Learning to love Leviticus (or at least appreciate it)

(first published January 12, 2011)

When I was in college, we had to take PE courses. As best as I can remember, I took golf and badminton and volleyball and bowling. I looked for the easy courses. I’m not a fitness guy.

There was a course I didn’t have a choice about: PE 10, called something like “Foundations of Fitness.” It was the course that everyone had to take, the course that gave you the basics about aerobics, about calisthenics, about building habits that would last for a lifetime.

It didn’t work. At least not about fitness.

But because I went to a Christian college (Wheaton), Bud Williams prodded a different kind of fitness.

Bud started every class with what are called devotions, reading something from the Bible and talking about it briefly. Usually faculty talk about something that relates to their field. Bud talked about Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

If you’ve every tried reading through the Bible, you know Leviticus. There is the cool, gross, wild stuff in Genesis, including Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. There is the amazing story of the people of Israel escaping from Egypt in Exodus. And then we get to Leviticus. Rules upon rules upon rules.

But Bud looked at some of the sanitation rules that show up in those two books. He looked at the health rules. He talked about the times that washing was called for, the guidelines for quarantines. Bud made the case that many of the rules laid out in Leviticus and Deuteronomy were perfect for preserving the health of people wandering around in the wilderness for forty years.

Bud gave me a story for the book of rules.

Leviticus still starts with how to offer burnt offerings. But Bud’s excitement still prods my thinking, still making me look twice at this book, for its story.