Posted by: Jim Black | February 2, 2009

Surviving… and Appreciating Leviticus

Well, you knew it was going to happen.  When we started our “Cover to Cover” Bible reading plan a few weeks ago, we knew it was inevitable.  We embarked with enthusiasm and with all of the excitement of new creation in Genesis one.  Then we moved quickly through the ensuing chapters as God’s marvelous story unfolded in gripping narrative.  We got caught up in the plight of Abraham and Sarah.  We were enthralled in the soap opera that is the love story of Jacob and Rachel… and Leah!  We were on the edge of our seats reading through the story of Joseph with all of its ups and downs.  We brushed away the images of Cecil B. DeMille’s movie as we were once again impressed by the awesome power of a real God rescuing his people in the Exodus.  But then it happened.  We couldn’t avoid it.  We hit Leviticus!  If you’ve been keeping up with your daily Bible reading you know what I mean.  We have come to the book of Leviticus… and it may have seemed like hitting a brick wall after the gripping narratives of Genesis and Exodus.  Leviticus is filled with commands and codes, laws and legalease, principles, precepts and priestly instruction… and perhaps you have wondered, “Where is God in all of this?”  or “What am I supposed to get from all of these Old Testament laws?”  Let me suggest a few thoughts that may help you get the most out of Leviticus… not only to get through it, but also to appreciate it as a wonderful reflection of a most Holy God.

  • Leviticus is full of covenant language— Beneath all of the codes and ‘legalese’ of Leviticus is the one unmistakable truth… God loves his people and wants a relationship with them.  The Levitical code is a reflection of that desire.  God has agreed to be there God… to never leave them nor forsake them and in return he expects them to abide by certain principles which are embodied in his very nature and laid out in Leviticus.
  • Jesus fulfills all of the Old Testament law  Jesus told his followers that he came not to abolish this law but to fulfill it.  That means that he lived it out fully and in doing so he showed the world what it meant.  Thus while Christians are no longer “under the jurisdiction” of the Old Testament law, the moral principles which it conveyed and which Jesus lived out still apply. 
  • In the Old Testament law we see the Holiness of God in full display!  God wanted the Hebrews to know ONE thing above everything else… He was their God and he was Holy (i.e. ‘set apart’).  Thus he called them to “be Holy as I am Holy.”  In almost every word of the Levitical code, God is reminding his people of that truth.  The instructions for the priests, for the worship and for the practices of purity were all intended to emphasize the very special nature that God wanted the Hebrews to maintain… “separateness” from the world.  They were to be different… a “peculiar people.”  In a world where “everything goes”, we too need to remember that we are “set apart”… different from the world.

 Don’t get lost in the details of the law and miss the Holy God that is embodied on every page!  God bless your reading this week…


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