I’m not all right, and that I have these things in my life that is obviously contrary to God, I want to get right before God. Thus, the burnt offering comes first.
Second, after the burnt offering has taken away my sin and made me clean before God, I offer the grain offering. Leviticus 2 tells us that the grain offering is supposed to be flour mixed with oil. This represents my dedication of my life. I don’t simply say, “Good! Now I’m clean! Time to keep on sinning.” Instead, I offer the grain offering as a memorial, remembering that I was unclean before God – a sinner – and I have now been drawn nigh by the blood of the lamb. So this is a celebration, but also a reminder. I say to God through the grain offering, which is not a blood sacrifice, that I devote myself to always remembering what He has done for me on my behalf.
Next we come to the fellowship offering. In Leviticus 3, we see that the inward parts of the animal are taken out and the hide, flesh, and dung are all burned outside of the camp. Now, this is important to note. While the burnt offering is representative of God justifying me, and proclaiming me clean before Him, and the grain offering is about me thanking God for my new freedom that He has given me, the fellowship offering is a celebratory offering that I now have fellowship with God. It gets burnt on top of the burnt offering, almost as a symbol that the burnt offering is the foundation to my life. The burnt offering represents me being clean before God – forgiven of my sins. And now, from that foundation of being right before God, I celebrate with the fellowship offering that I am now in fellowship with God. The inward parts are offered on the altar, because God desires truth in the inward parts (Psalm 51:6).
From there we find the sin offering in Leviticus 4. We read about the offering for unintentional sins. Basically, God has cleaned me of my sin, He has caused me to remember His goodness toward me, and we celebrate the fact that I have fellowship with Him and truth in the inward parts, but I still have blind spots. I still have things in my life that are going to need to be dealt with. So, God has prescribed the sacrifice for this. Now, this sacrifice, and the rules regarding it, take up two whole chapters. This is the only sacrifice that takes such amount of space in Leviticus. That should cause us to pause for a moment. Why is this one sacrifice so long? Why are there so many rules regarding it? It is because we find that even though we’re clean before God, and even though He has caused us to have truth in the inward parts, we still stumble. We’re still growing. We’re still maturing. So, there are many different rules and guidelines regarding this. Because we are still sinners, even after coming to Christ, we need to know that in all things we have a propitiation for our sins.
This brings us to the guilt offering. In Leviticus 5:15, God tells Moses that the person who commits sin unintentionally is still guilty. We still have a seared conscience, and we still have consequences that we need to pay. So, God is giving us a sacrifice to tell us that once this has been done, it’s done. Once you’ve brought your burnt offering, you are now clean. You don’t need to bring anymore. Once you’ve brought the grain offering, I know that you will remember the covenant. Once you’ve brought the fellowship offering, you have entered fellowship with me forever. Once you have brought the sin offering, I have forgiven even your unintentional sins. Once you have brought the guilt offering, it doesn’t matter what your conscience says. You are right before me. Period. You don’t need to keep bringing more and more to appease me. This is all I require.
Now, in Leviticus 6-7, we have a recap. Why? We know why. Though God proclaims that these offerings are all it takes, and He doesn’t require that we keep giving more and more and more and more and more to appease Him, we still sin. We still fall short. So, we still need to bring sacrifices year after year after year, because we still desire to have right relationship before God.
But here is the thing. I’ve been mentioning this “offering more” stuff. There is this mindset deep in the heart of mankind about the altar. If I bring my first fruits as an offering, and God accepts it, and I get blessed in the next year, how much do I bring next time? If I bring the same amount, then wouldn’t that upset God? I mean, He blessed me, and now I’m going to give Him the same sacrifice as last year, as if that will show my gratitude?
But what about the other side? What if I have a terrible year and a terrible harvest? It hasn’t rained in 18 months, and my family is barely scraping by… What do I bring? If I bring the same amount that I’ve brought before, then would God really be pleased? I mean, isn’t that why I’m facing such hard times?
This is why God says, “You bring this, and you’re done.” No, you don’t have to give more just because you’re blessed, and no you don’t have to give more when you haven’t been blessed. God sets a standard, and that is it. Go in peace. You’re good. When we read later in the New Testament that we have been set free from the law, and that we no longer serve the law, or are no longer under law, this is what is being said. Where the old covenant seemed to still keep people in bondage, and the blood of bulls and goats could never set us free from this endless cycle, we are now under a new covenant. We are now part of something bigger. No longer do we look to the blood of goats and bulls and lambs. We now look to the blood of Christ Jesus, for it is through Him that we have been atoned. It is through Him that we are able to remember and keep progressing forward in our relationship with God. It is through Christ that we have fellowship with God. It is through Christ that we have our sins forgiven, and we no longer have guilt to condemn us, for Christ is greater than our hearts!
This is the point of Leviticus. We should be able to see Christ as our ultimate sacrifice. At the same time, we should see the implications for ourselves, for we are living sacrifices unto God. As we continue through our series, may God continue to open your heart and mind to Christ, and may you see the glory of His work on the heavenly altar.