Dwell On It: Applicable Truth

Question: The book of Leviticus is often used in arguments against Christianity because of its harshness and perceived lack of applicability. What is the best way to discuss the truth of the Bible considering the harshness of that particular book, the time it was recorded, etc. without coming across as crazy?

Answer: The Bible contains passages that are either descriptive or prescriptive. Descriptive texts describe what is happening without giving a command or telling us how to behave. Prescriptive texts instruct us; they give us commands of either what to do or what not to do. So, when it comes to the book of Leviticus, what is descriptive and what is prescriptive? Where is God telling us to do something or not to do something, and where is He simply telling us information and facts?

Let’s talk about the main theme of this book and that will give us a good idea about what is descriptive and what is prescriptive. The main theme is God graciously provides a way for people to live in His presence.
In the Old Testament people had to follow the sacrificial rules so that they would be made clean in God’s sight. They had to give their sacrifice(s) to the priest and trust that he would do his job correctly; and even then, their sacrifice(s) did not cover their sins completely and they repeated this yearly. This was the process God put in place so that His people could be in His presence, which points to God’s grace. This is part of the old covenant.
Today we live under the new covenant: the covenant characterized by grace. When Jesus surrendered His life on the cross, rose from the dead, and ascended into Heaven, the Holy Spirit came, and He lives within us when we begin following Jesus. It is through the Holy Spirit that we experience and live in His presence.

Why did God even give His people the law?
He gave the law to show them their need for a savior, and to show them that there was no possible way for them to reach perfection and be in His presence. So, God gave the sacrificial system that was later fulfilled through the ultimate sacrifice—Jesus.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that all scripture is useful and everything that is in the Bible has a purpose for being there including the parts that don’t seem to make sense and only seem to apply to a specific people during a specific time. Matthew 5:17 tells us that Jesus didn’t come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it; ultimately doing what God’s people, the Israelites, couldn’t do.

So, what is the best way to talk about Leviticus without sounding crazy? There are prescriptive and descriptive texts in Leviticus, but overall we see God’s grace. He gave His people a way to be in His presence for even a small period of time until they have to make more sacrifices. The best thing we can do is to focus on who the entire Bible points to and who the perfect and ultimate sacrifice was—Jesus.