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.