Leviticus 4: It's all about Grace
By Sarah Snyder
Here’s a fun fact about me, I love the book of Leviticus! I know that sounds crazy, but seriously, I think it’s great! I think I find it so fascinating because it’s so foreign to me. I have no world to compare the life of sacrificing animals too. It makes no sense to me. So when I read this text, it’s learning about a whole new system of life. And yet, as foreign as it feels, it is still a message from the same God I worship. I think that’s the craziest part.
The book of Leviticus is not a book about the law, it’s a book about what to do when one breaks the law. God gave the law to Israel in Exodus. In Leviticus He is instructing the people on how to get back into communion with Him after they have broken a law. One thing that we miss when we read about the tabernacle and sacrifices is how messy it is. The tabernacle was a place of constant noise, people, animals, and, well, blood. There were always people bringing animals for sacrifice, noisy animals. There were priests constantly covered in blood as they slaughtered animal after animal. It is no wonder they had to clean themselves before entering the tabernacle. All of this takes place outside amongst the dirt and mud. There was blood flowing always and the smell was so powerful. Between the smell of sweaty people and animals, there was also the smell of smoke and burning animals. This place was the furthest thing from anything clean, neat, and orderly, and yet, God finds pleasure in it. It is in this space that He is honored. It is in the space that holiness prevails.
One interesting thing to note is Leviticus 4:3-12. In this section, God is instructing Israel about the sins of the High Priest. He says, “If the High Priest sins so that the people are guilty, on account of the sin he has committed he must present a flawless young bull to the Lord for a sin offering.” The High Priest was the messenger between the people and God. When he sins, all of Israel has sinned. In order for them to be right with God, the priest had to be forgiven of his sins. It was a way in which Israel had to remain in communion with God. God had chosen for the High Priest to be interceeder for the people and when he was not right with God, they were not either.
As overwhelming as this book is, there is an underlying message that cannot be missed: grace. This book is 100% about grace. God is so holy that He cannot have communion with us without some sort of absolution of sin. So He creates a way for Israel to be with Him. It seems crazy and overwhelming but it is a story of love and grace. God accepts the death of an animal on behalf of sinful people that they may be with Him. Even the High Priest, the one offering these sacrifices on behalf of the people, was given grace. The best part about this book for us is reading it knowing that the final chapter. Next week we will read Hebrews 4:14-16, which says, “ Therefore since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest incapable of sympathizing with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help.” Jesus came as our great High Priest to absolve our sin absolutely and finally. As thankful as we can be that God created a way for Israel to be in communion with Him, I am even more thankful that Jesus came as the ultimate sacrifice, once and for all.