Life in Leviticus
Is there any use for Numbers and Leviticus? The question came up last weekend. I’d just mentioned the great value of reading through the entire Bible, front to back, because it takes you through lesser-trod sections.
“You mean even Numbers?” said Mark, like he was testing me.
“Yes, Numbers,” I said. After all, Numbers has that hysterical passage where the donkey sees what the blind **ahem** “clergyman” doesn’t. Then he even speaks to him. Now there’s some comedic irony.
“Okay, but not Leviticus,” Skip said. But he was laughing. We were having fun. I love an informal Bible study with friends.
But, well … yes, Leviticus. Maybe I’m just a stubborn redhead or maybe it’s because I haven’t read it in a while, but I started Leviticus the next morning. Now I’m in chapter four. This morning I read this:
Leviticus (if you’ve never read it, you’re not alone) contains instructions about how to offer sacrifices. For example, if a person realizes he’s committed a sin, even if it was unintentional, he must bring a sacrifice to God. He must bring an animal from his flock or herd, lay his hand on its head, and deliver the death strike himself. Instructions follow about what to do with the blood, how to burn the inner parts on the altar, and how to dispose of the remaining parts that don’t get burned. Leviticus has a whole lot of instructions like this. There’s blood, guts, death, smoke, and fire.
Because sin results in guilt before God, and God says blood is required. Don’t ask me why God requires blood. I can’t answer that. All I can do is go there in my imagination and ponder it. I imagined myself bringing my own animal to die because of my sin. That’s a sobering thought – try it yourself if you never have.
Five years ago, I had to take the family dog to be put down, or to use the vet’s terminology, euthanized. It was emotionally wrenching to stand there and watch while the vet gave him an injection, his eyes rolled back for a few moments before they closed, and he collapsed on the vet’s table. He was gone, and there was no way to bring him back. For days I felt the weight of responsibility for the death of an animal even though I believed it was the right thing to do (and still do).
But this would be different. This would be the death of an animal because of my own guilt.
I’ve suffered a few setbacks recently, some that bring me to tears and leave me on the floor wondering what under the sun God is doing and why I feel like I’m groping in the dark so much of the time.
Like a light piercing this fog, Leviticus reminds me of the gravity of my own personal sin. The reminder, even when viewed through the lens of the New Testament, doesn’t exactly answer the questions I ask, but it diffuses the torment of being in a bewildering place with unanswered questions. The biggest problem in my life has already been completely solved for me, blood, guts, and all. Therefore I can take on another day.
And the reminder came from Leviticus. Yes, my friends, Leviticus.