VITAL CONCEPTS FROM LEVITICUS: THE PURPOSE OF REDEMPTION AND THE MEANS OF REDEMPTION- PENAL SUBSTITUTION; THE LAWS OF SEPARATION AND PURIFICATION
The Book of Leviticus introduces us to several important concepts. We will see them develop as we read through the Bible.
First and foremost is the concept of redemption.
The Book of Genesis gave us the promise of redemption.
13 God said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. 14 “But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions. (Gen 15:13-14, NASB)
The Promise is clarified in Exodus 6:6:
Exodus 6:6 (NIV) 6 “Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.
We are given a portrait of redemption in the actual Exodus. God rescued His covenant-people from their bondage and the judgments that fell upon Egypt through their faith in the Word of God and the Blood of the Passover Lamb (Heb 11:28;1 Cor 5:7). They were delivered as they identified with Moses under the cloud crossing the Red Sea to a life of dependence upon God.
1 Corinthians 10:1-4 (NIV) 1 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.
The Book of Leviticus shows us the purpose of redemption. The purpose of redemption is to make His people holy that they might have fellowship with Himself, their Creator, and Redeemer, the Lord God who is holy. What separates us from God is greater than the seemingly impassable Red Sea or vast wilderness that stretched before the Israelites. It is the problem of our sin. Sin indicates a moral wrong. It is in the light of God’s holiness that sin is seen and understood. Sin is unlikeness to God, awayness from God, and wrong done to God. The Bible makes it clear that the suffering and sorrow of human experience and the groaning of all creation is due to the indifference, resistance, and disobedience of the human heart towards the commands of God.
In the detailed instructions pertaining to the Tent of Worship (the Tabernacle), there is a picture of the process whereby sinful man is given access to God. The offerings speak of the provisions for approach. In every case what is offered is a representation of one life standing in the place of another. This is the concept of SUBSTITUTION. In every case, the SUBSTITUTE is a sinless one.
Leviticus introduces us to the important concept of imputation. There is the symbolic transference of guilt in the laying on of hands from the offerer to the offering and/or the righteousness of offering to the offerer depending on the particular sacrifice. This pictured what Paul would write in his New Testament letter:
2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV) 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
The guilt of the sinful man was imputed to the appointed innocent unspotted substitute. The righteous demands of the law are that sin must be recognized for what it is and be duly punished in order that God’s holy justice be satisfied.
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death,
Hebrews 2:9 (NKJV) 9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.
The holiness of God shines like a blazing fearful light throughout the Book of Leviticus. The word ‘holy’ is found 95 times in the 27 chapters; more times than in any other book of the Bible. Holiness means ‘altogether separate’. God’s impeccable character is in a category all by itself.
In today’s reading we come to a key verse in the Book of Leviticus:
Leviticus 11:44-45 (NIV) 44 I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Do not make yourselves unclean by any creature that moves about on the ground. 45 I am the LORD who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore, be holy, because I am holy.
The word ‘atonement; is found 52 times in 46 verses in Leviticus. The Hebrew word is ‘kopher’, meaning to ‘cover’ sin as a means of reconciliation. In the New Testament atonement is provided by not just the covering of sin but the putting it away altogether (Heb 9:26) so that the sinner might be reconciled, or made at-one in a holy concord with God.
The need for atonement is brought about by three things: the universality of sin (we are all guilty before God; Romans 3:19, 23), the seriousness of sin (sin separates; Isaiah 59:2, Romans 6:23; Heb 10:27), and man’s inability to deal with sin (Prov 20:9; Jer 17:9; 13:23).
In the New Testament ‘atonement’ involves ‘propitiation’, a New Testament word, which means ‘full satisfaction’ (Hebrews 2:17, Romans 3:25, 1 John 2:2;4:10). Justice is satisfied and mercy has her full delight!
In the Bible, atonement must come through a perfectly innocent substitute for sinful man. In order for all people of all time to have their sins atoned for, there must be a perfect once and for all sacrifice. This could be accomplished by no one less than God Himself becoming man. The animal sacrifices were placeholders in the sacrificial system as an instructive object lesson by which the faith of God’s people could be directed to the faithfulness of God’s provision in Christ yet to come.
The first three of the five major offerings of Leviticus point to the righteous living of our Perfect Substitute as He satisfies the Law’s demands on our behalf for meriting eternal life. The last two refer to the righteous dying of our Perfect Substitute as He satisfies the Law’s demand for the transgressor, suffering the penalty of death.
THE NECESSITY OF A BETTER PRIESTHOOD
The priest would be the means of appropriating the provision of the atonement.
In the Book of Leviticus, we see that the intercession and atonement that we need to be right with God can only be provided through a Perfect Priest acting as a Perfect Mediator providing a Perfect Sacrifice. The imperfections of the Levitical priesthood necessitate our looking beyond to a ‘better priesthood’ and a ‘better sacrifice’ that we read about in the Book of Hebrews.
Hebrews 9:11-12 (NIV) 11 When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.
What a wonderful picture of the Person and Work of Christ we have in the first chapters of Leviticus! May we come away from reading this book with a fresh understanding of this gospel message:
“that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:19-20).
In Leviticus Chapters 1 -10, we have a description of the Tent of Worship.
Whereas the first ten chapters gave instruction regarding the holy things of the Tabernacle, the Priesthood, and its services, the next five chapters deal with the personal life of the child of the covenant.
The Law of Moses demonstrated that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was the Lord over all. His laws were to govern every aspect of one’s daily life.
The New Testament understanding of this is found in 1 Corinthians 10:31
1 Corinthians 10:31 (NIV) 31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 6:19. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
Distinct laws were given pertaining to their relationship to
- Food (11:1-47)
- Childbirth (12:1-8)
- Infectious Diseases (13:1-14:57)
- Personal Hygiene (15:1-33).
The Children of Israel were given Dietary Regulations that would set them apart from their neighbors and give them an understanding that great care was to be given as to what went into their bodies. Their bodies belonged to the Lord. They were to be His people uniquely possessed by Him, separate from the nations (THEIR IDENTIFICATION), separate from sin, and separate from all that would hinder their service to Him (THEIR CONSECRATION). Obedience to His commands would require the employment of their full attention in whole-hearted devotion (THEIR DEDICATION).
In the New Testament era, these regulations would be understood in a new light. Holiness is not merely a matter of the food we take into our bodies; it is a matter of our heart:
Jesus said: “What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean'” Matthew 15:11 (NIV).
Prior to the cross, the Jews saw themselves as clean and separate from the nations. Other nations (the Gentiles) were considered ‘unclean’. The cross of Christ represents the Perfect all-consuming Sacrifice that reduces Jews and Gentiles to the common denominator of ashes. The only creature that arises from the ashes is the risen Christ.
“Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised (clean) or uncircumcised (unclean), barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all” (Col 3:11).
But Peter began speaking and proceeded to explain to them in orderly sequence, saying,  “I was in the city of Joppa praying; and in a trance I saw a vision, an object coming down like a great sheet lowered by four corners from the sky; and it came right down to me,  and when I had fixed my gaze on it and was observing it I saw the four-footed animals of the earth and the wild beasts and the crawling creatures and the birds of the air.  “I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.‘  “But I said, ‘By no means, Lord, for nothing unholy or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’  “But a voice from heaven answered a second time, ‘What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.’  “This happened three times, and everything was drawn back up into the sky.”
Peter claimed to be an observant Jew regarding the Dietary Laws of Leviticus 11. But the Law was a schoolteacher to bring the Jew to Christ. The Holy Spirit told Peter to go to the Gentiles without misgivings.
Our identification with Christ is not through what we eat or drink. It is through our embracing Him as our Lord and Savior and the benefits of being united with Him in His death, burial, and resurrection. We are known as belonging to Him as His risen life is expressed in us through the Indwelling Spirit.
The Apostle Paul, who also was in his former days a law-observant Pharisee, writes:
Romans 14:14-17 (NIV) 14 As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. 15 If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. 16 Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
LAWS OF SEPARATION
In Leviticus 11, we read of the strict regulations regarding the edible beasts of the earth (11:2-8), the edible creatures of the waters (v.9-12), and the edible creatures of the sky (v. 13-25).
The food prohibitions are part of the ceremonial law given to the people of Israel to distinguish them as belonging to the Lord. There are some creatures good for eating that are not on the menu as being ‘clean’ (kosher). But here, the human palette is not Lord. Nor the belly. These eating habits kept the Israelites a distinct people. It kept them together as a people and protected them from mingling with their pagan neighbors.
Only those animals that had both cloven hoofs and chewed the cud were considered ‘clean’ and could be eaten. It was good for food. Those that chewed the cud were not carnivores. But not all cud-chewing beasts were kosher because not all of them had cloven hoofs (such as camels and rabbits). Only those fish with fins and scales could be eaten. Certain birds, particularly birds of prey, were forbidden. All winged insects that walk on all fours, except for those who have joints above their legs and can jump, such as locusts, were forbidden.
“Animals of the ox kind were sacred to the Egyptians, and were never slaughtered for food; whilst they made free use of others here pronounced unclean. The Phoenicians or Canaanites ate swine’s flesh, and even dogs, as well as other animals which the Jews were forbidden to touch. The Arabs ate the camel as common food, the hare, the jerboa, all of which are specified or included in the Mosaic prohibitions. This chapter was, therefore, a wall of exclusion to the Jews, separating between them and all other people, which has withstood all the wastes and changes of more than three thousand years.” (The Gospel in Leviticus by Joseph A. Seiss)
The overall importance of these dietary regulations was to teach that God is holy, and He calls His own to be wholly His, glorifying Him in everything they eat, drink, do and say. We are to recognize what God considers unclean and consecrate ourselves to be clean vessels for Him.
It is important that we understand that something considered ‘unclean’ does not mean it is ‘sinful’. The woman who gives birth to a son is to have him circumcised on the eighth day and she is ‘unclean’ for forty days. If the woman gives birth to a daughter, her time of rest in purification is doubled (Lev 12:5). When the time of her purifying is complete, she will bring a lamb for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon or a turtle dove for a sin offering. If she is too poor to bring a lamb, she must bring either two turtle doves or two pigeons (v.8)
Leviticus 12:7 (NIV) 7 He shall offer them before the LORD to make atonement for her, and then she will be ceremonially clean from her flow of blood. “‘These are the regulations for the woman who gives birth to a boy or a girl.
There is recognition that a portion of the curse impacts the labor of the man with the ground (Gen 3:17), and the woman in childbirth (Gen 3:16).
The thorn, thistle, and toughness of the earth will cause the man struggle and fatigue. The good news: Labor is worthwhile. At the end of the day we will have bread. The sobering reality of the curse: One day that cursed ground will be the grave in which his body will return to dust through death and decay (Gen 3:19).
The good news for the women: Motherhood is worthwhile. At the end of the day, we will have families. The sobering reality is that childbirth and motherhood involve accompanying struggle and pain.
All creation is affected by the disobedience of Eve and the sin of Adam. It affects all men, women, and all creation. As a result of sin, we are not where we were meant to be. But God has promised a way back to His original intention for the human race.
19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time (Romans 8:19-22) (NIV).
Good news: Persevering in faith is worthwhile. Through the pain of the woman, the Promised Seed would come! Through the Savior, purification will come.
“Humanity is a stream flowing from one original fountain. God never directly made more than one man and one woman; and all other men and women are but effluxes of that original creation. Nobody now is created, in any true sense of that word, but begotten and born of a creation made thousands of years ago. Any conception of humanity which differs from this, is physiologically and scripturally false. (The Gospel in Leviticus).
The history of man reproducing sinners is finally to be brought to an end with the Promised Seed, the Last Adam. A divinely conceived sinless Savior, one without Adam’s inheritance of sin, is born of a woman who would call him Savior (Luke 1:47). With men nothing is possible. With God all things are possible. Job 14:4 (NIV) 4 Who can bring what is pure from the impure? No one!
That is, no one but God! The forty days points to the time awaiting purification from the birth of the first man to the last Adam, the coming Seed, the second man, who will reverse the curse, conquer death, and bring about a cleansed and renewed human race with the shedding of His precious blood. (1 Peter 1:19; Titus 3:5). The Bible hints that the eighty days of purification for the female child points to the addition of forty days beyond the original forty days for the male child (symbolizing the arrival of the last Adam/new man) as the age of grace in which the bride of Christ is prepared and purified by the washing of the water of the Word to be joined in wedded oneness with her eternal companion, covenant-partner and heavenly bridegroom (Ephesians 5:26-27).
NEW TESTAMENT READING: MARK 5:21-43
- The Request for Healing of Jairus’ daughter (5:21-23)
- The Healing of the woman with the issue of blood (5:24-32)
- The news of Jairus’ daughter’s death (5:36) reaches Jairus: “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.”
Mark 5:41-43 (NIV) 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and walked around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.
The plight of the woman with the blood hemorrhage that no physician could heal reminds us of what we are learning in the Book of Leviticus. The woman’s “issue of blood” reminds us of the sobering reality of the Fall. Jesus, in healing this woman, gives us a picture not just of His ability to provide physical healing, but a far greater healing of reversing the curse.
As Isaac Watts put it in his hymn, “Joy to the World, the Lord has Come”
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.
TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PSALMS- Psalm 38:1-22
There are 7 Penitential Psalms in the Book of Psalms. Psalm 38 is the third. The first two were Psalms 6 and 32. The remaining are Psalms 51, 102, 130, and 143. It is the heart cry of a soul that is recognizing its own transgressions. He begins by addressing the Lord who knows everything about him. He confesses his personal physical sufferings and mental anguish (v.1-10). The second section speaks of his difficult relationships- family, friends, foes who now stand aloof. Some seek to destroy him (v.11-12). He finds that he is helpless and cannot defend himself (v.13-14). He confesses his guilt and sin (v.18) and casts himself on God’s mercy (v.15) and pleads for speedy deliverance (v.22). He concludes the Psalm with three requests: 1. Be with me! (v.21) 2. Be near me! (v.21) Be for me and help me! (v.22). Make that your prayer today!
READING FROM PROVERBS: Proverbs 10:8-9
Be obedient, walk the talk, or you will experience the ruin of your folly.
PRAY FOR THE NATIONS: Today we continue to pray for Armenia. Pray for training of leaders and laity. Armenia is an island of Christianity in a sea of Islam. Pray that the believers will be given strength, wisdom, faith, and courage. (Prayer requests are listed on pages 114-115 in the Book “Operation World”). The book is available at New Life Community Church or online at www.operationworld.com
PRAYER: Once again, Lord, You have shown to us the perfection required for our salvation and how those requirements are met in the provision of our Great High Priest and His perfect sacrifice on our behalf! You are Lord of all and we yield every aspect of our daily lives to you. Be glorified in the temple of Your church and the temple of our bodies. We recognize our need for the life and power of Your Spirit. So, be with us, be near us, and help us. You have demonstrated to ‘in Christ ones’ that You are for us and nothing can separate us from Your love. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.