I had a wonderful letter in my inbox this morning,
I hate to be ignorant, but I am. Ignorant about unimportant things like opera, but unfortunately I am always feeling I am missing Biblical things too. I've worked through Leviticus as part of my Bible study recently, but for me it seemed as much work as anything – glad I don't have to do all the ceremonial offerings and cleansings, wondering why it is so unfair to the wives suspected without evidence of unfaithfulness, and thinking what a production the tabernacle must have been with two million people trying to bring guilt offerings and sin offerings and thank offerings and whatnot all with a single altar. So what is it that makes Leviticus so cool?
By the way, Leviticus and Deuteronomy are supposed to be Bob Dylan's favorite books of the Bible. For what it's worth.
Thanks for writing. Leviticus as a book has been much maligned by Christians in large part because the first several chapters are laced with blood, guts and strict descriptions concerning animal sacrifice's the purpose of which we usually don't know. Go on and you have selections where skin diseases are described tedium-ad-nauseam. And it just gets "better." That however is the surface of Leviticus.
The key to enjoying Leviticus is Luke 24:27
If you take the Luke 24 Emmaus Road story and look at it you'll see that Jesus started with Moses (including Lev.) and went through the OT telling these fortunate disciples where these books talked about him. How I wish we had a record of that full conversation!
Leviticus as a book describes in a story format the absolute holiness of God. Time after time the Scriptures "tell" us that God is holy but Leviticus shows it to us. In fact reading through the Book of Leviticus can be a downright frightening experience as you watch the absolute holiness of God destroying Nadab and Abihu for offering "strange fire". I read that and my first response is "WHAT!" But then I realize that this God is a Holy God and he demands to be treated as holy – we don't come into his presence on our terms. It's then that the honest reader will begin to shake with fear because we lack so much of the holiness which God is and which God requires.
Now begin to apply Luke 24 as an exegetical "guide" for studying Leviticus.
Jesus is our sacrifice. He makes the holiness possible. In the constant burning of the altar fires we see Jesus' eternally perfect sacrifice. In the detailed ritual we note Jesus' careful and consistent fulfilling of scripture. It sounds like I'm slipping into allegory here but allegory is not the wholesale answer to interpreting Leviticus for Christians, Christ is. He is the sacrifice. He is the priest who cares for our diseases. He is the mediator of truth between husbands and wives. He is the tender leader who grants rest to a woman who has just endured the rigors of birth. He is also the holy God who has provided a pathway into his own presence while simultaneously showing us that the way to God is not through pagan practices but by faithfully following the prescribed entrance which he himself has provided. He is the new prophet who has anointed a new priesthood in all believers, not just Aaron and his sons.
It is the continual recognition of Jesus that makes Leviticus worthy of reading and studying for the Christian. It is the overwhelming awe of the Holiness of the God we serve. Sadly we often forget, or neglect God's holiness because we've grown accustomed to the idea that God is accessible – but we forget that his accessibility is through Christ and not ourselves.
I've rambled a bit but I hope that helps to spark your love of Leviticus some. In short the way to God is through Sacrifice, and he provided it! What an awesome GOD!