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Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Jesus in the Torah: Leviticus

At its core, Leviticus is a manual explaining how a sinful people can have fellowship with a righteous God - by becoming righteous! (Leviticus 11:44-45, 19:2, and 20:7) This, of course, is precisely what Christ's sacrifice accomplishes for Christians (Romans 3:21-26, 5:1, Philippians 3:9, Isaiah 61:10, etc.). The book outlines the way that the children of Israel could become Holy before God; and this was accomplished primarily through obedience, sacrificial offerings, and rituals (which all pointed to Jesus Christ).

In the first seven chapters of the book, five different kinds of offerings are outlined for God's people. In the order of their appearance in the book, they were the burnt, grain, peace, sin, and trespass offerings. In connection with these offerings, it is interesting to note that ALL of them required the presentation of the very best that was available to the Israelites from their livestock and grain crops. In other words, they had to be free of any defects - flawless (Leviticus 1:3, 10, 2:1, 4-5, 3:1, 6, 4:3, 23, 28, 32, 5:15, 18, 6:6, 20, 9:2-3, 14:10, etc.). This, of course, points to the sinless (in this sense, flawless) life which Christ lived (II Corinthians 5:21 and Hebrews 4:15) - "a lamb without blemish and without spot." (I Peter 1:19)

As it relates to Jesus Christ, it is interesting to note that the burnt offering was not a compulsory offering. In other words, it was completely voluntary (Leviticus 1:3) - just as Christ freely offered himself as a sacrifice for our sins (John 10:11-18). Also, as part of the ritual associated with this offering, the entire animal was to be consumed by fire (Leviticus 1:7-8, 12-13, 17). Naturally, as the sacrificed was burned, it would produce a copious amount of smoke - which the book describes as a sweet-smelling savor <pleasant aroma> unto the Lord (Leviticus 1:9, 13, 17). In his letter to the saints at Ephesus, Paul described Jesus as having "given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor" (Ephesians 5:2).

As for the grain offering, we have already noted in the previous post how Christ was compared to the "firstfruits" of the grain harvest. However, in connection with this particular offering, we should also note that frankincense, olive oil, (Leviticus 2:1, 16) and salt (verse 13) were to be mixed with the grain. Interestingly, frankincense is recorded as one of the gifts that was presented to the newborn Jesus by the wise men from the East (Matthew 2:1-12); and, once again, this was added to ensure that the Lord would receive a pleasant aroma when the offering was burned in the fire (Leviticus 2:2). Likewise, we know that olive oil was used to symbolize the Holy Spirit in the anointing of an individual (as in Luke 4:18 and Acts 10:38). Finally, in Scripture, salt is considered to be a precious commodity and was used to symbolize the efficacy and binding nature of something (see Matthew 5:13, Numbers 18:19, and II Chronicles 13:5).

The Open Bible (Expanded Edition) informs us that, "The peace offering is a figure of the fellowship believers have with God through the work of the cross." Like the grain, sin, and the trespass offerings, the "fellowship" or "peace" offering was to be shared between God and the priests (Leviticus 6:14-30 and 7:1-36). This stood in stark contrast to the burnt offering which belonged exclusively to the Lord (Leviticus 6:8-13). In the Gospel of John, we read that Christ told his disciples: "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." (John 14:27) Paul told the saints at Rome that "we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1). He also wrote to the saints of Colosse that God had made his peace with us through the blood of Christ's cross and had reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:20-21).

Finally, the sin and trespass/guilt offerings were made for both unintentional and deliberate sins, were mandatory when offenses were committed, and are the offerings which most clearly point to Christ (Leviticus 4, 5, 6:24-30, 7:1-10). Isaiah predicted that the Messiah would be made an offering for sin (53:10). Paul wrote to the saints at Ephesus and Colosse that they had received forgiveness for their sins through the blood of Jesus (Ephesians 1:7 and Colossians 1:14). Also, the first epistle of Peter and the book of Revelation reveal that Christ redeemed us to God (I Peter 1:18 and Revelation 5:9). However, unlike the offerings/sacrifices outlined here in the book of Leviticus which were offered continually, the author of the epistle to the Hebrews informs us that Christ offered himself one time for all sins for all time (Hebrews 9:26 and 10:10-12).

After outlining and explaining the various offerings, the book of Leviticus goes on to explain the role that Aaron and his sons would play as priests (chapter 8). Once again, the anonymous author of the epistle to the Hebrews has a great deal to say about Jesus acting in the capacity of high priest for his followers. Indeed, we read there that Christ was "made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people." (2:17) That Christ was superior to the Aaronic priesthood is emphasized in this epistle over and over again. In the fourth chapter, we read: "Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." (Verses 14-15) Likewise, in the seventh chapter, we read that "Jesus made a surety of a better testament. And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore." (Verses 22-28) Moreover, the thought was continued and summarized in the following chapter. We read there: "Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man." (8:1-2) Hence, for the author of this letter to the Hebrews, we see that Jesus Christ was clearly regarded as being representative of the ultimate priesthood.

As for the laws which differentiated between clean and unclean (Leviticus 11-15), we know that Jesus had a great deal to say about what defiles a person, and that he played an integral role in making us clean in God's sight. When the Pharisees observed that Christ's disciples had not followed traditional protocols about washing their hands (no doubt, they were based on the ceremonial washings found here in the Torah), they confronted him about and demanded to know why they had ignored these Jewish traditions (Mark 7:1-5). Christ then proceeded to school them in what really makes someone unclean. He said: "There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man." (Verse 15) Later, he more fully explained to his disciples what he was talking about. He said: "whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him; Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats? And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man." (Mark 7:18-23) Likewise, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for being concerned with the outward appearance of cleanliness instead of concerning themselves with the filth within (Matthew 23:26-26) In the same gospel, we are informed that Christ made clean a man who was afflicted with leprosy (Matthew 8:2-3) Finally, after his ascension to heaven, we know that Jesus revealed to Peter that he shouldn't regard any person as being unclean (Acts 10).

In the sixteenth chapter of Leviticus, we read about the rituals surrounding the Day of Atonement. In this ceremony, Aaron would officiate as high priest and would serve as a figure of Jesus Christ. As part of the preparation for this ceremony, Aaron was also instructed to present two goats to the Lord "at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation." (Verse7) Next, he was instructed to "cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat." (Verse 8) These goats would represent two different aspects of the atonement: one would provide the blood necessary for the high priest to make the atonement, and the other would symbolically carry away/remove the sins from the people and God's presence (verses 9-10). Then the high priest took the Lord's goat, sacrificed it, and used its blood to make atonement for the people of Israel (verses 15-19). Next, the live goat was to be brought forward and the high priest was to lay his hands on its head, confess over it all of the sins of the people, and release the goat to wander in the wilderness (verses 20-22).

As it relates to Jesus Christ, this symbolism is explained in the book of Hebrews and in a few other scriptures scattered throughout the Bible. In the ninth chapter of Hebrews, we read how "the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience...But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us." (Verses 6-12) Moreover, this explanation of Christ's role in the atonement is continued through verses that we have already cited in connection with his role as an offering for sin (verses 13-28). However, in connection with the scapegoat, we should also note that Isaiah observed that "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:6) Likewise, we have already quoted that passage from the Gospel of John where Jesus is identified as "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." (1:29)

Finally, in the twenty-third chapter of Leviticus, we read that the Lord told Moses to instruct the children of Israel "concerning the feasts of the Lord." (Verses 1-2) Paul wrote to the Colossians that these festivals were shadows of the reality found in Christ (2:17). In this regard, once again, I would like to recommend Ron Dart's excellent book titled The Thread: God's Appointments with History (2006) for anyone who is interested in a more thorough treatment of how these days apply to Jesus Christ. For our purposes in this post, however, a brief summary will suffice.

In our previous post about Christ in the book of Exodus, we saw that Christ was the ultimate Passover Lamb, and that he was the precious unleavened Bread of Life! We have not, however, previously discussed the wave sheaf offering (Leviticus 23:9-11). The priest was to wave a sheaf of the firstfruits of the grain harvest before the Lord during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Moreover, as Ron Dart has pointed out in the above-mentioned book, this ceremony could NOT be performed on a Sabbath day (as it required work (the harvesting and preparation of the offering). Now, the New Testament makes clear that Christ was sacrificed on the Jewish Passover, and it is also clear from the four gospel accounts that he was resurrected just after the Sabbath which followed the Passover - the very time when the high priest would have been presenting the wave sheaf offering to God! Moreover, this was to be followed by counting fifty days to arrive at the next festival mentioned in this twenty-third chapter of Leviticus (verses 15-16).

Pentecost is one of the Old Testament festivals with which almost all Christians are very familiar. Why? Because it was on this day that the New Testament Church was founded! In the book of Acts, we read: "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." (2:1-4) And, after delivering a fiery sermon (verses 14-36), we are informed that Peter told the crowd: "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." (Verse 38) This, apparently, resulted in the addition of about three thousand souls to the Church (verse 41). Hence, for Christians, Pentecost is regarded as a kind of foundational Holy Day for their religion!

The next festival mentioned in the book of Leviticus is the Feast of Trumpets (23:23-24). In terms of a connection to Jesus Christ, it is interesting to note that the writings of the New Testament clearly associate the "blowing of trumpets" with the resurrection and his return to this earth in power and glory! Indeed, Christ told his disciples that "then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." (Matthew 24:30-31) Likewise, Paul wrote to the saints of Corinth that "In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." (I Corinthians 15:52) He also wrote to the saints of Thessalonica on this wise: "For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord." (I Thessalonians 4:15-17) Finally, the book of Revelation is literally full of trumpets!

As for the Day of Atonement, we have already discussed the ritual associated with this Holy Day, but there is another aspect of the day which also points to Jesus Christ. In the twenty-third chapter of Leviticus, we read: "Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord. And ye shall do no work in that same day: for it is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the Lord your God. For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people." (Verses 27-29) In this connection, Isaiah's prophecy about the Messiah is of particular interest to us. We read there: "He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely, he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted...He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth." (Isaiah 53:3-7) Hence, we can see that in accomplishing our reconciliation to God that Christ was clearly afflicted in the performance of that task.

In similar fashion, the Feast of Tabernacles (or Temporary Dwellings) and the holy convocation on the eighth day also clearly point to Jesus Christ. During this festival, the Israelites were instructed to construct booths, or temporary shelters, to live in for the duration of the festival (Leviticus 23:40-42). In this connection, it is interesting to note that Jesus Christ "tabernacled" in the flesh for a little while. We read in the Gospel of John that "the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us." (John 1:14) Indeed, this tabernacling in the flesh was necessary for Christ to suffer the affliction and death that would result in our atonement/reconciliation to God! This is made very plain in the epistle to the Hebrews. We read there: "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings." (2:9-10) And, a little later, we read: "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil." (Verse 14)

Finally, we read in the Gospel of John that Christ attended the Feast of Tabernacles at Jerusalem during his lifetime on this planet (chapter 7). And, during his time there, he once again enjoined them to not make superficial judgments about righteousness (verses 22-24). Then, we read: "In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)" (Verses 37-39) Interestingly, on the eighth day - the day of that holy convocation, Christ referred to that same living water that he had mentioned to the Samaritan woman at the well, and invited everyone to partake of it!

Once again, for Christians, the evidence of Christ's presence in the Torah is overwhelming. Moreover, if any of them ever had any doubts about Christ representing the fulfillment of the Torah, they would surely be dispelled by what we will observe in the final two volumes of the Pentateuch (Numbers and Deuteronomy)!

 

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