Learning from Leviticus
Leviticus follows on from Genesis and Exodus. In Genesis, we see man ruined. In Exodus, we see man redeemed. In Leviticus, we see man worshipping. This is a book of worship. It is a book for redeemed people. It shows them how to worship God. What is true worship? We do not begin with the worshipper. We begin with the God who is worshipped: ‘The Lord called Moses’ (1:1). Before worship, there is revelation.
God reveals Himself to us. (a) He shows us who He is. (b) He speaks His Word to us.
(a) He says to us, ‘I am the Lord’ (22:2-3, 8-9, 16, 30-33). He says to us, ‘I am your God’ (23:14, 22, 28, 40, 43). We say to Him, ‘You are our God’ (23:14).
(b) ‘The Lord spoke.’
‘The Lord said.’ ‘The Lord commanded.’
Leviticus contains many direct messages from the Lord.
In Leviticus – the book of holiness and atonement – , God reveals Himself as the God of holiness and love.
(i) Leviticus speaks much about God’s holiness. It also speaks of our call to live a holy life (11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7, 26). In Leviticus, we are given instruction concerning approaching the holy God and maintaining fellowship with the holy God.
(ii) Leviticus speaks about atonement. The shedding of blood is emphasized. This points forward to salvation through the shed blood of Christ.
Holiness and atonement – these two themes belong together in a true understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
- The holy God cannot stand sin. He has said, ‘Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord’ (Hebrews 12:14).
- The God of holiness is also the God of love. When we say, ‘God is holy’, we must never forget that ‘God is love.’ He is holy love. He is loving holiness. In Christ, God has provided a way for sin to be forgiven. In Christ, God Himself has become the Sacrifice for sin. He has taken upon Himself the punishment for sin. He has met the requirements of both His own holiness and our need for forgiveness.
Through the death of Christ for us, God has provided for our justification and our sanctification.
He imputes holiness to the believer. This is our justification. In
Christ, we have received the forgiveness of our sins (Romans 3:24). He implants holiness in the believer’s heart. This is our
sanctification. In Christ, we have received new life (Romans 6:1-6).
The command – ‘Be holy’ – is also a promise
– ‘You shall be holy’ (11:45; 19:2). Why is the command also a promise? It is because the command is based on God’s gift to us. In Christ, God has given us a holy nature. Our holiness is not an inherent holiness. We are not holy by nature. Our own nature is sinful. Our holiness is a derived holiness. It is derived
from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
- Leviticus, the book of atonement, points us to Christ. Through Him, we are cleansed from all our sins. In Him, we are clean before the Lord (16:30).
- Leviticus, the book of holiness, calls us to live a holy life. The life is a life of redemption and glory.
Where does the glory of the Lord come from this? It comes from this – the Lord is working out in us His great plan of redemption.
Every Sabbath day – in the context of worship – the people are reminded of God’s covenant (24:8). This is a continuing reminder of all that God has done (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob … redemption from Egypt). It speaks to us also of all that God will do. As well as salvation from Egypt, there is also the life of sanctification in Canaan (25:3; 20:24 – ‘a land flowing with milk and honey’ – and the life of service
(25:35). We are saved for sanctification. We are saved to serve. The Christian life is to be a life of holiness (sanctification) and love (service). Both arise form our experience of God’s salvation, an ongoing experience of the glory of God.
- In chapter 27, great emphasis is placed on holiness
(vs. 9-10, 14, 21, 23, 28, 30, 32-33). We are called to live a holy
life – ‘every devoted thing (person) is holy to the Lord’ (v.28). We are to surrender ourselves to the Lord – all our possessions are ‘holy to the Lord’ (v. 30). In giving ourselves to the Lord, we must seek to maintain the attitude of gratitude (Genesis 28:22).
- As well as holiness, there is to be love in our lives. We are to love our neighbour (19:18). We are to love the stranger (19:33-34). We are to be like the Good Samaritan. The stranger is our neighbour (Luke 10:25-37). What is our motive for loving the
stranger? It is redemption. God has redeemed us. We must not withhold His love from the stranger.
We must seek to be like Christ. Like Him, we are to live a life of holiness and love. This life of obedience is a life of entering into the glory of God (9:6; John 14:21). Sin robs us of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Salvation restores to us the glory of God
(2 Corinthians 3:18).
The contrast between the life of sin and the life of salvation is highlighted in chapter 26.
In vs. 1-13, we have God’s promises. He promises to give His
blessing to those who live in obedience to Him. In vs. 14-46, we have God’s warnings. There will be punishment for those who refuse to obey Him.
The essential character of the saved life is described in verses 1-13. We see this, especially, in verse 12 – ‘I will be your God and you shall be My people.’ In this relationship with God, we have His great promise – ‘I will make My abode among you, and my soul shall not abhor you’ (v. 11). When the Lord makes His abode in us, His glory is revealed through us (John 14:21). This glory is seen as we walk with the Lord in the ongoing experience of His salvation. We are ‘not … slaves.’ We ‘walk erect’ (v.13).
God’s purpose is for men and women to leave the life of sin and enter the life of salvation. He chastises the disobedient with a view to their returning to Him (26:18; 23). For those who return, there is the promise of grace (vs. 40-46).
The pathway to holiness begins at the gateway of grace. We travel from grace to glory. The words, ‘by grace through faith’ (Ephesians 2:8), are written over the whole course of the Christian life. At the beginning, it is ‘by grace through faith.’ At every point of the journey to glory, the message remains the same – ‘by grace through faith.’ In glory – ‘in the coming ages’ when God reveals ‘the immeasurable riches of His kindness towards us in Christ Jesus’ (Ephesians 2:7) – our joyful confession remains the same for all eternity: ‘by grace through faith.’