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November 15, 2023

Leviticus Part 2

Last week we began our study in Levit and I made the comment that as we study this book we will view it thru the lens of the N.T. Levit offers us a picture of what Jesus did for us and why He did it. We touched on some of that last week.



You Shall Be Holy, Part 2

LEVITICUS 8 thru 11

 [show the Leviticus cover slide]

Last week we began our study in Levit and I made the comment that as we study this book we will view it thru the lens of the N.T. Levit offers us a picture of what Jesus did for us and why He did it. We touched on some of that last week. The theme of Levit is summarized in Ch 19:

READ Leviticus 19:1-2

So the theme of Leviticus is holiness. Specifically, the holiness of God. And, because God is holy, He expects His people to be holy. Right? Peter applied this to us N.T. believers in 1 Peter Ch 1…

READ 1 Peter 1:14-16.

So last week the question was raised, “What is holiness, what does it mean to be holy?” Let me answer that. I looked it up. The word used in 1 Peter five different times (including in v 16) which is translated as “holy” in English is the Greek word hagios (HAG'-ee-os) and it means “sacred” in other words “physically pure, morally blameless or consecrated.” Peter uses this word in Chapter 1 to describe our behavior, our conduct as those who have been saved. We are to be holy, pure, morally blameless, because God is holy. This is not a new concept. Peter quotes from Levit where God’s covenant people were also expected to exemplify holy conduct. In Ephesians 5:1 Paul says that we are to be “imitators of God, as beloved children.” Peter says that we are to be obedient children not acting like we used to before we were saved. Now that we ARE saved, we are to act like God. We are to be like God in our holy character and conduct. So what do we mean when we talk about the holiness of God? It is interesting that in Lev 19:2 the word used for “holy” as it applies to God is the same word “holy” as it applies to the people of God. The Hebrew word translated as “holy” is qadash (kaw-do- SHE) which means “sacred” (ceremonially or morally). God is by His very nature pure, clean, righteous, sinless and undefiled. There’s no one like Him! He is “Most High” (Elyon) and holy. We are to pursue holiness, God-likeness, Chris-likeness. Even though we can never attain to that level of divine perfect holiness we are still instructed to pursue it. First Timothy 6:11 says, “Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.”  And as I pointed out last week we have the indwelling Holy Spirit to help us to do that.

Now let’s get back to Leviticus and we will make application as we go thru it. God made it clear in Genesis and in Exodus that He wants to have a relationship, fellowship, a closeness with His covenant people. But the problem they faced was sin. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” They and everyone else have missed the mark. All are sinners. No exceptions. So, then, the question that faced God’s covenant people back in Moses’ day was this: “How can an unholy man, one who has sin in his life, have fellowship with a perfectly holy God?” Well first of all, his sin must be dealt with somehow. Second, there must be a mediator, a go-between, a peacemaker, between holy God and sinful man.

Levit Ch 1 thru 7 (last week’s lesson) tell us that sin is dealt with thru sacrifices. The people get to God, first, by way of sacrifice. Fellowship with God must be restored because of sin. This is done thru either burnt, sin, or guilt offerings. As N.T. believers we understand that Jesus Christ has fulfilled this requirement for us. So we are no longer required to make these sacrifices. It has already been done by Christ once for all.

In Levit, atonement, the cleansing from sin, comes thru the shedding of blood, the blood from an animal sacrifice. I referenced Hebrews 9:12-14 where the writer explains that Christ, operating as our great High Priest, sacrificed His own life, voluntarily laid down His life, crucified on the cross. The imagery that is being used here is that Jesus then takes His own blood and with it He secures our eternal salvation. Under the O.T. Law God required the people to bring perfect animals for the various sacrifices. This pointed to Christ, the unblemished, perfect Lamb of God. Because Jesus was sinless, His sacrifice for us on the cross is infinitely more valuable than any animal sacrifice.

 Levit Ch 8 thru 10, which we will look at this morning, the need for a mediator between God and man is addressed. The people in Moses’ day got to God thru sacrifices and also thru the Levitical priesthood. The priests acted as man’s rep before God. In other words they served as mediators, as go-betweens. In order to represent God’s covenant people they had to be one of them. And God had appointed Aaron’s sons and the entire tribe of Levi to serve as priests, as mediators.

Again we N.T. believers see that Jesus Christ fulfills this role for us. And therefore we no longer need to go thru a priest to access God.

READ Hebrews 9:15.

So, Jesus is the only Mediator who can restore peace between God and sinners. As 1 Timothy 2:5 says, “one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”

The Bible teaches us that Jesus is fully God and fully man. When He took on human flesh, Jesus became one of us. He can now relate to us. He sympathizes with us.

READ Hebrews 4:15

And Jesus has direct access to the Father right now. Jesus is our Mediator. Thru Him we have access to the throne of God!

READ Hebrews 7:24-25.

Chapter 8 talks about how Aaron and his sons were consecrated, set apart for service to the Lord. In Chapter 9 Aaron and his sons begin to perform their duties as priests offering up the various sacrifices that we discussed last week. Each one of these were carried out according to God’s plan and had to be performed in a certain way. The result of doing things God’s way was good. It is described at the end of Ch 9…

READ Leviticus 9:22-24

So, doing things God’s way, obedience, results in a blessing – in this case the people see that the glory of the Lord. As it appears they fall down on their faces and worship Him. The fire of the Lord comes down and consumes the burnt offering. So with Ch 9 you have the inauguration of the priesthood and they get off to a good start.

But then comes Ch 10 and here we see what happens when the priests don’t do things God’s way…

READ Leviticus 10:1-3

Nadab and Abihu decided they were going to do things their way instead of God’s way. Some Bible scholars have suggested they were drunk based on the warnings given in v 9, but whatever the case they transgressed God’s command and the result is the fiery judgment of God falls upon them. Just like in Ch 9 when the fire of the Lord comes down and consumes the offering, now we see the fire coming down and consuming Aaron’s sons.

After this incident occurs Moses instructs Aaron and his surviving 2 sons Eleazar and Ithamar not to mourn for Nadab and Abihu. Why not? Two reasons. First, they were God’s reps before the people and were expected to continue their duties as priests and not take time out to mourn. Second, God’s judgment is righteous and mourning would be an outward sign to the sign that they didn’t agree with it. God is as glorious in His judgment as He is in His blessing.

At the end of Ch 10 Moses admonishes Aaron and Eleazar and Ithamar for not eating that portion of the sin offering designated for them. And Moses asks them, “Why did you not eat the sin offering at the holy place? (v 17). Aaron’s reply was basically, “Given that Nadab and Abihu had taken part in this sin offering, then were killed, this would have rendered the offering as unacceptable to the Lord and therefore unclean. We saw this offering as unpleasing to the Lord and so we did not partake of it.” And the scripture tells us in v 20 that Moses was OK with that explanation.

This is a good example of the principle that says what’s in our hearts is more important than our religious activity. In Amos 5:22 God addresses this. God’s people have sinned, their hearts are not right and therefore he says, “Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; and I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings.” 1 Samuel 15:22 Samuel tells King Saul, “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold to obey is better than sacrifice and to heed than the fat of rams.”

So as we wrap up the first part of Levit let me just summarize a few of the main points that we can apply to our own life. God desires fellowship with His people, with us. Our sin needs to be dealt with – Jesus was the perfect sacrifice for our sins on the cross. He made THE way for our justification, our salvation. But God desires that we be holy. Therefore our sins need to be dealt with as a condition of our fellowship with God. So we go to Jesus as our great High Priest, our mediator and we confess our sins before Him and we ask forgiveness and we can be assured that we will be forgiven (quote 1 Jn 1:9). Sin is a serious matter and we must daily, regularly deal with it before God. God wants us to have pure hearts and minds and only then will He be pleased with our worship.

Beginning in Chapter 11 is the section of Levit containing all sorts of laws and rules for the people to follow. God has said, “You (my covenant people) are to be holy because I am holy” and then God shows them the way to personal holiness. Now, admittedly, to us 21st C Gentiles, these all sound quite strange to us. I’m just going to briefly talk about Ch 11 and then we will pick up with Ch 12 next week.

Ch 11 is the food laws. God is concerned about the food His people eat. There were certain foods that God designated as “clean,” meaning that the people can eat them. Other foods were designated as “unclean.” The people are not permitted to eat these.

READ Leviticus 11:3-4, 9-10, 20-21.

Examples of clean foods: cows, sheep, goats, deer, fish, chickens, turkeys, sparrows, locusts, grasshoppers. Examples of unclean foods: camels, badgers, rabbits, pigs, eagles, falcons, ostriches, owls, vultures, lobster, shrimp, scallops, rats, mice, lizards.

You read thru Ch 11 at these descriptions and lists and it seems rather arbitrary. Why can these be eaten, but not these? Some people have conjectured that it has to do with God’s protection of His people from diseases. That sounds good until you read the account of Peter and the vision he has in Acts 10..

READ Acts 10:10-15

So at some point in time, between 30 and 40 A.D., God lifts His previous restriction on what had been designated in Levitas unclean foods. Now everything is allowed to be eaten. If protection from disease had been God’s motivation then what does this tell us about God now that He allows these foods to be eaten. So I would submit that this was not God’s reason.

We don’t know why God said some foods were OK to eat and others were not. To us it all seems rather curious and arbitrary. But it tells us something about God. It points to His sovereignty. You see, He chooses what He chooses and He chooses whom He chooses. He’s God and He doesn’t have to explain Himself. The truth is we don’t really know what was in His mind when He gave these directives to His people. He had a reason but He never tells us what it is. And because He is God, the Creator and we are merely the created, He owes us no explanation. All we know is that it is in His heart and His will even though we don’t understand. Isaiah 55:9 says, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Throughout Levit God will tell His people to do something and then He adds this phrase (I counted 52 times from Levit 11:44 to the end of the book): “Because I am the Lord your God.” God tells His people, “Be holy, for I am holy… You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.” You are to do [whatever it is I have told you to do] because I am the Lord and I’m telling you to do it.”

The sovereignty of God. Why God does what He does. It’s a mystery. Why did God choose Israel? Why not Egypt or Assyria or Edom?

READ Deut 7:7

God chose Israel because He wanted to. It was His divine choice. It wasn’t because they deserved it. Fact is, they didn’t! It was God’s grace.

READ Romans 9:4-5

God chose Israel by His sovereign grace and they are the recipients of His blessing, the blessing of the Messiah, Jesus. God also chose us by His grace and we also are recipients of His blessing, the blessing of salvation thru Christ. It is all about God’s grace.

I was struck as I was studying Levit and was reading about the various sacrifices, the priests and their duties, all the things the people did, the gifts that were brought, the worship, the religious activity – there is a phrase that is repeated all through Levit, 153 times I counted, “to the Lord” or “before the Lord.” Everything that is done as it pertains to religious activity or worship is done to the Lord. Yes, the people get to participate, but they do it TO the Lord, it’s all about HIM, not them. GOD is the object of worship, praise and honor. We can learn a lot from Levit, right?

LEVITICUS 8 thru 11

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