If we still have a wrong view of what the sacrificial system was all about, these last two chapters should set us straight.
It’s easy to import our own ideas about what sacrifice means and accomplishes onto Leviticus, but we must let the text speak for itself.
When people think about sacrifices, they often think of it like an equation. If I rack up 10 points worth of sin guilt, then I give 10 points worth of a sin offering. Then I am back in right standing with God.
But that is not how the sacrifices work. That is because the sacrificial system doesn’t stand on its own - it is part of a larger covenant between Israel and God.
The Covenant Basis of Leviticus
The covenant was made in Exodus. God would be Israel’s God, dwell with them, make them into a great nation, and bring them into the promised land. That was God’s side of the deal. Israel’s side was that they would keep God’s commands, like the Ten Commandments. Simply put, that’s the covenant. And these last two chapters tell us what will happen if Israel breaks that covenant.
What makes the equation version of the sacrificial system impossible is that God says he will not accept the sacrifices of the people if they don’t keep his covenant.
That means God does not have to accept the sacrifices prescribed in this book. The sacrifices clear a way for the people to be ready for God to commune with them, they do not force God to commune with them. God still maintains his sovereign choice.
What’s amazing about these last two chapters is that God promises to always accept the offerings is his people who keep the covenant. Moreover, he won’t only accept the offering, he will pour out abundant blessings of healthy land, protection from enemies, and long life.
What If They Break The Covenant?
But if the people break the covenant, God will break out against them. He will not accept their sacrifice and so God’s wrath will still be upon them. He will kick them out of the land, bring their enemies against them, and cut off their lives.
In fact, by the way God is talking it seems that this is exactly what will happen. And, of course, in the history of the Israelites this is exactly what did happen. They were kicked out of their land, overtaken by their enemies, and lives were cut short.
God offers a lifeline to this future people living exiled from the land. He says that if they repent and soften their hearts toward God, he will return them to the land and bless them once again.
But God says that the people won’t repent, they won’t change their hearts. So here is the amazing part. God says that even though his people will utterly forsake him, hate him, break his covenant, and never repent, God himself will still keep the covenant. He will bring them back despite their sin. He will change their hearts no matter how hard they are. He will give them life no matter how close to death they come.
This is God’s vow to his people.
Where is Jesus?
Israel was in exile. Enemies occupied their land. But in this dire season, God did not abandon his people. Instead, he did the opposite. He came in the flesh and actually lived with them. He pitched a different tent, the tabernacle of his human body in the person of Jesus.
Jesus Keeps The Covenant
Jesus accomplished absolutely everything prescribed in the book of Leviticus. He was the final offering, the final day of atonement, and the ultimate covenant keeper.
Now we who are in exile anywhere on this earth, no matter who we are, no matter what we’ve done, no matter how unrepentant and hard our hearts are, we can come to Jesus, put our hand on him through faith and receive all the covenant blessings of God.
We can be present with God. He will give us every spiritual blessing in Christ. And we will live with him forever in the new heavens and the new earth.
See For Yourself
I pray the Holy Spirit will give you eyes to see the God who takes his covenant so seriously that no matter how much we break it, he never will. And that you will see that it is only because of Jesus that those of us who should have been cut off from God forever, can be brought near him forever instead.