On Reading Leviticus: Four Reading Strategies for This Glorious Book

Jesus washing the feet of Saint Peter on Maundy Thursday

With a new month (March) comes a new book in the Via Emmaus Reading Plan. This year I am reading Track 1 and listening to Track 3. And for those who are reading along this plan, or for those who are interested in reading Leviticus—“The Most Exciting Book You’ve (N)Ever Read”—I offer this reading strategy with resources.

This year, we have read Genesis and Exodus, and now we come to Leviticus, which is arguably the centerpiece of the whole Pentateuch. As I have taught in this Bible Study, borrowing from the work of Michael Morales (Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord?) who cites many others, the book of Leviticus is the literary center and high point of the Pentateuch. Thematically, we might capture it this way:

Genesis begins in Eden, the Garden of God and ends in Egypt, a place of exile and death;

Exodus moves from Egypt through the wilderness to Sinai;

Leviticus is entirely written at Sinai;

Numbers moves from Sinai through the wilderness to the Promised Land (i.e., Israel sits poised to enter the land at the end of the book);

Deuteronomy prepares the people to move from exile in the wilderness into the Garden of God, the land of Canaan.

From this locational/thematic chiasm (and there are other literary clues that indicate an intentional shaping of the Pentateuch), we see that Leviticus is not a book we must “get through.” In the Pentateuch, it is the book we must “get to.”

We need Leviticus, so that we might learn what it takes to dwell near to God. This month, as we read Leviticus, we need to consider how this book gives us more than a detailed list of instructions for the priests of Israel. It invites us to approach a holy God and to do so through the finished work of Christ—the One who fulfills all the requirements of the Levitical system of sacrifice. In what follows I will offer a handful of resources to help you read this book, starting with four reading strategies for Leviticus. Continue reading

Redemption, Covenant, and Dwelling: Seeing the Three-Fold Pattern of Salvation in the Book of Exodus

jesus saves neon signage

Patterns are everywhere. In aviation, you have flight patterns; in economics, you have patterns in the stock market, in detective work, police look for patterns of suspicious behavior; and in sports, defensive coordinators look for patterns in the offensive schemes of opposing teams. In short, we live in a world full of patterns!

And these patterns are just one hint that behind the created order, there is a Creator who has stamped his design on creation. Similarly, in the Bible we learn that there are patterns in redemption. And nowhere is this more true than in the book of Exodus. In Exodus we are introduced to God’s pattern of redemption—substitution, conquest, covenant, and glorious dwelling. These patterns repeat again and again in Scripture, and they are so important that even Jesus says to Moses and Elijah in Luke 9:31 that he is soon going to lead his own New Exodus. So today, as we begin to look at Exodus, we do so by recognizing the pattern of salvation found therein. Continue reading

On Reading Exodus: Four Approaches with Various Resources

sincerely-media-PH7TOStghPA-unsplashAs we move from Genesis to Exodus in Track 1 of the Via Emmaus Reading Plan, here are resources for the second book of Moses. If you missed the first month’s resources for Genesis, you can look here. Below is a recap on the Via Emmaus Reading Plan and a number of helps for reading Exodus.

The Via Emmaus Reading Plan

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On Reading Genesis: Four Approaches with Many Resources

close up photo of bible

January 1, 2021. 

With the new year comes the chance to begin a new Bible reading plan (or to continue your reading plan from last year). If the new year leads you to Genesis, as the Via Emmaus Bible Reading Plan does, you might be looking for some resources to aid in your reading—especially, if your plan does not give you a day-by-day, play-by-play. To that end I am sharing four reading strategies, with some helpful resources to listen and read. Be sure to read to the end, as some of the most helpful resources come at the end. Continue reading

David Among the Priests: Seeing the Royal Priesthood of David in the Book of 1 Chronicles

priestcolorIn 1 Chronicles 1–9, the central feature of the genealogy is the priestly service of sons of Aaron and Levi. (See this post). Yet, as the book unfolds, there is another “priest” who takes center stage. Who is this priest? It is none other than David himself, a royal priest after the order of Melchizedek, we might say.

His priesthood, however, may be veiled to many readers because of the fact that David is not called a priest and because passages like Exodus 28 and Deuteronomy 33:8–11 restrict priesthood to the sons of Aaron. Yet, taking those Levitical instructions seriously, we should not miss how 1 Chronicles presents David.

In what follows, I will present four evidences of David’s priesthood, the last includes five actions that identify David as a priest. If time permitted, we could find more evidences for David’s priesthood and give rationale for how this works in Scripture. Some of these things will become clear below; others we will have to explore later. For now, let us content ourselves with what Scripture gives us in 1 Chronicles and how David is presented in priestly ways.

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Getting Into 1 Chronicles without Getting Stuck: Or, How to Read a Genealogy

woman in red t shirt looking at her laptop

“Just skip the first 9 chapters in 1 Chronicles and start in chapter 10.”

This is something I’ve both said and done. And yet in this post, I want to return to 1 Chronicles 1–9 to show you how important these chapters are for understanding Chronicles and the theme of royal priesthood in the Bible.

For those reading the Bible for the first time or the fiftieth time, the likelihood of reading 1 Chronicles 1–9 with profit is challenging, to say the least. Yes, these chapters do include the cottage industry known as Jabez’s Prayer (1 Chr. 4:9–10). But appeals to that blessed man, whose name means pain—probably a prophecy for the way his life would be misused by 20th C. Christians—only confirms how hard it is to read these chapters with anything but the most general profit—i.e., God is Lord of history. (For a proper interpretation of Jabez’s prayer, read this).

Our approach to 1 Chronicles 1–9 changes, however, when we discover (1) the structure of this passage and (2) its purpose in the book of 1–2 Chronicles. Assisting in both of these endeavors, James T. Sparks has written The Chronicler’s Genealogies: Towards an Understanding of 1 Chronicles 1–9.

In Sparks’ research, he argues for the intentional placement of this genealogy and how it works in this book. After correcting a few modern errors on reading genealogies (check back for a post on that point), Sparks identifies a chiastic structure in these nine chapters that focuses on the cultic personnel (i.e., the priests). Continue reading

In Order to Dwell in God’s Presence: Seven Ways to Read Psalms

IMG_4667This month brings us to the Book of Psalms in the Via Emmaus Bible Reading plan. And I say “Book” because Psalms is more than a collection of random songs; it is a highly structured book which tells the redemptive story of David and his greater Son—the king who is enthroned on Zion.

In fact, the Psalter is composed of five books (Pss 1–41; Pss 42–72; Pss 73–89; Pss 90–106; Pss 107–50) and demonstrates many convincing proofs that the order of the Psalms is intentional. If you have spent any time on this blog, you know how much time I have spent arguing this point and showing how (I think) the Psalms are organized. 

In this post, which begins our look at the Psalms this month, I want to offer seven reading strategies for reading, understanding, and praying the psalms. These approaches are suggestive, not exhaustive; there is not one right way to read the Psalms, but knowing that the Psalms possess a unified message may be helpful for reading the psalms this month. If you have another way(s) to read the Psalms, please include them in the comments. Here are my seven suggestions.

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