For the past few days I have been engaged with the words of Leviticus. This book of the Old Testament has for some time been a personal favorite of mine. Now what I have just said is starting to concern many of you. I know what you are thinking. There is absolutely no way that someone can enjoy reading a book filled with laws that are not relevant for today. I would agree. There are moments when it is difficult to read through some of the content. Because something is difficult, however, does not mean that it is void of joy, or that it is incapable of producing pleasure. For this reason, I want to share a few thoughts from the first chapter of Leviticus to demonstrate how applicable, and how meaningful it can be.
The first chapter focuses on burnt offerings. Here God is speaking to Moses, explaining to him exactly what he must communicate to the people about how to make offerings. The first thing that we must recognize is that Leviticus picks up where Exodus leaves off. At the end of Exodus the tabernacle is completed and the glory of the Lord, in the form of a cloud and pillar of fire, have rested on it (Ex. 40:38closeExodus 40:38 38 For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys. (ESV) closeExodus 40:38closeExodus 40:38 38 For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys. (ESV) 38 For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys. (ESV) ). The Israelites have a place to worship, but they do not yet know how they should worship. This is the contribution that Leviticus makes to the people of God.
Also, we should note that the book begins by addressing the issue of sacrifice and offering. God is presenting to the people what he expects of them in worship. If they are to serve God then that service begins with a sacrifice. Worship in today’s church culture has lost sight of this simple truth. Worship starts with offering and sacrifice. In fact, the offering was to be one from the “herd or the flock.” This meant that it was to be costly; worshipping God cannot be achieved through spiritual frugality. We must remember, being in the self-serving culture in which we live, that worship requires something of us. When it comes to worship, God expects us to be givers and not takers.
The burnt offerings were also present to make atonement for sin (1:4). A person was to bring an offering so he might be “accepted before the Lord” (1:3). This of course foreshadows the work of Christ on our behalf. We know that Christ is the Lamb of God, who was sacrificed to bring forgiveness of sins. In order to truly worship, a person must be “accepted before the Lord.” In our culture today, it is expected that every group, whether social, political, or religious, be inclusive of all individuals. Worship, however, is exclusive. Sacrifice and offering are the tickets in. We must understand as believers that only those who are accepted of God can worship.
Finally, worship is something that pleases God. In chapter one the phrase, “soothing aroma to the Lord” is mentioned three times (1:9, 13, 17). Leviticus communicates to us that proper worship brings pleasure to God. The Lord is delighted in our offerings and sacrifices. Worship is often thought of as an obligation, or a duty, or something else on our religious “to do” list. If we would stop and meditate on the fact that sincere worship brings delight to the Father, then I believe we would experience a change of heart regarding our view of worship. God is pleased when we worship his way. He looks forward to it.