“He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering. And it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.”
Thus begins a book that is oftentimes skipped over in the Bible, that’s not read very often or even maybe taken very seriously, the book of Leviticus, because we see a variety of things in this book that don’t seem to make sense to us or don’t seem to apply to our lives. And, granted, there are a variety of things that don’t apply directly. And these are commands and instructions given for offerings in a old testament, old covenant, sacrificial system that don’t apply in the same way in the new testament. And we see in the new testament that Jesus has come to offer the full and final sacrifice for our sins in a way that makes many of these offerings obsolete.
Leviticus points us to the need for atonement. In Christ, our sins have been atoned for, and we are welcomed into His presence.
At the same time, that doesn’t mean that this book doesn’t have anything to apply to our lives. There is so much in this book that is so helpful for us to understand who God is, who we are, what it means to follow Him, even right here in the very beginning. What I just read from Leviticus chapter one, verse four is huge for understanding what we’re about to do when we pray in just a moment. The whole picture here from the very beginning of Leviticus is God, at the end of Exodus, dwells in His glory, among His people, in a tabernacle. Basically, a picture of his presence, dwelling with the Israelites. The reality is, though, the Israelites were sinful people. So how could a holy God dwell in the midst of sinful people? That question leads to the whole book of Leviticus and a need for a sacrificial system, offerings that would be given to make atonement for sin. And that word “atonement” literally means to be made at one with something, or reconciled to someone, which was only possible through a covering for offense between two people. That’s the picture we have here in Leviticus. We have sinners who have offended a holy God in their midst. So there must be some sort of covering for sin to make it possible for those people to be one with God, reconciled to God. And really, that is the story of the whole Bible.
And it’s the story of every one of our lives. You and I are sinners. We have rebelled against a holy God. How is it possible for us to be in His presence? How is it possible for us to walk with God, to experience the blessings of a holy God? That’s only possible if atonement is made, if covering for sin is provided, if reconciliation to God is made possible.
There’s a whole sacrificial system that we read about in Leviticus that makes that possible. But all of it points forward to the ultimate sacrifice, and the reality that Jesus has atoned for our sins, that Jesus, in dying on the cross, has covered over our sins with His blood. He has made it possible for you and I to be reconciled to God. Jesus, unlike any other religious leader in the history of the world, old testament, other religions, He has atoned for sin. He has lived a perfect life. He has died a sacrificial death for sinners. He has risen from the grave in victory over sin and death.Leviticus shouts from the very beginning, “A sacrifice is needed for atonement.” And the rest of the Bible makes clear, a sacrifice has been offered, ultimately, in Jesus. Leviticus, from the very beginning, just causes us to praise God.
Thank you, oh God, for making it possible for us to be with You. Even the fact that we are praying right now is only possible because of the atonement that has been made by Christ’s blood on the cross for our sins. Lord Jesus, we praise You. We praise You for Your sacrifice for us. We praise You for making atonement possible for us, for making this communion that we have right now with You, oh God, possible through Your blood that covers over our sin. And we pray that as we walk through Leviticus and pray these words back to You, that You would help us to grasp in greater ways the wonder of the atonement You have made possible for us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
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