A cosmic sized eruption has recently taken place in my heart. Through what you might ask? Leviticus. Originally what started as a bittersweet joy, transformed into treasure. As an assignment for my class on the Pentateuch, I am to choose any verse from the Torah and write a five page paper. In a sea of stress, I grabbed the Lord and wrestled for a blessing. Indeed, he did answer that too! I found myself about three days ago listening to the ESV Audio Bible on my iPhone—from Genesis all the way to Deuteronomy. Tonight, I have just wrapped up Leviticus. And like a lightning bolt of utter spiritual sobering truth, my core was struck with the conclusion found in Leviticus 26. Recapping on his covenant, the Lord our God promises unimaginable blessings to Israel if they remain faithful to every single law spoken. But! If they break one—this is their dreaded fate.
“But, if you will not listen to me and carry out all these commands, and if you reject my decrees and abhor my laws and fail to carry out all my commands and so violate my covenant, then I will do this to you: I will bring on you sudden terror, wasting diseases and fever that will destroy your sight and sap your strength…I will set my face against you so that you will be defeated by your enemies; those who hate you will rule over you…If after all this you will not listen to me, I will punish you for your sins seven times over. I will break down your stubborn pride…Your strength will be spent in vain, because your soil will not yield its crops, nor will the trees of your land yield their fruit…I will multiply your afflictions seven times over, as your sins deserve. I will send wild animals against you, and they will rob you of your children, destroy your cattle and make you so few in number that your roads will be deserted…I myself will be hostile toward you and will afflict you for your sins seven times over. I will bring the sword on you to avenge the breaking of the covenant. When you withdraw into your cities, I will send a plague among you, and you will be given into enemy hands…I will abhor you…I will scatter you among the nations and will draw out my sword and pursue you…I will make their hearts so fearful in the lands of their enemies that the sound of a windblown leaf will put them to flight. They will run as though fleeing from the sword, and they will fall…you will not be able to stand before your enemies. You will perish among the nations; the land of your enemies will devour you. Those of you who are left will waste away in the lands of their enemies because of their sins; also because of their ancestors’ sins they will waste away…These are the decrees, the laws and the regulations that the LORD established at Mount Sinai between himself and the Israelites through Moses.”
—Leviticus 26:14-39, 46
If for a second you thought, “wait, am I reading Jonathan Edwards?” No, you weren’t. That is the Lord. That is just one place in his revealed will that unveils his unparalleled hatred for sin. Dwelling in God’s foretold wrath here, in the law, for the last three days—like a tomb—has felt so sweet. In fact, I feel like I’ve been resurrected from the dead after reading this. Like wiping away any smudge from my spectacles, I can now see the awesome, spectacular and glorious work that Christ has performed on the cross of redemption!
The fate laid out in these verses is only a portion of the eternal punishment of which I deserve—and Christ took it all. Look at the promised destruction here again. This time, when you do, think about Christ on the cross. Think about the gospels and the many details they display about Christ’s sacrifice. Do you see the uncanny parallels? No wonder Jesus spoke, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt 27:46).
But now, I also understand with much clarity why Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount “whoever relaxes the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:19). Why is that so? Because Jesus fulfills all of the laws requirements—that is why he came (v. 17)! In fact, the law points to Christ (Mt 11:13; Lk 24:27; Jn 1:45; 5:46; Ro 3:21-22; Gal 3:19-29). So, I believe with certainty that Jesus is calling those ‘the least in the kingdom of heaven’ those who stop pointing to the law, and the law points to him. So, they are people who are not pointing to Christ! And, because there is only one who has fulfilled the law—Jesus—he is called eternally great in the Kingdom of Heaven!
By not reading the law before, I was not pointing myself to Christ. I could not see the tremendous work he had done on earth through his obedience. But, by reading, I have seen this impossible task completed in him. He is glorious and worthy of praise. Indeed, the angels justly cry “Holy! Holy! Holy is the Lamb!” I, in addition, have seen the magnitude of God’s wrath poured onto him because of us. How great Jesus Christ is! So, please, I beg you brothers. Read the Pentateuch. “Blessed is the man…[whose] delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Ps 1:1-2).
After having read some of Leviticus 26 today, I urge you to look at this picture taken from ‘The Passion of the Christ.’ Do you see God’s wrath of which you are so graciously spared—if you have repented. Here is the rest of that chapter by the way. Even in a chapter exploding with wrath, God’s compassionate mercy would not let him refrain from mentioning his indescribable grace.
“But, if they will confess their sins and the sins of their ancestors—their unfaithfulness and their hostility toward me, which made me hostile toward them so that I sent them into the land of their enemies—then when their uncircumcised hearts are humbled and they pay for their sin, I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land… [For the repentant,] I will not reject them or abhor them…breaking my covenant with them. I am the LORD their God.”
—Leviticus 26:40-42, 44
Now, these verses which we know so well, do they spur on a growth of exponential joy?
“Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham”
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”
What about that promise of the land to those who repent and belong to the covenant promised to Abraham?
“And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them…He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away…[He] showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall…The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, clear as glass. The foundations of the way of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel…[with] jasper… sapphire… agate… emerald… onyx… carnelian… chrysolite… beryl… topaz… chrysoprase… jacinth… amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, transparent as glass.”
—Revelation 21:2-4, 10-12, 18-27
Is that reason to rejoice or what?
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”