Yellow Balloons Devotional Series: Advent

Leviticus 1:1

Leviticus is largely about directions for sacrificial ceremonies and worship, and might seem hard for the modern reader to relate to. However, the New Testament reveals the great extent to which the entire Tabernacle enterprise symbolizes eternal truths that are as relevant to the New Testament believer as to the Old.

In particular, the New Testament book of Hebrews says that all the Tabernacle items are copies of the real thing in heaven. It further discusses the meaning of the priesthood and sacrifices, all of which look forward to Jesus Christ’s ministry on behalf of a fallen race.

Chapter 1 begins with God calling to Moses from the Tabernacle. This comes following all the instructions at the end of the book of Exodus that describe many details for how to construct the proper earthly dwelling place for the Suzerain (Ruler) God who redeemed Israel out of bondage in Egypt. Now that the Tabernacle has been constructed, God’s presence occupies the spot between the cherubim (over the ark of the covenant). God explains to Moses how to properly perform the services and sacrifices that will be carried out in the courtyard of the Tabernacle.

The first sacrifice given is the burnt offering sacrifice. In Hebrew, the word translated “burnt offering” is “Oleh” which means “to ascend.” The ancient Israelites visualized the gift (or offering) ascending by means of the fire and smoke to God, thus calling it an ascension. God permits three types of animals for burnt offerings:

1. Male Cattle

2. Male Sheep or Goats

3. Pigeons or Doves.

God declares He wants to be worshipped a specific way. The way He directs. The typical way religious worship transpired in this era centered around moral justification for perverse behavior and transactional manipulation. This can be seen in Leviticus 18, which lists typical behavior seen in Egypt and Canaan. That list includes a startling array of incestuous practices, as well as sex with animals. Pagan worship often included sexually immoral practices. Pagan worship also promised transactional blessings, giving people the illusion of control. The two alternative approaches to choose from are “love God and love others” (the result of obedience to God’s way) or “be god and exploit others” (the result of following the pagan way).

This can be seen in Jeremiah 44:18, where the people claim that when they worshipped the “queen of heaven” they got what they wanted. Worship of the LORD God was totally different. The Suzerain God’s promised blessings were largely interwoven with His commands. A community that practices His command to love one another as they love themselves would be greatly blessed through mutual collaboration, encouragement, and care for one another. This requires setting aside fleshly desires or seeking moral justification, but rather seeking to serve the best interest of others. The worship of the True God presumes He knows what is best for us, and it is in our best interest to seek and obey His ways. This contrasts with pagan worship that presumes we know what is best for ourselves, that it is in our best interest to seek a means to fulfill our appetites.

Leviticus begins with God speaking to Moses from the newly constructed Tabernacle, also called “the tent of meeting.” The Tabernacle is God’s dwelling place among the Israelites.

Now that the Tabernacle and its accessories have been built, God’s voice called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting. The tent of meeting refers to the tent constructed for the ark, the lampstand, and the other implements to be housed. God’s presence had taken its place within the tent of meeting, over the ark within the holiest place (Exodus 40:34-38). We are given some extra details about how God speaks to Moses, in Numbers 7:9:

“Now when Moses went into the tent of meeting to speak with Him, he heard the voice speaking to him from above the mercy seat that was on the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim, so He spoke to him.”

God’s voice is personified many times in the Bible. Genesis 3:8 says Adam and Eve heard the Voice of God walking in the Garden of Eden:

“They heard the sound (Voice) of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

The Hebrew word for soundhere is most often translated “voice.” Many rabbis reading the Hebrew of Genesis 3:8 ask, “How can a voice walk?” Of course, the entire universe was created through God speaking (Genesis 1).

David demonstrates the personification of God’s voice in Psalm 29:

“3 The voice of the LORD is upon the waters;
The God of glory thunders,
The LORD is over many waters.
4 The voice of the LORD is powerful,
The voice of the LORD is majestic.
5 The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars;
Yes, the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
And Sirion like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the LORD hews out flames of fire.
8 The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness;
The LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the LORD makes the deer to calve
And strips the forests bare;
And in His temple everything says, “Glory!”
(Psalm 29:3-9)

After having delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt, the Almighty God will now rule His people as their Suzerain King. He will speak with them through Moses and dwell in their presence. It is Him with whom they have entered into a covenant, and now His presence dwells in the Tabernacle. This is a reversal of what God told Moses in Exodus 33, “for I will not go up in your midst, because you are an obstinate people, and I might destroy you on the way.”

In Exodus 34, Moses petitioned God, and God changed His mind, agreeing to dwell in their midst. His means of doing so was for His presence to abide in the Tabernacle.

Moses, as God’s prophet, will now begin to receive instructions from God regarding how He wishes to be worshipped through the Levitical Priesthood and its service and sacrifices.

The book of Hebrews contrasts the Levitical priesthood with the priestly order of Melchizedek to which Jesus our High Priest belongs. The Levitical priesthood was to offer earthly sacrifices such as bulls and rams. However, no earthly priest could merit offering the sacrifice of all sacrifices: Jesus’ own body. This offering was so precious it required a priest after the order of Melchizedek, which is a priestly order superior to the Levitical priesthood as shown in Hebrews 9. Jesus the high priest, according to the order of Melchizedek, offered Himself willingly as the ultimate sacrifice to pay for the sins of the world (1 Peter 2:24).

Biblical Text:

1 Then the LORD called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying,