Week 28: Is the Levitical Law Good?

by Justin Lau

‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy’ (Lev 19.2).

 

As we continue to read Leviticus, we see that that is God’s main desire, and the extensive list of laws are meant to help His people achieve that. The problem is the Israelites really need a lot of guidance (thus the extensive list).

We might read these laws and think, Why does God always seem so uptight? Chapter 18’s laws regarding sexual relations might add fuel to the fire against ‘Christian prudishness’ especially when it comes to sex.

But God knows what’s best for His people, and there are always very good reasons to His words/actions. You’ll notice several references to Molech in chapters 18 and 20: ‘You shall not give any of your offspring to sacrifice them to Molech’ (18.21). This refers to the cult of Molech in which it’s thought that as offerings to the pagan god, children were trained as temple prostitutes or babies were thrown in the fire. Everyone can agree this is not right (an understatement) and God’s holiness required Him to take necessary measures to ensure the Israelites didn’t do the same.

A lot of laws revolve around cleanliness, i.e. being made clean before entering into God’s presence. Thankfully, Jesus has made us clean once and for all. At the end of this week’s reading in Luke, we reach Jesus’s death on the cross, the greatest redeeming act of love.

However, that doesn’t mean we can simply throw out all the Levitical laws. Yes, we don’t have to (metaphorically) wash ourselves anymore. But the law was given with the reason to make His people holy; it reflects God’s own moral nature.

Jesus’s words/actions reflected many of the laws: e.g. He flew into a rage that the temple had become a ‘den of robbers’ (Luke 19.46; compare with laws about not stealing/defrauding). Remember, Jesus didn’t come ‘to abolish the law […] but to fulfil [it]’ (Matt 5.17). Leviticus can help us understand better God’s heart as well as follow Jesus’s example as we seek to be more holy, just as the Lord is holy.

  • What particular laws stand out to you? What is God’s heart behind them?
  • Which laws do you think might still be helpful and relevant to your life?
  • How often do you find yourself stuck within a legalistic mindset? What are some practical ways to help you free yourself from it?
  • How much of what you say, think or do reflects Jesus’s own words, thoughts and actions?