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Jesus in the Old Testament: Five Powerful Glimpses of Christ in Leviticus

September 17, 2012

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When discussing favorite books of the Bible, it is common to hear people mention the Gospel of John, Romans, the Psalms and Proverbs, or maybe another New Testament book. Chances are there are not a lot of people who choose Leviticus as their favorite. In fact, when many people think about Leviticus, they think it is in the boring part of the Old Testament!

It can be easy to get discouraged in these regulations and tempting to skip reading of Leviticus and get to “the good stuff” about Jesus–that is the New Testament.

But as Colin Smith of Unlocking the Bible says, “The Bible begins in a garden, ends in a city, and the whole of it is about Jesus Christ.”

That includes the book of Leviticus!

Here are five glimpses of Jesus Christ in the book of Leviticus:

1. The Sacrificial System.

The Old Testament sacrificial system as outlined in Leviticus was given for Israel to make their relationship right with God.

Sacrifices were not only given for the forgiveness of sin, but also for Israelites to even be able to give thanks to God. If an Israelite wanted to give God thanks for being good and giving life, you would have to offer a Free Will Sacrifice, spilling the blood of an animal.

Thankfully, this is not the case anymore because Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice for sin and opened the door for us to have a relationship with God! Hebrews 10:10 describes this, “And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

2. Tabernacle.

The New Dictionary of Biblical Theology describes the tabernacle in the Old Testament serving several purposes:

  • Presence: the place where God dwelt among His people (Exodus 25:8)
  • Revelation: it served as the place of divine revelation (Exodus 25:22)
  • Atonement: the place where sacrifices were offered and atonement was made  (Exodus 29:38-43)

Jesus fulfilled each of these purposes perfectly. The New Testament describes them:

  • Presence: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14
  • Revelation: “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” Hebrews 1:1-2
  • Atonement: “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”  (Romans 3:25-26 NIV)

3. Priesthood.

The book of Leviticus is described by some as “A Priest’s Handbook.” This is because much of the material in the book are instructions for how the Levites (priests) are to lead and intercede God’s people in their relationship with Him. A priest would intercede for the people of God. “But only the high priest ever entered the Most Holy Place, and only once a year. And he always offered blood for his own sins and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance.” (Hebrews 9:7 NLT)

In the New Testament, Jesus is identified as the Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14). He is able to be our intercessor and allows us to enter into the presence of God.

“And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus.” (Hebrews 10:14 NLT)

4. Scapegoat.

Leviticus 16 gives instructions to the Levites to set aside two goats on the Day of Atonement. The first goat was meant as a sacrifice for the sins of the people. The second goat was to be sent into the wilderness to remove the sins from Israel.

The priests were to lay hands on the scapegoat and “confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins and he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness” (Leviticus 16:21). Verse 22 says, “The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness.”

This is a foreshadowing of Christ who was like a sheep led to the slaughter to “take the iniquity of us all” as Isaiah 53:6 prophesied.

5. Holiness codes.

One of the major themes in Leviticus is holiness, both the holiness of God and how we are to be holy because God is holy (Leviticus 20:7). Many of the laws mentioned in Leviticus no longer apply to us today, but they are a powerful glimpse of how God and His people are to be set apart from the rest of the world.

It should be no surprise to see how this connects to Christ. He was completely sinless: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

1 Corinthians 1:30 describes Christ as our holiness: “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.”

The Author
Kevin Halloran

Kevin Halloran is a blogger and coffee aficionado. He serves with Leadership Resources International, training pastors to preach God’s Word with God’s heart. Follow Kevin on Twitter or visit his blog.

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