Leviticus 1-27 - The Bible from 30,000 Feet - Skip Heitzig - Flight LEV01
The Bible from 30,000 Feet, soaring through the scripture from Genesis to Revelation.
Would you turn in your Bibles to the book of Leviticus? When Stephen said that, he said, how many of you are excited about being in Leviticus? And you all cheered. I don't know how many churches that would happen in, so I'm just so happy to be a part of this church. And I love that you love the Word.
And so we are in the book of Leviticus in The Bible from 30,000 Feet. I'm guessing that if you ask the average Christian, what's your favorite book in the Bible?, they're not going to say Leviticus.
So let's just take a quick, random poll, if you don't mind. How many of you, your favorite book in the Bible is the book of Psalms? I want to see hands, hands raised up. Psalms' your favorite book?
OK, let's say the Gospel of John, the Gospel of John. Wow, a lot of them. Ephesians? Romans? Wow, some of you are voting three or four times. No, I'm just kidding.
Hebrews, the book of Hebrews? Leviticus? Yeah, see what I mean?
There's probably not a lot of underlines and yellow highlights in the book of Leviticus in your Bible, if you do that to your Bible. I'm guessing your life verse is probably not found in the book of Leviticus. In fact, I would say the book of Leviticus is sort of like the graveyard of good intentions.
What I mean by that is we make a New Year's resolution. This year, I'm going to read through the Bible. We make it through Genesis. That's awesome, cool stories. Exodus-- again, miraculous stories.
Then you get to Leviticus, and you start slowing down. Or you just sort of push the pause button altogether and go, ah, maybe next year, I'll chug my way through this thing.
The Bible does say, however, all scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable, so that means this book, because it's part of the scripture, is part of that promise. Little known fact-- the ancient Jews began training their children in the law of God by using the book of Leviticus, so a child began his study of the scripture not in Genesis, not in Psalms, certainly not in the New Testament. It wasn't around. But it was in the book of Leviticus.
Now, why is that? Well, there is a commentary called the Midrash, Jewish comments on the Old Testament, and it says in that set of books, children are pure and the sacrifices are pure. So let those who are pure come and occupy themselves with pure things. They just believe that this was sort of like the hub, the center of their life, their community life, their spiritual life, the laws that are given in this book.
Something else you should know-- the New Testament quotes the book of Leviticus more than 100 times, so this is part of the all scripture that is profitable. I contend that you will not be able to understand the book of Hebrews unless you at least have a working knowledge of the book of Leviticus. The book of Hebrews opens. God, who, at different times and in different ways, spoke to our fathers through the prophets, has, in these last days, spoken to us by His son. The things that God spoke in the past that that book occupies itself with, the book of Hebrews, primarily, are the sacrifices and the analogies that are found in the book of Leviticus.
Now, as you open the book of Leviticus-- and again, we're just soaring over this. We'll bend the plane down to a scripture here and there and look at it and get a little closer a couple of times, but they are camped in the wilderness. As you open this book, it's a wilderness setting. In fact, there in front of a mountain called Mount Sinai.
It's in the middle of the wilderness. I have been there once in my life. I had the opportunity of climbing it up to the top and back. Jabal Musa, the Arabs call that mountain.
So they're camped before this mountain, and the book opens and closes at the same geographical point. They begin-- the beginning of Leviticus, the end of Leviticus. It's all instruction that God gives while they are camped at the foot of Mount Sinai.
They're there for about a month, and during that time, they're going to school as God instructs them. Now, let's divide the book up. I'm going to cut it into two sections. Chapters 1 through 17, section 1, chapters 18 through 27, section 2, The first 17 chapters are about the way to God through sacrifice. That's the key word in those 17 chapters, "sacrifice," the way to God through sacrifice.
Beginning in chapters 18 all the way to chapters 27, it's a walk with God through sanctification. Don't worry. I'm going to explain what that means in a little bit. So the way to God through sacrifice and then a walk with God through sanctification-- so those two words, you could say, if you wanted a nutshell version of this book, those two words sum it up, "sacrifice" and "sanctification."
Sacrifice is an event. In the case of the Old Testament, they took an animal and slaughtered it. That's an event. That's the sacrifice.
Sanctification is not an event. It's a process. It's over a long period of time. A walk with God is a lifetime.
So that sums up your testimony, doesn't it? The sacrifice at Calvary through Jesus Christ, your Lord-- He died for your sins on your behalf. That's the event. But then a walk with God through sanctification-- that's the rest of your Christian life after the event.
And we discover in the book of Leviticus that the major issue is how to get close to God and how to stay close to God. Now, I think everybody would agree that God is good, right? We say that God is good all the time. And we would say, it's good to be in the presence of the Lord, right? And that's what we say.
Now, we've been in the presence of the Lord tonight. It is good to be in the presence of God. Can you say that? It is good to be in the presence of God.
However, it's also dangerous to be in the presence of God. We discover that in the book of Leviticus. We kind of, in the New Testament, take for granted what it takes to get us into God's presence, so we just think, God, we're here. I know Jesus died on the cross. It's good to be in God's presence.
We open the Old Testament, and we discover it's good, but it's also very dangerous. We're going to see how dangerous. Animals are killed to get people into God's presence. Blood is shed for that to happen. A high priest represents the rest of the nation, and he approaches very, very carefully the presence of God lest he himself is killed.
So I heard an analogy the last couple of weeks that really helped me. It sort of like the sun. I think all of us would say the sun is good. That's why we live here. We like sunshine. We live in the great Southwest, copious sunshine most year round.
It is good, but if you get too close to the blazing glory of the sun, you will die. In fact, if you get within 3 million miles of the sun, the ambient air temperature will be 248 degrees. You will die. You will burn up.
So it's sort of like that with God. God's pure holiness is awesome, but you get too close to that, you can't handle it. Moses said, show me Your glory. Remember that last time? God said, you know what, Mo? You'll die if you behold My full, unfiltered, undiminished glory. I'm going to pass by, guard you with My hand, and at the appropriate moment as I pass by, I'm going to let you see the afterglow, and that's about all you can handle.
So we can't behold Him face to face yet. We're not equipped to do so. One day, we will be, and we will have that privilege.
So Leviticus provides the solution to that. What's the solution? You need sacrifices. You need somebody offering the sacrifices-- in this case, the priesthood-- and then you need purity laws so that the nation can stay close to God's presence.
Now, just another note-- Leviticus speaks more about holiness than any other book in the Bible. The word "holy," the word "blood," the word "priest," and the word "sacrifice," those four words are repeated in this book more than any other book in the entire Bible. One of the key themes is the word I just mentioned, "blood." "Blood" will be mentioned in this book alone 88 times.
Now there's a key lesson there. When you see "blood"-- in the case of Leviticus, animals who shed their blood-- it is meant to teach us a lesson. It was meant to teach them a lesson.
What's the lesson? Sin is awful. That's what sin does. It is destructive. It destroys life. The wages of sin is death, so sin makes a bloody mess of things.
And that's what we notice when we see the sacrifices. Blood must be shed. A victim must be slain to atone for sin.
Now, the people will bring the offerings in the book of Leviticus. The priest will take the offerings, and we'll slaughter and make the sacrifice for the people. So the priest's business is the business of the tabernacle.
Now, quick note-- if you want to serve as a priest, you can't just say, I feel called to the priesthood. I'd like to be a priest. You have to have the right genes. You have to have Levi jeans, right?
And I mean G-E-N-E-S, the right genetic makeup. You have to be of that tribe and of that lineage, so you have to have Levitical genes. Hence, "Leviticus" means pertaining to the Levites.
Chapters 1 through 7 give laws of personal proximity. If you're taking notes, write that down. Laws of personal proximity-- what do I mean by that? These seven chapters answer the question, how can I get close to God? How can I come into God's presence? Answer? Only by sacrifice.
Now, the sacrifices that are mentioned in the first seven chapters-- some of the sacrifices are, in effect, the people saying, I'm sorry, God. I've sinned. Please forgive me.
Other sacrifices are saying, thank you, God. You're awesome. I just wanted to tell you that and give you this. They're voluntary and not compulsory.
In verse 1 of the book, it says, "Now the Lord called to Moses and spoke to him from the tabernacle of meeting, saying, 'Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, when any one of you brings an offering to the Lord, you shall bring your offering of the livestock-- of the herd and of the flock. If his offering is a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish. He shall offer it of his own free will at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the Lord. Then he will put his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him. He shall kill the bull before the Lord, and the priests, Aaron's sons, shall bring the blood and sprinkle the blood all around on the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of meeting.'"
What's going on here? Well, man has a huge problem, and that is, if mankind wants to get close to God who is holy, wants to hang out with God, he has to deal with an issue. What's the issue? Sin.
So we have a sin problem. We are all S-I-N positive. We're born that way. It's part of our genetic makeup.
We were born fallen because of what Adam has done. But then we ourselves, we do things that are disobedient to God as well, so that has to be taken care of. Sin is the great divider.
1 John chapter 1, verse 8 and 9, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." So we have to admit it.
We have to confess it, and the word "confess" means that we agree with God. We agree with God about sin. We say the same thing about it as God says about it.
It's funny how some people will pray without kind of admitting that they're sinners. It's like, well, God, if I have sinned, would you please forgive me? Stop right there, buddy. If you're not quite sure about it, why are you even praying about it? You see, if you try to hide it-- the Bible says, "You will not prosper if you confess and forsake your sin. You will find mercy."
So we should call "sin" what God calls "sin." OK, so I'm kind of big about this. I've noticed that, over the years, the church sort of likes to soft-pedal things and say things differently. Don't use that word. People are offended by the word "sin."
Good. Be offended by it. Be so offended that you hate it like God hates it, and you want to forsake it like God wants you to forsake it. So we need to confess our sin.
If we call it something differently, it does no one any good. If you take a bottle of poison and you decide to relabel it like-- I don't know-- "wintergreen mouthwash," is that helpful? No, that's harmful. In fact, the more you dress up the label, the more dangerous the contents become. We need to label it what it is, that it's poisonous, that it's harmful.
So the first seven chapters are all about fixing that without the shedding of blood. Hebrews 9 tells us, referring to Leviticus, "Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission for sin." So if you were to go to the tabernacle back then on any given day, you know what it would look like to you? A slaughterhouse, like a meat-packing company, like a [SPANISH], right? It's like animals being butchered and blood being let and caught in basins and removed and more animals being slain. It was like a slaughterhouse, enormous amounts of blood.
This bothers some people. They say, you know, the Bible is sort of a bloody thing, and Christianity is a bloody religion. You bet your sweet bippy it is. Boy, that's an old term. That's like the 1960s or '70s.
So listen, blood circulates throughout the book of Leviticus, and did you know that blood is circulating throughout the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation? And scholars have noted this as the scarlet thread of redemption. It's woven through all the different books of the Bible, and it leads right to Calvary, right to the cross of Jesus Christ.
Now, "offering," the word "offering" and the word "sacrifice," those two words appear 192 times in the book of Leviticus. Why? Because where sin exists, there must be a payment, and the payment that God accepts is blood. So the blood of animals was used to cover sin in those days.
Think of it this way. The essence of a sacrifice was like a drama, a staged drama. And when somebody would bring an animal and blood would be spilled and the animal would be killed and offered up, everybody saw that, so the sacrifices expressed truths visually, rather than verbally.
I'm expressing verbal truths tonight. It would be quite different if I had a little animal that you could hear it bleed, and I slit its throat in front of you. See, just me saying that makes you grossed out.
So the Old Testament sacrifice was that drama played out. It was like ancient television, only they saw it. It happened in front of them.
Now, what does this tell us? Leviticus-- and you start going through these sacrifices. You discover the fallacy of the idea that people have about religion. They say, well, you know, all religions are basically the same, and all religions lead to God. And we discover, as we go just through the book of Leviticus, that that ain't so, that it's very narrow and that God is very exclusive. If you want to hang out in God's presence, you have to bring an animal that will be killed and that blood will be shed.
These sacrifices by the way, are not just reparatory-- that is, to repair things, to fix the problem of sin. They are also anticipatory. That is, the sacrifices speak of better things. That's what Hebrew said. Hebrew says, the sacrifices of Leviticus speak of a better sacrifice, a better high priest, a better altar. In other words, they're fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ.
That's why Jesus said to the Pharisees, if you would have believed Moses, you would believe me, for Moses wrote about me, which begs the question, well, where did Moses write about you? Well, Leviticus is one of them-- blood that is shed, a lamb that is slain, an innocent victim in the place of the people who have sinned.
And I always have wished that Luke chapter 24 would be expanded-- you know, the road to Emmaus when Jesus walks alongside those guys incognito. They don't know it's Jesus, and it says that, beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded to them all the things concerning himself. I'm sure he opened their Jewish eyes to the meaning of the Levitical sacrifice as part of that discourse.
So chapters 1 through 7 are the laws of personal proximity. Five offerings are given, five offerings-- burnt offering, grain offering, the peace offering, a sin offering, and the trespass offering-- those five offerings. The first three-- when they're made, God says, that's a sweet-smelling aroma to Me. I like the smell of that.
I do, too, by the way. When somebody takes meat and puts it on a fire and grills it, like barbecue lamb, I love that. God is saying, I love it, too, but for different reasons.
You like the barbecue smell. I love the idea that you're doing it to worship Me. My heart is glad that you come to worship Me.
So the first three-- the burnt, the grain, and the peace offering-- are called "a sweet aroma to the Lord." They're optional. You don't have to bring them. They're not obligatory. They're optional.
The last two-- the sin offering and the trespass-- are reversed. They are obligatory. They're non-discretionary. You have to do it. Why? Because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
And so to fix the sin problem-- and by the way, a sin is different than a trespass. Everybody sins because they fall short of the mark, but then there's the trespass, which is crossing the line deliberately, like, don't cross the line. OK.
So that's a trespass. I know I shouldn't do it, but I do it anyway. That had to be paid for. So those are the five offerings.
Now, chapter 6 and chapter 7 are laws for the priests who would administrate those offerings that were brought that are enumerated in the first few chapters, so it's like office protocol for the priest. When we get to chapter 8, 9, and 10, I call these "laws of professional activity," laws of professional activity. Why?
Because we're dealing with priests now. It's the priesthood. It's their profession to take yours and my sacrifices, if we lived back then, and offer them for us.
So this answers the question, who can approach God for me? First question that the first few chapters ask and answer is, how can I approach God? Answer, by sacrifice. Chapters 8 through 10 answer the question, who can approach God for me? Answer? Only a priest can.
So chapters 1 through 7-- get the flow of this. Chapters 1 through 7 says, we need a sacrifice to approach God. Chapters 8 through 10-- we need a stand-in. We need a representative.
We need somebody to offer the sacrifice for us. That's what a priest does. A priest stands before God on behalf of the people and offers a sacrifice on their behalf.
Now, I want a zero in. Let's tip the plane down a little bit, get a little closer to the ground, look at chapter 8, verse 22. We're going right into the ordination ceremony of the ancient priesthood.
Chapter 8, verse 22, "And he brought the second ram, a ram of consecration. Then Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the ram, and Moses killed it. And he took some of its blood and put it on the tip of Aaron's right ear, on the thumb of his right hand, and on the big toe of his right foot. And then he brought Aaron's sons, and Moses put some of the blood on the tips of their right ears, on the thumbs of their right hands, and on the big toes with their right feet. And Moses sprinkled the blood all around the altar."
What's all this about? It's the idea in sanctifying it with shed blood. May this priest hear the voice of God by putting it on his ears.
May he do the will of God by putting it on the thumb of his hand. Well, can work the works of God, do the will of God, and by putting it on his foot, he's saying, may this priest walk in the ways of God. So may he hear, work, and walk in the ways of God.
Now, let's fast-forward in the New Testament, just to make an analogy. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ is called "our great high priest," our great high priest. Here's what's interesting. Jesus is both the sacrifice as well as the one who offers the sacrifice because He offered Himself. So He is the sacrificial lamb, and He is the high priest who offers the lamb.
"Behold the Lamb of God," John said, "who takes away the sin of the world." But He's also our high priest, our great high priest. He offers it, so there is the fulfillment of that.
Now, let's move off of that and think of ourselves. In Romans chapter 12, Paul borrows the language of sacrifice from Leviticus and says to us, "I beseech you, therefore, by the mercies of God that you present your bodies," right, just like their ears and hands and feet were covered with blood. "You present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service." So he's saying you, like the priest, come and voluntarily offer your bodies for God to work through.
And can I just say when you do that, life gets really good. Life takes on a whole new level when you see your body as a base of operations for the Holy Spirit to dwell within and work through to other people. That's when life really, really gets good. Think of the people in the Bible that God got a hold of their bodies, as imperfect as they were, and used it for His glory.
Moses said, I c-c-c-can't t-t-talk. He stuttered. God says, great. I'm going to use you to be a spokesman to Pharaoh.
Yeah, he used Aaron to help do that as well, but then Moses' mouth gave the law to people that he heard from God's mouth though his body was a living sacrifice. David's hands put a sling in it one day, and God guided that little missile right into the head of Goliath. Paul's feet-- anointed by God to spread the gospel through the known world and your body as well as you offer it to God.
You know, it's always interesting to me that God has chosen to use his redeemed people, so he redeems us. He saves us. We come sinful, but then we ask Jesus to forgive us our sins. So we're now instantly his child. You know how it works by faith.
And then God says, now, I'm going to use you, and you don't have to have any special training. You don't have to have any special education. I'll use you just as you are. If you let Me, I'll work My ways through your body.
And God didn't have to do that. God could have used angels instead of redeemed humans. And wouldn't you agree, if God decided to use angels, they probably do a much better job than we've done so far in 2000 years?
You could count on angels to really get the word out. God's going to use an angel in the book of Revelation to proclaim the everlasting gospel to all the people on the earth. The job is going to get done.
But God has chosen to restrict himself in the meanwhile to do the most important part of His work now through our bodies. And you go, not a good plan, God. I would counsel against that. The reason God does that is it gives Him more glory. The more imperfect the instrument, the greater the glory goes to the one using that instrument, so God uses priests. God uses your body and my body for His glory.
Chapter 10-- there is a glitch in the priesthood. Aaron has two sons, one named Nadab, the other Abihu, and this is when worship gets dangerous. Verse 1, "Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, offered profane fire before the Lord which he had not commanded them."
Now, it says "profane fire" in my translation, the New King James that I'm reading from. The old King James calls it "strange fire." Some translations call it "unconsecrated fire." The New Living Translation puts it this way-- "different kind of fire."
So they're all taking a stab at what this profane fire or strange fire is. Some-- and I'm putting a question mark here-- some unspecified infraction occurred that had to do with burning incense. You know what it was? Because if you know what it is, please tell me afterwards. I have no idea what it is.
I have read so many books and commentaries on what it is, and nobody really agrees. Some think it's-- they lit their censors with ordinary fire, other than the prescribed fire from the altar of sacrifice, that brass altar that was in the courtyard for animal sacrifices. So they just decided, why go out there?
Just get a Zippo lighter. Do it that way. That's a possibility-- not the Zippo lighter. That didn't exist, but just an ordinary fire.
Others have guessed that maybe they were drunk because in verse 8 and 9 to Aaron, it says, "Do not drink wine or intoxicating drink, you nor your sons with you, when you go into the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die, and they will die with this infraction. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations." But here's the point. Instead of trying to figure out what the profane fire exactly is, God, when He calls priests into the special role of representing the people, He calls them to a higher standard.
Yes, they're humans. Yes, they sin. Yes, they're going to need sacrifices, but if you're going to serve in the priesthood-- let me modernize it. If you're going to serve in the ministry today, we are called to a higher standard. Those who teach the word are called to a higher standard, the Bible tells us.
So our work-- yeah, we work. All of us do our work, but in the ministry, it's not a 9:00 to 5:00, and sometimes, it's not five days a week. Sometimes, it's like, whenever there's a need.
And Charles Spurgeon wrote a great book called Lectures to My Students, one of my favorite books that I always tell young men who want to get into the ministry to read. And here's a little section in there where he says, "If you plan to be lazy, there are plenty of avocations or jobs in which you will not be wanted, but above all, you are not wanted in the Christian ministry. The man who finds the ministry an easy life will find that it also brings a hard death."
So Nadab and Abihu, instead of trying to cut corners and just light your little incense thing with a Zippo, get out there and do it right. And the grand theme is the worship that God accepts is the worship that God prescribes. God says, do it this way. Don't argue with that. Just do it the way God said to do it, so that's the glitch that happens.
When we get to chapters 11 through 15, we have laws of ritual purity, laws of ritual purity, and now, some of these are weird. I will admit that, and they're not going to really apply to you in a modern day and age. But it does answer the question, how can I be clean before God? In fact, the word "unclean" appears over 100 times in chapters 11 through 15.
Now, some of these, as I say, seem weird. Let me give you the big picture. The big picture-- God is saying this, all of your life, all of your life, all of your life is to be lived under the eye of God, whether you're in the kitchen, whether you're in the office, whether you're in the bedroom. God wants to be a part of all of your life.
So chapter 11 are regulations about food, chapter 12, about childbirth, chapter 13, about skin diseases, chapter 14, leprosy as a specialized skin disease because of the contagion that it provides, and then probably your favorite chapter in chapter 15, bodily discharges. Ew, yeah.
So chapter 11, verse 1, "And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying to them, 'Speak to the children of Israel, saying, these are the animals which you may eat among all the beasts better on the earth. Among the beasts, whatever divides the hoof, having cloven hoofs and chewing the cud, you may eat.'"
How many of you ever worry about this when you go to the supermarket? Excuse me, does it have cloven hoofs? You probably don't. If you were Jewish, you probably would. That's according to kosher law.
Here's why. Here's the big reason. Go down to verse 45, still in chapter 11. "For I am the Lord who brings you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy." So that's reason number one. God is saying, I want Israel to be different. That's what "holy" means, "different," "set apart."
I don't want you like every other nation. I don't want you to be like the world. I don't want you to think you need to be like the world. You're my people. I want you to live and act differently, including what you eat.
Then verse 46, "This is the law of the animals and the birds and every living creature that moves in the waters and of every creature that creeps on the earth, to distinguish between the unclean and the clean, and between the animal that may be eaten and the animal that may not be eaten." So the second reason is God is saying, for sanitary reasons, I want you to eat certain things and not eat other things, to preserve your physical health.
And why is that? Well, back in those days, there was no FDA. There was no Food and Drug Administration. We have FDA today, so our foods are highly regulated by the FDA. There was no FDA.
There was only G-O-D, and God knew that certain animals can be harmful. Moses didn't. Aaron didn't. God knew that certain animals were what are called "unclean feeders" and are liable to disease, not only having them, but spreading them, especially. So God knew that, and so this is part of kosher law.
Funny story-- I was overseas a few years ago, and on this particular trip, I went with a buddy who had not traveled out of the United States. So that's even more fun just to watch what he thinks about some of those places, smells, temperatures, food. And we were in India, and at first, he was just like, come on. Bring it on. I'll eat anything.
And you don't do that in India. He got dysentery on that trip. So we were there about two weeks. That got cured. He left India with me.
We went to Egypt. The food doesn't look a whole lot different. And he was just a little bit skittish, but he ate a few things.
But now, he's eating less and less, and then we finally made it to Israel. And I remember him just saying, you know what? Just find me a bag of potato chips. I'm not going to eat any of this food.
I said, here, you don't have to worry. Here, things are kosher, and there's a very strict rabbinical law of cleanliness instituted in Leviticus. Eat what you want in these Jewish quarter, in the Jewish sections we were at.
So God knew that, and a very interesting book or a very interesting author named Dr. S. H. Kellogg said this. And I'm quoting him, "One of the greatest discoveries of modern science is the fact that a large number of diseases to which animals are liable are due to the presence of low forms of parasitic life. To such diseases, those which are unclean in their feeding will be especially exposed." And he goes on to say, "That's why God said certain animals can and cannot be eaten."
So in this article that I was reading in this book, he then went forward to 14th century Europe during the Black Plague when people were dying like crazy, and he said, "Long ago, as in the days when the plague was desolating Europe, the Jews universally escaped infection, which brought suspicion that they were poisoning the wells and the springs in Europe." True story. The Jews were spared.
Why? Because of this, because of eating kosher, because of the laws that God had given. And that caused the other people who were non-Jewish to view with suspicion the Jewish population of Europe back then and say, these Jews are poisoning our wells. It's their fault.
Now, we get to chapter 16 and 17. I'm going to call this "the laws of national sanctity." In this section of Leviticus, we're at the very heart of the book. It is the theological hub of the book of Leviticus.
And the question these two chapters answer is, how can we be one nation under God? You know we say that about America, one nation under God? Israel in the wilderness truly was one nation under God, and God gave them laws. And these two chapters formed the theological hub of Leviticus.
What do I mean? Well, there is a thing called "the Day of Atonement." By the way, next week-- I think it's Wednesday-- will be the 2018 Yom Kippur, Day of Atonement. Right now, we're at Rosh Hashana. There's 10 days between Rosh Hashana, the new year, to Yom Kippur called "Days of Repentance."
So this deals with the Day of Atonement. The Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, was a special day, one day a year in which sin nationally was dealt with, nationally was dealt with. These two chapters are like the Isaiah chapter 53 of the Torah. These recalled days of awe.
Yom Kippur was not a joyful day. It was a mournful day. It was a day of introspection. It was a day of meditation. It was a day of confession of sin.
Nobody said, merry Yom Kippur, happy Yom Kippur. It wasn't happy. It was mournful.
It was the one day a year, and still is, when Orthodox Jews fast for a period of 25 hours, a whole day. Why 25? You want to make sure they cover the entire day.
So the 10 days between these two festivals-- Rosh Hashanah, beginning of the new year, Yom Kippur, those 10 days-- are called days of repentance. What happened? The high priest bathed. The high priest dressed in special ceremonial garb. He sacrificed a bull, sacrificed a ram, and took two goats, and that's where we get into chapter 16 and 17.
The first goat was killed. It was killed because that one goat-- the blood was a substitute for the nation. It was receiving the punishment of the nation for their sin so that the nation wouldn't have to die.
The second goat is called the scapegoat. I'm sure you've heard of that. If you haven't heard of the biblical scapegoat, you've heard of the modern idiom we'll say, you're using me as a scapegoat. This where it comes from.
It was the second goat on Yom Kippur, and the priest walked up to it, laid his hands on the head of the goat, confessed the sins of the nation. So it was like all of the sins were being transferred to the goat. Then the goat went into the wilderness. Chapter 16, verse 21, "And Aaron lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, confessed over at the iniquities of the children of Israel, all their transgressions"-- that would take a while-- "concerning all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and sent it away into the wilderness by the hand of a suitable man."
I've been in Judea before, and I had the privilege of getting in a Jeep. And I was taken out of Jerusalem through the Judean desert, through the foothills, to the stations to where they would have fires that would be signal fires to watch the scapegoat go in the wilderness. So they would let it go in the wilderness. Once it got out of sight, the priest would wave back to the guy upon the little pinnacle. He'd light his fire.
The guy in the next pinnacle, a little higher up, closer to Jerusalem, would see that fire. He'd light his fire. The guy on the pinnacle a little bit closer to Jerusalem, higher up, would let his fire, all the way back to the city of Jerusalem. When the people in the city-- in the temple when that was built-- when they saw that the scapegoat had vanished from sight, all the people in the temple jumped and shouted praises to God as if to say, our sins are taken away.
Now, quickly, the scapegoat is the hope of the new covenant. It's the hope of the new covenant. What I mean by that?
Well, this happened every what? Day of Atonement happened every year, every year, every year, just like there's a sacrifice or two every day, and there's festivals every few months, every year. This happened every year, every year, every year, every year, year after year, generation after generation.
But Jeremiah 31 predicts a new covenant. Jeremiah 31, "I will make a new covenant with Israel. I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."
It anticipates a time in the future where it won't be like the covenant of the law anymore, having to do this over and over again, but God will take their sin and remove it completely, not cover it over-- that's what the blood of sacrifices animals did. It just sort of covered it over-- but remove it completely. The scapegoat Jesus Christ, once and for all, would take the sin away. That's the new covenant.
Leviticus 17 explains why. Why was all this done? In fact, why all the blood in this book? Why every chapter-- it's about blood and sacrifice and priests going through the ritual.
Verse 11 of chapter 17 explains why. "For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls. For it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul."
So blood was sacred. Why? Because blood was its life. The animal's life is its blood, so the basis of approach is by blood.
Now, this tells us something about the law, and I think you really get it from Leviticus. The purpose the law is not to show us how approachable God is, but exactly the opposite. The purpose of the law is to show us how unapproachable God is. You just don't hop in and go, hi, God. It's me. Pow, dead.
You have to go to a priest. You have to bring a sacrifice. It has to be done a certain way. Every little detail has to be in place for that to happen. If you don't approach God with blood, then what do you approach God with? What do you got?
See, this is the thing, and when I have conversations with Jewish friends, I bring this up. Hey, you guys don't have sacrifice anymore. When's the last time you brought a Levitical sacrifice to a temple and had it killed for your sin? What do you do about your sin?
You know what the answer of most people is, most religious people? Good works. Good works. I try hard. I try to outweigh more good works than bad works.
That's religion. Religion is about earning your way to God, praying your way to God, sweating your way to God, making a pilgrimage to please God. The gospel is, trust your way to God.
Just by simple faith, believe in the lamb slain for your sin, Jesus Christ. Trust in Him. He'll take it away. It's not by your works. It's by what He has done.
So chapter 1 through 17, the way to God through sacrifice. Now, chapters 18 through 27 is the second part, a walk with God through-- what's the word I gave you?-- sanctification, sanctification. What does "sanctification" mean? "Holiness," "holiness" or "to be set apart." I heard somebody shout that out. Thanks for the shout-out.
Holiness is paramount. You know why? Because God knows the truth that you and I need to know. Holiness is your key to happiness.
Holiness is your key to-- I want to be a happy person. Get holy. Pursue the Lord. Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, not yours, His, and all these things will be added unto you. If you want a happy life, live a holy life. That's sanctification.
Leviticus chapter 19, verse 1, "The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'Speak to the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them, you shall be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.'" The basic idea of the word "holy"-- [HEBREW] in Hebrew is what somebody shouted out-- "set apart"-- it's for a particular use.
It doesn't mean that you wear a halo, that you float off the ground, that you have a beatific smile. That's not holiness. That's just goofiness.
It just means you are set apart. Your life is now pushed over into one corner to be used for God's purpose and for God's glory. That's holiness.
Example-- at home, I have a dish or a vessel called a French press. You that are coffee aficionados, you know what that is, right? It's a little carafe. Mine's made out of glass, has a little filter in it.
You push it down. It does separates the beans and puts the beans in the water. Good coffee.
Now, my French press unit is holy. What I mean by that is I don't put tea bags in my French press. I don't do hot chocolate in that. I save it for the holy bean. I put coffee beans ground a certain way in my French press. It is set apart for a particular purpose.
So for instance, in Exodus chapter 40, there are holy utensils, holy garments, holy altars, holy basins. That's the idea, so the best idea for us when God is saying, I want you to be holy, be different. Be different from the world.
So what do you mean, be different? Be a nonconformist. I remember when I was younger-- compared to a tree, I am young, so-- but when I was younger, I prided myself in being a nonconformist. And I discovered that the most nonconformist person anybody could be in this world is to be a Christian.
You are swimming in the opposite direction of this world. You want to be a nonconformist, and that's how God wants you to live. Don't conform to this world, it says, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. So be a nonconformist, and that's the idea of holiness.
Another way to think of holiness or being holy is being whole, W-H-O-L-E. Wholeness is a good way to look at holiness. Somebody whose whole is complete, mature, well-rounded-- a holy person is that kind of a person.
What's the first step to holiness? It's called repentance. You're going your way, the world's way. You're going one direction.
God says, stop. Turn around. Go my way. That's the first step toward being different from the world.
So chapters 18 through 20 deal with moral laws and consequences for breaking the moral laws, chapter 21 and 22, more regulations for the priest, more regulations for the high priest, the big kahuna. Chapter 23 are regulations about annual festivals, annual feasts. Now, I want to bring the plane down a little bit again because, when we deal with some of the ancient feasts, there's principles here about our celebration, our going to church.
Chapter 23, verse 1, "The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, the feasts of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations'"-- look at this-- "'these are my feasts.'" Lord, I'm going to go to church. I'm going to my church.
God's saying, it's My church. Every church that bears the name of Christ and preaches the true gospel is His church. It's not your church. It's His church.
I'm going to-- for me to go this is my time. God's saying it's My feast, My time.
Go down to verse 40. Now, we're talking about one of the feasts. This is the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths. Remember how they would camp out for a week. It's in the fall.
"And you shall take for yourself on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, the willows of the brook." Now watch this. "And you shall"-- what? That's a commandment. "You shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days."
I want you to have a party for a week. That's why the kids love this week in Israel. It's like, we're camping out. We're going to have a party for seven days.
And God gives a command, "You shall rejoice." Boy, I wish Christians would underline that verse in Leviticus and make that one of our life verses. To be around some church folks, you think you are witnessing an autopsy.
It's like, I'm a Christian. I'm dead. I have no emotion. I'm serious. I'm sober.
Get over it. Be happy. Rejoice. Man, we have all the reason that the world doesn't have to be rejoicing, joyful people.
Worship isn't an obligation. Did you know that 18 times in the book of Psalms, 18 times, it says, make a joyful shout, or, make a joyful noise? That's, again, a command that God gives.
And I've noticed the bars have this saying. I've driven by bars for years. I always notice that same goofy sign, happy hour. When is happy hour anyway? Anybody know?
I'm not trying-- you thought I was trying to bust you, didn't you? OK, OK, I kind of was, but they call it happy hour. That's not happy hour.
There's nothing happy about that hour. I'm in a bar for an hour. That's not happy.
Church ought to be happy hour. This is happy hour. Charles Spurgeon said, "Our happy God should be worshipped by a happy people. A cheerful people is in keeping with his nature."
Now, we discover something else. We discover that holiness is practical. Chapters 25 and 26-- see, we're almost at the end of the book-- is so practical. It gives you laws on how to treat workers, people that you have to employ for a period of time to get them out of debt, how to treat them, how to relieve debt in the tribes and in the culture, and how to let the land recover, the farmland after it's been plowed and reaped for a number of years, which takes us to a chapter 25, verse 8, which brings up an interesting word called "the year of jubilee."
Now, the word "jubilee," our word "jubilee" comes from a Hebrew word [HEBREW]. Can you hear that in there? Jubilee, [HEBREW]? [HEBREW] literally means "a ram" because a trumpet was a ram's horn.
Excuse me. I have to go here in the aisle of the airplane to get the ram's horn. So this is a-- it's called a "shofar," right?
You've seen one of these? Usually, the real ones are short. They just sell these big ones in Israel because they look cool, and they know Americans will buy them.
So this was the trumpet that was raised, and on the year of jubilee, year of freedom, the year of release, the ram's horn was blown, year of jubilee. By the way, next Wednesday, Yom Kippur also was a-- and as soon as it was done, it was a time to blow the shofar. So should I do it?
That's it. "Shofar," so good. So the year of jubilee-- as we bring this to a close, the year of jubilee was a way of bringing equity back to the land.
Verse 8, "You shall count seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years, and the time of the seven sabbaths of years shall be to you 49 years." So 49 years-- the next year is the jubilee. "Then you shall cause the trumpet of the jubilee to sound on the 10th day of the seventh month on the Day of Atonement," so we got to do it again next Wednesday. "You shall make the trumpet to sound throughout all your land, and you shall consecrate the 50th year and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, and each of you shall return to his possession, and each of you shall return to his family."
So the way of getting the land back to the tribes that was lost because of debt that was incurred was every 50th year, you push the reset button. It goes back to the tribe. It's a do-over.
Interesting thought-- not only were all slaves free on the jubilee year, all debts were canceled, and the land reverted back to its original owner. I read that jubilee years have been recorded since 1393 BC-- that's when they started counting these 49-plus-one cycles-- and that Jesus, when He went into the synagogue in Nazareth, spoke His little sermon from Isaiah chapter 61 in the year of jubilee, which would be very interesting because the wording is this.
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent me to heal the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord." And then he closed the book and said, that is fulfilled in your hearing. He came to set the captives free. Thank you, 10 who like that truth.
Chapter 26 is the iffy chapter. The word "if" is used a lot. If you do this, if you do that, if you do this, if you do that, then I'll do this, and I'll do that. So it's the iffy chapter. The word "if" occurs nine times, the words "I will"-- that is God saying He'll do something because of it-- 24 times.
Now, Leviticus ends, and it ends with, in Chapter 27, heartfelt worship. When you want to dedicate something to God, you don't have to do it. You just want to do it. It's like, I'm going to give this to God. I don't need this. This is extra. I want to just give it to the Lord.
Verse 1, "Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'Speak to the children of Israel. Say to them, when a man consecrated by vow certain persons to the Lord, according to your valuation'"-- verse 14-- "and when a man dedicates his house to be holy to the Lord"-- verse 16-- "if a man dedicates to the Lord part of a field of his possession"-- verse 28, it says, "no devoted offering"-- that's that free-will offering-- "no devoted offering that a man may devote to the Lord of all that he has, both man and beast or field of his possession, shall be sold or redeemed. Every devoted offering is most holy to the Lord."
Go down to the last verse, verse 34. "These are the commandments which the Lord commanded Moses for the children of Israel on Mount Sinai." What God is saying is, I want worship that is voluntary. I want you to want to do it. I don't like people who try to pump it up. Come on. You ought to be worshipping.
Just, if you're not into it, then just maybe, you're having a bad day. Maybe you found a horrible diagnosis, so you're not as happy feeling. That's OK.
Still, even if it's a little bit, just rejoice in the Lord and tell him you trust him, even if you're in a very weak state. But it should be voluntary, and I've had bad experiences with people who try to orchestrate worship and pump it up like a bad tire.
Now, by the New Testament times, this practice of devoting things to the Lord got weird. It's called "korban." Ever heard that term? Mark chapter 10-- Jesus nailed the Pharisees on this. He said, the fifth commandment says, honor your father and your mother, but if you say, korban-- that is, dedicated to God-- you get out of honoring your mom and dad.
So you could say, well, you know what? My couch, that's korban. I've dedicated it to God. That shofar, don't touch that. I dedicated that to God. My 18 BMWs-- korban. I've dedicated to God.
So your parents say, gosh, you've got 18 BMWs, and I'm starving. Oh, mom and dad, I'd love to help you and give you one of my cars, but I dedicated them all to God. And I dedicated all my food to God and all my money to God, so you're out of luck because that's God's. See how it got weird? So Jesus said, you are dishonoring your father and mother because of that law.
Now, how did it get so wonky? As time went on, something called the oral law emerged, and one of the sayings in the oral law was this. "The words of the scribes are more lovely than the words of the law." That's the tendency of any movement, any religious expression, is to let the sayings or the ideas of man usurp the authority of the Word of God, and I pray this church always stays tethered to the Word of God.
So as we close tonight, I just want to ask you a quick question. Are you like my French press? Have you dedicated your life to the Lord?
Do you belong to Him? Are you set apart for His glory? Are you holy? Are you walking with Him in holiness?
Father, as we close tonight, we thank You for the truths that are in this book, quoted over a hundred times in the new covenant, the New Testament writings. And so Lord, even though these rituals are far gone-- they're not even in practice today, many of them, most of them-- still, we see the greater truth. They're not just reparatory for a people then. They're anticipatory of a brand new covenant that the writer of Hebrews says is much better than the old, but we're thankful that we can at least gain a working knowledge to know why.
So Lord, I pray that these truths would enrich our lives and we'd walk away with the voluntary worship in our hearts, a joy in our hearts, because of who You are and what You've done. In Jesus' name, amen.
We hope you enjoyed this message from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Church. For more resources, calvarynm.church. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from The Bible from 30,000 Feet.