Why study all of scripture, even the seemingly unusable parts of Leviticus? I answered that question in several ways in a recent sermon, borrowing heavily from this very good essay from Dustin Messer at Theopolis but taking it in a slightly different direction.
In the modern world, we have an unhealthy tendency to treat everything as if we were scientists in a lab, always breaking things up into their smallest parts. So a delightful honey crisp apple, for example, becomes a collection of certain proportions of fiber and sugar and dosages of vitamin K, B-6, and E. Now it may be true to say those things about an apple, but when you put those nutrients back together, you don’t get an apple. The parts interact with each other and the apple itself interacts with our body when we eat it in complex ways. The experience of eating an apple, the taste, the crunch, is part of living and being human that looking at the cell of a fruit under a microscope can tell you nothing about. To live we need food, not just nutrients.
To grind up scripture into tiny parts of text to study certainly has some value, but in doing so we run the risk of becoming modernist scientists cooking up magic pills to solve world hunger, including our own hunger. Jesus, in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, gives us bread and wine to eat. In the church, he gives us a new community of extended adopted family to live amongst. These things are complex and we can’t always say how they work or are supposed to work. He gives us the whole of scripture – the very old, old, and new. The stories, the worship, the songs, the teaching, and the mysteries. The Word of God is our food. Studying and meditating on books like Leviticus is part of our effort to eat everything good on the plate that has been prepared for us. Some of the dishes might be unfamiliar, but the chef has a fabulous reputation, so let’s keep our expectations high!