The spectacular Mt Liebig, 300 km west of Alice Springs, was a very suitable backdrop for the recent well-attended mini-course on Leviticus in the western desert area of the Centre. The course was part of a series of studies on the whole Bible from Genesis to Revelation prepared and led by FRM support worker Paul Traeger.
‘For each section we studied what God wants us to do, how he wants us to worship and, most importantly, what this teaches us about Christ’s work for us’, explained Paul. ‘It was pointed out that the Israelites had been wandering around the bush for years and needed to be taught how to live in settled communities. There were murmurs of assent when the people recognized that their parents had been in exactly the same situation.’
Parts of Leviticus are found in the Pintupi-Luritja Bible but none of it has yet been published in any other Central Australian language. So for some sections, people were hearing and studying parts of the Bible that were completely new to them.
Much of Leviticus is particularly relevant to traditional Aboriginal society. For example, chapters 13 and 14 were applied to scabies, boils and other common skin complaints. At Leviticus 17:13–14 there was an animated discussion about hunting practices. And in chapter 18 the people learnt that the relationship categories mentioned are similar to Aboriginal kinship terms.
The study of chapter 19 was particularly memorable. The people looked at how the phrase, ‘Be holy, because I, the Lord your God, am holy’, parallels the phrase, ‘Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful’ (Luke 6:36). In other words, God’s holiness is usually expressed in compassion. This whole chapter seemed to have a big impact upon those listening.
On reflection Paul commented, ‘It was very moving to see how they sometimes struggled and then smiled or nodded as the meaning became clear.’
At the end of the day Pastor Simon Dixon described the teaching as ‘palyalingku’ (excellent) and Irene Nangala, a lady who is involved in community politics, described God’s Word as ‘ngalypa-ngalypa wiya’, meaning that there is no fiction or spin in it.
Please pray that the people will understand Leviticus in the light of the Gospel. So, for example, the prohibition of self-harm during ‘sorry-business’ (21:5) must point to the New Testament command not ‘to grieve as others do who have no hope’ (1 Thess 4:13).
And pray that, as the Aboriginal people work through these issues together, they would do so as a free priesthood, under Christ, their perfect High Priest, who is concerned about every aspect of their lives.