I’ve been on a journey through the book of Leviticus the last few days. Anyone who has read the book knows that it has the potential to be a difficult book to read. To study the book, on the other hand, is way more impactful! Very few of the 66 books of the bible reveal the Holiness of God quite like Leviticus.
The book comes as a response to Israel’t blatant betrayal of God in the exodus journey. While Moses was on the mountain speaking with God, the people of Israel decided to go above and beyond in breaking the very first commandment that God had given them.
And God spoke all these words:
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
“You shall have no other gods before me.
“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
Exodus 20:1-6 (NIV)
Israel’s response was to construct a golden calf as a god for themselves and have a wild party celebrating it. It was probably the worst possible thing they could’ve done. Leviticus is God’s response to that betrayal. Instead of rejecting Israel and destroying the entire sinful nation, He provides a way. A way for them to still, yes still, be in His presence. That’s pretty amazing! That’s love! But it came at a major price.
In chapters four and five, a method of atoning sacrifices are laid before the priests and people of Israel. These sacrifices make it possible for a broken and sinful people to be in community with a holy and perfect God. When we stop and just consider that relationship with any deep thought whatsoever, we would realize that there is no cost too high. Here are some highlight verses from those chapters:
“‘If the anointed priest sins, bringing guilt on the people, he must bring to the Lord a young bull without defect as a sin offering for the sin he has committed. (v.3)
“‘If the whole Israelite community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord’s commands, even though the community is unaware of the matter, when they realize their guilt and the sin they committed becomes known, the assembly must bring a young bull as a sin offering and present it before the tent of meeting. (v.13-14)
“‘When a leader sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the commands of the Lord his God, when he realizes his guilt and the sin he has committed becomes known, he must bring as his offering a male goat without defect. (v.22-23)
“‘If any member of the community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord’s commands, when they realize their guilt and the sin they have committed becomes known, they must bring as their offering for the sin they committed a female goat without defect. (v.27-28)
“When anyone is unfaithful to the Lord by sinning unintentionally in regard to any of the Lord’s holy things, they are to bring to the Lord as a penalty a ram from the flock, one without defect and of the proper value in silver, according to the sanctuary shekel. It is a guilt offering. (v.15)
Keep in mind, this is a small list of a rather large list of sacrifices for nearly every situation you might think of. What hit me the hardest while going through the book was how much, and how often, I would’ve had to make sacrifices for myself if I lived under this system. Every, and it says every, unfaithful act or sin committed required payment. When I think about my life, that’s a lot! That’s sacrifices every day. These sins don’t even need to be intentional. The verses above are sure to cover everything, intentional or not. That’s a lot of goats, doves, and pigeons that would have to die for my choices. Sin is so costly. My sin is so costly. And the price to be made clean is beyond expression or calculation.
While these sacrifices made it possible to remain in God’s presence, they never fully satisfied the sin problem that we are all plagued by. For that, God would take matters into His own hands as the one who made the ultimate sacrifice.
For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near…But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”
And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
Hebrews 10:1-7, 10-14 (ESV) (my emphasis)
I was pretty overwhelmed by the price of my sin when I read Leviticus. I am even more overwhelmed when I think about the unimaginable value of Christ’s sacrifice. The lonely, the broken, the depressed, and the hurting, need look no further than the cross of Christ to see how loved they are and that there is a God who will never leave them.
Don’t forget my brothers and sisters…
- To always be captivated by God’s unfailing love and desire to be with us.
- To know, deep down, the cost of our sin and that we have a God who would spare no expense in paying our tremendous debt.
- No matter how dirty and stained our life choices have made us, we can be made clean. And we have a God who wants to make that happen.
Come and wash in the love of His grace and mercy. It’s an endless stream.
I will sing to the LORD because He has treated me generously.
Psalm 13:6 (HCSB)