A Better Priest: Part 1
If there’s ever been a misunderstood book of the Bible it would have to be the third book of the Torah, the book of Leviticus. Unfortunately saying it’s “misunderstood” is not really presenting the case as it is, for in the American Church today Leviticus is more than misunderstood, for intents and purposes it’s totally ignored. In conversations with others I’ve repeatedly heard the admission that Leviticus was the nail in the coffin to their “read the Bible in a year” plan. The second half of Exodus was rough enough, but Leviticus? Who wants to read about ripping the wings off a turtledove and all of that?
I can understand their plight.
The book of Hebrews starts off by stating that in past times God spoke through the Prophets in many different ways (1:1). Noticeably one of the OT books Hebrews most interacts with, Leviticus, repeatedly claims direct divine discourse.
No other book in the Bible affirms divine inspiration so frequently as Leviticus. Under the heading of the verb to speak (dibber) alone, the concordance lists no less than thirty-eight occurrences of the statement that Jehovah spoke to Moses or to Aaron. (Gleason Archer, A Survey of the Old Testament: Revised and Expanded [Chicago: Moody Press, 1994], 258.)
As a result of the understandable frustration with Leviticus many in the Church are ignorant of the foundational teachings about the God-ordained form of worship for the OT. Yet, as Christians, isn’t our faith centered in the confession that God has reconciled himself to a fallen humanity by the sacrifice of His unique Son? Sacrifices, both how God ordains they’re made and what they stand for, should be of great importance to the believer living this side of the cross.
Due to this lack of understanding about the OT sacrifical system we may find ourselves in an interpretative bind when encountering the book of Hebrews. For anyone who’s skimmed book the reason should be obvious: The author clearly presupposes that his audience was familiar with, and understood, the Levitical system. And, as expected, because of this fact the epistle to the Hebrews is by and large a closed book in the American evangelical Church.
So at the start of this series, I’d like to quickly chart our course. You’ll have a better understanding of what’s going on if a general overview is provided. In outline format, the goals of this series are twofold:
- To analyze both parallels and contrasts between the Levitical system and the Priesthood and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, as well as to highlight the perfection and sufficiency of Christ’s atonement, and to affirm the believer’s peace and unity with the Father because of Christ’s work in both its past and continuing functions.
- To clarify how the Old Testament types find their fulfillment in Christ, thus demonstrating the continuity regarding the means of salvation in both the Old and New Covenant administrations.
In the next part we’ll discuss some of the parallels between the OT priests and the priesthood of Jesus Christ.