Each year about this time, I think about how Christians (those who truly follow Jesus Christ) read the Bible. I think about their strategy for listening to God in his word. On January one, many will start on a program of reading through the Bible in one year. It is a cause for spiritual concern about how many of those will still be following their chosen program on March first. I have written previously about the challenges of such programs and will not repeat them here, except to say that any program must be doable for you. In order to read through the Bible in one year, you must commit to reading three to four chapters a day. Can you sustain that pace? Can you read that number of chapters and really listen to God speak? Or will you be reading with a lack of attention?
As I have also said many times, every follower of Jesus ought to read through the Bible. It might be better to do that over two or three years. As you do, you will read familiar books, such as Genesis, Exodus, Psalms, Proverbs, the Four Gospels, Acts, and a few others. Most are unfamiliar with books like Ezekiel, Obadiah, Ezra, and Zechariah… and Leviticus. Many get “bogged down” in its opening section about sacrifices, and then are perplexed about “all those laws” in chapters eleven through twenty-five. Their minds wander as they wonder about their significance, especially to the believer in our time. In this article, I suggest a few thoughts on the opening chapters of Leviticus that will hopefully stimulate you to read them attentively.
- The first seven chapters present five offerings for the law covenant worshiper to bring to the Lord. The offerings are called (according to the ESV translation) burnt, grain, peace, sin, and guilt offerings. As you read about them, a few ideas are repeated. Much is written about sin, blood, and the exact manner in which the offerings were to be offered. “Sin” points to our basic problem before God. We have rejected him, refused to love him, and rebelled against him. We need an offering that he will accept in order to be received by him. “Blood” is significant, because as the writer of Hebrews says, According to the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness (Hebrews 9:22 ESV).
- A few times we read the phrase a pleasing aroma to the Lord (or something similar). The Holy Spirit tells us God’s acceptance of the offerings that he required from the old covenant people. When his people came to him by faith with those offerings, they could know that God welcomed their worship. We no longer bring the sacrifices of the law, because we have a better sacrifice than the blood of bulls and goats. But here, we want to focus on the concept that the Lord wills to be pleased in the worship of his people. God invites us to draw near to him, as we keep the covenant during which time we live. (New covenant people keep the covenant through faith in Jesus Christ.)
- In these chapters, we encounter the concept of “holy”. Most believers use “holy” and related words like “sanctify” with little idea of what they mean. It is too easy to like the “religious tingle” of using religious words like “holiness” or “sanctification” to impress other believers or to feel like you are worshiping. But God wants us to love him with all our minds. There should be understanding. To be “holy” is to be “set apart” to God or “consecrated” to him. Who we are and how we live are to be set apart unto the Lord. In this we see a personal relationship. Holiness is not a matter of devotion to rules or rituals, but consecration to the Lord of glory.
I hope this will help you as you start to read Leviticus. If you have questions regarding other books, please contact me at our email address.
Grace and peace, David