We've been studying the Book of Leviticus. I'm going to share a few thoughts before we pass out the elements. Special night. Tonight, I have asked the couples to pass the elements out to your husband and wife. I will be sharing with the congregation tonight, but why don't we pray before we get started.
Father, we really do have so much to celebrate tonight and the world has got its own celebration and we're just so glad that our kids can have a safe environment with other kids in the games that they're playing, the toys and the candy that they receive but, Lord, in a way that honors you and protects them. Father, we thank you for the Body of Christ coming together and the love of Christ that binds us together. We're so thankful, Lord, as we have been reading and studying, contemplating the truth of scripture that we see the interface of the Old Testament with the New Testament, the preparation, the planning, the anticipation, for the New Covenant, even way back in the old. Lord, as we push our thoughts further in history, further in the future than the Book of Leviticus itself all they way to the Cross, mindful of the Words of our Savior who told us to take these elements often in remembrance of him. The special remembrance we have is the mercy you've extended to us individually. We purposely set our thoughts just now on that day or that evening that we made a commitment to Christ, that you changed our lives that you brought us to a place repentance and trust in you. So, Lord, in this hallowed atmosphere, a hallowed celebration, we thank you, Lord, that we are the recipients, the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ. In His name we pray. Amen.
A few years ago, on a trip that I had taken with some of you to Israel, we had the opportunity to climb Mount Sinai, and I always wanted to do that. I remember it was a long arduous climb, and I remember how much I was looking forward to it having never done it. As I was climbing I was reminded or made mindful of the story about a husband and wife. He was always wanting to go to the Holy Land and he said, "Wouldn't it be great? We should save the money and go to the land of the Bible, and would it be awesome to climb Mount Sinai and recite the Ten Commandments?" And his wife said to him, "It would be great, honey, but it'd be a lot cheaper if we just stay home and obey them."
But standing there, would some of you looking out over that valley and imagining the Children of Israel camped around the Tabernacle and Moses who had climbed up there, receiving the Law of God coming back down to greet the people, to enter into a covenant with them and with the living God? There was a lot to take in.
When Moses went to Mount Sinai, and the Children of Israel camped around there, they stayed at the foot of Mount Sinai for one whole year. Moses went up, came down, went up, came down, but they stayed at the foot of Mount Sinai for one entire year. In that one year, they've received two things. They've received the Law of God and they've received a set of blueprints for the Tabernacle, a place of worship. So God was saying, "Here's my Word, walk in it; and here is my Sanctuary, worship in it."
The Book of Leviticus opens and closes on the same spot. They had been moving, they camped. The Book of Leviticus takes place and then in the Book of Numbers they start moving again. But here, they're stationary for an entire year. Now, I will admit and some of you know and you've even made mention to me that the Book of Leviticus is not the easiest book to read, not the easiest book to have quiet time over. It's not your typical relaxing bedtime reading material.
In fact, some of you have said, "I've tried to read it at bedtime. It's a sure a way for me to fall a sleep." But you have to understand it was never designed for you to get that excited about, principally. I want to catch myself there because some of you are going, "I can't believe you've just said that." But it really wasn't intended for you to have enjoyable bedtime reading literature. It really wasn't that or meant to be that exciting to us and I'll explain why as I bring this little devotional to a close, but it was awfully exciting for the once who would received it, that would be the Levites, the priest who would know what to do, when to do it and how to do it, how to do their job. It's a book that pertains to the Levites.
Something else that we've made mentioned of on our first study of this book and I want to bring it up to you because it's hard for most people to believe. In ancient times, the Jewish people began their studies in the Book of Leviticus, their study of the Bible. When they would teach children, they would begin first with the Book of Leviticus. You say, "Why on Earth would they start with book? Of all of the five books of Moses that would be like the last one you'd pick?" Well, that's not how the Rabbis felt about it. The ancient Rabbis wrote about it in the Midrash, a commentary in Judaism that said, "Children are pure, and the sacrifices of God are pure and those who are pure should occupy themselves with pure things." So they would teach the children early on that the way to God, the approach to God is through sacrifice. Although some of us have in our reading not consider this to be all that exciting, we have to catch ourselves and have to remind ourselves in portions of a Bible like this of what Paul said to Timothy when he said, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is prophetable for doctrine, for a prof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the Man of God may be complete thoroughly equipped for good works."
One of the books that falls in the category of all scripture is the Third Book of the Old Testament, the Book of Leviticus. Paul even amplified that thought. When he wrote to the Romans and said, "Whatever things were written in the old times, or beforehand, were written for our learning, our edification, that we, through the patience and the comfort of the scriptures might have hope." Did you know, for example, that some of the loftiest passages in the Bible are found in the Book of Leviticus? Not many of them, but listen to this one. Leviticus 19:18, "You shall bear a grudge against any of the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself." That's from Leviticus. You said, "No, that's what Jesus said." You're right, he said it, but he was quoting the Book of Leviticus. So there are some pretty powerful texts that are in this book.
The theme of the book, as I've mentioned is, how to approach God, the way to God through sacrifice. Some people have a problem with sacrifice. We are celebrating the Sacrifice of Christ tonight in the elements of the bread and the juice, the fruit of divine and the broken bread, the elements of the Passover meal. Jesus said we had to do this often in remembrance of Him, for we were to look back to the sacrifice. In the Book of Leviticus, we're looking further back from the vantage point of the cross all the way back to when the cross was even suggested and anticipated by the Old Testament sacrifices.
Now, a lot of people have a problem with a religion of sacrifice. They say "a bloody religion." "You Christians are always talking about the need for Jesus to die on the cross, I don't get it," they say. "I don't understand it," they'll opine. "Why do you say Jesus had to die? Why does anybody have to die? I just think if a person is good enough and tries hard enough and is sincere enough and does his best that they'll make it into God's presence." Well, that's the whole point; you're best isn't good enough
By God's standard of holiness and righteousness and one of the subthemes of this book is God's righteous holy standard, would say that your goodness on your own isn't good enough. And it's the peak of arrogance for someone to say, "I should be able to get to heaven by my sincerity and by my good works," because in effect you're saying, "You can be as good as God." So the need of sacrifice, even before the Book of Leviticus, it was plainly seen. For you remember in the Book of Genesis, God made the very first animal sacrifice when he killed animals to provide a covering from sin for Adam and Eve who had fallen into sin. He made the first sacrifice. He then instructed the Levites how -- for the people – how they should bring those sacrifices. And then if we go all the way to the New Covenant, it was God who made the last sacrifice by sending His Son to die in the cross and cover us with his blood.
I've mentioned that holiness is one of the sub themes of the Book of Leviticus. You might put it this way, "Holiness is what leads to happiness. You want a fulfilled life, you want a vibrant life. Jesus said, "I've come that they might have life and have it to the full," or more abundantly, or I might even say to the max. "I've come that you might have life and have it to the max, vibrant, full." What is that path? It's the path of holiness, the word "holy" means to be different, set apart. I like to describe being holy, H-O-L-Y as being wholly, W-H-O-L-L-Y. You're being complete. It fills you up when you follow God's path and God's pattern, you become whole, a whole person, complete -- holy/wholly.
I wonder if we see ourselves as being different. The more different you are from the world in a good way, the more the world would take notice of that, and they'll say, "There is something different about you." You don't want them to say, "There is something really weird about you." But something that is different about you that causes them to want what you have. You're attracting them. You're making them thirsty by living a salty life. I found a great little quote by Peggy Noonan who is the former Ronald Reagan speech writer. Listen to this. I love this. "It's odd," writes Peggy Noonan, "that some Christian see themselves as the media does, as blond guys in gray suits with buzz cuts. They ought to see themselves as a young Marlon Brando on a Harley. For they, Christians, they are the true antiestablishment, they the true rebels and with a cost." I like that. I'm a rebel with a cost; a good cost, rebelling against the value standards of this world living by a different values system, a different set of standards, following the Kingdom of God, not the kingdoms of this world. That's the idea being holy and that's one of themes in this book.
Now, there is something else we've noticed and we've covered already nine chapters of the book. We invite those of you who don't make Wednesday as a regular event to make it a regular event. We've seen that blood is prominent in this book. It is mentioned 88 times in the Book of Leviticus alone. It's on every page "blood." Why? Well, number one: Blood shows us the awfulness of sin. If you want to find out what sin can do, look at that animal, sin makes a bloody mess of things and awfulness. If you look at a bloody animal that you've laid your hands on, that's what your sin does, it destroys life. It points to the awful nature of sin, but is also points to the gracious nature of God. Because -- and I'm just going to read a couple of verses we've noted. This is now Leviticus 4:20, "And he, the priest, shall do with the bull as he did with the sin offering, he shall do with it. The priest shall make atonement for them," and listen, "it shall be forgiven them."
A few verses on, "He will take and burn all of the fat on the altar so the priest will make atonement for him concerning his sin and it shall be forgiven him." That's a repeated phrase in that section. Over in to chapter 6 verse 7, "The priest shall make atonement for him before the Lord, and he shall be forgiven for anyone of these things that he may have done in which he trespasses." Everyone brought a sacrifice of some kind during their life, but it was the business of the priest to offer the sacrifices. So this is what we've learned so far. In the first seven Chapters of Leviticus, we learned that we need a sacrifice. In chapters eight, nine and ten, we learned we need a priest. We need a sacrifice, we need a priest. We need a sacrifice, we need a priest.
There are five sacrifices that form the center of the worship for the Children of Israel during this time. The first was the Burnt Offering, then the Grain Offering, the third was the Peace Offering, the fourth was the Sin Offering and the fifth was the Trespass Offering. Some of you may remember what they mean. The first one, the Burnt Offering is where the animal is totally and completely consumed and it speaks of consecration of my self completely to God. Romans 12:1, "Present your body unto God as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable which is your reasonable service." So the Burnt Offering speaks of the consecration of myself to God.
The second offering, the Grain Offering speaks of the dedication of my service to God. I would bring flower or I would bake cakes, in a number of different ways. The idea is that I'm dedicating my works. I'm working something up for God. So the consecration of myself, the dedication of my service. The third offering was my particular favorite one, it's the Peace Offering, and that speaks of the celebration of my salvation. It really was a holy barbeque, as I was coming on campus tonight and I was smelling what Ian and the gang we're cooking up out in the courtyard I thought, "That's what the Tabernacle smell like." Now, you know what a sweet smelling savor or sweet aroma would be. Man, it's so sweet to that meat cooking grill it's like "oh yeah." But this one in particular, the Peace Offering meant that a portion of it was the priest, a portion of it was burned and a portion of it, I would take home for my family and friends and we'd have a party to celebrate God's goodness.
So, offering one, two and three: Consecration of myself, dedication of my service, celebration of my salvation. The last two are different. The first three were voluntary, discretionary. You could do them if you wanted to do them. That's why it's called a "sweet aroma" to the Lord. God loved it because you did it out of your own free will. They weren't obligatory. They were not compulsory. But the last two offerings were compulsory. You had to bring them. That was the Sin Offering and the Trespass Offering. What do they speak of? Well, the Sin Offering speaks of the propitiation of my sin. It's atone for, it's taken away. And the fifth, the Trespass Offering speaks of the restitution of the sinner. There had to be some payback. I had to payback for something I had done or kept back or stolen or light about, I would make restitution to the person that I had sin against.
So consecration of myself, dedication of my service, celebration of my salvation, propitiation for my sin, and restitution for the sinner. That's what the sacrifice speak about, "I need a sacrifice." All of those sacrifices look forward to the ultimate sacrifices as we've already said "Christ." Chapters eight, nine and ten -- and I wanted to cover them all last week, we only made it through eight and nine -- speak about the facts that I need a priest, and the priesthood is represented.
Now, whenever you read in the Old Testament priest, substitute the word "priest" with the word "mediator," because that's what a priest was, a representative of the people before God. That was a priest. Later on, another role will come into Israel, the role of the prophet and that is where the prophet represents God before the people. But the priest represented the people before God. He was the go-between. He was the mediator between the People of Israel and the God of Israel, and this was their book. So when these young priests were learning what to do and somebody would bring a sacrifice, it's hard to remember all these laws and regulations. I believe I had to go, "Quick, grab that book and find out how do we do a Grain Offering?" What's the recipe for the Peace Offering again? It would all be written in the book. So when they wanted to find out how to do it, they would consult the Book of Leviticus.
That's how you and I live. When you want to find out how to live, you consult the book. When you want to find out how do you conduct your self in the business environment, in the workplace, you consult the book. Plenty of principles for that. You wonder about selecting a mate that will please the Lord and be better for you in the long run, you consult the book. There are principles for that in it. So just like they would go to the book, to the law, to the source, to the revelation; we go to the book, to the source, to the revelation and we find out what God says for us and how to live. So I need a sacrifice, I need a priest. Both of those needs are fulfilled in Christ. He is both the sacrifice on the cross and the high priest who offered himself up and presented his blood before the throne of His Father and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
When we come to the New Testament, the priesthood is fulfilled in two ways actually: The first generally, and the second specifically. Generally, we fulfilled the priesthood. That's what Peter said. He said, "You are a chosen generation. You are a royal priesthood. You are a holy nation. You can come boldly before the throne of God because are part of what we called the "Priesthood of all Believers". You don't need to go between on the Earth anymore." A human priest. "Yu can come boldly, and not only that, as a priest, you can represent someone before God. You could represent me before God. I could tell you a need that I have. You could go home tonight and you could spend a portion of your evening praying for me." And whenever you pray for somebody in the Body of Christ, whenever you spend time laboring in prayer, you are assuming the role of a priest as you bear those people. The People of God on your heart before the Lord. So you and I fulfill generally the priesthood in the New Covenant.
But more specifically Jesus Christ fulfills the role of the Great High Priest. Now, we've told you before I want to underscore it. You can't understand Leviticus or your can't understand the Book of Hebrews unless you understand the Book of Leviticus. If you try to read through Hebrews without having a grasp of what the sacrifices are like and what the priest do and why, you won't get it. If you understand Leviticus, you'll get Hebrews. G. Campbell Morgan, a great commentator, one that I've read for years and years now long been in heaven since the early mid 1900s, he used to say, "We always study Hebrews and Leviticus together. We can never separate them from our Bible study."
So I'm going to close this devotion with reading a little section out of the Book of Hebrews that shows the fulfillment on what we have been studying and then we'll take the Lord's Supper. In Hebrews 10:1, the writer says, "For the law having a shadow of the good things to come and not the very image of the things can never with these same sacrifices which they offered continually year-by-year make those who approach perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year."
The writer of Hebrews tells us that the Law of Leviticus was designed by God to have a shelf life. It was designed to be temporary. It was designed to become obsolete. It's sort of like your new phone, or your iPad, or your computer. "Oh, it's so cool," today. Wait a month. The company always planned that that gadget to your so stoked about will be outdated within a few months time and they've already anticipate what the next several models are going to be. It's already on their drawing board. It's already in the works. It's planned to be obsolete so that you'll hunger for the next gadget. It's all part of their scheme and it works incredibly well.
So we read Leviticus and it looses its punch for us. The reason it looses its punch, it was intended to loose its punch once Jesus came and fulfilled it all. That's the point that the writer of Hebrews is making. He continues, "It's not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins. Therefore, when he came into the world He said, "Sacrifice an offering you do not desire, but a body you have prepared for me. In burnt offerings, in sacrifices for sins you had no pleasure." Then I said, "Behold, I have come and the volume of the book, it is written of me to do your will, oh God." Previously saying, "Sacrifice an offering, burnt offering and offering is for sin you did not desire nor had pleasure in them which are offered according to the law." Then He said, "Behold, I have come to do your will, oh God." He takes away the first. That is the First Covenant, that he might establish the second that is the final New Covenant.
But that will, we have been sanctified through the offering of the Body of Jesus Christ once for all, and every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices which can never take away sins. But this man, Jesus, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever sat down at the right hand of God. Do you know how significant that was? Priest never sat down. They always stood administering. They put on their holy pajamas and their holy ephod, and their breastplate, and their crown and they went to work and they didn't hangout. They were always on their feet standing to minister. The only time you would sit down is when you were off duty as a priest and you were in your own tent. That's when you'd sit down, when you're done, when it's finished. Then they get up the next thing, go back and do the same thing day-by-day, week-after-week, month-after-month, year-after-year until Jesus came.
Jesus came as the ultimate high priest and he offered and says, "Once for all." I remember when I first read this, being raced in a religious system that believed in the continual sacrifice of Jesus Christ that when the priest offered the host on the altar and we had the gathering called the mass and you had to have a continual sacrifice day-by-day somewhere around the world. And then I read this, Hebrews, that that's Old Testament, that's Old Covenant, that's obsolete. The new mediator, the new high priest, Jesus did it once for all, and then He sat down, sat down because there is no more sacrifice to offer. It's done. It's finished. When He said it's finished, He meant all of Leviticus. It's done. It's over.
So Leviticus looses its punch because Jesus fulfilled it. When I say looses its punch I don't mean in the application of certain principles, but in the operation of certain practices. We don't bring animal sacrifices. What we celebrate tonight is that our high priest offering for us was so complete that he could sit down at the right hand of his Father. It's done. So we don't look forward hoping to do better tomorrow or next week so that God will receive us, but looking back to the cross saying, once and for all it's done, it's finished. Jesus sat down and rested, I guess I can too. I can rest in his finished work.
So if you can rest in the finished work tonight we want you to take these elements. If you're not a believer tonight, either let the elements pass you by or as the worship band comes out and we pass out these elements, ask Jesus to be your Lord and Savior and forgive you with your sin. Ask Him in your heart and make that covenant with Him based upon his once for all finished work and then take the elements with us.
So I'm going to pray. I'm going to ask the communion board to come up and worship team to come up as well.
Father, we have a joy and a celebration in our hearts tonight, a very different kind of a celebration, the one that is going out at parties and on the streets around the town tonight. We're celebrating our hero's death. We're in great joy over His bloody sacrifice because that was enough to end the need for any further sacrifices. By taking these elements, we're saying, "It was good enough for him, its good enough for me." And we sit down and we rest in that once for all finished work of our great high priest. In Jesus name. Amen.