Leviticus – a book of Joy
I love rules and laws! I know that to some of you, particularly those who actually know me, that may well come as a surprise! I probably would have made a very good Pharisee, particularly one who knew how to bend the rules without breaking them! But that is not why I love the book of Leviticus and why it is probably my favourite book of the Bible… To me, the book speaks about a God who wants to live with His people.
There are many other things I could share about from this fantastic book! Some of the words and phrases we commonly use today come straight from the book of Leviticus. Words such as jubilee and scapegoat are commonly used today. And what husband hasn’t offered a form of guilt offering to his wife! Leviticus has important things to tell us about sin, obedience, holiness, sacrifice and the importance of blood. Or even Leviticus 19:18, “love your neighbour as yourself” which would remind most of us of something that Jesus said in the New Testament?
But I don’t want share about any of those things today, but thought I would share a little about the pivotal role of priest! The first seven chapters of Leviticus talk about the different offerings or sacrifices that the nation of Israel was to make to God. Then in chapter 8 we see the beginning of the priesthood and the joyful work of Aaron and the priests. Their main role of service was to act as mediators between a holy God and the people of Israel, particularly in the role of making those offerings and sacrifices. In fact, they were the ultimate multi-taskers, as they seemed equally adept as butchers, doctors, teachers, quality assurors and public health inspectors! Let’s take a look at Leviticus 9:22-24… “Then Aaron lifted his hands towards the people and blessed them. And having sacrificed the sin offering, the burnt offering and the fellowship offering, he stepped down.
Moses and Aaron then went into the tent of meeting. When they came out, they blessed the people; and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. Fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell face down.”
Israel was a nation, chosen by God, to be His people and to be a shining light of God’s glory to the world around them. This nation, God’s treasured and precious people, however, way back in Exodus 19, refused to be a nation of royal priests. Instead they preferred being represented by Moses and Aaron. So Moses and Aaron have gone into the Tent of Meeting or Tabernacle to meet with God. This was where Moses and Aaron would meet with the Lord during the travels to the Promised Land. The whole nation is waiting for them! So Moses and Aaron, come out, give a blessing to the people and God’s glory appears to the nation!
WOW! That must have been some blessing Aaron gave! Whatever his words were in v24, they were words that invocated Almighty God’s power, presence and peace to be with and upon His people. No wonder the people fell on the ground with their noses in the dirt as an act of joyful worship and praise to God!!
The burnt offering and fat portions on the altar were consumed in a great fire emanating from the manifestation of the glory of God! So amazing was this sight that a tremendous wave of exuberant joy overcame the people and they all fell with their face in the ground! There was probably a mixture of amazement, surprise and reverent fear! That must have been a tremendous sight to behold! Falling face forward was a characteristic method of showing total surrender and submission to a king or master. Here it is adopted by the Israelites as symbolic surrender to their God! The infinite, almighty, majestic and glorious God was living and being worshipped by His people. This God was a holy God and these people were to be His people.
So there is tremendous joy in the nation of Israel and this is evident in their spontaneous act of submissive, voluntary worship and expressions of thanks to their Almighty God. Moses and Aaron had followed God’s guidelines obediently and the nation’s true joy was in evidence. Not just joy as an emotion, but true joy as evidenced through sacrifice, praise and testimony! Leviticus 10 however shows the results of priestly disobedience!
Leviticus is a book of joy to me, because it tells me of a God who wants to live with his creation – with his people! Tomorrow, what all this means for us in the 21 century – seemingly a million miles away from the ancient Israelites to which Leviticus was critical!