Ancient Words, Future Hope

John D. Barry

Leviticus 4:1–6:30; John 7:14–44, Song of Solomon 5:13–16

Atonement is appealing because we all have relationships we wish we could reconcile. The 12-step program involves forgiving and forging renewed relationships when possible. But the story with God is different. There’s an acute awareness that we can’t fix things with our Creator; we need someone or something else to do it for us.

Jesus is described as the atonement, the sacrifice, and the perfect offering. But what do these terms actually mean? In Leviticus 5:14–6:30, we learn what it means for Jesus to be a guilt offering: He takes the guilt of the people, incurred through their sinful acts, and takes it upon Himself. He becomes the “ram without defect from the flock” (Lev 6:6).

Jesus takes the stage as the Suffering Servant in Isa 52:13–53:12, fulfilling the events it prophesies. Isaiah 53:10 reads, “If she places [the servant’s] life a guilt offering, he will see offspring, he will prolong days. And the will of Yahweh is in his hand, it will succeed” (my translation).

When He is arrested, Jesus understands that He is on His way to die at the hands of His own people (the “she” in Isaiah is “Jerusalem” or “Zion”). Matthew notes, “But all this has happened in order that the scriptures of the prophets would be fulfilled” (Matt 26:56). Jesus acknowledges it by saying, “the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners!” (Matt 26:45). This echoes Isaiah 53:3: “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of suffering, and acquainted with sickness, and like one from whom others hide their faces, he was despised, and we did not hold him in high regard.”

Leviticus seems archaic until it is put into this perspective. The oddities of this ancient book give us a connection to Jesus. He is the fulfillment of all Israel hoped for. Isn’t this the same in our lives? At first it might seem like the events are somehow disconnected or distant from God and His works. But upon a second glance—in retrospect—we see they’re a foundation for hope.

In what areas of your life do you need to connect with God’s work? What does the interaction between ancient law, prophecy, and Jesus’ life teach you about God and His work in our lives?

This article was originally posted in Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan.


John D. Barry is the CEO and founder of Jesus’ Economy, a nonprofit dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. To empower the extreme poor, Jesus’ Economy also has an online fair trade shop. John is also the general editor of Faithlife Study Bible and the former editor-in-chief of Bible Study Magazine. Learn more about John’s work with Jesus’ Economy at www.jesuseconomy.org.