"You are not to present anything that has a defect, because it will not be accepted on your behalf."
This isn't the kind of verse folks typically share on social media but sometimes we don't need another verse that caters to our emotions. Sometimes we need a verse that pulls us out of the status quo and reminds us that we can live for something, rather Someone, greater than ourselves. Someone who is worthy of our worship and our very best.
What comes to mind when you read about the unblemished offerings necessary for atonement in Leviticus? I usually jump straight to the cross and to the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the lamb of God slain to save the world from their sins. But I lose out when I move to the cross too fast, overlooking the context of the book.
At this point in redemptive history, the Lord is about to bring his people into the land he promised them, Canaan. He’s not just going to lead them there and then leave them. He intends to dwell among them, but for a holy God to reside in their midst, they must be holy too. And that’s the point of Leviticus, to teach them how to live holy lives. He even addresses how they were to deal with their sins. Because sinning, let's face it, is inevitable. Thus for him to remain with them, they have to regularly address and atone for their sins, intentional and unintentional.
Leviticus is about how a sinful people can commune with a holy God. It heralds the glorious truth that God actually wants to be among his people. He wants this so much so that he prepares the way himself. Leviticus isn't about arbitrary laws. Rather the laws in this book act as a guardian to protect the most special relationship in the universe--a very real relationship between Creator and creature, God and man.
And in teaching them how to live, he also teaches them how to worship. See, the Israelites are new at this. They don't know how to posture themselves before the King of Kings. They have to learn from him what it looks like to bring gifts and sacrifices to a holy king. They have to learn that he deserves nothing less than perfection, that his gifts and sacrifices are costly. And God is willing to teach them. What mercy!
Yet that's the part that challenges me the most. Do I know how to worship a king? Do I offer God my best?
As a Covenant Seminary lecturer postulated in a 2010 series linked below, “You wouldn’t bring rotten fruit or a crippled lamb to a king.” Would you make your favorite celebrity Spaghettio’s and burnt toast?
God teaches about his holiness and grandeur by teaching his people to give them their best. Even their grain offerings have to be made with fine flour and frankincense.
As someone who struggles with laziness, I can often make excuses for less than excellent service to God and others. Isn't it enough that I did something? I'll ask myself and God. Surely grace can make up for the rest.
It’s one thing that God supplied the unblemished, perfect sacrifice so that I could receive salvation and commune with him free of charge. It’s another thing to recognize God's redemptive work in my life involves shaping me into the kind of person that lives a life worthy of him.
It means I can't settle with what my sin is okay with offering. It means grace makes up for the rest by training me to love God with my whole heart, mind, and strength and my neighbor as myself. It means excellence before the Lord is a worthy pursuit. Even if it's messy and imperfect.
The Israelites were unable to keep the laws outlined in Leviticus. And the truth is neither am I. Rather than having to pay a ransom for our sins to King Jesus, this marvelous king stripped himself of his royal garments, came among us as a man, and not just any man, a servant. He paid our ransom with his very own blood.
And because of this great sacrifice, proven acceptable by his resurrection, this great King abides in us by his Holy Spirit. This is incredible. By his blood I am cleansed of all unrighteousness. And by his Spirit I am being made holy.
This means that as Leviticus exposes by sin and all my messy worship, I can rejoice that I am on a grace-filled path of learning how to live a life worthy of a King, offering him my best because of who He is--Holy God, Worthy King, Glorious Savior.
Sources that helped me gain more understanding as I simply read through this book like any other reading plan:
When reading through the Bible, I don't usually refer to this many resources to get a better grasp of a book. Leviticus is a special case since it can be one of the more difficult for me to get through. I desperately wanted to understand it a bit more than I have in the past and to get a better hold of its significance to my life and faith today. Without time to study the book in depth, the above resources proved incredibly helpful and made for a richer, more enjoyable read.