My youngest son, Smith, is reading through the Bible this year. He’s getting bogged down in Leviticus.
I tell him, Leviticus is my life. I’ve studied Leviticus more intensely and over a longer stretch of time than any other book of the Bible, and it’s shaped by understanding of everything—atonement, the church, worship, sacrificial living, God.
He says, All I can see are rules that we don’t have to keep anymore. I say, Yes, but that’s interesting in itself, isn’t it? That God would give rules and later cancel them.
He says, Like the tree of knowledge of good and evil. I say: Exactly right.
The holy God comes to dwell among Israel and opens His house to His people. They aren’t ready to come all the way in, so He institutes procedures and protocols to limit and control their approach. They can only come near if they are clean, and only through animal mediators. As in the garden, God has rich gifts to offer, but He will only give them when Israel is prepared to receive them. A good gift given or taken prematurely is a pharmakon, poison.If God’s gifts are in time, timely, He must be interactive in time. He’s not controlled by time, but He is active in time. He withholds for a while, then gives. He sets up protocols and procedures for a time, and cancels them when the time is right. It wasn’t time to send the Son when He expelled Adam from Eden; at the foot of Sinai, it wasn’t yet time to take flesh and walk among us. He says this now, and that later, and only in the last days does He speak to us in His Son.
Leviticus tells us about gifts, time, and the God of time and gifts. Leviticus isn’t just my life. It’s life, the life of the world.