(this transcript has been lightly edited for readability)
I love Leviticus! I'm pretty sure that you don't because Leviticus has gotten bad billing. It just seems hard to work through when you get in all the details of the sacrificial system and all the repeated regulations and feast days, and you just get lost. Well, I want to give you a title for Leviticus that I think will help and then explain it. I would subtitle Leviticus, “Holy And Unholy.”
Leviticus is in the Bible to entertain and answer probably one of the most important questions that we could ever ask as we’re getting to understand the biblical story and it’s this: “How can a perfectly holy God live with such unholy people?” How can He do that without compromising His Holiness? How can He except unholy people?
Now the answer is not that the Trinity got together and said, “You know, these are pretty nice people. I know they’re pretty wicked. Why don’t we just turn our backs on that wickedness and just accept them?” No, God wouldn’t do that because God will not violate His justice in order to extend His grace. And so that's why God designed the sacrificial system that's there in Leviticus.
It's designed to atone for sin so that sinful people may have entrance into relationship with God; there could be forgiveness for unholy people. For unholy people to live with a holy God, there has to be penalty paid and forgiveness granted. That's the only way and that's what that system is about. And what you realize is God is not going to unleash His condemnation, but this story is going to tell you that God is going to unleash His forgiveness.
There are few more hopeful books in all of Scripture than Leviticus. Leviticus tells me that there is hope for me in my darkest, dumbest, stupidest, most rebellious moment; there's hope for me because God has made a way for sinners to know Him and to be accepted by Him.
But there's a second thing. As you're watching priests, knee-deep in blood, garments covered in blood, sacrifice after sacrifice after sacrifice, you begin to realize the inadequacy of this system. It's not enough because yesterday’s sacrifices covered yesterday, but they won't cover tomorrow. And so this whole system screams for a “once-and-for-all sacrifice.” Listen, every sacrificial lamb cried out for a lamb, The Lamb, The Lamb of God, Jesus. In the bleating of a lamb being slaughtered, hear a cry for Jesus, The Lamb, who would come. He would live perfectly; He would be the ultimate perfect Lamb, and when He would die as a substitution, once for all, forever ending the need for sacrifice.
If Genesis introduces you to Jesus, Leviticus is a cry, “Oh, Jesus, come. Come quickly. We need The Lamb.” It is the magnificent glory of my life that unholy Paul can stand in the presence of a perfectly holy God, and He wraps arms of love around me. There's nothing more magnificent in my entire life than that. He has the right to damn me, but He chooses not to.
And that hymn is not first sung in the New Testament; it's first sung in Leviticus. In Leviticus, you see Almighty God becoming the forgiving One who makes a way for an unholy people to know Him, to live in His presence, and receive all that He has to offer them. I love Leviticus and I hope you will too.