By Glen Pemberton

Draft – Aug 26, 2001

The Pursuit of Holiness

The Book of Leviticus

eBible Study Adult Curriculum


"For the next three months our Bible class will study the book of Leviticus." Leviticus?!? Most who choose to teach this series will enter themselves into the record books of their church; they will be the first ever to teach a quarter long series on the book of Leviticus. Indeed, Leviticus is undoubtedly one of the least read and least studied books in the Bible. This is unfortunate. Leviticus is an incredible resource for one of the greatest needs in today's church: The pursuit of holiness. Leviticus is inextricably linked to the book of Exodus. In Exodus, the Lord summons Israel to be a "priestly kingdom" and a "holy nation" (Exod 19:6). Further, the Lord proclaims his desire to pitch his tent and live among his people (Exod 25:8). Before the building program begins, however, God's plan to live with his people is thrown into jeopardy. While Moses is receiving the plans for God's tent (tabernacle), Aaron and the people grow impatient and make a golden calf. God punishes and then forgives the foolishness of Aaron and the people, but announces that it would be lethal for him to pitch his tent and live with these people; as the Lord said to Moses, "If for a single moment I should go up among you, I would consume you" (Exod 33:5). For a moment, God's plan for living and working through the priestly kingdom of Israel seems to be shelved. The Lord, however, loves and desperately desires to live with his people. Consequently, after stubborn intervention by Moses, the Lord authorizes the construction of the tent and "moves in" at the end of Exodus (Exod 40). The danger created by this action cannot be overstated: How can a holy God live in the midst of an unholy people and not kill them? This is the key question for understanding the book of Leviticus. The instructions of Leviticus are God's gracious provision for making this relationship work. Here, God provides sacrificial atonement, a priesthood (within the nation of priests), purity laws, and instruction for living a holy life. Make no mistake - this is no law book for Israel to earn any status with God. The Lord desires an ongoing relationship and the Lord gives the instructions of Leviticus. To be sure, Leviticus is from a time long ago and a place far away. Its counsel for living in the presence of a holy God can sound strange, if not completely bewildering to modern ears. Nonetheless, the principles established in the book of Leviticus are eternal in nature – even if their cultural expression is time bound. This series of lessons will primarily focus on these principles, their initial culture-bound expression in ancient Israel and their application for modern churches and Christians living in the twenty-first century. The pursuit of holiness is one of the greatest needs of the church. God, through Leviticus, provides some much needed counsel for what such holiness must look like. It is my hope and prayer that the greatest strength of lessons will be their practicality. Students should be challenged each week to live a lifestyle suitable for the presence of God. For each lesson, there is a teacher's guide that includes class objectives, necessary class preparations, special notes to the teacher, a complete lesson plan, and student study sheets. A short bibliography of additional resources for further study is also available. I especially recommend the commentary of Gordon Wenham for this study. Other, more detailed commentaries are available, but for clear exposition and consistently excellent applications for Christians, Wenham's commentary has no close rival. The worksheets can be a valuable learning aid; students reinforce what they are learning by writing down key phrases. To make the use of these handouts as easy as possible for the teacher, I have keyed the worksheets to the teacher's outline by the abbreviation WKSH. Frequently, the point in the worksheet to which this abbreviation refers is clear. At other times, a brief citation from the worksheet is provided to clarify which blank should be filled in by the student. Class discussion is another important facet of student learning. It is easier to lecture, but students learn much more and better retain what they learn when they discover truths with the help of a teacher through discussion. Consequently, discussion questions are generously scattered throughout each lesson. Time will not permit class discussion of each question. I do, however, encourage the teacher to use these and other discussion questions as often as possible. Finally, in view of the common lamentable view of Leviticus among Christians, the single most important factor in the success of this series of lessons may well be the attitude of the teacher. If the teacher believes in the relevance and the richness of Leviticus, the student will sense this excitement and be infected by it. If the teacher doubts the value of such a series or sees it primarily as a historical study with little relevance, the student will also sense this attitude and be infected by it. Thus, in every class, I urge you to make time for careful consideration of the application of the lesson. My prayer for you is that your classes will be mystified by your genuine excitement about Leviticus and that they will leave class week after week amazed by the relevance of this ancient book.

Glenn D. Pemberton, Ph.D Associate Professor of Old Testament Oklahoma Christian University September 2001

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