This is an important question. The lectionary largely ignores it for Sunday services, and the excellent ‘When Will It Be Read‘ page shows that it is only read once – and then only a few selected verses from Leviticus 19. The spreadsheet breakdown shows only the Roman Catholics read more – adding Leviticus 13 (on leprosy) as well. If you are part of a congregation that uses the RCL (Revised Common Lectionary), the Episcopal Lectionary, the new Lutheran Lectionary, or the United Methodist lectionary then Leviticus 19:1-18 is all you will ever get to hear on a Sunday – and that but once in three years.
The ESV bible has extensive cross-references to Leviticus; in fact there are a total of 3227 references to verses in Leviticus – of which 239 are from the New Testament. As would be expected of a book that sets out foundational theology and principles, the bulk of New Testament references are thematic (135), in addition there are 95 word or phrase references, and six direct passage quotations.
In my opinion, the book of Leviticus is a very important book for Christians to have explained to them in their regular Sunday preaching. It is a book which points to Christ in clear and important ways, and one which adds greatly to an understanding of what Christ did on the cross.
What might we find if we were to read more of it?
Within the book we find the concepts of offering, sacrifice, priesthood, and through these catch a glimpse of the great offering of Christ, the one perfect sacrifice by our Great High Priest. We find the wonderful Gospel lesson in the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16 – with the two goats, one bearing the sin of the people and the other cleansing them from sin by its blood.
We learn why Mary took the infant Jesus to the temple to make offering (this would be a great reading for last Sunday – the feast of the Circumcision of Christ… which somehow had new-year readings assigned). We are taught – by the figure of ceremonial uncleanness, all about sin; in fact, if I were to summarise this book, it would be this: a book about sin, its consequence, and its only remedy by grace in Christ’s death.
Yet, all this is just scratching the surface of this rich and important book.
So, is Leviticus irrelevant, or is the lectionary (as I have suggested before) in urgent need of revision? Do you, as a Christian, agree that it is reasonable for God’s people to just not know about the content of Leviticus? The fact is that in this era of long hours and cable TV many Christians don’t get to hear from Scripture if it is not preached on Sunday – and so leaving things out leaves them with serious holes in their knowledge of God’s word.
If the Bible is God’s word, then can God’s people please get to hear it?