“When you become aware of your guilt in any of these ways, you must confess your sin. Then you must bring to the Lord as the penalty for your sin a female from the flock, either a sheep or a goat. This is a sin offering with which the priest will purify you from your sin, making you right with the Lord.” (Leviticus 5:5-6)
Slogging through the book of Leviticus can be tough. There are all those regulations for dealing with sin that no one, not even a faithful Jew, does today. So it seems like a rather boring and meaningless book of the Bible for a 21st century follower of Jesus to read. Perhaps it is only a sense of duty and obligation that forces us to stubbornly wade through all these rules and regulations that no one keeps anymore.
I encourage you to read Leviticus in a new way.
The title of this book is a Latin word from the Greek translation of the Old Testament which means “relating to the Levites.” The Levites were one of the 12 twelve tribes of ancient Israel and they were set apart by God to serve a priests or intermediaries between God and His People. The Hebrew title of this book is wayyiqra, which is the first word in the book, and it means “and He called.” Throughout this book, through the establishment of the priesthood and the setting the various offerings, God is calling His People back to himself. The priesthood and the various offerings were necessary for calling the descendants of Abraham out of the pagan context which surrounded them.
The problem with the various faiths and belief systems that surrounded ancient Israel wasn’t just that they were different. The real problem is that they were demonic. Some of those pagan religions, such as Molek, required worshipers to burn their children as sacrifices. As abhorrent at that sounds to us, child sacrifice still happens today in some parts of the world.
The focus in pagan religion is gaining power by making the right sacrifices or performing the right rituals. But God knows that the biggest problem human beings have is not a lack of power but an abundance of sin which results in estrangement from God. God does not abandon us, but our sin always puts us on a path headed in the opposite direction from God.
Therefore, the focus in Leviticus in on reconciliation. The purpose of the various offerings prescribed by God was not to bring rain for the crops or fertility for the flocks. God was going to look after all those things for the ancient Israelites even without their sacrifices. The purpose of the offerings was to drive home the point that sin is serious and a cost has to be paid for our forgiveness. So the Israelites would take animals which God had provided and those animals would stand in the place of the guilty party and give up their life and shed their blood so that there could be reconciliation, peace and wholeness.
That is what God wants for us all people. So when the time was just right, God the Father sent His Son, Jesus, to be the one ultimate sacrifice to whom all of those Old Testament sacrifices pointed. On a cross-shaped altar on a hill outside Jerusalem, the God-human Jesus gave up His own life and shed His own blood so that everyone could have reconciliation, peace and wholeness through Him.
Some people have walked away from all religion and said that they have no need of it anymore. But the secular world still has no way of giving or receiving forgiveness, no way of accomplishing reconciliation, wholeness and peace. We can wrap ourselves in rituals in an attempt to win fulfillment, but only Jesus can give us true and lasting peace from the inside out.
So as you read the book of Leviticus, consider the great lengths the ancient Israelites had to go through to deal wth the serious of their sin, and then rest in the great lengths Jesus chose to go through to deal with the serious of your sin. You are forgiven and free in Jesus!
Dear Jesus, help me to both recognize the serious of my sin and rest in the complete forgiveness that You have given to me. Thank You for going to the cross and paying the full cost of my forgiveness so I could be free in Your love! Amen.