Leviticus 3 Devotional
by Pastor Mary Hudson
In terms of OT books being quoted directly in the NT, Leviticus ranks . . . number 6 ahead of proverbs and Jeremiah for instance. And yet to many of us, Leviticus is one of our least favorite books to read. In fact, the name almost sounds like a disease. “I don’t feel well. I think I have Leviticus.” Yet, this book is quoted in the New Testament 13 times. In fact, Jesus referred to Leviticus 19:18, love your neighbor as yourself often in His teaching. This verse is directly quoted 8 times in the N. T. This book would be the reddest in the Old Testament if the O.T. put in red letters every time God spoke. And it is here we learn about holiness and substitutionary sacrifice.
In chapter 3 the fellowship or peace offering is described. The original is peace since we often use peace to translate shalom This offering reminded the worshipper that they had peace with a holy God. They could have fellowship with the Creator of the world, the Holy One of Israel. I wonder if the believers in the coming Messiah during this time thought of God more Biblically than we do. We say God loves you to someone here and they shrug and act like they already knew that. Holiness is not an attribute of God to many. But the OT stresses God’s holiness. For us, we stress his love at the exclusion of his other traits. Love swallows everything else up so we are left God as love and that is all we need to know about God. After we die, many believe in justification by death. Of course I am going to heaven! God loves me. I sin; He forgives. That is his job. Yet God is thrice holy. Yes, He is loving but nowhere does it ever say God is love, love, love. But it does say, God is holy, holy holy (Is 6:3). God is a holy God.
So to be at peace with this holy God was and is a significant blessing. The sacrificial animal proves this peace with God does not come easily. Something had to die (and in my place) for that fellowship to continue. Without sacrifice I would still remain in my sin. But these sacrifices restores to me what I need the most – a relationship based on grace with this holy and righteous God. For many reasons, these truths did not impress many of the Israelites with their weightiness.
This peace offering is a burnt offering and can be a male or female bull, sheep or goat, or a bird depending on what the person could afford. The worshipper was the one that killed and butchered the animal (not the bird), and the priests burn the meat on the fire. Notice the laying on of the hand on the animal before the person killed the animal. There is no explanation, but that action suggests substitution. In fact, the reader almost feels left out since the original audience must have known why these things were done. Little is explained in a theological sense.
Notice also the priests somehow catch the blood from the bull, sheep, or goat. The priest then “throw its blood against the sides of the altar” in 3:8. We should not think there is something magical about blood since Leviticus 17:11 says, “. . . . For the life of the flesh is in the blood” This refers not to the blood itself but to a substitutionary, violent death.
As you read Leviticus, the worshipper who brought an animal to be sacrificed had a very different experience of worship than you or I do Sunday morning at church. We are rather passive. We sit, stand, sing, give, and listen. These people acted like butchers. They came away with blood on their hands and clothes, during the time of sacrifice they smelled a distinct smell of burnt flesh, heard sounds of various animals, handed bloody pieces of warm meat to a priest, and may have been singing or chanting verses from the Psalms or other portions of the Bible. I doubt they were wearing anything like a suit that people used to wear to church. It must have been quite a site: rivers of blood, piles of wood, ashes, skins of animals, people waiting in line with various sacrifices, and priests busy working around the altar.
While peace with God may not mean much to some, it ought to be extremely momentous to us. A holy, perfectly just, wise God is at peace with sinners like me. That certainly is not something a human could achieve. Rather, this is a result of a work of grace from God who gave His Son to bear the full weight of God’s wrath in our place. This holy God gave full vent to His wrath against sin and poured that just anger on His Son so we can be forgiven.
Father, as these OT saints were sometimes blinded to spiritual things, wake me up to understand the depths of mercy and grace found in the death of our Lord Jesus. Help me never to yawn or get bored with Your grace. How can I ever hope to be at peace with You – a holy, just, perfect God? My only hope is “that I am not my own, but belong body and soul, in life and in death to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.
He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.
He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.
Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.” (Heidelberg Catechism Answer #1) In Christ’s holy name, Amen.