Have you ever wondered why Leviticus is in the Bible? Many a well-intentioned plan to read the Bible through has faltered in the numerous detailed instructions on animal sacrifices, lists of clean and unclean animals, and ritual requirements for ethical and moral behavior. This week as I was reading the instructions on ritual cleansing for cases of cured leprosy, I wondered: If all of the commands and regulations were followed perfectly, would there be time in the day to do anything else? Is this book relevant for us? Should we just skip over Leviticus?
While thinking about these questions, I found timeless treasures that are missed by skipping Leviticus. It is there that God reminds us how serious our sin is, that it severs us from our Creator, our source of life and good. No one watching innocent animals being slaughtered could have missed that point. God’s command, “Be holy, for I am holy,” emphasizes our need for personal purity in order to fellowship with our Creator. Those detailed requirements on ritual purity remind us of the need for purity in the daily routines of our lives.
In Leviticus, God gives grace by providing temporary substitutes to bear the guilt for sins, while the repetition of the sacrifices underscores their incompleteness. Without Leviticus, God’s final answer to our sin, Christ’s substitutionary death, is a mystery.
Leviticus reminds us that we sin every day, sometimes deliberately but other times without realizing it. But merely being relieved that we don’t have to follow the Levitical rituals is not enough. This knowledge should motivate us to confess daily, but not only for our purity. We confess in order to give God’s grace to others.
Jesus explained the need for forgiving grace with a parable in Matthew 18:22-35. One servant owed the king an impossibly high debt. When the servant begged for leniency to pay the debt, the king forgave it outright. That servant also was owed a large but payable debt by a fellow servant. When servant #2 made a similar plea, servant #1 grabbed him by the throat and threw him into prison. That did not sit well with the king.
We need to express gratitude for the magnitude of God’s grace in forgiving our sin at our salvation. Jesus teaches that this justifying grace of God’s forgiveness is the foundation for resolving the internal sin and the external circumstances in our lives every day. He also explained how as believers we gain God’s forgiving grace to give to others. In Mark 11:25, He said, “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.” This is an interesting statement because Jesus is commanding us to forgive the person who sinned against us in absentia. How can this be possible?
When we confess our sin in prayer we receive again the freeing grace of God’s forgiveness. Jon Hagen, director of Grace Harbor Ministries, describes this as “making our hearts rich in grace.” That forgiving grace enables us in turn to forgive others “from the heart” as Jesus commands at the end of His parable in Matthew 18:35.
But grace doesn’t stop there. It empowers us to live every day without grudges, anger, and bitterness. It enables us to overlook others’ odd habits, be patient with trying circumstances, live free of resentment toward unfair treatment and even day-to-day trivial irritations. We can do this because in Christ, God absorbed infinitely more of our evil than anything we will ever face.