There are a couple of books in the Bible that it is ok to skip right over. The minor prophets? Eh...who needs them. Revelations? Too confusing! And anybody who has ever tried to read the Bible from start to finish has certainly faltered to some degree -- unless you have much greater tenacity than I -- when reading Leviticus, Numbers, or Deuteronomy.
But wait! Should we be so flippant about these books? Why are they in the Bible anyways? Why are they ignored in Bible class and sermons for the most part? While reading the great book, Younger Evangelicals, I read about a church who spent an entire year on the book of Leviticus and experienced radical growth. So I decided to give this book a second chance and see what was in it. Here's what I found:
"...If the whole Israelite community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord's commands, even though the community is unaware of the matter they are guilty. When they become aware of the sin they committed, the assembly must bring a young bull as a sin offering..." (Lev 4:13-14)
"...If a person sins and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord's commands, even though he does not know it, he is guilty and will be held responsible. He is to bring to the priest as a guilt offering a ram from the flock, one withouth defect and of the proper value." (Lev 5:17-18)
"...If anyone sins and is unfaithful to the Lord by deceiving his neighbor about something entrusted to him or left in his care or stolen, or if he cheats him, or if he finds lost property and lies about it, or if he swears falsely, or if he commits any such sin that people may do -- when he thus sins and becomes guilty, he must return what he has stolen or taken by extortion, or what was entrusted to him or the lost property he found, or whatever it was he swore falsely about. He must make restitution in full, add a fifth of the value to it and give it all to the owner on the day he presents his guilt offering." (Lev 6:2-5)
And that's just some snippets I found in the first 6 chapters. My initial reaction, bad as it may sound was, "Well no wonder the Israelites tried to find a way out and followed other false gods who let them live a little." My second reaction was, "Well thank goodness we're not under the old law!" But I think both thoughts seriously miss the point, and I think overlooking this as "old law" also loses some value as well. Don't get me wrong, I know its in the past but...
...but think of the extreme high standards God set out. A heavy sin offering was needed to pardon even the unintentional, unknown sin of a man. Can you imagine having to offer the modern-day equivalent of a ram for something you did unintentionally? Imagine having to repay your neighbor a fifth over what you had lost or stolen from him or her? Wow!
What gets me though is that these difficult rules make you think twice. Sometimes I think my attitude is "Oh well, what does it matter if I sin? I can pray, God will forgive me, and on I go with life." If however I sinned and knew I was going to have to sacrifice a ram, or for more practical sakes an equal equivalency of money, I would probably think twice. Perhaps what we've lost in the New Testament is that reverence for committing sin since we can seeming "get away" with it so easily.
So go read Leviticus. And if you really want to have some fun all you wild girls out there go read Numbers 5 and see what you think!