A Summary of the OT Book of Leviticus

The Old Testament book of Leviticus has been a pain in my daily devotions for years. I struggled through its pages many times trying to understand all the rules and why they were important to me to no avail. Leviticus has honestly been the butt to more than one of my sermon jokes about struggling with the Old Testament as a Christian. 

I am very thankful that as my Bible course is wrapping up I took the time to read through Leviticus with a new understanding of the OT book of Law. I was tremendously blessed through its pages as I saw more clearly what God was orchestrating by giving these precepts to His people. I hope you enjoy, and I pray this summary encourages you to take a closer look at some of the more difficult texts of the OT.

Leviticus

The book of Leviticus is one of the five Jewish books known as the Pentateuch and is mostly a book of law. The writer is not named, but most believe the author to be Moses. The instructions contained in Leviticus were given to the writer directly from God with instructions to be given to His people. Since Moses was established as God’s voice to the people at this time, Moses is the most plausible author.

Leviticus begins one month after the instructions for the Tabernacle in Exodus. By now the Hebrew have completed the holy place where God will dwell among them, and they will be required to keep themselves holy for God to remain in their presence.  Leviticus provides the priests with instructions for the five major offerings, it establishes the priesthood, instructs rules of cleanness and uncleanness, details rituals for the Day of Atonement, instructs how Hebrews are to handle blood and why it is important, contains a call to holiness by the people, establishes holy holidays and festivals, explains blessings for obedience and punishments for disobedience, and instructs the proper way to offer vows and dedications to God.

Leviticus contains mostly instructions for the Tabernacle priests, but also includes commands for the people. Leviticus begins by explaining God’s requirements for offerings. Then the writer tells of the ordination of Aaron (Moses brother) and his sons as the priests of Israel. A couple of chapters are dedicated to narratives about a pleasing offering to God by Aaron and the time his sons’, Nadab and Abihu, carelessly offered an unauthorized burnt offering and were instantly killed. Next the book establishes the notion of ritual uncleanness, cleanness, and holiness. It is important to note, ritual states are for ritual purposes and do not indict moral holiness. The priests were required to remain ceremonially holy to perform their duties, the people were expected to strive for ritual cleanness, but God provides provisions for uncleanness. No doubt the ritual states served the purpose to guide Israel to moral holiness, but these must not be confused. Next God instructs the priests on how to perform the Day of Atonement Ritual. This is the most important of all offerings and is to be performed once a year for all of Israel’s sins. After instructions for the Atonement Ritual, God explains the necessity and significance of blood in the offerings. There are guidelines for both priests and the people on how to handle sacrifices for offerings. Proceeding God’s instructions on the handling of blood, God calls all of Israel’s camp to pursue holiness. To remind the people, God creates the Hebrew calendar around harvest times. He presents holy celebrations and ceremonies to remind His people of their history and of His presence. As the book is beginning to wrap up, God offers conditions of blessings for compliance to the Law and punishments for disobedience. The book of Leviticus ends instructing the people how they should offer vows and dedications to God and emphasize the significance of funding the tabernacle and priests.

The book of Leviticus is important to the Christian because of its emphasis on God’s demands for wholehearted devotion. The people could not keep the laws found in Leviticus without the desire to keep God in their presence. Leviticus also underscores the fact that spiritual leaders have a greater responsibility to striving for inner holiness than do laypeople. The most important section of Leviticus for the Christian can be found in God’s instructions for the Day of Atonement ritual. The ritual requires the complete cleansing of sins and uncleanness by purifying the innermost part of the tent of meeting. The significance for the Christian is that atonement is impossible without the God’s gracious atonement that cleanses us of our sin.

Before God

 

After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” Genesis 22:1, 2

Have you ever wondered why God chose Isaac to test Abraham’s faith? God could have tested Abraham through his wife, his herds, or his possessions (think of the rich young ruler who Jesus spoke with). But God asked for Abraham’s son. The writer of the Book of Hebrews tells us Abraham’s faith was made evident by his willingness to sacrifice his Promised Son.

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. Hebrews 11:17-19

Abraham and Sarah, his wife, were very old when she at last gave birth to Isaac. I believe Abraham became overwhelmed by his love for the son that God promised him so many years before. If you have children you may have an idea of what Abraham was experiencing. I remember holding my first-born daughter just a few minutes after she was born. As she lay in my arms and looked into her eyes I became captivated by my love for her. In fact, it has been difficult to keep my love for her in check.

Allow me a moment to explain. I am a firm believer that the best way to love my daughter(s) is to love my wife unconditionally. It is easy to love both of my daughters. I find it more difficult to put my wife’s needs or desires before my own and those of my daughters. But my little girls need to see me put my wife before the rest of us. Sometimes I struggle with this, and sometimes I believe we do this to God. My love for my family can sometimes creep on God’s turf in my heart.

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Abraham went through something similar. He finally had this son, and his love for his son began to take over his life. This son was the manifestation of God’s promise in Abraham’s life. This son quickly became Abraham’s everything. And God would not take a backseat to Isaac in Abraham’s heart. So he called Abraham to sacrifice his son.

I try to imagine what Abraham went through as he travelled knowing what he was being asked to do. The thoughts Abraham must have been thinking as he watched his son on this short pilgrimage. It tears at my heart to think of what I would do if God called me to do the very same thing.

We can often put others and even objects before God. The biblical account of Abraham’s test of faith is a reminder to us that we should never allow anyone or anything to become more important in our lives than God. God was willing to sacrifice his son so we could become his children. His love for us is greater than our love for anyone, and we can only learn to love by learning from him. We can love our families best when we love God first.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

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