When any man of you brings an offering to the Lord… Leviticus 1.2
As I began to read through Leviticus this week, it is interesting how it begins. I had this question, ‘What is prescriptive versus what is just reforming what already happens?’ Moses begins the book of Leviticus not with prescriptions on sacrifices but reforms on sacrifices that were already taking place. It is only in chapter 4 where he moves to what is necessary: dealing with issues of sin and proscribing sacrifices for those sins. So in the first 3 chapters, Moses is addressing the sacrifices that the people are already offering to Yahweh. There are perhaps three things which we should reflect on about this: 1. there is always room for us to reform our worship. 2. People did not need regulations to worship Yahweh.
So first, there is always room for us to reform our worship. In the book of Genesis and Exodus, people offer sacrifices regularly. So for instance Noah offers a sacrifice after the flood. Cain and Abel offer sacrifices. Before the giving of the law there were no regulations to follow, yet we see that some worship is pleasing to God and some is not (i.e., Cain and Abel). Once the law was given, we can see from the early stories of Israel that they didn’t keep the law very much. The problem with Israel, it seems, is that they rarely reformed their worship and when they did it didn’t last long. So they never did follow the reformed worship ordinances of Leviticus. It is only in Christ that the law finds its fulfillment. And in Christ, there is a new commandment: that we love one another. Since Christ fulfills the law, and we are in Christ, we are called to worship in this way. The reform of worship that came through Christ’s work is now what we do as a church. Like Israel, we continue to sing songs, and we read the scriptures aloud but we don’t offer animal sacrifices because Christ died in our place. Instead, we offer our whole lives as living sacrifices holy and pleasing to God. We ought to be continually reforming our private and corporate worship by the word of God to that end- that we offer our whole lives, more and more.
The second thing is that at creation, humanity didn’t need regulations to worship Yahweh. We see that worship is a whole experience: even the first generation after the fall is attempting to give praise to Yahweh in their sacrifices. Cain’s sacrifice wasn’t accepted, but there is a cognizance about a need to worship the creator. So God can instruct the Israelites, ‘when a person brings a sacrifice.’ They were expected to bring these sacrifices as acts of worship spontaneously. In some ways, this is something that is echoed and expanded in the New Testament forms of worship: we are to rejoice always and give thanks in everything. Man ought to be brimming with rejoicing, and those who are redeemed are to be overflowing with gratitude even more because of the work of Christ. In every area of our lives and in every time, we have a reason to give praise to God who saved us through the sacrifice of Christ.