Bible Devotion Week 15

For the past several mornings, my oldest has been bombarding me with questions about Leviticus. They have a common theme - “Why is this book so gross?” Just this week we’ve read about leprosy in great detail (Lev 13-14), discharges and excess bleeding (Lev 15), and detailed instructions on how to spread the blood from the atonement sacrifice (Lev 16-17). Maybe you wonder, like Greta, “Why is this book so gross? Why is it in the Bible? What does God want us to learn here?”

Leviticus is where many a Bible reading plan comes to an end. It is understandable. The world of Leviticus seems so foreign to our world. Moses seems obsessed with cleanliness and it is no wonder many think the phrase “Cleanliness is next to godliness” is in the Bible. Here are some helpful things to keep in mind as you read Leviticus.

  1. It is all about holiness - God’s and the people's. In Exodus 3, God tells Moses to remove his shoes because he is standing on holy ground. The Lord’s presence in the tree made the ground around it holy. In Exodus 19:6, the Lord says that Israel will be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Finally, at the end of Exodus, we see the glory of God (his presence) descend and dwell among the people in the Tabernacle. Leviticus answers an important question - How can a holy God dwell among a sinful people? Leviticus answers that question with sacrifices and separation. The people are told how to separate themselves from the unclean and impure and how to offer sacrifices when they become unclean or impure. This way they can fulfill God’s command in Leviticus 19:2, “‘You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.’”
  2. Atonement is central to the theology of Leviticus. The High Priest, Aaron, was not even holy enough to enter the Lord’s presence unless he entered ready to meet the Lord (dressed correctly) and with the proper sacrifices (bull and ram). Once in the holy of holies, he needed to make a sacrifice for himself, “Then Aaron shall offer the bull of the sin offering which is for himself and make atonement for himself and for his household, and he shall slaughter the bull of the sin offering which is for himself” (16:11). Only after he made atonement for himself was he able to offer atonement for the people, “Then he shall slaughter the goat of the sin offering, which is for the people, and bring its blood inside the veil and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, and sprinkle it on the atoning cover and in front of the atoning cover. He shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the impurities of the sons of Israel and because of their unlawful acts regarding all their sins; and he shall do so for the tent of meeting which remains with them in the midst of their impurities” (16:15-16). When we read the New Testament’s description of the Law, there is a danger of thinking there was no grace or forgiveness in the Old Testament. However, we see the Lord institute sacrifices for various sins and even offer the day of atonement to reconcile the people to God. In light of Jesus’ death and resurrection, all these sacrifices pointed towards his ultimate sacrifice. The Westminster Confession of Faith explains it this way, “The covenant [of grace] was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the gospel: under the law, it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all foresignifying Christ to come; which were, for that time, sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation; and is called the old testament” (WCF 7.5). 
  3. Jesus makes sense of it all. The atonement of Jesus serves as the typological fulfillment of Leviticus. Jesus is the perfect High Priest, who does not need to offer sacrifices for himself like Aaron did (Heb. 5:3), who offered the perfect sacrifice, himself, “For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb. 9:13-14) We no longer need daily sacrifices offered by a weak human priest like us because we have the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. It is Jesus’ death that enables us to be holy like God is holy because we receive his righteousness as Paul wrote, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin in our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor. 5:21). 

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