Holy Week – Why this often-ignored book might surprise you
I’ll confess; in an attempt to let my quiet time unfold organically during 2017, it grew increasingly haphazard. Sloppy. After a few random “eyes-closed-page-turn-wherever-the-finger-stops” mornings (ahem…), I realized I needed a change.
So this year, I’m reading the Bible through chronologically, using my Study Bible (yep, I’m a paper-Bible girl), a daily chapter guide I printed online, and my journal. The first few days felt a little stiff and rigid, my creative nature fighting against the structured format. But after a week, I realized I couldn’t wait to dive in.
Something refreshingly unexpected is happening: The Bible is coming alive in a new way. Familiar phrases and stories now leap off the page. As I choose to honor God with a disciplined, intentional approach to getting to know Him through His Word, He honors His Word in me. If, like me, your quiet time has become stale, I encourage you to try an innovative approach.
I’m taking my time each day, reading study notes, chewing on key words and concepts, and journaling pivotal themes. I may not finish in a year, but my goal isn’t time-conscious: it’s relationship-conscious. And it is surprisingly organic, because God’s Word is both living and inexhaustible, able to speak truth into every nook and cranny of our lives. So 2018 took off…
Genesis…adventure-packed stories of God’s faithfulness.
Exodus…epic moments recounting God’s deliverance and instructions.
All is good…understanding God’s character in deeper ways…
And then….it happened.
With an audible groan, I seriously considered skipping right past it to get to greener pastures. I mean, if the Books of the Bible lined up to be chosen for a baseball team… poor Leviticus and Numbers are the last two scrawny players chosen. Right?
Wrong. Wow, was I dead wrong.
As I come to the last chapter of Leviticus, I’ve gained an entirely new perspective and appreciation for many New Testament passages. This week, we commemorate Christ’s death on the Cross and Resurrection, and it’s hard to fully grasp the depth of His sacrifice without Old Testament context. Leviticus outlines worship at the Tabernacle, particularly regarding the Levite priests. It paints a portrait of God’s holiness through a process of sacrifices, laws, means of sanctification, and feasts. It’s the other side of the coin to Jesus’ finished work on the Cross, especially when it is read alongside the New Testament book of Hebrews.
Tucked away in Leviticus 16 are requirements for a special occasion: the Day of Atonement. Once a year, the High Priest, after washing himself at the bronze basin, put on special garments and entered the Holy Place. After sacrificing a bull at the altar of burnt offering as a sin offering for himself and the other priests, he went into the Most Holy Place with some of the bull’s blood, incense and coals from the altar, and sprinkled some of the blood on the front of the atonement cover of the Ark. He then went outside to take two goats, one to be sacrificed and one to be the “scapegoat.” He killed the first goat as a sin offering for the people, going back into the Most Holy Place to sprinkle its blood on the atonement cover. Going out to the courtyard, he laid both hands on the second goat, signifying the transference of sin onto the second goat, sending it into the desert. Removing his sacred garments, washing, and putting on his regular priestly clothes, he offered a final sacrifice of a ram on the great altar for himself and another for the people.
What is Moses telling us in this often-ignored book? Sin separates us from God unless atonement is made, and no forgiveness of sins exists without the sacrifice of blood. Once a year, the High Priest was able to go into the Holy of Holies, atoning – or making restitution for – the sins of man through the “substitutionary atonement” of animal sacrifices and the scapegoat. Since no amount of animal sacrifice could atone for the sins of man, this process had to be repeated every year.
Hebrews 10:11-14 “Day after day, every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest (Jesus) had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God…because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”
By itself, Leviticus seems daunting, an insurmountable list of requirements to achieve forgiveness and holiness. But this often-ignored book might just surprise you. Understanding it in context of Hebrews gives us a much deeper appreciation for the “once for all” sacrifice that did what man could never do.
Our sin required the blood of a new covenant – a “once for all” sacrifice through God’s only Son, Jesus. Hebrews Chapters 9 and 10 tell us that the law was only a shadow of what was to come. It could only remind us of sin and our guilt; but when Christ came, he offered Himself through complete submission, as the “once for all” sacrifice for our sin.
Hebrews 9: 26 “But now Christ has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”
Jesus was the all-sufficient sacrifice. The High Priest. The scapegoat. The ram. The blood on the atonement cover. He is the only sacrifice that can ransom us from our crippling debt of sin.
See, the first law reminded us of sin – and the Levites stood, their work never finished. But Jesus sat down, His work finished at the Cross when He conquered death and hell through His resurrection.
So, what does this mean for us during Holy Week? We have confidence to trust in the God who – before the beginning of time – made a way so we don’t have to be separated from God any longer. You don’t have to live weighed down by shame or guilt or shackled by sin. Accept His “once for all sacrifice” and celebrate all He has done for you because of His relentless love. Jesus provided the way for us to experience true freedom and draw near to a holy God.
Hebrews 10:19-23 “Therefore, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is His body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.”
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