The Bible in a Year, Week 5: Leviticus
This is the fifth weekly reading in the plan for reading your Bible in one year. The assignment for this week is the book of Leviticus. It should only take about 10-15 minutes a day, or about four chapters, a day to complete the assignment.
Here are some comments to help you grow in knowledge and faith as you read Leviticus:
Leviticus 1-7: The book of Leviticus gets its name from an ancient translation of the Old Testament as it means “pertaining to the Levites.” The Levites were the of the tribe of Levi and were the spiritual leaders of the people. All the priests were Levites. Thus, in Leviticus God gives laws and codes to the people that specify conditions for their worship.
In these chapters, God gives instructions for sacrifices and offerings to the people. There were five different sacrifices that the people made. Four of them were blood sacrifices. The fifth was a grain offering, and grain offerings were always made with a blood sacrifice. Here is a brief summary of the sacrifices:
Whole Burnt Offering: Expressed complete devotion to God. It was for sin in general. The victim was a male unblemished ox, sheep, goat, or dove. God received all of the offering.
Sin Offering: This was for a specific sin where no restitution was possible. Priests had to sacrifice bulls and the common people had to sacrifice goats. God received the fat portions, kidneys, and liver. The priest received all the rest.
Trespass/Guilt Offering: This was also for a specific sin. Restitution was to be made 6/5. A ram was the victim. God received the fat portions, kidneys, and liver. The priest received all the rest.
Peace/Fellowship Offering: This offering expressed fellowship with God and was an offering of thanks for a past blessing, or a votive offering for an answer to a prayer made, or simply a freewill offering in general thanks to God. Unblemished male or female sheep, goats, or oxen were the victims. However, if it was a freewill offering the animal could be blemished. God received the fat portions, kidneys, and liver. The priest received either the breast or the fore-leg and the person offering received the rest.
Grain Offering: This offering was given with a bloody sacrifice. A portion would go to the priests. The purpose of this offering was to remind the Israelites to give thanks to God for his blessings and to look to him for their “daily bread.”
This sacrificial system served as a reminder to the Israelites. First, they were to remember that all good things come from their heavenly Father above. More importantly though, the bloody sacrifices were a vivid reminder that when there is sin there must be death and blood to pay for it. All these sacrifices foreshadowed the great sacrifice to come, Jesus Christ. He was the great once-for-all sacrifice who shed his blood and died. Fittingly, Jesus is thus called the Lamb of God.
Leviticus 8-10: In chapter 8 Aaron and his sons are ordained into the public ministry of the priesthood by Moses. In the following chapter they begin to carry out their duties as priests. However, in chapter 10 Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu do not follow the rules. We are not sure exactly what it was that they did wrong. Nevertheless, God shows how serious he is about obedience, especially when it comes to the office of public ministry and to worship, as both sons are consumed by fire. Even Aaron’s other sons Eleazar and Ithamar had trouble following specific instructions, but God graciously spared them. While God will likely not strike someone down today in such a way, these chapters ought remind us of the seriousness and importance of worshiping God with our whole heart, soul, and mind.
Leviticus 11-15: These chapters contain codes of purification for the people. All of the impurities mentioned in these chapters are things that have disturbed God’s perfect creation. All of these impurities are reminders that the curse of sin infects every aspect of our lives. Getting rid of these impurities would cause the Israelites to long for the coming Messiah who would rescue them from sin and deliver them into the perfection of heaven.
Today we no longer follow the same purification rites. Several times in the New Testament we read how these Old Testament laws are no longer in place for us. A vivid example is in Acts 1o where God tells Peter that nothing he has created is unclean. Yet still, though we do not follow the same laws, we also look to our Savior Jesus who will take us to the perfection of heaven and away from this world corrupted by sin.
Leviticus 16-22: Chapter 16 is one of the great chapters of the Old Testament. It describes the pinnacle of the sacrificial system–The Day of Atonement. It was a solemn day of fasting and repentance. Some have even called it “The Good Friday of the Old Testament.” On this day only the high priest would enter the Most Holy Place and sprinkle blood on the atonement seat of the ark of the covenant for the people. In addition, the high priest would confess the sins of the people upon a scapegoat. This scapegoat would then be released and sent off into the wilderness as a symbol of forgiveness for those sins.
Jesus proves himself to be our great High Priest who sacrificed himself and shed his own blood. He became the great scapegoat who took all sin upon himself to win forgiveness for all. To better understand the fulfillment of the priests and the sacrificial system in Jesus, read Hebrews 7-10.
In the following chapters, 16-22, God gives a “Holiness Code” to his people and then more instructions for the priests. As a very simple summary of these chapters, God was meticulously showing his people that they were not to live like all the heathen and sinful people around them. Rather, they were to live and walk in the ways of the Lord, the true God.
Leviticus 23-27: Chapter 23 provides a list of festivals in which the people were to gather together to worship and celebrate. Those festivals were: Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits/The Feast of Weeks (Pentecost), The Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles. More details about these festivals and feasts can be found in Numbers 28-29 and Deuteronomy 16.
The Year of Jubilee was to occur every 50th year (after seven periods of seven years). The Year of Jubilee corresponded with the Day of Atonement. It was a year of restoration and renewal and freedom. It was a reminder that everything belongs to the Lord. It was a reminder that God ultimately grants spiritual restoration to all. The Year of Jubilee is yet another shadow of the Christ who was to come, for Jesus grants us true restoration, renewal, and freedom.
Finally, Leviticus closes with words of blessings and punishment for either obeying or disobeying God’s laws and decrees. After that, there are final directives about vows in chapter 27.
Perhaps the key verse in all of Leviticus is 19:1, “Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.” This verse reminds us of the point of all of God’s commands. He wanted his people to refrain from sin and to keep themselves away from the heathen people of this world. Yet as we look at God’s demand in that verse, we quickly recognize that we all have fallen short of God’s glory and his standard for perfection. Thus, we daily approach God’s throne in humble repentance and then daily approach God’s throne with humble thanks for the forgiveness and salvation he freely gives in Christ!
Next week’s readings (starting 2/7/10): Numbers
To view or download and print the One Year Bible Reading Schedule, click here.