Wednesday, April 29, 2009

On Reading Leviticus

For more comments on Leviticus, see my posts from March 2007. This post asks the question, "How should we read Leviticus?" Or, "What should we expect to learn from Leviticus?"

Leviticus constitutes part of the large central section of the Pentateuch. The Pentateuch can be outlined in three points as follows:

I. From Creation to Sinai: Genesis 1-50, Exodus 1-18
II. Israel at Sinai: Exodus 19-40, Leviticus, Numbers 1-10
II. From Sinai to the Jordan: Numbers 11-36, Deuteronomy

The central section of the Pentateuch presents God's constitution of Israel as his treasured possession among the nations. As such, he will dwell in their midst. But Israelites, like other men, are sinners, and their sin threatens the relationship that God establishes with them. Thus the book of Leviticus sets forth how the relationship is to be restored when it is broken by sin (the sacrifices), how the holiness of God is to be reflected in the individual lives of Israelites and in the corporate life of Israel (food laws, cleanness laws, holiness laws, and the liturgical calendar).

In all this Israel becomes an example for the church. The holiness of the lives of individual Christians and the holiness of the life of the church is to reflect the holiness of God. Of course, many of the things that were to characterize the life of Israel (food laws, holiness laws, liturgical calendar) are fulfilled in Christ, and applied to his people by the work of the Holy Spirit. But it is essential for Christians to learn that God is holy, and his people are therefore to be holy, and that their holy behavior is to pervade every aspect of their lives as holy behavior was to characterize every aspect of the life of Israelites and the life of Israel.

If you learn nothing else from Leviticus, at least learn that.

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