Overview of Leviticus
In this episode, Senior Pastor Ken Harrell takes us through the book of Leviticus.
Subscribe to this podcast on:
The Full Transcript
Welcome once again, everybody. It’s The Bible for Life Podcast, where in today’s episode, Senior Pastor Ken Harrell is going to take us through the Book of Leviticus. We hope you find this episode to be both enlightening and encouraging as we seek to lead and equip you in a growing relationship with Jesus. Thanks for joining us today. Here’s Pastor Ken Harrell.
As I get started going through the Book of Leviticus, I want to make a couple of statements at the beginning. First of all, I want you to hang with me through this one. Okay? Don’t anticipate understanding or grasping everything in its entirety as I’m going through it. But I promise you that I’ll give you an outline for this book that you can go back over that will help you to understand why the Book of Leviticus is in the Bible. Let me make these statements. And the reason I’m doing this is because I believe it’ll give you some insight into studying the Bible.
Inerrancy makes no claim to easy reading. You see God never promised that everything in the Bible from cover to cover would be interesting for everyone who would read it. In fact, some of it’s hard reading and we are in a book like that in the Book of Leviticus. You see, it wasn’t designed to be interesting to us because it wasn’t written to us. That is in its basic interpretation. Let me give you three basic things that will help in times like this, like as we go through the Book of Leviticus and these are very important. Here’s the first one.
Number one, its primary purpose was never intended for us. You see, when God recorded and preserved the Book of Leviticus, he didn’t have Americans in mind, living in the 21st century, worshiping in permanent buildings, with driving cars. Most of us are living on farms, raising sheep. In fact, it wasn’t even written to Protestants. Leviticus, God wrote it to the Jews, Jews who worshiped in a portable house of worship, who couldn’t come to God apart from a lamb or a goat or a bird or some animal offering. You see, back then, that was the only way to God, through the blood. And you wanted to know how to do it. So God gave a book to tell them how to do it, but now for you and me, hey, Jesus has come. We don’t need an animal sacrifice because Jesus wants for all offered up on behalf of our sins for all time. So when Jesus came, Leviticus lost its punch. It was designed that way.
Second thing I want you to remember is that it’s significance was designed to become obsolete. In other words, God designed Leviticus to go out of date. When Jesus on the Cross said, “It is finished,” that meant a whole Levitical system, the need for a priest and a mediator and the whole Old Testament ritual was set aside. And now, today, we have the priesthood of the believer that we can come through Jesus directly to God. Just like I remember as a kid, Dad would have these albums, 33 and a third RPM, I think it was, or 78. And then there was a 45 where you could get a single on. Then the eight track and then the cassette tape and then the CD and albums and cases. All of that is obsolete. Now you can download and play from a playlist of your favorite individual songs without ever leaving where you’re sitting. So those two things are very important to understand, that in Leviticus its primary purpose was never intended for us. And its significance was designed to become obsolete.
But now listen carefully because I want to clarify there’s one more point and that is this, not in its application. None of God’s Word is obsolete in its application. The basic interpretation for today is that the believer in the Body of Christ, we don’t need the Book of Leviticus to find access to God as the Israelites needed centuries ago. Now, as far as the name Leviticus, it simply means pertaining to the Levites. The Levites were the priest or the mediator. In fact, every time when you go through the Old Testament, when you read the word priest, if you’ll substitute the word mediator, you’ll have a down pat, because in those days, in order to approach Jehovah, God, you had to have a go-between. And that was a priest from the tribe of Levi. He was a Levite. And Leviticus gave information for those mediators who were going to represent the people to God, how to do certain things, what to do, when to do it, why to do it. And even the consequences if they didn’t do it.
Now, it was written for three months. It took them three months to get from Egypt to Mount Sinai. And when they get to the base of Mount Sinai, they’re there for a full year and while they were there, God gave them two things. Now listen carefully. He gave them his word, that’s the law of Moses. And he gave him a blueprint for a place of worship. And that’s the Tabernacle, both from the hand of God, through Moses to the Jews. I mean, when Moses came down with the 10 Commandments from Mount Sinai, his face was just shining with the Shekinah Glory of God, that glorious light of God. And it had to be veiled, his face, so people could look on him. You see, Moses had been in the very presence of God and God was saying, “This is the word, walk in it.” This is the blueprint for the house that you’re to build. Worship in it.
And so Leviticus is during that one year where they sojourned at the base of Mount Sinai and Leviticus taught the people how to worship in that portable House of God. You see the Tabernacle could be folded and rolled up and carried down the shoulders. And it was in that tent of meeting that God would meet with his people. Now in the Book of Leviticus, these are going to be pictures and portraits of Jesus when they brought the offering to the priest and he took the blood before God. That’s a beautiful picture of the Lord Jesus bringing his offering himself, pouring out his blood on our behalf once for all to God. And from that moment on throughout time, it annulled all the need of any other offerings because it was once and for all Jesus was sacrificed and God said, “I honor and I accept it.”
So Leviticus for you and me, it loses its punch, but in picture form, it is still very, very relevant. You can break the Book of Leviticus into two parts, the first 17 chapters are the way to God. And that’s by blood sacrifice. You see, for a person in the days of Moses and centuries following, to approach God, they had to come through the blood of an offering. And God designed it that way. And so for 17 chapters, the Lord spells out how a sinner could reach God, but in chapters 18 to 27, it’s the walk with God, how a sinner can keep in touch in a practical way with the Holy God. Now let me just interject this here. The Book of Leviticus is directly linked to the Book of Hebrews. In fact, G. Campbell Morgan has said this and I quote: “Leviticus and Hebrews are always to be kept together in your Bible study. I say, frankly, to anyone who thinks he is studying Hebrews, if he does not study Leviticus, he does not know Hebrews. Hebrews shows a fulfilling of everything suggested in Leviticus.”
So as we work our way through Leviticus, let’s look at it from like a bird’s-eye view. I remember my father, when he was single, before he married Mom, he was in the three C’s, the Civilian Conservation Corps. And he was down in the Smoky Mountains. And one of his assignments was he would go for two weeks at a time to the highest point there in the mountains. And there was a tower and he and his buddy, they would take 12-hour shifts. They stayed in a small one-room house. And the tower was right next to it. And they would climb up all the way to the top of that tower. And for 12 hours, my father would have a 360 degree view of the Smokies. He could see Wears Valley towns and Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg because he was always watching during those 12 hours for a forest fire. When I study, I mean, I have to tell you, though I study in detail, I appreciate a survey of anything because quite frankly, it is easy to get lost in the study of tree trunks. And you wind up missing the beauty of the whole forest.
So I want you to hang with me because we’re going to go through the first five chapters. And in these first five chapters, they’re five offerings. They’re all different, but they all picture Jesus from a different perspective, from a different side. In chapter one, that’s the burnt offering. Verse number one says, “Now the Lord called to Moses and spoke to him from the Tabernacle of meeting.” So Moses, while he’s in the Tabernacle, the Lord speaks to him about this burnt offering. Verse two says, “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.’” Now notice this next part. “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.” That Hebrew word there suggests the idea of being totally consumed, burnt. That sacrifice totally consumed.
And God said, it’s got to be a certain kind, a certain sex. It’s got to be offered in a certain place, in a certain way. Why, because that he may be accepted before the Lord. You know what’s interesting, that God never explains why. He just tells him what. And folks, the reason is because if you know the why, it doesn’t require any faith. Well, that first chapter, that burnt offering, is a picture of the complete dedication of Jesus Christ. It portrays the total consecration of his life. He could come to the Father at the time of his death and say, Father, nothing is left undone. All that I have done was for your glory. And as a whole burnt offering, I offer myself at the tent of meeting. And that is why Christ our sacrifice offered once for all, for us, he is our whole burnt offering.
Chapter two is the grain offering. In verses one and two the Bible says, “When anyone offers a grain offering to the Lord, his offering shall be a fine flour. And he shall pour oil on it and put frankincense on it. And he shall bring it to Aaron’s sons, the priest, one of whom shall take from it, his hand full of fine flour and oil with all of the frankincense. And the priest shall burn it as a memorial on the altar, an offering made with fire, a sweet aroma to the Lord. That’s a handbook for the priest, and it speaks of the service and the life of the Lord Jesus. You see, grain was grown by people. It was ground up as fine flour by people. It was the work of their own hands, of their service of their life to God, and so it is with Christ. Jesus performed all of his works for the Father’s glory. And he came to the Cross as our ultimate final eternal grain offering and offered up his life as a fine flour. And it was perfectly accepted, never to be offered again.
Chapter three is a peace offering. Now it’s not the same as a burnt offering because in chapter one, it says that that had to be a male, that sacrifice, that animal. But in verse number one and two of chapter three, it tells us differently. “When his offering is a sacrifice of a peace offering, if he offers it of the herd, whether male or female, he shall offer it without blemish before the Lord. And he shall lay his hand on the head of the offering.” And he goes on to describe it in 17 verses. But that peace offering pictures Christ, who is our peace. You see, you don’t have to work hard to gain peace with God because Jesus has already won your peace. That’s why Paul in Ephesians 2 says, “He is our peace.” And those four words are an incredible encouragement to me. He is my peace, not my work, my sacrifice. No. Not my offerings or not my sermons or my effort, not my family. He, Jesus stands as my peace offering to God.
I don’t know if you’ve ever gone to the county fair or state fair. I suspect that at some time you probably have, but can go to certain sections and things start to smell because of the animals that are there. Well, back in Leviticus and in the Old Testament, when they came to God, they had to bring an animal. They had to bring a sacrifice, a certain kind. And there was an urn and they would pour in the blood. They’d take it to the mediator. And he had to go by the book or you wouldn’t be forgiven. And it had to be by blood. It had to be by a certain time of a year. It had to be precisely as God described, or you weren’t forgiven. And it was constant and frankly, it was troublesome. And when Christ, our Passover was offered once for all, all the animal sacrifices, the grain offering, the peace offering once for all were set aside. His body, his blood, one supreme sacrifice to be honored throughout time.
Well, chapter four is the sin offering. And that speaks of… Well, let me just read the first three verses. Now the Lord spoke to Moses saying, “Speak to the children of Israel saying, ’If any person sins unintentionally,” I mean, you think the law wasn’t specific? Moses said now, “If a person sins unintentionally against any of the commandments of the Lord in anything, which ought not to be done, or does any of them, if the anointed priest sins bringing guilt on the people, let him offer to the Lord for his sin, which he has sinned, have him offer a young bull without blemish, as a sin offering. This speaks of the very nature of Jesus Christ. You see, Jesus in his perfect nature offered once for all a sin offering to God. He came as the spotless lamb who takes away the sin of the world. And once he came, he never had to come again. That’s why the mass folks is needless because it’s saying that the death of Christ is null and void.
And in chapter five, there is the trespass or the guilt offering. And these are the actions that were committed unintentionally, but being guilty, it needs an offering. You must make restitution. Chapter five verse one, “If a person sins in hearing an utterance of an oath and is a witness, whether he has seen or known of the matter, if he does not tell it, he bears guilt. Or if a person touches any unclean thing, whether it is the carcass of an unclean beast or the carcass of an unclean livestock or the carcass of an unclean creeping thing, and is unaware of it, he also shall be unclean and guilty.” I mean, it’s implying that he needs an offering. So here is the death of Christ on behalf of our actual sins. You see, in chapter four, Christ paid the payment for our sin nature, but in chapter five, he also paid the payment for our actions of sin. He brought the guilt, the trespass offering to God, and it was once and for all honored and accepted.
Now this may seem mundane, but just hang with me. Chapter six and seven, there’s specific instructions regarding the details of the offering up of these sacrifices. But when you get to chapter eight to 10, this is information about the priest. Vital, folks, to the mediators in that day, but in our day, not so. You see, in chapters eight, nine, and 10, they were told what to wear, where to live, how to conduct their lives, and where to be, and when to be there, and their responsibilities. And as Levites, what to do. I mean, to the very letter of the law. I mean, their own hygiene and their own cleansing. And about now you’re beginning to feel the binding confinement of the law, aren’t you? I mean, do this and you’ll live. And sometimes don’t do this and you’ll die.
Go from chapters 11 to 17, they’re the laws for cleansing. And let me give you an overview quickly. It dealt with in those chapters diet, the foods for the Jews that they are to eat, the clean and what’s unclean. And some, it dealt with the shape or the hoof of an animal. God said, “Eat this kind and there are no alternatives. These are my requirements.” Hygiene was dealt with, even how to take care of a mother at the time of birth. And shortly following, conservation. It dealt with the treatment of diseases. You see, the priest was sort of a practicing physician and God gave them insight and wisdom so that the race could be preserved.
But when you get to chapter 16 and 17, that’s the information about the Day of Atonement, where once a year, the high priest with blood on behalf of the entire nation would go into the Holy of Holies and sprinkle that blood before the mercy seat. And every year he had to follow this ritual to the T. And I would really encourage you to take a time when things are quiet and read Leviticus 16 and 17 without stopping. Read it a couple of times, because they had to do that every year, the high priest and the nation. I mean, it was the day of the year. And I mean, it’s almost like the nation came to a halt while the high priest went in there because the forgiveness, the covering of their sin for a year, it was dependent on the high priest doing just as God told him to do.
You see, it speaks of the high view God has of blood. And one of the key verses in the Book of Leviticus is Leviticus 17:11, “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.” What can wash away my sin, nothing but the blood of Jesus. What can make me whole again, nothing but the blood of Jesus. There is power, power, wonder-working power in the precious blood of the lamb, the Lord Jesus. You see, on the Cross, Jesus shed his blood and God saw the sacrificial offering of the Lord Jesus and said, “I am satisfied. Once for all, all sins are covered, past, present, future. And I honor that blood. And all that find satisfaction in my sight have to come through Jesus Christ, my lamb, who was sacrificed for the sins of the world.” Folks, the Book of Leviticus, I mean, it’s like the neon lights are flashing and God is saying, never forget the way you come to me is through the blood.
Well, from chapters 18 to the end, they’re just practical guidelines. Let me outline it for you. Chapters 18 to 22, it’s the truth on holy living. Chapters 23 to 26 speaks of holy times. The whole Jewish calendar was designed around the number seven. And when you get to the final chapter, chapter 27, it speaks of holy vows. In other words, you’re not to be speaking lies. When you spoke vows to God, you were to keep them. And it reiterates in that chapter, the severe terms of not keeping those vows. Well, the feast and celebrations, folks, were a vital part of the Jewish lifestyle, the Sabbath, the Passover, Pentecost, Trumpets, Atonement, Booths, the Sabbath Year, Jubilee. I mean, these were vital to the Jewish lifestyle and every godly Jewish home observed every one of those sacrifices and feasts if they were to be found pleasing to God. And that’s another reminder that the law had its restrictions.
And the number seven played a big part. The number seven in the Bible, it speaks of perfection or completion. Passover lasted for seven days. Pentecost came seven weeks after Passover. And Pentecost lasted for seven days. During the seventh month was the Feast of Trumpets and Booths and Atonement. Every seventh day was the Sabbath. And it was to be observed. Every seventh year was the Sabbatical Year where the crops rested and the land was refreshed. And every seven periods of seven years, that’s every 49 years, was the year of Jubilee. And that was an incredible celebration.
Yes, the Book of Leviticus has lost its punch today, but its application is just as present today as it was back then. And that is the way to have access to God is through the blood. And that’s not of an animal, not of a bird, not of anything except one individual. And that is the Lord Jesus Christ. God required that Jesus shed his blood. And when you and I came into a personal relationship with God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, we have access to God. We don’t have to go through a priest. We have immediate access to God through our Lord Jesus Christ. May the Book of Leviticus give us a renewed and fresh appreciation for what it cost God himself, so that you and I could be brought into his forever family. And that was the sacrificial death and the shed blood of God’s only begotten Son.
Let us love Jesus. Let us live for Jesus. And in all things in our life and through our life, may he have the preeminence. I’ll see you in our next episode. As we deal with the Book of Numbers. You’re really going to enjoy our time in the Book of Numbers. I’ll see you then.
This has been The Bible for Life Podcast. Thanks for joining us as we’ve walked through the Book of Leviticus. We can’t wait to see you again next time. Don’t forget to subscribe and share this podcast with your friends. We hope you’re encouraged today. Remember, for the issues of life, for the rest of your life, it’s the Bible for life.