Why the Book of Leviticus? What is the Book All About?

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

Why the Book of Leviticus? What is the Book all about? Why is it still important to the Christian today?

Laws are Good

Why the Book of Leviticus? What is the Book all about? Why is it still important to the Christian today? The Book of Leviticus is about the duties of the priesthood and the rules and regulations for worshiping God, plus dozens of civil laws. Laws are good for society, for the most part. An exception to that is it’s legal to have an abortion, but that’s man’s law and not God’s law, but God’s laws are always good for us and for society. The Book of Leviticus is primarily concerned with God and His holiness. He desires to make His holiness known and to flaunt that reverence or holiness of God is to play with fire…eternal fire.

This book speaks more about the holiness of God than any other book in the Bible. Holiness is mentioned 152 times. If there was one verse that encapsulates this entire book it would be Leviticus 19:2 which says “I am the Lord your God. I am holy, so you must be holy.” God wants us to know He is holy and that we too must live lives of holiness.

Christians Persecuting Other Christians

The Priesthood

Unfortunately, most people skip this book, but there is such amazing and powerful symbolism about Jesus Christ and His atoning work on Calvary, His sinless life, His suffering by scourging…all contained in the Book of Leviticus. As the name suggests, it has much to do with the Levitical Priesthood. Written by Moses (probably between 1440-1400 B.C), it gives exact specifications for the duties and requirements for the priesthood. Today we know it pointed forward or looked ahead at the cross of Christ and how God requires the need for sacrifice for the sin. These were the shadows of the reality to come in Christ. It is a guidebook about holy living, teaching, and worship. This book also shows us the significance of worshiping God in truth and in spirit and the cost of having “strange fire” in our congregations (Lev 10).

The Holiness of God

Part of knowing about the holiness of God is that sin is costly, messy, ugly, and it stinks (blood, skinning, cleaning, burning, washing, etc.), and the sacrifices never ended! They went on and on and on. You would think the priests grew weary of this. The animal sacrifices pointed toward Jesus Christ Who alone can take away sins, not just “cover them” as was the case in the Old Testament. Animal sacrifices “covered” sins but only for a time. They didn’t have to wait long before they’d be headed right back to the flock! God had to cover Adam and Eve with animal skins after they recognized their nakedness (and sin before God), so naturally God had to kill animals in order to do this. This was a shadow of the Leviticus priest hood’s work someday.

Thanks be to our God that One supreme sacrifice was sufficient for all time and efficient for all people, and His name is Jesus Christ. Hebrews 9:22 makes it clear that “under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins,” but now, all our sins are placed under the blood of Jesus Christ. That means we now have His righteousness imputed toward us (2 Cor 5:21).

Reasons for Holiness

Part of the reason for the Book of Leviticus was to keep Israel pure and living in holiness before God. The priest’s life and their precise work were an earthly example of obedience to God for Israel. God takes our holiness so seriously that the author of Hebrews 12:14 says we must “Strive [Greek “contend for”] for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (12:14).

Laws of Mercy

God has always been concerned with the poor. God is the Defender and Avenger of the widows and orphans. Their interests are covered in Leviticus 19:9 which says, “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest.” In Leviticus 23:22 it says, “And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.” What is left over is enough to feed the widows, orphans and disabled.

God’s concern extends far beyond just the children of Israel. For those who were estranged from their land and were aliens or strangers, Leviticus 19:34 which states, “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” The New Testament teaches the same thing (Gal 3:28).

Laws of Justice

God is a righteous Judge and always rules without regard to social status and the Book of Leviticus gave great emphasis on Israel having a righteous judicial system for the nation. Leviticus 19:15 says, “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.”

God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34; Rom 2:11-16), and He expects us to be likewise. The Apostle Paul writes, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). God is always concerned when His people hold bias &/or neglect of the poor and disenfranchised.

Priesthood of Believers

The Book of Leviticus points forward to the work of Christ (Lev 1-2) and focuses on the holy requirements of the priesthood (Lev 8-10), but did you know that the priesthood of believers lives are to be very similar of the priests (Lev 11-15; 1 Pet 2)? Theirs was a practical, day-to-day application of holiness (Lev 17-33), but their obedience determined whether they’d receive God’s blessings or God’s curses (Lev 26-27).

Today, we are still called to be holy as God is holy; we will need the same righteousness that Jesus Christ has to enter the Kingdom. So how does that happen? It happens when God calls us and brings us to repentance and faith in Christ.

Conclusion

Only the Old Testament Book of Leviticus has more references to the color white than Revelation (16), but that’s because this book was intended for the priesthood, which foreshadowed the coming High Priest Who now abides forever and is brighter than white in His glory and righteousness. For this reason….that God is holy, the Apostle Peter sums of the life of believers and the Old Testament priests. We are commanded to be “like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior” (1 Pet 1:15). He could have been quoting Leviticus 11:44-45, or Leviticus 19:2, or even Leviticus 20:7, but his point is well taken: “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Pet 1:16), so how do we do that or how do we become holy? It is by trusting in Jesus Christ, because it was “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2nd Cor 5:21).

Here is some related reading for you: Is the Old Testament Law Still Important?

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible: English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.



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