This past week, our readings covered the entire book of Leviticus. I have mixed feelings about this because I think that, as Christians under the New Covenant, the Mosaic law does not apply to us, however we can gain great detail and insight into the theocracy that was the Nation of Israel that can bolster our faith.
A major portion of the Pentateuch is the Law, the regulations and ordinances that governed both the civil and religious life of God’s chosen people. Leviticus is particularly thick with religious ritual because it was the tribe of Levi (LEVIticus) that was set aside to be the priesthood for the nation. Many topics are covered in Leviticus from preparing sacrificial animals to managing the land that they used for farming.
We can get bogged down with the details of each regulation, but I want to point out the overarching purpose that God is enforcing. God promised to make Israel a blessing to the nations (Genesis 12:2-3), and this brought up the need of the people to act contrary to those living around them.
How effective would the nation of Israel have been if they did the same things that everyone else did? Part of the law was designed to make them act “abnormally” based on the cultural standards. Think about modern evangelism. You can talk to people about what Jesus did until you’re blue in the face and not get the time of day. But if you live out your faith? If your actions and speech embody the truth of the gospels? You’re gonna turn a few heads.
I will be the first to admit that I am not good at professing my faith, yet time and time again I have had friends or co-workers ask me about my faith simply because I don’t act like those around me. Many of the restrictions in the law are there because those practices were linked to pagan rituals and God didn’t want them to do anything that could be construed as similar to them.
As for the ritual practices in Leviticus, God intended those to bring the people closer to him. The blood was needed to hide or “cover” the sins temporarily so that they could draw close and commune with God. We then can see the numerous parallels in what happened to Christ. In the book of Hebrews, the author shows that Jesus took on the role of the high priest, the intermediary between God and sinful man.
Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people. And no one takes this honor on himself, but he receives it when called by God, just as Aaron was.
In the same way, Christ did not take on himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him,
“You are my Son;
today I have become your Father.”
And he says in another place,
“You are a priest forever,
in the order of Melchizedek.”
During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.
However, he did so much more than any high priest had prior. Jesus took on the role of the sacrificial lamb and, as God incarnate, was capable of being a sacrifice that covers all sin for all time.
But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!
What was imperfect in the Levitical order is made perfect in Christ. For this reason we have this section of the Old Testament: Not for us to beat ourselves up trying to be perfect, but to better understand the depth and wonder of what Jesus came to do for us.