This morning we have a guest writer! My lovely cousin, Haley, will be wrapping up the book of Leviticus for us with an overview:
Look, I get it, it’s Leviticus. I mean, raise your hand if your pastor has ever said, “Our upcoming sermon series is going to be an exegetical journey through Leviticus!” Right. No one.
Leviticus feels like a foreign language to most Christians today. Because it is. We know we have been freed from the sacrificial system because of Christ’s once, for all, ultimate sacrifice. Because of this it is all the more important that we be willing to set aside what we know now and put ourselves in Israel’s shoes, or, more accurately, Israel’s sandals.
Save your thoughts of, “thank God we don’t have to do this anymore!” for later.
For now imagine that you are Israel. You’ve spent all but the last few months as a slave in Egypt. Though you were surrounded by people who knew of and worshipped the LORD, you’re also very aware of Egypt’s gods and what it looked like to serve them. You suddenly find yourself in the wilderness, saved from your enslavers by the God you’d heard of but have only recently encountered personally. Now what?
Now the Pentateuch. Now the legal portions of Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. Why? Because God wants Israel to know who he is and what it looks like to be in relationship with him. Not so that Israel can be saved by complying with the Law—Israel was only ever saved by her faith. Not so that Israel can replace her Egyptian slave masters with a series of legal stipulations.
God gives Israel the Law as evidence of his character and as reassurance of their relationship with him.
Life in the Ancient Near East, the time of Israel at her exodus from Egypt, was full of uncertainty, and religion was no exception. Every nation had its own group of deities, and each deity had its own way it wanted to be worshipped. However, only one deity was explicit in its description of what worship of and relationship with him looked like—the LORD God.
Imagine what it would have been like for Israel to leave Egypt, her future completely uncertain, and with no way forward but to follow the God who’d rescued her. And then, knowing the fear of Israel, God does the most gracious thing he possibly can. He tells Israel exactly how to be in right relationship with him. Throughout Leviticus God describes to Moses what it looks like for Israel to worship him. By their worship, Israel declares their ongoing relationship to and faith in the LORD.
Leviticus is an invitation to relationship with God. And, along with the rest of the Law, Israel’s worship of God will be her witness to the nations (Deut. 4:5–8). The other nations will see how Israel serves God, they will see the good laws God has given his people, and they will be drawn to worship him as well! Because through his Law, through this sacrificial system detailed in Leviticus, God differentiates himself from the gods of the nations.
By stepping into Israel’s sandals we feel the weight of fear in the midst of the unknown. We can understand why Israel would have been too afraid to go up to the mountain and meet with God. We can understand why, after so much uncertainty, the explicit instructions of Leviticus would seem welcome, would even feel like Grace poured out.
So let us close out the book of Leviticus with our feet laced into Israel’s sandals—sandals that did not wear out over forty years of wandering. Let us see the grace of God woven into these seemingly archaic laws. Let us hear God’s invitation to Israel in each and every line of this book, calling her to be as devoted to God as God is to her. And let us rejoice in God’s faithfulness that, imperfect though we are, he has always made a way for those who put their faith in him to be in relationship with him.
Haley Kirkpatrick is a wife and mother who loves, lives, and plays in the Pacific Northwest. She recently graduated from Multnomah University with her Masters of Divinity in Theological Studies. While she enjoys studying the whole Bible, the Hebrew Bible (a.k.a. the Old Testament) is where she loves to spend most of her time. Moving forward, Haley is trying to figure out what it looks like to be a wife, mom to one (soon to be two) kids, and a biblical theologian all at the same time. The struggle is real, and that’s exactly where God likes to meet her (and us).