Leviticus means “about the Levites.” Levites were the tribe chosen by God to be His priests. They were taken in place of the firstborn of all Israelites. The firstborn was commanded by God as devoted to Him. See Numbers 3:11—13.
The key to understanding Leviticus is holiness. In Leviticus 11:44, 45 God says, “I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy . . . I am the Lord who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy” (NIV).
Our first understanding of God should be that God is holy; a truth repeated throughout the Bible. (see Lev. 19:2, Isaiah 6:3, Psalm 99:3, 5, 9; Revelation 4:8). Since God is holy, He cannot dwell with people who are sinful. Therefore God commands us to be holy just as He is holy. God also tells us the He is the one who makes us holy (Lev. 20:8; 21:8, 15, 23; 22:9, 16, 32).
Approaching God Who Is Holy
Leviticus taught the Israelites how to approach God who is holy. Earlier in Exodus, God had taught them how to build a tabernacle (which was according to the pattern shown Moses on the mountain which the book of Hebrews tells us exists in heaven) where He could make a dwelling with His people. But in Leviticus the people are taught how sin is such a huge barrier between God and man.
And man could only approach God very solemnly and that too by sacrifices involving the shedding of blood of innocent animals like lambs or doves. God taught the Israelites that the life of a creature is in the blood and it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life: “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.” (Lev. 17:11 NIV).
The Bible also says, “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness (Heb. 9:22 NIV).
The Meaning of Sacrifices
Atonement meant “cover.” When somebody approached God by the merit of the blood of an innocent animal, then God “covered” their sins. To put it in simple terms, their sins were not held against them.
But the Letter to the Hebrews makes it clear that animal sacrifices could not take away sin: “because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb. 10:4 NIV). But these sacrifices were pointing towards a “once for all” sacrifice of Jesus Christ who entered the Most Holy Place in heaven by His own blood (Heb. 9:11—14).
This was symbolised in the observance of the Day of Atonement described in Leviticus 16. Thus only the blood of Jesus can give us forgiveness of sins, cleansing and pardon. So all the sacrifices and offerings in one sense or the other pointed to the shedding of blood on the cross of Calvary which then made unnecessary any more sacrifices because Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30).
He was telling us that His shedding of blood on the cross was the perfect sacrifice for sin and His resurrection from the dead showed that God was completely satisfied with His sacrifice. This complete satisfaction was never possible by the blood of animal sacrifices (Heb. 10:11).
The New Way to Approach God
With the sacrifice of the blood of Jesus on the cross, a new and living way has been opened to us to approach God. Read Heb. 10:19—22. We are asked to enter into the presence of God with confidence by the blood of Jesus.
In the past the High Priest was the one who offered the blood of the sacrifice at the Most Holy Place inside the curtain. That curtain symbolised Jesus’ body. Now that the curtain was broken the way into the presence of God has been opened. We should therefore approach God and draw near to Him with a sincere heart (Psalm 145:18) in full assurance of faith having our hearts sprinkled by the blood of the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).
God and only God alone is worthy of our worship. Jesus made it very clear when He said to the devil, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only” (Matthew 4:10 NIV).
In Revelation 4 and 5 we are shown the throne of God and everyone worshipping God and the Lamb. God is to be worshipped because He is our Creator and Jesus is our Redeemer.
Worshipping God (as mentioned in the Bible) always involved a humble posture of the body as falling facedown or kneeling or lifting up hands and also bringing of gifts (Matt. 2:11) and sacrifices. Leviticus taught the Israelites how to worship God.
And since the tabernacle was right in the centre of their camp with rules not to approach it carelessly they understood that worshipping God is not to be taken lightly. Instead it was to be central in their lives. The constant sight of fire and smoke of animal sacrifices at the centre of their camp reminded them always that God is holy and their sin prevented them from approaching God.
Yet God wanted to dwell with them and He wanted to teach them how to worship Him properly. In fact the book opens with God speaking to Moses and asking him to tell the Israelites what He wanted to teach them. “
The Lord spoke to Moses” is recorded in more than fifty places in this book telling us of its divine origin. In fact, Leviticus is the first book in the Bible taught to Jewish children so that they might keep worship of God central in their lives.
There are five major offerings described in Leviticus. In one way or the other each of them pointed to Jesus Christ. Let us take a quick look at them.
Dr. Henrietta C. Mears gives us five words to remember them:
1. Burnt Offering:
“Surrender” of Christ for the world—Leviticus 1
2. Grain Offering:
“Service” of Christ in life—Leviticus 2
3. Fellowship Offering:
“Serenity” of Christ in life—Leviticus 3
4. Sin Offering:
“Substitute” of Christ for sin—Leviticus 4—5:13
5. Guilt Offering:
“Satisfaction” by Christ for demands of God—Leviticus 5:14—6:7
“These five include all the offerings and sacrifices referred to in the history of Israel. Sometimes offerings are presented for the priest himself, sometimes for the nation, a ruler of the nation or a common individual; sometimes the offering is a bullock, sometimes a sheep, a goat, a turtledove or a pigeon; but in any case, it is always one of these five offerings “– Christian Worker’s Commentary.
● The Burnt Offering
(Lev. 1, 6:8—13)
Seven features constitute the ritual of the burnt offering, as follows:
The presentation, v.3;
the laying on of hands, v.4;
the slaying of the victim, v.5;
the sprinkling of the blood, v.5;
the separating of the pieces, v.6;
the washing of the pieces, v.9;
the burning of the whole, v.9. — Christian Worker’s Commentary.
This was the most common offering. In this the animals or birds were entirely burnt. It signified total dedication to God. That means that we cannot approach God without surrendering ourselves to Him. That always comes first.
The offering from the herd had to be a male without defect (1:3) (which symbolized Christ, “a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19), and the sin of the person was transferred to the animal by placing his hand on it. Thus Jesus took all our sins upon Himself and gave His life as a sacrifice for us (1:4).
This sacrifice was accepted by God (1:3), “an aroma pleasing to the Lord” (1:9). Ephesians 5:2 says, “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (NIV).
● The Grain Offering
(Lev. 2, 6:14—23)
The Grain Offering, the only offering offered without blood. The fine flour made by crushing speaks of the perfection of Jesus Christ. This offering represented the Israelite’s dependence of God as the offering involved the fruit of labour from the earth. No yeast or honey were to be used in the offering (2:11) signifying purity. But salt is commanded to be offered along with the offering (v. 13).
Salt, was called the “salt of the covenant” (2:13). It signified the confirmation and preservation of God’s covenant with them. Some part of the offering was burned but the rest was for the priests. When grain offerings of firstfruits were brought, it was burned and oil, symbolic of the Holy Spirit, plus incense, symbolic of prayer, were used.
● The Fellowship Offering (or traditionally “peace offerings)
(Lev. 3, 7:11—36)
In the Fellowship Offering all the fat was burned. What was to be eaten was divided between the altar, the priest and the owner. It denoted peace. The Bible says that Christ is our peace (Ephesians 2:14) He has reconciled all things to Himself “by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Col. 1:20). This offering was an expression of thanksgiving, and represented fellowship and communion with God symbolized by the eating of it.
In summary, one part was offered in the fire showing acceptance by God, another part was eaten by the offerer symbolic of peace between him and God, and a portion of it was eaten by the priest. “The Israelite, who represents the Christian, is seen to be enjoying a feast with God, where God himself is the host (rather than the offerer). God first accepts the victim in expiation of sin and then gives it back for the worshipper to feast upon with himself.” – Christian Worker’s Commentary.
● The Sin Offering
(Lev. 4 to 5:13, 6:24—30)
The Sin Offering was made by people who sinned unintentionally. It included the anointed priest (4:3), or the whole Israelite community (4:13), or a leader (4:22), or a member of the community (4:27). Jesus Christ became our sin offering: “God made him who had no sin to be sin [“be a sin offering” (NIV footnote)] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21 NIV).
This offering compelled the Israelites to acknowledge sin. So the account begins, “When anyone sins . . . he must bring” (4:2, 3). Matthew Henry comments, “The young bull must be killed, and a great deal of solemnity there must be in disposing of the blood; for it was the blood that made atonement, and without shedding of blood there was no forgiveness, v 5—7.
Some of the blood of the high priest’s sin offering was to be sprinkled seven times before the curtain, with an eye towards the atonement cover, though it was veiled: some of it was to be put on the horns of the golden altar, because at that altar the priest himself ministered; and thus was signified the putting away of that pollution which because of his sins accompanied his services.
When this was done the remainder of the blood was poured at the foot of the bronze altar. By this rite, the sinner acknowledged that he deserved to have his blood thus poured out like water. It likewise signified the pouring out of the soul before God in true repentance, and prefigured our Saviour’s pouring out his life unto death.”
“[The Sin Offering] shows us Christ on the cross in the sinner’s place. . . . In the other offerings the offerer comes as a worshipper, but here as a convicted sinner. God holds us accountable for our sin. We are like criminals who have been tried, found guilty and sentenced to death. . . . The only reason burnt offerings, grain offerings or fellowship offerings can be made is that the blood of pardon has been shed. God has accepted the one offering of His Son, which every lesser offering typified (symbolically represented).
In non-Christian religions, worshippers bring their sacrifices to their god; Christians accept the sacrifice from their God.” – What the Bible Is All About by Dr. Henrietta C. Mears.
● The Guilt Offering
(Lev. 5:14—6:7, 7:1—10).
This offering had to be offered, “When a person commits a violation and sins unintentionally in regard to any of the Lord’s holy things” (5:15). Even sins committed in ignorance could not be overlooked (5:17). Whatever be the case, it was always a ram without defect that had to be offered (5:15, 18; 6:6).
For wrongs committed against God (for example, failing to give tithes) or one’s neighbour (for example, cheating) restitution was to be made which was an additional 20 percent (one-fifth). For wrongs done against God, the additional 20 percent was given to the priest, in cases against a neighbour it was given to the one defrauded.
The Ordination of Aaron and His Sons
The Letter to the Hebrews tells us that Jesus is our High Priest in heaven. The anointing of Aaron as High Priest was symbolic of it. The anointing oil was poured on his head (Lev. 8:12) which is also described in Psalm 133:2. The blood of the ram, the ram for the ordination (8:22) was applied to the “lobe of Aaron’s right ear, on the thumb of his right hand, and on the big toe of his right foot” (8:23). This was done to his sons also.
It signified the dedication of the whole person to God’s service. “The ear, because the priest was always to [obey] the word and commandment of God; the hand, because he was to discharge the priestly functions properly; and the foot, because he was to walk correctly in the sanctuary” — (C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary of the Old Testament, Vol. 1, p. 341).
No one could become high priest by his own choice instead he had to be called by God (Heb. 5:4). Aaron was called by God and Moses acted as God’s representative in consecrating him for the priestly service. On the eighth day after their ordination they started their priestly service. And then “Aaron lifted his hands toward the people and blessed them” (9:22).
The priestly blessing is given in Numbers 6:22—27. It carried God’s blessing. When they came out after sacrificing the offerings the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people, and fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed the offerings. All the people, when they saw it, shouted for joy and fell facedown.
In Chapter 10, we find tragedy happening in the priestly family. We find Nadab and Abihu offering unauthorized fire before the Lord and fire came out from the Lord’s presence and consumed them (10:1, 2). Then Moses told Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke of when he said: `Among those who approach me I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honoured’ ” (Lev.10:3 NIV).
It was the coals on the bronze altar in the outer court which should have been used by the priests to burn the incense (see Lev. 16:12). The prohibition in v.10 and 11 is a hint that their strange fire may have been occasioned by liquor. Some commentators think that they may even have drunkenly wandered into the Most Holy Place (see also Lev. 16:1, 2).
Note: “The Levitical Priesthood was divinely ordained as mediator between God and the Hebrew nation in the ministry of Animal Sacrifices. Those sacrifices were fulfilled in Christ. Animal Sacrifices are No Longer Necessary. Neither are priests. Christ Himself is the Great High Priest for Man: the only Mediator between God and Man. Hebrews 8, 9, 10, makes this very clear. Christian Ministers are not priests. They are nowhere in the New Testament called `priests.’ Only in 1 Pet 2:5, 9 and Rev 1:6 and 20:6 is the word applied to Christians; and there, to ALL Christians.” – Halley’s Bible Handbook.
“Christ is our High Priest and He is at the right hand of the Father today making intercession for us. We approach God by Him and Him alone (Hebrews 10:12; 7:25, John 14:6). When we see Christ as Sacrifice, we see beauty and completeness. When we see Christ as Priest, we see His divine perfection . . . As Sacrifice He establishes the relationship of His people with God. As Priest He maintains that position.” – Dr. Henrietta C. Mears, What the Bible is All About.
The Day of Atonement
This is the most central and important chapter in Leviticus. The Day of Atonement was ordained to be observed on the 10th day of the seventh month (Sept—Oct). Aaron was instructed not to come whenever he chose into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain. Any violation of this would be met with death (16:1, 2).
When he went into the sanctuary he had to bring a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering which he had to first offer for his own sin and the sins of his household. He was then to take the blood into the Most Holy Place and sprinkle it on the Atonement Cover (or The Mercy Seat) above the Ark of the Covenant. He could do this only after he burnt fragrant incense whose smoke would cover the Atonement Cover.
Then he had to cast lots between two goats. The goat whose lot falls for the Lord had to be slaughtered as a sin offering for the people. The other goat which was live was then brought forward. Aaron was to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the sins of the Israelites and put them on the goat’s head. And he was to send the goat away into the desert in the care of a man appointed for the task.
The scapegoat symbolised the removal or taking away of sins. The sins are carried away far from God’s house and the dwelling of his people. Other offerings were to be offered afterwards.
No work was to be done on this day: “because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the Lord, you will be clean from all your sins. It is a sabbath of rest, and you must deny yourselves; it is a lasting ordinance. . . . This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: Atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites” (16:30, 31, 34 NIV).
Read Hebrews 9:7, 8, 11—14 to know of the fulfilment of the sprinkling of blood on the Atonement Cover when Jesus shed His blood on the cross.
● The Sabbath (v. 3)
Every seventh day was to be a day of rest and worship. The Sabbath (means “rest”) was first instituted by God Himself immediately after creation. See Genesis 2:2—3. Here God blessed the seventh day and made it holy because He rested from all the work of creation He had done. Then it was given as a part of the Ten Commandments (see Exodus 20:8—11).
Jesus said that the Sabbath was made for man (see Mark 2:27). He meant that man needed rest and He needed a special time of remembrance every week to remember the Creator and to worship Him. In the modern world, man in pursuit of riches and fame has become workaholic and is working 24×7. It destroys his peace as well as his health.
The Jews observe Saturday as the Sabbath; but since Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week, Christians observe Sunday as the day of worship and rest. “Thus we celebrate the finished work of redemption” – Dr. Henrietta C. Mears.
● The Passover and Unleavened Bread (vv. 4—8)
God wants His people to always remember the mighty deliverance He gave them from Egypt through the blood of the sacrificed Passover Lamb. This feast began at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. From the fifteenth day, for seven days they observed the Feast of the Unleavened Bread. That is they ate bread made without yeast in remembrance of the time they left Egypt in haste (see Exodus 12:39).
The Passover Lamb was symbolic of Jesus, the Lamb of God who was slain and shed His precious blood for us (see 1 Cor. 5:7b). At the time of Jesus both the feasts were still celebrated (see Luke 2:41—52, Matthew 26:19 and John 13). Jesus gave new meaning to the Passover when He ate with the disciples The Last Supper. At that time He instituted the Breaking of Bread symbolizing His body broken for us and Drinking of Wine from the cup symbolizing His blood. And He said, ‘Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19b).
● Firstfruits (vv. 9—14) and The Feast of Weeks (vv. 15—22)
These feasts are a picture of Christ’s resurrection from the dead and our coming resurrection as well. In the feast of the Firstfruits, the people had to bring to the priest a sheaf from the first grain they harvested. The priest had to then wave it before the Lord on the day after the Sabbath (Sunday).
Before this was done, they were commanded not to eat from their harvest any bread or roasted or new grain until that very day they brought their offering to God, commanded to be done along with the waving of the sheaf. Paul said that Christ is the firstfruits of all who have fallen asleep, having been raised from the dead. That is the surety that we too who belong to Him will also be part of the coming resurrection (1 Cor. 15:20—23).
The feast of weeks was celebrated after seven weeks. It was observed on the fiftieth day (Pentecost), the day after the Sabbath (Sunday). On that day the people had to present to the Lord two loaves which were baked with yeast as an offering of firstfruits to the Lord. Other sacrifices were also prescribed. No work was to be done on that day. That day proclaimed that the harvest was done and it was gathered home. Firstfruits marks the beginning of the harvest and Weeks marks the completion of the same.
Let us see how this was fulfilled in Jesus Christ: Jesus rose from the dead on the day after the Sabbath (i.e. Sunday). Thus He was the sheaf of grain (note that sheaf is a produce that comes to life from the grain that dies in the earth) that was waved on the day of firstfruits.
Fifty days later, on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1), the Holy Spirit came in power upon the gathered disciples and after Peter’s Sermon some three thousand people were added to the Church (Acts 2:41). So as the feast of weeks was a thanksgiving for the gathered harvest, three thousand people were harvested for God on the day of Pentecost. It was symbolic of the greater harvest and resurrection to come at the end of time when Jesus returns to this earth (1 Cor. 15:51—54,, 1 Thess. 4:13—18).
Note: God also commanded the people not to reap to the very edges of their field or gather the gleanings of their harvest. But they were commanded to leave it for the poor (Lev. 23:22). This teaches us to be kind to the poor and leave behind something for them from our plenty.
● Feast of Trumpets (vv. 23—25)
This was a day of rest to be commemorated with trumpet blasts. It was to be observed on the first day of the seventh month. No regular work was to be done. Possibly its significance was to prepare the people with thoughts about God and about their sinfulness in preparation for the Day of Atonement on the tenth day of the same month.
● Day of Atonement (vv. 26—32)
It was the most solemn day of the year when atonement was made for the sins of the Israelites. No work was to be done. If anyone did work he was to be cut off from his people. On that day the High Priest entered the Most Holy place to sprinkle the blood of the animal sacrifice on the Atonement Cover. It was fulfilled in Jesus Christ when He shed His blood once for all for us (see Hebrews 9:12).
● Feast of Tabernacles (vv. 33—36)
This was done in memory of the time the Israelites lived in tents during their forty years of wilderness journeying. It lasted a week. People lived in booths outside their houses during this time. And they also heard the reading of the Law during this time (see Nehemiah 8:13—18). It was a time of great joy.
Jesus attended this feast and made a great proclamation about streams of living waters (it spoke of the Holy Spirit) flowing from within the one who believed in Him and drank from Him (John 7:37— 39).
“The Feast of Tabernacles recalled to their [Israelites] minds that by their own disobedience they were compelled to wander forty years in the wilderness, but in spite of their unbelief God was faithful in caring for them and in bringing them to their inheritance. These days reminded them of their dependence upon Jehovah [more properly, Yahweh] and the blessings that would come if they would be obedient to His will.” — From What the Bible Is All About by Dr. Henrietta C. Mears.
Tabernacles symbolises our life in this world until we enter our heavenly rest.
Sevens in the Book of Leviticus
In Chapter 25 we come across the Sabbath Year and The Year of Jubilee. God commanded that every seventh year the land was to have a year of rest during which time nothing was to be cultivated. This perhaps the Israelites failed to observe in later years.
It is important to note that after God told them about the rewards of obedience (26:3—13), God talked to them about punishing them seven times over if they disobeyed Him (26:18, 21 24, 28).
But true to His nature and character, God promised that if they confessed their sins when they were in the land of their enemies He would remember His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and remember the land (26:42).
Then God said, “For the land will be deserted by them and will enjoy its sabbaths while it lies desolate without them. They will pay for their sins because they rejected my laws and abhorred my decrees” (26:43). This word of God that the land will enjoy its sabbaths was fulfilled when the Israelites were taken captive to Babylon (2 Chron. 36:20).
It is written like this: “The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfilment of the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah” (2 Chron. 36:21 NIV). See also Jeremiah 25:11. So it is important to note that God’s Word will be fulfilled to the minutest detail. Read Jesus’ very strong words in this regard (Matthew 24:35, Mark 13:31, Luke 21:33; see also Isaiah 40:8).
The Year of Jubilee was a very special occasion. It was celebrated every fiftieth year; i.e. after a period of seven times seven years, a period of forty-nine years. It began on the Day of Atonement when the trumpet was sounded. Each person was to return to his family property. No one was to cultivate the fields. All Israelites who were slaves were to freed in the year of Jubilee. So God said, “Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you” (Lev 25:10 NIV).
“Another outstanding event was the restoration to the original owner of all the land that had in any way been taken away. That is, it was returned to the family to whom it had been assigned in the original distribution.
What a wise provision it was from an economic standpoint. But God no doubt had a more far-reaching plan bearing upon the coming of the Messiah. Every tribal and family register must be carefully kept so that the rights of all would be protected.
This would apply especially to Judah, the tribe from which the Messiah was to come. From these registers our Lord’s natural descent could be exactly traced.” — From What the Bible Is All About by Dr. Henrietta C. Mears.
“Every 7th day a Sabbath.
Every 7th year a Sabbatic year.
Every Sabbatic year was followed by a Jubilee year.
Every 7th month was especially holy, having 3 feasts.
There were 7 weeks between Passover and Pentecost.
Passover Feast lasted 7 days.
Tabernacles Feast lasted 7 days.
At Passover 14 lambs (twice 7) were offered daily.
At Pentecost 7 lambs were offered.” — Halley’s Bible Handbook.
Insights on the Gospel Accounts
● Leviticus Ch. 12 tells us about purification after childbirth.
Verse 8 talks about a woman who could not afford the lamb for the offering. If the woman is poor she was permitted to bring two doves or two young pigeons (Lev. 12:8). We find Joseph and Mary taking Jesus to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord and there offering the birds (see Luke 2:24). From this we can understand that Joseph and Mary were poor.
● Leviticus Ch. 13 talks about infectious skin diseases.
The man who was afflicted thus had to behave in a certain manner: “The persons with such an infectious disease must wear torn clothes, let his hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of his face and cry out, `Unclean! Unclean!’ ” (Lev. 13:45). Keep this context in your mind as you read the gospel accounts. For example in Matthew 8:3 we find Jesus reaching out to a man with leprosy (could be other skin diseases too; not necessarily leprosy. See NIV footnote). Matthew records, “Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.” That touch would have healed the man of his deep emotional scars because of his alienation from society.
● Leviticus 25 talks about the Jubilee year.
“Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you” (Lev 25:10 NIV). Jesus when he read from Isaiah 61 and applied the passage to Himself might have had the Jubilee in mind when all slaves were set free when He read, “He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners . . . to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour” (Luke 4:18, 19 NIV). He added, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21b NIV).
● In Leviticus 23 we find The Feast of Tabernacles described.
During this time people lived in booths or tents. It is interesting to note that John had this in mind when he wrote the majestic prologue to his gospel. John 1:14 reads, “The Word [Jesus Christ] became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” In the original Greek, “made his dwelling” among us is understood as “tabernacled” among us. That means that the Word lived in a tent among us. Like the Israelites camping in the wilderness, Jesus was among us for a while.
The Best for God
One of the unmistakable principles taught by God in Leviticus is that the best is for Him. Many Christians often think the other way round. They think that since God is so merciful and kind to us through Jesus Christ we can offer to God what is left-over. That attitude is wrong.
God commanded to offer a male without defect when people brought it for sacrifice. He also said, “Do not bring anything with a defect, because it will not be accepted on your behalf” (Lev. 22:20) NIV). But it seems that even when the last prophet of the Old Testament Malachi was sounding God’s warnings, the people still were offering to God what nobody else wanted (see Malachi 1:6—14).
In Chapters 12—15 a lot of ceremonial laws were given.
Comment: “Many of the laws in Leviticus concern ritual and ceremonial, but there are also laws about hygiene and laws about moral behaviour, similar to the ten commandments. No distinction is made between different kinds of law; all reflect God’s purpose for Israel and all are to be obeyed. In the New Testament the sacrifice of Christ brings complete cleansing, so laws on sacrifice and ceremonial cleansing no longer apply. However, they are very helpful in explaining what Christ’ death did for us.” — The Bible in Outline published by Scripture Union.
“God cares about the whole of life. Lev. 18:1—22:16. Leviticus doesn’t deal only with worship. There are rules about food and drink, illness, clothes, houses, crops, relationships, and working conditions. Every part of life should be lived in a way that reflects God’s character.” — The Bible in Outline published by Scripture Union.
To understand the context of so many unlawful sexual relationships prohibited, we need to look at these verses: Leviticus 18:1—5. There God says that both the people of Egypt out of which they came out and the people of Canaan the place they were to go practised these forbidden sexual relationships. But God commanded His people not to practice what they did instead they were to be a holy nation (Exodus 19:6). They key text is: “Keep my decrees and laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them. I am the LORD” (Lev. 18:5 NIV) [emphasis added]. Read also Leviticus 18:24—28 where it talks about the land vomiting out its inhabitants who practised all these wrong relationships.
Life Lesson for Youngsters: You’re passing through a stage in life when it seems to you that everybody including your parents, teachers, Christian leaders, elder brothers or sisters, other relatives; all are trying to limit your freedom by putting restrictions on you. It is quite natural to feel a rebellious attitude against them. But remember that boundaries have been kept by God for one purpose: that we may live by obeying God’s laws. They are for your ultimate good.
A variety of laws applicable to you and me today have been mentioned: Respecting your father and mother and rising in the presence of the aged (19:3, 31), to leave something for the poor (19:9), to pay the wages of hired man on time (19:13), not to spread slander (19:16), not to practice divination or sorcery; not to turn to mediums or seek out spiritists (19:26, 31), not to put tattoo marks on the body (it was a superstitious practice followed by ungodly people of those times) and not to use dishonest standards (19:35).
In Leviticus 21 and 22 God talked about rules applicable to priests. One of the most important one among them applicable to our times is: “Tell Aaron and his sons to treat with respect the sacred offerings the Israelites consecrate to me, so that they will not profane my holy name. I am the Lord” (Lev. 22:1 NIV). Christian leaders would do well to note this point. They are to treat with respect the offerings given by people.
Chapter 27 talks about laws regarding redemption of what is devoted to the Lord. It could only be redeemed by adding one-fifth (for example see vv. 30 and 31). Substitution was not permitted (vv. 32 and 33).
The tithe (dedication of one-tenth of possessions to God) was not voluntary but binding on all Israelites. But for Christians, it is not a rule but a moral obligation and a minimum standard. Those who have abundance from the Lord should give much more. We should give willingly and with gladness, not out of compulsion.