With today’s Bible reading we begin the book of Leviticus (from Greek “According to the Levites”) The work of the Levites (the Jewish Priesthood) is given in meticulous detail. Oftentimes when someone attempts to read through the Bible, they get to Leviticus and lose interest because of all of the details of the Jewish Sacrificial System, which doesn’t apply to the Christian.
Or does it?
The Bible Knowledge Commentary says of Leviticus, “The Book of Leviticus was the first book studied by a Jewish child; yet is often among the last books of the Bible to be studied by a Christian. However, a book referred to about 40 times in the New Testament should be of great significance to every Christian.”
One thing I noticed several times today is the description, “unblemished male” (Leviticus 1:3, 10; 4:3, 23) Why would this stand out to me? Well, in keeping with the BKC‘s comment about the New Testament’s frequent use of Leviticus, Jesus is our perfect Sacrificial Lamb.
For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow, sprinkling those who are defiled, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works so that we can serve the living God?
Hebrews 9:13–14 (CSB)
Another thing to note in today’s reading is the implication that the sacrificial animal is to be brought from the offeror’s own flock or herd. This makes it personal. Later, when worship is centralized, Israelites would come from other places, some from long distances, and bringing a sacrificial animal may have been difficult; the animal would have to be protected because a broken leg along the way would have rendered the animal unusable as a sacrifice.
 Lindsey, F. Duane. “Leviticus.” The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck. Vol. 1. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985. 163. Print.
The sacrifices were designed to be temporary. In other words, the people were to repeat the offering throughout their lives because they continued to sin and sin needed to be atoned for. It’s only in Jesus’ perfect sacrifice of Himself that we now have a perfect, once-for-all-time sacrifice. (Hebrews 7:27) Also, under the New Covenant, no longer do we need to go to another human being to make a sacrifice of our offering. Jesus Himself, the perfect High Priest is our sacrifice and mediator. Jesus’ death fulfills the need for sacrifice to satisfy our sin-debt to God.
In a few months, when we get to a familiar passage in the New Testament Gospels, we’ll see Jesus drive out the money-changers from the Temple. This event points right back to our reading today!
In Jesus’ day, the money-changers exchanged the worshipers’ “defiled” Roman money for “consecrated” Temple Money so the people could pay their tithes and offerings and give alms to the poor at the Temple. Dishonest money-changers would often use dishonest scales and pocket the difference as a “convenience charge”. I believe they also sold (for a fee) the distant traveler sacrificial animals so the offeror wouldn’t be inconvenienced by having to bring an unblemished animal from home.
But the main reason Jesus was so upset was that where this money exchange took place was in the Court of the Gentiles, the only place in the Temple where Gentiles could enter and observe Jewish worship.
Think about it: A Gentile “God-Fearer” might enter the Temple and see this atrocity taking place and think, “What is going on? This system is crooked and takes advantage of people who simply want to offer their gifts to God.” And therein lay the problem.
See, Leviticus is very practical for Christians because it points us to Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Covenant system! As we continue on our Chronological reading of the Old Testament, I’ll continue to point out some of the practical applications for Twenty-first Century Christians.