Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Parthenon at night

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for Feb 1, Lev 1-4

Today's readings are Lev 1-4.

Today, we start Leviticus, twenty-seven chapters of instructions detailing sacrifice, worship and holy living as given by God directly to Moses. The book begins with these words, “The Lord called Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting.” The closing words in the last chapter are, “These are the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses for the people of Israel on Mt. Sinai.” 

God's people are still at the foot of Sinai but are making preparations for their journey. They now have the tabernacle, which is a symbol of God's ongoing presence among them. It is built to be portable. Before they leave, God is going to tell them how to use it properly, how to live life in His presence. In other words, His presence should impact how they live, making their lifestyle a reflection of Him.

Leviticus will provide details about the Law. In the Old Testament, the Law can be divided into three areas. There is the moral law, the ceremonial law, and the civil law. The moral law can be summarized in the ten commandments. The ceremonial and civil laws are extensions and applications of the moral law. While many of the laws we will read are specific to the Jews and their time in the wilderness and much of the ceremonial law is fulfilled in Christ, it would be a mistake to dismiss any of them as antiquated or abrogated. All of them reveal something about the character and nature of God and, in turn, His only Son, Jesus Christ. All of them are profitable for teaching. They were profitable to the Jews back then, as the ongoing but not yet complete self-revelation of God. They are profitable to us now, as is the rest of the Old Testament (1 Cor 10:11). 

While the details of these laws and ceremonies no longer apply literally, the principles behind them remain valid and valuable for our knowledge of Christ who never came to abrogate the law but to fulfill it. Indeed, when Christ makes His legendary summary statement regarding them law in Mt 22:37-40, He is not saying anything new; He is quoting Dt 6:5 and Lev 19:18.

So, as we read Leviticus, let’s keep in mind that the Jews are being blessed by some great and specific guidelines that will help them navigate the times they live in. Meanwhile, we are learning some foundational principles about the character and nature of our God, principles that will eventually reveal the Messiah. But, they are also principles that apply to who Christ is and how we relate to Him today. For a lot of folks, the tendency to disregard what's being taught in books like Leviticus is a disregard for what God says about Himself - and His Son. 

The sacrificial offerings are instituted. There are sacrifices for sin, for thanks, for communion (peace) and more. While all other religions sacrifice to appease their gods or to summon them, God's people sacrifice in thanks for His grace and His presence already among them.

The animal sacrifices are to be examined to ensure they are without blemish, perfect, as only a perfect sacrifice is suitable for God. Food and grain are to be offered but without leaven. Leaven is sometimes used in Scripture as a symbol denoting sin. The sacrifices are rich in symbolism. Fire, a metaphor for purification and sanctification, is involved with many of them. Grains and breads are to be covered with oil, a symbol of holy anointing and conferring of blessing. Salt is to season all foods, a symbol of preservation. Blood (life) and fat (abundance) are not to be eaten, they are the Lord's. In what they represent, we see that life and abundance cannot be taken by God's people. They are God's to do with as He pleases (Rom 9:15).

Certain portions of the sacrifice are to be eaten (consumed), reminding them that God's people will have a unique and intimate relationship with the sacrifice.

Blood dominates everything, sprinkled on the altars, utensils, the priests' vestments - everywhere. There is no sacrifice, no worship, no atonement, no peace without the shedding of blood.  All sins must be atoned for, intentional and unintentional. No one is righteous, not one. 

Here's a handy chart detailing the offerings. Click on it to expand:

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