Sunday, October 2, 2016

A quick summary of the Book of Leviticus

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Leviticus 11:44 "For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. And you shall not make yourselves unclean with any of the swarming things that swarm on the earth."

Over the last two days we have been summarizing the first two books of the Bible. Moses wrote Genesis and Exodus under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (Exodus 24:4). His purpose was to rehearse the origins of the Hebrew people delivered out of Egypt. Genesis is all about beginnings and Exodus is all about redemption. Today's summary continues on from where Exodus ended. 

If anyone reading this post today is a Christian, I'm sure you can recall what it was like in the early days following your conversion. Everything was new. For the Jewish people who were redeemed out of Egypt, their old way of life was still fresh on their minds. They needed to be instructed on their new identity in the Lord. It is likely that the timing of the writing of Leviticus occurs from one month to one year following the Exodus out of Egypt. 

Major Theme of Leviticus: Sonship
The major theme of Leviticus is that of sonship. Some 32 times we find Yahweh referring to the people as His "sons". Thus, Leviticus will aim to establish for these former slaves their new identity in God.

Leviticus is the sequel to Exodus
The setting of Leviticus takes place at the base of Mount Sinai - where Yahweh revealed Himself in thick cloud and delivered unto the people the Law of God (Exodus 19-20). The Law God God was never meant to provide salvation, but rather point to the need for it. Moreover, God prescribed the conditions in which His redeemed people would operate in their journeys with Him, and He with them. The revelation of the Tabernacle in both Exodus 24-40 and here in Leviticus is what we look to when searching for a proper illustration of sanctification or one's progressive growth in fellowship with God following salvation. If we consider Genesis as the "prequel" to Exodus - with Exodus functioning as the main event with respect to Yahweh's redemption of the Jewish people - then Leviticus operates as the sequel to Exodus.

Outline of Leviticus: Principles for godly living in sonship and fellowship with God
We will now offer a brief outline of Leviticus. Oftentimes when Christian people think of Leviticus, they shy away from it, thinking it to be nothing more than a laundry list of dry rituals, sacrifices and random laws. This caricature misses out on how Leviticus pictures for us the relationship between God and His people who are to grow in fellowship with Him. More importantly, the rich types and symbols found in the revelations of the priesthood, sacrifices and feasts give incredible insights into the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Timothy 3:15-16 testify that "all scripture is profitable". It is suggested to the reader to have Hebrews 9 open when working through the Book of Leviticus. The writer of Hebrews explicitly connects the dots of Leviticus to show the reader how Jesus is foreshadowed by the book. We will now offer a brief outline and conclude with some final thoughts and applications for today.

1. Complete work of redemption. Leviticus 1-7

The major sacrifices revealed in these seven chapters illustrate aspects of the post-conversion walk with God following salvation. Leviticus was not intended for sinners before salvation, but for believers following salvation. Key themes in the sacrifices are: reconciliation (Leviticus 1); right relationship with God as adopted sons (Leviticus 2); right relationship with God in justification (Leviticus 3) and right living for God in confession and restoration (Leviticus 4-7). 

2. Keys to effective ministry. Leviticus 8-10

The keys to effective ministry in these three chapters weave their way like a three-braided rope: founded on the blood, focus on the Word and the fire of the Spirit. The priesthood is ordained and established in these chapters. Just as Aaron and his sons could not properly begin to minister lest the altar be lit by the fire of God, so too no Christian today can serve God effectively lest they be illuminated and led by the Holy Spirit. The priests were to then continuous tend to the fire and perform their ministry. In as much as Christians are empowered by the Holy Spirit, there must needs be constant attendance to the Word and other spiritual disciplines to tend the fires of commitment to God. 

3. Avoid strange fire. Leviticus 11-12

Nadab and Abihu offered "strange fire", meaning they had accessed fire from another place outside the altar that had been initially lit by the celestial fire from God's holy presence. Christians today are warned to not conform to this world (Romans 12:2; 1 John 2:15-17). The true light of the Gospel is that given by God to us. To attempt to derive the light of truth from other "false gospels" is committing the same error we find in Leviticus 11-12. 

4. Sin is the leprosy of the soul. Leviticus 13-15

Years ago I had worked for a mold remediation specialist whose purpose was to remove mold from houses and commercial businesses. Mold thrives in dark, moist places and disperses spores that can cause respiratory conditions that can make people very sick. Amazingly, much of the instructions provided in these chapters are principles found in the mold-removal industry. Such a disgusting and disturbing phenomena as mold is used to illustrate the dangers of lurking, unconfessed sin. The Hebrew word used in these chapters to describe the mold and mildew is the word we find in the Old Testament for leprosy, a debilitating diseases that eats away at the fingers and limbs. Sin is leprosy to the soul. 

For brevity's sake, we will simply list the final main sections of Leviticus by only noting the headings. 

5. The centrality of the shedding of innocent blood in redemption. Leviticus 16-17

6. Practical holiness matters in one's relationship with God. Leviticus 18-22

7. Spiritual nourishment in one's walk with God. Leviticus 23-25

Final thoughts and applications
It is so hard to choose which details to include and exclude in short summaries such as this post. It is hoped that the reader can see how valuable the Book of Leviticus can be in understanding one's walk with God. Two quick examples show how important Leviticus can be to Christian identity: loving one's neighbor (Leviticus 19:18 cf Matthew 22:39 ) and being holy as God is holy (Leviticus 11:44 cf 1 Peter 1:16).

Without a doubt the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ is foreshadowed in its pages. The priesthood of Aaron and his sons would provide the framework and contrast to the superior Priesthood of Jesus Christ we find in the book of Hebrews. Leviticus 16-17 underscores the necessity of blood-bought redemption, the dominate theme in Christ's work on the cross (for instance, see Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 8-10 and 1 Peter 3:18). As we noted yesterday, the ministry of the Tabernacle provides ample illustrations for all aspects of Christ's Person and work (see the illustration below, taken from
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Again, one cannot dismiss such observations as coincidence. Only when we begin to read the Old Testament in light of the Christ event can such applications be made possible. May this quick summary whet the appetite of the reader in digging further into God's Word. 

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