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Why Should I Read Leviticus?

Posted February 28, 2024

Sometimes, the book of Leviticus might seem like more trouble than it’s worth. It derails many a Bible reading plan, and most Christians avoid it altogether. The seemingly obscure laws it contains are the noose often fitted around our heads by contemporary culture: “You don’t really believe that do you?” “If you take that one law so seriously, then you should take every law in Leviticus serious, like this one…”

But Leviticus is still part of God’s word, which means it’s deserving of our attention and adoration. And if we read it and better understand it, perhaps—just perhaps—we wouldn’t have such a difficult time defending Leviticus. Here are a few reasons to open this particular portion of the Bible:

1. It reminds us of the holiness of God.

This is no trivial topic. If we do not understand and revere the holiness of our God, we will not grasp the profound offense of our sin and our need for atonement. In Leviticus 20:26, we read “You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.” We are called to be holy as God is holy. This heightens our awareness of our own sin and need for his grace.

Throughout the book, God’s holiness is on display. One of the most dramatic examples occurs in chapter 10 when Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, offer unauthorized fire before the Lord in their role as priests. The Lord immediately consumes them by fire. The Lord cares about his worship and the holiness of his name before the world: “This is what the Lord has said, ‘Among those who are near me, I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified’” (Lev. 10:3).

Leviticus impresses us over and over again with the holiness of God so that we are led to cry out, “How can I possibly come before this God—this consuming fire?”

2. It reminds us how we come before a holy God.

In Leviticus, we see how the Lord enables sinners to come before him—through a sacrificial system. There are countless types of offerings and sacrifices mandated for God’s people but there is a current that runs throughout—blood must be shed for sin. And God appoints animals, especially lambs, to be offered in the place of the sinners who offer them.

Of course, this pictures the coming Messiah. God’s people had to offer these animal sacrifices over and over. Even the priests had to make such offerings as well. But Jesus would one day come as both priest and sacrifice. John the Baptist declared, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Hebrews sums this up nicely for us: “And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God” (Heb. 10:11–12).

3. It helps us better understand the Bible as a whole.

The very problems we often face in fending off challenges to our faith through the book of Leviticus are meant to lead us to a better understanding of God’s word. Why do we still abide by God’s teaching on sexuality while we don’t keep most of the laws or even the sacrificial system found in Leviticus? To use theological terminology, Christians believe that there are different “uses” and “types” of the law in the Bible. Understanding these distinctions is crucial to understanding Scripture as a whole.

The Protestant Reformer John Calvin suggested that every fault we find in Scripture is actually our own. Instead of avoiding the parts of God’s word that we find difficult, let us use such difficulty as an opportunity to learn and grow by God’s grace. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful (2 Tim. 3:16). This means we can not only approach Leviticus with confidence; it means that we should. And as we better understand God’s word, the Lord will use his word to make us grow.

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Stephen Roberts

Stephen Roberts is an Army chaplain and also writes for Modern Reformation and The Federalist. He is married to Lindsey—a journalist—and they have three delightful and precocious children.