We’re almost to the end of our reading through Leviticus. Coty Pinckney has a very helpful summary, a look back at where we’ve been reading and some questions to prompt more study:
Most of us turn to calendars to plan or check our agenda for the next few days or months. We don’t often turn to calendars to find the answer to deep questions of life. But I would like to suggest that God’s calendar does answer such questions, as God through these festivals pictures the proper Christian life. God mandates that the people of Israel perform particular rituals on specific dates as a way of acting out truths that you and I need to take to heart.
In the course of this morning, we will see that God uses His calendar to focus our attention on the dangers inherent in one particular form of evil: Self-righteousness. God shows through these pictures that His people are only truly His when they have abandoned self, when they trust fully in him, when they are able to fall at His feet and pray, “Lord, without you I am nothing, but by your grace you have lifted me up.”
In our survey of Leviticus, we have seen that each of the rituals God ordains for the people of Israel contains a picture of New Testament truth. Early in the series we noted that interpreting Leviticus is more akin to interpreting Jesus’ parables than interpreting a letter of Paul. When Jesus talks about a farmer sowing seed, he’s not giving lessons for how to plant crops; he is giving spiritual lessons through the picture of the sower and the seed. Just so, as we read about different requirements for the people of Israel, our job is to learn the spiritual lessons pictured by each. Let’s briefly remind ourselves of some of those lessons:
The first seven chapters of Leviticus describe the five offerings God establishes. Recall that each of these offerings portrays a different provision for God’s people, granted through Jesus’ death on the cross.
Chapters eight through ten describe God’s plan for a priesthood. We saw that, today, God intends each and every Christian to serve as a priest. The clothing, the ordination, and the requirements for the Levitical priests contain rich images that help us to understand our role before God today.
Chapters eleven through fifteen present the laws of cleanness and uncleanness. These show the necessity of preparation prior to entering God’s presence, and His provisions for cleansing after being defiled by the world.
Chapter sixteen describes in detail one of the festivals, the Day of Atonement. This ritual emphasizes the efficacy of Christ’s death not only in satisfying the requirements of God’s justice, but also in doing away with our own guilt.
Then in chapters 17 to 20, God presents His holiness code, a set of laws which answers the question: What does it mean to be holy, to be God’s own sacred possession? We saw that holiness is a result of our relationship to God, not a prerequisite for that relationship. Our obedience, our becoming like Him, is a logical consequence of His choosing us as His people. We also saw that the laws which reveal God’s character still hold for us today — because we are to become like Christ. Those laws, however, which were picturing New Testament truth do not hold for Christians — we fulfill them by living out the pictured truth.
This brings us to Leviticus 23, and the outline of the Israelite festivals. Once again we need to ask the question: As Christians, should we obey the specific requirements listed here? Should we avoid work on the Sabbath? Should we celebrate each of these feasts at different times of the year? Or is all of God’s calendar a picture of the Christian life, and so we fulfill the calendar by living out the Christian truths pictured in the festivals?