Why You Should Preach From Leviticus
What book of the Bible have you rarely, if ever, heard a preach from? There are probably a few candidates, but I bet most of us would put Leviticus pretty near the top of the list.
And you might actually feel glad about that. When I started to tell people that our summer preach series would explore Leviticus, people’s reactions were mixed: some expressed their concern outright, others were politely quiet but struggled to stop their face from showing their real feelings. Very few people were enthusiastic about the idea!
But, as we got into the series, more and more people began to view Leviticus differently, and both their words and their faces were communicating a much more encouraging response. As one Sunday afternoon text put it, ‘I’m really enjoying Leviticus … much more than I thought I would!’
I think Leviticus is a great text for a preach series. Here are five reasons why I think you should consider preaching from Leviticus.
It reveals God’s heart
Leviticus is all about how imperfect people can live with a perfect God. It’s the vital missing piece between Leviticus 1:1 where God has to speak to Moses from the tent of meeting – with Moses outside because God was now inside (Exodus 40:35) – and Numbers 1:1 where God speaks to Moses in the tent of meeting – with both Moses and God inside. It’s a book about how humans can once again dwell in intimate relationship with God, just as was always intended at the start.
And importantly, it’s God who takes the initiative in making this possible. In Leviticus 1, it’s God who starts the conversation. Moses and the Israelites don’t have to try and convince or persuade God to reveal how they can draw near to him. God starts the conversation; he opens the door because he wants people to dwell with him. He wants us. God wants us. That’s the message of Leviticus. That’s the heart of God revealed in this book.
How different that is to what many people – even sometimes we ourselves – assume about God. And what a wonderful message to be able to bring to a culture in which people are longing to be loved and wanted.
It helps people understand Jesus
The subtitle of our series was ‘Finding Jesus in Leviticus’. We found week after week that it is not hard to find Jesus in Leviticus. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it’s not hard to find Leviticus in the work of Jesus.
Leviticus highlights themes that are central to the gospel and which help us to better understand what Jesus has done for us. Themes such as sin, sacrifice, atonement, purity, holy living, and blessings all help us better understand New Testament teaching.
As preachers, it was great (and easy) to get to proclaim the gospel through a different lens each week and to see people encounter Jesus through a book they have previously avoided.
It’s easier than you think
You may or may not find this surprising, but understanding and preaching Leviticus really isn’t as hard as many might assume. For all of the things we find odd or disgusting in Leviticus, its basic theological points are actually fairly simple. Once you get your head around its overall message and structure and a few of its key concepts, things begin to fall into place and the book becomes a treasure trove of rich gospel truth and godly wisdom.
There are also some really great resources available to help. Both the Bible Speaks Today and Tyndale commentary series have excellent volumes on Leviticus that are a huge help to preachers: Derek Tidball has written the BST volume, and Jay Sklar the TOTC volume. (Sklar is brilliant on Leviticus and has several helpful resources online). L. Michael Morales’ NSBT volume, Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord: A biblical theology of the book of Leviticus, is also really helpful for understanding the overall message of Leviticus.
It serves a broad range of people well
Since Leviticus communicates fairly simple, foundational theological truths and does so in, to us, unusual ways, preaching from the book allows us to serve a broad range of people well.
For those who are relatively young in the faith, Leviticus provides the opportunity to get to grips with some foundational theological truths. For those who aren’t yet Christians, Leviticus presents the gospel time after time in various different ways. The oddity of the book also makes it engaging.
And for those who are more mature in the faith, Leviticus gives the chance to be reminded of the sort of foundational truths we all benefit from hearing time after time, but in a way that feels fresh because they are presented in a different form. Preaching Leviticus also brings life to a book that many believers will have read multiple times but may have struggled to understand.
Yes, believe it or not, I think preaching Leviticus can be fun. The oddity and unpleasantness of some of the book’s rituals and laws provide a great opportunity to have some fun with it. We called our series ‘Blood, Boils and Blessings’ and introduced Leviticus as the Horrible Histories of the Bible.
There’s plenty of fun to be had with Leviticus – without actually making fun of God’s word – and that fun helps people to engage.
So, maybe the idea of preaching from Leviticus isn’t as crazy as it might first sound. Why not think about giving it a go?
If you want to see how we did it, here’s the opening preach of the series, and you can find the rest of the preaches here.