The Gospel in Leviticus

It’s 2023–now what? Will we continue our routines, work, family activities, church attendance, and service as if nothing has changed? Well, that makes sense since we should always e making good changes in our lives, not only when the year ends. But, there’s something about taking a break at the new year for a fresh examination of our lives, which sometimes results in new activities, goals, or priorities. Such is the case for my annual meditations, independent of any Bible studies I may teach participate in during the year. Whenever or however we study, God’s Word steadies us as we move through our lives, especially in circumstances that might otherwise unnerve us. This year I will be studying and writing about the New Testament view of two often quoted books from the Old Testament—Leviticus and Deuteronomy. How did I choose this study? It’s a bit of a mystery. I came across many passages from Deuteronomy toward the end of last year, pointing me in that direction. When I asked one of my pastors for a recommendation for a commentary on Deuteronomy, he mentioned that he had an excellent one on Leviticus. My pastors have always had, and I pray, always will have a powerful influence on my thinking and plans. So, with great trepidation and much confessional prayer regarding my reluctance to study Leviticus, I realized that it is where I should begin. I’m unsure now if or where Deuteronomy fits in. One compelling reason I want to focus on the Book of Leviticus is its importance as the theological background for the substitutionary, atoning work of Christ and our holy God’s covenantal relationship with believers. My prayer for this study is that we will significantly appreciate God’s holiness and sovereign unfolding of his covenantal relationship with his chosen people in Christ. Leviticus demonstrates this through his divinely ordered sacrificial system for Israel. As a former Jew, I am particularly interested in how the Lord will deepen my understanding of Christ’s loving sacrifice for us.

Preface—Knowing What to Expect

God gave his people specific instructions for that night when the angel of death passed over Egypt in judgment for Pharaoh’s unbelief and refusal to liberate the Israelites. Moses told the people to gather together, kill a precious specimen of a Lamb, spread its blood on their door frames, and eat it. The Lord brought them to their freedom through the Lamb’s blood, with unrisen bread and what they could carry to journey to Canaan. But when God delivered his people from Egypt to enter the wilderness for forty years, he did not tell them what to expect during their wanderings journey. Instead, he gave them principles of faith and obedience to follow (which they failed to obey). With this in mind, I thought you might like some idea of what to expect this year from this study, although I can only share what I know now, which, frankly, isn’t very much. I pray that I will yield to the Lord as he would have me write the insights we will need as we journey together through Old Testament Law and Doctrine. Given the subject and content of this study in Leviticus (and perhaps, Deuteronomy), I will post devotions only twice a month in 2023–usually on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month. But since you may be expecting a devotion today, I thought I would offer this introduction to the study. As most of you know, I am not a theologian but a Bible teacher. I am not a preacher but a believer and a passionate follower of Jesus Christ. I am not a Bible scholar, but a former Jew who practiced all the Jewish traditions for the first 17 years of my life. I do not know Hebrew, Greek, or any other original Bible language, but I trust our faithful Christian theologians who translated Scripture into English. All that said, I will continue to quote from Bible commentators rather extensively to illustrate, explain, or expand on the focus of each passage as we study. But, unlike my past series, this one will be exegetical; I will write about a chapter or similar passage for each devotion, in the order they are recorded. What the Lord will do is yet a divine, lovely mystery to me, which I anticipate will bring us all conviction as to God’s sovereign, excellent plan of salvation in Christ.

In Jesus’s day, the Bible was the Old Testament—it was Jesus’s Scripture and that of the apostles and his disciples. If Leviticus and the other books of the Old Testament were important to them, shouldn’t they be important to us? “Leviticus describes the entire religious system of ancient Israel. If we hope to understand how religion worked in Israel, we must understand the book of Leviticus. Leviticus provides the theological foundation for the atoning work of Christ. The idea of a substitutionary sacrifice receives its fullest explanation in the book of Leviticus. Leviticus demonstrates how important holiness is to God. Holiness is the main theme of Leviticus—God’s holiness and the holiness God expects from His people…Leviticus is a record of the words of God in direct speech with His servant Moses…The book states 38 times that the Lord spoke to Moses and/or Aaron. Also, 18 times the book records that the Lord’ commanded’ Moses, Aaron, and the people. Leviticus is important because it contains the very words of God in direct speech. The New Testament frequently alludes to the contents of Leviticus. At numerous points New Testament writers seem to have assumed knowledge of Leviticus, and readers of the New Testament need this knowledge to understand what the writer was describing.” (*) I hope you’ll pray about and look forward to studying Leviticus with me. “So you shall keep my commandments and do them: I am the Lord. And you shall not profane my holy name, that I may be sanctified among the people of Israel. I am the Lord who sanctifies you, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 22:31-33)

* Moseley, Allen, Exalting Jesus in Leviticus, Christ-Centered Exposition Series, B&H Publishing Group, 2015.

January 5, 2023

Oh, and thanks to all of you who encourage me with your comments! Unfortunately, I don’t have time to reply to many of them, but know that it means a lot to me that you take time to let me know how these devotions encourage you.

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