Leaning Into Leviticus 2

Leaning Into Leviticus 2

Leaning Into Leviticus 2 150 150 Andrew Hicks

If ever we are to learn to love the Book of Leviticus, we must learn how to read Leviticus. Nothing is a bigger hinderance to that happening than the opening chapters. The first 7 chapters are all about various sacrifices to be offered. We start out with excitement in the first verse and a half: The LORD summoned Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying: Speak to the people and Israel and say to them… (Leviticus 1:1-2a NRSV). What great and glorious thing will be said by the creator of the universe to His servant Moses for His people Israel? Is it something grand? Glorious? Exciting?

Nope: When any of you bring an offering of livestock to the LORD, you shall bring your offering from the herd or from the flock (Leviticus 1:2b NRSV).

From there it doesn’t get much better. Again, 7 straight chapters of instructions on sacrifices. No stories, poems, or songs interrupting the flow of detailed instructions for how to prepare, burn, and offer a myriad of animals and substances. There is hope though. Dare I even say, there is good news.

The first three offerings described in the first three chapters captured my eye as I read the text. These first three offerings – burnt offering, grain offering, and well-being offering – are all voluntary.Yup. That’s right! The people wanted to offer sacrifices. These are the instructions for those who thought the fun didn’t have to stop at the tabernacle with the required offerings. Notice that attitude: it is not about the bare minimum of requirement, but the full expression of desire. I like to call these first 3 offerings the “required, but not desired” offerings.

We’ve got to be careful that we don’t read our assumptions into the text instead of letting the text speak on its own. The people apparently didn’t find the rituals of sacrifice burdensome and wearisome. To the contrary, they enjoyed it. It made sense to them in their culture and excited them like our own worship practices do for many of us today. Modern churches may have worship leaders saying, “let’s sing that chorus one more time.” But in ancient Israel they had people saying, “let’s sacrifice something one more time!”

It is also worth noting that these three sacrifices were all sweet to smell. The 2 sacrifices described in chapters 4 & 5 are NOT sweet smelling (and you can imagine why if you read about them!). These sweet smelling sacrifices are surely an olfactory parable of what they represent. They represent a celebration, confirmation and continuation of a stable and beautiful relationship with Yahweh.

Think of how revolutionary that might be for an ancient Israelite. They did not have to wonder if they were in good standing with God. They did not have to worry that at any moment a disaster might erupt because they unknowingly did something to offend the sovereign deity. Rather, they give sacrifices voluntarily from the fullness of love in their hearts. They do not wonder if they are in good standing with Yahweh. Because they know they are in good standing with Yahweh, they wonder at the mystery and glory of this invisible God. They revel and delight in the love they share with such a being.

This brings to mind something the apostle Paul said. It’s a verse I will keep coming back to in this study:

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (Romans 12:1-2 MSG)

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Being in a relationship with you is an enjoyable thing, oh Yahweh. I will go to the required things even when I don’t feel like going. But when I do feel it, I will do even more than what is required to express how much my feeble heart loves you. Thank you for those moments of life and seasons of heart where what is required feels like too little. Please accept my imperfect attempt at relationship with you as a voluntary sacrifice. Amen. 

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