Now the LORD called to Moses, and spoke to him from the tabernacle of meeting, saying, "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'When any one of you brings an offering to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of the livestock—of the herd and of the flock. If his offering is a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish; he shall offer it of his own free will at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the LORD. Then he shall put his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him. He shall kill the bull before the LORD; and the priests, Aaron's sons, shall bring the blood and sprinkle the blood all around on the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of meeting. And he shall skin the burnt offering and cut it into its pieces. The sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire on the altar, and lay the wood in order on the fire. Then the priests, Aaron's sons, shall lay the parts, the head, and the fat in order on the wood that is on the fire upon the altar; but he shall wash its entrails and its legs with water. And the priest shall burn all on the altar as a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the LORD.'" (Leviticus 1:1-9, NKJV)
Nearly everyone has been through or knows about a small town where the speed limit is enforced precisely and the fines are high. Usually you have to slow down to thirty-five (or even twenty-five) and if you go even one mile an hour over the limit, you can rest assured that the local police are waiting with their radar gun to clock your error and flag you down. Never mind that you wonder how such a small town can afford that much in radar equipment ... you know you will see the flashing lights in your rear-view mirror.
But suppose for a minute that it wasn't a speed limit, but rather an exact speed. If you went over by even a fraction you were stopped and if you went under by any amount at all, you were stopped and ticketed just the same. And to make matters worse, the standard for speed was entirely up to the one doing the checking. What you would have would be an impossible situation ... and one that would likely make you think more than just twice about going through that particular town.
This week, multiple things came into play that caused me to choose the passage above and write on it. It isn't that the exact message of Leviticus 1 is what drove me, but rather the whole book. God has moved His people into the dessert to separate them as a holy nation. He proceeded, through Moses, to lay down His commandments and now begins a series of laws, practices, and ordinances that outline what it means to be an Israelite and commit completely to following Him. What follows after Leviticus 1 is a detailed outline - and perhaps "detailed" is an understatement.
If you've never taken the time to read Leviticus (or if it has been a long time), I suggest you do it. As I listened to those chapters this past week, it was almost as if a cloud was gathering above me. Each sacrifice, each ordinance, each commandment seemed harder to follow than the last one. It was as if somebody was setting up a system that was completely impossible to follow and that anybody who was negligent in even one small point was doomed to spend their life "outside the camp". And then the reading in Leviticus was over and God stepped in and cleared that cloud for me.
What I had experienced regarding the impossibility of the system was exactly the point. God set it all up to, once again, demonstrate who He was and the seemingly ridiculous extent of His holiness. And when I use the term "set up" I mean this ... God knew, right from the start, how He would go about meeting His own standard. His Divine Conspiracy (nod to Dallas Willard) comes to a head in the Messiah. And this morning, as part of the worship team, we sang that exact song - "Jesus Messiah"! What an absolute marvel of emotion and praise as the lyrics flowed. Jesus is the "Rescue for sinners, the Ransom from Heaven." God always intended it to be that way. The whole text of Leviticus with its completely obnoxious set of rules and regulations is an exclamation point on God's redemptive plan and Christ's substitutionary death. I can't live up to the order in Leviticus and God knew it all along!
With a renewed heart and a lightened burden, I continue my steps along the Crooked Path knowing that God's impossible standard is fulfilled and I'm not to concern myself with it any longer. My role is to listen and follow. I am not traveling alone and I never have been. Christ has already walked this path, and He did it perfectly.
- Are you bogged down with the daily sacrifice? Do you feel like the standard is just too high for you to attain?
- If you are still working at it that way, why are you doing that? Do you think somehow, somewhere that you can do something on your own to fulfill all that is expected of you?
- Or have you freed yourself from the burden because you know Christ has already carried it in your place? Have you reached that point where you see the message in Leviticus as the ultimate illustration of how holy God is and how far He is willing to go to provide for you?
NKJV - Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.