A: Great question Ken! I am guessing that your experience is common to many of the Christians that actually read through that section of the Bible. I can think of a couple of things that might make your reading of Leviticus more profitable for you.
Leviticus is really all about worship and holiness. How could the Hebrew nation rightly worship God and respect God’s holiness? There were sacrifices established to enable a less than perfect people to approach (through the Levitical priesthood) a perfect God. There were laws to enable the people to live lovingly with their neighbors when they came into the land which God was giving to them. There were feasts for the community of faith to celebrate what God had done for them and what he would do for them in the future. While it is true that since we are not under the Mosaic covenant God made with the Israelite nation and as a result "these laws are no longer God’s command to us, they are God’s Word for us." (Fee & Stuart, How to Read the Bible for all its Worth) He still speaks through Leviticus to us today. As we endeavor to hear what He is saying to us sometimes it is helpful to read with questions. Let me share some of them with you.
I find it is helpful in my study to remember that nothing God says is random or arbitrary, though looking back across the chasm of time, culture, language, and covenant, it may seem that way. Just because I don’t see the reason doesn’t mean there isn’t one! When reading, I would ask…
- What type of law I am reading about? I can see at least four major types of laws in Leviticus: Worship Laws, Anti-Idolatry Laws, Love-your-neighbor Laws, Public Health Laws. Knowing these groupings will help me to see purpose.
- Was this law limited in its original application (“if…then”) or intended to establish a precedent (“do…”, or “do not…” laws)?
- What does this law teach me about the character of God?
As I have noted, much of Leviticus is focused on regulations regarding the types of sacrifices and the various feasts that would be celebrated in the course of the year. When reading about the sacrifices I would ask myself questions such as…
- Was this sacrifice designed to atone for sin or facilitate fellowship with God?
- How did Christ’s sacrifice on the cross fulfill these laws?
- What sacrificial provision was there for intentional sins?
- How is the New Covenant better than this? (Hebrews 9:23)
When reading about the feasts I would ask myself…
- What was the stated purpose for this feast?
- When and where was it to be celebrated?
- Is there another symbolic meaning to this feast?
- How do I see Jesus interacting with this feast in the Gospels?
While we no longer have a functioning Levitical priesthood to relate to today, we are all part of the holy and royal priesthood of believers (1 Peter 2).
- What can we learn about how to live as holy priests from the Levitical laws?
- The priest’s job was to represent the people to a holy God, so how can we do that in the New Testament context?
Ultimately this book speaks about the holy character of God…so that is what I want to have my eyes open to see, my mind open to understand, my hands open to obey, and my heart open to adore!
I hope this helps to make you reading of Leviticus more eventful this year!