I have been reading the book of Leviticus in my daily devotions. Leviticus is not a book I have studied in depth. I have read it on a number of occasions, but it is not a book I readily go back to for devotional study. Reading it has been a challenge. It makes me very grateful for the grace of God.
Leviticus is a book of laws, given to Moses, by God. It was intended to set the people of Israel apart from all the other nations; to make them holy to God. I understand the big picture, the overarching purpose of these laws. But, as I consider the specifics, they make me just a little uncomfortable. Many of the laws seem arbitrary, and the penalty for violating them seems harsh. I am particularly puzzled by the laws regarding what is clean and what is unclean.
I think there are at least three reasons why God gave these laws to the people of Israel. First, and foremost, God gave these laws to demonstrate the seriousness of sin. Sin comes at a cost, and that cost is very high. Second, God gave these laws to make the people of Israel distinct from all the other nations of the world. It is these very laws that have allowed the Jews to remain a unique people in the world. Third, God gave these laws to test Israel’s commitment to God. God entered into a covenant relationship with the people of Israel. That covenant promised certain blessings, but it also made certain demands. God’s blessings were dependent upon Israel’s obedience to God’s laws.
When Jesus came, He fulfilled all of the requirements of the Law on our behalf. Through faith in Him, we have been released from the burden of the Law. We have passed from Law to grace. This does not mean that we can disregard God’s commands. Instead, we can live in obedience to God’s commands without the fear of punishment. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2)
Paul helps us understand that the Law was put in place to show us our sin and our need for a Savior. The Law could never save us, it could only condemn us. Jesus came to fulfill the Law for us, so that we could be set free from sin. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:3-4
Now, through faith in Christ, we live under grace; God’s unmerited favor. God has credited to us the righteousness of Christ. We have been redeemed and have been included in God’s forever family. So, now that we live under grace, how should we live? Should we totally disregard God’s standards and live life for ourselves? Paul says GOD FORBID!!!!!
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. Romans 6:1-4
God gave the people of Israel the Law to show them their sin and their need for a Savior. He gave them a means, by which they could atone for their sins on a temporary basis. When Jesus, came he took away the need for these temporary solutions. He brought a permanent solution to our sin problem, by his death on the cross and His resurrection.
But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished-- he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Romans 3:21-26
We are the recipients of God’s grace. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9) In light of God’s amazing grace, we should then live lives that reflect the new life He has placed within us.
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to one hope when you were called-- one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:1-6
If I am not careful, I can full back into the trap of being a legalist; of seeing this spiritual journey as a set of rules to which we must conform. Thank God for the Book of Leviticus. As I read it, I am reminded that the path of legalism is a losing effort. No amount of legalistic fervor can make me acceptable before a holy God. I praise God that I live under grace. I have been made spiritually whole and holy through Jesus Christ. I am now free to spend my life discovering the implications of the amazing truth.