Why did our loving heavenly Father bless his people with the good book of Leviticus?
So we could understand the separation from God caused by sin and uncleanness; the violent cost of peace with God; the hope of forgiveness; and the joy of feasting in God’s presence.
When was the last time you ate something that was moldy? Maybe you were anticipating your favorite food that had been left in the refrigerator a bit too long—with a watering mouth, you peeled back the aluminum foil, only to find with horror that your luscious leftovers had already been consumed—by some disgusting fuzz.
The horror of that tragic moment reveals the flavor of the book of Leviticus. At the end of Exodus, God’s glory has awesomely surrounded the tabernacle, so that even Moses can’t enter His presence; we clearly see that we as unclean people cannot enter into the presence of a holy God. It may seem a little silly, but it’s a bit like you insisting that you will not tolerate even a little bit of mold on your favorite sandwich. You have high standards; God’s are even higher.
Leviticus begins at the exact same moment Exodus ends, and right away, God explains how and when to offer sacrifices so guilty people can be made clean. God describes many things that made his people unclean, or unfit for worship. And graphically, God describes how animals could be offered as sacrifices in the place of people who were unclean. The picture is clear: our sin and brokenness always lead to death. But through sacrifices, guilty people who would die in the presence of God’s holiness could find cleansing and forgiveness. But not only can guilty people be made clean, the book describes feasting and parties that celebrate the presence of God, and it offers great assurance to people that God would really forgive their sin and uncleanness so they could enjoy his presence.
If you understand that Christ is the perfect sacrifice for our sins, then you know what this book clearly points to. The book of Hebrews says that the blood of bulls and goats could never take away sins, that’s why the sacrifices had to be repeated again and again before Christ. But the blood of Jesus was offered on your behalf to perfectly cover all your sins so you could enjoy God fully and completely.
This is why John writes, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 ESV). Why can God forgive sin? Because, as John continues, “[Jesus] is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2 ESV). And if you’ve read Leviticus, you have a much better sense of what that verse means.