About the Book of Leviticus
Rector’s Letter to the Congregation, week of March 3, 2019
The challenge of reading the Bible for oneself continues. We have just finished the book of Leviticus. This is a book that is shunned by many and causes others to feel alarm about any suggestion to wade through all those lists of sacrifices and regulations.
Such people cheat themselves of discovering the massive wealth of the book. The book has deep lessons pertaining to walking with God faithfully. It carries a ton of symbolism for Jesus Christ the Messiah, the ultimate sacrifice, of whom all the sacrifices of Leviticus were antetypes.
The book seeks to answer the question: How can sinful human beings live in relationship with a holy God? Answer: in their own effort human beings just cannot live in relationship with God because God is absolutely holy, so holy that He outshines the sun itself, and human beings are corrupted and perverted and tainted with unholiness. Holiness and unholiness cannot exist together. Holiness would burn up unholiness.
For human beings therefore to have a relationship with God, sacrifices are absolutely necessary. There were two types of sacrifices: the atoning sacrifices which provided a way for sins to be forgiven and for right standing with God to be restored, and non-atoning sacrifices in which the individual celebrated his or her relationship with God. The God of the Bible cannot be appeased by gifts or even by moral effort. He Himself provided the way to Himself through sacrifices. The fault of the individual is attributed to the animal, and then the animal pays the price by losing its life.
Without blood being shed, there cannot be forgiveness of sins. Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice for human sin to whom all the Old Testament sacrifices looked forward. He satisfied once and for all the requirements for God to forgive human sin. We no longer need to repeat any kind of atoning sacrifice.
Besides, Leviticus teaches that God is not to be worshiped in just any way we fancy. There are prescriptions for what is acceptable worship and what is unacceptable. It is as well that God set boundaries of how we could worship Him, otherwise if He didn’t then we could easily slide into all sorts of practices as we see many religions do.
Leviticus then shows us how God set about training His band of former slaves to change them into new people. These ex-slaves were to soak in God’s ways, make them their own, and then traverse the planet to spread the knowledge, love, and ways of God everywhere. And there was to be no mixing of their own chosen ways and God’s ways. They were to drop their own entirely and embrace God’s ways wholly.
Leviticus shows us that the God of the Bible is interested in having a relationship with humans, not in mere religious ceremony or ritual however elaborate or packed with pomp. Yahweh is also very concerned about justice, fairness, humaneness, and good neighborliness. According to Leviticus, He wants His people to live happy, peaceful lives with Him at the center of all life. People of God, please read the book of Leviticus.
Book: Get Out of That Pit
by Beth Moore (2007: 21, 25, 29, 33)
You can get thrown into a pit. That’s right, without doing one thing to deserve it and without wallowing your way into it. I’m not talking about a pit of sin here. This one’s a pit of innocence—the kind a lot of believers don’t realize exists. You can get thrown right into the miry deep before you know what hit you. Or worse yet, who hit you. In fact, those were the circumstances surrounding the first pit ever mentioned in Scripture. In a fit of jealous rage set up by their father’s partiality, the older sons of Jacob threw their seventeen-year-old little brother, Joseph, into a cistern with the intention of leaving him for dead. Let that sink in a second.
…Getting thrown into a pit by another person can be the most complicated scenario to deal with. Having someone to blame can eat us alive. Take, for instance, a family member with mental illness, or a parent who neglects her healthy children because she can’t help focusing on one handicapped child. What if we’ve been thrown in by the sin of another person—perhaps a family member? Joseph’s brothers sat down to eat a meal while he surely screamed from the pit nearby. What about when the person remains close by, lives as if nothing has ever happened, sees our distress and anguish, but will not hear us?
…I hate to bring up this word, but I just don’t have a choice: forgive. It’s tough to do, but we’ve got to forgive, even—no, especially—those who don’t care to be forgiven. Forgive them not only for their destructiveness, but also for their ignorance. They don’t have a clue how much it affected your decisions and relationships. I’m not sure they would get it even if you told them in detail upon detail.
I started out in a pit of innocence, but eventually my bitterness rearranged the furniture until it was nothing more than a pit of sin. I thought forgiving my pit-throwers would make what they did all right. But it didn’t. Forgiveness made me all right.
…Joseph eventually decided not only to look up but also to point up. His decision to view God as entirely sovereign and ultimately responsible was the life of him, not the death of him. Why? Because he knew God could only be good and do right. Joseph’s words to his brothers have been medicine to many sick souls who were willing to swallow them whole: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20). God saw the good it could ultimately accomplish, the lives that could be helped and even saved. Had the incident not possessed glorious purpose, God would have disarmed it.