Where Bible Reading Plans Go To Die

Our church uses a Bible reading plan that takes us through the whole Bible in about four and a half years. We discuss the week’s reading each Sunday morning. The man making the announcements last Sunday mentioned that we’d be starting Leviticus this week, “where Bible reading plans go to die.”

It’s true, isn’t it? How often have we begun January in Genesis with good intentions of reading the Bible, only to get bogged down by the time we get to Leviticus.

So we tell ourselves all those regulations don’t apply to us any more since the sacrificial system and feast days were fulfilled in Christ, and we move on to something more interesting. That is, if we haven’t given up our reading plan completely.

But there are several reasons New Testament Gentile Christians should still read Leviticus.

It’s inspired of God. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” God gave it to us and it’s profitable for us even though we don’t observe all the rituals in it.

It’s instructive. “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

The New Testament quotes from Leviticus and refers to it over 100 times according to Warren Wiersbe in Be Holy (Leviticus): Becoming “Set Apart” for God.

Key biblical truths are better understood with Leviticus as a foundation. Imagine growing up repeatedly bringing sacrifices for sin to the tabernacle or temple. Then imagine being stunned by this news:

And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:11-13)

Or imagine reading that the lamb for a burnt offering had to be perfect and without blemish and then finding that “you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19).

Or imagine having the whole burnt offering in Leviticus 1 in mind when reading Romans 12:1: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Sure, we can get some of these concepts in the New Testament on their own, but we get a fuller picture and a deeper appreciation when we understand the background of them.

It emphasizes holiness. Dr. Wiersbe writes in Be Holy, “The word holy is used 93 times in Leviticus, and words connected with cleansing are used 71 times. References to uncleanness number 128. There’s no question what this book is all about.”

A seminary professor taught a class on Leviticus. One assignment was to try to keep the regulations in Leviticus for a week and journal about the experience. One student wrote:

Every day, I found myself focused on thinking about ritual purity and impurity. Partway through the week, I realized that I was thinking about these things all day long and in every aspect of my life, and that’s when it hit me: God cares a lot about our purity and holiness. Not just from a ritual perspective, but also from a moral perspective. All day long and in every aspect of life, the Lord wants me to pursue purity in my heart, in my life, in my actions. He wants me to reflect his holiness in all that I do. I have been treating holiness way too lightly! O Lord, help me to be holy!

It underscores the pervasiveness and seriousness of sin. We take sin too casually these days, maybe because we seem to be able to receive it easily. But we forget what it cost.

It encourages thankfulness and appreciation of Jesus’ sacrifice. We not only appreciate all that He went through, but we’re thankful for His deliverance. Jay Sklar, the seminary professor mentioned earlier, said that after teaching Leviticus, he could hardly sing a hymn about Jesus’ sacrifice without tears of thankfulness.

Israel’s feasts helps us understand our Christian celebrations. The ESV Study Bible’s introductory notes to Leviticus say:

The festal calendar of Israel enumerated in Leviticus (Lev. 23:1-44) has strongly shaped the Christian church’s traditional calendar. The three main national pilgrim feasts of Israel are the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Harvest, and the Feast of Booths. For those churches that follow the traditional calendar, these celebrations find their climax in Good Friday,  Easter, and Pentecost. To fully understand the Christian celebrations, one must see their initial purpose in the OT (p. 213).

It teaches love for neighbors. Did you know that the first instance of the phrase “love your neighbor as yourself” occurs in Leviticus 19:18? We see justice tempered with mercy in the regulations in Leviticus. Justice and fair treatment at large begins with justice and fair treatment on a personal level to our neighbors and acquaintances.

In Mark 12, a scribe asked Jesus which was the most important commandment. Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” The scribe responded, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” “And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God’” (Mark 12:28-34).

Many hymns refer back to concepts in Leviticus, like “Is Your All on the Altar?” and “Whiter Than Snow.”

Sure, there are some difficulties in Leviticus. Some of the regulations or restrictions that seem most odd to us are thought to have connections with the pagan worship in Egypt that the Israelites had lived with for 400 years. There are a few passages that are hard to understand.

But by and large, Leviticus sheds light on much gospel truth. OT Israel practices these things looking ahead to Christ’s sacrifice, seeing much of it in symbolic form. As the NT church, we look back on the symbols and object lessons to more fully understand.

I’m approaching Leviticus this time with eager anticipation.

(Sharing with Sunday Scripture Blessing, Selah, Scripture and a Snapshot,
Hearth and Soul, Inspire Me Monday, Senior Salon,
Remember Me Monday, Tell His Story, InstaEncouragements,
Recharge Wednesday, Let’s Have Coffee, Share a Link Wednesday,
Heart Encouragement, Grace and Truth, Faith on Fire, Blogger Voices Network)

28 thoughts on “Where Bible Reading Plans Go To Die

  1. It’s true that Leviticus (and Numbers) are not our favorites to read and study, but as your post so rightly points out, there is so much to be learned from the principles of all the sacrifices and ritual purity. I’ve been reading through the Bible every year for many years now and have learned to appreciate these difficult books. I remember many years ago when we were reading through with our children and reading Leviticus aloud to youngsters was daunting. However, on a few of those nights, as my husband read about the sacrifices for this sin and that, I sat and wept because it was brought home to me that sin COSTS. The economic cost of the animals that had to be sacrificed, and the thought that if I committed certain sins I would have to wring the neck of a dove as part of the payment. I think I would try harder to NOT sin.

  2. The reading plan I started for my very first time to earnestly read the Bible through was in 2014. It took two plus years. I’d tried before, but didn’t keep with it. Bible journaling was new to me, and I found that helped. Anyway, you have peaked my interest to read Leviticus through again. The times on my own that I started to read through, so true. I quit after a bit. It was so interesting to read it entirely. I still don’t totally understand lots that I read so visiting people who link up is helpful. Thank you for your prayers. Have a great week.

    • I have to confess, I have not looked forward to Leviticus in previous treks through the Bible. Reminding myself of these truths helps. And having the ESV Study Bible notes and Wiersbe book are helping by explaining some of the symbolism.

  3. You have peaked my interest to go and revisit Leviticus. I started reading through in 2014, and it took couple years. Working with a reading plan and a group helped as well as Bible journaling. I was new to that, but helped my learn to study a bit better. However, there are lots I don’t understand so visiting and reading blogs that link up help. Thank you, and have a great week

  4. Barbara, this post brought a smile. I recently said to a person who is reading through the Bible in a year that “Leviticus is the graveyard of reading plans.” I guess everyone feels the same about that one book. I breathed a sigh of relief when I came to Numbers 🙂 Leviticus reminded me of the precision of God. He had specific requirements. It also brought the reminder of the seriousness of sin and the endless sacrifices which needed to occur. Reading through Leviticus made me ever so grateful for the grace and mercy of God.

    • I agree, I think Leviticus is probably many people’s least favorite book of the Bible. I haven’t always enjoyed it, but reminding myself of these factors helps.

  5. A 4.5 year plan sounds like a great one to really dig into, instead of just checking boxes to finish in a year. I agree that Leviticus can be a plan-killer. lol. But there are always nuggets in there to be found. Thanks for sharing these extras about Leviticus.

    • A lengthier plan especially helps when using aids like the Wiesrbe commentary. If we’re having to push to get through a certain number of chapters, we don’t feel we have time to study further or look up information. This plan allows for one chapter five days a week, so there’s some catch-up time built in.

  6. I remember being horribly embarrassed by my dad reading Leviticus out loud during family worship as a young teen. All that stuff on women and their time of the month! You make a good case for sticking it out, though. I’ve probably read it the least of any of the books in the Bible.

  7. Ha! You are so right, Barbara. I can’t tell you the number of times I got bogged down and discouraged when I got to Leviticus in a Bible reading plan. I am currently on a Bible read-through and I am happy to say, I have made it to Acts. I have never thought about the holiness Leviticus stresses, but you are right. I am going to go back and reread this book keeping this holiness in mind. Maybe after I get through the rest of the New Testament.

    • Yay for making to through to Acts! Thankfully, when I first became a Christian I was in a church that encouraged reading the Bible through in a year. I stopped trying to make it through in a year after a while so I could slow down and get more out of it. I have to confess, often I just trudged through Leviticus without thinking much of the meaning just to get through it. Getting to Hebrews opened Leviticus up a lot. And reminding myself of the truths here and using aids like the ESV Study Bible and the Wiersbe commentary help a lot, too.

  8. Ha ha, guess which book I’m currently in? Yep, Leviticus. As I read through all the specifics on sacrifices, I found myself skimming and then trying to look for the big picture. A few thoughts that came to mind were my respect for Moses — his obedience to God involved so much; seemingly his entire life on a daily basis. Like the professor you cited who tried to live by all the regulations, it’s amazing to think how much Moses (and to a lesser degree all the Israelites) were confronted by their sin and the necessary sacrifices. Now having said that, I still would be fine with reading Leviticus and its ilk less often than many of the other Bible books. But I am a creature of habit so here I am again 🙂 Your thoughts were timely and helpful; thank you!

    • I can’t say I have really enjoyed Leviticus in the past, either. Keeping these truths in mind helps, as does the study aids I am using. I really liked the professor’s thought that living like this would make one think about holiness in every aspect of life. That’s something we still should do even without the regulations.

  9. I read the chronological bible in a year a few years ago. The leviticus readings were so repetitive (tripled sometimes with the chronological groupings). I remember making myself slow down. Making myself read each word – the chronology – but the temple sacrifices – and what they were to do – the slowing down and reading intentionally. Somehow – maybe because I was trying to honor God with the reading – but I felt His presence so strongly – as though the real acts were ushering in God’s presence.Believe me – my intentions had died there so many times over so many decades – but read that way – Grace falling down around me, friend!

  10. I remember when I first saved I thought I should read the Bible so I started in Genesis & soon got to the begats & wondered what on earth! Lol!
    We need to remember that the whole Word is there for our blessing 😀
    Blessings,
    Jennifer

  11. I love the title of this article!! The Bible reading plan I’m following starts Leviticus soon, so this was timely! Thank you! Amazing how relevant God’s Word is- even Leviticus!

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  13. First of all, your title is so relatable! Yes, Leviticus is rough, but it is still from God for us. Whenever I read those harder books, I remind myself that it is still part of God’s story and it’s here for me for a reason.

  14. Barbara Thank you for such a blessed read. I’ve read the Bible through chronologically twice. Right now I am doing something different, I began reading from the beginning of both the OT and NT a bit from each daily. I’m up to Joshua in the OT and John in the NT. Leviticus is a difficult read, but it makes so many connections. Blessings.

  15. LOL! Oh yes… how many times have I, myself, fallen behind or given up on a Read through the Bible in a year plan when hitting Leviticus? At least a handful, for sure! LOVED this… and the reminder that it matters… it all matters – and God speaks to us through Leviticus just like He speaks to us through John, or Hebrews, or any other book in the Bible! Great post!

    (I’m going through the book of James this year and OH MY… God cares of purity and holiness, for sure! James proves that over and over!)

  16. Barbara, I talk to so many who say the Old Testament makes them feel afraid and confused so they don’t read it at all. Yet in Roman’s we are explicity told that the things written in the past are for our learning. I’m so thankful for this thorough explanation about why a book like Leviticus is so helpful to us!

  17. What an intriguing title! Having just written a 12 month topical Bible Reading Plan, I was expecting the worst. I was pleasantly surprised by your encouraging words on the book of Leviticus! I haven’t read it in a long time, but now I want to!

  18. Great reminders in this post! The Holy Spirit can really use any part of the Bible to speak truth into your heart. Even Leviticus!

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