I’ve been reading through Leviticus for my personal devotional time. Not by choice. I’d prefer to spend my study time in Philippians or Romans but I’m currently working through a reading plan and it has Leviticus assigned for this month. Because I believe that all of Scripture is the inspired Word of God and that the Lord speaks through His Word even when I don’t understand it (and because I’m a first-born rule follower and if the plan says I need to read Leviticus I need to read Leviticus) I’m muddling through.
A few days ago, I was struggling. I was working my way through chapters 13 & 14 which specify for the priests of Israel how to identify and cleanse diseases of the skin. It, like all of Leviticus gets very specific right down to discussing the color of the hair coming out of a skin eruption! Yuck! It was somewhere in the midst of this chapter that I found myself getting increasingly frustrated. “It’s too much, Lord,” I thought. Too much detail, too much rigidity, too many rules! And what is even the point since to my knowledge, I’ve never even come in contact with a leper? Just reading through that one chapter left me exhausted and stressed out. “Lord, have mercy,” I whispered to myself not so much as a prayer but rather because that is usually what I say when I’m feeling overwhelmed and have nothing else to offer.
Just then I felt a gentle nudge of the Spirit…“Exactly. THAT is the point.”
Leviticus (and all of Scripture) set up for me a standard that is unattainable because they introduce me to a God whose perfection is unattainable. He is just and without iniquity (Deut 32:4). He is holy (1 Peter 1:15). He is perfect (Matt 5:48). Nothing is impossible with Him. (Luke 1:37)
Reading through page after page after page of detailed laws brought me to crystal clear understanding of two things: the impeccably high standards of God, and the impossibility of me ever attaining them. I need to be reminded of both regularly so that I can appreciate the incredible gift that is offered to me through Jesus.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21
As we approach Palm Sunday, I’m aware that many church traditions rush past the events of the final week of Jesus’ life and focus instead on Easter Sunday and the celebration of the Resurrection. It’s true, of course, that Jesus’ victory over death is at the core of our faith and Easter, therefore, is rightfully a high holiday and major focus of our church year.
I believe, however, it’s important that I make a deliberate pause on Thursday and Friday of Holy Week before rushing to the good news of Easter. In my opinion, the recognition of my need for Jesus, his willingness to offer himself fully on my behalf, and the hopelessness of those days in the grave make the Hallelujahs of Easter all the sweeter.
Yes, the law is “too much”, but the same just God I met in the pages of Leviticus is the same merciful God whose great love for the world motivated the gift of His own perfect son on its behalf. I hope you will join me as we worship this coming Sunday at 9:30 am online and again on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday at 7 pm online. Let’s spend some time at the Lord’s table and at the foot of the cross pondering the great love and mercy of a God who would sacrifice himself for us. Then let’s gather in person on Easter Sunday to sing with confidence, “I Know that My Redeemer Lives!”