I am on vacation until August 5th. While away I will post some of my notes from a series I have started at the Church on the Overview of the Old Testament…..
This morning we will be looking at the book of Leviticus.
This is another one of the Old Testament books which Christians tend not to rush to study. lronically, it was one of the first books studied by a jewish child.
ln summary the content of Leviticus is: Various laws having to do with holiness before God and love of neighbor, including sacrifices, ritual, cleanness and social obligations, as well as laws for the levites regarding their priestly duties.
The books AIM is all about getting it right with regard to worship, for both the priests and the people.
Leviticus picks up exactly where Exodus left off… the Lord speaking to Moses from the tent of meeting and saying “speak to the lsraelites and say…”. Each new section of Leviticus is signaled by the phrase “The Lord said to Moses….”
Lev. 4:1 Lev. 5.14 Lev. 6:1
The LORD said to Moses, The LORD said to Moses: *The LORD said to Moses:
To get the most out of reading and understanding Leviticus you must remember two things: (1) these laws are part of God’s covenant with lsrael and therefore they are not just religious rites but are all about relationships; (2) Leviticus
is part of the wider narrative of the pentateuch and must be understood in the light of what has happened and what will happen.
Let’s look at the seconded point first. The context of Leviticus is lsrael camped at the foot of Sinai. They will spend a year here being molded into the people of God and being prepared for the journey into the promised land.
They will need protection – from various diseases and from one another! ln order for this group of people who grew up in slavery to be formed into God’s people they need to get right with God and they need to get right with each other.
This is always the order.
Exodus 19:5-6 says ‘Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’
God promises to make lsrael his own treasured possession. And their role is to serve God as priests for the world!
And to do this they must bear his likeness.
God promises to bless lsrael. And in return God asks that israel maintains a holy awe and obedience towards him – this is what it means to be covenantal.
Leviticus can be split into two parts – Chps 1-16 = the Levitical Code – regulations for the people and the priests related directly to the tabernacle. Chp 17 onwards deals with the holiness code – how the people are to be holy as I am holy.
The people of God are to be LIKE God and therefore they are to be holy – not just outwardly in their rituals, but also inwardly in their heart – and the result of this would be evident in their relationship with everything else!
Where Exodus is all about redemption, Leviticus is about Sanctification – receiving God’s mercies and acceptance should be followed by Holy living and spiritual growth.
The central act in Leviticus is the Sacrificial offerings.
For the most part Leviticus tells you WHAT to do, but necessarily the theology behind WHY you should do it. That appears to be already known. The only WHY verse is Lev 17:11:
For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.
So why did God ask for sacrifices? To answer this we need to go back again to the Garden of Eden.
Adam and Eve are the only human beings who lived in a world which did not require any sacrifices. But when they disobeyed God in Gen 3, what was the first thing God did for Adam and Eve after he gives the judgment? (v21)
He clothes them with skins of an animal. He covers their shame, their nakedness with the skins of a dead animal.
Now this means that an animal in eden was killed. My own theory is that this was the pre-incarnate Jesus – the second person of the Trinity, who having given the judgment to Adam and Eve and to Satan for their rebellion,
as well as having given them a glimpse of the solution he (the coming seed of the woman) will crush your head, and
you (the serpent) will strike his heel, proceeds to kill an anmial in the Garden of Eden to clothe Adam and Eve. death had not just entered into Adam and Eve’s life but into the whole creation.
So God’s response in eden was to sacrifice an animal in order to cover the shame of Adam and Eve. This is the beginning of the sacrificial system. Notice that Cain and Abel offer sacrifices to God although we are not given any indication that they were commanded to. They just knew, from their parents, that that is what they must do. Again, long before Moses and the law, Noah leaves the Ark and does what – offer a sacrifice to God – Gen 8:20.
Job – probably the oldest book in the Bible has Job offering sacrifices for his children (1 :5).
So, by the time Moses is told to give the contents of Leviticus to the lsraelites, sacrifice is not a new issue – it is here, however, codified into a system which incorporates the cultic practices of the nation.
The sacrificial worship of lsrael is detailed in the first seven chapters of Leviticus. Every step was minutely revealed to Moses concerning the five offerings, from the animals to be offered to the duties of the priests who functioned as mediators between God and lsrael. From sunup to sundown, every day of the year, thousands of
animals were paraded before the priests, killed, and their blood sprinkled on the altar. There is no significance to the order in which the offerings appear in Leviticus. The first offering listed, the burnt offering, should follow the sin offering, but a number of reasons have been presented for the burnt offering being given first. lt was the first offering mentioned in Scripture (Gen. 8:20) and was-the offering most frequently presented by the patriarchs long before the
Mosaic law stipulated the specific sacrifices to be offered. Most likely the burnt offering encompassed the sin offering in the patriarchal period. The Lord instructed Abraham to offer lsaac as a burnt offering (Gen. 22:2); it was the
offering Moses performed in the desert after leaving Egypt 10
(Ex. 5:3); both Jethro (Ex. 1B:12) and job (Job 1:5) offered it long before the giving of the law at Sinai. lt was continually offered as a perpetual sacrifice, night and day, on major feast days and at new moons in lsrael. The term burnt sacrifice (v. 3) comes from the Hebrew word olah, meaning to ascend upwards, and refers to the whole offering that was consumed on the altar and ascended to God. Finally, since the whole sacrifice was consumed on the altar, it represented the fullest form of lsrael’s consecration and worship.
The different offerings were:
The burnt offering most costly offering there is, since it is completely burned up with nothing left (except for the skin,
which the priest kept). The motive for offering the burnt offering are thanksgiving, penitence, vows, and self- dedication. The mention of “a pleasing aroma” (1 :9″ 13.
17) implies that the sacrifice results in the Lord’s favor toward the offerer. Three options are provided regarding the material of the sacrifice-a bull, small livestock (such as a sheep or a goat), and a bird-but all were to be from the offerer’s own prior possession (y2).
Grain offering typically consisted of four elements: (1) fine flour; (2) oil; (3) frankincense; and (4) salt (see 2:11-
13). They could be brought either uncooked (vv. 1-O) or cooked (vv. 4-10). The priest would not burn the entire offering but only a handful as a “memorial portion” (see note on vv. 1-3). The grain offering would ordinarily be
offered with a burnt or peace offering and probably served the same purpose as the offering it accompanied, whether for petition or for praise.
The Peace Offering. This offering achieves and expresses peace or fellowship between an offerer and the Lord. The ritual as a whole symbolizes a communion meal that is held between the offerer, the officiating priest, and the Lord. ln OT times such meals were a means of affirming a covenant relationship (Gen. 26:28-30). Generally speaking, then, this offering was a time to remember and reaffirm the covenant relationship between the Lord and lsrael (cf. 1 Cor. 10:16-1 8; 11:23-26).As with the burnt offering, there are various specific motives for offering a peace offering, ranging from petition to
praise. ln this chapter, though, the entire emphasis is on the procedure for the offering, with a special focus on the burning of the fat.
The Sin Offering. Cf. 6:24-30. ln this section the focus of the sin offering (Hb. khatta’t) is on making amends for one’s broken relationship with the Lord, caused either by unintentionally violating one of the Lord’s prohibitive commandments (4:1-35) or by failing to do something that one was required to do (5:1-13). (ln other places the focus will be on addressing severe cases of uncleanness; e.9.,
12:6; 14:19: 15:15, 30.) The sin offering is distinguished from other offerings in that the ritual can vary according to the sinner’s position before the Lord (e.g., the type of animal required or what the priest does with the blood). In
ch. 4 the ritual for the sin of the anointed priest and that of the whole congregation is basically the same, while the ritual for a leader and a common individual is the same. A core part of the ritual is the sprinkling of blood (4:6. 17). Since this is a purifying act (cf. 16:19), it implies that the holy objects are considered to be defiled by the sins of the people. Because of this-and the fact that this offering occurs to address uncleanness as well-some have preferred to call the offering a “purification offering” instead of a “sin offering.” ln either case, the offering deals with the sin or impurity of the offerer, culminating in the Day of Atonement ritual in ch. 16. ln this regard it foreshadows the essence of the Messiah’s atoning work on the cross.
The Guilt Offering. Cf. 7:1-10. The distinction between the offenses covered by the guilt offering and the offenses
related to the sin offering is puzzling. ln general, however, the offenses here appear to be more serious, as shown by the fact that the sacrificial animal is more costly (a male
instead of a female) and that the sins are described as a “breach of faith” (5:15). The word translated.”guilt offering” (Hb. ‘asham) is used elsewhere with the sense of “compensation lreparation for guilt” (5:6), and the offering as a whole serves to repair the relationship between sinners and the Lord. This has led some to call this a “reparation offering.
Why such an elaborate system of sacrifices?
1.that the people would know that atonement must be made to God for sins
2.that they recognized that another must make substitutionary atonement FOR them – they could not atone for their own sins
3.the blood atonement covered their sins before God making it possible for Him to withhold judgement (because of Jesus’ promise)
4.it made possible the communion of sinful people with a holy God
S.their sacrifices pointed to a day when Christ would once and for all atone for sin.
How can we apply Leviticus?
The theme of holiness in Leviticus extends to the Church. 1 Peter 1 :15-16 as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy,”
This verse references Lev 19.2. Just as God did with the Israelites, He has redeemed and consecrated Christians. lf you are his child then he wants you to reflect His
character. He is sanctifying you much like He did the nation of israel.
So, does our life echo God’s?