When I committed to reading through the bible in 90 days I had made a qualifying decision: the 90 days did not have to be 90 consecutive days. I wanted to protect myself from two common threats: the threat of falling behind and feeling unable to catch up which would surely result in quitting, and the threat of burning myself out and not being able to complete my goal.
So I came to the decision that I would take every Saturday and Sunday off. Since each post is published the morning after the daily reading, the blog posting for my 90 challenge will go from Tuesdays (which is Monday’s reading) through Saturday (which is Friday’s reading).
I wanted to make this qualification clear so that no one thought I had given up. Now on to Leviticus!
The first thing to note about Leviticus is how arbitrary it seems. When someone brings an atonement offering, the animal is to be cut into pieces, the priest will arrange them (including the head and fat) and he is to wash the inner parts and the legs (Lev 1:10-13). Seriously Lord, are those details necessary? If someone offers a grain offering “prepared on a griddle“, it is to be made with fine flour and oil, crumbled and cooked in a pan (Lev 2:4-10). How does that apply to the church today?
No doubt someone may find a spiritual connection of some sort (like the fact that all of the grain offerings are explicitly made without yeast), but really, are all of those details necessary for a contemporary Christian seeking to understand God and his word by reading it through? I have a good mind to skip parts.
But then I am reminded of two things: first the scriptures have a historical context which should not and cannot be neglected as is often done by today’s bible believing Christian. Second, the spiritual connections often make sludging through Leviticus and Numbers worth it!
Take for example Leviticus 2:13:
Season all your grain offerings with salt. Do not leave the salt of the covenant of your God out of your grain offerings; add salt to all your offerings.
The Lord seems pretty adamant that salt remain in the covenant of God. What can be teased out of this passage? Why is salt in God’s covenant so important? How can this passage apply to our covenant relationship with God today?
Leviticus, we might say, is the book of Holiness. God is holy, and thus his people must also be holy. And to be holy means to be set apart as the Lord said back in Exodus: though the whole world is his, the people he redeemed from Egypt are to be set apart as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:5).
So if we were to scour the book of Leviticus for its driving motif, I think it is found in Leviticus 11:44-45:
I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy… I am the Lord who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God: therefore be holy, because I am holy.
At his point it is important to point out the biblical principle of representation. First the atonement animal represents the high priest, which is why such care is taken to ensure that the animal is holy. When the animal dies, it does so in place of the high priest. In turn, the high priest enters the Holy Place as representative of the whole nation. In turn the people bring their atonements to the priesthood who represents the nation also. And finally, in God’s eyes, the nation itself is to be “a holy priesthood” which represents the nations of the world. A people set apart to show the world who they should worship and how they should live.
I would be remis at this point to ignore the obvious connection between this passage in Leviticus 11:45, and Peter’s usage of it 1 Peter 2:9:
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
Peter understands that the people of God are “a royal priesthood, a holy nation”. He takes a passage which the Lord speaks directly to Israel and applies it to, for lack of a better term, the Church. Now it says that God calls us out to be a “holy nation” and “royal priesthood” so that we may declare his praises. “So that” is the operative phrase! Declare his praises to whom, I wonder? Well who are not his holy nation but the world which does not know him. As God’s praises were declared to the world through his deliverance of Israel out of Egypt as we learned in Exodus 9:16, so his praises should be declared to the world through his deliverance of us “out of darkness into his wonderful light”.
The motif of Leviticus is holiness, or more specifically, what it means to be holy and to preserve that holy covenant of God.
Salt is a preservative.