As I continue my reading of the bible from beginning to end, I wanted to pause to share quick reflection with you about God’s love.
The book of Leviticus does not provide any relief from the burdensome rules of Exodus. Leviticus 1-5 outlines the kinds of animals that are to be sacrificed for specific sins. From goats to young bulls, the types of animals and the procedure of the sacrifices are specific and pretty gruesome. Take these instructions, for example about the sacrifice an anointed priest was to bring when he sinned as outlined in Leviticus 4:
4 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Say to the Israelites: ‘When anyone sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord’s commands—
3 “‘If the anointed priest sins, bringing guilt on the people, he must bring to the Lord young bull without defect as sin offering for the sin he has committed. 4 He is to present the bull at the entrance to the tent of meeting before the Lord.He is to lay his hand on its head and slaughter it there before the Lord. 5 Then the anointed priest shall take some of the bull’s blood and carry it into the tent of meeting. 6 He is to dip his finger into the blood and sprinkle some of it seven times before the Lord, in front of the curtain of the sanctuary.
7 The priest shall then put some of the blood on the horns of the altar of fragrant incense that is before the Lord in the tent of meeting. The rest of the bull’s blood he shall pour out at the base of the altar of burnt offering at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 8 He shall remove all the fat from the bull of the sin offering—all the fat that is connected to the internal organs, 9 both kidneys with the fat on them near the loins, and the long lobe of the liver, which he will remove with the kidneys—
10 just as the fat is removed from the ox sacrificed as fellowship offering. Then the priest shall burn them on the altar of burnt offering. 11 But the hide of the bull and all its flesh, as well as the head and legs, the internal organs and the intestines— 12 that is, all the rest of the bull—he must take outside the camp to place ceremonially clean,where the ashes are thrown, and burn it there in wood fire on the ash heap.
reconciliation not sacrifice
Jesus changed the entire foundation of Judaism by teaching that we must sacrifice ourselves.
For the post-slavery Israelites, sacrifice is the way to make atonement for sin. Reading Leviticus offers a reminder of the kind of hopelessness that comes from a life without Christ. As I was reading Exodus I got so overwhelmed with sorrow that I had to take a break and flip to the book of Matthew to read some of Jesus’ words. As I read one of my favorite passages of scripture Matthew 5:21-24, I read these words in a whole new context as I considered the commands of Exodus and Leviticus. It reads:
21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. 23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
In a society that lives by the gruesome, bloody sacrifices of animals, Jesus preaches that we are not giving right if we give with anger in our hearts for one another. In a religion that demands restoration, offerings and sacrifices to pay for our sins, Christ says be reconciled. Reconciliation is so important to the gospel that Jesus says that we aren’t even supposed to give unless we have been reconciled to others. As I read this, I saw Jesus’ command for what it was intended to do: Jesus established relationship as of higher significance than sacrifice: our gifts have no meaning if we do not understand how to live at peace with one another.
god wanted to be reconciled to us
Jesus came to bring the message of reconciliation.
Reconciliation is difficult. It requires human effort, being vulnerable and humble. Yet it is more valuable than tithes and offerings. Indeed later Jesus says: Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You pay tithes of mint, dill, and cummin, but you have disregarded the weightier matters of the Law: justice, mercy, and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.
In times where we have a focus on self, reconciliation, which regards others above ourselves, is counter-cultural. But this kind of love is a command. Jesus was in the best position to tell us to put reconciliation before sacrifice because he came to be the last and final sacrifice for our sins so that we could have a relationship with God. He died, he was betrayed by his own people, the very people he was sent to save. Yet the word says,
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”Romans 5:8
The Power of God
The power to be reconciled, is the power to be like God.
Reconciliation is power; I believe it is the greatest power that we have. That is why Job, who was one of the most tested persons in the bible, longed to be reconciled with God, saying:
33 If only there were someone to mediate between us, someone to bring us together, 34 someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more. 35 Then I would speak up without fear of him, but as it now stands with me, I cannot.
I encourage you to reach out to practice reconciliation. And the first person I urge you to be reconciled with is yourself. One of the hardest things to read in Leviticus is the word “guilt” over and over again. In a heart full of guilt and shame, the great benefits of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ cannot be experienced. And, in a heart that does not experience the great benefits of Christ, the plans and purposes of God cannot flow.
8 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you[a]free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh,[b] God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.[c] And so he condemned sin in the flesh,4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Let’s be reconciled to God, to ourselves and to others.