The third book in the Bible deals with the holiness of God. In my Bible there is a footnote that I found quite interesting. In this book alone, the term "holiness" is mentioned 152 times, significantly more than in any other book of the Bible. In a word cloud of Leviticus, "holiness" would likely be one of the largest words visible. Interesting. And rather humbling. I could not be less worthy of reading a book from God's Word specifically written about holiness. Yet, here we are. This is grace.
The book is divided into two main sections: the people's worship of a holy God through sacrifices and celebration, and directions for living a holy life. Leviticus shows His very specific instructions for the priests (from the tribe of Levi), as well as guidelines for the nation of Israel. The type of sacrifices and manner in which they were to be presented, the feasts and times of worship for the people to set apart from their normal routine, and precepts for the preservation of the health of people in the community are listed in painstaking detail. The people knew without question what the Lord expected of them and their society as a whole. I like that. There is safety in clearly-communicated expectations. And there is the gracious provision of atonement through burnt, grain, wave, etc. offerings when those clearly-communicated expectations are broken.
In the first several chapters, the people are presented with directions for preparing their offerings and sacrifices to the Lord. When worshiping the one true holy God, the people had to provide a sacrifice on behalf of their breaking of the law of that time. He permitted them to lay their hands on the animal and transfer their sin to the animal in order for them to retain favor with God. There are explicit admonishments against idol worship, especially offering human sacrifices to such idols; they were strictly forbidden.
Near the middle of this book, Aaron and his sons are set aside and consecrated as the priests of Israel. There is a very fancy ceremony, with oil and anointing and all that jazz. As I read about all the specific things that Aaron and his sons had to do in order to prepare the altar for offerings, I noted that it must have taken them HOURS to prepare. Their whole life was wrapped up in preparing the altar.
In chapter 11, the Lord gives the people boundaries for the consumption of animals as food. I found this extremely interesting, because the hubs and I have done a lot of research lately about the most healthful and wholesome foods, and much of what we have discovered was right here all along in Leviticus.
Check this out:
-11:3-DO eat animals whose hooves are completely divided and chews cud (this has to do with the type of digestive system the animal has-the whole chewing the cud deal is really the animal's filtration system-examples: buffalo, cow, goat, sheep/lamb, moose, deer, giraffe)
-11:4-DO NOT eat of animals whose hooves are divided and/or does not chew cud (camel, pig, rabbit, shaphan/hyrax, etc.)
-11:9-DO eat anything in the water that has fins and scales (fish)
-11:12-DO NOT eat anything in the water without fins and scales (again, these are the animals on the lowest levels of life in the sea and have very poor filtration systems; examples: shrimp, lobster, catfish, crabs, oysters)
-11:13-19-DO NOT eat these birds: eagle, vulture, buzzard, kite/raptor, falcon, raven, ostrich, owl, hawk, sea gull, pelican, stork, heron, bat, hoopoe (OK, so that means we get a pass on chicken)
-11:20-DO eat these insects: locust, cricket, grasshopper (all other are "detestable")
-11:27-DO NOT eat an animal that walks on its paws (cat, dog, etc.)
-11:29-30-DO NOT eat things that swarm on the earth (mouse, mole, snake, gecko, crocodile, chameleon, "great lizard"-dinosaur? Komodo dragon? etc.)
It's definitely very thought-provoking.
Continuing on, there are guidelines for cleanliness as related to childbirth, leprosy and other diseases, and the cleansing of germies. All of this was for the protection of the people.
Many times I noticed (and underlined) that all throughout Leviticus, as soon as the Lord issued a guideline for a certain category, He always included provisions for the poor...for them to offer what they can afford, for their sacrifice to be acceptable, etc. This is a noteworthy observation because it indicates yet again God's heart for the impoverished. It challenges me not to overlook the poor and ways to help them.
In chapter 18, I chuckled a bit because there are several verses that deal with not viewing so-and-so in his or her nakedness. Seems like one blanket verse could have worked, but I suppose there is a reason for the specificity. But seriously. Apparently they must have been having a lot of trouble with nakedness and peepers, and that sort of just makes me laugh when I imagine it!
Leviticus is wrapped up with the instructions for parties, celebrations, and festivals to be conducted as part of rest and worship. The Year of Jubilee was particularly interesting as they were supposed to celebrate in the 50th year with total amnesty from debt, servitude, and returning all land to its original owners. I had not heard or read of the Year of Jubilee before (other than that "Days of Elijah" song from 10 years ago) and was intrigued by it. I haven't discovered much more about it, but it's nice to think about. That would be quite a party, wouldn't it? It's on my list of things to ask Him about.
I'm glad that the same God who very specifically lays out the details of living a life of holiness and offering sacrifices is also a God who likes to plan parties.