Christy

The Book of Leviticus Overview by The Bible Project

Leviticus is difficult to read, but its core message is amazing: God graciously provides a way for sinful, broken people to live near his holy presence so they can find wholeness and life.

In this video, the guys at The Bible Project introduce the idea of holiness, but if you’d like a fuller explanation of holiness, take time to watch An Animated Explanation of God’s Holiness.

 

 

 

 

Leviticus Outline

Chapters 1-7  Rituals (Sacrifices)

Chapters 8-10  Priesthood (Ordination)

Chapters 11-15  Purity Laws (Ritual Purity)

Chapters 16-17  Day of Atonement

Chapters 18-20  Purity Laws (Moral Purity)

Chapters 21-22  Priesthood (Higher Standards)

Chapters 23-27  Rituals (Sacred Days and Festivals)

 

Video Transcript

0:00
The book of Leviticus. We know you’ve been avoiding it cause it’s weird. So let’s fix that.
0:07
Now remember the story of the Bible began with humans in God’s presence,
0:11
but they were banished because of their rebellion.
0:13
However, God wants to be in relationship with us, so
0:17
He chooses one family that he will use to restore the world back into His presence.
0:22
Tim: And so God’s presence comes to dwell in a tent right in the middle of Israel…
0:26
Jon … and that’s great!
0:27
But it creates a problem: because it’s so intense that Moses can’t go in
0:31
and other priests who enter inappropriately… they die.
0:35
Well, wait, if God’s presence is good, how is it all of a sudden dangerous for people?
0:40
So think of it this way: God’s presence is like the sun –
0:43
it’s pure power and goodness.
0:45
And when something mortal and corruptible gets close to such pure power it’s destroyed.
0:51
And so the word “holiness” is used in Leviticus to describe God’s pure and powerful presence,
0:56
which like the sun is both good and dangerous.
1:00
So the point of Leviticus is to show how corrupt Israelites can live near God’s goodness
1:05
without being destroyed.
1:06
Now in the book there are three ways for how this is all going to work out
1:12
and these are gonna seem strange to you but just hang in there with us.
1:15
Jon: The first one is rituals,
1:17
the second is this idea of the priesthood,
1:19
and the third is a bunch of purity laws.
1:22
Tim: Now, the book is broken up into seven sections
1:25
each solution is explored in two sections of the book.
1:28
The Rituals are here. The Priests are here. And the Purity Laws go here.
1:33
Jon: Now the first solution, rituals, involves a lot of animal sacrifices.
1:38
And so Leviticus begins with detailed instructions for how to make these sacrifices.
1:43
Some are ways of saying “Thank You” to God
1:45
and others are simply ways of saying “I’m Sorry.”
1:48
Tim: And here at the end of the book there are some more rituals and these are about observing sacred days and festivals;
1:54
they are all celebrations that retell some part of the story of how God rescued Israel
1:59
and set them apart from the nations.
2:01
Jon: The second solution to the holiness problem has to do with priests.
2:06
You see, being directly in God’s presence is really dangerous,
2:09
so He appoints priests as special representatives who can go into His presence on behalf of others.
2:15
Tim: So in this section we have a story about how the priests are ordained into the priesthood.
2:20
And then this other section explains this set of higher standards the priests have to live by,
2:25
because they work so closely to God’s presence.
2:29
Jon: The third solution in this book is all about Purity Laws,
2:32
and this is by far the hardest thing to understand for example in this section
2:36
we’re really concerned with knowing whether you’re “clean” or “unclean”.
2:40
Tim: Or another way of saying that is being “pure” and “impure”.
2:44
Here’s what we need to know to understand this:
2:46
when you’re in a pure state you can be near God’s presence,
2:50
when you’re in an impure state you can’t.
2:53
And so it was really important for Israelites to know what state they’re in at any given moment.
2:58
Jon: So the first thing we have is a list of pure and impure animals.
3:02
Tim: Yah, this list of animals is divided up by where they live:
3:05
so, on the land
3:06
in the sea, in the air.
3:08
And the text is just not clear about why certain animals are impure
3:13
or why touching or eating them makes you impure.
3:15
What is clear, however, is that avoiding these creatures will set Israel apart,
3:19
and it will remind them that God’s own holiness should affect every part of their lives
3:25
including what they eat.
3:26
Jon: After the food laws we get a lot of random rules
3:28
about things like skin disease, touching dead bodies, what to do with bodily fluids…
3:33
Tim: …But they’re not random.
3:34
All of these are things that the Israelite’s associated with life and death,
3:39
which are sacred things because God is the author of life.
3:43
Jon: OK. But simply coming in contact with these things makes you impure?
3:48
Tim: They do, but we have to keep in mind that it’s not wrong or sinful to be ritually impure
3:54
– you just wait a few days, take a bath, offer a sacrifice, and you’re pure again.
3:58
What is inappropriate is entering into God’s presence when you’re in an impure state.
4:03
Jon: Now there’s more purity laws over here in this section.
4:06
Tim: Yah, these focus on Israel’s moral behavior.
4:09
So these are laws about social justice,
4:11
healthy relationships, having sexual integrity.
4:14
Living by these laws will make Israel into a morally pure people
4:19
who can live near God’s presence.
4:21
Jon: Those are the three solutions.
4:23
Now you’ve probably noticed that they surround the very center of this book,
4:27
and it’s here that we find a really important ritual called The Day of Atonement.
4:32
Tim: Yah, so Israel’s a big tribe now,
4:34
and odds are there’s a lot of sin happening that goes unnoticed that people are not deal with.
4:39
And so one time a year the priests would take two goats,
4:42
and one of those goats is killed
4:45
and its blood is carried right into God’s presence
4:48
where it symbolically covers, or atones for, Israel’s sin.
4:52
Jon: Yah, that’s kinda weird…
4:53
Tim: Well, the meaning of this sacrifice is explained in the next chapter
4:56
where God says that the blood of a creature is its life,
5:00
and so the goat’s life is offered as a substitute
5:04
– it’s receiving God’s punishment for Israel’s sin so that the people don’t have to.
5:09
Jon: That leaves the second goat.
5:11
Tim: Yeah, the priest puts his hands on it,
5:13
and then he confesses all the sins of Israel –
5:16
it’s like he’s placing the sins on the goat.
5:17
And then that goat gets cast out forever into the wilderness.
5:21
It’s called The Scapegoat.
5:22
Jon: Yeah, I’ve heard that word before.
5:24
Tim: Yeah, it’s this very powerful image of how God is graciously removing Israel’s sin.
5:30
Jon: But lets be honest, sacrifices in general it seem so barbaric.
5:34
Tim: Well, you have to remember that in the ancient world
5:37
sacrifices were the main way of buying favor from the gods.
5:41
But the problem was that those same gods they’re unpredictable,
5:45
they’re fickle, you never know if they’re gonna ignore you,
5:47
or are they going to turn on you.
5:48
So it’s in this cultural setting that we see Israel’s God as totally different.
5:54
He does get angry about human corruption but it is never arbitrary.
5:58
And He loves people,
6:00
so He provides this clear way for Israel to know with confidence that they are forgiven,
6:06
and that despite their corruption they are safe to live near His presence.
6:11
And so that makes the book of Leviticus actually
6:14
a revolutionary statement in its day.
6:16
Jon: So that’s Leviticus.
6:18
But Israel is still at Mt. Sinai in the middle of the wilderness,
6:22
they need a place to live.
6:24
Tim: Yes, the land God promised to Abraham,
6:26
and so the journey to that land is what the next book of the Bible is all about.
Christy

An Animated Explanation of God’s Holiness by The Bible Project

The concept of holiness can seem difficult to grasp. Outside of the Bible, we don’t talk about things being “holy” very often. Let’s take a moment to discover what the Bible really says about holiness. The concept appears from Genesis to Revelation, so it must be important. This illustrated video by The Bible Project explains the theme of holiness in the Bible.

 

 

 

 

Video Transcript

0:01
Jon: You’ve probably heard the word “holy” before
0:04
or at least sang it in a church song once or twice.
0:07
And for most people, this idea is really just connected to being a morally good person…
0:11
So… God is ‘holy’ because he’s morally perfect.
0:14
Tim: Yeah, that is part of it…
0:15
but in the Bible the idea of ‘holiness’ is even bigger and more rich.
0:19
What it’s really describing is how God is the creative force behind the whole universe.
0:24
He’s the one and only being with the power to make a world full of such beauty and life.
0:30
And so all these abilities they may God utterly unique, which is the meaning of the word ‘holy’.
0:36
A helpful way to think about God’s holiness is by using the sun as a metaphor.
0:41
The sun is unique, at least within our solar system,
0:44
And its really powerful. Its the source of all this beautiful life on our planet.
0:48
And so you could say that the sun is ‘holy’.
0:51
And you can actually take this metaphor even further
0:53
in that the whole area around the sun is also ‘holy’.
0:57
Jon: Yeah because the closer you get to the sun the more intense it gets.
1:01
Tim: yeah, exactly. So that very power and goodness that generates all this life is also dangerous.
1:08
I mean the sun, if you get too close, will annihilate you.
1:12
And in the same way there’s this paradox at the heart of God’s own holiness
1:16
because if you’re impure his presence is dangerous to you
1:20
and not because it’s bad, but because its so good.
1:23
And so the first time we see this paradox of God’s holiness, it’s in the story of Moses and the burning bush.
1:29
Jon: So God tells Moses to take off his sandals because he’s standing on holy ground.
1:34
And Moses covers his face in fear and God says
1:37
“hey don’t come any closer”. Its intense. likely that intensity of God’s holiness
1:40
Tim: It’s actually that intensity of God’s holiness that’s explored even more in the stories of Israel’s temple
1:46
which was the main place where God’s holy presence was located
1:49
and at the center the temple was this room called the Most Holy Place
1:53
it’s the hotspot of God’s presence.
1:55
and whether you’re an Israelite living in the land around the temple
1:59
or a priest working right in the temple, you are in proximity to God’s holy presence.
2:04
which is dangerous.
2:06
Jon: Yeah, this is a problem. So how is it supposed to work?
2:09
Tim: Well in the Bible the solution is that you need to become “pure”.
2:13
Jon: So like being Morally Pure?
2:15
Tim: Yeah, and that’s easy enough to understand…
2:17
…but the Bible spends a lot of time talking about another kind of purity
2:21
being Ritually Pure
2:23
which is a state where you separate yourself from anything related to death
2:27
like touching things like diseased skin, or dead bodies, or even certain bodily fluids.
2:32
all these make you impure.
2:35
And becoming ritually impure isn’t necessarily sinful.
2:38
What’s wrong is waltzing into God’s presence when you’re in an impure state.
2:42
And so that’s why God gave the Israelites very clear instructions for knowing when they were impure…
2:48
steps to become pure, so that they could go into the temple again.
2:51
Jon: So that’s what the book of Leviticus is about.
2:53
Tim: Right. But it doesn’t stop there. This idea keeps developing
2:57
So later in the scriptures we find this really interesting story by a prophet named Isaiah.
3:02
And he has this crazy vision where he’s in the temple
3:05
and he’s right in God’s presence. He’s totally terrified.
3:08
Jon: Yeah. He knows the rules. He shouldn’t even be in there.
3:11
And he’s worried about being destroyed.
3:13
Tim: And then this crazy creature called a Seraphim.
3:16
Jon: Yeah, that is a crazy creature.
3:18
Tim: Totally. So it flies over with a hot coal.
3:22
And then it sears Isaiah’s lips with the coal and says something really weird…
3:27
“Your guilt is taken away and your sin is atoned for.”
3:31
Jon: So this burning coal somehow makes Isaiah pure.
3:35
Tim: Yeah, its remarkable
3:36
because normally if you touch something impure it transfers its impurity to you.
3:42
But now here’s this new idea where you have this coal,
3:45
this very holy and pure object, and it touches Isaiah
3:47
and it transfers its purity to him.
3:50
Isaiah is not destroyed by God’s holiness, he’s transformed by it.
3:55
I mean the implications of this are just huge.
3:57
But there’s one more development, this time from another prophet, Ezekiel.
4:01
And he has this vision where he’s standing at the temple
4:04
and he sees water trickling out from it.
4:06
And then that water turns into a stream
4:09
and then a grows into a deep river that starts flowing through the desert
4:12
leaving this trail of green trees behind it.
4:15
And then it flows into the Dead Sea making everything fresh and alive.
4:20
Jon: So, instead of becoming pure first and then going into the temple…
4:23
…here God’s holiness comes out from the temple making things pure bringing them to life.
4:28
What does it all mean?
4:30
Tim: So, we don’t know. Until we meet this man Jesus.
4:34
And he claims that he’s fulfilling all of these ancient visions but in surprising new ways.
4:39
So Jesus, he went around touching people who are impure…
4:44
… people with skin diseases, a woman with chronic bleeding, or dead people…
4:49
and when he touches them, their impurity should transfer over to Jesus …
4:53
… but instead, Jesus’ purity transfers to them and actually heals their bodies.
4:59
Jon: Jesus is like that holy coal in Isaiah’s vision.
5:02
Tim: Right. And Jesus claimed that he was the human embodiment of God’s own holiness.
5:09
and that he and his followers were now God’s temple
5:12
so that through them God’s holy presence would go out into the world
5:16
and bring life and healing and hope.
5:19
And so this is why Jesus described his followers as having streams of living water flowing out of them.
5:24
Jon: So this is our part of the story where we find ourselves now, but where is it all heading?
5:30
Tim: so the last pages of the Bible end with a final vision about God’s holiness…
5:35
This time it’s by a guy named John.
5:37
And in his vision we see the whole world made completely new.
5:41
The entire earth has become God’s temple.
5:45
And Ezekiel’s river is there flowing out of God’s presence,
5:49
immersing all of creation,
5:50
removing all impurity and bringing everything back to life.