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Chapters 4 to 7
Chapters 8 and 9
Chapters 13 and 14
Chapters 19 and 20
Chapters 21 and 22
Drawing near to God in the sanctuary in the midst of His people
The Book of Leviticus is the way of drawing near to God, viewed as dwelling in the sanctuary, whether in respect of the means of doing so, or of the state in which men could; and therewith, consequently, especially the subject of the priesthood; that is, the means established of God for those outside the sanctuary drawing near unto Him; and the discernment of the defilements unbecoming those who were thus brought into relationship with God; the function of discerning these being, in any case that rendered it necessary, a part of the service of the priesthood. There are also in Leviticus the several convocations of the people in the feasts of Jehovah, which presented the special circumstances under which they drew near unto Him; and, lastly, the fatal consequences of infringing the principles established by God as the condition of these relationships with Him.
Here the communications of God are consequent upon His presence
in His tabernacle, which is the basis of all the relationships we
are speaking of. It is no longer the lawgiver giving regulations
from above, to constitute a state of things, but one in the midst* of the people, prescribing the conditions of their relationship
The sacrifice of Christ the means of approach
But whatever be the nearness and the privileges of the priestly position, the sacrifice of Christ is ever that which establishes the possibility and forms the basis of it. Hence the book begins with the sacrifices which represented His one perfect sacrifice. As presenting the work of Christ in its various characters and diverse application to us, these typical sacrifices have an interest that nothing can surpass. We will consider them with some little detail.
Different characters of types
The types which are presented to us in the scriptures are of different characters; partly, of some great principle of God's dealings, as Sarah and Hagar of the two covenants; partly, they are of the Lord Jesus Himself, in different characters, as sacrifice, priest, etc.; partly, of certain dealings of God, or conduct of men, in other dispensations; partly, of some great future acts of God's government.
Though no strict rule can be given, we can say in general that Genesis furnishes us with the chief examples of the first class; Leviticus, of the second, though some remarkable ones are found in Exodus; Numbers, of the third: those of the fourth class are more dispersed.
The employment of types to meet our capacity
The employment of types in the word of God is a feature in this blessed revelation not to be passed by. There is peculiar grace in it. That which is most highly elevated in our relationship with God almost surpasses, in the reality of it, our capacities and our ken, though we learn to know God Himself in it and enjoy this by the Holy Ghost. In itself, indeed, it is needful that it should surpass infinitely our capacities, because, if I may so speak, it is adapted to those of God, in respect of whom the reality takes place, and before whom it must be effectual, if profitable for us. All these profound and infinite objects of our faith, infinite in their value before God or in the demonstration of the principles on which He deals with us, become, by means of types, palpable and near to us. The detail of all the mercies and excellencies which are found in the reality or antitype are, in the type, presented close to the eye, with the accuracy of Him who judges of them as they are presented to His, but in a manner suited to ours, which meets our capacity; but for the purpose of elevating us to the thoughts which occupy Him Christ, according to the mind of God, in all His glory, is the picture presented. But we have all the lines and explanations of what is contained in it, in that which we hold in our hand — of Him who composed the great reality. Blessed be His name!
The tabernacle displays God's plans in grace, the means of meeting necessity and sin
To apply this to the sacrifices in the beginning of Leviticus,
the establishment of the tabernacle embraces two points quite
distinct, — the display of the plans of God in grace,* and the
place of access to Him, and also the means of meeting the necessity
and sin which gave occasion for its present exercise. All its
structure was according to a pattern given in the mount — a
pattern of heavenly things including the intercourse between heaven
and earth, and shews forth the order which finds its accomplishment
in the better tabernacle not made with hands. But the economy of
the tabernacle was only actually set up after the sin of the golden
calf, when the jealousy of God against sin had already broken
forth; and His grace was ministered from the throne in the
sanctuary by offerings which met transgression, and transgression
which in result barred the entrance of the priests at all times
into the sanctuary, but supplied in grace all that met the need of
a sinful people.
The tabernacle economy set up after the sin of the golden calf
Hence also it is that the first mention we have of the tabernacle is upon the occasion of the sin of the golden calf, when Moses's anger waxed hot against the mad impiety which had rejected God, before they had received the details and ordinances of the law of Moses, or even the ten words from the mountain. Moses took the tent, and pitched it without the camp, far off from the camp, and called it the tabernacle of the congregation, though that really was not yet erected; and all that sought Jehovah went forth to the tabernacle of the congregation without the camp. It was a place of meeting for God and those among the people who sought Him. In the law there was no question of seeking God. It was the communication of God's will to a people already assembled, in the midst of whom God manifested Himself, according to certain demands of His holiness. But when evil had come in, and the people as a body had apostatised and broken the covenant, then the place of assembly, where God was to be sought, was set up. This was before the tabernacle, as regulated according to the pattern shewn in the mount, was set up; but it established the principle on which it was founded in the most striking manner.
The original order never carried out
The order of the tabernacle as originally instituted was never carried out, as the law in its original character never was brought in. Nadab and Abihu offered strange fire the first day, and Aaron was forbidden the holiest save on the great day of atonement in another way. The tabernacle itself was set up according to the pattern, but the entrance to the inner sanctuary was closed. What was done referred to the state of sin, and was provisional, but a provision for sin, only not a finished work as we have it.
The meeting of Jehovah with the Mediator and the people through the Mediator
This meeting of Jehovah with the people, or the mediator, was
twofold: apostolic, or sacrificial; that is, for the purpose of
communicating His will; or of receiving the people in their
worship, their failures, or their need, even as Christ Himself is
the Apostle and High Priest of our profession — expressions which
allude to the circumstances of which we treat. Jehovah's presence
in the tabernacle, for the communication of His will (with which we
have to do only inasmuch as what occupies us is an example of it*), is thus spoken of in Exodus 25, 29. In chapter 25, after
describing the structure of the ark and its appendages in the most
holy place, it is said, "And thou shalt put the mercy-seat
above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony
which I will give thee. And there I will meet with thee [Moses],
and I will commune with thee from above the mercy-seat, from
between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony,
of all things which I will give thee in commandment with the
children of Israel." This was for the mediator with Jehovah
alone in secret. In chapter 29 we read, "A continual burnt
offering throughout your generations at the door of the tabernacle
of the congregation before Jehovah: where I will meet you, to speak
there unto thee. And there will I meet with the children of
Israel." That is where, though through a mediator, as all was
now since the law was broken, Jehovah met the people, not Moses
alone, with whom He communicated from between the cherubim in the
most holy place.