3. Leviticus: The Old Testament
THE BOOK OF LEVITICUS
The Third Book of the
Old Covenant Law
The Spiritual Significance:
Godliness Is God’s Gift to Us,
If We Will Receive It
What we must see is that every book of the Old Testament is about the coming of Jesus and the coming of his Kingdom — as described in the Constitution of his gospel truth. The Old Testament doesn’t refer to Jesus by name, but by coming reality. I Peter 1:9-12 says the Old Testament prophets studied long and hard to be able to see the GLORY that was going to come to us because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
WE ARE OFTEN BURIED IN LIFE’S PROBLEMS
We often think our problems are something different from what they are. The Garden showed Adam thinking his problem was that he was naked. But wasn’t he naked everyday before he ate from the forbidden tree? Our perceptions lead us astray. Like Adam, we think our problem is smoking, drinking, doing drugs or sex. While these may be bad things, they are not the main problem. And like Adam, we try to cover ourselves — to hide our wrongs — even hide ourselves.
The fact is our sin was not keeping us out of heaven, and our conquering our sin doesn’t get us into heaven. We were headed toward hell because we were born in Adam. Heaven is our destination when we are in Jesus. God really makes it just that simple. We complicate it by thinking everything else is our problem, and with SELF trying to deal with it.
The forbidden tree in the Garden makes us think we can figure things out ourselves. It’s called ‘The Tree of KNOWLEDGE.’ But God’s ways are so far above ours we can’t begin to understand them without gospel revelation. We want to make life work on our terms, and for God to help us obtain what we think we want or need to make us happy. It’s really the wrong focus.
The truth is just that ‘life happens,’ and it’s our job to respond to what happens to us in the Spirit, and not in the flesh — not by trying to figure it all out in The Tree of Knowledge, which I nickname ’The Tree of SELF.’
LEVITICUS, AND THE GOSPEL:
WE ARE RIGHTLY RELATED TO GOD
What God wants us to see in Leviticus, is that HE solves the problem of us being rightly related to him. He does so with the five offerings described in the first part of the book, and then by the priests later in the book. What God does is described in Hebrews 2:11: “For both he who sanctifies (Jesus), and he who is sanctified (us) are ONE.” Jesus says the same thing in John 17:17, 21: We are sanctified by the gospel truth, and we are one with Father, and with his Son, and with each other.
We must remember that the Old Testament is a preview of what was coming in the New Testament. By itself, it is just a lot of ancient history. But if seen through the eyes of the New Testament, it comes alive in Jesus. Jesus says in Luke that he came to fulfill all things. Leviticus shows we must be godly, holy, righteous, perfect, etc., in order to be in God’s holy presence. The gospel reveals this is what Jesus has done for us.
All we must do is to receive him and trust him, as Exodus describes, and then believe what he says, which is the gospel. If we don’t the wrath of God comes on us (John 3:36). Jesus says, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him (himself) whom God has sent” (John 6:29). Paul showed us later how correct belief produced good works and deeds from us (Col 1:5-6).
PAUL SAYS GODLINESS IS A MYSTERY
It’s the same thing with being godly. In Leviticus, in the Old Testament, it was defined in terms of feasts, offerings, sacrifices, priests, etc.
But in the New Testament, Paul says this: “Without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness: (1) God living in the flesh, (2) justified by the Spirit, (3) seen of angels, (4) preached to Gentiles, (5) believed on in the world, (6) received up into glory.” Ask yourself this: how many of these six things do we have to do with? The answer is only one: (5) “believed on in the world” (I Tim 3:16).
Godliness is a big mystery because its foundation is not the way we think as humans, and especially as modern, western humans. We think in terms of behavior, actions and reactions, and behavior modification. This is what defines godliness to us. But this is not the way God defines it. He defines it in terms of us being firmly planted and grounded in his Son Jesus, and living in trust in his finished work on the cross.
THE FEAR OF GOD VS. THE WORSHIP OF GOD
God was feared in the Old Testament. We read statements like this: “You shall FEAR the Lord your God and serve him, and you shall take oaths in his name” (Deut 6:13). Jesus even quoted this verse in the New Testament, but he changed one word in what he quoted: “You shall WORSHIP the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve” (Matt 4:10). Because of the finished work of the cross of Jesus, our fear of God is transformed into worship.
What does worship really mean? It means God is the primary focus of life. No matter what we experience in this life — how painful or bad or even tragic it may be — worship is the thing that takes precedent over everything that happens. We are to live in God’s terms, in his Kingdom, even when our world seems to be falling apart at the seams. When we truly worship God, and live in the godliness and holiness he has provided for us, then we see life from a different perspective, even when life hurts. It is then that we see positive changes.
We want God to join us in our life condition, and to ‘fix’ things we don’t like. But he is waiting for us to join him in his Kingdom, as his gospel says. This message of the Bible is repeated over and over and over again. It’s only stated in different ways.
Know that devotion to God takes time and regularity. It doesn’t just happen in a brief weekly hour on Sunday morning. Half-hearted devotion doesn’t cut it (Rev 3:16).
And it is this devotion to God and his Kingdom that produces good thoughts and service from us. Godliness comes from a focus on God and what he has done for us in the cross of his Son, and this allows the Spirit to plant the good things of God’s Kingdom into us (Gal 5:22-23). Of course, good seed planted in us produces good things from us (Gal 6:7-8, Col 1:5-6).
SPEAKING ABOUT TITHING
There are so many mind-bending things in Leviticus that show God’s grace. For example, I won’t take time to talk about it, but you should read what God says about tithing in Leviticus 14:22-26. It will blow your mind.
And I promise you’ve never heard any pastor preach on this. Their message is always to bucket-plunk more and more money, and try to get everyone to tithe.
Tithing is actually a very good thing to do. Our goal should be to give more than 10% if we possibly can. But tithing is also one very sure hold-over from the law.
And preachers use it to make sure their church grows because this is what brings them prestige. It’s hard to find pastors who won’t talk about tithing with regard to the Old Testament system of law. But these verses I encourage you to read say something very different. Why don’t you ask your pastor to preach on it? After all, it is scriptural — it is in the Bible!
The Old Testament is ongoing and developing. It is not complete.