Monday, September 3, 2012

LII - Leviticus

We've read and studied Genesis and Exodus.  Much going on in those books.  Both enlightening and interesting to study.  Those books were the first two of the five books of the Bible referred to as the Pentateuch "Books of Law".  Now we're going to read and study the last three books of the Pentateuch:  Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

Geographically, Genesis started in the Garden of Eden and ended in Egypt.  Exodus begins in Egypt and ends at Mount Sinai on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, which is where Leviticus begins.  Throughout these next three books, the Israelites will wonder through the wilderness and by the end of Deuteronomy, they will be encamped on the plains of Moab, ready to cross the Jordan River to possess the Promised Land, under the capable leadership of Joshua.

Throughout the entire Pentateuch, Moses makes a huge impact on the development of the nation Israel.  The very origins of the nation may be traced back to Moses's influence.  Israel's worship, laws, government, and thought were marked by his contributions and stellar leadership.  Few men could claim such influence on a nation or the world as Moses.

I want to be careful not to misrepresent myself with this next comment because I would never be found disrespecting the Scriptures.  As interesting as our reading has been to date, this next section is much less exciting, but nonetheless necessary reading for a complete understanding of God's Word.  As the Scripture says, "Don't be weary in well doing".  I plan to cover much broader brush strokes in the next few postings, so I encourage you to try to stay ahead in your reading.  For instance, this post will cover the first ten chapters of Leviticus. 

      Human Author:  Moses
      Place:                 Sinai and Canaan
      Main Subject      Law and Sacrifice

Leviticus Chapters 1-10

In Leviticus Moses sought to convey God's laws to Israel.  In the beginning parts of Leviticus there will be specified five altar offerings, whereby the people could approach God in worship.  These offerings as explained below are only required situationally.  But the Day of Atonement would be observed as a holy ceremony annually, regardless of circumstances.
The Five Altar Offerings (1:1 - 7:38)

1)   The Burnt Offering.  The burnt offering (1:1-17) is the first of the five altar offerings to be specified.  Its positon as first indicates its importance.  It was an offering made to God for atonement of sins of all kinds, because they were, as we are, all sinners and in need of atonement.  This burnt offering was to be consumed totally in fire.  This offering signified the worshiper's personal commitment to God.

2)   The Grain Offering.  This offering primarily consisted of grains, cereals, or bread.  Often it included the firstfruits of the harvest.  This offering signified the loyal service or stewardship of the worshiper.  Even labor in the field was a service to God.

3)  The Fellowship Offerings.  These offerings brought joy and happiness to worship.  The offerings (note the plural) signified both fellowship with God and one's fellow man.  Choice parts of the sacrificed animal were offered to God on His altar.  Some went for the priests' welfare and the rest was eaten by the worshiper himself.

4)  The Sin Offering.  God provided forgiveness for unintentional sins one might commit against his fellow man.  This happens all the time, mostly due to accidents.  In the 4th and 5th chapters it explains that in this offering, there can be as little as a bit of fine flour.  It is mentioned that this requirement is not to punish the poor, especially when it pertains to unintensional sins.
5)  The Guilt Offering.  This offering was specified for incidents when loss or injury was caused.  The offender was to make amends by restoring the loss with an additional 20%.  Such an offence was against both the offender's neighbor and God.  Therefore an offering identical to the sin offering was to be offered to God.  Thus this offering signified the necessity to make restitution.  It reminded Israel and us today that a proper relationship with God includes social obligations.

The Priests' Duties  -  6:8 - 10:20

These verses detail the preparation of the priests and their duties in presiding over all of the offerings coming to the tabernacle.  These priests must become experts because it will take a while for the people to learn all that which is required of them pertaining to offerings.  Note in chapter 8 how Moses cleanses and conscrates the priests in a ceremony to qualifiy them to be the priests in the tabernacle.

In the beginning of chapter 10 it tells of two of Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu, who disrespected their commission by making some of their own rules.  So God killed them with fire.  Moses told Aaron about their deeds and punshment and in verse 3 it says, "Aaron remained silent".  {The slain sons of Aaron just might have sensed their positions to be that of much power, excersizing dominion over many possessions.  This attitude would have been an abomination to God.  These priestly duties are very serious and the level of responsibility is sobering.  There would be no room for selfish greed in these holy appointments.}  This left Aaron and his other two sons, Eleazar and Ithamar as priests.  In verse 8 God told Aaron that he and his sons were not to drink alcoholic beverages while performing their duties, as they needed a clear mind to concentrate on the duties of priest.  Among these duties included discerning spiritually between that which was holy and profane; and between clean and unclean objects.  They were also to teach the Word of God and be alert to the spiritual needs of the citizenry.  {As we will see in the coming books, the Levites were chosen as the priestly tribe, which excused them from most duties in the nation Israel.  But this was in no way an easy life for the Levites.  The demand on their schedules and responsibilities was great.}

We'll pick up at the 11th chapter next post. 

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