The book of Leviticus is one of those books of the Bible that does not get much air time in our day. But I want to blog a study through this book to hopefully incite an interest in it and show its very real and practical implications for Christians today.
Let me give a few reasons why a study of this book is important to modern Christians. First it is important because the New Testament writers believed it was important. Out of the 39 books of the Old Testament the book of Leviticus is the 6th most quoted book. Second the topics of the book are essential to understand if we are to understand the life and work of Jesus. The third reason brings the second reason into focus a bit more, and is that the book gives God’s people instruction on how to live in relationship with God.
It is probably good to outline a few of our natural boundaries to approaching the book of Leviticus so that we can work and pray to overcome them as you read through the book. The first roadblock to overcome is the reality that the majority of the book is Law. Not even lawyers enjoy reading through statutes and case law. It is something of a necessity to do only when one is conducting research about a case in which they are involved. But we should think about the research you would put into a legal case of which the outcome had your eternal destiny hanging in the balance. I think then we would all give such a book more of our attention. We find it a bit too casual to accept the life and work of Jesus on our behalf and just leave it at that. To read deeper into something that might give us a greater appreciation for what Jesus accomplished is somehow “work” and/or a distraction to our day.
Next is the roadblock that the book is full of ritual. The evangelical world is not fond of ritual. Interestingly it is not the ritual of Judaism that offends us but the rituals of medieval Catholicism. Nevertheless whenever the term ritual comes up in a church context it is usually with a negative tone. However, if we think about rituals, we all have a daily “routine” or ritual that we follow to keep our day organized and ensure we do not forget certain responsibilities. A ritual is really just something of a pattern to follow for certain types of events, usually important ones. A wedding or birthday celebration is a type of ritual. We celebrate certain holidays with a type of ritual pattern of family traditions. So the ritual sets the day apart from other days, and is followed because of the affection associated with the event or person being honored. I love my wife, so the things I go through to celebrate her birthday or our anniversary are worth the effort. Also we do things for others on such days that we know they find pleasing and will appreciate. Therefore, rituals purposefully set certain days apart and above other days. For Christmas we set up a tree and decorations as part of a ritual which does not fit other times of the year. Still they serve a purpose and have a prescribed element to them that we enjoy doing, although they may be more work than we would normally have on other days. Consequently, there is nothing essentially wrong with a ritual or tradition just because there is one.
Another boundary to our wanting to study such a book is that the rituals are so unlike anything with which we are familiar. There is a lot of talk about blood, animal body parts being cut into various pieces, burning things up, and other gory details we typically do not like as civilized people. Our culture is a very sterile culture. Most of us are very detached from the food industry to where we would understand what all happens in the slaughtering of an animal. Our meats are pre-wrapped within small cellophane containers, with the blood already drained. Most of us also function within a job field that does not involve having to offer up livestock or cattle on behalf of our sins. We don’t think about bringing the family pet to church with us. How much less acceptable would be the slaughtering and burning of an animal within a church today. But then just because these things are unusual to us does not mean that they cannot give us insight into what Jesus came to accomplish on our behalf. Jesus taught directly that He came to fulfill all the law’s requirements. This should give us ample reason to look into the law to see what requirements He took upon Himself on our behalf.