Leviticus 1-4: Wrongs righted


Today’s reading: Leviticus 1-4

“The dryness barrier.” That’s what Ray Steadman called Leviticus, for many who plan to read through the Bible see their plans dry up in this book. It’s full of details rather than stories. But these details tell a story of God’s plans to make his people holy – that is, set-apart and whole.

You shall be holy to me; for I the LORD am holy, and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine. Leviticus 20:26

To begin with, we aren’t whole. We’re broken. I like the explanation of poverty that explains four aspects of our brokenness:

  1. We are broken in our relationship with God.
  2. We are broken in our relationship with other people.
  3. We are broken even in the way we relate to ourselves.
  4. We are broken in our relationship with our environment.

Leviticus counts five different areas for which specific offerings may be made in order to remedy the brokenness. Today’s reading looks at the first four:

  1. The whole burnt offering, a voluntary offering that symbolizes devoting oneself fully to God.
  2. The grain offering, a voluntary offering of worship and devotion.
  3. The fellowship or peace offering, a voluntary offering including a communal meal.
  4. The sin offering, a mandatory offering for forgiveness.

Think of the offerings as a progression: first you deal with sin, then you commit yourself wholly to God, then you experience peace and fellowship with God and others. Each of these offerings requires the participant to confess their need for restored relationship, to symbolically place their shortcoming upon the sacrifice as they place their hand upon the animal before killing it, and to suffer personal loss in paying for the offering.

No matter which offering a person made, it made the point that forgiveness was available, and that sin had a price. The system failed in one way, however. People began to make the sacrifices mechanically without any true sorrow for their sin. God saw their insincerity and condemned their sacrifices, telling the people what he really wanted was a broken and contrite heart, and obedience. Later, Paul said that the law and its system of offerings was his teacher, showing him that every man failed to live up to its demands, and that every man stood in need of God’s grace. As for me, I’m glad I don’t have to make animal sacrifices. I’m also thankful that the offerings taught me that I needed forgiveness, and that there is a savior who sacrificed himself for me.

Image by LearningLark on Flickr; CC by 2.0.


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