We have just finished the book of Leviticus. I imagine most of us are happy it is over. I doubt anyone really loves reading this particular book of the Bible.
I understand that sentiment. To be fair, Leviticus is legitimately the most “Law” of all the Law books. While Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy all contain dense law sections, they also have sections of stories and poems. Leviticus does not. With the exception of the story of Nadab and Abihu, there is nothing in Leviticus other than a litany of commands. Even the name Leviticus reflects the law nature of this book. It literally means “of the Levites”, that is, the priestly tribe which taught and enforced the Law.
So Leviticus is as Law as Law gets. And that is going to make Leviticus not only one of the less enjoyable reads in the Bible, but also one of the seemingly less necessary. We not only aren’t going to like reading this book, but we also aren’t going to understand why we need to. After all, aren’t we who believe in Jesus under grace rather than law (Romans 6:14)? And if so, why bother reading it?
Now I can’t do anything about the enjoyability of this book. If you don’t like reading Law, then you won’t like this book. But I can do something about the perceived need of this book. I can show you that this book is still a valuable read.
God Wanted Us To Have It
One very simple thing which shows that Leviticus is still a valuable read is the fact that the book is in The Bible.
This is so simple that it can easily be overlooked, and yet it is very significant. As you know, the entire Bible is divinely inspired or “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16). While human agents were used to bring it into being, and while human hands molded it into the form it is now (that is, titling the books, organizing them, and adding the chapter and verse divisions), it is nonetheless a product of God. At the end of the day, the Bible is exactly what God always wanted it to be.
That being the case, God must have wanted us to have Leviticus. If He didn’t want us to have it, we wouldn’t. If He didn’t want us to read this book, He would have kept it out of the Bible. But He didn’t. It is in there. He not only preserved it, but He preserved it for us to read. That can only mean it is good to read. That can only mean there is something good for us behind all these laws.
A (Semi-)Failed Plan
We get more specific when we see that Leviticus records what is a (semi-)failed plan. This plan is the Law Plan, the attempt to save humanity by the giving of a law.
It is not an insult to God to call this plan “failed”. The New Testament says pretty much the same thing. Paul points out in Romans 3:20 that no one can be justified or saved by law, and Hebrews 8 tells us God had to establish a new covenant because the people would not keep the first.
So it is true that the plan “failed”. It is also true, though, that it only “semi-failed”. What I mean by this are two things: 1) while law did not save anyone, it did accomplish some good things, and 2) God always knew law would fail and thus never expected it to succeed.
We see an example of the first in Galatians 3:24, where Paul says the law was our guardian until the time of Christ.
We see an example of the second in 1 Peter 1:20, where Peter says Jesus’ saving coming and sacrifice were planned since the beginning of the world.
So the Law was a failure, but it wasn’t a complete failure and it wasn’t an unforeseen failure. God always knew it would fail and always intended to use that failure to contribute to the Gospel. Leviticus is one way He does that.
A Kind of Grace
And we get even more specific when we see that Leviticus is a kind of grace for its original readers. That is, it is a good thing given them by God.
I know the Law communicated in Leviticus might not seem like a grace. After all, we often use law and grace as antonyms or opposites. And I know life under the Law might not seem gracious. I always thought it sounded pretty harsh, as if everything you did might get you sentenced to death.
But that is not the case at all. The social and spiritual realities God created with the Law were gracious. They were far more gracious than the “might makes right/survival of the fittest” realities all the other people of that time were living under. And the Law itself is a grace. It was never able to be “the grace” the Gospel is, but it was still a definition of right and wrong that was badly needed in its time and is still needed in our time. The fact of the matter is that Leviticus the book and Leviticus the content made life and the world better. And it is still doing that today. It is still a grace.
Leviticus Every Once In A While
So maybe you are happy Leviticus is finished for another year. And maybe it’s not wrong to feel that way. But maybe also consider giving this book a look “every once in a while”. This may not need to be a frequent read the way the Gospels and Romans and some other books of the Bible are. But it does need to be read occasionally. God’s Word and God’s direction can be found in this book, and I hope you are able to push through all the laws and find it.