February 4, 2010

Lev 11-13: Leviticus invites Holiness

Posted in Historical, Priests, The Law tagged , , , , , , at 10:54 pm by Steve

The theme of Leviticus is holiness. The term “holy” (set apart to God) is the key word of the book. Moses uses this word 87 times in Leviticus. Leviticus 19:2 is the key verse and states the theme of the book:

“You shall be holy, For I the Lord your God am holy”

(cf. Exodus 19:5-6; Deuteronomy 7:6).

After Israel had been set apart as God’s special heritage by the Passover and by the covenant at Mt. Sinai, they almost immediately broke the covenant through idolatry, the worship of the golden calf. Only the intercession of Moses prevented God from destroying the nation. But the Lord refused to go up in their midst to Canaan, warning, “You are a stiffnecked people. I could come up into your midst in one moment and consume you” (Exodus 33:5).

Israel gave evidence of their repentance by putting off their jewelry, and Moses again interceded in their behalf. Thus, the Lord promised, “My. Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:14). He renewed the covenant with Israel. Then the tabernacle was built in which God was to dwell among His people and where they were to come to worship Him.

A key element of Leviticus, and of Old Testament worship, was animal sacrifices. Sacrifices were offered so the sinner might have access to God. They were to “atone” (cover) sin (Exodus 30:10) and to “sanctify” (set apart to God) the offerer (Exodus 29:33; 31:13).

The sacrifice was a substitute; it died in the place of the sinner. The steps in animal sacrifice were: (1) the selection of an animal with no defect or blemish, (2) the laying of the hands of the offerer upon the animal to symbolize that the animal bore the penalty for the offerer’s sin, (3) the killing of the sacrificial victim by the offerer to suffer the penalty for sin in his place, (4) the pouring out of the blood at the base of the altar as the symbol of a sacrificed life, (5) the smearing or the sprinkling of the blood by the priest upon the altar as a symbol that the sins of the offerer were atoned, (6) the burning of the sacrifice as a sweet-smelling savor to satisfy the judicial wrath of God for sin, and (7) the eating of the sacrificial meal as a symbol of fellowship with God (cf. Ephesians 5:2). Every sacrifice had to be salted (Leviticus 2:13). Salt preserved meat from rotting and was a symbol of an unbreakable covenant. The salt symbolized the purity of the sacrifice and the covenant of the Israelite with God.

Of course, these sacrifices could not in reality remove the guilt of sin (Hebrews 10:4) but showed Israel the need for a sacrifice which could do so and acted as a foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Christ for all (cf. John 1:29; 1 Peter 1:18-20; Revelation 13:8).

Are you pursuing holiness?

How are you in the Wesleyan tradition “pursuing perfection?”

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