LEVITICUS - THE WAY TO GOD
In Exodus we see how God gets his people out of Egypt. In Leviticus we see how God gets Egypt out of the people. There is a saying similar to "you can take the boy out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the boy." The Israelites tried to hold on to Egypt, but God has other plans for them. Exodus shows the way out from the land of bondage. Leviticus shows us the way into the sanctuary of God. Exodus is the book of deliverance. Leviticus is the book of dedication. Leviticus begins with God speaking to Moses "out of the tabernacle". This is in contrast with God's previous words to Moses "out of the mount" that burned with fire and shook beneath the feet, Exodus 19:18.
Leviticus can be outlined in four major topics. I. (Chapters 1-10) - The way to God. This is accomplished through the sacrificial system and the priesthood. II. (Chapters 11-20) - Walking with God. This is expressed in cleanness of life toward self, toward God, and toward man. III. (Chapters 21-24:9) - The worship of God. Here we have the priestly functions and the feasts of the Lord. IV. (Chapters 24:10-27:34) - The witness to God. This is in the area of profession, in the area of possession, in the area of promise.
The Jew of Old Testament times probably only dimly apprehended the significance of the sacrificial offerings. From earliest times God had insisted on sacrifice as the ground upon which He was to be approached. From Adam to Abraham all had their altars. Now the time had come to systematize the sacrifices and make them an integral part of the Hebrew religion.
There were five major offerings required under the Law. These are divided into two types: sweet savor offerings (burnt, peace, meal), and sin offerings (sin, trespass). The burnt offering used in worship signified consecration and dedication of the one making the offering. The meal offering was a gift to God and was not a means of atonement. It was an offering of thanksgiving. The peace offering signified communion, or fellowship with God. The sin offering covered sins of error, weakness, and ignorance. Everything about this offering was designed to convey to the sinner the seriousness of his sin, his responsibility for it, and the price of atonement. Sin was a radical disease that called for a radical cure. The trespass offering was always accompanied by a recompense paid to God, who had been offended by the sin, and to the person who had been defrauded by it. This type offering was made when duty was neglected, a divine command had been broken, and when someone had been defrauded. The sin offering covered the principle of sin, and the trespass offering covered the practice of sin.
The correct order of the sacrifices made appear to be this: (1) The sin offering. This would be foremost in the mind of the one making the offering since atonement for sin was paramount. (2) The burnt offering would be next. Sin already atoned for, the one making the offering now has a way to approach God and thus dedicate self to God and God's service. (3) The meal and peace offerings. Once atonement has been obtained and dedication expressed, the one making the offering now expresses thanksgiving to God and is now at peace with God. (Basically, that is the order now in the "last times" also. We cannot have rejoicing of heart and have peace with God until after the remission of our sins. Then and only then can we be thankful and then and only then are we able to call God our Father.)
The epistle to the Hebrews reminds us that the sacrifices of the Old Testament were only a temporary provision for sin. They could not give the guilty one complete peace nor wash away the stain of sin (Hebrews 10:4). They had to be repeated over and over again because of their inability to make the one making the offering perfect. But, "richer blood has flowed" since that time. In the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus at Calvary, we have the one perfect offering for sin (Hebrews 9:25,26).
The priests' function was to represent the people of God. Of course, Christ as our great high priest alone does this to perfection. The priesthood connected with Aaron was a temporary measure to be abolished in due time by the better priesthood of Christ (Hebrews chapter 7). Aaron and his sons were the only ones allowed to function as high priest under the Law. Only Christ can function in that capacity for us today.
We find in Leviticus explanation of the sacred seasons that are enjoined upon Israel: (1) the Sabbath was every seventh day. (2) the Passover feast was on the fourteenth day of the first month of the sacred year (Mar-Apr). (3) the feast of Pentecost occurred seven weeks after the Passover (May-Jun). (4) the feast of Trumpets was on the first day of the civil year (Sep-Oct). (5) the Day of Atonement was on the tenth day of the seventh month of the sacred year (Sep). (6) the Feast of Tabernacles was five days after the Day of Atonement , to commemorate the wilderness wanderings. The feast lasted one week, and the people lived in tents. (7) The Sabbatical Year was every seventh year. The land and people rested; all debts were cancelled, and the Law was publicly read. (8) the year of Jubilee was every fiftieth year, beginning on the Day of Atonement. All lands were returned to the original owner. Slaves were set free.
The Israelites needed to be separated from Egypt and from other nations. They were to be a peculiar nation before God. They were to be a holy people, set apart. They were forbidden to mix with peoples of other nations. They could not eat blood, nor meats of certain animals. Leviticus explains unlawful marriages, one of which would be marrying one not of the house of Israel. The people were to set aside and refuse idolatry. Warnings are made concerning disobedience, and promise of reward to the obedient. We are warned that promises made to God are to be kept. Throughout the book the people are admonished to be holy. At home or away, at work or worship, in private life or public life, at all times and in all places a redeemed people must maintain in conduct and conversation the highest standard of holiness. This is the message of Leviticus.