The Pursuit of Holiness (Leviticus) - Lesson 1

By Glen Pemberton

Genesis 12-Exodus 19

Background Information for the Teacher


  1. The student will agree that the study of Leviticus is vital(and practical) for the life of the church and each individualChristian.
  2. The student can explain the necessary background information for a profitable study of the book of Leviticus.
    1. God called Israel into a special relationship with him in order to bless the nations by being a nation of priests that minister and reach out to the rest of the world.
    2. In order to be a priestly nation (i.e., a nation of priests), Israel must be a holy nation.
  3. The student can demonstrate that the church has the same task as ancient Israel (to be a nation of priests to the world)and, therefore, has the same responsibility to be a holy people.


  1. A Bible for each student, preferably in a translation the student can understand (e.g., NIV, NRSV, CEV, or ERV).
  2. A chalk board or marker board.
  3. Copies of Student Handout #1 ("Chosen for a Purpose")


What was the class reaction to the announcement that the class will be studying Leviticus for the next quarter? Most likely there was more than a little bewilderment and skepticism. The first task, therefore, is to convince the student of the importance and relevance of Leviticus for the contemporary church and individual Christians. This lesson confronts this problem in two ways. First, this lesson directly responds to the question "Why bother with Leviticus?" Second, introduction of key background material will begin to demonstrate the relevance of Leviticus.Israel, like the church, was called to be a "royal priesthood" and a "holy nation" that reached out to the world. We can learn much from Israel about God's desire for reaching the rest of the world and the demand of holiness this places upon us.

Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class


  1. Welcome visitors and make any necessary announcements.
  2. Spend time taking prayer requests and leading the class in prayer.
  3. Introduction to the new quarter of study
    1. Paul states, specifically about the Old Testament, that"All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work" (II Tim 3:16-17; emphasis mine, gdp).
      1. Paul regarded the Hebrew scriptures as relevant and vital for the life of the church and individualChristians.
      2. Despite Paul's clear statement, unfortunately,there has been a tendency in churches ancient and modern to regard the Old Testament as"second class" scripture and a general opinion(even if not expressly stated) that the OldTestament is really not that useful for teaching in the church.
    2. If this is true about the Old Testament in general, it is acutely true about the book of Leviticus! The book ofLeviticus has a lot going against it:
      1. Leviticus is filled with legal material (not many stories). Q. Have you read any good laws lately? A. Probably not. Laws, by nature, do not make for riveting reading.
      2. The legal material itself seems to be about things that are totally irrelevant to Christian life. Q. Can anyone give some examples of things in Leviticus that seem to have nothing to do with Christian life? A. Animal sacrifice, the tabernacle, priests,clean and unclean foods, holy days, feasts and many other things seem totally irrelevant toChristian life. (Notes to the Teacher: 1] It is important to get all of these concerns out on the table. 2] It is important that the teacher says that these "seem" irrelevant. Later, in the course of study, the relevance of all these things will be demonstrated.)
    3. The general Christian consensus seems to be "Why bother with Leviticus? What a total waste of time!" So,why bother? Why is this not a waste of time?
      1. I believe Paul is right! (See above on II Tim3:16-17). (WKSH - Paul is right) Paul did not regard the Old Testament or Leviticus as unimportant for Christian teaching.
      2. The fundamental concern in the book of Leviticus is, or should be, a fundamental concern of the church today: Holiness ? the holiness of God and the holiness required of God's people(e.g., Lev 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:26). (WKSH ?The fundamental concern … holiness)Leviticus explores many specific issues within this broader concern.
        1. How can an unholy people live in the presence of a holy God?
        2. How can God's chosen people really be holy?
        3. What does holiness look like in everyday life and relationships?
        4. What does holiness look like in worship?
        5. What danger does the "unholy" pose to the "holy"?
      3. While Leviticus responds to the concern for holiness with specific instruction for the culture of ancient Israel, the principles underlying this specific instruction are eternal and may/must be applied to every culture. (WKSH- The principles underlying … are eternal in nature) The matter of holiness should be a burning concern for the church and Christian life!
    4. In the weeks to come,
      1. We will explore all of these matters of holiness and more in the book of Leviticus and seek to understand God's instructions to ancient Israel.
      2. We will try to discern the basic principles that transcend the specific cultural situation of God's instructions to ancient Israel.
      3. We will challenge each other to apply what we learn about holiness to our own lives and the life of the church.
      4. In addition to these primary goals,
        1. We will learn information that will help us better understand the many references toLeviticus throughout the Old and NewTestaments.
        2. We will learn about Israel's practices of worship (e.g., sacrifice) and what these practices teach us about our worship.
    5. Today, we are going to study some background information that is critical to a proper understanding of the book of Leviticus.

Learning Experiences

  1. The books of Genesis and Exodus provide key information for understanding the book of Leviticus.
    1. In the book of Genesis God responded to the problems created by human sinfulness (Gen 1-11) by putting a plan into motion. This plan began when God called the family ofAbraham into his service.
      1. Read Gen 12:1-3,7 Q. What are the three major promises that God makes to Abram? A.
          > Make you into a great nation (many descendants). (WKSH ? I will make you into a great nation)
      2. Gift of land. (WKSH ? I will give you land)Through you all the nations of the earth will be blessed! (WKSH - I will bless all nations through you)
        1. The promise of descendants and land was not given to Abram for selfish purposes, but for the purpose of undoing the problems of sin and blessing the world through Abram.
        2. Ultimately, this promise will lead to the cross. However, as the Old Testament demonstrates, Abraham and his family were to actively reach out to the nations with God's message and grace. (Note to the Teacher: The books of Ruth, Jonah, and Daniel are excellent examples of this missionary concern in the OldTestament, not to mention Psalms [e.g., 96:1-3,10] and Isaiah [e.g., 42:5-7; 44:5; 45:22-23].There is a tension about what these nations should do ? become "Israelites" [proselytes] or"God fearers" [accepted and worshipped the God of Israel without becoming full proselytes]. In any event, it is clear that God wanted Israel to bean active agent in reaching out to other peoples with the stories about her God.)
    2. These promises are repeated several times to Abraham and his family. (NB: The texts are listed in order of appearance. Time will probably not permit reading all the texts. I suggest the most important texts to read by the raised numbers 1 2 3 )
      1. To Abraham:
        1. 3 Gen 13:14-17
        2. 3 Gen 15:1-6,17-20
        3. 2 Gen 17:1-8
        4. 1 Gen 22:15-18
      2. To Isaac: 1 Gen 26:1-5
      3. To Jacob:
        1. 3 Gen 28:1-4 (by Isaac)
        2. 1 Gen 28:10-17 (by God)
  2. In the book of Exodus, we find God keeping his promises.
    1. Review the status of the three promises:
      1. They have become a numerous people (Exod1:7). (WKSH ? they have become a numerous people)
      2. They do not yet have land of their own; they are in Egypt (Exod 1:1f.). (WKSH - They do not yet have land)
      3. They have been and continue to be a blessing to people around them (although they are not living up to this ideal perfectly). (WKSH - They are blessing some people)
        1. God blessed Laban through Jacob (Gen30:27)
        2. God blessed Potiphar through Joseph (Gen39:3,5)
        3. God blessed Egypt and surrounding nations through Joseph (Gen 41:56-57).
        4. Jacob blessed Pharaoh (Gen 47:7-10)
        5. Even in the ten plagues of the exodus,God reached out to Egypt and all the world through what he did for Israel (Exod 7:5; 9:13-21; 10:2; 14:4).
    2. God rescues the Israelites from Egyptian slavery and begins to lead them toward the land that he has promised to them.

Applications (WKSH ? space for student notes provided)

  1. Read and discuss I Peter 2:4-10
    1. Like ancient Israel the church (and its members) is called a"royal priesthood" and a "holy nation" (2:4,9).
    2. Like ancient Israel, we have been saved (2:10).
    3. Q. As a "royal priesthood" what is our task? A. To proclaim the mighty acts of God (2:9). Each individual member of the church, just like each individual member of ancientIsrael, is a priest charged to minister to the world!
    4. Q. What is the connection between our call to be a priestly nation and our call to be a holy nation? A. Like Israel, our role as priests to the world demands that we be holy.
  2. Read and discuss Matthew 28:18-20
    1. Q. In view of our study of Israel's call, was the Great Commission a new idea? A. No. The great commission was new only in that it directed the church to reach out to the world, rather than Israel.
    2. The Story of the Old Testament reveals that Israel,typically, did not do a very good job in reaching out to the world for her God. Q. Do you think the church is doing any better? Why or why not?


Read Exodus 25:1-9; 32:1-34:10; 40:16-38

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