Synopsis of the Books of the Bible, by John Nelson Darby, [1857-62], at sacred-texts.com
Introduction to Leviticus
The Book of Leviticus is the way of drawing near to God, viewed as dwelling in the sanctuary, whether in respect of the means of doing so, or of the state in which men could; and therewith, consequently, especially the subject of the priesthood; that is, the means established of God for those outside the sanctuary drawing near unto Him; and the discernment of the defilements unbecoming those who were thus brought into relationship with God; the function of discerning these being, in any case that rendered it necessary, a part of the service of the priesthood. There are also in Leviticus the several convocations of the people in the feasts of Jehovah, which presented the special circumstances under which they drew near unto Him; and, lastly, the fatal consequences of infringing the principles established by God as the condition of these relationships with Him.
Here the communications of God are consequent upon His presence in His tabernacle, which is the basis of all the relationships we are speaking of. It is no longer the lawgiver giving regulations from above, to constitute a state of things, but one in the midst [See Note #1]of the people, prescribing the conditions of their relationship with Him.
But whatever be the nearness and the privileges of the priestly position, the sacrifice of Christ is ever that which establishes the possibility and forms the basis of it. Hence the book begins with the sacrifices which represented His one perfect sacrifice. As presenting the work of Christ in its various characters and diverse application to us, these typical sacrifices have an interest that nothing can surpass. We will consider them with some little detail.
The types which are presented to us in the scriptures are of different characters; partly, of some great principle of God's dealings, as Sarah and Hagar of the two covenants; partly, they are of the Lord Jesus Himself, in different characters, as sacrifice, priest, etc.; partly, of certain dealings of God, or conduct of men, in other dispensations; partly, of some great future acts of God's government.
Though no strict rule can be given, we can say in general that Genesis furnishes us with the chief examples of the first class; Leviticus, of the second, though some remarkable ones are found in Exodus; Numbers, of the third: those of the fourth class are more dispersed.
The employment of types in the word of God is a feature in this blessed revelation not to be passed by. There is peculiar grace in it. That which is most highly elevated in our relationship with God almost surpasses, in the reality of it, our capacities and our ken, though we learn to know God Himself in it and enjoy this by the Holy Ghost. In itself, indeed, it is needful that it should surpass infinitely our capacities, because, if I may so speak, it is adapted to those of God, in respect of whom the reality takes place, and before whom it must be effectual, if profitable for us. All these profound and infinite objects of our faith, infinite in their value before God or in the demonstration of the principles on which He deals with us, become, by means of types, palpable and near to us. The detail of all the mercies and excellencies which are found in the reality or antitype are, in the type, presented close to the eye, with the accuracy of Him who judges of them as they are presented to His, but in a manner suited to ours, which meets our capacity; but for the purpose of elevating us to the thoughts which occupy Him Christ, according to the mind of God, in all His glory, is the picture presented. But we have all the lines and explanations of what is contained in it, in that which we hold in our hand-of Him who composed the great reality. Blessed be His name!
To apply this to the sacrifices in the beginning of Leviticus, the establishment of the tabernacle embraces two points quite distinct,-the display of the plans of God in grace [See Note #2], and the place of access to Him, and also the means of meeting the necessity and sin which gave occasion for its present exercise. All its structure was according to a pattern given in the mount-a pattern of heavenly things including the intercourse between heaven and earth, and shews forth the order which finds its accomplishment in the better tabernacle not made with hands. But the economy of the tabernacle was only actually set up after the sin of the golden calf, when the jealousy of God against sin had already broken forth; and His grace was ministered from the throne in the sanctuary by offerings which met transgression, and transgression which in result barred the entrance of the priests at all times into the sanctuary, but supplied in grace all that met the need of a sinful people.
Hence also it is that the first mention we have of the tabernacle is upon the occasion of the sin of the golden calf, when Moses's anger waxed hot against the mad impiety which had rejected God, before they had received the details and ordinances of the law of Moses, or even the ten words from the mountain. Moses took the tent, and pitched it without the camp, far off from the camp, and called it the tabernacle of the congregation, though that really was not yet erected; and all that sought Jehovah went forth to the tabernacle of the congregation without the camp. It was a place of meeting for God and those among the people who sought Him. In the law there was no question of seeking God. It was the communication of God's will to a people already assembled, in the midst of whom God manifested Himself, according to certain demands of His holiness. But when evil had come in, and the people as a body had apostatised and broken the covenant, then the place of assembly, where God was to be sought, was set up. This was before the tabernacle, as regulated according to the pattern shewn in the mount, was set up; but it established the principle on which it was founded in the most striking manner.
The order of the tabernacle as originally instituted was never carried out, as the law in its original character never was brought in. Nadab and Abihu offered strange fire the first day, and Aaron was forbidden the holiest save on the great day of atonement in another way. The tabernacle itself was set up according to the pattern, but the entrance to the inner sanctuary was closed. What was done referred to the state of sin, and was provisional, but a provision for sin, only not a finished work as we have it.
This meeting of Jehovah with the people, or the mediator, was twofold: apostolic, or sacrificial; that is, for the purpose of communicating His will; or of receiving the people in their worship, their failures, or their need, even as Christ Himself is the Apostle and High Priest of our profession-expressions which allude to the circumstances of which we treat. Jehovah's presence in the tabernacle, for the communication of His will (with which we have to do only inasmuch as what occupies us is an example of it [See Note #3], is thus spoken of in Exodus 25, 29. In chapter 25, after describing the structure of the ark and its appendages in the most holy place, it is said, "And thou shalt put the mercy-seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony which I will give thee. And there I will meet with thee [Moses], and I will commune with thee from above the mercy-seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment with the children of Israel." This was for the mediator with Jehovah alone in secret. In chapter 29 we read, "A continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before Jehovah: where I will meet you, to speak there unto thee. And there will I meet with the children of Israel." That is where, though through a mediator, as all was now since the law was broken, Jehovah met the people, not Moses alone, with whom He communicated from between the cherubim in the most holy place.
On this ground Leviticus commences.
This is the character in which God puts Himself thus into relationship. Consequently most of the directions given suppose those to whom they apply to stand already in the relation of a people recognised of Him as His people. But the people being really without, and the tabernacle presenting the position in which God was putting Himself in order to be approached, the instructions which are given in cases supposing the people or the individuals to be thus placed, furnish those who are without with the means of drawing near to God, when they are in that position, though no previous relationship have existed. It is very important to observe this: it is the basis of the reasoning of the apostle, in Romans 3, for the admission of the Gentiles and so of any sinner whomsoever. It is true, nevertheless, that most of the directions apply to those who are already in proximity with the throne. Besides, all, in spite of themselves, have to do with it, although they do not approach it, and especially now that, as a testimony of grace, the blood is on the mercy-seat, and the revelation and testimony of glory without a veil, the result of grace and redemption, gone out. The conditions of relationship with the throne that God establishes, where He condescends to be approached by His creatures, are presented, which includes the details of those He sustains with His people.
The reader will remember, as regards our drawing nigh to God, the position of the Christian is entirely changed from that of the Jew. Then (Hebrews 9) the way into the holiest was not made manifest, and no one, not even the priests, could go into the presence of God within the veil; and the services were a remembrance of sins. Now, the work of Christ being accomplished, the veil is rent. It is not a people in a certain relationship with God yet always remaining without, drawing near to the altar, or, at best, some to the altar of incense. It is full grace going out to the world; and then, redemption being accomplished, and believers righteous before God, their having all perfect boldness to enter the holiest. Hence, our subject is not the character of approach, but the figures of the means by which we approach, in order to have communion with God. I need hardly add, the Father's love does not come in question. It was a throne of judgment which was in the sanctuary, and who could approach that?
My impression is that the tabernacle is the expression of the millennial state of things, save as to royalty, with which the temple is connected-the throne of God, in the holiest. I do not see that the veil will then be rent for those on earth, though all be founded on the sacrifice of Christ; but the high priest will go at all tunes into the holy place, and then in his robes of glory and beauty. The shew-bread and the seven-branched candlestick represent thus Israel in connection with Christ, as manifesting government, and light in the world, but in the place of priesthood with God. For us the veil is rent, and we enter with boldness into the holiest.
For prophecy is a thing apart.