The book of Leviticus has always been a very difficult book for me to read. It's a book that ignites strong emotions whenever I read it, feelings of shame, guilt, self-righteousness and boredom. I always felt short-changed whenever I decide to study this book. This resulted in me ignoring it for years.
However, like a wise and patient teacher, the Holy Spirit inspired my heart to study this book one more time. And like a faithful son, I listened. While studying this book, the Spirit unearthed some remarkable mysteries.
Mysteries that left me in awe. They were so enriching that I decided to write about them. It is with great pleasure that I share these mysteries with you in hope that you will be encouraged by them.
The law sought to preserve the dignity of God's creation
The law was written as instructions to the Israelites who were recently delivered from captivity in Egypt. It was written with the aim of showing Israel a new way, a way that sought to restore the sanctity of the life of God's creation that was lost through pagan practices. This was revealed in the restrictions placed on animals that they could eat or sacrifice.
Leviticus chapter 7 verses 22-27 prohibited the eating of animal fat and blood. To the undiscerning, this law sought to protect the Israelites from stomach illnesses. However, this prohibition highlighted God's value for the sanctity of the life of all his creation as the blood and fat of an animal are remnants of its livelihood which only should be sacrificed to God.
Furthermore, Leviticus chapter 11 further substantiates this point as God instructed the Israelites as to what animal they could kill and eat. Though multiple Bible versions used strong language to describe these animals, it would be highly contradicting for God to describe these animals as such when Genesis chapter 1 saidHe created these same animals and said they were good. God restricted the Israelites from eating these animals to preserve them.
In doing so, God esteemed the contributions that these animals make to the sustenance of the earth. Thus, it was sinful to eat these animals not because of how they affected the Israelites health, or what was inside them, but how much God cared for and valued them. God loved his creation so much that He placed these restrictions on the Israelites to preserve their sanctity.
Am I esteemed by God?
Knowing this caused me to ponder how much He cares for me. It caused me to reflect on how much he esteems all his creation, including me. How mindful he is of each of us.
The life of all his creation, including me, he esteems!
Understanding this has gladdened yet humbled my heart. It helped me to understand why I am (we are) encouraged by God to love my (our) neighbours. However, His goodness, as revealed by the law, doesn't end here.
The Sabbath was a merciful gift given to man
In Genesis chapter 3, verses 17-19, The penalty for Adam’s sin in the garden was that the ground was cursed because of him and that he will eat from it by means of painful labour. Since then, man has endured hardships in labouring for their daily living. However, the Israelites, while in Egypt, didn't just endure painful labour but were mistreated by the Egyptians.
Based on Exodus chapter 1 verses 13-14, It is not farfetched to assume that they were working with little to no rest. So it is with this backdrop that the Lord instructed the Israelites to dedicate the Sabbath as a day of rest. So, in the Genesis passage, God cursed man as the penalty for sin; yet, in the Leviticus passage, God was instructing the Israelites to dedicate a day for resting, one most holy to the Lord.
The Sabbath is the embodiment of God’s grace and mercy towards us. God loves us so much that even though He was justified in cursing man, he still offered mercy. His mercy towards us is not only just a reflection of His love but how much he values us.
He valued the Israelites so much that he saw their painful labour in Egypt and desired for them to no longer experience such hardship.
What’s my worth?
Seeing the fingerprint of God’s love in these two laws has led me to ask these questions.
Who am I that He is willing to show mercy to?
Who am I that He considers greater than other creation, whom he created laws to preserve?
What is my worth?
My conclusion is that I (we) must be so precious to Him. But not precious enough for him to compromise his stance on sin. My (our) life’s goal (challenge) should be to find contentment in this truth.
As much as Jesus’ work on the cross redeemed the law, this latest study of Leviticus showed me that the law was indeed good. Does it mean I am now going to follow it to the T? No!
I don't need to.
But what this study reminded me of is that God remains immutable. His ways and his works remain the same yesterday, today and forevermore. It is, for this reason, I (we) can put our trust in him.
Akeel Henry (West Indies) enjoys sharing the hope of Jesus Christ with all individuals. He is currently a trained Biochemist who aspires to become a physician and a pastor. If you wish to share feedback concerning his articles, his email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. He can also be reached on facebook, Instagram (Akeel Henry) and on twitter (@A155_thevine).