On reading the book of Leviticus, we are struck by the strangeness of it all. It all seems so different from anything we have ever known. Are we, then, to conclude that we have nothing in common with those who worshipped the God of Israel in these far-off Old Testament times? Are we to abandon the Old Testament, especially the most difficult parts, as a waste of time?
Many people have done exactly that. They hardly ever read the Bible. When they do read the Bible, they restrict themselves to a few favourite passages. The treasures of art, architecture, music and literature are not discovered by the casual observer. It is precisely the same with the treasures of God’s Word. We must not settle for the passing glance. If we are to find treasure, we must dig for it. We must dig deep.
When we dig deep in the book of Leviticus, we will discover spiritual principles for today’s Church. There are things, in Leviticus, which are very different from life in the Christian Church today. Nevertheless, there are spiritual principles which remain constant. The underlying message of Leviticus is still relevant to us.
If we want to learn about worshipping God, we can learn a great deal from the book of Leviticus. Here are four key features of true worship:
(i) glory – ‘the glory of the Lord will appear to you’ (9:6);
(ii) cleansing – ‘he shall be clean (14:20);
(iii) thanksgiving – ‘a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord’ (22:29);
(iv) holiness – ‘you shall hold a holy convocation’ (23:36).
(i) ‘The glory of the Lord will appear to you.’ Can there be anything more wonderful than this? The glory of the Lord has appeared among men and women. In our sinful world, the glory of the Lord has appeared. This is not merely an event from many centuries ago. It is an event which continues to happen. Jesus Christ is Emmanuel, God with us. The glory of God has been revealed in Christ. The Old Testament revelation of God’s glory cannot compare with the fullness of glory revealed in Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Saviour of sinners. The glory of God continues to shine brightly wherever Jesus Christ is worshipped as the Son of God and the Saviour of sinners. May the glory of the Lord appear to us. May the glory of Jesus Christ shine brightly as we gather together to worship Him. May His glory fill our lives.
(ii) ‘He shall be clean.’ Why did the Old Testament priests bring blood offerings to God? They brought these offerings so that there might be cleansing for guilty sinners. Is this not what we need today? – Cleansing from sin. Our lives have been stained by sin. We are guilty before God. What can we do? We can come to the Lord and seek His cleansing? In the Old Testament period, there was an elaborate system of sacrifices for the forgiveness of sin and the removal of guilt. Now that Christ has come and died for our sins, this complicated system of sacrifices is no longer required. We are now able to come to God the Father through Christ who died for us – ‘The blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us from all sin’ (1 John 1:7). ‘Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?’ – This is the question that God puts to each one of us.
(iv) ‘A sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord’. When we have been cleansed by the Lord, we are to give thanks to Him. In Luke 17:11-19, we read of ten lepers who were cleansed by Jesus. Only ‘one of them … praised God and gave thanks’ (vs. 15-16). Jesus said, ‘Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?’ (v. 17). Jesus Christ has died for us so that our sins might be forgiven. Why do we, so often, take Him for granted? Why are we so slow to offer to Him our praise and thanksgiving? He calls us to remember Him, yet we, so easily, forget Him.
(iv) ‘You shall hold a holy convocation.’ We are to ‘worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.’ The holiness for which God is looking for is holiness of life which is rooted in holiness of heart. What a difference there is between the false ‘holiness’ of the Pharisees and true Christ-centred holiness of heart and life. God is calling us to seek holiness. There can be no true happiness without holiness.