Leviticus 1-4: Sacrifice
February 16, 2020
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Leviticus is a book of the Bible that many people, when they start to read, quite soon give up! It appears a little obscure, overly detailed, and (frankly) irrelevant. In context, Moses is giving instructions to the Levites, the priests. Having established the tabernacle where God’s glory appeared (Exodus 40:34-35), he now instructs the priests how to administer all the different sacrifices for God’s people. And its main message may be simply divided into two sides of the same coin: God is holy, and therefore he also in his mercy provides sacrifices for our sins that we might be forgiven.
Plus, the shape of this book within the overall panoply of the Bible, its place in the story arc, is not much in dispute: these sacrifices functioned to point towards a fulfillment. The very detailed, sometimes unusual (at least to our ears) aspects, all serve to remind us, and the original hearers, of the necessary fulfillment of these sacrifices in some other place, and in some other Person.
The prophets often wrestled with this: God, at one level, does not desire sacrifices, but a broken heart and contrite spirit, to act justly and walk humbly (Micah 6:8). On the other hand, these sacrifices are commanded by God. How is it that a lamb or other sacrificial animal can be a sufficient sacrifice for a human’s sins? And so when the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world appears, and John the Baptist points him out (John 1:29), we now read in Leviticus not just obscure, antiquarian instructions to a cult and priestly practice long since gone. We read a foreshadowing of the atoning work of Christ on the cross.
What then can we learn from these first four chapters? In some ways like communion, or the Lord’s Supper, they are a reminder. They are a reminder of the once for all finished sacrifice of Christ on the cross (Heb. 10:1-18). And they cause us to be grateful that his sacrifice is perfect and sufficient and effective. Praise God that Christ gave himself for our sins!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
To receive God Centered Life devotionals directly in your inbox, as well as other resources, enter your email address in the form at the bottom of this page and click "subscribe."