I know that Leviticus is your favorite book of the Bible to open to for your morning devotions. But, just in case you’re not familiar with Leviticus…here’s a few hints that may help you understand how to read the book of Leviticus.
1. Don’t get stuck in the details. If it was ever important to know and catch the big picture of a book, then this is the case-in-point. For example: Leviticus 11. Don’t get stuck on the animals that part the hoof and chew the cud. Don’t worry about what all the birds are (What’s a tawny owl? a hoope? 11:18-19). There’s a big picture to be found in Leviticus.
2. God dwelling with people. The storyline of the Bible is the progressive unfolding of God’s plan for redeeming his people from their sin and restoring them to right relationship with him. In Leviticus 26:11-12 God says, “I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people.” We know how the story ends…in Revelation 21-22 we are given the picture of God dwelling with his people for all eternity.
3. Atonement for sin. Sin is the big issue between us and God. Sin is the thing that prevents God’s dwelling with us. And Leviticus is our first glimpse into God’s economy for taking care of sin. One thing is crystal clear from Leviticus…sin has a steep price. Leviticus 17:11, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.“
It is rather easy to find Christ in Leviticus 16, a description of the Day of Atonement.
As you read Leviticus, keep in mind these 2 verses from the New Testament that help shed some light on what’s going on.
For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. – Hebrews 10:4
Ok, so what was really going on with all those sacrifices?
For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. – Romans 3:23-25
It’s been said that OT believers had a forward-looking faith in the promise of God, and that we as NT believers have a backward-looking faith in the fulfillment of God’s promises in the Jesus Christ. I think this is true. Jesus Christ is the center and focus of God’s redemptive plan regardless of the time in world history when we live.
Also, I found this post from Biblical Preaching to be helpful for understanding Leviticus.