Sasha and I have been reading through the Bible together. We are going slowly. We read five chapters a week and then share our thoughts with each other. We recently began reading Leviticus.
For those of you not familiar with the Bible, Leviticus is the third book of the Old Testament. The vast majority of the book is made up of rules for various rituals and sacrifices that were supposed to be practiced by Israel. It reads much like a law book, and it is widely considered one of the most boring and irrelevant books of the Bible.
If you are not Jewish, Leviticus appears to be a book of rituals that you are not required to follow (much like how the laws of Canada have little significance to citizens of Mexico). If you are Jewish, then you cannot follow the rules of Leviticus anyway because the temple where these rituals are supposed to take place was destroyed nearly 2000 years ago, and the temple location is currently occupied by a mosque. Either way, this book seems to have little to do with our lives today.
Yet you can learn a lot by reading this book. There are certain aspects of God that we like to overlook or ignore. We pretend that God is who we want Him to be. We pretend that He doesn't see sin as a big deal because we are afraid to be confronted with our own sin. We pretend that worship is about us and is intended to make us feel good.
Leviticus teaches us that God has a very strict view of sin. It teaches us that sin is very costly. It also teaches us that worship is not about us, but about our relationship with Him.
The worship seen in this book demonstrate that rituals and symbolism are a very important aspect of worship. How worship was done has meaning. This book shows us that worship is about our relationship with God, and not just about making us feel good. This book shows us that sin has a cost, but that God is willing to go to great lengths to forgive sin.
This book is also next to impossible to follow completely. The sacrifices and offerings are so overwhelming that I seriously doubt that anyone in ancient Israel managed to follow them all perfectly.
Years ago, I gave my old car to my sister. Along with it I gave her a notebook with instructions as to when to perform specific maintenance tasks. She confessed to me later that she ignored my maintenance schedule because it was impossible to follow it. My little notebook was much simpler than the Old Testament law, yet even it was to difficult to follow.
The overwhelming impossibility of the levitical sacrifices point forward to the one perfect sacrifice that atoned for all our sin. That sacrifice was the perfect lamb of God who died not just for the sins of one man or one nation, but for the whole world.
Jesus is the fulfillment of all the law. He paid the cost of or sin. He allows us to enter into true worship. He restored our relationship with God.
Let us not take our forgiveness lightly. The cost was great.
Let us not take worship lightly either. Symbolism and rituals have their place in worship. They enrich the worship service. I'm not an artist, but I'm a big believer in the role of art in worship. This is something we tend to overlook. We do not need to get caught up in ritual and symbolism. We are free from the law, and not required to follow regulations for worship. Yet we should not ignore their value either. To do so would be like a man who graduates from a university and never reads a book again because he does not have to. He could chose to stop reading, but he would be missing out on something.
Finally, let us be thankful. Because of Jesus' death and resurrection, we are forgiven and the law has been fulfilled. We can now worship as we were meant to, in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24). Leviticus has been fulfilled. It is finished. This is why we can worship God. This is why we desire to worship God.