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).
  • 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.

Then he shall offer from the sacrifice of the peace offering an offering made by fire to the Lord. The fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails, the two kidneys and the fat that is on them by the flanks, and the fatty lobe attached to the liver above the kidneys, he shall remove; (Leviticus 3:3-4)

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

Another part of the peace offering is the blood of the sacrifices poured out on the altar:

And he shall lay his hand on the head of his offering, and kill it before the tabernacle of meeting; and Aaron’s sons shall sprinkle its blood all around on the altar.  (Leviticus 3:8)

Blood represents life – see Leviticus 17:11.

So the simple message of Leviticus 3 is that if you want to be at peace when you are before God offer Him your life and all your excess.  Just give it all to Him 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: Worship Offerings

In chapter 2 of Leviticus there are no animal sacrifices mentioned.  Whereas chapter 1 refers to offerings related to sin, chapter 2 refers to free will offerings or offerings that are made just because of who God is, not so much what He has done.

The elements of a freewill offering (or worship) as described in Leviticus 2 are the following, all of which stand for something:

‘When anyone offers a grain offering to the Lord, his offering shall be of fine flour. And he shall pour oil on it, and put frankincense on it. (Leviticus 2:1)

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)

‘No grain offering which you bring to the Lord shall be made with leaven, for you shall burn no leaven nor any honey in any offering to the Lord made by fire.  (Leviticus 2:11)

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

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

And every offering of your grain offering you shall season with salt; you shall not allow the salt of the covenant of your God to be lacking from your grain offering. With all your offerings you shall offer salt. (Leviticus 2:13)

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

So we see that when we approach God with our words (spoken or sung) we need to do it in the context of anointing (represented by oil), truth (salt) and prayer (frankincense), without sin (leaven) and without sensuality (honey).  These are the basics of coming to God in prayer and worship in the Spirit (see John 4:23).

I should point out that there is nowhere in Scripture that says honey is a bad thing, quite the opposite (see e.g. Exodus 3:17) 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).

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.  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.

However Scripture should not be treated as a rule book. The answer to the question of whether there is too much pleasure (i.e. sensuality) in the worship songs we sing these days is not going to be answered by anyone to your satisfaction except by 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.

The type of music played cannot be defined as sensual in terms of the rhythms, notes or beats employed.  The fact that there is a lot of sensual lyrics set to music that uses the same rhythms, notes, tones or beats is irrelevant.  There is nothing irredeemable in any type of music in my opinion.

The lyrics used on the other hand are far more important.  We could definitely argue about some of those if we wanted to.  It would seem strange though to throw out a complete genre simply because some young song writers alluded to some sensual sounding pleasures in their worship.  Perhaps it says more about the listener than the song writer if that is the approach you take.

Having said that, there is a lot of sensuality around these days.  We do need to remove it from our hearts and the many chambers of our souls if we are truly to be of those who are pure in heart and can see God (Matt. 5:8).  And that is regardless of what songs we are listening to.

Leviticus! Chap. 1: Acceptance

Now the Lord called to Moses, and spoke to him from the tabernacle of meeting, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When any one of you brings an offering to the Lord,….

Leviticus 1:1-2 (NKJV)

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 sure 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. 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?