October 11th, 2006

Lessons from Leviticus

mt. sinai

…and some of Numbers.

Tonight in Institute we studied from Leviticus and part of Numbers. The following are some of the notes I took.

The book of Leviticus is a “priesthood manual for the Levites”. The theme of the entire book is best conveyed in Lev. 19:2: “Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy.”

Word instances (in the book of Leviticus)

Blood: 67
Sacrifices: 38
Fire: 71
Lamb: 17
Holy: 83*
Unclean: 84*
* more than any other book in the scriptures

By these numbers it is apparent that the Lord is instructing Israel, in this book, about the Atonement.

3 purposes for the Law of Moses

  1. Prepare people to come unto Christ (Alma 25:15, D&C 84:25-27, Gal. 3:24)
  2. Provide daily reminders (Mosiah 13:30)
  3. Teach types and shadows (Mosiah 13:31, Mosiah 16:14)

Israel’s distinction

Israel has been labeled with—and commanded to take upon themselves—certain attributes:

  1. They are to be a peculiar people (Ex. 19:5)
  2. They are to be separated from the world (Ex. 33:16)
  3. They are to be severed from the world (Lev. 20:26)

Regarding the commandment to separate ourselves from the world, S. Michael Wilcox has said:

[Israel] wanted to be like all the other nations. Have you seen some of that among our own people? We sometimes want to watch the same movies, wear the same clothes, listen to the same music, read the same books as all the other nations.

This challenge can remain a stumbling block for Abraham’s seed today. The temptation to be “like all the nations” is ever present. The standards and images of the world are not to become the ideals of Abraham’s seed. The Old Testament in particular offers a warning to the Lord’s covenant people of today as it chronicles the people of the past. In it we see the results of failing to bless all the families of the world because one desires to be like the world. Eventually Abraham’s seed were lost, scattered, and taken captive by the world they so anxiously tried to imitate. (S. Michael Wilcox, “The Abrahamic Covenant,” Ensign, Jan. 1998, 47)

Guiding Israel to the promised land

If it took Israel 40 years to travel from Mt. Sinai, through the wilderness, to the promised land, then that means they traveled for an average of 11 feet per day. Their progress was hindered because they were constantly looking towards Egypt, just as Lot pitched his tent toward Sodom. We cannot be 80/20 for the kingdom of God. We must sell our “summer cottages” in Babylon.

The Lord gave Israel three basic tools to guide them to the promised Land.

1. Pillar of Fire

Like the pillar to guide Israel, God has given us five basic tools to guide us:

  1. Holy Ghost. “Whatever the decibels of decadence, these need not overwhelm the still, small voice! Some of the best sermons we will ever hear will be thus prompted from the pulpit of memory—to an audience of one!” (Neal A. Maxwell, “Behold, the Enemy Is Combined,” Ensign, May 1993, 78)
  2. Spirit of Christ. “But if we will remember that everyone of us has the thing that will direct him aright, our ship will not get on the wrong course and suffering will not happen and bows will not break and families will not cry for food—if we listen to the dictates of our own Liahona, which we call the conscience.” (Spencer W. Kimball, “Our Own Liahona”, Ensign, November 1976, 77)
  3. Patriarchal Blessing. “The same Lord who provided a Liahona for Lehi provides for your and for me today a rare and valuable gift to give direction to our lives, to mark the hazards to our safety, and to chart the way, even safe passage–not to a promised land, but to our heavenly home. The gift to which I refer is known as your patriarchal blessing. Every worthy member of the Church is entitled to receive such a precious and priceless personal treasure.” (Thomas S. Monson, “Your Patriarchal Blessing: A Liahona of Light,” Ensign, Nov. 1986, 65)
  4. Scriptures. “If [you] are acquainted with the revelations, there is no question—personal or social or political or occupational—that need go unanswered. Therein is contained the fulness of the everlasting gospel. Therein we find principles of truth that will resolve every confusion and every problem and every dilemma that will face the human family or any individual in it”. (Teach the Scriptures [address to religious educators, 14 Oct. 1977], 5)
  5. Priesthood Leaders. “On one occasion [Karl G. Maeser] was leading a party of young missionaries across the Alps. As they slowly ascended the steep slope, he looked back and saw a row of sticks thrust into the glacial snow to mark the one safe path across the otherwise treacherous mountains. Something about those sticks impressed him, and halting the company of .missionaries he gestured toward them and said, “Brethren, there stands the priesthood. They are just common sticks like the rest of us—some of them may even seem to be a little crooked, but the position they hold makes them what they are. If we step aside from the path they mark, we are lost”. (Boyd K. Packer, BYU Speeches, March 23, 1965, p.10)

2. Plan of God: Do it the Lord’s Way

In Numbers 11, verses 4-6, Israel complains that they want to go back to Egypt where they ate delicacies instead of boring manna (bread). They wondered who could provide them meat to eat. In verses 18-20 God—probably a little upset by now—said he’d provide them enough meat for a month, to the point where “it come out at your nostrils.”

Moses, in verses 21-22, wonders how in the world God is going to find enough meat to feed 600,000 people for a month! Verse 23 has God rebuking Moses for his disbelief, upon which he sends forth so much quail (in verse 31) that they stack up 3 feet deep for 3,000 feet in all directions of the camp. Whoa.

Punishment sets in during verse 33 with a plague. Many presumably died there, for they called the place Kibroth-hattaavah, or, “graves of lust”.

Israel should have stuck to God’s plan. How many people do we know who have wanted things done their way, only to then have their way brought about, which inevitably leeds them to (spiritual) “graves of lust”? The axiom holds true: Be careful what you ask for because you’ll probably get it.

3. Prophet to guide

In Numbers 12:1-6 we read of Moses’s siblings questioning his authority and sole right to revelation. Should they not also be able to prophecy and direct the affairs of God’s people?

Verse 8 has God saying that he’ll talk to his prophet “mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches”. Basically, God will plainly speak to his prophet in plain words:

For my soul delighteth in plainness; for after this manner doth the Lord God work among the children of men. For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding. (2 Ne. 31:3)

3 Responses to “Lessons from Leviticus”

  1. Robert
    October 12, 2006 at 6:41 am #

    Whenever I think of Leviticus, I think of harsh old Testament law. It amazes me that so many fundamentalists who view the bible as “inerant” believe Levitical scripture is relevant today. My favorite parts of Leviticus concern putting to death children who misbehave, casting out eunachs, etc. I never really thought Leviticus was relevant to modern Christianity,other than giving us a historical perspective.

    In my own spiritual studies, I have concentrated more on the new testament. It’s good to see Connor taking formal religious education, even after having served as a missionary.

  2. Connor
    October 12, 2006 at 7:16 am #

    Robert, I too was surprised at how much it contained that’s relavant to the higher law of the gospel. It’s amazing what you can find in the scriptures when you pay close attention! :)

    The institute program of the church is wonderful, allowing people like myself to get weekly instruction on various parts of the scriptures. There are several classes to choose from. I chose the Old Testament mainly because I was dating a girl at the time who was attending that class, but even though we’re no longer dating I’m hooked on the class. The teacher is excellent.

  3. Robert
    October 12, 2006 at 11:49 am #

    I am so impressed at how average (non-Ecclesiastic leaders) members in the LDS Church know so much scripture and can quote entire sections of obscure text. This is especially impressive considering the fact that you have more scripture (Book of Mormon, D&C) that anyone else.

    I really have moved away from the King James version. We use the New Revised Standard edition, which I find easier to read and more clear. Although the language is more beautiful in the King James, we abandoned it about 30 years ago in favor of a modern translation.

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