Today on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Welcome to Summit Life, the Bible teaching ministry of J.D.
Greer. I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch. Today we're continuing our teaching series called The Whole Story. Pastor J.D. is giving us an overview of the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, and we're hitting most of the key stories along the way.
So if you've missed any part of this story, you can find all the previous messages at jdgreer.com. Now stick around because we are looking at a part of the Bible that you don't usually hear a lot about. The book of Leviticus.
No, seriously, stay right here. Leviticus is a crucial book in understanding both the standard and the sacrifice necessary to make us right with God. It's an important topic as we look ahead to Jesus and his ultimate work on the cross. So dial it in, people.
We're going there. Pastor J.D. titled this message, There Will Be Blood.
Did you ever do that thing as a kid when you line up on the shore of the beach and you're going to race, you know, with your friends into the water as fast as you can, and so you're all sprinting down the thing and then you hit the, it's like you hit the water and you're still running, but your steps just kind of, and you fall face first. I always feel like that when I start to read through the Bible. I'm like, Genesis, Exodus, and then I hit Leviticus face first. And so Leviticus seems like a strange book to be sure. First off, there is the name itself. Leviticus, that just sounds daunting to me.
It's not a cool name like Exodus or Romans. Leviticus sounds like a disease or maybe a pair of jeans or something. But second, it's filled with all kinds of rules and regulations about diet, dress, archaic, religious rituals. Some of the rules just seem weird at best.
They seem random. Eating locusts is good, but shrimp is bad. God loves sideburns. Leviticus 19, 27, apparently, because you are not allowed to cut them. Duck dynasty was a permanent fashion fixture in ancient Israel. Jews are not allowed, not even little ones on your ring finger to show how much you love your wife.
Back talking your parents can get you stoned. Absolutely, you are not allowed to wear clothes of mixed fibers, which means that if you are wearing polyester, not only are you out of fashion, you are in sin if we were in the days of Leviticus. One of the laws states that if two guys are in a fight and one of them reaches out and grabs the other one in a particularly, shall we say, sensitive place, then he is to have his hand cut off. You think of all the rules that you felt compelled to include in the one code of conduct, why fill the need to include that one? We have a code of conduct.
We have a staff handbook here at the Summit Church. We have never felt compelled to spell out a regulation on that. It's just never been necessary.
You say, why? I hope that you won't hear any of what I just said as sacrilegious because I know the law is perfect. I just want to acknowledge to you that when I read it, I get this sense that it appears strange just like you do. A lot of people read this and they wonder, why is it that we seem to follow some of the parts of Leviticus, but there's others we kind of opt out of? When Leviticus talks about certain sexual behaviors of sin, for example, we quote that, but when it says not to eat shellfish or to eat a hamburger with cheese on it, that's going to be a regulation there if you read it. You're like, why doesn't it apply to us anymore? Are we just picking and choosing what parts of Leviticus we want to follow? You ever heard that question?
I had a guy say that to me just a couple of weeks ago sitting next to me on a plane. He's like, well, you don't really follow the Bible either because you pick and choose what you want to listen to and what you don't. Let me answer that last question really quickly before we jump in because it's such a huge question, and I know that you get it. Basically, scholars tell us there are three kinds of laws in the book of Leviticus. There are what we call civil laws, and that are laws that govern the behavior of the nation, punishment for crimes and that kind of stuff. Then there are ceremonial laws.
That's category two. These are the regulations that are given about cleanliness, about the sacrificial system, things like that. Then there are moral laws. Those are the laws that declare what God sees as immoral.
That covers everything from murder and theft to ideals for sexuality. When Jesus came, he said two things about the law in Leviticus that can seem contradictory at first. The first thing he said is the law is absolutely perfect. Matthew 5.18, sooner would heaven and earth pass away than one jot or tittle of the law will pass away. Jot or tittle, by the way, is the Hebrew way of saying dot the I and cross the T. He means not a single shred of it is untrue, and it will never pass away. But then he turned around and said that those of us who were born again by him are released from the law because he has fulfilled it for us.
You say, well, not one jot or tittle will pass away, but then we're released from it because you fulfilled it for us. What does it mean that Jesus fulfilled the law? What it means is that all the laws pointed to Jesus, and when he came, he fulfilled everything that they were pointing to. The civil laws set up the nation of Israel from which Jesus would emerge. When Jesus came, he started a new Israel, a spiritual Israel, so we are no longer bound by the civil codes of Leviticus because God no longer has a nation state on earth anymore like he did with ancient Israel. The ceremonial laws illustrate for us God's holiness. They point to our unholiness, and they show us what God's going to do about it. The word holiness or purity is used in the book of Leviticus over 80 times. All those laws and sacrifices are going to be fulfilled in Jesus' life and his death.
So the book of Hebrews makes clear that if we have accepted Christ, the ultimate sacrifice, then we don't need all these lesser sacrifices anymore when the real thing is there, you no longer need the shadows. The moral laws, however, they reflect what God finds good and what he finds offensive, so those things still do apply to us since the God behind them doesn't change. What God found offensive 2,000 years ago, he still finds offensive today. Jesus is going to reaffirm those moral laws, and he's going to tell us that we should be like him and to love what he loved, and what he loved was the morality that's spelled out in the book of Leviticus. When we say that the sexual ethics of Leviticus are still relevant, but the prohibitions against eating shellfish and wearing polyester are not, that's not an arbitrary distinction that we are making. It's how the New Testament teaches us to interpret Leviticus. For what it's worth, the book of Leviticus appears to be one of Jesus' favorite books of the Bible. The verse he quotes most often is from the book of Leviticus.
He appears to have had the entire book memorized. We're going to look at just one chapter in the book of Leviticus today because scholars tell us that the entire book of Leviticus is shaped around this chapter. In this chapter, God's going to give very important instructions about a very important day. In fact, the most important day of the Jewish year, a day called Yom Kippur, Yom Day Kippur Covering, literally the Day of the Covering.
This day became so central in Jewish life that it was simply called Yom Ha or the Day. Now, as we get into this, some of you are still going to be tempted to think, well, this is all interesting history, but it's not immediately relevant to my life. But think of it this way. This whole book deals with a problem that every single one of us face at some point in our lives. And that is feelings of guilt we have about certain things that we've done or certain decisions that we've made. You can relate to that, right?
I know a lot of you can. Many of you today walked in with some secret and it is eating you up on the inside. Maybe it's a sexual sin that you have committed. Maybe you know that you've been a bad parent or a bad sibling or a bad spouse, and you feel guilty about how you behave towards someone in your life. Maybe that person isn't even around anymore for you to apologize to. Maybe it was your parents and they passed away and you're like, I can't even say I'm sorry and get absolution from them. And a lot of times those feelings of guilt are going to lead us to shame. Shame is that question where you ask, what kind of person am I who could have done something like that?
What if people have found out that I did this or that? You know, there's some sins that when you confess them, they get you sympathy, right? Oh, I struggle with pride. You know, everybody kind of nods. No, I struggle with lust. Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.
I just overwork too much, you know. Oh, yeah. Then there's other sins that if you confess them, it makes people feel awkward, right? If you bring it up in the middle, you're a small group.
Christian counselor David Pallason talks about it this way. So some sins, however, do not elicit sympathetic nods. If you're adulterous and your family finds out, they're not going to be nodding.
Oh, I understand. We struggle with that too. Shameful sins receive stares, not nods. Even when guilt is confessed, the sin remains. And there's some of you know what that feeling of shame is like.
And then there's this whole thing that some psychologists call covert guilt, secret guilt, which is this feeling we have that we're guilty for something and we're not even sure why. It goes back to Genesis 2 where the first effect of our sin was we felt naked. When we sinned, Adam and Eve sinned, their nakedness was exposed.
Previously, they've been clothed in the love and the acceptance of God, but now they just felt naked. And it shows you how humanity goes through life feeling naked and exposed, like we're not approved, like we're going to be judged, and we're not even sure exactly why. But it makes us ask this question, am I going to be judged? I mean, even if you don't believe in God, it still sort of lingers back there in your heart. I need some kind of atonement. I need some kind of redemption.
I need somebody important to tell me that I matter. Let me ask you, if you died today, do you know absolutely for certain that you'd be good enough for God to let you into heaven? I asked that question for a long time.
I was like, what's the standard? How do you know? I mean, do I need to love God more, pray more? How do you know that you're going to get the passing grade and you're going to make the cut to get in? Leviticus, the book of Leviticus is relevant to us because all of us asked that question in some form. That's a universal experience. Am I really guilty, and if so, why?
What can I do about it? So let's start our examination of this day in chapter 16 with a very sobering incident in Leviticus 10 that sets it up. You stay there in Leviticus 16. I'll take you through what I want you to see in Leviticus 10. Leviticus 10 is a story of something that happened that sets up chapter 16 and makes it kind of make sense. Nadab and Abihu, chapter 10, are the sons of Aaron, offer unauthorized fire before the Lord. In other words, they come in and they make a sacrifice that God has not prescribed, which he had not commanded them. Verse 2, and fire came out from before the Lord and it consumed them, and they died there before the Lord. And the Lord then says to Moses, jump to chapter 16, tell your brother Aaron that he's not to come in whenever he chooses to the most holy place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover of the ark. I'll explain all that in a minute, or else he is going to die. This is how Aaron is to enter the most holy place.
Don't just let him come in any way he wants. Remember Nadab and Abihu? Now, for those of you that didn't grow up in Sunday school, let me kind of spell this out for you because it'll help you see the picture of it. The inner parts of the temple was basically like this.
You had this area here. Only the priest could go in. It was called the holy place. And then behind that, there was, separated by this curtain here, this place called the holy of holies, or the most holy place. In the most holy of place, there was essentially one piece of important furniture, and that important piece of furniture was called the Ark of the Covenant. It is this golden kind of box that has this few sacred relics in it, and then it has this thing on the top called the mercy seat. The mercy seat is not a seat where you actually sat down, but it was the seat of where God's presence dwelt, the mercy seat. And then over top of that are these two cherubim, or angels, that are guarding, in a sense, the way into the presence of God. Now, if you remember back in Genesis 3, when Adam and Eve had sinned, God had put an angel with a flaming sword to guard entry into the presence of God, and that's what this is trying to re-picture there is that the way has been barred. The holy of holies was a place that you just didn't go into. Nobody went into it. It was only entered by one person, the most high priest, on one day, Yom Kippur.
The rest of the temple was really busy every day, people offering sacrifices, but not the holy of holies. In fact, it was separated by this thing called the paraket. Paraket in Hebrew means literally shut off. It is a curtain. It was four inches thick. It was made up of 72 different strands of gold, I mean of red and purple and blue. Each of the strands had 24 cords in it, so it was really, really thick, and it made the whole place in total darkness. Like I said, it literally means shut off because that's what the holy of holies was. It was shut off from all the people.
Only one priest, the high priest, on one day, Yom Kippur, was allowed to go in. Chapter 16 is going to spell out for you what that process looked like. It begins to give you the details. Let me just summarize the details here. I'll pull in a little bit of what we know from Jewish history.
The process started a week beforehand. The high priest was put into seclusion. He didn't see anybody, touch anybody, talk to anybody, because he didn't want to encounter something unclean. He wanted to be totally pure when he went into the holy of holies.
The night before Yom Kippur, he stayed up all night just praying and preparing, reading the Bible and preparing his soul to go in before God. He'd get up the next morning. He would bathe meticulously. I mean, he would clean every part of his body. He would clean it several times, and he put on a white linen robe worn by anybody, brand new, pure white linen. Then he would go into the holy of holies, and he would offer a sacrifice on the mercy seat for his own sins. Then he would come back out, he would bathe a second time, and he would throw away that white linen. He'd put on another one, and he would go back in a second time and offer another sacrifice, this time for the sins of the priestly community. Then he would come back out, he'd bathe again, and then he'd put on another white linen, throw the other one away, go back in a third time and offer a sacrifice for the sins of the people.
Old Testament scholar Ray Dillard says this. Listen, this was all done in public. The temple was crowded, and those in attendance watched very closely. There was a thin screen for modesty's sake that he would bathe behind, but the people were present for his every move. They watched him dress. They saw him bathe.
They watched him go in and come back out. He was their representative before God, and they were cheering him on and making sure he did it right because they were very concerned to make sure that everything was done properly and with purity because he was representing them before God, and he was obtaining forgiveness from God for their sin. Chapter 16 explains that part of the sacrifice ritual was the choosing of two goats. One of the goats, they rolled the dice. One of the goats was going to be sacrificed, and his blood will be offered in there in the Holy of Holies.
The other one is going to be described in verse 10. The goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat will be presented alive before the Lord. One goat gets slaughtered. The other goat is kept alive, and the priest is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and the rebellion of the Israelites, all their sins, and he's to put them, figuratively speaking, on the goat's head. Now, they don't kill this goat. The other goat they killed. The second goat, they send away into the wilderness in the care of somebody appointed for the task. There's a little humor in that because Jewish historians say that they would put a person outside of the city gate so as soon as the goat, carrying all their sins, wandered in the wilderness, the person would take it and go throw it off a cliff. Because they didn't want that goat just to kind of wander back into the camp because that would be awkward. Like, hey, there's our sin coming back to us. That's a bad omen.
So they just made sure that it was properly disposed of, and you never saw it again. Okay? So, here's the questions. A lot of details, right? What is it that we learn about guilt and sin, our guilt and our sin, from this chapter?
Here's number one. We learn that our sin is much worse than we imagined. Our sin is much worse and much deeper and much more pervasive than we imagined. Reading the book of Leviticus, you get this sense over and over and over again that a great gulf exists between us and God. We are literally parakeet.
We are shut off. And the way in is guarded by mighty angels with swords. At the beginning of this message, I asked you, if you died today, do you know absolutely for certain that you'd be good enough for God to let you into heaven? The question behind that question is, what's the standard that God uses to determine who gets in? Leviticus answers that question in a very clear way.
Absolute perfection is what is required. That's what Nadab and Abihu show you. One false move, one unauthorized movement, and you're dead. We always talk about sin like, it's not that bad. We call it mistakes. Oh, it's not that bad.
I was confused. I'm not as bad as other people. And that's because we have a very man-centered view of sin. Sin is sinful because of who it is against.
A sin against an infinite God is infinitely guilty. And what Leviticus shows us is that we are filled with these kinds of sins. It's in everything we think. It's in everything we say.
It's in all that we do. Leviticus even has this category for unknown sins. Things we do are sinful that we don't even know about. The Puritans used to say, even our tears of repentance have to be washed in the blood of the Lamb. Even when I weep in repentance, there's going to be sin mixed in that.
James 4.17 says that if I know to do good and don't do it, that's sin. How many times throughout the day do I think that's a good thing that I should do? I'm too lazy. I'm not in a good mood.
I'll do it later. Somebody else will do it. Sin is much worse than we imagine. It's much worse than we imagine, and it's much more pervasive in our lives than we realize. I've tried to describe it to you like this.
It's like if you were getting a blood transfusion and you found out that this blood that you're getting, this quart of blood, has two microbes of the AIDS virus in it. Right? I mean, that's just a little tiny bit. You couldn't even see it.
But it makes it totally defiled, and you rip the thing out of your arm, and you say, get it away from me. We're much more sinful than we imagine, and our sin is much worse than we imagine. Paul says it this way in Romans 3.23. All of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. The standard we're comparing ourselves to is not that person sitting next to you. The standard you're comparing yourself to is the glory of God.
And in sight of the glory of God, you fall way short, Leviticus tells you. I've heard that described like falling short in swimming to Japan. I'm not that great of a swimmer. I can swim.
I mean, this probably is being generous. I might make it a mile and a half if you let me do backstroke and float and whatever. But I might be able to make it a mile and a half.
That's not great, right? There's a guy in our church I've heard has swum, swim, swam, whatever. He swam in the past across the English Channel. That's a long way. That's like 21 some miles. That's a whole 42 times longer than I can swim.
That's awesome. But you put both of us on the shore of California and say, head to Japan. His 21 miles don't make my mile and a half really look that much different, does it? Because both of us compared to the distance to Japan have fallen way short when it comes to the glory of God. You and I are so far short that we just fall on our faces in despair because I'm Nadab and you're Abihu. And both of us are going to be destroyed in God's presence, which leads us to number two. Leviticus shows us that God's grace is greater than we dreamed. It shows us our sin is worse than we imagined, but his grace is greater than we dreamed. Why did God have them use two goats? Well, one goat would have made the point, right? It was to illustrate two different things God's doing with our sin.
And he wanted us to make sure that we saw both of them. One goat got slaughtered for our sin, showing that the price for our sin had been paid. That was a theological concept called justification. Justification means there literally is no more claim against you. If you wreck into somebody's car and they drag you into court and the insurance pays their claim, that means they can't ever drag you into court again over that same thing. You've been justified. The debt has been settled. The other goat, the one that was sent into the wilderness, illustrates for us the concept of cleansing.
God not only pays for our sins, he removes them from us. Whereas the first goat that was slaughtered shows us that we are forgiven on the basis of a substitute, the second goat shows us that our sins are forgotten and removed from us as far, the psalmist says, as the east is from the west. How far is that? It's not mathematical, by the way. It's a concept.
East, as far as you can go that way, west, as far as you can go that way, they never touch. That's how far God has removed your transgressions from us, the psalmist says. He's put them into the depths of the sea. Corey Timboom used to say, and wherever that deepest part of the sea is that God puts our sins in, he puts a little sign up that says, no fishing allowed. There's some fish somewhere really struggling with our sin, but we don't have to ever think about it anymore because it's in the deepest part of the ocean, never to be dredged up again. There are some people who say, I feel like my sins are probably too bad. I don't think I can be forgiven.
I knew what I was doing. You don't understand how I've hurt people. I'm not sure that I can be saved. Did you see verse 16? Whatever, whatever their sins may have been, do you see any conditions in there at all? I know people who say, well, no, but see, I've committed the sin against the Holy Spirit and I can't be forgiven. What Jesus said about the sin of the Holy Spirit in Luke 11 cannot contradict other things the Bible says like this. And the Bible says that whoever comes to Jesus with whatever sin can and will be forgiven. The sin against the Holy Spirit means that you no longer desire forgiveness. If you desire forgiveness, whatever you've done, you can receive that forgiveness. And the fact that you desire that forgiveness means that you haven't committed the sin against the Holy Spirit. When you say I cannot be forgiven, you are not exaggerating the size of your sin. You are shrinking the forgiving power of God. Your sin is great.
I'm sure it is, but God's grace is greater. You say, well, maybe God can forgive me, but I can't forgive myself. Now you're saying that your opinion matters more than God's.
Who do you think you are? I get that you feel like your sin is that bad, but don't add to it another sin by shrinking the size of the power of God, saying you can't really do what you said you were going to do. And if God promises to forgive you and He promises to restore you, who are you to exalt your opinion of yourself above God's opinion of you? Do not try to out-holy God.
That ain't never going to turn out well. Atonement literally means, in English, break the word apart, at-one-ment. God has made us one with Him on this day. God made Israel one with Him by satisfying the penalty of their sin and by putting it away forever, falling it off a cliff, putting it at the bottom of the sea, making it as far as the east is from the west, and He made us one with Him and what God has joined together.
No man can ever put us under. Like Pastor J.D. said, our sin is great, but God is so much greater. Who knew such an encouraging message would come from the book of Leviticus? You're listening to Summit Life, the Bible teaching ministry of pastor and author J.D.
Greer. We're committed to bringing you gospel-centered Bible teaching without finances getting in the way, but that's only possible when we all work together to keep this ministry funded. When you give, we'll say thanks by sending you a new book by Pastor J.D.
titled Just Ask. The book unpacks a bunch of common questions about prayer, and it'll encourage you to spend time with God. This resource comes with our thanks when you donate today at the suggested level of $25 or more. Request the Just Ask prayer book when you call 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220.
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's latest blog posts. And we'll also make sure that you never miss a new resource or a series. It's quick and easy to sign up at jdgreer.com. I'm Molly Vitovich. Thank you so much for joining us today. Tomorrow we're going to continue our study in Leviticus, so be sure to listen again Friday to Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
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