A Christian Perspective on Leviticus (Pt.10)

In Leviticus 24, we see the scheduled duties of the priests tending to the lampstand (v1–4) and the table of showbread (v5–9) in the Holy Place of the Tabernacle/Temple. The lamp represented God’s life-giving presence with the people. The 12 loaves represented the people’s presence before God. However the work of maintaining the altar of incense is not mentioned, it has already been mentioned in Exodus 30:7-8, What would be the significance of including these maintenance routines in this calendar? Obviously to make sure that regularly they are actively reminded of God’s life-giving presence amongst them. However the Altar of Incense is representing Christ’s High Priestly intercession of Israel’s prayers to God the Father. It was continual, but it was not glorifying God’s presence with the people or vice-versa it was glorifying Christ’s work for the people praying, so that the Father could hear & respond because in reality, his glory dwelt among them, but his holy, holy, holy presence was in Heaven.

The final note to Israel’s annual calendar is the story of a blasphemer’s punishment, v10–23. The focus of the text is on the blasphemer’s Egyptian heritage. We have already learned that sojourners are to be treated with the same love as neighbors (19:33–34). This passage teaches that sojourners, while not compelled to participate in Israel’s worship, were required to respect it. Why do you suppose such a sober lesson would be added to the end of Israel’s annual worship calendar? No doubt it was a statement of warning, to never disassociate what was happening in the Tabernacle/Temple with their daily life and behaviour outside Jerusalem and throughout Israel. Holiness that was maintained and glorified year around in Jerusalem, was meant to affect everyone’s daily behavior and language. Blasphemy is the opposite of respect for the holy life God was providing for all of them, the foreigner amongst them, and the natural citizens of Israel. Upon pain of death, they would pay if they rebelled against God’s gracious provision of sacred life and sanctified rescue from Eygpt. Do you think as a Christian, that there should be an aspect of your daily life that recognizes the holy sacredness of life providing your escape from sin’s consequences in Christ?

In Leviticus 25, We see the Sabbath Year, like the annual festivals, was tied to agricultural reality: the need for a regular time of letting the land remain fallow to avoid depleting soil nutrients. Fields were not to be farmed and harvested during the Sabbath Year (v. 4–5); nevertheless, subsistence food production was permitted (v. 6). What does this provision suggest about God’s care for the land? Surely it was a direct attempt by God to remind everyone, rich & poor, that God cares for the earth itself, and his people were legally obliged to mandate rest for giving the earth itself some dignity for the holiness of His creation. Remember God said through the Psalmist, Psalm 104:30 that His Spirit is active in the earth, and Paul reminds of this fact today in Romans 8:20-23.The final layer of Israel’s calendar was the Year of Jubilee, observed every seventh Sabbath Year. The Jubilee was a once-a-generation economic reset. Even if one generation fell so deeply into debt that the next was raised in debt slavery and the family property was lost, the Jubilee Year ensured the emerging generation would receive it back. What do you think was the significance of this proclamation of liberty taking place on the Day of Atonement during the Jubilee Year (v. 9)? Surely it had to do with the top economic tier of society, being forced to recognize God’s mercy & grace towards the poor. Jesus said, the “poor you will have with you always”, Mat. 26:11, Mk. 14:7, Jn. 12:8 and in Luke, Jesus emphasizes to all Christians, not just to the rich, that we should “sell our possessions and give to the poor”, Luke 12:33. The superiority of our New Covenant over the old, is that we are mandated to practice a Jubilee year at any time, we are not confined to a one-off generational economic reset.

A Christian Perspective on Leviticus (Pt.9)

The apostle Paul writes that God’s “invisible attributes, as in his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” See Rom. 1:20 & Act. 17:26. The calendar of Israel made a connection between the nature of God and the demonstrations of his goodness in the seasons.

In the Bible, many events are recorded on the backdrop of Jewish festivals. John’s gospel describes the life of Jesus by these events commanded in Leviticus, see John. 2:23, 5:1, 6:4 & 22, 7:2 & 23, 37-39, 10:22, 13:1, 19:14 & 31, 42, 20:1. He even includes the Feast of Purim not in Leviticus but Esther. Our practice of gathering together in local communities for worship every week is rooted in the Sabbath principle of Leviticus 23:3. In Old Testament times, weekly assemblies were held on the seventh day of each week. Christians have historically viewed the resurrection of Jesus from the dead on the first day of the week as indicating a change in the day for worship to the first day of the week. This faith is based on the command of Christ, after his resurrection, for the disciples to regather to meet with him in worship on the first day of the week (Luke 24:13–49), a pattern repeated by the New Testament church (see Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2).

A Christian Perspective on Leviticus (Pt. 8)

We have already discussed from Lev. 8-10, about the appointment of a holy priesthood in the time of Aaron but now In Leviticus 21-22 we revisit the topic of the priesthood, this time encountering laws ensuring the continuation of the message of hope for a perfect priesthood in every generation after Aaron. Every generation of God’s people must be taught the promise of a perfect priest who offers a perfect sacrifice for everyone’s atonement. For Christians, it is our Christ, Jesus the High Priest and his eternal priesthood of Melchizedek. The restrictions in 21:1-4 & 10-12 do not prohibit a priest from grieving the loss of extended family, but the priest must leave the ritually defiling process of burial to others. These restrictions were put in place not to make things difficult for the priests but rather to uphold the portrait of a clean and joyful, life-ministering priesthood, see 2nd Sam. 19:1-8. The beautiful attire of the high priest in Ex. 28:1-43 & his movements in performing his sanctuary duties, Ex. 28:33-35, and his abstention from practices of burial in Lev. 21:1-12 reflect a joyfully clean priesthood. Contrary to the common stereotype that priests were dour figures, the priesthood Christ undertakes is one filled with joy: “For the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross” Hebrews 12:2. Did God care about a priest’s physical blemishes more than his heart? Of course not, see 1st Sam. 16:7.. But part of the picture of atonement put on display in the tabernacle was the physical wholeness of the priest, Lev. 21:16-24. Why do you suppose that was the case? Are you as a Christian privileged or burdened to make sacrifices in evangelism, benevolent charity or money in the collection of the saints on Sunday?

Chapter 22 has an important distinction that Christians should be aware of, between freewill offerings and a vow offering. Verse 23 shows that freewill offerings were acceptable with animals that had certain deformities, but not for vowed offerings. The freewill offerings were made during Feast Days, such as Feast of Unleavened Bread before Passover, 2Chron. 35:7-9 & 30:24, and Feast of Weeks before Pentecost, Duet. 16:10 & 26:1-11, and the Feast of Tabernacles, Ezra 3:4-5, Numb. 29:39 & Lev. 23:37-38. Why would God make an accepted allowance for deformed animals in freewill offerings but not in vowed offerings? May it possibly have something to do with the perfect sacrifice of Christ being planned and purposed before the foundation of the world? See 1st Peter 1:13-20.  Laws like Leviticus 22:11 have often been interpreted to support chattel slavery, a careful study of the relevant passages does not support that conclusion. Although Israel had a system of debt slavery so that households that defaulted on loans could work off their debts, Old Testament law introduced provisions to ensure that such labor would not deteriorate into chattel slavery—like the slavery Israel had experienced while in Egypt and was never to impose on anyone else, see Lev. 19:33-34 & Job 31:13-15, loving your neighbor as yourself was a principle that should be intertwined within making someone a slave and/or a bond-servant, see Lev. 25:39 & Exodus 22:3. A good understanding as to how slavery was to be practiced is in Lev. 25:40-46. The reason the treatment of slaves is couched in the context of sacrifices is because of the way pagan nations around them treated their property in making their sacrifices to idols. There are 2 sections here, firstly Priests eating sacrifices, v1-9 and qualifications for other Israelites to share in leftovers, v10-16. Pagans turned their sacrifices into leftovers into a business by selling them in the market for profit, note how this affected Christians in 1st Corinthians 8:1-11:1. We as Christians must always be mindful to prevent the ways of worldly business to creep into the way the church conducts business!

A Christian Perspective on Leviticus (Pt. 7)

Chapters 17-20 holds a beautiful message about true holiness. This passage is full of details about how different Jews were to live holy in contrast to everyone around them in every aspect of the daily life of Israel. 

The Food laws in 17:1-16 show what was holy and unholy and were focused on how meat was handled. After Noah was introduced to eating meat after the Flood it was an open door for ambiguity, but now that God came to live amongst the Nation in the Tabernacle, they had clarity about how to deal with meat. Christians are reminded in 1st Corinthians 11:27-30 that we have food that is holy too. The Lord’s Supper entails both flesh & blood spiritually, to remind us that it is Jesus who makes our whole life holy. Therefore we do not need to deal with the details of Levitical commands about food. Everything we eat and drink outside the Lord’s Supper is holy in the context of love and gratitude, see Romans 14:1-4.

The Sexual laws in chapters 18-19 are centered on the royal law of God in James 2:8 which is actually quoting Leviticus 19:18 & 34. Jesus said it best in Matthew 22:37-40, the first commandment is likened to the second, love God first and love others as yourself. This principle prevents us from entertaining or encouraging any and all kinds of sexual perversions and detestable alternative lifestyles. All of humanity is designed as sexual creatures and 18:1-30 was God’s way of making sure Israel’s sexuality was a bright and pure contrast from the polluted practices of pagan cultures around them in stark darkness. The fact that sexual laws (v10–21) are grouped with laws about child sacrifices (v1–5) and consulting dead ancestors (v6, 27) or cursing living parents (v9) indicates that this text is not simply about sexual lust. These are laws about building a family heritage, and doing so in holiness (v.7–8, 22–26). Remarkably, the parameters established in Lev. 18, critique the marriages of Abraham, who married his half sister, Gen. 20:12 (Lev. 18:9) and also Jacob, who took a “woman as a rival wife to her sister”, Gen. 29:1-30 (Lev. 18:18). If Israel lived Leviticus, then they wouldn’t repeat the same disastrous sins committed by their forefathers..So for Christians, “whatever you do in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17) He is the only man who ever treated people with purity and it’s only His Holiness that shapes our own, that we may become the righteousness of God, 2nd Corinthians 5:21.

The last few verses of Lev. 19 point Israel to God’s expectations on how to treat a foreigner living next door. It was one of the reasons Jesus told his disciples the parable of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:25-37. It serves as the heart of what the chapter teaches about what it means to be holy. This significant role of holy citizenship shows how other New Testament writers regarded this passage as an important summary of the whole perfect law of liberty, Mat. 5:43, Rom. 13:9 & James 1:25.

The punishments & sentences for disobeying the Law of Moses in Leviticus were strict, sometimes even resulting in execution, 20:27. No one escapes the consequences of sin, except ultimately those who are found in Christ, who took our punishment on himself and forgives us completely. But “bearing their iniquity” in Leviticus 20:19 & Numbers 18:23 is a fact of life even for the faithful who are forgiven. Forgiveness is real and eternal, but some consequences will linger till Jesus comes. Why? Because we still live in a world where the rain falls on the righteous and unrighteous. God is fair even in forgiveness and in this He is just, Matthew 5:45.

A Christian Perspective on Leviticus (Pt. 6)

The Atonement

Leviticus 16 is reminding us of what happened to Nadab & Abihu when they attempted to serve God with unauthorized tools and stubborn hearts in ignorance, forging ahead with service to God that is dismissive of his holiness being more powerful than our attempt to emulate it, see 1st Sam.15:23. Heeding the warning to Aaron to not come into the Holy Place inside the veil…., so that he may not die…but in this way Aaron shall come into the Holy Place (16:1-3). There is a strong connection of timing, between the event of offering incense in Lev. 10 by the sons of Aaron, and the offering of incense in Lev. 16. Anyone can see how it seems backwards that Nadab & Abihu would presume to do this before their father the High Priest. Today we should praise God that there is a sure and effective way to enter his presence and be accepted with life and heaven’s blessings! But there is only one way. It is only through the sacrifice foreshadowed in the Levitical atonement rituals that were accomplished by the Great High Priest, Jesus Christ, John 14:6.

Why must the high priest first make atonement for himself and his own house? Hebrews 7:26-28

In the final phase of the Day of Atonement, the high priest changed out of the plain, linen robe he wore for the day’s sacrifices (v. 4) and back into his high priestly garments (vv. 23–24; compare Ex. 28:1-43. Ponder the significance of the high priest wearing plain linen robes for the sacrifices and changing into his glorious robes afterward, ref: Isaiah 61:3

Scripture encourages us with the glorious hope that, in these last days, the consequence of sin’s power is fully removed from our experience in the future, never to be felt again because of Christ’s resurrection. His holiness is powerful, 1st Cor. 15:42, Heb. 12:23, 2Pt. 3:13, 1Jn.3:2-5 & Rev. 6:11 

The Old Testament high priest was a shadow of the Great High Priest, Jesus, who has entered into the heavenly Most Holy Place with the blood of our atonement and now stands in glory to intercede for us, Heb. 2:17-18, 4:14-16, 8:1-6, 9:6-14 & 10:11-14.

The design of the Most Holy Place was a reminder to Israel that this “divine palace” on earth was not the literal house of God, nor were its rituals the literal source of atonement. They were earthly shadows of the real atonement the true High Priest would present to God in the real temple—heaven itself. Exodus 25:40 & Hebrews 8:5 & 9:24. When we pray, we should take faith in the power of the Holy Spirit of Christ sanctifying our words & thoughts, interceding for us before the Throne of God our Father. Never let anyone tell you that you can not pray to His Spirit, because without His Spirit, we are mute before God and not allowed before His presence. In this God gifted way of His Son, is our atonement beneficial. We are “at one & meant” to be together.

Leviticus from a Christian Perspective, (Pt 5)

Chapter 13: The diagnosis of leprosy and other skin diseases was in the hands of the Levitical priesthood. When Jesus came, his lineage through Mary and legally through Joseph, were neither from the Tribe of Levi. Since Mary & Joseph descended from the Tribe of Judah, he was positioned to treat lepers and diseased people differently, in fact Jesus made himself ceremonially unclean in order to prove his divine power in God as the fulfillment of healing to conquer death. Jesus loved diseased people and gave them hope when it was completely void in their life, Matthew 8:1-4 & Luke 17:11-19.

Chapter 14: Here is one of the clearest examples in the Old Testament of Israel’s faith in the resurrection. Don’t let the strangeness of its ritual sacrifices cause you to miss the beauty of the hope captured here. This passage marks the presence of death where there ought to be life. Reproductive organs were created for life. The abnormal and normal loss of fluids in these centers of life shows the negative consequences brought in by sin. Leprosy made visible the presence of death and decay in the body and in the coverings of life, clothes and homes. But each of these leprosy sections closes with rituals of restoration when the presence of death has been reversed. The centerpiece of the collection is the extensive ritual of restoration for the person healed of leprosy. Public ceremonies of restoration from “living death” ensured that Israel knew what had taken place and that all the people should see this reversal of death as a message of victory in God’s atonement—resurrection, (Lev. 14;18-20) Today we no longer mark physical healing with ritual markers of resurrection, because we have the ultimate testimony of our resurrection hope to look to—the historical resurrection of Jesus. These laws given by God were designed to compel Jews to believe their life could be seen through these promises God made in healing and to restrain them from the temptations of surrounding nations, see Galatians 3:19. However, by the time Jesus came, the legalistic tendencies of the Pharisees, over-interpreted the Mosaic laws, adding new commandments and traditions of their own, see Mt. 15:1-9. Ancient Israel looked to rituals of resurrection attached to certain afflictions to give them hope in all their afflictions. Read the eyewitness account of the resurrection displayed, so that it eclipses all those old rituals—the resurrection of Jesus (Luke 24:1-9) Praise God for such a great resurrection hope, and direct our own heart to view all our afflictions through the promised power of resurrection faith. Lev. 14:25-28 describes how the lamb’s blood was used on any person cleansed, pointing us to the initial sanctification of the High Priest in Lev. 8:23-24. This should remind us of our connection by the blood of our High Priest in Jesus, cleansing us from diseases for eternity. All the consequences of sin are void for eternity!

Chapter 15: The laws of hygiene for both men & women, either single or married, were given to all Israel, not just priests, because God wanted to help them see personally and publicly how different they were from the nations and cultures around them. This is a shadow of our reality in how Christians are to pay attention to our behavior personally and publicly. Read 1st Thessalonians 4:1-5 and ask yourself if God is not concerned with your personal hygiene. “Holiness & Honor” is indicating the reality of cleanliness being akin to godliness.

A Christian Perspective on Leviticus (Pt. 4)

The Lord is concerned about his children living holy lives in an unholy environment, He doesn’t expect us to be holy as He is holy, unless there is a constant daily relationship which points out the difference between holy and unholy. So chapters 11-12 deal with the detail of this relationship in Holiness for his children’s daily lifestyle. 

The summary of Leviticus 11:41-47 should point us to a similar statement in Lev. 20:24-26, which is the whole point of why the Lord gave Peter his vision of clean and unclean animals in Acts 10:9-29. Can we see how dietary laws are fulfilled at Christ’s coming? His presence of holiness in the Christian makes our body a special place that should be taken care of, see Romans 12:1. Do you believe God accepts any sacrifices you make to take care of your body? Are all of our sacrifices exclusively for saving other people, or could some of our sacrifices be for merely showing thankfulness to God for redeeming our bodies? See Romans 8:23.

The Jewish nation was made clean by the presence of a working Tabernacle/Temple, the food laws were given to show and maintain a unique status of Hebrews among the rest of the world. However, when the Spirit descended on the church in the New Testament, empowering believers for witness and worship in Spirit-filled assemblies in all nations, Acts 2:1-41, the “wall of separation” and the dividing ordinances were removed, Ephesians 2:11-22.  If Israel could enter Christ then they did not lose status as “clean,” but now Gentiles also were made clean (see Acts 10:15-28). Congregations of Christ were now centers for worship—bringing the presence of God in grace among all nations. Peter was the first leader in the New Testament church to recognize the fact that the dietary laws were expired, Acts 10:9-16. This truth continues as Peter quotes from Leviticus 11:44 in an epistle to Gentile churches: “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’ 1st Peter 1:14-16. Praise God for the privilege of Gentiles (you and me) being grafted into the blessings of the “olive tree” ~ Romans 11:17. 

One of the most important roles of Jewish society was to reproduce.  It is hard for us post-modern western minds to understand and appreciate the pride and privilege of reproduction having a Divine purpose which will bless the entire world with the Messiah/Christ from God, but that is an ancient sentiment and purpose every Jewish woman had ingrained in her being from infancy to adulthood. The highest most notable achievement of any woman was for her fulfilled role in bringing the Messiah/Christ closer into the world for the one and only true God of Israel. How do you think women felt about God making a way for their cleanliness to reflect holiness, in observing the laws regarding discharges of blood? Leviticus 12:1-8. How would Mary have felt? Luke 2:22-24 & 2nd Cor. 8:9.