Nov 11, 2018
We have indeed been fortunate over the past few weeks to discuss the book of Leviticus. Regarding the study of Leviticus….”Leviticus is a most misunderstood book, by both Jews and Christians. It seems to be both ancient and irrelevant - all the way from animal sacrifices to the ritual practices of Levites and Priests, and in a Temple that no longer stands. Yet, I believe no book in the Hebrew Bible speaks to us more eloquently and powerfully about the life of a person of faith than does this book. It all begins with understanding that the real name of the book (in Hebrew) is not Leviticus; rather, it’s Vayikra. God calls. And one of the first words that follows is korban, which means to draw near. So, the book really is: God Calls Us to Draw Near.
In the third week of the series, we discuss who he intends his priests to be (sounding like that would be us), what they should do after departing the Divine Presence, how do they should live and their call to service in the world.
I. Re-cap and Introduction -
We’ll review the goals of these lessons and re-cap our study - the nature and importance of each of the three segments of the book.
By way of further introduction, I want to comment briefly on how complex the Bible really is. Sometimes even the best students can be intimidated by scholarship that gives rise to the fear that “I can never get my arms around it.” Further, one’s tempted to be further intimidated simply to accept conventional readings of the text, however unsatisfying such readings may be.
I’ve tried on the basis of strong sources, respect for scholarship, an appreciation of Hebrew, and some creativity to show ways of approaching the text that give it both truth as well as a freshness and that make it accessible to modern people of faith.
II. A. Read Exodus 19:6. What does it mean that we should be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation unto God?
B. For Christians, what’s the impact of I Peter 2:5-9? (“You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ?”)
C. It could be argued, thus, that the principles of “the priesthood of believers” might in certain ways be applicable to both Jews and Christians in the modern world. How? What would that mean? What would our roles be within such a construct?
Before you answer, read Leviticus 21:6, 22:2. What does the text say priests do that explicitly requires that they be holy? Who plays this specific role in our own time?
II. We won’t read in Chapters 21 and 22 of all the defilements that are prohibited of the priest in marriage, dress, certain defects and distractions, or in the manner of performing service. While we might agree or disagree with some or all of these specific requirements in our own time, can we think of ways in which servants of God must be careful in their appearance, speech, and actions in order effectively and appropriately to fulfill their duties?
III. Chapter 23 specifies festivals such as the sabbath, the Passover, Pentecost, Rosh Hashanah, the Day of Atonement, and the Festival of Tabernacles. While these represent sacred time for Jews, Christians, of course, have sacred occasions, too. The question is this: what’s the importance for “priests” and indeed all people of faith to recognize and celebrate time that is sacred?
IV. Read Leviticus 24:2. What does it mean for people of faith that in sacred space “lamps be kept burning continually?” What does it mean that the people bring the finest olive oil to keep the light shining?
V. Chapter 25 provides for the sabbatical and jubilee years. After I summarize these verses, we’ll explore this question: conceptually and ideally, why would the Bible place such ideas about these extraordinary uses of time before us as we begin to close out this book?
VI. Chapter 27 discusses and provides guidance as to the making of vows and the payment of tithes. Why do you think the book ends with this particular focus?
VII. Conclusion - we’ll spend the last 15 minutes or so, allowing folks to offer a thought or two about what we’ve studied that may be most enduring.