Early this year, my home church was called to participate in a Bible reading program called E100. We’ll read an “Essential 100” Bible passages -- Genesis to Revelation -- from January until Easter Sunday. Anyone reading through the Bible may bog down when they reach Leviticus (listed laws). Steve Yates, pulpit minister, where I worship, calls that stall the “Leviticus logjam.”
I’m hearing from many of you who have accepted this column’s challenge to record the Index Card Scriptures and meditate, memorize, and allow God to etch his words into your hearts. Some of you chose electronic methods to keep track by programming them into your iphones and other devices.
Others are using scraps of paper. Yes. I’ve heard from you, too. Actually, the method matters not. By participating in this weekly progress through the Bible, one verse at a time, you allow God to chisel his words into your hearts. This third week in our series, we’ll “tackle” the book of Leviticus.
The Hebrew word “Leviticus” means “and he called.” The Greek word “Leviticus” means “relating to the Levites.” The tribe of Levi, called to be priests for the Israelites, had specific job descriptions: a chorus which sang praises morning and evening, overseeing sacrifices, teaching the laws of God, and administering justice.
The last verse in Leviticus sums up the book: “These are the commands the LORD gave Moses on Mount Sinai for the Israelites” (27:34). The New Testament sheds light on the purpose of the law: “So the law was put in charge [schoolmaster, KJV] to lead us to Christ” (Galatians 3:24). The supervision of that old law would eventually stop, when the Messiah came, offering his holiness in place of our sinfulness. He would become the new rule in faithful people’s hearts.
Basically, Leviticus contains five law sections: the first gives details about the commanded sacrifices. The second part describes the inherited priesthood, that only men from the Levite clan performed priestly duties, serving at the Tabernacle and eventually at the Jerusalem Temple. The third section gives laws of cleanliness, some of which were essentially orders to help their community be healthier, others were ones that taught about the sin debris in hearts. Fourth, God ordained holy days and seasons, and in the fifth part, the Israelites were charged to obey God and keep vows to him.
In the cleanliness section, two types of offenses are detailed: ceremonial uncleanliness and moral transgressions. Legal uncleanliness included such things as touching a leprous person, dead animals, or human bodies. Light offenses could be purged by washing with water, serious offenses by sacrifice. Moral offenses were crimes which injured persons or properties. These deserved punishment. Those laws could be stated laws or written in human hearts. Even without law degrees, moral people still know when crimes deserve punishment.
The Law tutored this nomadic community to know God as the one true God, to realize that holiness belonged to God alone, to show them that sin offends God and has consequences, and it taught them to respect and take care of one another. Our scripture this week reminds us that mean-spirited teasing of the less fortunate remains offensive to God.
One prominent sin in our time is bullying, both in person and in cyberspace by adults and youth. Just this week, two teen girls were arrested because they set up a false Facebook page for a female classmate. Their public nastiness, coarse language, and inferences were done because they thought it would be “a funny joke,” and “nobody liked her.”
Help the children in your family learn to honor God by watching you respect family members, neighbors, even troubling people with whom you disagree. Adults, curb faultfinding and replace it with common courtesy. No name calling. No minor bullying. No major bullying. Those sins still offend God Most High. This week as you walk about your life, remember the people you encounter were created in the image of God. You were too. Live up to his holy name.
Index Card Scripture for Week Three: “Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:14).