Critics of the Bible claim it is full of legalism, shame and condemnation. The truth is the Bible critiques legalism as a false religion, a twisting of the word of God. Leviticus is an argument for grace and realism in dealing with human wrong. [Audio | Notes]
For further thought
Critics of the Bible claim it is full of legalism, shame and condemnation. The truth is the Bible critiques legalism as a false religion, a twisting of the word of God (for example: Psalm 40.5, 51.16; Isaiah 58, Matthew 5.17-20; Galatians 2.19-3.14). Yet often humanity lives as if everything we have and are is somehow our desert and achievement.
Q: How is this an overstatement of the role of our own effort in our lives?
Q: What are the unearned gifts (grace) that cause a human life to flourish?
Skim the articles in a contemporary magazine or newspaper –
Q: How are guilt and shame used in them?
Q: What is the purpose of condemnation in our editorials, news items and public debates?
Q: How does our culture deal with guilt (the wrongs we do), shame (the wrongs we are) and condemnation (the judgement of others)?
Leviticus faces guilt, shame and condemnation squarely because God wants us to deal with our wrongs and their consequences well. In Leviticus 7.11-21 there are three occasions for a fellowship/peace/well-being offering is made but it is made in community as this is the only sacrifice that the people are required to eat together (in a feast).
Q: Given the reasons for a fellowship offering, what does it achieve to eat this sacrifice with friends and family in the presence of God?
Q: Why were the ancient Israelites more aware of the sacred nature of taking the life of an animal than we are?
Sacrifice is important term in the New Testament as well. Sometimes the word describes the sacrifice of Christ. For example: Romans 3.25, 1 John 2.2, Hebrews 9.26, Hebrews 10.10,14. In these instances the sacrifice of Christ parallels the atoning aspect of offerings made to God in Leviticus. Thus, offerings of blood (representing life. Leviticus 17.11) or food (the things that sustain life), whether given on an altar or by waving, are picked up by the cross of Christ once and for all.
Other uses of the word or concept of sacrifice in the New Testament refer to the sacrifices Christians are called to make, not for their atonement but for the psychological and communal aspects of sacrifice we see in Leviticus. Namely; thanksgiving, celebration, restitution, confession and the healing of shame and guilt. So for example; Hebrews 13.15, Philippians 2.17,18, 4.18, Romans 12.1,2, Colossians 3.5.
Q: Why do the sacrifices Christians are called to offer in the New Testament avoid the ceremony, ritual and symbol of Leviticus and instead aim directly at the thing symbolised (eg. holiness or restitution or the healing of shame)?
Q: How can we practically offer our sacrifices?
Q: What are the risks involved?
Q: What are the similarities between the fellowship offering and the Lord’s supper?
Q: What are the differences? (1 Corinthians 10.14-22; 11.17-34)
God wants us to be free of guilt and able to celebrate
So there’s joy in our sacrifices
I remember, Lord, your ancient laws, and l find comfort in them. (Psalm 119:52)