And that’s Leviticus. It’s a lot. It’s difficult. Simply, though? It’s about bringing the people closer to God. It’s about helping them understand that God is holy, a being of purity, perfection, wholeness and life. It’s about helping them understand that the world is everything but those things. It’s about teaching them to pull away from the world and toward God.
The law is there is protect the people from distraction, from self-destruction, to protect them spiritually and physically as well. It points the way to Christ, the only sacrifice that will ever be enough. It reminds people that all the land and property and life in the world already belongs to God, and we are only stewards. And it sets out to protect people from each other and from corruption.
Until Christ arrives and speaks to us directly, delivering sermons and living out the example, the law was the explanation of what we were to do: love God first, and love each other. The law spelled out what that looked like. And just as we are still missing the point of Christ’s teachings, Israel pretty much missed the point of the law.
It did make them special, but it didn’t make them better. They were supposed to shine light, a beacon, and attract the other nations, to welcome them and teach them to live within the covenant. The laws weren’t arbitrary and cruel restrictions. Followed well, Israel would be prosperous, healthy, strong, and, best of all, in constant communion with God.
It’s a shame that even in light of Christ’s life, we still often look back at the Old Testament and see darkness and hostility and judgment when it’s full of hope and love and grace. I can’t begin to imagine what it must have been like, practically, to live within the sacrificial system, to observe all the sacrifices and ritual cleanliness. I can’t wrap my head around it, because to me it’s just a list. But they didn’t stand out against the rest of the world as a dark and bloody nation. The sacrifices weren’t unusual.
Worshiping Molech involved the sacrifice of children. God’s law protected children, widows, the poor and the sojourner. You can’t compare it to today. You have to compare it to the time in which it occurred. Hope and love and mercy and grace. That is what you find in the Mosaic law. Good husbandry of the land. Good health practices. Consideration for those that can’t afford the sacrificial animals. Protection against disproportionate retribution. Provision for the poor without land, support for those that become poor, prohibition against predatory lending, etc, etc, etc.
The law is full of love.