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Where do we draw strength to cope with the challenges of life? Many draw strength from family, friends, and colleagues; some from their religion. Whether we draw strength from a religious or non-religious group, members relate to one another based on rules. In a family, you respect your parents; at work, you listen to your manager; in a shrine, you follow the instructions of the priest/priestess.
Our level of importance in our social groups, depend on the sacrifice, gifts and offerings we devote to the group. Our sacrifices signal our level of commitment. The highest sacrifice is to die for the benefit of the group. Sacrifices, be it a chicken in a shrine, or a sheep during a cultural festival, is a symbol that we offer our lives as a sacrifice – in total commitment – to the spirit being worshipped.
In Leviticus, God gives Israel a new lifestyle, which calls for total commitment to serving him. Thus Leviticus Chapters 1 to 7 starts with five types of sacrifices the people have to make in the Temple. They are the (1) burnt offering (2) meal offering (3) peace offering (4) sin offering (5) trespass offering. The first three are to express gratitude; the last two are for repentance and forgiveness for wrongdoing.
When an Israelite makes a sacrifice, the Israelite is saying I fully commit to serving God, I am thankful for his salvation and provision, and I ask forgiveness for not living fully to God’s word. Later, the New Testament showed that the people’s sacrifices and offerings were imperfect as they were never fully committed to God, the perfect sacrifice was Jesus, whose dedication and commitment to God was total.
Jesus did say in John 15:13 (Amplified Bible): “No one has greater love [nor stronger commitment] than to lay down his own life for his friends.” Jesus did not lay down his life symbolically by sacrificing chickens or sheep, he laid down his life practically. Leviticus starts with the sacrifices because our foundational response to God who saves us and provides for us, should be dedication, gratitude, and repentance.
May the Lord give us insight into Leviticus, Amen!