Leviticus and the Taxidermist

Along with most people I know, I generally avoid Leviticus. But after meditating on verse 27 of Luke 24,

“Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures, …” (NASB)

and other similar Scriptures (below), I began to develop a desire to know more about this book I had shunned. So, armed with prayer that God would open my eyes to behold beautiful things in His word and a few good books (also below), I felt equipped to begin.

With the guiding hermeneutic (Is that the right word?) that this is about Jesus, my mind and heart felt the impact almost instantly. By the time I reached the end of the first nine verses (Lev. 1:1-9) my mind had gone to the propitiation of Christ – Christ’s sacrifice of himself on my behalf that enabled a righteous God to justly impute (assign) righteousness to sinful me. Here are just a few connections that stood out to me:

1. The burnt animal offering in verse 3, “… a male without defect” points to Jesus who perfectly fulfilled the law and was perfect in God’s sight (1 Pet. 1:20).

2. The worshipper lays his hand on the head of the burnt offering that he offers at the door of the tent of meeting to the priest. The priest makes atonement on the worshippers behalf so that the worshiper can be accepted (v.3, ESV & NASB). I as the worshipper am identified with Christ who is both my substitute and my priest. I am not acceptable to God without the blood covering of an acceptable substitute. The only substitute that can make me holy through his own blood is Jesus (Heb. 10:19-22, 13:12).

3. The burnt offering is totally destroyed – not one part is left, but the worshipper is spared. Poythress points out that the worshiper is preserved – given new life (p. 48). Through Jesus substitutionary death, my sin was totally destroyed, and I was given new life.

4. The animal’s blood was poured out, the sacrifice was skinned and cut into pieces. The entrails and legs were washed with water. Wood was arranged on the fire that God had started (Lev. 9:24), and the parts of the sacrifice were arranged on the wood. Smoke ascended heavenward – a soothing aroma to the Lord. Blood poured from Jesus mutilated body. The sacrifice of Christ on my behalf is a sweet aroma to the Lord (Eph. 5:2). My sins must be washed away (John 13:8; Heb. 10:22).

The list could go on and on, and I’m sure you have even more connections forming in your own head by now, but the point is there are beautiful and wondrous things to behold in the book of Leviticus only one of which is Christ’s propitiation.

But this propitiation connection got me to thinking about a conversation I had with one of the pilot-group leaders for the “Creating Art from Theology” curriculum. Courtney, explained to me that while studying the lesson on propitiation, she was spending lots of time at the taxidermist – the person who preserves killed animals for display. I should ask her, but as I get into Leviticus I suspect, maybe looking at those slaughtered animals allowed her to identify with the cross of Christ in a significant way. I know the result was the creation of some beautiful and sought-after art pieces (See Courtney’s work ).

And this got me thinking, though it is so much more, hanging out in Leviticus is a bit like hanging out at the taxidermist. Both allow you to see the seemingly endless repetition of slaughter – piles of animals killed by humans for humans. This repetition, in the case of Leviticus, points to the insufficiency of it all. At the same time it points us to the final and sufficient sacrifice of the One God-human for humans. Jesus Christ, as the ultimate and final sacrifice, by his own blood, preserves our life while destroying our sins. The result is the display of a beautiful creation.

Scriptures Similar to Luke 24:27

Matt. 5, 17; Luke 24, 44; John 1, 45; John 5,46

List of Books


The illustration of “The Very Tame Lamb,” by William Nicholson is from, The Book of Square AnimalsPublished by R. H. Russell. New York. 1900, Copyright, 1899, by William Heinemann. This book is in the Public Domain.

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