“Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine.” – Leviticus 20:26
You started a new Bible reading program back in January. Your goal is to read every book of the Bible this year. You start in Genesis. It’s a great narrative. Exodus is even more exciting. You are proud of yourself because you are making headway on your goal. But then, it happens. The eventual Leviticus Bermuda Triangle. Even though it is partially a narrative, some get lost in the book and give up.
Have you ever read a technical manual? For some, reading Leviticus can be like that. Some read Leviticus as if it were a book full of rules and regulations and miss the intentional message from God to His people.
Some, approach Leviticus like the first week of school. The excitement of getting back together with all your classmates. You catch up with everyone in your homeroom. But then, the dreaded first assembly in the auditorium where the administration talks what seems like hours and days on what you can or can not do. Where you can go and not go. What you can wear and not wear. Things allowed and things not allowed on campus. It seems like an endless flow of rules that seem unrealistic and irrelevant to you because others can not seem to behave. If this is you while reading Leviticus, you are not alone.
I would like to encourage you in your devotional time with God as you prepare yourself to read Leviticus. One can joyfully anticipate reading the book that most get bogged down or who quickly skim through, like the reading of the product agreement on computer software programs.
Here are some ways to prepare yourself to read Leviticus:
“Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law.” – Psalms 119:18
“Incline my heart to Your testimonies and not to dishonest gain. Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity, and revive me in Your ways.” – Psalm 119.36-37
“…may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” – Ephesians 3.18-19
The intention of praying these prayers from Scripture is to prepare your heart and mind to receive God’s word into your soul. I love the modern hymn by the Getty’s, “Speak, O Lord.” The hymn is usually sung before the preaching message during the worship service, but as you read the verses below you can see how it can set your mind and heart in readiness to devote your time in a book such as Leviticus.
Speak, O Lord, as we come to You
To receive the food of Your Holy Word.
Take Your truth, plant it deep in us;
Shape and fashion us in Your likeness,
That the light of Christ might be seen today
In our acts of love and our deeds of faith.Speak, O Lord, and fulfill in us
All Your purposes for Your glory.Teach us, Lord, full obedience,
Holy reverence, true humility;
Test our thoughts and our attitudes
In the radiance of Your purity.
Cause our faith to rise; cause our eyes to see
Your majestic love and authority.
Words of pow’r that can never fail—
Let their truth prevail over unbelief.Speak, O Lord, and renew our minds;
Help us grasp the heights of Your plans for us—
Truths unchanged from the dawn of time
That will echo down through eternity.
And by grace we’ll stand on Your promises,
And by faith we’ll walk as You walk with us.
Speak, O Lord, till Your church is built
And the earth is filled with Your glory.– by Keith & Krystyn Getty
The purpose of the book of Leviticus is to provide guidelines to the Levitical priests and the children of Israel concerning their behavior before a holy God. The heart of the book is centered around holiness. Thus, its major theme is holiness. This is where the book becomes a practical guide even for believers. The theme of holiness among believers seems to have given way to the busy faith of Christians today.
One of the characteristics of the Puritans I appreciate is their emphasis on holiness. What is holiness? Holiness depicts a life-style that is separate from other life-styles. If you want to get to know the Puritans I suggest two reading resources: “Wordly Saints” by Leland Ryken and “Valley of Vision” by Arthur Bennet. These are two great reads that illustrate the walk and ways of godly people who are bent on being holy before God with an affection that is not governed by pharisaic laws, but by genuine spiritual piety that seeks to please God rather than self.
Because God is holy and expects His people to be holy, there is a problem, man has a fallen condition called sin. Because God cannot relinquish His holiness, He also will not turn His back on our sin. Thus, His holiness meets His mercy. God works this out for us through His sacrificial system, which eventually leads us to Christ, the true Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world.
This mercy was first seen in the garden in Genesis. Adam and Eve were told not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They eventually succumb to the temptation and sinned against God. God had told them that if they sinned against Him they would die. Instead of killing them, God provided a substitute and covered their sin (Genesis 3.21). This was a foretaste of the Levitical sacrificial system that depicts God’s mercy. This system of mercy became the precursor to Jesus’ death on the cross to atone for our sin and satisfied God’s judgment on our sin.
Yes, Leviticus can be a bit gory. But, it should be pointed out that without God’s demand for blood offering there is no pardon for our sin. Because of our sin, God requires blood. Blood is our way of re-entering into fellowship with God. Without it, we are separated from God because of our sin. When we sin, God looks upon our sin in His righteousness and justice. Sin must be dealt with for God will not let the guilty go unpunished because His holiness demands it (Numbers 14.18). Thus, what is pictured in Leviticus is ultimately fulfilled in Christ Jesus our Lord. Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice, the payment for our sins. Because of His bloodshed on the cross, we now can have fellowship with God.
Many are not aware that some of the major celebrations in the Christian worship calendar come from Leviticus:
One of the key reasons for God having His people released from Pharoh’s grip in Egypt was so that His people may meet Him in the wilderness to worship Him (Exodus 8.1). The same is for us who live in these days of grace. We were created and born again to worship God.
Worship is one of the key themes in Leviticus. The book teaches God’s people how to worship God in the way He desires to be worshipped. This way of worship allowed His people to enjoy a continuing relationship with the Holy God who dwelt among His people. It also shows how His people can maintain that relationship and express it through worship.
This is why we gather today as God people, the church. To worship God as a living and holy sacrifice that pleases Him as His people joyfully express their gratitude for His offer of salvation and the gift of eternal life through the permanent sacrifice, Christ Jesus our Lord, the Lamb of God.
So, as you sit down and begin reading Leviticus, it is my prayer that you do so with a heart of gratitude for who God is, what He has done, and why you can put your hope and trust in Him. He has provided the means for atonement for our sins through the sacrifice of His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him, may not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3.16).