The book of Leviticus is the third book of the Bible, in the group of five books known as the books of the law. Leviticus is basically a textbook for the priests, who were from the tribe of Levi. It gives details about sacrifices, laws, and rules for worship within the temple and for the people of Israel living in community together.
Theme of the book Leviticus
The main theme of the book is holiness. The people of Israel were chosen out of the nations of the world as God’s holy people, to be a witness to the rest of the world of what it means to be the people of God. The book begins with a list of the different offerings that the Israelites made in order to approach God, and all of them are a shadow of Jesus’ death as the sacrifice that would be made once, for all time. The animals used had to be spotless without blemish.
Different offerings in Leviticus
The first three sacrifices mentioned are the burnt offering, grain offering and the peace offering. These were offered in worship to the Lord and look forward to Christ being offered for us, Jesus as the bread of life, and Jesus’ ministry of atonement, bringing us back to God. The other two sacrifices are the sin offering and the guilt offering. These were for unintentional sins and were a reminder of the fact that anyone who has sinned cannot come into God’s presence.
Jesus made the perfect offering
Sin can only be dealt with by a death. In the Old Testament by the death of an animal, but the New Testament teaches us that the blood of animals couldn’t actually remove sin (Hebrews 9:9-10). Thus the death of Christ was required, which has been accepted by God as the sacrifice made once for us and for all time.
God’s law is a high standard
There are laws for priests, for the people, for the feasts that were held through the year. Jesus said that the greatest commandment was “to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind […] and the second is like it, to love your neighbour as yourself” (Mark 12:28-34). This is summarised in the book of Leviticus, as it deals with rules and laws for a community that lives in accordance with God’s will. Again and again holiness and purity is mentioned, “Be holy for I am holy” (Leviticus 1:44-45; 20:2,7; 19:2). The people are also reminded that God dwells among them, “I will also walk among you and be your God, and you shall be my people” (Leviticus 26:12).
Blessings and curses are promised
At the end of the book God gives a list of blessings for obedience, and curses for disobedience. Through the Old Testament we can see that the blessings were fulfilled when the people believed and obeyed God, but the curses were also fulfilled when the people rejected God, and ultimately they were invaded, defeated and taken as exiles to a foreign country just as God warned in this book.
What does God teach us in Leviticus? That God is Holy. Sin must be dealt with. God lives among His people. We are to be holy (set apart for God). We are to treat others and love others as we wish to be loved and treated. The book of Leviticus gives us an understanding of the meaning of the life and death of Jesus Christ.