Leviticus 11:5 - Leviticus 14:39
Are you wondering about the importance of Leviticus right now?
I worry that this week might feel overwhelming as we study worship in a way we don't completely understand. Again my thoughts are spinning, this time with sacrifice and how it applies to consecration. My weekend has been filled with learning and I have discovered three hints that might help us understand the book of Leviticus a little better.
The first hint is to watch for symbolism...
Last night we were reading as a family. It is hard to explain the significance of animal sacrifice to your kids.
Trying to come up with a quick object lesson, I took off my wedding ring and held it up.
"What is this a symbol of?" I asked.
"Your marriage," they replied.
"Ok, good. What else is it a symbol of?"
"A covenant," Josh replied.
"Perfect," I answered. "A covenant with who?"
"You, Dad, and Heavenly Father," he replied.
"OK, now, what do you think the animal sacrifices in the book of Leviticus were a symbol of?" I questioned.
I watched their faces busy contemplating until finally understanding dawned.
We spoke of the Savior. We spoke of the Sacrament.
I had an 'ah ha' moment when I resumed reading after that conversation. I read the verse found in Leviticus 6:11, "and carry forth the ashes without the camp unto a clean place." It reminded me of one of my favorite descriptions of the atonement in Isaiah, "to give unto them beauty for ashes..." (Isaiah 61:3) I have come to better understand the importance of the atonement in turning our ashes unto beauty. The importance of the Savior in that process. I love the verse just after that one that talks about the fire upon the altar, "it shall not be put out...the fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out." (Leviticus 6:13) And I thought of the symbolism of the Savior and the atonement that is captured within that verse.
The fire ever burning.
It shall never go out.
And, in that moment, I found that I was grateful for the book of Leviticus.
The second lesson is to understand sacrifice...
I would encourage you to study sacrifice in the Bible Dictionary sometime this week. It makes the symbolism in the first half of Leviticus so much easier to understand. Here is what I learned...
The presentation of the sacrifice was made by the sacrificer himself, it was personal. Individual. There is great importance in that. The next step was the laying on of hands to dedicate the animal to God as a substitute for the sacrificer. The sacrifice itself was performed in order to carry out the dedication to God. The sprinkling of blood became symbolic of the atonement. Burning the sacrifice symbolized the consecration of the worshipper to Jehovah.
In gospel doctrine today our teacher explained that the word sacrifice comes from 'sacer,' which means sacred, and 'fice,' which means to make.
To make sacred.
I find myself beginning to understand the process Israel is going through in the book of Leviticus. A process of becoming sacred. The understanding is redefining the way I look at the process I go through each week as I take the Sacrament. I need to prepare my heart better so that the Sacrament becomes more personal. Individual. I need to take that moment each week to rededicate myself. To better understand the atonement. To consider my offering to the Lord. To become consecrated.
To be made sacred.
The third hint is from Alfred Edersheim...
The subject matter for the book of Leviticus is consecration on the part of Israel. The first half (chapters 1 - 16) explains the manner of access to God, and the second part (chapters 17-27) explains the holiness which is the result of that access.
I want to know more of the holiness.
Alfred Edersheim breaks down the first part of Leviticus like this...
How to approach God through:
sacrifice - Leviticus 1 - 7
priesthood - Leviticus 8 - 10
worship - Leviticus 11-14
family life - Leviticus 12
as a congregation - Leviticus 13-15
The first part ends with a definition of the Day of Atonement - Leviticus 16
The second part describes the holiness that becomes the people of God:
personal holiness - Leviticus 17
holiness in the family - Leviticus 18
holiness in social relations - Leviticus 19 - 20
holiness in the priesthood - Leviticus 21 - 22
holy seasons - Leviticus 23 - 24
holiness of the land - Leviticus 25
By the end of the second part we have learned about consecration.
Leviticus 26 dwells on the blessing attached to faithful observance of the covenant.
Leviticus 27 speaks of the free-will offerings of the heart.
I wrote down these hints at the top of every chapter...hoping it will help me to better comprehend what I am reading.
The book of Leviticus teaches that "Jehovah was the Holy One of Israel, and holiness became His house for ever."
I wonder if breaking down Leviticus like this, into small parts, will help us to understand it better this week. Perhaps our eyes will be more open to see the symbolism, our hearts will be more open to understand the sacrifice, our lives will become more holy as we come to understand the consecration;
and we will learn what it means to be made sacred.