The Enduring Relevance of the Old Testament – Even Leviticus

Lord God the Son Our PassoverA Rebuke & A Reminder

In our sinfulness and pride, we often read the book of Leviticus speedily, as if we know that there could be nothing more to the text than what we perceive to be boring, elaborate, and irrelevant prescriptions for worshiping God in the obsolete wilderness tabernacle and Jerusalem temple. Yet when we take the time to thoughtfully walk through the text, to hear the words of God, to listen to the subtle details of what our Lord is revealing to his people, we quickly see the folly of our prior assumptions. Firstly, let us remember that “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”[1] This means that no part of Scripture lacks use or power to teach us reprove us, correct us, and train us in righteousness. Secondly, let us also remember that “whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”[2] This means that no part of Scripture is inapplicable to us. Contemporary scholars, operating under a canopy of false unbiblical assumptions, often claim that the Scriptures were not written to us. However, this is not at all what Scripture itself says. Whatever was written in former days, Scripture says, was written for our instruction.

Jesus likewise tells us that what Moses wrote is what God says to us.[3] Similarly, Paul tells us that the events of the Old Testament narratives “took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they [the nation of Israel] did.”[4] The book of Leviticus, therefore, is neither useless nor powerless, nor is it a relic of Israel’s past that was never intended for us to read and study and digest and unto which we are to be conformed. Leviticus is the Word of God written for and to the Church.

The Gospel is in the Details

This is why carefully reading through the book of Leviticus is so important, as is reading all of Scripture carefully. In reading too quickly, we may miss the important fact that God sees all men of every economic class as sinners. As it is written:

“…if anyone sins…”[5]


“…if
anyone sins…”[6]

“…if anyone…sins…”[7]

“…if anyone utters with his lips a rash oath…and realizes his guilt…”[8]

“…if anyone commits a breach of faith and sins…”[9]

“…if anyone sins…”[10]

“…if anyone sins and commits a breach of faith…”[11]

Note that the universal anyone is used, indicating that there are no social or economic classes of individuals who are without sin and the temptation to sin (which is only present in sinners). Indeed, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”[12] Reading too quickly through the book of Leviticus could very well keep us from seeing that the nation of Israel was not a caste system, nor was it a tyrannical system of clerical rule over the unwashed Israelite masses (as so many atheists claim it was).Anyone who sins is guilty before the Lord. Anyone is able and willing to sin. Everyone is already indicted, therefore, as a sinner.

Continuing on in the text, however, we learn that not only are all men sinners, but that God has provided a means of sacrifice, atonement for men of all social and economic classes. As it is written:

…when [anyone who has sinned] realizes his guilt…and confesses the sin he has committed, he shall bring to the Lord as his compensation for the sin that he has committed, a female from the flock, a lamb or a goat, for a sin offering. And the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin.

But if he cannot afford a lamb, then he shall bring to the Lord as his compensation for the sin that he has committed two turtledoves or two pigeons, one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering…

But if he cannot afford two turtledoves or two pigeons, then he shall bring as his offering for the sin that he has committed a tenth of an ephah of fine flour for a sin offering. He shall put no oil on it and shall put no frankincense on it, for it is a sin offering. And he shall bring it to the priest, and the priest shall take a handful of it as its memorial portion and burn this on the altar, on the Lord‘s food offerings; it is a sin offering. Thus the priest shall make atonement for him for the sin which he has committed in any one of these things, and he shall be forgiven.[13]

As the law condemns anyone who has sinned [i.e. everyone], so the atonement provided by God comes to anyone who repents and believes that Good News. What Good News? The Good News that he shall be forgiven. Just as no one can identify his social or economic class as legitimate justification for his sins, so too no one can identify his social or economic class as legitimate justification for fearing that he cannot be made right with God. The Law condemns all of its addressees (i.e. the totality of humanity, with the sole exception of Christ Jesus) as sinners; the Gospel justifies all of its addressees (i.e. the totality of God’s elect from the foundation of the world until the Lord Jesus returns in glory to judge the living and the dead).

Whether one can afford a lamb, or can only afford two turtledoves or pigeons, or can only afford fine flour, God has provided atonement for their sins.

Leviticus’ identification of sinners as belonging to every social and economic class of Israel, and its identification of atonement as provided for sinners who belong to every social and economic class of Israel, remind us of the importance of reading the text of Scripture closely, reverently, carefully, remembering that “it is they that bear witness about [Christ our Savior and Lord].”[14]

Soli. Deo. Gloria.

-h.


[1] 2nd Tim 3:16. (emphasis added)

[2] Rom 15:4. (emphasis added)

[3] See, for example, Matt 22:31.

[4] 1st Cor 10:6. (emphasis added)

[5] Lev 4:2.

[6] Lev 4:27.

[7] Lev 5:1.

[8] Lev 5:4.

[9] Lev 5:15.

[10] Lev 5:17.

[11] Lev 6:2.

[12] Rom 3:23.

[13] Lev 5:5-13.

[14] John 5:39.

Advertisements

One thought on “The Enduring Relevance of the Old Testament – Even Leviticus

involve yourself

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s