Over the next few months, I plan to share some brief reflections on the book of Leviticus. I’m not sure how far through the book I intend to get, but it should be a good exercise regardless. This is a reflection on the fifth chapter (specifically 5:1-13).
“Anyone who cannot afford a lamb is to bring two doves or two young pigeons to the Lord as a penalty for their sin—one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering.”Leviticus 5:7
In the days of John the Baptist, people from all over Israel were flocking to him to be baptized in the Jordan river, as a sign of their repentance. Amidst the crowds, one man stood out from the rest. As soon as he stepped out of the Jordan river after his baptism, the Holy Spirit descended upon him in the form of a dove and a voice was heard from heaven: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17) This man was of course Jesus, the Son of God and Saviour of the world.
Why did the Holy Spirit descend in the form of a dove? The dove was a sacrificial animal, so it teaches us something about the sacrificial nature of Jesus’ ministry. But it wasn’t just any sacrificial animal, it was the animal offered by poorer Israelites, who couldn’t afford a lamb or goat for a sin offering. This teaches us that Jesus came especially on behalf of the poor and needy of Israel. As Jesus announced in one of his first sermons in the synagogue, quoting from Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.” (Luke 4:18)
Indeed, all of us must be “poor in spirit” in order to truly be members of God’s kingdom. As Jesus said in the sermon on the mount: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3) True humility means putting God and his kingdom first, before our status in this world. This is our calling and our joy.