books of the bible: leviticus
In anticipation of this post, I went through looking for a decent Leviticus verse to make into a pretty graphic, and so far I’m coming up empty. Maybe my search should change to strangest verse out of Leviticus, but the truth is, they’re all strange. So instead of a fun graphic, I’ll just toss one up as a blockquote. Ladies and gentleman, I bring you Leviticus 20:22:
“Keep all my decrees and laws and follow them, so that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out.” (NIV)
Why, you ask, am I looking to quote from Leviticus? It’s simple, really. I’m reading the entire bible in 365 days (I started in December, so I’m on day 52), and today was finally the end of Leviticus. Which means the start of Numbers. Which I’m not sure is actually any better (reading-wise) than Leviticus.
I’m glad this reading plan I’m doing switches between the Old Testament and the New most days, because it was always that chapter of a gospel on the horizon that got me through the chapter from Leviticus. Leviticus is … a tough book to get through. There is a lot of repetition and a lot of rules and a lot of lists. I understand the point of it, believe me, but I don’t think I need it anymore.
That’s one of the things that I think are so difficult to understand about faith and Christianity in general. A lot of people argue that all those rules and standards and regulations were just given because of the time period and the lifestyle of the time. And other people argue that if we want to stick with one of those rules, we need to stick with them all. I believe there’s a simpler answer.
There are two parts to my understanding, and I don’t expect everyone to agree, but it’s what I’ve been working over for a while now, so there’s that.
Jesus said that he came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it. Most of the law given in Leviticus is tied to what a person has to do to atone for their sins. If they do such and such act, they must make atonement by going to the high priests and offering a sacrifice. But here’s the kicker: Jesus was that sacrifice. We don’t need the priests and the animal sacrifices and all that stuff that Leviticus goes on and on about, because Jesus fulfilled it.
So then, some people ask, does that mean we can go on sinning and ignoring the sins that Leviticus and other books of the Bible say are sins? No, it doesn’t, at least, I don’t think so. See, when Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment of them all is, he answers: To love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. Then, the second, is to love your neighbor as yourself. Do these, and you’ll have done what is asked.
A sin is something that goes either a) against God (blasphemy, lying, etc.) or b) against your neighbor (stealing, lying – again, adultery, etc.). So Jesus summed up everything by saying love God and love your neighbor and you’ll be saved. Why? Because Jesus was the final sacrifice needed to forgive all those sins.
At least, that’s where I’m coming from right now and why reading Leviticus alongside Matthew and Mark worked better than if I’d just sat down and read Leviticus start to finish. I may have gone crazy for all of the rules and repeats and long lists of sacrifice options.
Frankly, I’m thankful that Jesus’s death eliminated the need for me to ever grab a pigeon (though it would be easy; there is one on the fire escape right now) and take it to a priest to make a sacrifice for me.