The book of Leviticus picks up where Exodus leaves off. As a refresher, God had delivered His people out of slavery and established a covenant with them (known as the Mosaic Covenant). As is common throughout scripture, God’s people ultimately rebelled and broke the covenant, splintering their relationship with God. Because of Israel’s sin, they were cut off from being in the presence of God. Not even Moses, their leader, could enter into the tent where God’s presence was.
Leviticus, at its most basic level, is a collection of instructions given from God to Moses that Moses then passed on to priests with the intention of instructing the Israelites how to live in relation to a holy God. Sin, as it always does, had caused destruction and harm. The book of Leviticus outlines how the Israelites could live holy (or set apart) lives.
As we read this book, it is important to note a couple of things. First, we’ll see time and time again that the details matter to God. He gave Moses and the Israelites specific instructions and He cared about the small details in Leviticus in the same way that He cares about the seemingly small details of our lives today. Second, because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we get to read this book through the lens of the Gospel. We have a different access to God than the Israelites had back then. Praise God! But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pay attention to this book.
Dr. Chuck Swindoll, a pastor and scholar, said this about the book of Leviticus:
“Today’s readers are often put off by the book’s lists of laws regarding diet, sacrifice, and social behavior. But within these highly detailed directives we discover the holiness—the separateness, distinction, and utter “otherness”—of God. And we learn how sin devastates humanity’s relationship with their Creator.”
As you read this book, take good notes. Read closely and carefully, paying special attention to the sequence of events that are unfolding before you. Get to know the characters in these stories. What does each chapter in this book teach you about God’s character? What does it teach you about humanity? What are the implications for you today? These are the questions we’ll be seeking answers to.
For a preview of what’s to come as we read through Leviticus together, check out this video from The Bible Project.
Read Leviticus 1
The Burnt Offering
1 The Lord called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting. He said, 2 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When anyone among you brings an offering to the Lord, bring as your offering an animal from either the herd or the flock.
3 “‘If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, you are to offer a male without defect. You must present it at the entrance to the tent of meeting so that it will be acceptable to the Lord. 4 You are to lay your hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on your behalf to make atonement for you. 5 You are to slaughter the young bull before the Lord, and then Aaron’s sons the priests shall bring the blood and splash it against the sides of the altar at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 6 You are to skin the burnt offering and cut it into pieces. 7 The sons of Aaron the priest are to put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire. 8 Then Aaron’s sons the priests shall arrange the pieces, including the head and the fat, on the wood that is burning on the altar. 9 You are to wash the internal organs and the legs with water, and the priest is to burn all of it on the altar. It is a burnt offering, a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord.
10 “‘If the offering is a burnt offering from the flock, from either the sheep or the goats, you are to offer a male without defect. 11 You are to slaughter it at the north side of the altar before the Lord, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall splash its blood against the sides of the altar. 12 You are to cut it into pieces, and the priest shall arrange them, including the head and the fat, on the wood that is burning on the altar. 13 You are to wash the internal organs and the legs with water, and the priest is to bring all of them and burn them on the altar. It is a burnt offering, a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord.
14 “‘If the offering to the Lord is a burnt offering of birds, you are to offer a dove or a young pigeon. 15 The priest shall bring it to the altar, wring off the head and burn it on the altar; its blood shall be drained out on the side of the altar. 16 He is to remove the crop and the feathers and throw them down east of the altar where the ashes are. 17 He shall tear it open by the wings, not dividing it completely, and then the priest shall burn it on the wood that is burning on the altar. It is a burnt offering, a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord.
Leviticus is a difficult, complex book with a bunch of laws that don’t seem to apply to Christians today. Didn’t Jesus free us from the Law? What does it matter? If we keep in mind that all of Scripture is “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16), that God looks to show us who He is through all of what we know as the Bible, then there must be something here for us, right?
We might not have burnt sacrifices needed for atonement anymore, thanks to the sacrifice of Jesus, but we do still see the character of God showing through in this chapter. Notice that God gives His people options on what animals to bring as their offering (v. 2), “When anyone among you brings an offering to the LORD, bring as your offering an animal from either the herd or the flock.” This doesn’t seem like a huge detail to us now, so far removed from the burnt offerings, but this is very significant. Giving up an animal in a herding culture would’ve been financially huge for many, some weren’t even wealthy enough to have a flock. Notice, however, that the LORD says they can bring a sacrifice from the herd (cattle), the flock (sheep or goats), or they could bring a burnt offering of birds.
What does this tell us about God and His character? It tells us that, even all the way back in Leviticus, God was interested in letting all who would come to Him. The invitation was open to whoever would bring their offering in obedience. God’s character has not changed from then to now; He is the same God in the Old Testament as He is in the New Testament and beyond. The entirety of Scripture points to this fact! God has always offered His grace to every human; we see it here in Leviticus, we see Paul write about this (while quoting the prophet Joel) in Romans 10:13, “for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Jesus is the offering now; He stands as our offering to God and He shows that God is offering us Himself. Let us not refuse this offer.
- When was the last time you thought or reflected on Jesus as our offering before God? Take some time this week and write down some thoughts on what this means for your life.
- Is there something in your life that you feel is keeping you from accepting Jesus as the offer? What is it? If you have a trusted Christian in your life to discuss this with, set up a time to meet with them.
- What is one way this week that you can seek to draw nearer to God? Set aside a time or two and do it!
By the Way
In Luke’s Gospel, we see a story of Jesus being presented as a baby in the Temple. With that came a sacrifice:
“When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took [Jesus] to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, ‘Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord’), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: ‘a pair of doves or two young pigeons.” (Luke 2:22-24)
Jesus not only came to offer a relationship with God to all, including the poor and outcasts, but He became one of the poor and outcasts while He was on this earth. He truly does care for everyone, from the highest to the least!
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4 thoughts on “Leviticus 1”
I’m praying as we open up and study the book of Leviticus we will keep an open mind. Truth be told, we don’t really want to live holy, set apart lives. Culture lures and informs our choices, that is why we need to take seriously that God is holy and instructs us to be also. He went to great lengths to pursue us ultimately offering his own Son as the perfect sacrifice to atone for our sins. He desires a deep relationship with us, and sin breaks our fellowship with Him. He could have not cared leaving us to our own devices, but He didn’t. Today, let’s deal with our sin and remember what it cost our Savior.
When I read all the details of how what and when they had to do things, it makes me more grateful thankful and blessed to remember that Jesus Christ paid it ALL!! He was all these details rolled into one. God is so incredibly detailed and Jesus completely completed every single one for you and me WOW WOOHOO!!!
Thank You God!!!! Thank You Jesus!!!!!
Last summer, someone was releasing white, banded-homing pigeons. On two accounts, my friend, or I, experienced them on our properties several miles apart. To say the least, it felt kinda providential—a God send. It felt like Jesus appeared (to me).
“an aroma pleasing to the Lord.” Had me think of the scripture Ephesians 5:2,
“And walk in love, as Christ loved us and
gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Leviticus is a hard one to read… I feel myself saying over and over, “Well, Jesus died for that” repeatedly.
Although, I know there are areas in my life that I need to seriously sacrifice to God—and thanks to God, He is giving me time now to adjust my priorities.
Just an interesting note. The animal that was to be killed on the north side of the temple was a lamb. Jesus, the Lamb of God, was crucified on the north side of the temple, Golgotha.