Father in heaven, we ask that You would be gracious to us as we know You love to be and that You would give grace to us as we approach You with humble hearts, give grace to the reading of Your Word, the preaching of Your Word, the hearing, and then we pray the doing. We ask all of this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
At the beginning of last week’s sermon, I referenced The Chronicles of Narnia, so let me do so again this week. As you may recall, I trust many of you have read through the seven volumes as a child or more recently. This is the wonderful conclusion to The Last Battle, the last of the seven books: And as he spoke, Aslan, he no longer looked to them like a lion, but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. For us, this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the title and the title page. Now at last they were beginning chapter one of the great story, which no one on earth has read, which goes on forever, in which every chapter is better than the one before.
What a terrific ending. Very satisfying. You think, yes, that’s just how the book should end. That makes sense. That’s a fitting conclusion.
But imagine if you got to that and you turned the page and you realized there was one more short chapter, and it began to sound like this: “Instructions for the 2023 estimated tax worksheet, line 1 adjusted gross income. When figuring the adjusted gross income you expect in 2023, be sure to consider the items listed under what’s new. Line 7, credits, see form 1040 or 1040 SR line 19, schedule 3.”
Now I don’t mean to make fun of you. Some of you think that’s my world, and God bless you, we thank you for it.
“Line 9, self-employed. Line 10, other taxes, exception 1, exception 2,” and on and on. I pulled this because I had to pay my self-employment estimated taxes in the middle of June. You would think that’s a bit of a downer. That seems a bit anticlimactic. Didn’t we just come to the end of the story with quite a fitting conclusion and then oh, by the way, here’s a tax worksheet.
All of that is to introduce our chapter this morning. Leviticus chapter 27. Last week, 26, blessings and curses, wrapping up this series of God’s commandments which we’ve had almost entirely, if we could trace through from God showing up on Mount Sinai in Exodus chapter 20 through almost all of Leviticus and even though Leviticus has been a hard book, that felt like a pretty good conclusion. Do this and you shall live, if you don’t then you will die, but if you turn you can be forgiven and God will yet have grace.
It seemed like that should be the ending of the book. But then there’s chapter 27, laws about vows. And as we’ll get into it, it feels a little like ending the epic and then coming to a tax worksheet. But as we have found with so many chapters in Leviticus, that though it seems at first tedious, boring, irrelevant, not quite sure why it’s here, it actually is quite a fitting conclusion.
Now rather than just reading through it, because if I did so it would seem tedious and boring and would not make a lot of sense as many chapters in Leviticus have, at first. Let me instead try to introduce what this is about and then read through it section by section and I think it is make sense and we’ll wrap up this sermon and this whole series by trying to understand why is chapter 27 here instead of ending with chapter 26.
So you can see in the ESV, it says “Laws about Vows.” What is a vow? A vow in the Old Testament, as in the New, we might define like this: A voluntary promise to the Lord, and in the Old Testament usually promising someone or something to God. A voluntary promise to the Lord usually vowing to God someone or something.
So perhaps you had an especially good harvest in your field, or there was a marriage you wanted to celebrate or your family welcomed in a new child, or maybe the nation of Israel experienced a great military victory, or maybe you simply saw the sun for the first time in a week, and you wanted, you were feeling inspired and you wanted to promise something to God, or maybe you made an if-then, if you do this, God, give me a child, give us victory, then I will do that. Those are vows.
Maybe think of it sort of like our Faith Promise card or a Capital Campaign pledge, or even something more spontaneous in your life, a voluntary promise to God.
There are more of these than you might realize in the Bible. Some examples.
Numbers 21, verse 2. Israel vowed a vow to the Lord and said if You will indeed give this people into my hand then I will devote their cities to destruction.
There’s a promise.
Judges 11. You may recall Jephthah’s foolish and tragic vow. Jephthah said if You will give the Ammonites into my hand, then the first thing that comes out of doors of my house I will offer up as a burnt offering. And it was his daughter.
A more fitting vow 1 Samuel 1:11. Hannah vowed a vow that if the Lord gave her a son she would give him to the Lord all his days, no razor would touch his head, and the Lord did, that was Samuel. He went and he lived with the priest.
You may say, well, didn’t Jesus warn us against these kinds of vows and against taking oaths, and that’s true, but most interpreters have understood that Jesus was not making an absolute prohibition against all kinds of oaths. In fact, we find Jesus swearing later in His, you know, swearing an oath. We see Paul doing it. Various times in the New Testament, so it’s not an absolute prohibition but rather Jesus understood that the practice had arisen whereby these vows had gotten out of hand and they ended up allowing people actually to not tell the truth.
Acts 18:18. We read Paul had cut his hair because he was under a vow.
Then we have in Mark chapter 7 the practice that’s called Corban and this actually helps you understand Leviticus and Leviticus helps you understand what Jesus was talking about, this practice of Corban. Jesus says your tradition has developed such that you are actually negating the purpose of the law. So Corban allowed a gift that you might, or an obligation to someone else you then devote to the Lord, and this practice almost certainly derived from the practice that we’ll read here in Leviticus, except they were using it to cheat their parents. Jesus said “you owe your parents,” probably aging or infirmed parents, and you owed them, you owed some way to take care of them, and what they were doing, “Mom and Dad, I love you, but instead of what I ought to do to now help you and take care of you, I just want you to know I’ve dedicated it to the church in your name. I’ve given a big gift to the offering and I’ve made a special pledge to the Capital Campaign. Instead of giving to you, Mom and Dad, I’ve given it to the church.” That’s sort of what they were doing.
Jesus said, “No, no, no. You’re trying to do two things at once. You’re trying to get out of the obligation to your parents by making this vow to the Lord so you can look very noble – look at this great thing that I’m doing in vowing to the Lord. Well, really, you’re just getting out of the obligation you have to Mom and Dad.”
Like so many chapters we’ve encountered, the instructions here in chapter 27 seem confusing and haphazard at first, but upon closer inspection you’re going to find they make a lot of sense and they’re quite orderly. There are seven sets of instructions. It is amazing, it doesn’t always work this way, but it is amazing how many times the Bible has things in sets of seven. If you’re looking in the Bible in the ESV, you will see that there are seven paragraphs. These mark out the seven sets of instructions for what you might vow to the Lord.
Let’s just go through paragraph by paragraph.
First you might vow most basically, you might make a promise of persons, persons.
“The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, If anyone makes a special vow to the Lord involving the valuation of persons, then the valuation of a male from twenty years old up to sixty years old shall be fifty shekels of silver, according to the shekel of the sanctuary. If the person is a female, the valuation shall be thirty shekels. If the person is from five years old up to twenty years old, the valuation shall be for a male twenty shekels, and for a female ten shekels. If the person is from a month old up to five years old, the valuation shall be for a male five shekels of silver, and for a female the valuation shall be three shekels of silver. And if the person is sixty years old or over, then the valuation for a male shall be fifteen shekels, and for a female ten shekels. And if someone is too poor to pay the valuation, then he shall be made to stand before the priest, and the priest shall value him; the priest shall value him according to what the vower can afford.”
This is what would happen. One of these occasions where you’re feeling inspired and you want to make a voluntary promise, the most basic thing you could vow to the Lord is a person. You might promise yourself, or you might promise someone else, just like Hannah promised that if she had a son, Samuel, she would vow him to the Lord. Now in that case, the child actually literally went to live with the priest. But you can imagine millions of people making vows, the priests don’t want to baby-sit all your children. They don’t want to take, can’t take care of everyone. So normally when you vow a person, you didn’t really have in your mind that the person was going to go live with the priest. That could happen, but normally it was representative of some valuation that you would then give in turn.
This chapter gives the valuations. For men, from 5 shekels, 20, 50, 15, depending on how old you are. For females, 3 shekels, 10, 30, 10. This is not quantifying someone’s worth as a person but simply in an agricultural economy, these figures were representative of normal productive capability. In an agricultural society like that, strength and brawn were what mattered most and so men could generally do more work than women. It’s not valuing women less. In fact, you notice that a woman in the prime of her life is valued at 30 shekels, which is more than the valuation for men at any age except for men in the prime of their life. So this is simply reflective of productive capability in an agrarian society. This was the most basic vow. You dedicate either yourself or someone else to the Lord.
Now what you wouldn’t realize is that these figures are really quite high. People in biblical times might have earned the equivalent of a shekel per month, so to have a valuation all the way up to 50 shekels, 50 months, 4 years, and 2-1/2 years shekels or 30 months for women in their prime, is quite a high valuation. So you’ve got to think twice before you make this vow. You are promising quite a bit of your annual income, IR in some cases, many years of your income unto the Lord.
Now look at verse 8. This could be a sermon in itself. It is such a precious verse: “If someone is too poor to pay the valuation, then he shall be made to stand before the priest and the priest shall value him; the priest shall value him according to what the vower can afford.” Doesn’t that remind you of Jesus with the poor widow and her two copper coins that she threw in? These all, the rest gave out of their abundance, but she gave out of her extreme poverty. So you can imagine Israelites saying, “Well, who’s got that kind of money? I want to vow something to the Lord, but I can’t give over a year’s salary, two years, three years’ salary.” Most of the Israelites probably would have fallen into this category of verse 8. So there’s a provision, you want to do something, your move to give to the Lord, you can stand before the priest and the priest will allow you to give based on what you can afford. It’s a sweet, gracious provision as all of God’s people should have the opportunity to give and make a vow and a promise unto the Lord no matter whether they’re rich or poor.
So first paragraph, the vowing of persons.
Second paragraph, the vowing of animals, verse 9.
“If the vow is an animal that may be offered as an offering to the Lord, all of it that he gives to the Lord is holy. He shall not exchange it or make a substitute for it, good for bad, or bad for good; and if he does in fact substitute one animal for another, then both it and the substitute shall be holy. And if it is any unclean animal that may not be offered as an offering to the Lord, then he shall stand the animal before the priest, and the priest shall value it as either good or bad; as the priest values it, so it shall be. But if he wishes to redeem it, he shall add a fifth to the valuation.”
So a clean animal, you can’t substitute it. If you try to substitute it, then that animal and the substitute are both holy to the Lord. An unclean animal, which could not be sacrificed, then you pay the valuation. Here the giving to the Lord in these instances means giving to the priests, giving to the priests, animals for their sacrifices, perhaps later lands for a time. Different things that would enable the priests to do their work, their rituals, their worship.
Now we seen in verse 13 that a man may wish to redeem it. Now we hear that as a very spiritual word and it is, but it’s first of all an economic word. It means simply to buy back. So many of these vows understand that you might in fact later change your mind. Now we’ll get to some of them, you absolutely can’t change your mind, but some of them envision your circumstances might change, you might have fallen on hard times, you might have made a promise that later you regret, so there is a provision that you can redeem back. You promised this animal and then something happened two weeks later, you said I can’t really, I need that animal, you can buy it back, but as we saw often earlier in Leviticus, it’s with a 20% markup, so you have to pay 120%. You have to add a fifth to it and you can buy back the animal that you had promised.
So vowing of persons, vowing of animals.
Here’s the third category: Vowing of houses.
Verse 14: “When a man dedicates his house as a holy gift to the Lord, the priest shall value it as either good or bad;” so biblical warrant for appraisers, good news for some of you, “as the priest values it, so it shall stand. And if the donor wishes to redeem his house, he shall add a fifth to the valuation price, and it shall be his.”
These are presumably talking about houses we saw a few weeks ago in the walled cities, not to give away permanently your ancestral land, but these houses. Same thing we see in many of these paragraphs. The priests set a valuation, you can pay the valuation if you need to redeem it, so it doesn’t help the priests to give you their house that you live in and isn’t near them. So it’s a symbolic “I’m giving you this valuation under the service of the Lord.”
Here’s a fourth category, it’s the longest one, land.
Look at verse 16: “If a man dedicates to the Lord part of the land that is his possession,” now we’re going to find he’s not actually giving away the land. How important it was that you kept your land, but what he’s going to do is another valuation based on the productivity of the land. “Then the valuation shall be in proportion to its seed. A homer of barley seed shall be valued at fifty shekels of silver. If he dedicates his field from the year of jubilee, the valuation shall stand, but if he dedicates his field after the jubilee, then the priest shall calculate the price according to the years that remain until the year of jubilee, and a deduction shall be made from the valuation. And if he who dedicates the field wishes to redeem it, then he shall add a fifth to its valuation price, and it shall remain his. But if he does not wish to redeem the field, or if he has sold the field to another man, it shall not be redeemed anymore. But the field, when it is released in the jubilee, shall be a holy gift to the Lord, like a field that has been devoted. The priest shall be in possession of it. If he dedicates to the Lord a field that he has bought, which is not a part of his possession, then the priest shall calculate the amount of the valuation for it up to the year of jubilee, and the man shall give the valuation on that day as a holy gift to the Lord. In the year of jubilee the field shall return to him from whom it was bought, to whom the land belongs as a possession. Every valuation shall be according to the shekel of the sanctuary: twenty gerahs shall make a shekel.”
Verse 16 tells us the valuation is in proportion to the seed, which is a way of saying what the land can produce. Is it good land? Is it bad land? What’s its yield in the harvest? This section is longer because you need to take into consideration the year of jubilee, which is once every 50 years where all of the land was to be given back to its original, God-appointed ancestral home. So depending on if you’re coming up to the jubilee or if you’ve just passed the jubilee, that affects the valuation in what you’re vowing to the Lord.
Fifth category, the firstborn.
Verse 26: “But a firstborn of animals, which as a firstborn belongs to the Lord, no man may dedicate; whether ox or sheep, it is the Lord’s. And if it is an unclean animal, then he shall buy it back at the valuation, and add a fifth to it; or, if it is not redeemed, it shall be sold at the valuation.”
Back in Exodus, Exodus 13 and Exodus 34, we already had the provision that the firstborn automatically belonged to the Lord. So this is simply saying you can’t go on and say, “I’m feeling very generous. I vow the firstborn to the Lord.” Moses said, “Time out, can’t do it, it already belongs to the Lord.”
There’s already a provision. Now again it didn’t usually mean that your firstborn went to live with the priest, it meant already that upon your firstborn you had to pay something to the priest. It was a way of indicating the special place that the firstborn had in the family and that they belonged to the Lord.
So he says you can’t dedicate those because they already belong, but there are provisions for redeeming the firstborn, and if you’d rather not have your animal back, then you can give the animal, but here’s the process for buying it back because firstborn of humans, firstborn of animals, belong to the Lord.
Sixth category. We’re almost done. The devoted things.
Verse 28: “But no devoted thing that a man devotes to the Lord, of anything that he has, whether man or beast, or of his inherited field, shall be sold or redeemed; every devoted thing is most holy to the Lord. No one devoted, who is to be devoted for destruction from mankind, shall be ransomed; he shall surely be put to death.”
This, in other words, is an absolute category, just like we saw at the beginning of the sermon that verse from Numbers 21, the people said if You give us victory, we will devote all these things to destruction. That’s sometimes called the ban, or simply as it says here, devoted to destruction.
You think about Saul, got himself in trouble when he didn’t devote the sheep to destruction. The Israelites at times got themselves in trouble when they didn’t devote things to destruction when they went into the land.
So things that are under this absolute ban cannot be vowed; they’re already dedicated to the Lord, and they can’t be vowed again, and they can’t be redeemed. It’s irreversible.
Then here’s the final category, seventh paragraph, the tithes.
Verse 30: “Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord. If a man wishes to redeem some of his tithe, he shall add a fifth to it. And every tithe of herds and flocks, every tenth animal of all that may pass under the herdsman’s staff, shall be holy to the Lord. One shall not differentiate between good or bad, neither shall he make a substitute for it; and if he does substitute for it, then both it and the substitute shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.”
So just as we saw earlier, you can’t make a vow to promise your firstborn that already belongs to the Lord, so we see here that these vows are not about the tithes. That’s just a word for a tenth, every tenth animal, every tenth part of your produce, belongs to the Lord. When we have every week here the giving of tithes and offerings, that’s not a redundancy. It’s trying to get at this Old Testament idea that they were required to pay a tithe, 10%, and then on top of that they could make offerings. Even if some people are not convinced that the tithe is a New Testament idea, at the very least it is a floor. For those of us who live on the other side of the incarnation and know the Gospel and all of its fullest colors and are unimaginably more wealthy than any of these Israelites, surely we don’t want to give less to the work of God than was required of them.
So this final paragraph says you can’t commit a tithe because the tithe already belongs to the Lord, but here’s the provision if you’d rather not give your literal animal or your literal produce to the priest, then you, too, can redeem it and here’s the valuation price.
Then finally verse 34: “These are the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses for the people of Israel on Mount Sinai.”
You might be sitting there saying, well, slightly more interesting than I thought. The seven paragraphs, that was helpful. It makes sense. I can see those seven categories, I understand what this is about, but I mean, Leviticus is going to Leviticus, because this just seems like really? This is the way you’re going to end the book? With a tax code? Instead of some pronouncement of covenant blessings and curses?
So let me suggest to you three ways to understand the relevance of Leviticus 27 as we bring this series to a close.
Number 1. This chapter is here because it means to help God’s people to be thoughtful. This chapter helps God’s people to be thoughtful.
See, this chapter in part is wanting God’s people to be careful with what they vowed. That’s why there are quite high prices fixed to the valuation of persons. Before you go off and you want to try to show off at your wedding reception and you’re feeling like quite the important big person and you say, “In celebration of my daughter’s wedding, I’d like to make a vow of her to the Lord.” Before you do that, everyone says, “Wow, what a generous man,” you’ve got to think, okay, that’s 2-1/2 years of your income that you’ve just vowed to the Lord.
So this is just helping God’s people to think.
And there are penalties for changing your mind, because you understand if there was no fifth added to it, what would stop people, because human nature is human nature, what would stop people from in public spaces just vowing, “I vow my house to the Lord, my produce to the Lord, my land to the Lord,” and then later you just buy it back at the very same price? So you’ve got to add a fifth to it. Okay, there’s a cost here. You better think twice before you do this.
I like that line from Top Gun, “Your ego is writing a check your body can’t cash.”
So be careful, be careful with what you vow.
If you ever read through the Reformers, read Calvin, for example, and you find long sections about vows and this intricate discussion about what to do with rash vows and you think, well, why did you spend so much time on this? Because the Reformers were dealing with so many people who had been led and in some ways really pressured to make monastic vows, because that was thought to be the pinnacle of spirituality. So you have men and women who’ve made vows of chastity, vows of poverty, and now the Reformation is coming along and saying marriage is a good thing and to just artificially make yourself poor and depend upon others, that’s not a good thing. So they often determined that these were rash vows, these were vows made in ignorance and there was a way to get out of those vows.
So God’s people have often had to think about how do we handle these promises, and what chapter 27 wants to make sure is that God’s people are giving this a second and a third thought.
Deuteronomy 23. We read: “If you make a vow to the Lord your God, you shall not delay fulfilling it for the Lord your God will surely require it of you and you will be guilty of sin. But if you refrain from vowing, you will not be guilty of sin. You shall be careful to do what has passed your lips, for you have voluntarily vowed to the Lord your God what you have promised with your mouth.”
Deuteronomy 23 is saying, look, you haven’t sinned if you don’t make a vow. This is not your obligation, firstborn, tithes, this is above and beyond. So just think about it because you have to pay what you promised to pay, and if you make a vow and then later you change your mind, you’re going to have to buy it back with a 20% markup.
It’s not unlike parenting sometimes. Son, daughter, I want to help you make a good decision that you won’t regret. Sometimes, however, you have to let your children make poor decisions. Now not everything, not at every age, not for life and limb, but sometimes to make poor decisions and then that you don’t bail them out and they have to pay the consequences for it.
That’s sort of what Leviticus 27 is doing. God is imposing some restrictions because He understands that it’s possible for people to be swept up in a religious fervor and make promises they later regret and aren’t able to keep.
It’s strange. You wouldn’t think a chapter like that would be in the Bible. You’d think the Bible would just be 1000% for all of the religious fervor, wherever there’s lots of religious emotion, that’s a good thing. But chapter 27 is here to say, oh, just careful. You can get swept up with the crowd, swept up in a moment, and just want you to think before you make these vows.
I remember when I was a college student going to a large missions conference, and at least as it struck me and as I remember it, it was as sometimes happens at these student gatherings there was, at a missions conference, there was a great crescendo at the end of the conference with all these thousands of people and who would stand up and they wanted to give their lives, ready to commit to give their lives in missions. It struck me then, and even more now, it was almost inviting people to make rash vows.
I remember, there were people, I had friends that didn’t follow through on it, but I had friends if there would have been planes outside of the stadium at the conference that just said one way ticket and we parachute you in to some unreached people, they would have gotten on it. They would have said, “yes, I’ll give my whole life. I don’t know the language, I’m untrained, I’ll go.”
I’ve been a part of something called the Cross Conference, which is a student missions conference, and one of the things that from the very beginning we’ve been very intentional about, there is kind of a crescendo toward the end of those three days together and we do invite people to stand and consider what God might be doing in their hearts relative to missions, but we’re very careful how we word it. What we ask people is would you stand if you are committed to go back to your church and talk to your pastor and talk to your parents about whether or not you should consider long-term missions. So we’re not asking 19-year-olds to make a vow that they’re not ready to embrace, or don’t know how to embrace, but we’re saying, “Would you go and talk to people who love you and know you and tell them of this calling your sensing in your life and see if they confirm it and what the process might be like?”
This chapter is here that God’s people would be thoughtful.
Number 2. Most obviously, this chapter is here that God’s people would be truthful.
Think of it this way. Chapter 26, blessings and curses are God’s promises to His people. Chapter 27 is about our promises to God. So it’s not just an appendix, it’s not just an afterthought, it’s not “Oh, by the way, you need the tax code.” It makes sense. First God is making vows to us. Here’s what He will do. Then this chapter is here, what sort of vows in response do you want to make to God?
Now it’s true, as we’ve seen, some of these promises can be subject to change, and it’s true in your own life. You make plans and sometimes plans change. That’s not necessarily a sin. But there are here promises that must be kept. So it is in our lives. We take vows, solemn vows.
Some men here have taken ordination vows. Parents here have taken baptismal vows. Congregation members have stood and made promises to parents. You made a vow before God Almighty. You stood in a church and a pastor asked you questions, husband and wife, and you made a promise. You made a vow before God and these witnesses.
This chapter is to remind us of how unbelievably important our words are. We live in a day where words are cheap and most public people you don’t expect them to be telling the truth. You expect people to try to be shading the truth and just selling you something.
Ecclesiastes 5 says it is better that you should not vow then that you should vow and not pay. Let not your mouth lead you into sin and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake.
It is better to not vow than to make a promise that you don’t keep.
This chapter is about honoring our commitments to the Lord. It’s about counting the cost. It’s about keeping our hand to the plow. It’s as Psalm 15:4 say, you swear to your hurt.
I’ve been making my wife watch with me, which she is happy to do, one of my favorite movies, A Man for All Seasons. You really should see it or read the play. Now, yes, I know that it’s sort of the Catholics are the good guys and Protestants are sort of the bad guys, so just set that out of your mind for a moment. But it’s about Sir Thomas Moore and the movie so wonderfully done and the script is wonderful and the acting, and it’s about Thomas Moore and whether or not he will state his opinion with Henry VIII wanting to divorce another wife and whether he will acknowledge that Henry is the King of the church. It’s about your words. It’s about telling the truth. He says in one of the many famous lines as he speaks to his daughter Margaret, “When a man takes an oath, Meg, he’s holding his own self in his own hands, like water, and if he opens his fingers then, he needn’t hope to find himself again. Some men aren’t capable of this, but I’d be loath to think your father one of them.”
It’s about telling the truth. It’s about when you make an oath, when you swear a vow, do you swear to your own hurt?
When you make an oath, you are taking your own self in your hands, and if you open that up, it’s like letting your very self spill out onto the floor. Do you treat your words that seriously, with such solemnity?
This chapter is to help us be thoughtful, it’s to help us be truthful.
Here’s the final thing. This chapter not only helps us be thoughtful and insists on God’s people being truthful, this chapter assumes God’s people will be grateful.
This is why this is a terrific ending to the book of Leviticus. Remember, these are voluntary commitments. This is not what’s required when you have to wash away ager childbirth, or this is not your tithe, this is not the burnt offering you have to bring. This is of your own accord, what do you want to do in worship of God.
What we’ve seen in Leviticus is that at the very heart of worship is sacrifice.
First of all, God providing a sacrifice for us, but now we see in response that we also live a life of sacrifice in devotion to Him. Isn’t that Romans 12? Isn’t Romans 12 just a way of capturing this theme in Leviticus? In view of God’s mercies, everything in Romans 1 through 11, all of that about election and predestination and justification, all of that, union with Christ, because of that present your bodies as what? A living sacrifice, which is your acceptable worship, pleasing to God.
We dedicate ourselves to the Lord in grateful devotion.
So you can think of Leviticus, so much of Leviticus is about God’s heart for His people and now this final chapter is here our heart for God. To express our devotion beyond what is our duty, beyond mere obedience.
So, yes, this seems rather anticlimactic, blessings and curses, and then what amounts to a tax code. Except you realize this is not taxes. These are gifts. This is the delight of the giver to give gifts to the One who has given us everything. Do you love to give gifts? It is one of the secrets when you become a parent, that you really, now it’s a lot of stress when you get to Christmas and birthdays, but you really love to give the gifts, to see the delight on the one who receives it.
This past week in the DeYoung house is always a big week, the third week in June, because it’s birthday week. It starts with Father’s Day, and this Father’s Day also happened to be Paul’s birthday, and then three days later it was Tabitha’s birthday, two days later it was my birthday. So it’s a wonderful week and it’s a lot of work for one person in the house, and you can guess who that is. So she’s a little relieved when the week is over. There’s balloons and there’s happy birthday and there’s special meals and cakes and food and things.
We love to give gifts. Give generously, give fully, give of ourselves. So don’t think that Leviticus 27 is ending on a down note. No, no, no. It’s ending with the expectation… See, it’s all implicit… It’s the expectation we’ve encountered everything that God is doing in all of the feasts and all of the festivals and all of the sacrifices, everything He’s doing for us, so of course one chapter at the very end is going to be our worship response to Him. How can we not be moved to enter into a life of consecration to the God who dwells in our midst?
I said from the very beginning, and week by week, that Leviticus is about this thing: How can a sinless God dwell in the midst of a sinful people?
Now we see a further question: How then should a redeemed people respond to their gracious God? The answer is with a life of grateful devotion, a life of holiness, set free, set apart, to follow God with joy and wonder.
So, yes, Leviticus constantly reminded us God is holy. It also reminded us we are not.
But have you seen how Leviticus also announces on every page a God who is holy and we who are not, can dwell together. Atonement – at one ment. Because of God’s provision, and in light of all that God has done for us, surely it is not too much that we would live a life of obedience and devotion to Him.
So 27 chapters in Leviticus, 21 sermons if you’ve been counting at home. I’ll finish with this. You know that you’ve understood Leviticus when you are moved to worship.
Let’s pray. Our Father in heaven, we give thanks for Your Word, all that You have taught us in this book, this book that many of us thought was obscure and difficult, tedious, even boring, and yet we have found page after page, week after week, new things that You have taught us about Yourself, about us, about Your Word, about Your ways in the world and Your ways with the Church. So we offer our very selves to You, who has given us everything. In Jesus we pray. Amen.