Leviticus 17: Worship Matters to Community

From our readings so far, we see that chapters 1-16 in Leviticus focus on how to have relationship with a Holy God. God provided the sacrifices and expectations for set-apart living so the people would have access to Him in an appropriate way. With chapter 17, we are entering new territory in the Leviticus outline. Chapters 17-27 are a sort of “holiness code” for the Israelites. Now that the people have a way to connect with their creator, God also provides proper instruction for them to connect with others, in a way that honors and glorifies God.

Interestingly, God begins this section of relating to the world around them by focusing first on worship of Him. Our worship practices not only affect our relationship with God, but they also greatly affect our earthly relationships, and thus they must be addressed.

What does this tell me about God:

  • God cares about Who we worship.

Verse 7 instructs the people to no longer offer sacrifices to “goat-demons.” The people of Israel had many influences on their worship practices, having lived in Egypt for so many years, and now entering a land that also did not know the Holy God.

God is reminding His people to be wholly focused on Him, regardless of the culture and practices around them. Leviticus will go into the influence of surrounding nations further in chapter 18.

  • God cares about how we worship.

This chapter outlines various ways that the Israelites were improperly practicing the slaughter, sacrifice, and use for worship of animals. He demanded that all animals being slaughtered (presumably for food) come first to the tabernacle. God desired fellowship with His people, and this law ensured that the people would not just go about taking care of their needs without sharing with the Levites and with God through a fellowship offering. This law also ensured that no offerings would be made to other gods.

  • God cares about living things.

Verses 10-16 show the significance of blood symbolizing life. God is adamant that life is sacred, and blood represents that.

How can I live in light of this:

  • I must worship God alone.

I do not build physical alters and worship demon goats, but I certainly practice focused attention and awe for the things my culture values. Stuff like celebrities’ behavior, new tech, and whether a dress is blue or white command my attention. Whatever buzzfeed or distractify is dangling in front of my face(book) gets me hooked. I give my attention, time, and money to the “American dream” that my culture continually worships. Reading Leviticus is a pertinent reminder to worship God alone. He deserves the obvious place in my conversation, the first hour in my day, the go-to thought in my daydreams.

  • I can worship God according to His expectations.

Sometimes, I want to worship in the way I want to. I want to be alone, with music I like, on the mountainside that makes me feel so alive. But God doesn’t always call me to worship in a way that makes me feel good.

Many people claim to follow Jesus, but want nothing to do with His people.

Leviticus reminds us how much God values our fellowship with Him and with others. I can also place greater value on worshiping with God’s people in a building that might feel confined, with sinners saved by grace just like me, singing songs of truth and praise regardless of the melody.

Other thoughts or questions:

  • Singing about the “blood” has greater significance now.

The comment in my study Bible emphasizes that “this passage is foundational for understanding the New Testament references to the atoning blood of Christ,” like these verses:

They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God presented Him as a propitiation through faith in His blood, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His restraint God passed over the sins previously committed. Romans 3:24-25

He entered the most holy place once for all, not by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow, sprinkling those who are defiled, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of the Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to serve the living God? Hebrews 9:12-14

How did Leviticus 17 impact you this week?