Summary: God’s work of making Israel into a holy nation through the ministry of Moses opens our eyes to Jesus’ minitry in our lives.
Let’s try to use our imagination as we join Israel and enter the world of Leviticus. We might just discover ourselves a bit in some of what we see. Are you ready? Picture it with me. Let’s try to look through the eyes of the typical Israelite that we are reading about here. We are a nation of people, tribal communities, and we’re camping together out in the wilderness, open to the wind and weather. The good thing is: it doesn’t rain much, so we are not soaking in the mud all the time. The bad thing is: it doesn’t rain much, so there’s almost no water!
Are you with me?
We have just a few months earlier left our houses and homes in the familiar territory of Egypt where for 400 years our ancestors have lived, but because of a change in Egyptian power our people were reduced to slaves. Over the years many of us have become like the idol worshipping Egyptians among whom we live. We began to believe in golden calves and wild parties for worship and play. Oh, we wanted out of slavery, we’ve even been crying out to the God of our ancestors Abraham, Isaac and Jacob about it, hoping maybe he would help us, and we thought anything would be better than our miserable slavery to the Egyptians.
Are you still with me?
But now, out here in the desert where the water is scarce and the food is bland, and this new leader, Moses, tells us everything we are supposed to do… well… Pharaoh was bad, but the food was good, and some of us are wondering if we’ve only traded one slave master for another. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob has certainly has shown us his power, but while HE has chosen US, lots of US are still deciding on whether or not we choose HIM. He is so uncontrollable! It’s as if we have no control over him at all! In fact, if anything, he controls us! He’s got us exactly where he wants us and he’s not letting go! We can’t just do for him what we want to do. He has his own ideas about everything! He’s making all the rules… and personally enforcing them! And Moses is right there with Him all the way! We’re not sure if it is God or Moses making all these decisions. We hear that we are going to a promised land, but where is it? What will we do when we get there? Where will we live? How will we defend ourselves? What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear? Questions, questions, questions. Worries, worries, worries! And now this Moses has gone up Mount Sinai twice to get instructions from this terrifying God who is willing to kill us if we don’t do exactly what he says! Who is this God? What does he want from us? Why has he brought us out here to this desert? What will happen to us? Some of us would really like to go back home to Egypt!
It’s one thing to take Israel out of Egypt, but it is a lot harder to take Egypt out of Israel.
Now… let me ask you here today, is that a fair assessment of what the Bible shows about Israel at this point? There are some encouraging things. The end of Exodus shows us what Israel can do when they submit to God and do what he says. They took on the project of building God’s house and furnishing it with gusto. Then God comes to dwell among them, showing his glory as he enters the tabernacle! That’s Exodus 40. It would be nice if the story ended there and the Bible said, “Then they all lived happily ever after.” But it doesn’t end there.
Israel doesn’t want slavery, but Israel doesn’t yet submit themselves to God. Oh, when they are scared to death after he speaks they say they will do whatever God commands them, but give them a few days at the foot of Mount Sinai without the constant influence of Moses and look at them. All through this time we hear God saying about Israel: “These are a stiff necked people!” Stephen in Acts 7, Paul to the Corinthians in chapter 10, and the Hebrew writer in chapters 3-4 point out the idolatrous, rebellious, unbelieving hearts of Israel particularly at this time. God is holy, but Israel is unholy. God desires to form them into a holy nation, a royal priesthood, but they would just as soon be an idol worshipping people who can control their own lives apart from their gods. Oh, they don’t mind worshipping and sacrificing from time to time, just a long as God doesn’t interfere with the rest of their lives.