I admit it, I haven’t preached through Leviticus. For many people it is the book that undoes their read through (my suggestion? Read faster and get the sweeping history rather than trying to meticulously study through Leviticus every time . . . and keep the pace through the rest of the Bible too!) So I haven’t preached it, but I can say this: when I preached the whole Bible in a single message, the key text came from Leviticus.
So here are three themes that are worth pondering, both in preaching Leviticus itself, and for preaching elsewhere:
1. Worship and Atonement. Leviticus launches with seven chapters on sacrificial offerings, then builds to the climactic Day of Atonement description in chapter 16. It is too easy to preach from the New Testament and make vague references to “Old Testament sacrifices” and how glad we are not to have to do them. As a preacher it would be well worth reading this section closely enough to be able to describe what was involved in “all those sacrifices.” Can we really grasp all that Jesus has done for us if we are basically unaware of the system in place prior to His sacrifice?
2. Living and Loving. The priestly code of early Leviticus flowed out of the conclusion to Exodus (and the terrible golden calf incident). But then in Leviticus 17 there is a passing reference to another ghastly failure, this time on the part of the people: worshipping goat demons. What follows is yet more law, this time focusing in on the people who needed to live with one another and love one another in light of who the LORD is. In the midst of this section we find the seven Mosaic feasts described in chapter 23. Again, to preach the New Testament effectively we need to know our way around the annual feasts of Israel.
3. Living in God’s Presence. So the last time I preached the whole Bible in a single message, what text proved pivotal? It came from Leviticus. It is about living in God’s presence. Sounds like it will feel like a pressure passage pushing us to live holy lives so we might be able to approach God? Not quite. The anticipation of Leviticus 26:11-12 shows God’s desire to dwell with His people, a desire that shows throughout the canon and culminates the whole story in Revelation 21.
“I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people.”