Thursday, February 21, 2013
Leviticus - Some Strange Laws
As we embark on our journey through Leviticus, I'm aware that many people get bogged down in their Bible reading because of this book. It seems strange, arbitrary, and boring to many people. But I invite you to look beyond the words, to the meaning and symbolism behind them. Then, a bigger picture of God's purpose will come to light.
For example, in Leviticus 2, Moses gives instructions for the way grain offerings are to be made. He says:
4 “‘If you bring a grain offering baked in an oven, it is to consist of the finest flour: either thick loaves made without yeast and with olive oil mixed in or thin loaves made without yeast and brushed with olive oil. 5 If your grain offering is prepared on a griddle, it is to be made of the finest flour mixed with oil, and without yeast. 6 Crumble it and pour oil on it; it is a grain offering. 7 If your grain offering is cooked in a pan, it is to be made of the finest flour and some olive oil. 8 Bring the grain offering made of these things to the Lord; present it to the priest, who shall take it to the altar. 9 He shall take out the memorial portion from the grain offering and burn it on the altar as a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord. 10 The rest of the grain offering belongs to Aaron and his sons; it is a most holy part of the food offerings presented to the Lord.
11 “‘Every grain offering you bring to the Lord must be made without yeast, for you are not to burn any yeast or honey in a food offering presented to the Lord. 12 You may bring them to the Lord as an offering of the firstfruits, but they are not to be offered on the altar as a pleasing aroma. 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.
14 “‘If you bring a grain offering of firstfruits to the Lord, offer crushed heads of new grain roasted in the fire. 15 Put oil and incense on it; it is a grain offering. 16 The priest shall burn the memorial portion of the crushed grain and the oil, together with all the incense, as a food offering presented to the Lord.
All these regulations seem strange to our understanding, but we have to appreciate the symbolism behind it. Here, "finest flour" refers to quality, but it also refers to how much grinding the grain has undergone. This represents a person who is crushed and broken, their ego gone and their self-will eliminated, ready for God's use. The offering is to be made without yeast, because yeast represents sin. (Remember Jesus telling his disciples to beware the yeast of the Pharisees in Mark 8:15, and Paul who says "A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough" in Galatians 5:9 NIV.) So we are to offer a pure and spotless offering, a sinless offering, to God. Oil represents the presence of the Holy Spirit working in the lives of God's people, and incense depicts the prayers of the saints.
When we read the Old Testament ritual laws, they often seem arbitrary or strange to us. But try to see the symbolism behind these regulations, and suddenly a brand new vista opens up before you. In the minute details of the tabernacle furnishings you will find images of Christ who is to come. In laws regarding ritual cleanliness, you'll find God's desire to rid people of sin and corruption. These things are but physical representations of a spiritual reality that God is trying to teach His people. If, of course, they have eyes to see and ears to hear.
I pray that your eyes, ears, heart, and mind will be open to God's Word...that as you read through boring and strange laws like those found in Leviticus, you'll find new truth about God's nature, His desire for purity and truth, and His plans to redeem His people.