Our reading plan has brought us to the book of Leviticus, something that I know you are all thrilled about. I know that it doesn’t make for easy reading, but Leviticus is rich truth that shows us something very important about God and ourselves. Certain themes are especially prominent in the book. First, God is present with His people, which is a direct result of the Tabernacle having been constructed. Second, because God is holy, His people must also be holy. Third, since people are sinful and ritually unclean, they cannot expect to come close to or dwell near a holy God. Contact between a sinful person and the holiness of God will result in death. Thus, atonement for sin through the offering of sacrifice is of extreme importance. In this way, Leviticus confronts us with our need for the gospel.
To begin with, Leviticus reveals the truth that God is present with His people, which is a direct result of the Tabernacle having been built. The book of Exodus ends with the glory cloud of God filling the newly constructed Tabernacle. This was significant, because it signified that God now dwells with His people in the tent of meeting. However, access into God’s immediate presence is restricted by man’s continued sinfulness. God’s presence was manifest in the Holy of Holies, but no one could enter but the High Priest, and he could only do so once a year on behalf of the people. A thick veil separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the sanctuary.
A second theme that is prominent in Leviticus is the holiness of God and His desire for His people to be set apart. Because God is holy, His people must also be holy. Leviticus 11:45 says, “You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.” People have been uniquely created by the Lord God, and His original design for creation involved man reflecting His image to the world. Sin has marred the image of God in man, necessitating God’s gracious act in redemption. God wants His redeemed people to imitate His character. In Leviticus, holiness is both inward and outward, reflected both through attitudes and actions.
The third theme that emerges in Leviticus is necessary atonement. Since people are sinful and unclean, they cannot expect to come close to a holy God who demands perfect holiness. Therefore, atonement for sin through the offering of sacrifice is of utmost importance. Since Israel failed to live up to God’s righteous requirements as reflected in His Law, a means of atonement was essential so that their moral failures could be pardoned. The word ‘atonement’ used throughout the book means to cover or to purge. The death of a sacrificial animal in the place of the guilty lawbreaker “covers” or protects the sinner from the wrath of God.
Essentially everything in the book of Leviticus anticipates the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The sacrifices and rituals foreshadow God’s redemptive plan in Christ to remove the guilt and penalty for sin through His substitutionary death on the cross. His death provides the full and final atonement for sin. Of all the sacrifices in the Old Testament, not a single one could permanently and effectively remove the curse of sin. They served as a reminder to the worshiper of the painful price of sin, and they provided only a temporary covering. That’s why they had to be repeated over and over again. The high priest of Israel had to frequently appear with blood on behalf of the people. Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins. Christ came to die once for all for our sin.
Hebrews 9:24-28 says,
“For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer Himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then He would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with win but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him.”
Christ’s death doesn’t cover our sin–it cleanses it once for all. It is the risen and glorified Jesus who now makes us holy and clothes us in His own righteousness. He is both our sacrificial Lamb and faithful High Priest. Because of His finished work, the gospel says that we can draw near to God through faith in Jesus. We can come to God because God came to us.