Have you ever been given a message that you took at face value and it did not seem very important, only to find the underlying meaning later, and realize that it was really quite important? My wife and I have a phrase that we use to say “I love you” that does not make any sense at face value (No, I’m not posting what it is for the whole world to see!) If you were to hear it, you would be like, “That’s not even a sentence!” But we know what it means. It’s really a wonderful thing to hear, especially when I’m having a bad day.
Leviticus is truly a beautiful book once you understand the importance of what God commands His people to do. The sacrifices, the building elements of the tabernacle, the furniture inside the tabernacle, and the priestly garments are all such beautiful pictures, but far too often we get to Leviticus and we gloss over it because it seems kind of boring at surface level. (In fact, the book of Hebrews falls into this same category of not meaning much until you understand what meaning underlies the text.)
Right off the bat, God jumps into commands for His people. Very detailed instructions on what to do with the sacrifices, how to construct the altar, the laver, the basin, the candlestick, the table of shewbread, the altar of incense, the veil, and the ark of the covenant. Even the construction of the outer court has significance (more on that later).
As we begin with these pictures of the sacrifice, we have to remember the reason for sacrifices. That takes us back to Genesis 3 where mankind chose to rebel against the single rule that God had given. That rebellion had consequences that are still being felt. The first physical death occurs in Genesis 3:21, when God provides a covering for 2 sinners of animal skins. That picture of covering is carried through these sacrifices in Leviticus 1-3 as the blood was a covering for sin. Hebrews 10:4 tells us that the blood of bulls and of goats could not take away sin, only cover it. (I STRONGLY encourage you to read Hebrews 8-10 as a supplement to these first few chapters of Leviticus. Hebrews 9:13 is directly referring to the sacrifices offered in Leviticus 1-3.)
But the beauty of this “hidden message” is found not in doves, lambs, goats, or bulls, but in the precious blood of Jesus. As an unspotted lamb (Lev. 1:3), He was offered voluntarily (Lev. 1:3, cf. Luke 22:42-44), shed his blood (Lev. 1:11) that was not only able to cover sin, but to take it away (Hebrews 9:12-14).
I should take a moment at this point to say, there are some people who look in the Old Testament for meaning in EVERY little thing. Every rock and twig has some spiritual meaning to them. We need to be careful to take things as they are, not over spiritualizing, but also being careful to recognize meaning when it is there. Pairing the books of Leviticus and Hebrews helps to tie together the “shadows of good things to come” with the “very image of the things” (Hebrews 10:1). Additionally, when my wife and I visited Brasil, we were privileged to see a life sized replica of the tabernacle. I will try to post pictures with each section as we come to it so that you can visualize what we are talking about.