The setting of Leviticus is an interesting one. Israel, as a nation, just spent about 400 years in bondage to Egypt. Their cries and prayers for deliverance are finally heard by God and so through the providential use of miracles and Moses the people are set free to go worship their God in the wilderness. God takes care of His people throughout their journey. He provides protection as in the Red Sea event and other military victories. God provides guidance and direction as He manifests His presence in the form of a cloud by day and a fire by night. He even provides provisions for them as in the manna and quail to eat and the occasional water from a rock. Aside from their need for food we are told that even their clothing is preserved by God so that it did not wear out during their travels. Yet in all these things God is still somewhat removed from the picture. He still seems distant somehow.
Exodus ends with the Tabernacle, mobile temple and/or house of God reaching completion. The book of Leviticus is the very next event. As the tent is completed God is said to rest upon it in forms of cloud and fire. Moses is then called to enter and be God’s first guest within it’s now occupied walls of fabric. The God who delivers just moved in. Think about how different it would be for you if a house for sale in your neighborhood, maybe right next door to you, was purchased and now occupied by Jesus. God almighty is now your neighbor. It is an awful and terrible situation. Should you clean up your yard to match His? Do you put up a fence? What If He does not approve of fences? What if he sees you pulling out of the driveway and stops to ask where you’re going? What if He hears you and how you interact with your family? There would be a lot of pressure to act or be right with Him, and that’s the point. This is God’s method from the beginning. He walked with Adam in the garden of Eden, He dwelt among His people in the Old Testament, in Jesus He is called Emanuel which is God with us, and now into the New Testament God resides within the hearts and minds of His people by the Holy Spirit. The only difference to us is that we have a fully fleshed out testimony where God is currently not visible, and they had a visible manifestation and home for God where the revelation was still covered to a point in types and shadows.
The average Israelite would have been somewhat concerned, to say the least, that the Holy God of all creation was moving in next door. This is where Leviticus comes in. The rules or laws are brought to bear as to how the covenant community will function. It sets out just how a holy God can and will reside among a People called His own and yet a sinful people. The same theme the church faces now.