For the past several years, a good portion of my personal Bible study has revolved around Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Joshua. After all, if you’re writing an account of Biblical historical fiction, the more you know about the Bible the better! However, I won’t lie to you and say that there have been many days where the last thing I wanted to do was read through all the laws about sacrifices and what was clean and unclean and what was moral and immoral. And then Numbers! Goodness! I’m not a numbers person. I’m a words person. So to be reading and trying to process all of those numbers in the book of Numbers…. Let’s just say that’s one of the last things on my priority list.
There are many days where I’ve wondered, “Why in the world did God have to put in all this stuff? I mean, He could’ve summarized most of this. It’s not really relevant, is it?” Well, of course it is INCREDIBLY relevant! All of God’s Word is relevant and sufficient for us even today. But sometimes it does take a little longer to dig out.
Here’s some what I’ve learned over the past few years of my study of Leviticus:
First of all, I always wondered what was up with the whole “unclean animals.” Almost all of those animals we eat today, and there’s nothing wrong with them. But then, in my senior year of high school, I took an outside biology class. And guess what I discovered? All of the animals on the “unclean animals” list carry many parasites and diseases that could easily kill humans!! Today, we have ways to cook everything to the point where we can kill off those dangerous parasites. But for the Israelites who were traveling around the wilderness and didn’t have ovens or refrigerators or freezers, it was for their health and well-being, not just because God was a cruel tyrant. He was actually looking out for them. It may seem kind of blunt and mean the way all His instructions came across. But think if you were the Israelites who didn’t know what a microscope was. How would this sound to you?
“You may not eat from the pig, because inside of the pig are little tiny creatures so small that you can’t even see them. These little tiny creatures will make you so sick that you can die.” That sounds kind of ridiculous, doesn’t it?
So in the end, God was protecting and preserving the Israelites, and not just trying to make their lives miserable.
Second, reading all these instructions about the sacrifices. In my new Bible I have a nice little chart describing all of the different sacrifices and what they were used for and when it was required that you bring that certain sacrifice to the tabernacle. We know that the sacrifices were to make atonement for the sins of the Israelites and the Israelite leaders. But my friend, Patrick, had a really, really good observation about why Leviticus goes into so much detail. Read this passage below:
Leviticus 4:13-18, “Now if the whole congregation of Israel commits error and the matter escapes the notice of the assembly, and they commit any of the things which the LORD has commanded not to be done, and they become guilty; when the sin which they have committed becomes know, then the assembly shall offer a bull of the herd for a sin offering and bring it before the tent of meeting. Then the elders of the congregation shall lay their hands on the head of the bull before the LORD, and the bull shall be slain before the LORD. Then the anointed priest is to bring some of the blood of the bull to the tent of meeting; and the priest shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle it seven times before the LORD, in front of the veil. He shall put some of the blood on the horns of the altar which is before the LORD in the tent of meetings; and all the blood he shall pour out at the base of the altar of burnt offering which is at the doorway of the tent of meeting.”
Here’s what stood out to Patrick and I as we were reading this passage… No one, besides a specially appointed priest, was allowed to approach God’s presence, or even talk to Him! You couldn’t have the personal relationship we have with God today where we can pray to Him all the time, confess freely of our sins, and have His Holy Spirit dwelling inside of us. If it wasn’t for Christ’s sacrifice and death, we would be like this Israelites – separated from God by a thick veil, constantly having to kill animals to cleanse themselves of sin, and only watching Him and following Him, not being in Him. Yes, they were His chosen people. But today, we get to experience what the Israelites then never knew – God is with us. He is in us. We are forgiven because of His Son. We are truly free.
As we approach Christmas day, let’s remember Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice so that we could have a personal relationship with Him. Remember that we are bought with a price, and that the little baby in the manager was also your personal Savior.