Terms and conditions

Read: Leviticus 1-3, Matthew 24:23-51

If you’re reading along in your Bible, you will have started Leviticus today. It’s a slog. Unless you’re really into the macabre, there isn’t much exciting about the first three chapters of the book. There’s a lot of killing of animals and gore. And some baking at the end. Don’t forget the salt.

We, having been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, have no need to make animal sacrifices in order to atone for our transgressions. So what is there for us in a book like Leviticus?

Let me explain.

Say you have an item of great value for sale. You’ve done your research and have had it appraised. You set a fair price and the item goes on the market. Someone approaches you and offers you an insulting price. They want to pay you half of what it’s worth. You immediately decline. But this person argues. They really, really need the item you have. You’re not convinced. The person making the offer becomes upset. Who are you to tell them what they can and cannot pay for an item they require? It’s not fair! It’s unjust! You shake your head. It’s your item, after all, and you have every right to decide it’s price based on fair market value. Heck, you can even decide to charge double fair market value if you want. It’s yours! The buyer continues to argue and you try to walk away. They chase after you trying one argument after another. The more they argue, the firmer you are in your decision not to sell to this person even if they ever decided to pay the price you set.

It all sounds a little ridiculous, doesn’t it? When you’ve set the price on something you own, you are under no obligation whatsoever to accept anything but that price.

So why would we ever think that God should be required to accept anything less than what He’s required for the payment of our sin?

The book of Leviticus is God’s terms and conditions. They apply. Since He is the one who offers forgiveness, He is the one who gets to set the price. For those under the old covenant, some very specific sacrifices had to be offered in very specific ways. For those of us under the new covenant, it’s Jesus and Jesus alone who can (and already has) made the sacrifice for us.

John 14:6

There is only one term: Jesus. One condition: our acceptance of him. Anything else would be like the buyer offering half value. Since God is the one in possession of what we need, He is completely within His right to set the price and, if we truly want what He has to offer, we must accept His terms and conditions.

House Rules

Growing up, we had house rules. There were certain guidelines anyone living or coming in to our home were expected to abide by. There were different rules at my cousin’s house. Different rules at my grandparent’s house. Different rules at all of my friends’ houses. Every house has its own set of rules.

All through Leviticus, God is telling Israel to be holy because I am holy. He basically tells them that they are who they are because of Him. He is Lord. He is holy. Because He is Lord, they have the opportunity to be made holy. He says, “I am the Lord who makes them holy.” (Leviticus 21:23) House rules.

So long as Israel called themselves set apart to be God’s people—along with anyone else who may be living with them—they were set apart. To continue to be set apart, there was a rule book to comply with. A pretty strict set of instructions, if you ask me, but those were God’s house rules. So long as you abide by them, you can stay in the house. If you break them, out you go.

Though we no longer abide by the Levitical law, there were still a great many things that Jesus told us to do: love God, love your neighbours, repent from your sin, follow me, keep your word, don’t lust, seek first the kingdom of God… Jesus outlined what a life following him should look like. He taught it. He lived it. He wrote new house rules.

My question to the Church would be this: if you don’t keep the house rules, what makes you think you’re still able to live in the house? The rule always was (and still is) that, as long as you live under this roof, you abide by these rules. God basically said the same thing in Leviticus and Jesus reiterated it in the Gospels. Where do we get off trying to break the rules and think we get to stay in the house?

We can be made holy by one thing and one thing alone—the blood of Jesus Christ. By accepting his blood, we accept his teachings, and we accept his name as our own. We make the decision to live a life set apart. We live by a different rule book. And here’s the catch—we don’t make the rules and we don’t get to change the rules. It’s not our house. It’s God’s house.

Daily Bible reading: Leviticus 22-23, Mark 1:1-22

The Law of Love

Do you ever read through the Old Testament and wonder at all the laws, rules, and regulations? Those people had a lot to live up to. And then we think, man, am I glad we don’t have to live like that. But do you every wonder why the Israelites had to live up to such high standards?

Let’s take out all the sacrifices—we know that Jesus came and was the sacrifice to end all sacrifices. What about everything else? Why did God give so many instructions on how to live life?

You’ll note that much of it was practical—don’t do your business among the tents, go away from everyone, dig a hole, and bury it. Makes sense. This kept disease from spreading. The same goes for people with skin rashes and mildew in homes. They were quarantined until considered clean and then there was a process for reintroduction back into society.

God not only set Israel apart to be holy, but He called them apart to be clean—in the literal sense. Canaan, after all, was a land filled with people who had defiled themselves in all manner of ways. Not only were they dirty, they were diseased.

God even gave instructions regarding the crops—Israel wouldn’t be allowed to eat the fruit of the trees they planted until the fifth year. There are several reasons for this, the first being that a new tree will not produce good fruit in its first years. If it is cut back and pruned early on, it will be more productive later. Second, God was deserving of the first fruits—the reason why the fruit of the fourth year belonged to Him. By year five, if the Israelites had followed God’s commands, the fruit would be plentiful and sweet.

God doesn’t give us rules to watch us squirm under the weight of them. He gave the law out of love. All the instructions He gave to Israel were for their own good. For their health. For their prosperity. For their pleasure.

We can have more freedom and be more fruitful within the boundaries God has given to us than we can outside of His love.

Daily Bible reading: Leviticus 18-19, Matthew 27:32-66

Sacrifice

Leviticus is a tough read. There are a lot of rules and regulations that no longer apply to us as God-followers simply because God sent Jesus to be the fulfilment of all that law. We don’t need to make blood sacrifices anymore because the perfect, unspoiled blood of Jesus Christ has already been shed and made permanent atonement for those who have accepted it.

So why read Leviticus?

In part, I believe it’s good to slog through this early book simply to see what we’ve truly been saved from. Reading about all the rituals and sacrifices puts an entirely new spin on what salvation really means to and for us.

Leviticus 17 talks about what happens when a sacrifice is made away from the tabernacle. A person who made a sacrifice anywhere but at the tabernacle in front of the presence of God was cast out of the community and considered to be as guilty as one who has committed murder. That’s a pretty hefty payment for something that seems rather trivial.

Thank God that we are no longer required to make blood sacrifices. I imagine all of our cities would be heavy with the scent of burning flesh if animal sacrifice was still a necessary part of reconciliation.

But what about other sacrifices we make? Our time? Our finances? Our labour? Are these not considered worthy sacrifices? Of course they are. We are all called to give beyond what we might deem to be comfortable. But the question that goes even beyond whether or not we should make sacrifices is where and how do we make these sacrifices?

In Leviticus, a sacrifice was not acceptable unless it was brought to the entrance of the tabernacle. Maybe the same is still true today. I’m sure that even I am guilty of making sacrifices just for the sake of it—like the hypocrties Jesus spoke of in Matthew 6 fasting and praying in public so that all would see and commend them for their sacrifice. But that kind of offering isn’t what is pleasing to God.

Would we still make our sacrifice if no one was watching? Would we still work if no one was there to see and applaud our gift?

It is not only the gift that matters to God, but also the manner in which we bring it. Matthew 6 talks about giving gifts in private and praying behind closed doors. It is the sacrifice that we make when no one is looking that is most pleasing and acceptable to God.

Daily Bible reading: Leviticus 15-17, Matthew 27:1-31