You are now almost halfway through the book of Leviticus. For many, this is different and difficult stuff. Hang in there. This, too, is the word of the LORD.
Yesterday, we watched the completion of a long narrative cycle: the LORD issues commands, Israel responds to those commands, and the LORD affirms His approval. I’ll remind you of how unique this all is in the ancient world.
Israel’s contemporaries worshipped their gods primarily through trial and error. These gods did not give details about what pleased them, and the instructions they did give were just as flippant and capricious as the divine world they inhabited. That this God who had claimed Israel– Yahweh, or, the LORD – would reveal so much was a comfort, not a terror.
This uniqueness continues as the LORD speaks – now to both Moses and Aaron – concerning His expectations for daily life. Chapter 11 outlines the animals that can and cannot be eaten. There are many commentaries on what these animals symbolize and the characteristics that divide clean from unclean, but we’ll do no speculation here. I simply encourage you to pay attention to how the LORD constantly reaffirms that He is “the LORD who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”
Not only are categories drawn around different types of animals, but there is also a recurrent theme of how dead animals are to be treated. It’s tempting to think practically about this: dead animals are gross, so of course touching them is gross. However, distinctions between “clean” and “unclean” have less to do with being gross than with how the LORD expects His people to distinguish themselves. It’s not (primarily, if at all) about passing germs, but about being able to participate in worship and community life.
Carry this thought into chapter 12, where we will see instructions for acknowledging the birth of a child. Consider how the theme of the importance of blood influences these purification laws. Listen, again, to how cleanness and uncleanness are discerned in every square inch of life.
For a final time, we’ll read together Hebrews 11:29: By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned.
Leviticus chapters 11 and 12. Now let’s read it!
By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned.