“I am the Lord who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God;
therefore be holy, because I am holy.” Leviticus 11:45 W
What’s Going On?
In the Hebrew text, the book of Leviticus is a continuation from the book of Exodus and actually begins with the words “AND the Lord…” At the end of Exodus, the Tabernacle had been set up and is now ready to be used for both offerings and sacrifices. First things first, Aaron and his sons need to be ordained as priests so that they can oversee all that happens in the new “Worship Center” for the Israelites. This book served as a manual and a guidebook for the Levites who would serve as the priests. The theme of the book can be summed up in one word: HOLINESS. It’s important to notice that the instructions for holy living came after God had already rescued them from Egypt. Obeying the Law was not a condition of God’s rescuing His people – He had already done that. The Law was given because Man had already broken the once perfect relationship with God when sin entered the world in the Garden of Eden. Because of sin, man’s fellowship with God had been broken. God is Holy, and He cannot tolerate sin. So, a system is introduced in order for man to have a new kind of relationship with God that would include sacrifices, offerings, special feasts, and special instructions for right living. By following these instructions, God could continue to lead His people as He brings His three-fold promise to fruition. While we’re still a long way from the birth of Jesus, we are going to see glimpses of all that He represents and the desperate need of a Savior throughout the Old Testament and most especially here in the book of Leviticus. Most of the book of Hebrews will later show us how Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Covenant and replaced by Christ in the New Covenant.
It’s important to remember that the people to whom these laws are given had spent the last 400 years as slaves in a foreign land. This group is now going to be forming a new society that will need guidelines in order to function and to keep their focus on God as the head of this nation of people before, during, and after settling into their new homeland. At the center of their lives would be the Tabernacle and at the center of the Tabernacle would be The Ark of The Covenant, and the Glory of the Lord would dwell inside the Most Holy Place. They were to be vigilant in following God, His instructions, His Law. The book of Leviticus explains how this is to be done through very specific details about the offerings, the laws concerning cleanliness, the moral laws, the regulations for the priests, and the annual feasts. All of these would serve as a constant reminder of the dependence on the Lord and His blessings for obedience and punishment for disobedience. Of course, man wouldn’t be able to keep all of these regulations and when the time comes for Jesus to enter the world, the people would finally understand God’s ultimate act of mercy and grace for all people. The phrase, “I am the Lord your God” is repeated close to fifty times in the book of Leviticus and should be the most important thing we take away from our reading this week.
When and Where Are We?
The people of Israel are camped at the bottom of Mt. Sinai about 1500 BC. These events happen during the first year after leaving Egypt.
- Moses – Prophet, Deliverer, Law-Giver
- Aaron – Moses’ brother, spokesperson for the Lord, High Priest
- Aaron’s sons – Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar
- The Levites – the descendants of Levi, the third son of Jacob, who are chosen to serve the entire community of Israel as priests.
“Jesus replied, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second most important is similar: ‘Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.’ All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets stem from these two laws and are fulfilled if you obey them. Keep only these and you will find that you are obeying all the others.” Matthew 22:37-40 (TLB)
Weekly Reading Assignment:
- Monday: Leviticus 1-5
- Tuesday: Leviticus 6-9
- Wednesday: Leviticus 10-14
- Thursday: Leviticus 15-19
- Friday: Leviticus 20-24
- Saturday: Leviticus 25-27