Summary: The Book of Leviticus is, arguably , one of the least read books of the old testament. However, there are some precious lessons for us Christians in this book. This book teaches us about Experiencing the Presence of the Lord, Honoring Him with meaningful
Getting Close to my God - Part I
Some old testament books are never read. The book of Leviticus could well qualify for that award. I am sure many of us sitting here would not even have read it once. The bad news this morning is that I am going to preach on the book of Leviticus. It is a very long book, and so the sermon might be a little long too. Is that OK?
A Sunday school teacher came to a preacher on day with a picture depicting Christ in agonizing prayer in Gethsemane, while his disciples slept in the background. She said to the preacher, “I showed this picture to my class last week and many of them said that it reminded them of you.” The preacher was naturally very impressed, and overwhelmed. While the preacher was searching for some humble and appropriate response to this comment, the Sunday school teacher asked him, “want to know why this picture reminds them of you?” The preacher said “of course, trying to remain humble. “Well” the teacher said, “The children understand that Jesus was praying so long just like you do, and the disciples fell asleep because of that”. While I do not mind being thought of, when you look at the garden of Gethsemane picture next time, I am not very keen that you think about the sleeping disciples when you do that.
George Whitefield, 18th century Church of England Preacher and the co founder of the Methodist Church has said this “ To preach for more than half an hour, a man should be an angel himself or have angels for hearers” . I am no angel for sure, and unless you can convince me that you are angels, I guess I will try to stop within half an hour.
The book of Leviticus is supposed to be the hand book for the Levites, and hence the name. It is broadly divided into two parts, the first part deals with instructions for worshipping a Holy God, and the second part deals with instructions for leading a Holy Life. The overarching theme of the book is “ Be Holy, because I , the LORD your God am Holy” ( 19:2) The book of Leviticus follows the book of Exodus. Now, Exodus might be more familiar to us isn’t it? What is Exodus about? It is about God saving the Israelites from Egypt and bringing them to the promised land. So Exodus is about redemption, and this redemption becomes the foundation for cleansing, worshipping and service in Leviticus.
So why should we read or understand the book of Leviticus. The obvious answer is that it is the word of God. But let me try to give you some other reasons for doing that today. For me, it helps me to
1. Experience the Presence of the Lord
2. Honor Him through meaningful Worship
3. Experience His Holiness, and
4. Renew the covenant with Him
Let us see these four aspects briefly one by one. I will talk through the first two points today and the next two when I get a chance next to speak to you.
Experiencing the Presence of the Lord: The books of Exodus and Numbers record the movement of the Israelites. During these movements God went with them. Moses made it very clear to God “If your presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here” Exodus 33:15. The book of Leviticus starts with God speaking to Moses from the Tent of Meeting. Throughout this book, God is presented as a God who is always present among His people, an immanent God. The phrase “I am the Lord” is repeated many times in this book. The presence of the Lord is experienced through worship in the Tent of meetings, but also through the everyday duties of life. Leviticus reminds the people that every walk of their life was a concern of the Lord. Whether it be their religion ( Ch 21-24) , their sexual relationships ( Ch 18,20) , their interpersonal relationships (Ch 19,25) , family responsibilities (Ch 18-20) their worldliness ( Ch 18-20), or their purity or cleanliness (Ch 11-15), God reminded the Israelites that it was a concern for Him. He kept reminding the Israelites that he wanted them to be different from others. God reminds the people that their everyday life can contaminate the Tent of Meeting.
What does this mean to us? How is God’s presence made known to us today in the new testament days? Paul tells us that God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ (2 Cor 5:19) . Alluding to the Tent of Meeting, John tells us that “the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us” through the person of Jesus Christ (John 1:14). Ephesians 4:10 tells us that Jesus Christ arose from the dead and ascended into heaven so that he can fill the whole universe through the Holy spirit. In 1 Corinthians 3:16 Paul tells us that we are God’s temple in which God’s spirit lives.