Is there someone in your life that you wonder how you managed to become friends with, someone in authority over you who is more of a friend than a boss, or someone very different from you, and you wonder how you are so close? Where I have lived for six years, some of the staff have become my friends because I can talk with them about almost everything. I especially appreciate meeting with them, my neighbors, and church friends face-to-face. It’s great to communicate and connect with many friends and family by phone, FaceTime, text, and email. But talking face-to-face is still the most intimate way to connect with those we care about. One day we who are Christ’s will be able to speak with him face-to-face—won’t that be wonderful? Now we depend upon the Holy Spirit and God’s Word to speak inaudibly yet perceptively to our minds and hearts. We are thankful for this, but we rely on him to help us discern his voice so as not to confuse it with the devil’s, the world’s, or even our own rebellious voices. However, there was no confusion about who was speaking when God spoke to Moses.
The Holy King of Israel’s Voice
Leviticus opens with this statement: “The Lord called Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting…” “by an articulate voice, though it may be it was a still small one…out of the tabernacle of the congregation; from off the mercy seat, between the cherubim over the ark, where the glory of the Lord, or the divine Shechinah and Majesty took up its residence, and from whence the Lord promised to commune with Moses.” (1) The Lord spoke from the temple, from the place he designed for himself, and had Moses and his people build. God, holy beyond any human comprehension, designed the tabernacle with the Most Holy Place, the “Holy of Holies.” Here the Lord would meet with the high priest or speak from this holy ground to Moses. “Leviticus begins with the Lord summoning Moses to the tabernacle, much as a king would summon a servant to his palace. Indeed, many factors indicate that the tabernacle is not simply a tent, but the palace-tent of the heavenly King, dwelling in the midst of his people. The Israelites bring their tribute, just as a people would bring tribute to a king’s palace. They come and ‘stand before’ the Lord, just as one ‘stands before’ a ruler or person in authority. The tabernacle’s furniture and tapestries are incredibly ornate and unlike those of any other tent in Israel…The tent has a throne room – the Most Holy Place – in which the Ark of the Covenant is the Lord’s royal ‘footstool’, and the carved cherubim on top of it, his royal ‘throne’…The Lord’s holiness…does not depend on anyone else. It is completely independent. The Lord is set apart as distinct because of his very nature…Unlike anyone or anything else, the Lord is holy by virtue of who he is.” (2) How is it possible that Moses, a typical sinful human, could hear the divine voice of God? How is it that we have the Holy Spirit indwelling us? Only because of God’s grace and mercy and his loving liberation from our selfishness can we hear his voice accurately. The same voice that spoke creation into existence speaks his will into our hearts and minds. “And the Lord said…and it was so” (Genesis 1). “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim).” (Deuteronomy 30:14; Romans 10:8) God will speak to us through Leviticus, and the Holy Spirit is more than willing to give us the insight we need to apply its lessons to our regenerated minds and hearts.
Leviticus in the New Testament
In the “Commentary of the New Testament Usage of the Old Testament,” I found 275 direct and indirect references to Leviticus in the New Testament. Beale and Carson write, “Many…instances confirm Leviticus’s importance, serving as the background for Christ’s teaching and atoning work. Leviticus also emphasizes our holy God’s covenantal relationship with believers. By studying its original intention for Israel and its theological principles, we can better appreciate God’s holiness and covenantal relationship with us.” (3) Since all Scripture is “breathed out by God,” it behooves us to study the content of every book of the Bible from a gospel perspective—the reality in which we now live. “For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.'” (2 Corinthians 6:16-18; Leviticus 26:12) As we move through Leviticus, we will discover just how vital its record was to Jesus and the apostles who wrote through the Spirit’s direction. The Lord spoke to his people through Moses in Leviticus; today, he also speaks to us through it, with added insight because we have the mind of Christ through the working of the Holy Spirit.
Moses, God’s Prophet
Every time God had instructions for Israel in the wilderness, he used Moses as his prophet to deliver his message. In Leviticus, there are thirty-five instances where we read, “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying…” A few include God’s high priest, Aaron, but most are exclusively for Moses. In the New Testament, we see clearly that the Lord chooses who will belong to Christ. Jesus prayed, “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.” (John 17:6) In the Old Testament we are told that God chose Israel to be his chosen people, forerunners of elect believers. “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” (Deuteronomy 7:6) Just so, God chose all the prophets and leaders in a particular way to bring about his purposes through his grace, the pre-incarnate Christ, and Holy Spirit. Our holy, trinitarian God specifically called Moses to be his holy representative to Israel so that his word was followed in the wilderness. In the book of Numbers, we read of a time when Miriam and Aaron were jealous of Moses and questioned God’s sovereign choice of his prophet. They sought to hear the voice of the Lord, but when he spoke, it was of judgment for their rebelliousness (Numbers 12:1-8). “Christian readers may see in this description of Moses’ unique mediating role a foreshadowing of Christ, the prophet greater than Moses. [“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen.”] (Deuteronomy 18:15; Acts 3:22; 7:37). This sets Moses apart from the ordinary prophets, who receive their revelations in vision and dreams. By contrast, God speaks to Moses mouth to mouth…like the trusted manager of a man’s household…someone with whom the owner speaks directly and explicitly, not in riddles (Num. 12:8)…Moses was allowed to see what most ordinary believers must wait for their death to see (Ps. 17:15).” (4) “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” (Hebrews 1:1-2) As God speaks to us through Leviticus, let’s not only meditate on his truths there for holy living but embrace the wisdom of Christ through the working of the Holy Spirit. Christ is the greatest, most faithful, loving, holy, and excellent friend we will ever have. God calls us to listen to his voice. “Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:15-18)
Related Scripture:Exodus 28:1; 30:1-10; Leviticus 1:48; 2:1; 3:1, 5, 11, 14, 44; 11:44–45 Numbers 4:1, 17, 21; 5:1, 11; 6:1, 22; 7:89; 8:1, 5, 23; 9:1, 9; 10:1; 11:25; 16:40; Mark 9:7-8’ John 1:1-3, 14.
1. Gill, John, John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible, Leviticus 1:1, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/geb/leviticus.html
2. Sklar, Jay, Leviticus, An Introduction and Commentary, Page 37, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, IVP Academic, 2014.
3. Beale and Carson, Commentary of the New Testament Usage of the Old Testament, Digital version, Baker Academic, 2007.
4. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Numbers 12:4-8, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
January 12, 2023