Leviticus can be hard going: if you don’t think too hard about it, it looks like a mess of rules and regulations that are impossible to follow these days.
It’s actually better than that. These articles might help put Leviticus into context:
- Learning to Love Leviticus
- Love Self and Neighbor: Reflections on Leviticus 19:1–2, 9–18
- Notes on Leviticus, by Dr. Thomas L. Constable (2014 edition).
Learning to Love Leviticus makes the point that some of the Levitical laws have been replaced: Jesus’ death and resurrection replaced all the laws about offerings and sacrifices. Peter’s revelation about clean and unclean food replaced the food laws. In both cases, we are still to take the principles seriously.
The rest of the laws are to be taken as principles, and we should be seeking to apply them rather than seeing them as a long list of rules. For example, Paul applied a commandment about how manna was to be collected to the principle of equality between Christians (1 Cor. 9:8–10; 2 Cor. 8:13–15).
Love Self and Neighbour focusses on this verse:
Leviticus 19:9-10 “‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.
It makes the point that this is not quite how we think about things these days:
First, just why should I not reap right up to the edges of my field; why should I not strip my vineyard bare of its grapes? After all, they are mine, aren’t they? Can I not do whatever I want with what is mine?
And it clearly applies to something beyond harvesting wheat or picking grapes: it is really about how we treat those who are less fortunate than we are.
Notes on Leviticus takes a more theological approach, dividing Leviticus into two sections:
- the public worship of the Israelites chapters 1—16
- the private worship of the Israelites chapters 17—27.
The author summarises Leviticus as dealing with:
how redeemed sinners can have fellowship with a holy God. Leviticus clarifies both the sinfulness of man and the holiness of God. The proper response of the redeemed sinner to a holy God is worship. Leviticus explains how Israel was to worship God. The Israelites worshipped God under the Old Covenant. Our worship is different because we live under the New Covenant.