From the Archives – A Love Letter in Leviticus

I just completed reading Leviticus, again. My wife stumbled across this post last night. It was good to revisit it again after another reading.

A lot of damage has been done by people through the book of Leviticus.  Leviticus is one of the Mosaic books, and it is also a Book of the Law.  There are two opinions I have observed among many people in the Christian community (a community which I am a part of) regarding this book:

  1. Pick and choose verses to verbally condemn those who break the law.
  2. Cast out the book entirely because we live in the new covenant (the law / certain books of the Bible are void because Christ came).

I have been spending time in Leviticus for several weeks now, and I will admit, it has been a struggle for me.  I don’t like talking about the book very much because it is uncomfortable.  There are a lot of laws and a lot of harsh punishments for breaking those laws.  I can see where it would be easy for me to either take one of the above stances or for me to just throw it all out.  This Christianity stuff isn’t going to be for me if God’s laws are so strict and His punishments so harsh.  Commanding law breakers be stoned to death doesn’t seem very loving to me.

However, there are points in Leviticus that I think get glossed over.  There are a few repeated phrases after a law or requirement is given:

  • I am the Lord, your God….
  • I am the Lord, your God, who makes you Holy.
  • You are my chosen nation.  I have set you apart…

I’m sure part of the repetition is to say: “Don’t forget who’s boss,” but I don’t think it stops there.  The inclusion of, “…who makes you Holy,” and, “I have chosen you,” seems to go deeper than, “I’m the boss, so you better listen.”  When a man loves a woman, he sets her apart from other women and pursues her.  Given, this analogy has some flaws because Leviticus is a Book of the Law, but hang in there. The are a couple of questions that I think may be helpful in discerning Leviticus and how we can apply it for the present day.

  • If God created the world and was a loving God, wouldn’t it make sense for Him to want the best for the people He created?
  • If God is a just God, and a Holy God, how would He set apart His people?  How would people know that His people were any different than anyone else?

Those questions might not ease any squirming in reading about eyes for eyes, teeth for teeth, or people being put to death by being bashed with rocks.  However, this is where we connect Leviticus with love.  This is where we connect old covenant with new.  Lets take a look at some verses in Leviticus 26:

13 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be their slaves. And I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.

40 “But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers in their treachery that they committed against me, and also in walking contrary to me, 41 so that I walked contrary to them and brought them into the land of their enemies—if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity, 42 then I will remember my covenant with Jacob, and I will remember my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land. 43 But the land shall be abandoned by them and enjoy its Sabbaths while it lies desolate without them, and they shall make amends for their iniquity, because they spurned my rules and their soul abhorred my statutes. 44 Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not spurn them, neither will I abhor them so as to destroy them utterly and break my covenant with them, for I am the Lord their God. 45 But I will for their sake remember the covenant with their forefathers, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am the Lord.” (emphasis added)

The Lord makes us Holy.  The Law is strict because by no humanly power can we make ourselves Holy.  We cannot make ourselves God.  That’s the bottom line.  Presently, Leviticus should move us to a place of realizing just how broken we are.  Lying, cheating, stealing, lust, and idolatry are all things commonplace in our culture.  And the honest truth is, we are guilty of these things.  I am guilty of these things.  Worse, sometimes I don’t know when my heart begins to head in that direction.  That’s not new, as David, a man after God’s own heart, at times didn’t see it happen beforehand.  We read it in the Psalms and in the story of Uriah and Bethsheba.  We see the awful result in David’s broken family, but God later blesses Solomon.  God’s grace is everywhere in scripture.  David’s immediate family becomes broken and treacherous, but out of that broken mess comes a man who fulfilled all of the requirements for Holiness set forth in Leviticus.  His name is Jesus.

Lets go back to Leviticus 26:45: But I will for their sake remember the covenant with their forefathers, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am the Lord.

That covenant was remembered when a man who committed no sin was betrayed by one of his own, condemned by his own people, beaten, mocked, and crucified.

This verse was an explanation for the reason to not eat anything with blood still in it, but I find it incredibly prophetic:

11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.  – Leviticus 17:11

The price of atonement in Leviticus is sacrifice made by man.  The price of atonement in the New Testament is a sacrifice made by the Son of Man.  The price has been paid.  So what’s the point?  Where’s the application?    

“14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God,let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” – Hebrews 4:14-16 (emphasis added)


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