If Leviticus seems incomprehensible, a closer look at that book reveals amazing gospel truth about God, our sin and our redemption from a hopeless state.
A short reading in a difficult book
The schedule last week assigned a relatively short reading (Leviticus 1-16) in a book of the Bible which many modern readers find perplexing. This allowed time to read helpful introductory notes from a good study Bible such as the ESV Study Bible or the Reformation Study Bible. I rely on these plus Ryken’s Bible Handbook for help with books like Leviticus.
Exodus brought the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt to covenant nationhood at Mt. Sinai. The covenant which God made with Moses and Israel included law: moral law, civil law, and ceremonial law. The ceremonial law laid out the details of the priesthood, the tabernacle, and the sacrifices. Now in Leviticus, God specifies to Moses how Israel must make the offerings of the sacrifices. Various kinds of sacrifices are designated: burnt offerings, grain offerings, peace offerings, sin offerings, and guilt offerings. Priests and worshipers had to pay close attention to these instructions. God demanded clean and unblemished animals offered according to His law. The blood was important as it was the life of the animal.
Illegal worship brings death
In the middle of all these instructions, the violent deaths of Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, show that God would punish violations to His law concerning these sacrifices and the tabernacle. Not only must the offerings be made properly by the designated priest, but those making offerings were to take care to be ceremonially clean as they came to the tabernacle. God gave instructions so that all could approach the holy God in a holy way.
Chapter 16 describes the day of Atonement on which the high priest would annually enter behind the veil of the Holy Place. On that day, he would make offerings for himself and for the people. The writer to the Hebrews showed how that holy day points to the ultimate sacrifice which Jesus Christ offered, the sacrifice of Himself on the cross.
Here are some observations from this week’s reading:
- God is holy and demands holiness in His people. The biblical doctrine of God does not allow for any theology that holds God to be complacent or ambivalent about violations of His law.
- Sin is serious. Israel had a problem. Indeed, all mankind has a problem. Neither they nor we are holy. God does not find our transgressions cute or excusable.
- Atonement is the only solution for sin. God required a blood sacrifice of an unblemished animal. He set up the old covenant sacrificial system to point to Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Praise God that His Son secured reconciliation with God for all who believe. As the nineteenth century hymn, “Man of Sorrows” by Philip P. Bliss says so well.
Guilty, vile, and helpless, we,
Spotless Lamb of God was He;
Full atonement—can it be?
Hallelujah! what a Savior!
He deserves all praise, always. Our guilt is forgiven. Peace with God is ours through Christ who offered Himself for our sin. That is complete atonement–the price paid for our freedom from sin and guilt. What a Savior!
This week’s reading: Leviticus 17-27 & Acts 1-12.