While reading in Leviticus, I cannot help but notice the obvious economic implications of religious sacrifice. Burnt offerings, peace offerings, sin offerings, and guilt offerings: all of these require a lamb, a goat, a bull, or birds. I may not be a rancher, but I know that livestock is expensive. A good Black Angus bull, used for commercial grade beef, can run anywhere from $1,400 to as much as $3,400. If I had several bulls, or even goats or lambs, I could count as them as an investment worth protecting. If I lived in a mobile, agrarian society, like the Israelites in Leviticus, the value of my livestock would increase, because livestock might possibly be my only property of significant value. With no house, no car, no stocks, and no investment funds, the fortune 500 of ancient Israel may have very well consisted of 500 bearded men with the biggest herds in town.

The law of God demands a costly sacrifice, one that hurts to give up and is of no small value.

The reality of sin must have been crystal clear to the Israelites. Not only did they have to offer up a valuable piece of property every time they disobeyed God, whether intentionally or unintentionally, they had to see it brutally murdered by the priests and had to watch its blood flow out freely. This is not like dropping a dollar in the offering plate and hoping your sacrifice pleases God. This was dirty, messy, bloody, vile and coarse. Make no mistake, God is very serious about sin and always requires the spilling of blood. As the lamb, bull, or goat, spilled its blood, it would be hard not imagine your own throat being slit and your guilty blood spilling out, and to be thankful for the animal that took your place. The kind of sacrifice demanded by God is costly, weighty, bloody and severe.

So what’s the point? So what animal sacrifice is incredibly sobering? You do not or will not ever have to practice animal sacrifice, and honestly you probably don’t even like to read about such archaic rituals. The “so what” of sacrificial structure in Leviticus is that it points to the glorious holiness of God and the brutal nature of our sin. God is not a weak, sissified deity who dismisses grievous offenses against his character and pardons sinners out of apathy or unjust grace. This is not the God we serve. Our God is fearful and mighty, a God of justice who demands either complete righteousness or a bloody death. There is no in between, no black and white. God will not be mocked, He will not be tricked or easily satisfied, and He will not leave the guilty unpunished. Leviticus makes me shudder with fear over my sin, because I don’t ever have enough bulls or unblemished lambs to offer. I could offer my own life, but I am filthier and less pure than even an ignorant animal.

The point of Leviticus, then, is to magnify the cross of Christ and to point to God’s ultimate sacrifice of Jesus as costly, weighty, bloody and severe.

If bulls and goats are expensive, how much more is the life of the creator of all, the instigator of everything? Have you forgotten how magnificent Calvary is? Then find beauty in its bloody nature, that it was the will of the Lord to kill his son, to spill his precious holy blood in our place. God satisfies his own wrath and demand for justice by becoming the very sacrifice he demands. Your sin is not trivial; rather your sin required that God die! What greater love can be found than a God who is both just and merciful? What deeper joy is experienced than reveling in Gods willing and costly sacrifice? How can we not look at the cross and be grateful to the point of tears, knowing that the requirements of the Law have been fully met, that He who knew no sin became sin on our behalf? How can we ever cease to worship a God who did not spare his own son but graciously gave himself up for all?

Nothing I can offer can make me holy, but the offering of the body of Christ can and has. Hebrews makes it clear that “by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified”, and I believe it. I am innocent because Christ was innocent, clean and guiltless because he was. I am holy by grace alone, but my prayer is that I will never cheapen this grace by viewing my sin as insignificant or easily dismissed. I can hang as many crucifixes on my wall as Hobby Lobby sells, but I hope I never tame the cross of Christ by forgetting the cost Almighty God was willing to pay for a sinner like me.

And can it be that I should gain

An interest in the Savior’s blood?

Died He for me, who caused His pain—

For me, who Him to death pursued?

Amazing love! How can it be,

That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Amazing love! How can it be,

That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

’Tis mystery all: th’Immortal dies:

Who can explore His strange design?

In vain the firstborn seraph tries

To sound the depths of love divine.

’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,

Let angel minds inquire no more.

’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;

Let angel minds inquire no more.

– Charles Wesley (1738)


One thought on “Why Read Leviticus?

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