Leviticus 1–3: Law & Sacrifice

Read the Bible in 2011 ◊ Week 24: Monday

Then the LORD called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When any man of you brings an offering to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of animals from the herd or the flock.’”
Leviticus 1:1

Monday’s Bible reading of Leviticus 1–3, begins with instructions regarding burnt offerings (chapter 1), grain offerings (chapter 2) and peace offerings (chapter 3). I want to share with you a few facts about this book and it’s importance.

“The name Leviticus is derived from the Greek (LXX [Septuagint]) version….

“The book is especially intended for the priests. Aaron and his sons [of the tribe of Levi] are mentioned many times in it. The Levites are mention only in one short passage (25:32f.). But while the book is a manual for priests, it is to be noted that many of the laws are introduced by the phrase, ‘Speak to the children of Israel’. Obviously this is because these laws, many of which required the services and mediation of the priest, concerned the people directly and vitally and formed an important part of that law which it was to be the special responsibility of the priests to teach the people (Dt. 31:9; 33:10; Ne. 8).”1

Gleason Archer writes:

“No other book in the Bible affirms divine inspiration so frequently as Leviticus. Under the heading of the verb to speak (dibber) alone, the concordance lists no less than thirty-eight occurrences of the statement that Jehovah spoke to Moses or to Aaron. Nothing could be clearer than this entire sacrificial system was no invention of the Hebrew people (either in Moses’ day or in the course of later centuries) but a direct revelation of God. Otherwise no affirmation of divine origin is to be trusted for any statement in the rest of Scripture. While there may be some general resemblances or analogies which can be pointed out between these Levitical regulations and the cultus practiced by other ancient Semites, there is a complete absence of the degrading and superstitious elements characterizing the worship of the idolatrous nations during the Old Testament age.”2

What can we learn from Leviticus?

“The immediate purpose of this book is to set forth those laws and principles by which Israel is to live as the people of God. Their God is a holy God; they are to be a holy people. ‘You shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy’ is the emphatic demand. His sanctuary is in their midst; and when they worship there they stand ‘before the Lord’, a phrase which occurs about 60 times in this book. This means separation from uncleanness and sin, and since they are sinful and prone to sin, it necessitates atonement for sin and purification from it and from all uncleanness. Hence the law of sacrifice is placed impressively at the beginning.

“…there is no book in the OT which more clearly sets forth the redemption which is in Christ than does Leviticus. It faces the question of Job, ‘How can a man be just with God?’, and answers it in such words as the following: ‘He shall bring his offering….’ ‘And he shall confess the sin he has committed….’ ‘And he shall slay it…’ ‘And the priest shall sprinkle the blood….’ ‘And he shall make atonement for him, and it shall be forgiven him.’

“This is the NT gospel for sinners stated in OT terms and enshrined in the ritual of sacrifice; and it finds its fullest expression in the ritual of the Day of Atonement. ‘For the like of the great day of atonement we look in vain in any other people. If every sacrifice pointed to Christ, this most luminously of all. What the fifty-third of Isaiah is to Messianic prophecy, that, we may truly say, is the sixteenth of Leviticus to the whole system of Mosaic types, the most consummate flower of the messianic symbolism’ (S. H. Kellogg). To understand Calvary, and to see it in its tragic glory, we must view it with all the light of the sacred story centred upon it. With Isaiah, the ‘evangelical prophet…and with the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, we must turn to Leviticus and read of the great Day of Atonement, and of the explanation which is given of it there: ‘For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul’ (Lv. 17:11, AV). Thus we shall see the great drama of redemption unfolding before our eyes….”3

That is why Leviticus is important.

“But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption….

“For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us…”
Hebrews 9:11–12, 24

Isaiah 42 Photograph: ChristianPhotos.net – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
1, 3Oswald T. Allis, “Leviticus,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie,
J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., pp. 140, 141, 142.
2Gleason L. Archer, Jr., A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, p. 240.

Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter

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