You are mine.
Therefore, you are to do things my way in every aspect of life.
These three sentences encapsulate the essence of Leviticus. Several key passages in Leviticus help bring these themes into focus. Mark them in your Bible and keep them in mind as you read through the 27 chapters of Leviticus.
- “I am Yahweh, your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourself and be holy, for I am holy . . . . For I am Yahweh who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God. Therefore, you shall be holy for I am holy” (11:44a, 45).
- “You shall be holy because I, Yahweh your God, am holy” (19:2b).
- “And you shall be holy to Me for I, Yahweh, am holy, and I have separated you from the peoples in order to be Mine” (20:26).
- “Therefore, you shall keep my commandments and do them. I am Yahweh. And you shall not profane My holy name in order that I may be sanctified in the midst of the children of Israel; I, Yahweh, am the One who sanctifies you, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God. I am Yahweh” (22:31-33).
- “And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you will be My people. I am Yahweh your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt from being their slaves. I also broke the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect” (26:12-13).
Repeatedly, God asserts that He is Yahweh and that Israel belongs to Him. They are therefore to demonstrate in every aspect of life their consecration to Him. That is at the heart of what it means to be holy—the key word that occurs 152 times in Leviticus. Understanding this will help unlock everything you then read in Leviticus.
1. God regulates the gifts that His people offer Him.
God regulates the gifts that His people offer Him (chs. 1-7). They bring the gifts and offerings that He prescribes, in the way that He prescribes, and when He prescribes. A God like Yahweh is not to be approached nonchalantly or carelessly. You approach Him with the gifts that He has designated to be offered and you offer them with the help of the mediators, the Levitical priesthood, that He has provided (chs. 8-10).
2. God determines what makes a person clean or unclean.
In addition, God determines what makes a person clean or unclean and how a person who has become unclean becomes clean. He is to be sanctified in what Israel eats, in what they touch, in the way they deal with infectious diseases, or mildew-type growths (see chs. 11-15). Uncleanness is such a problem that one day every year, the Day of Atonement, is set aside to cleanse Israel and the tabernacle from the past year’s filth (ch. 16). “On this day atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be cleansed from all your sins before Yahweh” (16:30). Blood is required to make atonement and be cleansed from impurity (17:11). The blood is the concrete symbol of the life of a creature. By offering its blood, you are taking its life. Death--bloody death--is the price for cleansing from sin.
3. God expects obedience to His ordinances.
Finally, God expects Israel to live by His ordinances. As you read through Leviticus 18-27, take special note of how many times God alludes to My ordinances, My statutes, and My commandments. Israel was not to walk in the ways of the nations around them; they were to walk in God’s ways. The land in which they would live was God’s (25:23) so they were to follow His rules for working it. Their fellow Israelites were God’s (25:42, 55) so they were to treat them accordingly. If Israel chose to sin, God would choose the chastisement. If Israel chose to obey, God would pour out the rewards.
Leviticus has application for New Testament believers.
Being God’s, in whatever period of time you live, means you do things His way in every aspect of your life. As 1 Peter 1:15 summarizes, “But as the One who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all your conduct.”
We, like Israel, are to be fully God’s in every aspect of life so that we may “proclaim the excellencies of the One who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
- What three sentences capture the essence of Leviticus’ message?
- Look again at the five key passages cited above. Which of those do you think best summarizes Leviticus’ key themes?
- What key word in Leviticus occurs over 150 times (in various forms)?
- Explain how 1 Peter 1:15-16 relates to Leviticus. (What verse in Leviticus does 1 Peter 1:16 quote?)
- Should New Testament Christians also try to do things God’s way in every aspect of life?
- What aspects of life do you struggle the most to do God’s way?
- Explain the significance of Leviticus 17:11.
- Look through Leviticus 18-27 and note how many times God gives as a reason for a command, “I am the Lord.” What does this suggest is the primary reason we should obey God’s commands? (Does God have the right to tell His people what to do? Does God know what is best for us to do?)