If you want to read about the good news of Jesus’ work for you, where do you turn? Your first thought may be to open to one of the Gospel accounts. Maybe you page to one of Paul’s epistles. In all these you will certainly find the wonderful proclamation of Christ who lived, died, and lives again for you. But, would your first choice be a book in the Old Testament? Would you turn to Leviticus?
The same Lord who comes to us in Word and sacrament today is the same Lord who came to His people in the Old Testament. The work of Christ for us is clearly shown in the Gospels and proclaimed in the epistles. In the Old Testament, the Gospel is proclaimed as a shadow of what would come in the incarnation.
The Apostle Paul writes,
“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the law and the Prophets bear witness to it — the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe”(Romans 3:32–22).
Leviticus bears witness to Christ our great High Priest, our atonement, our sanctification, our holiness. Leviticus is not a handbook of how to earn favor with God through mere sacrificial works and outward acts. Author Chad Bird describes it this way, “The tabernacle of the Old Testament was not a slaughterhouse to satisfy the bloodthirst of an angry diety. It was the Father’s house, where his children came to be redeemed by the death of a substitute.”
Levitical sacrifices had no strength apart from the Word of God and faith. No benefit existed apart from the Holy Spirit worked faith which listen and received the gifts of God. The Apology to the Augsburg Confession states, “Faith is the divine service that receives the benefits offered by God.”
We receive and confess this divine service, which God works in us, as we hear the promise of the forgivness of sins in the absolution and respond with one word, “Amen.” This single word is a gift. Faith receives the benefits of absolution and clings to the promise that Christ lived, died, and rose for me, for the forgiveness of my sins.
In the Small Catechism Martin Luther writes, “Confession has two parts. First, that we confess our sins, and second, that we receive absolution, that is forgiveness, from the pastor as from God Himself, not doubting, but firmly believing that by it our sins are forgiven before God in heaven.”
Faith is a gift from our gracious God which receives and holds onto His promised mercy. Faith listens to and firmly believes in God’s Word. Faith sets its eyes and ears on Christ. Jonathan Grothe describes faith in this way, “Faith itself has no strength at all, but it is the channel through which flows all the strength of God himself. Our faith, like Abraham’s ‘comes from what is heard’ and lives by holding to that heard and heeded Word of God.”
Leviticus is all about the work of Jesus for you.It is the liturgy, the divine service of the Old Testament. The same faith the Holy Spirit created in the saints of the Old Testament He creates in us. In God gifted faith, they looked forward to the ultimate Day of Atonement, the ultimate Lamb of God who would take away their sins. In the Divine Service we too look to Christ, the Lamb of God, who has atoned for our sins on Calvary. We can only say, “Amen” through the faith God gifts us. And, with ears of God-given faith, we hear the absolution in the divine service and exclaim, “Amen!”