Leviticus is a much-maligned and often-ignored book of the Old Testament. It has been jokingly said that Leviticus is where yearly reading plans go to die. Leviticus can be a tedious read, but a good Bible student will patiently study from it. The Bible student who does study Leviticus will glean many treasures that will make the rest of the Old Testament and even the New Testament have a richer meaning. It sets the context of what the children of Israel should have done to please God. It is a high watermark of the standards God set for his people.
Leviticus is primarily a message for the Levites, and among the Levites, the priests are addressed the most. God speaks through Moses about what He wants His priesthood to do to lead the people in worship and especially concerning atonement. The religion revealed through Leviticus was a bloody religion. It was full of daily, monthly, and yearly sacrifices of bulls, goats, and/or birds. One thing becomes plain through Leviticus: blood is important to God.
One of the better-known passages in Leviticus is chapter 17, verse 11:
“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.” (Leviticus 17:11)
Blood was actually something that was to be treated as sacred in Hebrew society. Animals were to be drained properly before being cooked for consumption. In worship, blood was to be drained and parts of it would be used for anointing people, altars, and the entire tabernacle. While it could make one unclean if used inappropriately, blood was treated as holy also.
This passage has long been used to show the scientific foreknowledge of the Bible. Before it was widely accepted in society, the Bible stated how important it is to keep blood in the body. It is understood now that blood is what carries life-giving oxygen all over the body. Truly, physically, life is in the blood.
Now read the verse again (I’ll wait). A closer look at this verse reveals a deeper meaning. While life is in the blood physically, this verse is also the basis for understanding that spiritual life is found in the blood. Blood was to be used for atonement. The people of Israel had and would sin. Blood was to be spilled to make up for that sin. In Leviticus 4-7, the sin and trespass sacrifices are outlined. For these sacrifices, animals would be killed and drained of their blood to atone for the sins of specific people. In Leviticus 16, the instructions for a national Day of Atonement are outlined. Everyone in Israel had a way to get their sins forgiven, but it had to be repeatedly done. At least every year, a blood sacrifice was made for the sins of the people, but more should (and hopefully would) be offered when Judaism was practiced as prescribed in Leviticus.
This has applications to the modern Bible reader and especially the Christian. Today, atonement is also found in blood:
“and according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no remission.” (Hebrews 9:22)
While Christians do not offer bulls and goats for their sins, blood still has to offered if they are to be forgiven. Without blood, sin cannot be forgiven. The blessing Christians have is that one sacrifice was made for their sins. That sacrifice is Christ. Christ shed His blood on the cross so that all humanity can now receive the forgiveness of sins:
“For this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matthew 26:28)
Blood is necessary not only for physical life, but also for spiritual life. Leviticus established this principle, and the New Testament affirms it to be true and finalized in the sacrifice of Christ. Find life in the blood of Christ.
P.S. Don’t forget to keep up with your Bible reading!