Leviticus. Sigh. Leviticus is usually the point at which my Read Through The Bible plan comes to a screeching halt.
Then I skip over most of Deuteronomy and start again in Joshua. Let’s go conquer Jericho!
Offerings, feasts, clean and unclean animals and other things, sacrifices, altars, washing bowls, incense, and blood poured out and sprinkled on all kinds of things. Really? Who wants to read the Laws of Moses? The whole system certainly seems confusing. Complicated. And extremely exact. There is only one right way to keep the Law, and if you screwed it up you were guilty of trespass – ignorance was no excuse.
Well, by golly, it’s been at least five years since I read the Laws of Moses. How about you? I am determined to get through them… and not only that, but to make some sense of them. As I read along, I would like to share with you the big pieces of the puzzle – the broader framework that the Laws of Moses hang on. I hope you’ll find the Big Picture helpful.
The explicit purpose for each law or statute is rarely given. However, most of the laws are designed with fundamental principles in mind:
The Laws of Moses were designed to teach the Israelites:
1. To honor and respect God above all else,
2. To honor and respect people and their property, and
3. How to be holy and aware of their separateness (from the nations around them) as a God’s specially chosen people.
The Laws of Moses provided a national framework for what was right and wrong. As Moses told the people, “You shall not do at all what we are doing here today, every man doing what is right in his own eyes!” – Deut. 12:8
The laws must also be viewed in the context of the life and times in which the Israelites were living. They were surrounded by death, wicked kings, and nations that practiced child sacrifice. Keeping that in mind, we realize that the Laws of Moses impose an incredibly high standard of ethical conduct on the nation. We also find that the laws are unique (for that era) in teaching the value of a human life, the importance of due process, and the necessity of judicial fairness/equal justice.
Indeed, the laws were established for the good of the people. (Why do laws not always feel like they are for our own good?!)
As Moses said, “Now, Israel, what does the Lord require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and to keep the Lord’s commandments and His statues which I am commanding you today for your good.” – Deut. 10:12-13
We also know from reading Romans that it is the Law that makes people aware of what is sin (3:20), even though our conscience often makes this clear to us anyway (2:14-15). We also know that no one was ever justified before God by keeping the Law (3:20, 3:28, 4:13) and only Jesus perfectly fulfilled the Law. And we know that the blood of bulls and goats could never take away the guilt and sins of the people (Hebrews 9:9-10 and 10:1-4,11) and that we are cleansed only in the blood of Jesus Christ, the perfect sacrifice.
So just remember that the Laws of Moses were a framework of right and wrong, were designed to teach important principles, and were for the good of the people. I am so glad that Jesus Christ came as our perfect high priest and instituted a time of reformation (Hebrews 9:10-11) so that we are not bound by the Laws of Moses!
However, we’re still going to read them – because we can learn from them!
Here is an excellent commentary on the purpose of the law: http://agapegeek.com/2010/05/14/understanding-the-bible-definition-and-purpose-of-the-law-of-moses-pt-1/