To start off, I want to say that I am greatly encouraged by the fact that you made it this far and didn’t stop reading when you heard the word Leviticus!
Leviticus is a daunting book to most 21st century Westerners, and it’s easy to see why. It talks about thinks like animal sacrifices, purification rituals to be performed after semen emission, menstrual cycles or open sores that develop on you body, and many other strange rituals. These are not the type of thing that tends to boost church attendance when it is preached on!. It has detailed laws that were written to a culture living 3000 years ago, that are difficult for most of us to see how they could be relevant today.
On top of that, there are various theological reasons that Christians tend to think of Leviticus as irrelevant, since much of what it talks about is generally believed to have been done away with by Jesus (i.e. temple, sacrifice, priests, law etc.)
Why then, is it worth your time to read this ancient book, considered boring, weird, or irrelevant, even by most Christians who profess to believe the Bible as God’s inspired Word?
Well, that’s what I hope to show you!
Consider this: Leviticus has generally always been the first book that any Jewish boy has begun their religious education with (usually around the age of 5), and this practice still continues today.
“How could Jewish families subject their children to such cruelty?” you may ask. “Or isn’t that only because they don’t know about Jesus and the New Testament,” you might object.
Well actually even most Jews who believe Jesus to be their Messiah and regard the apostolic writings in the New Testament as divinely inspired scripture, mostly still start their children’s Biblical training in Leviticus.
Why is this then?
I believe the answer is actually pretty simple: They understand that Leviticus is God’s invitation and instructions for how to come into relationship with Him, and, the fact that we now know Jesus and have the writings of the apostles in the New Testament only makes the book of Leviticus that much more clear, rich and meaningful.
The confusion over the book of Leviticus starts right out in the title.
In English, we call it Leviticus, making it sound as if it is primarily about the Levitical Priesthood, but in Hebrew, it is actually called “Vayikra”, which translated to English means “and he called.”
This comes from the first verse in Leviticus where it speaks of God calling to Moses and it encapsulates the main theme of the book of Leviticus, The book of Leviticus is all about God calling to us and inviting us into relationship with Him.
The book of Exodus ends with God glory filling the tabernacle, but it also leaves off with a major problem:
And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. (Exodus 40:35)
God’s presence had come to dwell with the Israelite’s, but they were unable to enter into that presence. Leviticus sets out to show God’s solution for that problem.
The Lord called Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting saying…(Leviticus 1:1)
God calls out to Moses and gives them instructions on how the people can come into the tabernacle and meet with him.
The very next book, Numbers, begins with a similar intro as Leviticus, but this time Moses is inside the tent of meeting:
The Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting (Numbers 1:1)
So this, is really what the heart of Leviticus is all about. God calling us into relationship with him.
Thinking of Leviticus this way, really began to change my view of it and I can now honestly say it’s one of my favorite books in the Bible.
“But isn’t Leviticus all about how to come into relationship with God before Jesus had come?”, you may object.
Actually the beauty of Leviticus is that it is all about Jesus. I heard it once said that you can’t understand Leviticus without knowing Jesus, but you also can’t fully understand Jesus without understanding Leviticus.
Jesus is the way to the Father, as he said in John 14:6, therefore, as we should expect, if we understand Leviticus correctly, it illuminates to us, how Jesus is the way by which we come into relationship with the Father.
God desperately wants us to come into relationship with Him, but there is only one way to do that, and that is through Jesus Christ.
I hope that if you are willing to go through this series, you too will be able to share my joy for the beauty hidden in Leviticus.
Yes, it’s a bit weird and foreign to us (okay maybe more than a bit), but I promise if you put in the effort to overcome that and understand it’s message, you won’t be disappointed.
In the next post, I will establish where Leviticus fits in the overall Biblical story line.