Why Study Leviticus for a Year?

LeviticusI believe 2 Timothy 3:16-17. I believe it so much that this year I am spending the whole year studying the book of Leviticus. If it is true that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work,” then Leviticus needs to be studied.

The truth has often been quite different in my own Bible reading. Leviticus is that book that I skip over, ignore, or read through quickly in order to say, “yes, I have in fact read through the whole Bible.” But to spend a significant amount of time in study will reinforce the teaching of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 in my own mind and ministry. It is my conviction that Leviticus most frequently gets overlooked by Christians today because we don’t actually understand it. It is often portrayed as nothing more than book of holiness codes for ancient Israel. The language and culture are strange to us, the rituals and customs of it bizarre, and the whole concept of cleanliness seemingly irrelevant. But like the rest of the Bible these themes, motifs, and details point to Christ and the gospel.

Take, for example, the way that the book opens. It begins with a statement about sacrifices, burnt offerings in particular. In many ways Leviticus attempts to answer the great question set up by the book of Exodus: how can a holy a God dwell among a sinful people. In the opening chapter God provides a way: atonement for sin.

If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer a male without blemish. He shall bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the Lord. He shall lay his hands on the head of the burn offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him. (1:3-4)

God makes a way for sinful people to dwell with him: the substitutionary sacrifice of a pure, spotless animal. These sacrifices, however, are a shadow of the greater sacrifice to come. In this opening chapter of Leviticus we see a glimpse of the gospel in nascent form. I suspect the whole book is like this.

We ignore Leviticus to our own shame, to my own shame. God had it written and kept and the early church read it and preached from it. There’s much here that we need to learn. There a plethora of themes and subjects I will need to think theologically about over this year as I weave my way through this book, themes like: death and life, cleanliness, holy living, sacrifice and offering, law and gospel, atonement, priesthood, and more. It will, no doubt, be a fruitful and insightful study. I hope you’ll join me in Leviticus this year.

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