The book of love

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By Jeff Foerster

The pastor said, “Turn in your Bibles to the book of love.”  Pages were turned to the Psalms while some chose the Song of Solomon. Others found themselves preferring Philippians or Ephesians, and still others moved on to 1 Corinthians in anticipation of a sermon on chapter 13.

As the pastor began to read from the beginning of the book, he spoke these words: “Then the LORD called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, ‘Speak to the sons of Israel…’” Upon hearing many low-intoned voices he understood there was confusion among the people. “I’m sorry,” he returned, “Turn in your Bibles to the book of Leviticus.”

It is here in the third book of the Law that we find God’s proclamation of His great love. Wait. Isn’t this where we find rules and regulations concerning grain offerings, burnt offerings, peace offerings, and sin offerings? Isn’t this also where we find details on parts of the animals offered, such as the kidney, fat tail, fat-covered entrails, lobes of liver, blood, breast, and thigh? Do we not also read of the intimate anatomy of both male and female alike, concerning their cleanliness, or the uncleanness of those with “raw flesh,” boils, scales, and leprous marks? These images don’t conjure up amorous thoughts or feelings. They don’t inspire me to write a poem or sing a song to a loved one.

However, just as God was not in the strong wind, earthquake, or fire before Elijah during his days of confusion, the LORD speaks to us likewise here with a gentle blowing and a whisper for those who listen. Throughout Leviticus God weaves in the Gospel message, 1,500 years before the breeze of the Spirit came and quietly placed our Savior in the womb of a young girl named Mary.

We are given a glimpse of our sin nature through “unintentional sin” (4:2-3). Romans 3:10, itself a reaffirmation of Old Testament writings, is brought to mind here. Gently we are shown our need for confession (5:5) and graciously we are brought the solution (atonement through sacrifice) for our sin. We didn’t go seeking after it, yet He came seeking after us, instructing, guiding, loving.

He provided a way for us to be in His presence (9:4). Carefully crafting and designing, the Father lays out the requirements for sacrifice (3:1), echoing into the future, “Jesus…Jesus.” Our perpetual need for this Savior is seen glowing in the firelight (6:13).

God deepens our gaze, giving a foretaste of the coming transfer of sin from the guilty to the One being sacrificed (16:21 and chapters 3-4), and the expiation (taking away) of those sins far from us (16:21 and 14:7).

My heart is heavy as I read of the blood of sacrifice being poured at the base of the altar (4:7 and 9:8) and realizing that God’s perfect sacrifice, His beloved Son, would do the same, pouring out his sacrificial blood at the base of His altar, pooling below, covering the dirt, reflecting the final cry, “It is finished!”

Rejoicing, I can see a foreshadowing of the empty tomb on the third day (7:17). He has done it! Carefully, patiently, intricately our God revealed to us our need and His wonderful solution, whispered to us, in advance, in the Gospel of Leviticus.

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