Posts tagged ‘Leviticus’

Leviticus? Oye!!

How many of you have set out with the admirable goal of reading the entire Bible? Genesis is good. It has a great bunch of stories in it. Certainly can’t complain about Exodus with all the suspense. Both are not only pretty easy to read, but actually rather enjoyable. But then there is Leviticus. Not much else can derail a Bible-reading plan faster than…*snore*…huh? What was I saying? Oh yah, Leviticus, the book of the law.

Not meaning to pat myself on the back or anything, but I am pleased to say I have now finished reading it for the 2nd time. Don’t be too quick to congratulate me, though. It took me several months to read those 27 chapters. With Paul’s words to Timothy floating in the back of my mind, the reminder that all Scripture is God-breathed and profitable, I asked God many times why Leviticus is even in the Bible.

I have read and re-read, with great fascination, the chapters about the  7 God-assigned feasts of Israel. But I have to admit, my eyes were pretty glassy through the rest of the book. I did find that there were so many commands in chapter 19, that I needed to read that one 2 or 3 times to unpack it all.

Leviticus is the third book of the Old Testament, and written by Moses.  It is the record of the law given by God to the Israelite people after leaving Egypt.  It is not the 10 commandments.  Rather, it is the very extensive list of what sacrifices should be performed for what purpose, and the pretty detailed list of how to go about doing that.  It’s not a book for the squeamish as it talks quite a bit about the particular parts of the sacrificial animals that are to be used, and where to pour the blood, etc.  It contains quite a list of sins and what their punishments should be.  Also an extensive list of what makes a person, or thing, unclean and what to do to be considered clean again.  One can even learn how to deal with mold in a dwelling.  It is a book that was obviously meant as an instruction manual for the Israelites.

Leviticus is for a people who had not yet been redeemed by the Messiah, thus the necessity of the sacrificial system.  So what possible purpose could it have for Christians today?  Why even bother making the effort to try to read it?  And yet, the Apostle Paul did say in 2 Timothy 3:16 and 17 that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  We must bear in mind that when Paul wrote these words, there was no New Testament.  The Scripture he is referring to was the Books of the Law (including Leviticus), the Prophets, and the Writings, aka the Old Testament.  With this in mind, I can concede that even today it is important to recognize the behaviors listed in Leviticus as ones that God declares sinful.  Still, there must be something more for Paul to declare that ALL Scripture is profitable.  All means all after all.

As I continued reading through this book, pondering its usefulness, and praying for God to reveal that to me, the answer came while reading an unlikely passage.  In chapter 21, verses 16-24 God declared that no descendant of Aaron (the priestly line) who had a physical defect of any kind could go past the curtain of the Tabernacle to the alter and offer the sacrifices because he would profane God’s holy place.  As the daughter of parents who are both totally blind, and as a teacher for students who are blind and/or have other, sometimes quite severe, disabilities, this passage caused me to stop short.  As I paused to pray, I heard the Holy Spirit speak the answer to my first prayer.  Then I understood, not just why this command about the priests with physical defects, but the purpose of the book as well.

The following is the understanding the Spirit gave to me:  The Bible is not just a collection of stories, books, and letters.  It is, in fact, The Incomplete Works of God.  It is a partial biography, or perhaps autobiography of God.  His memoirs.  A record of His works and interaction with mankind.  Of course it is incomplete because no one can know the mind of God…there is so much more about Him that is not recorded in the Bible, but this is what we have.

Each page, chapter, and book is a gradual revealing of who God is.  And each book, as a whole document, has a theme that reveals something to the reader about the characteristics of God.  Genesis shows us that God is the creator.  He created the world, and everything in it.  He created animals and humans.  He created the family that He would send the Messiah through.

Exodus shows us that God is not only God of the Israelites, but God over everything and everyone.  No matter whether a person believes in Him or not.  No matter that person’s status in this world, peasant or king.  There is no one who does not fall under God’s jurisdiction.

Leviticus points to the complete holiness and righteousness of God.  By detailing what is required of His people in order to be holy in His sight, we see that there is no way humanly possible for any man to stand holy and righteous before Him.  Not only that, we see that God cannot, and will not, tolerate any sin, nor the effects of sin, in His presence.  That is what the whole thing about forbidding a priest with physical defects from carrying out a sacrifice was all about.  It was not because the defect was a result of any particular sin on the part of that person, or his parents.  It was because the defect is a result of sin entering God’s perfect creation and distorting all of it.  It was a physical apparition of sin; a living, breathing example of the curse of sin in the world.  This did not say that God did not, and does not love anyone with a disability, by the way.  We can see that He does by looking how mercifully Yeshua (Jesus) healed the many blind, deaf, and lame in the New Testament.  He was the extension of God’s love and mercy, and became the mediator between God and all men.

I wonder what Numbers will reveal?  I have already started reading, and praying for God to show me more of who He is in this book.  I have also begun to keep a record of these revelations in the front of my Bible.  I want a place I can go at any time to be reminded of all God is whenever I need to.  I can’t wait to finish Numbers and see the whole picture!!

 

The Blood of the Sacrifice and the Cup of Communion

Friday, April 22, 2016 was Passover.  Passover is always on the same day of the Jewish calendar every year, the 14th day of the month of Abib.  This is according to God’s command given at the time of the exodus from Egypt.  It is still the day that it is observed today. 

Passover was the day that Jesus, Yeshua, was crucified.  In truth, if we are to remember His sacrifice on the actual anniversary of it, we should have done that just over a week ago on April 22nd. 

On the night before the Israelites left Egypt, the people were given instructions for observing the first Passover Feast.  Among other things, they were to sacrifice a lamb (or goat), a year old, and without blemish.  Each household was to do this, unless the household was too small to eat the whole lamb, then they could share with another household.  Very specific instructions were given on how to sacrifice and prepare this lamb.  Each household would sacrifice their own lamb, spread the blood on their door posts, and then cook and eat the lamb.  The blood on the door posts marked the Israelites as set apart from the Egyptians.  When the Israelites left Egypt, they numbered more than 600,000 men (plus women and children)…I wonder how many households that was?  Keep that in mind for now.

I would like to point out two things here.  One, the blood as an identifier; and two, the one-year-old lamb without blemish.  Now let’s see if there is a pattern.

Once the Israelites were safely out of danger from the Egyptians, God put the people to work building the Tabernacle (the incredible tent of meeting where God Himself would be present with the people).  It was at this time that God instituted the sacrificial system.  This was a series of animal and grain sacrifices that would cover any number of purposes.  The Burnt offering was voluntary.  It was an act of submission to God’s will.  The sacrifice was a male lamb, bull, ram, dove, or pigeon (God made allowance for those who did not have the means to offer a larger animal).  If the bull, ram, or sheep was used, it was to be without blemish.  The person offering the sacrifice laid his hand on the animal’s head, symbolizing the substitution of the animal for the person.  The priests would place the parts of the animal on the alter and burn it.  It was also the priests who would sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice around the alter.

Other sacrifices were the Grain offering, the Peace offering, the Sin offering, and the Trespass offering.  Of these four, three of them offered animal sacrifice, and two of them required an animal without blemish.  The Sin offering required the priest to dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle it seven times before the Lord in front of the veil of the sanctuary, and also wipe the blood on the horns of the alter. When a priest was installed, blood from a sacrifice was wiped on the tip of his right ear, right thumb, and big toe of his right foot.  The same was true for the person with a Leprous condition (which I understand to be any type of sore on the skin that was possibly contagious), after he had been declared clean by the priest as part of offering the Trespass offering.

The blood represented life.  Spilling the blood of a sacrifice was a substitutionary payment for the lifeblood that would have otherwise been required of each and every sinful person by a holy and righteous God.  In sacrificing the animal, without blemish, the person was transferring his own sin to the sacrifice.  At the same time, he was taking the blood of the sacrifice, the consequence of his sin, upon himself, and receiving the forgiveness through the substitution.  In other words, he made the sacrifice his own.

I will come back to this in a moment, but I want to point out something that, to me, is stunning.  It occurred to me while studying this in Leviticus what a great many lambs, goats, bulls, etc. needed to be sacrificed, on a daily basis.  Hebrews 10:11 says that every priest offered daily, and repeatedly the same sacrifices which never take away sins (the sin and the trespass offerings).  The Passover was celebrated yearly, and required an unblemished lamb or goat for each family.  At the time of the Exodus, as I stated earlier, there were hundreds of thousands of Israelites.  A wild stab in the dark would suggest that there may have been as many as 30 to 40 to maybe even 50,000 families.  That was when the nation was small.  They continued to grow.  Imagine the numbers by the time Christ walked the earth.  Now, how many animals without blemish do you suppose are the regular, run-of-the-mill occurrence?  I asked a local sheep farmer I know.  His response?  Maybe 1%.  One percent!!!  It would have been earthly impossible for the Israelites to offer up the sacrifices, as God commanded them to do, at the high numbers that were necessary, without the miraculous provision of them.  Just as God provided Yeshua, our spotless sacrificial Passover lamb for the forgiveness, once and for all, of our sins and the sins of the world, God also provided the lambs without blemish for thousands of people over hundreds of years for the forgiveness of their sins. Amazing God!!

Back to the blood of the sacrifice and the Passover.  I stated a moment ago that the person offering the sacrifice made it his own by laying his head on the animal, killing it himself, getting the animal’s blood on his own hands.  It was the consequence of his own sin.  He took that blood upon himself.  The blood of the Passover lamb, spread on the door posts, set that family aside as belonging to God.  There was great symbolism in the blood.

The night before Jesus was crucified, he had what we call the Lord’s Supper, or Communion, with His disciples.  In this meal, a cup of wine represents the blood of Jesus that was to be spilled for the forgiveness of sins through His sacrifice.  What did the disciples do with that wine, the symbolic blood?  They drank it.  They took it upon themselves, by taking into their bodies.  They made it their own.  And in so doing, they marked themselves as set aside and belonging to God.  The next time you partake in the Lord’s Supper, remember it is more than remembering what Jesus did for you at the cross.  You have accepted His sacrifice in your place, as a consequence of your sin…you have made, so gratefully, His sacrifice your own.  Your hands have been covered by His blood.  And beyond that, you have been marked as His, set aside, belonging to God Himself. 

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold!  The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”  (John 1:29)

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