Preaching Leviticus

September 23, 2009

A few weeks ago I began a series of sermons from Leviticus.  As someone said, “That takes a lot of guts.”  And another confessed he thought it would be “offal.”

I’d been thinking about it for a while; but it’s only because we now have an Assistant that I’ve felt I have the time to ponder the text of what is one of the least accessible books of the Bible.  I just don’t think I’d have had the time to do that if I were still preaching twice a week.

Why preach Leviticus?  I suppose one answer could be, Just because it’s there.  It is, after all, as much part of Holy Scripture as any of the other 65 books.  Paul’s observation in 2Tim. 3:16 that all Scripture is God-breathed applies as much to Leviticus as it does to Genesis or the Psalms.  And if our Lord explained to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus what was said about him in all the Scriptures beginning with Moses, Leviticus must have been included.(Lk.24:27)

Derek Tidball in his very helpful little commentary in the Crossway Bible Guides series gives some answers.  Leviticus helps us to understand that God is holy yet merciful.  It teaches us the meaning of sacrifice and of being living sacrifices.  It encourages us to give the best to God in worship.  It instructs us in the qualities leaders in the church should have.  It leads us to Christ who makes atonement for our sin.  It sets out for us principles of family, sexual and social behaviour.  It teaches us to celebrate the faithfulness of God as our Creator and Saviour.  It helps us to understand the true meaning of liberty.  It show us that our faith has implications for our views on politics and economics.  And it teaches us the importance of obeying God’s commands.

For me there is another reason.  In recent years Leviticus has become the most reviled, mocked, derided book in the Bible.  Only recently a student taking a course in Religious Studies told me this story: The lecturer began by asking if there were any Christians in the class.  Several raised their hands.  To hoots of laughter from the rest of the class he attacked them: Then why are you wearing clothes made from more than one fabric?  A reference to a Levitical ban.  We’ve all read the so-called letter asking for an explanation as to how one goes about stoning one’s rebellious son and whether or not one should boycott the local fishmonger for selling prawns. 

In short, there has been a deliberate and sustained attack on the Levitical code.  And why?  Because it states that a man lying with a man is abhorrent.  The argument goes—it is inconsistent to still believe homosexual practice is abhorrent if one enjoys a prawn cocktail. 

What is particularly sad is that such attacks have come from ministers of the Gospel, ministers of Word and Sacrament, who, of all people, should have studied scripture and be at the forefront of defending it. 

So, for the sake of my congregation, who like so many others, want to believe that all Scripture is God-breathed, but find Leviticus incomprehensible, I felt duty bound to have a go at expounding it.  I’ve preached three sermons so far which I’ll post in the next three days [note—there is nothing in them about the CURRENT DEBATE].  I hope you find them helpful and if you have any constructive comments don’t hesitate to make them.  I’m not doing line by line, chapter by chapter; but rather picking out key themes and moments from the book.

So far, for me, the most important lesson has been that God hasn’t changed his mind.  He still requires a sacrifice to be made for the forgiveness of sins, and we still require a priest to present it on our behalf.  Leviticus has much to teach us about our God, our Saviour and ourselves.


One Response to “Preaching Leviticus”

  1. Mike Says:

    I did a short seven-sermon series on Leviticus a few years ago with similar motives. I really got a lot out of it, not least in personal study to make sure I filled in the gaps in the themes.

    May the Lord bless you and your folk in this exciting journey



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