I think it would be interesting and instructive, before looking at Leviticus, to mark the theme of the first five books of the Bible, and particularly the position that Leviticus holds in relation to the others. There are principles that outlive generations and dispensations and this makes the whole of the Bible such an interesting book, infinitely above every other book, even every book which has been written about it. It is truly divinely constructed, living and God-breathed, not merely above, but as already stated, far above every other book, and not to be compared to others but in contrast to all. Incomparable, matchless, indestructible, without need of revising, perfect, complete, abiding, it remains for ever settled in its solitary majesty and grandeur.
The Themes in the Pentateuch
In Genesis we have the nations of the world, sin and idolatry, but we also have Gods sovereign choice and purpose - predestination. In Exodus we have the truth of redemption, of a people being purchased and delivered. The picture is of deliverance from a slave market. If in Genesis we have the thought of predestination and in Exodus the truth of a purchased people, then in Leviticus we have priesthood, the truth of the sanctuary and a people approaching unto the Lord. In Numbers we are in the wilderness, more as pilgrims than priests seen in service. In Deuteronomy we have instruction about possessing the land, appropriating our inheritance.
Let us summarise. In Genesis we are put out, going down and away from God. In Exodus we are redeemed and brought out. In Leviticus the slave market is exchanged for a sanctuary and the prisoners who were brought out are brought into the sanctuary as priests. In Numbers we have our pilgrim character. We are serving and being brought through the wilderness, while in Deuteronomy we are being instructed and prepared to go over to take possession of our inheritance. All these pictures are the truths presented in the Epistle to the Ephesians - chosen, redeemed, having access, finishing with walk and warfare to possess and enjoy all that we have in Christ.
Genesis and Exodus
Sufficient, possibly, has been written to beget interest and exercise. It is more the position of each book that interests me at present. Genesis coming before Exodus tells me that Gods purpose and choice come before redemption. We are chosen before we are redeemed. The father chooses the bride for Isaac. In the words of the servants prayer at the well, "Let the same be she that thou has appointed for thy servant Isaac" (Gen 24.14). How different from Jacob who worked for his bride. What encouragement for us: "He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world" (Eph 1.4).
Exodus and Leviticus
The lesson for my heart from Exodus coming before Leviticus is that redemption comes before worship. It is out of the slave market, the land of bondage, delivered by blood and power, and then brought into the sanctuary to worship. The request to Pharaoh puts this beyond dispute: "Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness" (Ex 5.1). This is the truth presented by principle and precept. Noah was preserved and delivered before he built an altar and offered clean beasts on it. Naaman was cleansed before he asked for material for an altar to offer to the Lord. In John 3, the Lord speaks of new birth (v.3) and in John 4 He speaks about worship (v.23). In Matthew 27, not only are graves opened (vv.52-53) but the veil of the temple was rent (v.51). In Hebrews 2 we are delivered (v.15); in Hebrews 10 we draw near (v.22). In 1 Peter 1 we are redeemed by blood (vv.18-19); in 1 Peter 2 we are a holy priesthood (v.5). In Revelation 1 we are loved and washed and made a kingdom of priests (vv.5-6).
Leviticus and Numbers
When I notice that Leviticus comes before Numbers, I learn that worship comes before service, giving to God before we do service for God. In 1 Peter 2 holy priests are to offer up (v.5) before royal priests show forth (v.9). In Hebrews 10 (v.22) we draw near. In Hebrews 12 we serve acceptably (v.28).
It saddens my heart to hear good brethren who, in order to establish some preconceived notion, make 1 Corinthians 11-15 one gathering when it is clear that the order of them is seen carried out by the disciples in the Acts. The breaking of bread, ministry for saints, gospel for sinners are seen in type in the first fruits for God, the harvest for family and home, and the corner of the field and parts left for the stranger (see Lev 23).
I know that worship is connected with every kind of meeting and service for the Lord, but who could remember the Lord Jesus, see Him clearly as the wise men did, and not worship Him in a special way. Oh for warm hearts and a clear vision; then will the censer of our hearts, fired by the Holy Spirit send up its fragrance sweet and rare to God.
Numbers and Deuteronomy
The simple lesson I learn from Numbers preceding Deuteronomy is that we must be pilgrims before we can be possessors. We cannot stay in Egypt and dwell in Canaan. When the eye is on the world the heart cannot be in the land. We must go out and stay out if we are going to enjoy our inheritance that the Lord has given to us. We have seen, therefore, that in Exodus we are brought out. In Leviticus we are brought in and in Numbers we are brought through. Lastly, in Deuteronomy we are brought over.
The theme of each book
We should note that the Lord takes up a position suitable to the theme of each of these books.
In Genesis He spoke in Mesopotamia to Abram; indeed the God of glory appeared to him in Ur of the Chaldees, not only to instruct him but also to attract him out. The same principle is seen in Hebrews - "Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp (13.13); in Paul writing to the Thessalonians - "Ye turned to God from idols (1 Thess 1.9); in the Song of Solomon - "Draw me" (1.4). In Exodus He spoke out of the burning bush. He saw their sorrows and He heard their groans. His eye pitied, and He was going to fulfil His promise to Abraham and come down to deliver the people of His choice; hence the burning bush experience regarding the land of Egypt. In Numbers He spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Israels journeyings and gave instruction for the pathway. In Deuteronomy He spoke this side of Jordan because it is instruction for the time when they would go over into the land; it is to regulate behaviour in the land. In Leviticus the Lord speaks out of the Tabernacle and it was only after Moses had finished the work that the Lords glory came down. He speaks from where His glory is.
Lesson 1. The Lord can only link His glory with that which is pure, perfect, and complete. In Genesis He rested on the seventh day when He saw everything was very good. Noah let out two birds from the ark. The raven did not return. It could rest anywhere, but the dove returned again and again until the waters abated and the earth was cleansed, and then it returned not again to the ark.
This principle could be seen in the life of the Lord Jesus. He is first linked with a virgin: "A virgin shall conceive" (Is 7.14). He slept on a boat where only disciples were. He stayed at Bethany where He was loved. He sat on a colt on which never man sat. He lay, wrapped in clean linen, in a tomb in which never man had lain - new, clean.
Lesson 2. The Lord gives further instructions to those who turn aside and listen and move out to obey. The Lord leads us step by step. The Lord appeared to Abraham after he had journeyed to Canaan (Gen 12.7); Elijah was instructed to go to the brook, to Zarephath (1 Kings 17.3,9), and to Carmel (1 Kings 18.19); Philip was instructed to go to Gaza (Acts 8.26), and to go near and join himself to the chariot (Acts 8.29); Paul was told, "Arise and it shall be told thee what thou must do" (Acts 9.6).
"If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine," states the Lord (Jn 7.17). The Lord wants our practice to keep pace with our knowledge. William Neilly said, "God causes His truth to dawn upon us, not burst upon us. Line upon line, precept upon precept, He gently leads the obedient one, step by step, to higher ground and greater heights".
To be continued.