“Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on Eagles wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if you will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words which thou shall speak unto the children of Israel." (Exodus 19:5, 6)
From these verses it is not difficult to understand the overall purposes of God for His people. Everything can be summed up in one word: It is the word" peculiar”. Perhaps we may express it in modern day terms as being distinctly different. It is the difference that causes one to stand out and is recognizable by others. It doesn't mean weird or unpleasant. It is a difference that is caused from the outworking of a positive inward principle. Notice the words used in this verse that describe why this difference occurs.
The words" brought you unto Myself", suggest ownership. God has brought us and now he owns us. That is not bad. He has delivered us out of slavery and has set us free. In light of that action the next word is “responsibility”. That means that God has a plan for us and expectations from us. Third obedience is the next word. Keeping God's covenant and obeying His word are our responsibilities. Fourth is a word that speaks of promise. The promise is that we will be God’s peculiar treasure and be recognized and blessed above all the people of the Earth. Fifth he tells us that we shall be a kingdom of priests. That means by our conduct in reflecting the principles of godliness, people of the world will recognize us as belonging to another kingdom. Finally God tells us that we will be a holy nation. The word holiness is the keyword throughout the book of Leviticus. It means that in our relationship to God, we will take on His characteristics and holiness will reflect our inward character The word sanctification is also found throughout the book. It means separation of that which is holy from that which is not. It is a contrast between what the people of God are and should be, compared to what the people in the world are and choose not to be. In all of this, these are not characteristics forced upon us by God. God is pleased, and we and others are blessed when we make them our choice.
As we progress we will notice that what describes the children of God in the Old Testament is no different from that which is found in the New Testament. Are Christians redeemed? We should hope so. Do they claim lord ship of Jesus Christ? Absolutely! What about responsibility? Do Christians have a responsibility to reflect the love of God to a world that needs to hear about it? And what can we say about obedience? There is no blessing for disobedient Christians. And what about a kingdom of priests? Each of us as Christians has access to the throne of God and we can pray for our friends and their need. We have also a message of the kingdom that the world does not know about. We are ambassadors for Christ. That means we are God's representatives down here in the world that does not know God and we have a message from the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Finally, what about this matter of holiness. Holiness does not necessarily mean perfect. It means being honest about ourselves and our weaknesses. It means that we are willing to make sacrifices to allow God’s goodness to flow through us. It means that I have a strong desire to reflect the characteristic of my master. It also means that I'm willing to make whatever sacrifices are necessary to remove that which will hinder the image of God flowing out from me.
After considering all of this the Saints of the New Testament are no different than the Saints of the Old Testament. It is the same holy God that speaks to us through his Word,convicts us by his truth, and empowers us by His Spirit. The book of Leviticus has special meaning to all of God's people. As we journey through we will discover rich blessings which are otherwise hidden to those who refuse to see it as more than a legalistic document with no meaning for today. Thus far we have elaborated upon what is obviously similar to Christians and Old Testament saint alike. But there is more. Those dry, seemingly legalistic rituals contain blessings yet to be discovered.
As to the original intent of Leviticus, its purpose was to set up a code of law which would guide God’s people in their physical, moral, and spiritual well-being. But it didn't stop there. Its main purpose was to cause Israel to be a blessing even to the Gentile nations at hand. That doesn't sound too much different from the Christian’s purpose in the world. The reason all of this harmonizes so well is that it all centers in the person of God Himself. The ultimate goal is to reflect the great love of God to a world that doesn't know Him.
Another purpose for the law was to keep Israel separate from the heathen nations. To obey these laws even in an imperfect way has made the nation of Israel, even to this day, a unique, isolated and separated people to the people around them. Another purpose of the law was to help them understand the holiness of God. If they fail to understand that, it would be impossible to reflect it to others. So the primary purpose was to create understanding of the person they represented in order for them to communicate that same holiness to others. It was the inward working of God being reflected by the outward demonstration of their lives. That is always the case when it comes to sharing God with others. There must be true experience that results in successful ministry.
One way that the holiness of God was reflected was through the severity of the penalties attached to breaking the law. Men seem to be unable to understand how criminally offensive sin is in the eyes of God. If we could only see things as God sees them our lives would change. When a person spends time in the presence of a holy God, sin becomes exceedingly sinful. Paul the apostle expressed that in the book of Romans. The purpose of the law is to bring us there. And once we are there, it is the Levitical system that provides pardon and restoration. It was more than just a set of rules and regulations; it was a means to produce holiness in God's people. The law, then, reveals sin, produces guilt, enacts repentance, and results in pardon. That is the purpose of the law.
On the other side of the coin we see another purpose for the law. That is to reveal that the Lord God is merciful. Gracious and kind. Just as without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin; with the shedding of blood there is pardon and forgiveness. We will deal more with this topic when we come to examine the subject of the blood and its importance.
Read more articles by Henry Jaegers or search for articles on the same topic or others.