Leviticus! Yes, but the Letter to the Hebrews is better.

If you are reading my posts on Leviticus up to now please also read the Letter to the Hebrews. It explains much better than I can what Leviticus is all about. The foundations of understanding all of Leviticus are there especially from Chap. 7 v. 26 through to the end of Chap. 10.
These foundations are:
1. There is no need for the sacrifices of Leviticus now since Jesus has offered up Himself as the perfect sacrifice once for all (Hebrews 7:27; 9:11-15, 24-28; 10:10-18)
2. The place of most significance where the blood of Jesus was sprinkled was not the physical place outside the old walls of Jerusalem.  The significant real place that Jesus’ blood was sprinkled was the true tabernacle in heaven of which the one described in Exodus and Leviticus is but a copy (Hebrews 8:2, 5; 9:11, 23, 24).

Leviticus! Chap. 3: Peace

So far we have seen that:

  • Leviticus 1 deals with the need for everyone to have a saviour – a sacrifice that is perfect – before we can come to God.  From the New Testament we learn that that Sacrifice is Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for us (Hebrews 8 & 9).  There is no mention of sin here, just of a general need for man to have a Saviour before she or he can come to God.
  • Leviticus 2 deals with our words in the presence of God.  These can be words in song, worship, prayer, preaching or writing such as I am doing now.  In order to please God with our words they should be refined (not coarse), anointed, directed to Him in prayer with no sin and not sensual – inappropriate.

In Leviticus 3 we are introduced to the peace offering and a new type: Fat.

Now you don’t have to be a biblical scholar to realise that fat represents excess.

So the simple message of Leviticus 3 is that if you want to be at peace when you are before God offer Him all your excess.  He will take it and it will go up in smoke probably but that is not your concern.  Just give it to Him anyway and you will have peace.  “All excess is the Lord’s” according to v. 16.

Bill Hybels has written a book called “Simplify” and others have recognised the stress we allow to accumulate with our excess.  Excess weight is an obvious one, but excess possessions including excess money also cause stress for a Christian.  Give your excess to the Lord, He will know what to do with it.

In the end it is all going to go up in smoke anyway (2 Peter 3:7).

Leviticus! Chap. 2: Types & Shadows

The concept of Old Testament types and shadows is one that is used throughout the New Testament.  In particular, the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews extensively explains the Old Testament types and shadows in terms of their meaning in relation to Jesus.

In order to understand the OT types and shadows we need just two things: knowledge of all the Scriptures and to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  But then that applies to anything in relation to knowing God.

In chapter 2 of Leviticus there are no animal sacrifices mentioned.  What is mentioned are the following all of which stand for something:

Grain – represents words (see the parable of the sower in Matthew 13, Mark 4 and Luke 8; also Jeremiah 23:28)

Oil – represents anointing (see Exodus 30:23-24 and James 5:14)

Frankincense – represents prayer (see Revelation 5:8)

Leaven – represents sin (see Matthew 16:6 and 1 Cor. 5:7)

Honey – represents pleasure (see Proverbs 24:13, Song of Solomon 4:11)

Salt – represents preservation, truth (Matthew 5:13).

So we see that when we approach God with our words we need to do it in the context of anointing, truth and prayer, without sin and without sensuality.  These are the basics of coming to God in prayer, self-evident to anyone born again.

I should point out that there is nowhere in Scripture that says honey is a bad thing, quite the opposite but you can have too much of it (Proverbs 25:27) and it is not relevant when you are approaching a consuming fire (Leviticus 2:11).  The ambiguity about pleasure is that you can bring it to God as a different type of offering (the offering of first fruits in v.12).

Scripture is not a rule book.  As I’ve looked around the churches in Ireland over the last few years – and this applies elsewhere as well – I can see considerable division over this.  There is a school of thought that says that the ecstasies and obvious pleasure that many Pentecostals in particular experience during worship are not appropriate.  The music is too worldly these people say and the worship too sensual as a result.

You must be born again.  The answer to that question for you is not going to be answered by anyone to your satisfaction except God.  All I would say is please don’t judge your brother or sister who takes part in these love festivals.  What they do, they do before God and He alone is judge.

 

Leviticus! Chap. 1: Acceptance

Some decades ago when I was a young Christian I used to meet with about 300 other Christians of a similar background and faith in a small village campsite called, rather aptly, Redcross.  It was the highlight of the year for there were far fewer of us then in Ireland than there are now.  Nowadays I have the privilege of meeting with that many fellow believers every week.

One day one of the speakers at this tent based conference shared about how he had met another believer – a guy called Eamon – down by the river having a time alone with God.  Apparently he was quite excited and enthused about what he was reading in Leviticus.  Most of the people there knew Eamon and we were all quite amused since it seemed in character.  He was the kind of guy who you would think could get enthusiastic about Leviticus: saintly, serious and studious with a winning and constant smile, the perfect saint in type.  No doubt he wouldn’t have agreed but then that would only have added to the picture.

Roll forward 30+ years and here I am getting all excited about Leviticus!  It is a kind of Christian 101 in the Old Testament: simple, elegant and thorough.  The main theme of the book goes like this:  people want to approach a holy God so how can they do it?  Leviticus shows us how.

Leviticus sits in the middle of the 5 books of Moses called the Pentateuch.  In many ways it speaks of nothing else other than how to approach God.

In chapter one the Lord calls Moses over and says to him “When any man brings an offering to the Lord”.  There is no qualification here, it is any man whether saint or sinner, priest or commoner.  To be accepted (v. 3, 4) he had to bring an animal offering without defect.  This is the first thing that had to happen before someone could come to God, there had to be a sacrifice.

Many centuries later the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews explains (in chapters 9 & 10) that the animal sacrifices written about in Leviticus were just a type or foreshadowing of Christ’s sacrifice. They had no power to remove sin – the barrier between us and God’s presence –  but Jesus’ sacrifice does.

So now we come to God our Father through Jesus and the first thing to know and remember is that there has been a bloody sacrifice to enable us to do that.  We don’t need the animal sacrifices but we as sure as Hell need His perfect redemption.  Without it we can’t even start to come to God.

Kneeling to Pray

The recent US NFL controversy brings up that old problem about a Christian’s submission to civil authority.  On the one hand Romans 13:1-7 is very clear:

“Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience.

Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do. Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority.”

On the other hand the Scriptures have some clear examples of Christians not obeying the governing authorities of the day.  In Acts 4:1-21 for example Peter and John have been hauled before the authorities of the day who “commanded them never again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus.”  Their reply was “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? 20 We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.”

The two passages above describe the dilemma faced by Colin Kaepernick and other

By Mike Morbeck - Flickr: Colin Kaepernick, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30174119

Christians like him who believe they are faced with the choice between honouring a flag / country and honouring Christ.

In fact we can all face the same dilemmas in some simple things like paying the full amount of taxes we owe or standing for the national anthem in Ireland as a Christian.  If born again believers in the US have a problem with the President of that country because of his perceived stance on racism and decide to kneel during their national anthem as a result then what should we do who have an openly proselytising gay Taioseach and a lesbian Minister for Children?

Nothing?  Perhaps.  At least we can openly share the Gospel in this country and I would find it hard to come up with a Scriptural principle which says that we should oppose authorities (and only ever peacefully) over anything less than something I could not do even if they commanded me.  For like Peter and John I can’t help but speak of the love of God expressed through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and of His wonderful resurrection life now living in and through me.

I really don’t want to make a fuss about anything else.  It’s all secondary and not the main thing.

But if you believe God is calling you to take a stand on something like abortion or LGBT then who am I to say you are wrong?