A Christian Perspective on Leviticus (Pt.11)

The heart of the gospel as expressed throughout the Scriptures and in the closing of Leviticus is the promise of communion with God: “I will make my dwelling among you. . . . And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people”, Lev. 26:11-12, see Ex. 6:7 & 29:45 and in 2nd Cor. 6:16 & Rev. 21:3-4. The Hebrew word translated “abhor” in Lev. 26:11, 30, 43, 44) expresses the sense of revulsion we should feel from something that makes the stomach churn. Leviticus uses this word to describe the kind of offense that human sin is in the eyes of God (v. 30). We fail to appreciate the true nature of our sin until we come to recognize the deep, stomach-churning offense it is before God. However, the blessing and cursing sections of Lev. 26, both culminate in the twice-repeated promise that God’s soul “shall not abhor you” any longer (26:11, 44). In Christ our life causes NO more offense! The marvel of the atonement is that human sin is so perfectly resolved that God’s people are clean and genuinely pleasing in his sight. Because of the atonement taught in Leviticus and accomplished by Christ, God’s soul can and does take true delight in his people.

Leviticus concludes on a negative note, in Chapter 27, not because God was a pessimist about the ability of Israel to live a holy life, but because He knew Numbers & Deuteronomy were next to be written in the Law of Israel. Victory and blessings were to be experienced and recorded. Holiness in the Nation’s lifestyle and economy was seen by God in the way a person made promises and/or vows to God. To vow or consecrate a person or thing to the LORD was done on a completely voluntary basis. Based on the holiness of God, consecrating or vowing the person or thing to God was done for several personal reasons. For example, a person from the Tribe of Judah in distress or out of gratitude or out of a sense of calling, if they wanted to consecrate a child to the LORD, He could not give his child to the service of the tabernacle because the child was not from a Levitical family/tribe. So to consecrate his child, he would need to follow these procedures in the Lev. 27. The beauty of these commands are that they gave the one making a vow of consecration something exact to do, the vow of consecration was therefore far more than mere words in a prayer, so it had a precise monetary investment, which prevented anyone from making empty vows to God. No one should make a promise to a holy God as really valuable unless they made an investment. God exemplified this way of making promises in that he gave his one and only Son, to keep his promise of forgiveness to anyone who will trust & obey the promise of God in Christ. God was truy holy and intended people to know what kind of severe punishment was in store for anyone who violated the seriousness of making a vow to Him. Therefore v28-29 prohibited people from trying to buy back or redeem devoted people. When God Himself makes a promise to devote his Son, His Son went through with it, even though he prayed for a possible alternative in the Garden of Gethsemane, He still gave Himself. There was no way to buy Himself out of it. Therefore He had to volunteer as the perfect sacrifice, keeping the promise of God, holy, consecrated for the forgiveness of our sin. 

Lev. 27:30-34 is another one of those exceptions God in his mercy & grace made clear when it came to making a promise. Tithes could be “bought back” from the Lord, instead of tithing good seed from a  field, a farmer could pay the value of the seed plus 20%. These were real rules with consequences. The ultimate consequence is that Christ would come and die for the way they broke laws of redemption. In conclusion: Leviticus teaches us that we can not measure up in our behavior as holy, especially in view of the perfect holiness God gives us as a Christian. We must depend on Him and show our appreciation in obedience to Him for the righteous holiness of God we are graciously given in His Spirit! See 2nd Cor. 5:21

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!