“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Now I confess – I don’t spend much time reading Leviticus. It’s not my favorite book of the Bible. Actually – true confession – I don’t know that I ever turn to Leviticus when left to my own devices. But 2 Timothy says “all Scripture”, not just some of it, is important because all of it, not just some of it, is “God-breathed” or God inspired by His Holy Spirit. Jesus weighs in on this issue saying in Matthew 5:17-18,
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”
Leviticus is a book of laws. Moses recorded God’s commands, directions, laws and guidelines for His people, the Israelites, to follow as prescribed in this book called Leviticus. However, the recording of all these rules and regulations doesn’t make for the most riveting reading to be sure.
Leviticus is the third book of the Bible, following Genesis and Exodus. This is a tough spot to be in because Genesis and Exodus are hard books to put down. They are full of action, adventure, intrigue – all the things you would expect from the telling of a family saga, including, but not limited to – drama, romance, conflict, betrayal, war, plagues, floods, struggle, deceit, treachery, valor, faith, miracles and more. Seriously, the first two books are real page turners. There’s a beautiful garden, an evil deceiver, the betrayal of brothers, the trickery of twins, the baby competition of two sisters, the building of a really big boat, the burning of a city by fire and brimstone, the parting of a sea, a burning bush, an abandoned baby in basket, a sibling sold into slavery, the faithfulness of Abraham, the deceitfulness of Laben, the miracle of Moses, who went from murderer to deliverer – there is nonstop action and human drama in these first two books of the Bible.
But that all comes to a screeching halt when we turn the page and find Leviticus waiting for us. Gone are the love stories and the war stories, the stories of sibling rivalry, of victory and defeat. Now instead we read endless lists of rules and regulations and directions for how to carry out these duties, such as required sacrifices and offerings. Indeed, Leviticus chapter one starts right out with the rules and directions for making a burnt offering to the Lord. Then the rules and directions for grain offerings, fellowship offerings, sin offerings and guilt offerings follow. Leviticus continues with rules for special days that are to be observed, rules for food, rules for hygiene, rules for sex, rules for priests to follow – pretty much every aspect of life for the Israelites is covered in this book called Leviticus.
Interestingly, the very last verse of the very last chapter of Leviticus, would make a great first verse and introduction to the whole book. This is because this verse would give me, the reader, a heads up as to what is coming in the following pages. But I don’t read these words until the conclusion of the book, which are as follows –
“These are the commands the Lord gave Moses on Mount Sinai for the Israelites.” (Leviticus 27:34)
A little more than mid-way through this book of seemingly endless laws, rules, regulations and directions for how to live, I come across some words that put into perspective the reason for and the importance of this book, Leviticus, to the Israelites. I read in Leviticus 19:1-4,
“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy. Each of you must respect his mother and father, and you must observe My Sabbaths. I am the Lord your God. Do not turn to idols or make gods of cast metal for yourselves. I am the Lord your God.’ ”
With these words, I start to get an idea of what Leviticus is all about. God is holy and He was trying to help His chosen people, the Israelites, become a holy people, set apart for Him, by giving them these guidelines for life. In chapter 10 of Leviticus I read about the death of two of Aaron’s sons, who were priests. They had not followed God’s instructions to them, but instead
“they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, contrary to His command. So fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Moses then said to Aaron, ‘This is what the Lord spoke of when He said: ‘Among those who approach Me I will show Myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.’ ” (they had dishonored God with their disobedient actions) (Leviticus 10:1-3)
As the conversation continues in Leviticus 10, I learn again why Leviticus matters.
“Then the Lord said to Aaron, ‘You and your sons . . . must distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean, and you must teach the Israelites all the decrees the Lord has given them through Moses.’ ” (Leviticus 10:8-11)
Why did the people need to learn all these decrees, all these laws, commands, rules, regulations and directions? The answer is there, found among all the laws of Leviticus. I read it in Leviticus 11:44-45 and in Leviticus 20:7, where I find these words,
“I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Do not make yourselves unclean by any creature that moves about on the ground. I am the Lord who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy.”
“Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the Lord your God. Keep My decrees and follow them. I am the Lord, who makes you holy.”
Centuries later, Peter would write much the same instruction saying,
“As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’ ” (1 Peter 1:14-16)
As I read this book of rules and regulations called Leviticus, – a book of laws – I discover that it is a book of love as well. Leviticus is the expression of a Holy Creator God’s love for an unholy and rebellious people – the people He created, called and cared for with an everlasting love that would later be more fully revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. But at the time of Leviticus, this is the promise those people had from God –
“Observe My Sabbaths and have reverence for My sanctuary. I am the Lord. If you follow My decrees and are careful to obey My commands, I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees of the field their fruit. Your threshing will continue until grape harvest and the grape harvest will continue until planting, and you will eat all the food you want and live in safety in your land. I will grant peace in the land, and you will lie down and no one will make you afraid. . . . I will look on you with favor and make you fruitful and increase your numbers, and I will keep My covenant with you. . . . I will put My dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be My people. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high.” (Leviticus 26:2-13)
This is such a beautiful picture of what God intends for us, for me and for you, dear readers. It is no coincidence that in the second to the last chapter of the very last book of the Bible, God is still talking about these very same things. Revelation 21:1-4 tells me,
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, . . . And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ ”
From the garden in Genesis (where God walked with Adam and Eve), to the desert in Exodus (where God went with the Israelites in a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night), to His pledge in Leviticus that it was His intention to dwell among them and to make them His people, to His promise in Revelation that He intends to live with us and make us His own – our Heavenly Father’s intentions towards us have never wavered. He was pursuing His people through the laws of Leviticus then and He is pursuing us still to this day, even now. God will not give up His pursuit of me and of you, until Revelation becomes reality and all our tears are wiped away in His presence. No wonder King David said in Psalm 119:72,
“The law from Your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.” David also said,
“Oh, how I love Your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me. Praise be to You, O Lord; teach me Your decrees. With my lips I recount all the laws that come from Your mouth. I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on Your precepts and consider Your ways. I delight in Your decrees; I will not neglect Your word.” (Psalm 119:97-98 and 12-16)
Just think, David was describing Leviticus in this Psalm about how he loved God’s laws. (I mean, what book is more full of God’s laws than Leviticus?) David didn’t seem to look upon God’s commands and directions, precepts and statutes as boring or unimportant. Guess I could take a lesson from David and learn to love Leviticus like he did. Then I will be able to say along with David,
“for I delight in Your commands because I love them. I lift up my hands to Your commands, which I love, and I meditate on Your decrees.” (Psalm 119:47-48)
sincerely, Grace Day