Series: Best Book In the BibleEvery Christian knows the importance of reading their Bible, but many are overwhelmed with the task of devouring such a monstrous book! Often times, when Christians lose steam in their yearly reading plans, they can become frustrated and feel defeated. It is for this reason that individual book studies can be a lifesaver. In the Best Book in the Bible series, we will provide entry points into faithful study through “selling” you on why you should fall in love with the various books of the Bible.
People don’t usually think of Leviticus being their favorite book of the Bible, and often struggle to see how it is of any value to the modern-day believer. But it’s because of our lack of understanding that we feel this way. In truth, the book presents us with the clearest picture of God’s purity and holiness, and demonstrates to us the costliness of our sin. You simply cannot walk away from a faithful study of Leviticus and not be humbled by God’s perfection.
Main theme: holiness
“For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy; for I am holy.” (Leviticus 11:44)
“You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:18)
“I will also walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people.” (Leviticus 26:12)
In short, Leviticus is a book of laws. To most, reading the book might seem like a dreary exercise, that is, until we come to realize what the book is really about: the holiness of God. In order to see this, however, we have to examine the laws and think about the society in which they were kept, and what each of the laws was designed to do.
Leviticus is challenging because, frankly, it’s overwhelming. But it’s helpful to note a few things:
- Moral laws – those binding at the heart level, dictating ethical conduct
- Ceremonial laws – those governing the religious aspects of worship (sacrifice, ritual)
- Civil laws – those controlling the governmental aspect of Israel’s society.
B. Everything noting in the book is broken down into opposing distinctions:
- “clean” vs” “unclean”
- “holy” vs. “common”
The more defiled something becomes through sin and impurity, it passes away from “holy” and “clean”, moving toward “unclean”. The only way to redeem something is by offering sacrifice, which cleanses and sanctifies it back toward purity.
C. Everything done in the sacrificial system is representative of a spiritual reality (Heb. 8:5; 9:23), and no sacrifice performed can itself remove the penalty of sin, cleanse the sinner, or satisfy the wrath of God. As we’ll see, the entire Levitical system was set up by God to illustrate deep spiritual realities; demonstrating the absolute holiness of God, the high cost of sin, and the need for an atoning substitutionary sacrifice.
Leviticus 1—7. These are the laws of the sacrifices. In these chapters, we see the entire array of acceptable offerings to God. We see the burnt offering (1:1-17), a general offering; the grain offering (2:1-16), a tribute to God; the peace offering (3:1-17), a freewill offering made out of adoration and thanksgiving; the sin offering (4:1-5:13), for inadvertent sins; and the trespass/guilt offering (5:14-6:7), for deliberate sins. Although the sacrificial offerings did not remove God’s wrath against sin, it temporarily satisfied God’s wrath against the sinner. In truth, however, it was by the repentant heart of the worshiper, and not the burnt animal, that God approved.
Leviticus 8—10. Next are the laws of the priesthood. God demanded that His servants were of pure pedigree and meticulous to perform everything in the Law perfectly. Chapter 10, however, chronicles the deadly disobedience of Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron the high priest, who were killed for “offering strange fire” on the altar. This chilling account reinforced the seriousness of obeying the Lord.
Leviticus 11—16. Then we deal with the laws of purification. In this section, we deal with the strict code surrounding “clean” and “unclean” things. Generally, this refers to ritual purity, which demonstrates spiritual purity. In chapter 11, we see strict limitations on the kinds of food the Israelites were allowed to eat, followed by instructions regarding bodily purity in chapter 12. Chapters 13 and 14 deal with various skin diseases, followed by some additional instructions regarding bodily cleanliness. These strict laws have two main functions: first, to illustrate the absolute demand for sinlessness required by God, but second, to preserve the nation of Israel and keep them pure so that they might survive as a people.
Chapter 16 deals with the Day of Atonement. This day occurred once a year and served to provide national sacrifice to God on behalf of all people for anything unaccounted for during the year. These sacrifices were carried out by the high priest, by which a perfect, spotless lamb was sacrificed on the alter, while another was imparted with the confessed sins of the people and then sent out of the camp and into the wilderness, never to return. This demonstrated both the high cost of atoning for sin, and the drastic removal of sins by God. (Note Psalm 103:12: “as far as the east is from the west, He has removed our transgressions from us.”)
Leviticus 17—25. Following this are the instructions for holiness. These remaining chapters deal with a smattering of issues, namely specific laws of sacrifice, sexual relationships and abominations (e.g. incest, child sacrifice, homosexuality, beastiality, etc), laws for the priests and for the offerings. Chapter 23 chronicles the 7 major feasts (e.g. The Passover, Feast of Booths, The Day of Atonement, etc) and how they are to be kept. The finals chapters deal with the Year of Jubilees, Sabbatical Years, and tithes and offerings.
What Makes This Book So Great:
For many believers, the book of Hebrews is at the top of their list of favorites, but we must understand that Leviticus is the prequel to Hebrews! Dr. Charles L. Feinberg once said that “you cannot understand the book of Hebrews unless you understand the book of Leviticus, because the book of Hebrews is based upon the principles of the Levitical Priesthood.” We understand Jesus Christ as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), we see Him as “Christ the Passover” (1 Cor. 5:7), He is our High Priest (Heb. 5—10); all of which can only fully be understood through studying Leviticus. In fact, every action taken by Christ to fulfill the Law first originated out of Leviticus. A deeper understanding of this book will yield an even greater, expanded view of Jesus Christ in the New Testament.
As with other longer OT books, it’s helpful to break up the study into sections. This study will be greatly helped by good commentaries, because they help keep everything straight and will draw out keen insights from the book. Really try and sit back, pondering what obedience to these laws must have been like. Look passed the laws themselves, and imagine yourself as a Jew in ancient Palestine striving to obey the Levitical code. Doing this will give you a greater appreciation for God’s high standards of purity and holiness.
- Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Holy (Leviticus): Becoming “Set Apart” for God. David C. Cook, 2010..
A helpful introductory study by a trusted teacher.
- R. Laird Harris, “Leviticus” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 2. Zondervan, 1990.
An academic, yet accessible commentary in a great series.
- Gordon J. Wenham, The Book of Leviticus. NICOT. Eerdmans, 1979.
Hands down, the best resource out there. Incredibly helpful and insightful. Scholarly, but approachable work from a trust Old Testament scholar.
Note: Find the rest of the Best Book in the Bible series here: EntreatingFavor.com/BestBookSeries