I enjoy reading the book of Leviticus. That probably tells you a great deal about me, because many Christians see Leviticus as a major roadblock which destroys more commitments to reading the Bible through than anything. Leviticus is a book of detail. It describes at great length how the people of Israel are to deal with the realities of their lives.
One of the reasons why I enjoy the book is that it shows clearly that God is concerned about all of life and that people who serve God need to submit even the way they harvest their crops to God (Leviticus 19.9-10). God covers most of life in this book, giving people a clear indication that he is concerned with everything we do, not just the “spiritual” things. In fact, reading through the book of Leviticus shows that there really isn’t a division of life into “spiritual” and “secular”.
But the other reason I enjoy the book of Leviticus is more basic in many ways. When I read the book, I am incredibly happy that I am a Christian pastor and not a Jewish priest of that time. Being a Protestant pastor is demanding and difficult at times but at least I am not slaughtering animals all day or evaluating skin lesions for leprosy or conducting trials to determine the fidelity of wives. Reading the book of Leviticus makes even the busiest and most demanding of pastoral weeks seem a lot easier and much less demanding.
There is also another insight that I pick up when I read Leviticus, an insight that concerns worship. The more I meditate on this theme, the more I am concerned about the worship that I help lead each week. In the book of Leviticus, we discover that worship is costly–no one in the book of Leviticus approaches God without being aware of the cost of worship.
Before they come, they must have the proper sacrifice. While there are gradations based on the individual’s financial status, everyone must have the best within the category. The cow or sheep or dove must be perfect–no weak, old, worthless animal need apply. If all the worshipper has is a weak, lame, sick and dying animal, they are out of luck–until they get a better offering, they can’t really worship. Worship was expensive–it demanded something of the worshipper.
Now, this is not a ploy to suggest that we all have to give more at offering time, nor is it an attempt to make people feel guilty for sleeping during worship. Truthfully, I am not totally sure where I am going with this–I have been thinking about this for a long time and am not completely sure what it means to me, let alone to the worshipping community.
I think it partly means that we need to see worship as something more than it sometimes is, at least for me. In worship, we are openly recognizing the ever-present God. We are acknowledging our dependence on him. We are renewing our commitment to him. Well, we are supposed to be doing that.
But many times, we are going through the motions, making an appearance, doing a job, following a tradition. Worship doesn’t really recognize the presence of God–it just passed the time and gives us a star for attendance. And maybe we treat worship like that because it doesn’t cost us that much–a bit of time and a few dollars.
Theologically, our Christian worship is even more expensive than worship in the book of Leviticus. There, the cost of worship was a perfect animal. For us, the cost of worship is God’s own perfect Son, Jesus Christ. We come to worship as Christians because we believe that God in Christ took care of everything. We come to worship as God’s loved and forgiven children, who now have complete freedom to approach God without any conditions.
But our worship is still expensive–we just didn’t have to pay the price of admission. We worship because God paid the price himself. And maybe as we spend some time meditating on that, our worship will become a more significant part of our lives. When we remind ourselves of the cost of our worship, it helps us open ourselves more fully and completely to the presence of God. It allows us to really worship the one who values our presence so much that he personally paid the price for our worship.
May the peace of God be with you.