Each of us naturally filters life through certain presuppositions. The same can be said for our reading of Scripture. Annually, January ushers forth a tide of renewal and resolution. Often times, the spiritually determined opt to read the Bible in its entirety over the course of the upcoming year. Generally, the venture starts out promising enough until you reach the dreaded momentum killer that is Leviticus.
It is a tough one. Leviticus is the only book of the Bible for which I was daily rebuked during my summer internship in Omaha after I told one of the pastors I “hated” reading it. They still ask me almost every time I see them if there are any other books of the Bible I hate these days. Though, humor aside, they also taught me how to read Leviticus anew.
I say all of this because I am currently working through a one year Bible plan, though I started a little early this past November. It had been a while since I made the trek and I felt my reading structure growing stale. So I thought I would give it a go.
This week, I was scheduled to begin Leviticus and so far I am enjoying it.
Which brings me back to my opening point. Each of us processes our experiences with certain presuppositions and it is no different when we begin reading the Bible. With the fall semester behind me, I’ve been taking some time to try and reflect on the material I learned in my classes, most notably that of Trinitarianism. Over the past few months, I was blown away as I was introduced to the rich implications of the doctrine so crucial to Christianity. Without the Trinity, the God of the Bible cannot be truly taken at His word.
How are we to know who God is if He has not been the same for all eternity? If He says He is loving, how can we know for certain unless He has always exhibited such a characteristic throughout eternity past? And how can anyone display true love if they exist in isolation?
Within the context of the Trinity, God is set free from dependence upon Creation and is made trustworthy in His promises. He did not create the world because He needed it to complete His shortcomings. Rather, He has always existed in perfect unity as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in a loving and life-giving context which was extended into Creation through the overflow of His heart.
This is a reason to rejoice. It is also a reason to read Leviticus with pause.
My presuppositions as I approach the book are as described above. God is a loving, life-giving God who exists in the Trinitarian community of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He does not need us. Meaning that when He created humankind in perfect unity with Him, He was under no obligation to preserve it when Adam and Eve blatantly disobeyed His one regulation. In fact, He would have been well within His rights had He chosen to take them out immediately.
But He didn’t. Instead, He clothed His transgressors and promised to one day repair what they had broken. From these criminals, He gladly created a nation, made them prosper, and gave them a name – Israel, which means “God fights,” an unwavering alliance to the one named. And though they grew increasingly afraid of His presence demanding that He retreat and communicate through a mediator (Moses) He endured their cries and placed His created order in written form.
This is the book of Leviticus, a portion of the Bible regularly avoided for its mundanity and juridical weight. Perhaps that is simply because we read it with the wrong presuppositions. Consider this for a moment:
How great is the personal care of God for His people that when they shame His name He would go to such lengths to warn of what would further separate them from their Father and lead to their ultimate destruction? How great is His care that He would teach them how to eat and drink, properly tend wounds, live healthily within their homes, and rightly enjoy relationships with one another?
Above all, how merciful is He that though we regularly live as though we are His equal, He has made a way for us to return to His presence cleansed and pure through the sacrifice of another?
Leviticus is the story of God’s grace to His people. In other words, it is the story of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And sometimes we need only a new lens to see clearly what has been within the pages all along.