Matins Devotion: May 2, 2023
The book of Leviticus is, at its heart, a book which centers around the God’s desire to dwell in the midst of his people. The problem, of course, is that God is holy and his people are sinful and unclean. How can sinners draw near to God and live? How can God dwell in the midst of such a rebellious and stiff-necked people and not destroy them?
Yet, God provides a way. In Leviticus, God gives careful instructions for how he is to be approached and for how he is to be worshipped. He establishes the types of sacrifices which are to be offered at the Tabernacle, he consecrates Aaron and his sons to be his priests—to be mediators between God and the people, he institutes a day of Atonement on which the blood of an innocent victim is shed for the sins of the people and that blood is brought into his very presence so that God’s wrath may be covered and so that his mercy may shine forth.
In all this, we see that God is preparing his people for the day of their visitation. For the day on which the true temple of God will partake in the very flesh and blood of humanity and dwell in their midst. For the day on which God will cleanse his people of their sins—not with the blood of innocent bulls and goats—but through the precious blood of his only begotten Son. Christ will be the great high priest who, after he has carried his own blood into the very presence of God—after he has once and for all made an atonement for sin—will sit down at the right hand of the Father—forever making intercession for God’s people—for us.
That’s why Leviticus is so important. That’s why God cares so much about the way his people approach him in worship. And that’s why God kills Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, when they are careless and show wanton disregard for the holy things of God with which they have been entrusted. Does how we worship matter to God? Oh yes. Does it matter how we handle the Word of God—what Luther liked to call the chief holy thing? Absolutely. Not because God is cruel and capricious and just looking for any excuse to punish us, but because it’s through the pure preaching of the Word and the right exercise of the sacraments that God creates faith, cleanses our sins, and sets us apart as a holy people.
Be holy, as I am holy. That’s the chief demand in the book of Leviticus. And, thanks be to God, we are. We have been sanctified—made holy—through the Word which proclaims to us the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our sacrificial Lamb. Our great high priest. Our advocate with the Father.