Why Leviticus?

Why Leviticus? January 30, 2012


What’s the good of Leviticus? Have you ever puzzledover that? Back whenever it was that God chose 66 as the magic number for totalbooks in the Bible, I wonder what persuaded Him to give one of those preciouslyfew spots to a book filled with peculiar laws about hairy skin lesions, hygienefor moldy houses, and marrying your aunt. (“Don’t!”) 

Three weeks ago, I took a seminary refresher course,and one of the professor’s remarks which stood out to me went something like this:“Our culture’s casualness about God and our tendency to assume He is exclusivelya God of love are severe weaknesses that could be remedied by a strong dose ofLeviticus.” I think he’s right.

The book’s theme is encapsulated in its key word:“holy.” It appears well over 90 times in Leviticus’ 27 chapters. How canprofane people become holy? How can sinners draw near a holy God? Not by theirown efforts or accomplishments. No, Leviticus establishes another path. Apoignant and violent path.

The central feature of the book is the sacrificialsystem, an elaborate structure of ceremonies operating entirely on theprinciple of atonement. The blood of a surrendered life is poured out for theforgiveness of sins. Holiness comes via the death of a substitute. Thesacrifice presupposes that the dying animal is standing in for the worshiper.As I apply the knife to the throat of my animal, I enact on this creature thesentence that I myself deserve. My presence here, performing this bloody rite,shows that I know what I have coming. The animal’s presence, dying in my place,shows that I don’t get what I have coming. God has mercifully provided a wayfor me to live another day, another week, another month, another year. Therelentless repetition of the sacrifice makes the point that God is relentlesslyholy and His people are relentlessly sinful. The blood flowed and the fleshburned every single day. It was a harsh reminder that this is not a Godfor sinners to trifle with.

So when I turn on K-Love in the morning and startbobbing my head to trifling lyrics like “Lord, I love the way You hold me / InYour arms I’ll always be / You take each and every day, make it special in someway,” I think to myself, “Somebody needs a reality check. It’s time to rereadLeviticus.”