Friday, January 1, 2016

The Structure of Leviticus (3rd book of the Old Testament)


Leviticus (Va’yikra in Hebrew) means “and He called,” which is how verse one starts. We call this book Leviticus because it records the duties of the Levites. The Hebrew title is representative of the content and purpose of the book, namely the calling of God’s people, and in particular the calling of the Levites, to minister before Him.
This book was written by Moses and its major themes are like an instruction manual for morals and ethics. There are civil, sanitary, ceremonial, moral and religious regulations for the nation of Israel. There are also instructions for making offerings (burnt, meat, peace, sin, trespass, grain). We have the ordination of Aaron and his son, rules and laws for purification, regulations for atonement, rules for sexual relationships, provisions for festivals, and final instructions and warnings.
All the offerings, as well as the ceremonies and laws, served to constantly remind Israel that God is eminently holy. God could be approached only by the priests, and then only in strict obedience to the detailed instructions for purification.  God required the sacrifice of innocent animals for the covering of man’s sin. These sacrifices were symbolic of the ultimate sacrifice (Jesus) which would take away the sin of the whole world.
What’s really interesting is that in Leviticus you’ll find some “divine warnings.”
There will be terror, the people will be slain and others will be scattered. There are very specific points made in regards to bread and famine, waste and desolation.
Leviticus is clearly a manual for the priests to follow. It explains burnt offerings, grain offerings, fellowship offerings, sin and guilt offerings and how it is forbidden to eat fat and blood. The section on clean and unclean food (chapter 11) makes sense from a scientific point of view as well. As do the chapters (13, 14) about infectious skin diseases and dealing with mildew (mold). Chapter 18 gets uncomfortably specific (for some people) about sexual relations. “Do not have sexual relations” with a relative, someone of the same sex, or an animal, is pretty explicit and unambiguous; these statements cannot be argued away. God says “NO”, so don’t do it.
Though the Ten Commandments were covered in Exodus 20, they appear again here in Leviticus 19 with some embellishments.
Chapter 23 starts with what I think is a pleasant contrast to all the previous negative prohibitions and sacrifices. The Lord appoints some feasts: The Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, Feast of Weeks, Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) and the Feast of Tabernacles. These are wonderful “parties” and have special significance to Israel, but even more significance to Christians. Why? Because they are or will be fulfilled in Christ.
First of all Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread and Firstfruits fall on the 14th, 15th and 17th of the Jewish calendar month of Nisan. These are spring feasts. Pentecost is 50 days later on the 6th of Sivan, a summer month. The last three feasts are all autumn festivals falling on the 1st, 10th and 15th of Tishri. 
The Passover supper (the Seder meal, explained earlier in the post on Exodus) was what Jesus and the disciples were having the night before His crucifixion – The Last Supper! For the Jew Passover celebrates liberation from slavery to Egypt; to the Christian Christ’s crucifixion signifies liberation from slavery to sin and death.
The Feast of Unleavened Bread began on the day Christ was crucified – Good Friday! Leaven, or yeast, is symbolic of sin. Jews eat unleavened bread, bread made without yeast called matzah during the seven days of this feast. Matzah is striped and pierced, an obvious (to a Christian) link to Christ’s pre-crucifixion beating and the sword piercing He received on the cross.
The Feast of First Fruits took place on the day Christ rose from the dead! This feast was to present the first fruits of the harvest to God. The priest would wave the first sheaf of grain and it was accepted by God on the people’s behalf – just as Jesus now is the “first fruit” accepted on our behalf.
The Feast of Pentecost was the day the Holy Spirit was poured out onto the disciples! The first Pentecost was 7 weeks after the death of the Passover lambs. On that day Moses received the Law on the stone tablets and when he returned to camp 3000 men died because of their sin. Seven weeks after Christ, the Lamb of God, was crucified the disciples received the Holy Spirit and 3000 believed that day (Acts 2:41).
The next three will be fulfilled as prophesied in the Holy Scriptures. The Feast of Trumpets was a day of rest for Israel on which they should “sound the trumpets.” This is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. At some future date the trumpets will sound Christ’s return. Now that will really be a new year!
The Day of Atonement is the day that the priests made atonement for Israel. The people fasted and prayed. On some future Day of Atonement Jesus will be revealed as King and return to this earth.
The Feast of Tabernacles was a feast of joy when the harvest was brought in. Someday it will be the harvest of saved souls and a day that Christ will begin His rule.
These seven feasts, given and explained THOUSANDS of years ago, show us right where we are on God’s calendar. Here are two good websites to visit if you want to read more: