ImmerseBeginnings NLT - Page 163

I N T H E B O O K O F E X O D U S , the Israelites traveled from Egypt to Mount
Sinai, where the Tabernacle was created and set up. The book of
­Leviticus continues the story, as it records the instructions God gives
to Moses on Mount Sinai before the people continue their journey to
Canaan. Many of these instructions may seem strange because the
ancient cultures to which they belong are so different from our own.
We must be careful to read these instructions to Israel in the context
of their own time, not as written directly to us. Within the context of
Israel’s covenant, these laws provided cleansing and restoration for the
people, allowing them to remain in a close relationship with God in
order to fulfill their calling as a light to the world.
The instructions are based on careful distinctions between what is
“clean” and “unclean” and between what is “common” and “holy.”
Unclean here does not mean dirty or bad but rather that something has
been compromised or tainted in some way. As long as something remains clean, it may be set apart for a special purpose, and thus become
holy. The Israelites are to observe these distinctions to demonstrate
how they have been set apart for a special purpose by God: to live out
the life he intends as an example to all nations. The laws collected here
distinguish God’s people from the surrounding cultures and move the
story forward, closer to God’s ultimate vision for humanity.
Leviticus presents four major groups of instructions. The first gives direction for the various types of offerings that will be used to cleanse
people and objects that have become unclean and to set apart common people and common objects to make them holy.
The second section of the book explains what can cause a person
or thing to lose its state of cleanness. These laws express a specific
concern for an unclean person to be restored to physical integrity and
then to community.
In its third section of laws, Leviticus describes how the Israelites are to
pursue holiness in their everyday lives and in their worship of God. The
various regulations pertaining to holiness, including issues related to
blood, celebrating festivals, and even the holy bread in the Tabernacle,

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