“The sin offering is to be slaughtered before the Lord … it is most holy” (Leviticus 6:25). Concerning the death of Jesus, the human story is this: “the chief priests and the teachers of the law will condemn Him to death” (Mark 10:33-34). There is, however, also the divine side of His Story. Jesus is the Priest who makes atonement for sin by becoming the sin offering. He came “to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Those who have been redeemed by the Lord are to live as those who are being sanctified by Him. Scripture teaches us about sanctification by showing us what we are not to be (Proverbs 6:12-19) as well as what we are to be.
The priest entered the holy place on behalf of the people. Jesus entered the holy city, Jerusalem, on behalf of the people. The priest entered with a sacrifice. Jesus Himself became the Sacrifice. Through Jesus Christ, the perfect Sacrifice for our sins, we are able to come to God and know that our prayer is heard and answered: “Hear my cry for mercy as I call to You for help, as I lift up my hands toward Your Most Holy Place” (Psalm 28:2).
In the sacrificial system, everything was to be done “as the Lord has commanded” (Leviticus 9:7; Leviticus 10:15). This was the foundation of Jesus’ authority. He lived His whole life in perfect obedience to the Father’s will. Only those who, through faith, are in union with Him, will recognize the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who refuse Christ, seeking to take salvation into their own hands (Mark 12:6-8), show that they do not understand that Christ alone has the authority to be the foundation of our salvation. When we consider the greatness of God’s salvation, we give glory to Him (Psalm 29:2,9) and the glory appears among us (Leviticus 9:23).
The Psalmist says, “I will exalt You, O Lord, for You lifted me out of the depths” (Psalm 30:10. In Leviticus 11-12, there is a great emphasis on the need for cleansing. In Christ, we have been cleansed. We exalt Him because He has lifted us out of the darkness of our sin. The Psalmist says, “O Lord, You brought me up from the grave” (Psalm 30:3). Jesus speaks of “the resurrection” (Mark 12:23). He is looking beyond His resurrection. He is speaking of our resurrection. We will be raised in Him. We will be raised to eternal life.
Leviticus 13 continues to emphasize the importance of being clean. The clean life is a life characterized by love for God and love for our neighbour (Mark 12:29-31). This is “more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices” (Mark 12:33). The clean life is the life which is lived in the light of God’s holy Word: “these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light” (Proverbs 6:23).
We are cleansed by the sacrifice of “the sin offering” which “makes atonement” for us “before the Lord” (Leviticus 14:18). Only those who have received cleansing from their sins through faith in Christ will enjoy the glory of heaven when the Lord returns (Mark 13:27). Psalm 30:8-12 gives an account of faith in the Lord. Realizing the danger of judgment (Psalm 30:9), the Psalmist calls upon the Lord, crying to Him for mercy (Psalm 30:8). God answers the prayer, turning the Psalmist’s “wailing into dancing” and clothing him with joy (Psalm 30:11). The Psalmist sings to the Lord from his heart – “O Lord my God, I will give You thanks for ever” (Psalm 30:12).
At the heart of the book of Leviticus, with all its meticulous detail, there is this great statement regarding the spiritual purpose of it all: “atonement will be made for you, to cleans you. Then, before the Lord, you will be clean from all your sins” (Leviticus 16:30). When we come to the New Testament, we find Jesus Christ, not only celebrating the Passover but fulfilling the Passover. He is the Passover Lamb. In Psalm 31:5, we read the words spoken by Christ on the Cross: “Into Your hands, I commit My spirit.” These words are followed by the prayer: “redeem me, O Lord, the God of truth.” God’s answer to prayer was, in the case of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Resurrection. The risen Christ might truly echo the words of the Psalmist: “I will be glad and rejoice in Your love, for You saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul. You have not handed me over to the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place” (Psalm 31:7-8).
“For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar, it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life” (Leviticus 17:11). The Old Testament principle, cited in Hebrews – “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins” finds its fulfilment in the death of Christ – “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). He says to His disciples, “This is My blood of the covenant which is poured out for many” (Mark 14:24). Psalm 31:9-13 sounds very much like a description of Christ’s suffering on the Cross. This is followed by these great words: “But I trust in You, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God’” (Psalm 31:14). The Psalmist goes on to say that “the wicked” will “lie silent in the grave” (Psalm 31:17). This is in contrast to Christ who rose from the grave.
Central to the teaching of Leviticus is its emphasis on the holiness of God and His purpose of making His people holy: “Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the Lord your God. Keep My decrees and follow them. I am the Lord, who makes you holy … You are to be holy to Me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be My own” (Leviticus 20:7-8, 26). We are commanded to “be holy.” We have the Lord’s promise that He will make us holy – holy to the Lord, different from those who live according to worldly standards. Jesus was perfectly holy, yet He did not defend Himself when He was falsely accused by evil men (Mark 14:55-61). He “confessed our sin”, took our place, bearing the punishment for our sins. We must not be ashamed to confess Him – “Yes, I am with Jesus. Yes, I am His disciple” (contrast Peter’s denial in Mark 14:66-72). there is judgment for those who destroy themselves by going the world’s way rather than the Lord’s way (Proverbs 6:32-33).
An offering of sacrifice to the Lord “must be without defect pr blemish to be acceptable” (Leviticus 22:21). In Mark 15:15, we have the great statement concerning the sinless Son of God taking the sinner’s place – “Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged and handed Him over to be crucified.” “Praise be to the Lord, for He showed His wonderful love to me when I was in a beseiged city” (Psalm 31:21). The Cross was, for Jesus, a beseiged city. When He cried out to God, it was like the prayer of the Psalmist – “In my alarm I said, ‘I am cut off from Your sight!’” God answered the Psalmist’s prayer – “Yet You heard my cry for mercy when I called to You for help” (Psalm 31:22). God answered Jesus’ prayer when He raised Him from the dead. To those who believe in the crucified and risen Christ, God says, “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord” (Psalm 31:24).
Leviticus 23 gives a description of “the appointed feasts of the Lord” (Leviticus 23:2, 44). At the heart of this chapter lies “the Day of Atonement, when atonement is made for you before the Lord” (Leviticus 23:28). Each of the festivals had their place in keeping the people in a right relationship with God. In the death of Jesus Christ, there is atonement. He died to bring us into a right relationship with God. He bore the divine sentence of judgment upon Himself – “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34) – so that we might know the blessing of which the Psalmist speaks: “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven” (Psalm 32:1).
Leviticus 25 speaks of “the Year of Jubilee.” Mark 16 tells us about the Day of Jubilation, the Day when Jesus Christ was raised from the dead – “Jesus Christ is risen today, Hallelujah!” The Resurrection of Jesus Christ: This is cause for much rejoicing – “Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous … sing to Him a new song, play skilfully, and shout for joy” (Psalm 33:1,3).
In Leviticus, there are many commands given by the Lord so that the people of God, walking in obedience to His Word, might enjoy His blessing. This principle is taught throughout the Word of God – the way of obedience is the way of life: “Keep My commands and you will live” (Proverbs 7:2). This is not a shallow legalism. It is the result of the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives (Luke 1:15-17).
“The Israelites did all this just as the Lord commanded Moses” (Numbers 1:54). “‘I am the Lord’s servant’, Mary answered, ‘May it be to me as You have said’” (Luke 1:38). Obedience to the Lord’s Word – this is emphasized throughout Scripture: “the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him, on those whose hope in His unfailing love” (Psalm 33:18). Obedience to God is set within the context of both fearing the Lord and knowing the reality of His love.
The detailed instructions given in the early chapters of Numbers arise out of Moses’ communion with God – “the Lord talked with Moses on Mount Sinai” (Numbers 3:1). God speaks to us, and we – in response to His Word – speak to Him. ‘Mary’s song’, in Luke 1:46-55, is a great example of a soul, touched by the Lord, responding to Him in worship: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour” (Luke 1:46-47). Mary echoes the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 34:1 – “I will extol the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips.”
Numbers 4 speaks about the work which the various tribes were to do in the Tent of Meeting. Above all, the work we are called to do is worship. We are to say from our hearts, “Praise be to the Lord” (Luke 1:68). Part of this worship will be the proclamation of God’s Word – the Word through which we receive salvation (Luke 1:76-77). As the Word of God comes to us, God Himself says, “Come, My children, listen to Me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (Psalm 34:11).
“The Lord bless you …” (Numbers 6:24). The Lord’s blessing comes to us through His Son, Jesus Christ. In Him, there is “good news of great joy … for all the people.” He is the “Saviour”; “Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). “The Lord … keep you” (Numbers 6:24). In Christ, we are kept in the face of the kind of temptations described in Proverbs 7:6-20.
In Numbers 7, we read of the various offerings which were brought to the Lord at the dedication of the Tabernacle. In Luke 2, we read of Joseph and Mary taking Jesus “to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord” (Luke 2:22). All that the people brought to the Lord had first been given to them by the Lord. Jesus has been to us by the Lord. All that we give to the Lord is given as our response to His great gift of Jesus. As we consider Jesus Christ who has tabernacled Himself among us (“the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”), we will say, with the Psalmist, “my soul will rejoice in the Lord and delight in His salvation” (Psalm 35:9).
At the time of the book of Numbers, worship took place in the Tent of Meeting. By the time of Jesus, worship took place in the Temple. The Passover was being celebrated in the Desert of Sinai in the days of Moses. The Passover was being celebrated in Jerusalem in the days of Jesus. The important thing is not the place where we worship. It is the Person whom we worship. In Luke 2:49, Jesus says, “Didn’t you know that I had to be in My Father’s House (or about My Father’s business)?” The important thing is being in the centre of the Father’s will. Many are in the Father’s House, but they are not about the Father’s business. We need both – in the Father’s House and about the Father’s business. When we say, with the Psalmist, “I will give thanks in the great assembly; among throngs of people I will praise You” (Psalm 35:18), it must not be mere words, being in the place of worship without being in the spirit of worship, uttering the words of worship yet missing the power of worship. True worship is always more than just words. It is an offering of ourselves to the Lord.
From evening till morning the cloud above the tabernacle looked like fire” (Numbers 9:15). Then fire from the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp” (Numbers 11:1). “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand to clear the threshing floor and to gather the wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Luke 3:16-17). Fire is a symbol of God’s working among His people. In both Numbers and Luke, there are two aspects of God’s work in us; burning away the sin and brightening our lives with the presence of God, with the power of the Holy Spirit. Those who have been blessed by the Lord in this way must surely say of Him: “My tongue will speak of Your righteousness and of Your praises all day long” (Psalm 35:28).
We must contend with the world, the flesh and the devil. In Numbers 11:4-6, we read about the pull of the flesh. This becomes the lure of the world, as men, living in the flesh, speak to Moses as men of the world (Numbers 11:10-15). In Luke 4, we see the ultimate origin of evil – “the devil” (Luke 4:2). We must never imagine that we wrestle only against flesh and blood. The influence of the world is seductive. It is attractive to the flesh. In this situation, we must hear the words of Proverbs 7:24-27 as a warning against the devil, an exposure of him: “Now then, my sons, listen to me; pay attention to what I say. Do not let your heart turn to her ways or stray into her paths. Many are the victims she has brought down; her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death.” The enemy is real. The warning is strong. The Saviour is stronger. In Him, we have the victory. The world will not prevail over us. The flesh will not prevail over us. The devil will not prevail over us. Jesus is Victor!
In Numbers, there were those who grumbled against the Lord and those who pressed on to know the blessing of the Lord. In Jesus’ time, there were those who despised the Him and those who received the “good news” with gladness. What a difference there is between the two: “See how the evildoers lie fallen – thrown down, not able to rise!” (Psalm 36:12); “Continue Your love to those who know You” (Psalm 36:10).
In Numbers, we read much of the way of opposition to the Lord and His Word. It is a way that leads to judgment. There is, however, a better way. It is the way of “listening to the Word of God” (Luke 5:1). Which way are we to choose? – “Commit your way to the Lord” (Psalm 37:5).
The Levites had an important part to play in the life of Israel. A man called Levi (Matthew, the writer of the first Gospel) had an important part to play in the life of the early Church. We are told, in Psalm 37:17, that “the Lord upholds the righteous” – “The days of the blameless are known to the Lord, and their inheritance will endure forever” (Psalm 37:18). This is a tremendous declaration of the saving purpose of the eternal God. We, who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, are part of the inheritance of Israel and of Jesus’ first disciples. We have come to share in their inheritance through reading, with faith, the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, the Scriptures which declare to us God’s preparation for Christ and God’s proclamation of Christ. Through Christ, we have entered into an eternal inheritance: “eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
The wilderness years were not easy. The pathway from Egypt (the land of oppression) to Canaan (the land of promise) was not an easy pathway. For Jesus, the pathway between Bethlehem and Calvary was not easy. Jesus’ suffering did not begin at Calvary. There was suffering from the very beginning of His life. Herod tried to kill Him when He was still a baby. Early on in His ministry, Jesus faced opposition from “the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. They ”were looking for a way to accuse” Him. They “began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus” (Luke 6:7,11). Life, for the believer, may not be paved with the gold of this world, but we are learning to live in the light of heaven’s values: “Choose My instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her” (Proverbs 8:10-11).
The people of Israel had been “blessed” by the Lord (Numbers 22:12). Jesus also speaks of the way of blessing (Luke 6:20-22). Psalm 37:2 tells us that “those the Lord blesses will inherit the land.” Psalm 37:25-26 reminds us of how much blessing we have received from the Lord: “I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging for bread. They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be blessed.” Here’s something we must never forget: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
“God is not a man, that He should lie” (Numbers 23:19). God’s Word is truth. To build on the foundation of God’s Word is to build on a rock-solid foundation (Luke 6:47-48). To build on this rock-solid foundation is to be safe in the stronghold of God’s salvation: “The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; He is their stronghold in time of trouble. The Lord helps them and delivers them; He delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in Him” (Psalm 37:39-40).
There is, in Numbers 24:17,19, a prophecy concerning the Lord Jesus Christ: “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a sceptre will rise out of Israel … A ruler will come out of Jacob.” Centuries later, John the Baptist was sent by God as a messenger. He prepared the way of the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 7:27). Psalm 38 speaks of a very difficult time in the Psalmist’s life. Significantly, this Psalm begins with the words, “O Lord.” This is what we must do. We must in all our need to the only One who can meet our need fully – the Lord. He is not only the fulfilment of prophecy. He is the One in whom we find fulfilment.
Our God is the Lord of hosts – “The total number of the men of Israel was 601,730″ (Numbers 26:51). He is also the God of the individual – “Jesus said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace’” (Luke 7:50). He is the God of kings – “By Me the kings reign” (Proverbs 8:16). He is also the God of all who love Him – “I love those who love Me, and those who seek Me will find Me” (Proverbs 8:17).
In the parable of the sower, Jesus speaks of the seed and the fruit. In Numbers, we read of Moses and Joshua. The seed had been sown by Moses. The fruit would be given to Joshua. The important thing is this: It is not the sower or the reaper who gives the increase. It is God who gives the increase. As we look to God to give the increase, we say to Him, “I wait for You, O Lord; you will answer, O Lord my God” (Psalm 38:15).
Numbers 31:22-24 emphasizes the importance of cleansing. The healing of the demon-possessed man, in Luke 8, emphasizes the power of Christ to cleanse even the most sinful of people. To be cleansed from sin involves an act of the will on our part – “I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin” (Psalm 39:1). The Psalmist does not only speak of being kept from sin. He also speaks about being on fire for the Lord: “My heart grew hot within me; and as I meditated, the fire burned, then I spoke with my tongue” (Psalm 39:3).