Forthright Magazine

Appreciating Leviticus

Although many Bible reading efforts hit a wall upon encountering Leviticus, Exodus can provide a way forward. Exodus enables a quick and deep appreciation for this levitical handbook.

Leviticus provided instruction for the Levitical priesthood regarding what to teach the Israelites as well as how they were to serve Israel (Lev. 10:8-11). At its core it is the message of how a holy God provided a way for him to dwell among his people. If we grasp Leviticus, our gratitude for Christ also increases.

Once we get a grip on Exodus, the need for Leviticus becomes obvious. The story of Exodus can be illustrated by a young man and woman in love. While this is not a perfect analogy, it does facilitate a quick and memorable way for appreciating Leviticus.

Damsel in Distress Rescued

  1. Exodus 5-15 Life for Israel in Egyptian slavery was rough for her. God however came to the rescue freeing her with his powerful might.

Rocky Relationship

    Exodus 16-18 Israel entered the wilderness where life was also hard. She begins to question how far she can trust God. At times she wonders whether life in Egyptian slavery was better. God also sees her shallow devotion.


  1. Exodus 19-23 God pops the question. Israel enthusiastically says, “Yes.” God explains what it would mean for Israel to be his people.


    Exodus 24 After listening to God’s stipulations regarding the relationship and agreeing to them, with a covenant sacrifice Israel becomes God’s holy nation. God desires to dwell among his people.

Preparing God’s Dwelling Place

    Exodus 25-31 God provides instructions for his sanctuary tabernacle so that he might dwell among them.

Adultery Crisis

    Exodus 32-34 Israel worship a golden calf. God threatens to wipe out Israel. In the end God decides to spare Israel. However God says, “Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go up among you, for you are a stiff-necked people, and I might destroy you on the way” (Ex. 33:3). Moses pleads for God to go with them. God agrees. Moses asks God to pardon their sin and take them for his inheritance.

God Moves In With Israel

    Exodus 35-40 The tabernacle is set up. The Holy God dwells among his stiff-necked people.

Exodus closes with tension. How can a Holy God dwell among the people he loves without destroying them? God’s solution is Leviticus!

To switch metaphors, God’s provisions for cleaning up Israel’s little sin factories belching out pollution contaminating his presence and holy dwelling included:

Sacrifice Leviticus 1-7

Priesthood Leviticus 8-10

Purity Leviticus 11-15

A Day of Atonement Leviticus 16

The Holiness Code Leviticus 17-27

Israel was to be holy because God is holy. A huge lesson from Leviticus is that only God can make people holy. While only God can make someone holy, God’s people are to maintain God’s work of holiness in their lives by conforming to his ways. They are to be holy.

The call to be holy was not just for Israel. As Peter wrote to us: “Get your minds ready for action by being fully sober, and set your hope completely on the grace that will be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed. Like obedient children, do not comply with the evil urges you used to follow in your ignorance, but, like the Holy One who called you, become holy yourselves in all of your conduct, for it is written, “You shall be holy, because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:13-16

When we grasp what is required for a holy God to dwell among his people, our gratitude for Christ should drive us to our knees. Christ makes us holy forever and enables us to receive the Spirit (Hebrews 10:14; Acts 5:32).


Barry Newton
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