Lecture 8: The Law: Leviticus
Course: Old Testament Survey
Lecture: The Law: Leviticus
I. Orienting Data for Leviticus
A. A special emphasis of Leviticus is the achievement of holiness. That is a wonderful thing. If you approach it that way, if you teach, preach on it, and so on, and say, "Look, we are going to study this because it has as its goal the achievement of holiness." There is a lot of good that will come out of that. It is not just holiness, maybe in ritual or something, it is holiness in all areas of life including worship but also including daily life.
B. Moses is the author again.
C. We are at Mount Sinai, so that is when this is happening.
D. All of Leviticus is received by the Israelites at Mount Sinai. They are still camped right there and they get part of Exodus and the remainder of Leviticus.
E. What are the emphases?
1. It starts with five types of sacrifice. You can read about them in the first five chapters. If you wanted a sixth type it would be the Day of Atonement sacrifice, just in case you are puzzled over why it might say "What are six types of sacrifices?" Because that is a special category; the atonement sacrifice on Yom Kippur the Day of Atonement. There is a desire that people properly worship because worship is the first thing you owe to the god you believe in. Naturally, when people say, "Yeah, I’m a Christian, I just don’t go to church." They are something really weird. It is like saying, "I’m a great athlete. Yeah, I weigh 516 pounds but I really am a great athlete. I’m in shape. I don’t exercise. Why would I exercise?" It is just nonsense, it is not true. If a person says, "I follow Christ but don’t worship Him," they are saying something that does not connect. How could it be? People need to appreciate that, it is important. Leviticus is partly pushing in that direction.
2. You also have the priesthood. God wants to connect to those people, the priests help make that happen. Of course, if it can happen by God dwelling in us, wow! What a connection, eliminating the need for human priesthood at all. The new covenant, indwelling of Christ through his Spirit, really is a dramatic elimination process with regard to things like the priesthood, the tabernacle, the sacrifices, and so on.
3. [God's insistence on worship according to his standards.]
4. How uncleanliness can happen and how to correct it is a very big thing. You constantly get in Leviticus advice about how to be pure and how to be clean. There is a lot of clean, pure stuff going on. This makes you unclean, this makes you clean. Much of it simply teaches the principle that you need to be clean. In the New Covenant the cleansing takes place in other ways from what it does in the Old. There are mechanisms for cleansing in terms of forgiveness and trusting in Christ. In the Book of Acts, several times the disciples say, "Our hearts are made pure." They really do talk about, "We’re ritually clean. We are as clean as the high priests could get in the Old Covenant before God, worthy to be in his presence, not because we’re good but just because Christ has accomplished so much." That is a big theme. As you teach Leviticus and preach it, you can help people see how important it is for them to be pure and holy before God. It really does, it almost whets your appetite for the New Covenant when it can be done for you by God’s grace rather than the Old Covenant when you have to struggle to try to accomplish it. It is very powerful material that way.
5. [Atonement (including the Day of Atonement)]
6. There are also laws about proper eating and about sex and other things and whether or not these are specifically to be renewed or not in the New Covenant, and I would say no, they are not specifically renewed, they do tell you God cares very much about your sex life. He wants it to be pure and holy. That gets defined for us in the New Covenant with the statement, for example, in Hebrews, "Let the marriage bed be undefiled." It is a real, clear thing how you have sexual purity. But you can see how important it is in Leviticus, Leviticus 18, for example.
7. So it is with the food laws. Then you might say, "God cares what I eat, really?" The answer is yes, because he cares that you should be one of his people who is disciplined enough that you eat properly and try to live in a manner that is healthy. It is the top priority of all these? No. It is not the top priority in the Old Covenant, it is not the top priority in the New but it is an issue. If you think that somehow what you eat or how often you eat or whether you eat or whether you eat well is of no relevance to you as a child of God, a book like Leviticus can help really correct that. It is very useful in that way.
8. [Blessings and curses accompanying the covenant]