I’m definitely one of the many people who have never understood nor liked the book of Leviticus. It’s the book with all the weird laws that seem to make no sense, and moreover, make God seem pretty angry, controlling and demanding.
This week I got a whole new perspective on Leviticus after learning some of the cultural context and studying it on my own. I also got to read Chapter 15 out loud in a group, the one about human discharge. I can now scratch that off my bucket list.
In Exodus, God gives the Israelites their purpose:
but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.
So the whole purpose of Leviticus is to teach the Israelites how to fulfill this role as a holy nation so they would show the other nations the glory of God. This is why the laws were so detailed, precise, and non-negotiable. God wanted all the nations to be drawn to Him and for His people to be in right relationship with Him.
As humans, it’s a pretty hard task to glorify God and make Him known because of our fallen nature, especially for the people who lived before Jesus and without the Holy Spirit. The laws may have seemed quite demanding, but this is because God’s holiness is so far above what humans are accustomed to on earth. We are so accustomed to living in the effects of sin, whether we invite sin or not.
But all of the laws God gave were for their protection.
For instance, in Leviticus 15, a man became unclean after he had sex, and wasn’t allowed near the Presence of God until he became clean. This was the same for the woman on her period.
If a man lies with a woman and has an emission of semen, both of them shall bathe in water, and be unclean until the evening.
When a woman has a discharge of blood that is her regular discharge from her body, she shall be in her impurity for seven days, and whoever touches her shall be unclean until the evening
Having sex within marriage and women having their period were obviously not sins. So why were these people classified as unclean for a period of time?
The people of Canaan (the land where the Israelites were going to) often practiced the most perverse worship rituals involving human discharge of all kinds. Because the Israelites had lived among the Egyptians for over 400 years, this pagan mindset was most likely deep-rooted into their own beliefs, and God was teaching them that this was impure worship. He was protecting them from what was vile so they were not influenced by the Canaanite culture. There was always a loving purpose behind His law.
Living out these laws prescribed by God would be nothing short of radical and point to the glory of God. God wanted to redeem all the nations to Himself through the Israelites, but it would only happen through holy, radical living.
Since Jesus has come, He has given me every ability to live holy, to live radically, not just for my benefit, but to point to God’s goodness. The spirit behind Leviticus has been written on the hearts of all present-day believers.
Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Surely we do not need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you or from you, do we? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all; and you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts
2 Cor 3:1-3
Studying Leviticus got me thinking about holiness a lot, and I felt the invitation to live out this holiness more strongly.
No, I’m not going to start slaughtering animals and leave them at the entrance of a tent. The sacrifice was already fulfilled through Jesus.
But God is inviting me, just like every other believer, to live knowing Him more fully. The only way to do this is to submit every area of life to Him, so that He Himself can help crucify the flesh.
Because I live in grace, it’s an easy trap to fall into the mindset: “Well, I know God loves me just the same, no matter what I do, so it’s okay that I let this particular area of my life slide. I don’t want to become religious and works-oriented anyway.”
This is so true! God loves us all the same – it’s not based on works! His love is totally unconditional.
Reading Leviticus, however, has challenged me to really switch this mindset to: “Even though I know I’m loved no more or less based on my behavior, I want to trust God in every single area of my life so that I know Him more fully. I want to live radically out of love for Him, not out of religious pride or need for approval.”
So with that, thank You God, that Your laws are out of love and protection, for our freedom and blessing, and for others to see how glorious You are! I can see that I can really trust You and actually praise Your wonderful law instead of seeing them as controlling and restrictive.
Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes,
and I will observe it to the end.
Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
and observe it with my whole heart.
Lead me in the path of your commandments,
for I delight in it.
Turn my heart to your decrees,
and not to selfish gain.
Turn my eyes from looking at vanities;
give me life in your ways.