Friday, February 29, 2008

Introduction to Leviticus

Details are important to God!

There is a saying “The devil is in the details”, but often God is in the details! We have just finished reading lengthy portions in the book of Exodus describing God’ detailed instructions about how to build the Tabernacle and how the priesthood was to carry on the service in the Tabernacle. Over and over again Scripture records that Moses did as God instructed him in minute detail. His obedience was rewarded when the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle! We are called to be obedient and holy in many seemingly small details of life; yet God sees and rewards - details are important to God!

As we start Leviticus, God is continuing His detailed instructions about how He should be worshiped. Though many people get bogged down in reading through the Bible in the book of Leviticus, it is actually a rich description of the various ways we approach God and fellowship with him through worship. In Genesis we see humanity ruined. In Exodus, humanity redeemed. In Leviticus, humanity worshiping. In Leviticus, holiness is emphasized as an indispensable part of our total worship to God.

Leviticus takes its name from the tribe of Levi, the tribe that God chose to service the Tabernacle and to supply priests for Israel. It is one of the five books of Moses, and its authorship is attributed to him. Its purpose was to show the Israelites how they could live in ritual and moral purity so that God could live among them and they could approach Him in worship.

One of the most important questions in life is “How may an unholy people approach a holy God?” In Leviticus we see God making gracious provision for His people to approach Him in worship. The way to God is by sacrifice and the walk with God is by separation. As Christians, we see that the sacrifices all point to the perfect sacrifice of Christ, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). There can be no fellowship between God and the sinner until sin has been dealt with; the only way is sacrifice (Hebrews 9:22).

Five offerings are described in Leviticus. They all in some way typify dimensions of the sacrifice of Christ:

1. Burnt Offering (Lev. 1): This is a total sacrifice where everything offered is totally consumed. Christ offered Himself unreservedly to God as a perfect sacrifice to God on our behalf. This comes first because no one begins with God until all has been yielded to Him. As the old hymn says, “Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee”. This is a voluntary offering.

2. The Grain Offering (Lev. 2): This is the sacrifice of daily devotion to God. Ass the burnt sacrifice typifies Christ in His death, so the grain offering typifies Christ in His life – we can feed on His life every day. Once we have committed all to God, we live daily for Him. Flour is the stuff “our daily bread” is made of, and we are to serve God every day with dedication. This, too, is a voluntary offering. This offering could be eaten, but only by the priest, not the worshiper. Much of our service is for the benefit of others, not ourselves.

3. Fellowship Offering (Lev. 3): In this sacrifice the Israelites would thank God for all of his blessings, beginning with salvation. Some of this sacrifice would be shared with the officiating priest and his family. The remainder of the sacrifice would be eaten by the worshiper with his family and friends, giving thanks to God. This offering depicts our fellowship with God and with one another because Christ our sacrifice is our peace (Ephesians 2:14) who has reconciled all things to Himself “by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Col. 1:20).

4. The Sin Offering (Lev. 4-5): This shows us Christ on the cross in the sinner’s place. In the other offerings the offerer comes as a worshiper, but here as a convicted sinner. All the other sacrifices actually depend on this one – our sin must be removed before we can approach God.

5. The Guilt Offering (Lev. 5-6): While the sin offering atones for the state of sinfulness, the guilt offering is for specific acts of sin, intentional or unintentional, against God or man. Christ has taken care of these sins as well, but we must consciously admit our transgressions and avail ourselves of Christ’s sacrifice to make things right. The blood of the guilt offering cleanses the conscience and sends the trespasser back to the one he or she has wronged, not only with the principal but with the fifth part added. Part of our worship to God includes making things right when we have wronged others.

What a wonderful, multi-faceted blessing the sacrifice of Christ is for us! Leviticus gives us a wonderful, symbolic picture of how we can get right and stay right with our holy God in genuine worship.

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