Reading Leviticus, Seeing Christ (Part 1)

A Christ-Centered Text

We believe that “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). Similarly: “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scripture we might have hope” (Rom 15:4). These texts may be easy to believe when reading Psalms or Isaiah – but what about books like Leviticus? Are these sacrificial prescriptions applicable for the church today? How do we draw instruction and profit from this book?

One response to such questions would be to refute Antinomianism. A second response would be that Leviticus is an infallible, God-breathed book – by sole merit of this, it becomes valuable to us. A third response, perhaps: texts such as 2 Timothy 3:16 and Romans 15:4 charge us to have faith that it is beneficial for us. Yet I would like to focus on a fourth response: all Scripture is Christ-Centered. One reason that Leviticus is valuable and profitable for us is that it exalts Jesus Christ. Consider John 5:39. “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me.”

This series of articles will not be an exegesis of Leviticus. I simply want to show you several passages that scream “Messiah!” to me. I pray this is helpful, faithful and truly Christ-exalting.

The Law of Burnt Offerings (Lev 1:3-9)

God gave the Israelites five main criteria for burnt offerings. A burnt offering must be:

  1. Without defect (v.3)
  2. Before the Lord (v.3)
  3. The man’s substitute, having been affiliated with him (v.4)
  4. Pleasing the Lord (v.9)
  5. Presented by a priest (i.e. mediator; v.5-9)

Jesus Christ is foreshadowed in this, for He was:

  1. Righteous, “without defect” (1 Pt 2:21-22)
  2. A propitiation before the Lord (Rom 3:24-26)
  3. Incarnated in our image and died as one of us, being affiliated with man to be his substitute (2 Cor 5:21)
  4. A propitiation that pleased God (Isa 53:10)
  5. And is the timeless High Priest and intercessor on behalf of His people; a perfect mediator (Heb 4:14-16; 7:23-28)

As the book goes on, we see various reiterations of these criteria. Every time I read “without defect” or “before the Lord,” I immediately recognize a shadow of Christ. We always want to be careful not to allegorize the text or go to extreme typologies. However, to not recognize that these phrases hint at what is to come is to commit a grievous exegetical fallacy.

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