In the book of Leviticus God’s Old Testament people are told how they can be made holy in order that God can dwell in their midst for good. There’s much in here for us to learn about holiness too.
In Leviticus you’ll find: mildew, skin disease, blood, sacrifices, more blood, more sacrifices and instructions about clothing and cropping. What on earth is going on? It’s no wonder Someone has once said: “Leviticus is like a wilderness, with the bodies of Bible reading plans lying everywhere.” Greg Gilbert
How can you persevere through the wilderness of Leviticus what do you need to know? You need to know this:
The book of Leviticus all about HOLINESS.
God is holy and demands that his people are holy so he might live among them. Remember the book of Exodus ends with God moving into the Tabernacle among his people. But for him to stay there for good…well, he needs his people to be holy and that’s what Leviticus is all about.
To be holy is to be a bit like a toothbrush. As your toothbrush is set apart for JUST ONE TASK and JUST ONE PERSON – brushing your teeth; so Israel is to be set apart for GOD and SERVING HIM ALONE; Israel is to be HOLY.
- Leviticus has much to say about how God’s people are made holy – not by effort but by sacrifices. These sacrifices are the penalty for sin and purify the people from their sin.
- Leviticus has much to say about how God’s people LIVE OUT BEING HOLY – mapped out in the laws they are to obey and the festivals they are to celebrate.
- Leviticus has much to say about who helps God’s people BE HOLY – so there’s much to say about the priests.
Now, sure the instructions may appear strange, but remember they were to a particular group of God’s people at a particular time and a particular purpose. Don’t get bogged down trying to understand everything in Leviticus. Instead, try to get the big picture. Leviticus shows us that holiness is really important – for God’s people BACK THEN and for God’s people TODAY. And if you don’t believe me, then go read 1 Peter!
But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
1 Peter 1:15-16
The book is structured symmetrically to draw our attention to chapters 16-17, all about The Day of Atonement – the day each year when the sins of God’s people are paid for and the people are purified once again.
- Leviticus begins with A LIST OF RITUAL SACRIFICES and ends with A LIST OF RITUAL FEASTS.
- Then after and before these sections there are DETAILS OF THE PRIESTHOOD who are ordained as “go-betweens” for God and the people.
- The incident with Nadab and Abihu being struck dead highlights how difficult and dangerous it is for the holy God to dwell among his people
- Then either side of the day of Atonement there are sections about purity – both ritual and moral.
- The Day of Atonement highlights how the sins and uncleanness of God’s people needs to be dealt with: (1) a penalty needs to be paid for their sin; (2) sin needs to be taken away.
You might find it helpful to ask these questions of each chapter of Leviticus. It’s unlikely that they’ll each be appropriate for every chapter. But they might well help.
- What do the sacrifices reveal about sin and God’s grace?
- What can we learn about the scope, shape and significance of holiness from God’s laws?
- How do Israel’s festivals highlight God’s goodness?
The Bible Project
The last resource to help us study Leviticus is the following video from the Bible Project. In greater depth than above it introduces us to the book of Leviticus in one video lasting around 10 minutes.