The Lord summoned Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying: Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: When any of you bring an offering of livestock to the Lord, you shall bring your offering from the herd or from the flock. Leviticus 1:1–2
Countless people over the generations have decided at one time or another to read through the entire Bible from beginning to end. It is a well-intentioned desire, and it is rewarded with some truly captivating stories from Genesis and Exodus. But then the reader encounters the book of Leviticus, and after a chapter or two their resolve erodes, and the Bible is closed. Leviticus is a recounting of the laws God gave to Moses—laws that extended well beyond the Ten Commandments—that would serve to govern all aspects of communal life for the Hebrew people. There are laws for worship and sacrifice, for washing dishes and bathing one’s body, for settling grievances and leveling judgments, and for just about every other activity or interaction within the community. To a contemporary reader, these laws can seem both dry and severe, and we quickly become grateful we do not have to live under their authority. In fact, with an air of superiority, we tend to dismiss these laws as something the poor Jews have to deal with, while more enlightened and liberated Christians can faithfully ignore them.
What we often miss is the power of rules and regulations. We often take the rule of law that protects our own society for granted. And we forget what a preserving force Judaic law was in antiquity. There are reasons why the Hivites, Jebusites, Canaanites, and Philistines don’t exist anymore while the Jews continue to endure, even having faced the most unspeakable attempts to sweep them from the face of the earth. One of those reasons is their devotion to the law. Laws protect life. Rules safeguard relationships. And strict regulations can save entire societies. The book of Leviticus might weary the contemporary reader, but that book of laws has sustained the Jewish people for nearly 3,500 years. Therefore, it might be worth our reading.
What rule or law has been particularly beneficial to your life?
Lord, we chafe under certain rules and regulations. We don’t like thinking about having our freedoms limited in any way. And yet the rule of law ensures our liberty. Without laws, we have chaos, which harkens back to the dawn of creation when the world was nothing more than a formless void. You give the world shape, Lord. And Your laws set appropriate limits for our lives. Help us to appreciate Your call to regulation for the gift it is. In Your name, I pray. AMEN.