How many of you have set out with the admirable goal of reading the entire Bible? Genesis is good. It has a great bunch of stories in it. Certainly, can’t complain about Exodus with all the suspense. Both are not only pretty easy to read, but actually rather enjoyable. But then there is Leviticus. Not much else can derail a Bible-reading plan faster than…*snore*…huh? What was I saying? Oh yeah, Leviticus, the book of the law.
Not meaning to pat myself on the back or anything, but I am pleased to say I have now finished reading it for the 2nd time. Don’t be too quick to congratulate me, though. It took me several months to read those 27 chapters. With Paul’s words to Timothy floating in the back of my mind, the reminder that all Scripture is God-breathed and profitable, I asked God many times why Leviticus is even in the Bible.
I have read and re-read, with great fascination, the chapters about the 7 God-assigned feasts of Israel. But I have to admit, my eyes were pretty glassy through the rest of the book. I did find that there were so many commands in chapter 19, that I needed to read that one 2 or 3 times to unpack it all.
Leviticus is the third book of the Old Testament, and was written by Moses. It is the record of the law given by God to the Israelite people after leaving Egypt. It is not the ten commandments. Rather, it is the very extensive list of what sacrifices should be performed for what purpose, and the pretty detailed list of how to go about doing that. It’s not a book for the squeamish as it talks quite a bit about the particular parts of the sacrificial animals that are to be used, and where to pour the blood, etc. It contains quite a list of sins and what their punishments should be. Also an extensive list of what makes a person, or thing, unclean and what to do to be considered clean again. One can even learn how to deal with mold in a dwelling. It is a book that was obviously meant as an instruction manual for the Israelites.
Leviticus is for a people who had not yet been redeemed by the Messiah, thus the necessity of the sacrificial system. So what possible purpose could it have for Christians today? Why even bother making an effort to try to read it? And yet, the Apostle Paul did say in 2 Timothy 3:16 and 17 that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” We must bear in mind that when Paul wrote these words, there was no New Testament. The Scripture he is referring to was the Books of the Law (including Leviticus), the Prophets, and the Writings, aka the Old Testament. With this in mind, I can concede that even today it is important to recognize the behaviors listed in Leviticus as ones that God declares sinful. Still, there must be something more for Paul to declare that ALL Scripture is profitable. All means all after all.
As I continued reading through this book, pondering its usefulness, and praying for God to reveal that to me, the answer came while reading an unlikely passage. In chapter 21, verses 16-24 God declared that no descendant of Aaron (the priestly line) who had a physical defect of any kind could go past the curtain of the Tabernacle to the altar and offer the sacrifices because he would profane God’s holy place. As the daughter of parents who are both totally blind, and as a teacher for students who are blind and/or have other, sometimes quite severe, disabilities, this passage caused me to stop short. As I paused to pray, I heard the Holy Spirit speak the answer to my first prayer. Then I understood, not just why this command about the priests with physical defects, but the purpose of the book as well.
The following is the understanding the Spirit gave to me: The Bible is not just a collection of stories, books, and letters. It is, in fact, The Incomplete Works of God. It is a partial biography, or perhaps autobiography of God. His memoirs. A record of His works and interaction with mankind. Of course, it is incomplete because no one can know the mind of God…there is so much more about Him that is not recorded in the Bible, but this is what we have.
Each page, chapter, and book is a gradual revealing of who God is. And each book, as a whole document, has a theme that reveals something to the reader about the characteristics of God. Genesis shows us that God is the creator. He created the world and everything in it. He created animals and humans. He created the family that He would send the Messiah through.
Exodus shows us that God is not only God of the Israelites, but God over everything and everyone. No matter whether a person believes in Him or not. No matter that person’s status in this world, peasant or king. There is no one who does not fall under God’s jurisdiction.
Leviticus points to the complete holiness and righteousness of God. By detailing what is required of His people in order to be holy in His sight, we see that there is no way humanly possible for any man to stand holy and righteous before Him. Not only that, we see that God cannot, and will not, tolerate any sin, nor the effects of sin, in His presence. That is what the whole thing about forbidding a priest with physical defects from carrying out a sacrifice was all about. It was not because the defect was a result of any particular sin on the part of that person or his parents. It was because the defect is a result of sin entering God’s perfect creation and distorting all of it. It was a physical apparition of sin; a living, breathing example of the curse of sin in the world. This did not say that God did not, and does not love anyone with a disability, by the way. We can see that He does by looking how mercifully Yeshua (Jesus) healed the many blind, deaf, and lame in the New Testament. He was the extension of God’s love and mercy, and became the mediator between God and all men.
I wonder what Numbers will reveal? I have already started reading and praying for God to show me more of who He is in this book. I have also begun to keep a record of these revelations in the front of my Bible. I want a place I can go at any time to be reminded of all God is whenever I need to. I can’t wait to finish Numbers and see the whole picture!!