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Leviticus

Here begins our challenge for this series through Leviticus.

Essentially, this study through Leviticus is about finding what we can learn about God from some of the more obscure and maybe not so often referred to passages.

How are you going to prepare for this challenge of meeting God in Leviticus?

In embarking on this challenge, I would like to invite you to post a prayer by making a comment  for this post (just click on the title above ‘Challenge’ and then fill in whichever boxes you want towards the bottom of the page).  You can remain anonymous if you would so desire or you can put your name at the end of your prayer.  This prayer is about what you want God to do in your life over the next three months as you continue a life of preparing to live in the presence of  a holy God.

READ:    Leviticus 1:1-17

Introduction and the ‘burnt offering’.

READ:    Leviticus 2:1-16

The ‘Grain Offerings”

I just wanted to share some thoughts about Leviticus 2:13.  As you read through the stipulations for each of the different offerings there are certain steps that must or must not be taken depending on the offering.  One interesting step that was to occur on all of these offerings in chapter 2, and quite possibly in many other offerings also (Numbers 18:19), was the inclusion of salt.

You can’t read that without asking the question why was salt included and what on earth is the ‘covenant of salt’ that it was a reminder of???  No one really seems to know the exact answer to those question but there are a few interesting ideas and parallels.

To the people of Middle Eastern culture, salt has long been used as  an agreement ‘handshake’.  Two people making a covenant would eat salt together.  Certainly, the simple reference to the ‘Covenant of salt’ would seem to imply that this use of salt is a call back to a covenant that has been made between God and the people.  The use of salt in the offerings was, in a sense, a continual reminder and refreshment of the Covenant between God and His people.

It is also interesting to note that in the surrounding verses there are a number of things that must, and must not, be included in these grain offerings.  Two things that were not to be included was leaven and honey.  Again, why that is to be so is not explained to us but it has been suggested that leaven and honey are natural fermenting agents – which would cause the food (part of the offerings was for the priests food) to spoil quickly.  These fermenting agents would spoil the food – in a sense they would corrupt it.  Salt and oil, on the other hand, are natural preservatives.  Not only would they preserve the food longer so the priests could do their priestly duty and eat a set portion but I do wonder if they symbolically pictured a preservation of the covenant.  By adding salt to the offering it was reminding the people that this covenant was being preserved between them and God.  It was an everlasting covenant.

Also, there is a Middle Eastern food that the Arabs call Dukkah.  Dukkah is a mix of spices and salt and sometimes nuts that is all mixed and ground together – it is to be eaten with bread that has been dipped in oil.  You don’t eat salt by itself!  In the New Testament Jesus says, ‘I am the bread of Life!’ and to us He says we are to be the ‘salt of the earth.’  Ever tried eating salt by itself?  Would be pretty disgusting.  Yet, the Arabs will dip their bread in the dukkah mix of spices and salt and eat the salt with the bread.

It is an interesting thought that it is useless for us to be ‘salt’ by ourselves without first being dipped with the ‘bread’.  In a sense we should be not only the ‘power’ of God on earth but we are also the preservers – we should be (not discounting the fact that God is Sovereign and will preserve His own name) the ones that proclaim the Name of God for all time.

READ:    Leviticus 3:1-17

The ‘Peace Offering’

 

As a kid growing up on the farm there was a handful of occasions when my folks killed a cow for ‘home-grown’ meat.  The butcher came out to the property, did the deed and then came back a few days later to chop up the animal into its respective parts.  I hated it!

I still remember sitting at the table an uncountable number of times and being forced to eat this fatty meat which I absolutely detested.  I tried to throw it under the table; or go for needed toilet stops (to spit out the fatty bits stored in my cheeks).  To this day I’m still not a big fan of beef, especially rare, medium-rare, or medium cooked steaks.  The idea of eating half cooked meat in addition to fatty meat disgusts me.  I’m continuously saying that there is only one way to cook meat – the Biblical way…as burnt offerings.

I should have drawn my parents attention to Leviticus 3:17.  What was good for the Hebrews should have been good for me too.  You are not to eat the fat and the blood.  Now, of course, such laws are no longer laws that pertain to us.  You are not disobeying God and breaking a covenant if you eat fat or ‘rarely-cooked’ steak – don’t ask me why anyone in their right minds would want to though???!!!

So, why weren’t the people to eat the blood and the fat.  I guess there could have been a slight motivation of health, as we discover in a lot of Levitical laws, blood is not at all healthy, unless you are a vampire (that is a joke…I’m not serious), and everyone is out for ‘lean’ meat now because of health reasons, but I doubt that health is the only motivation for not eating these animal parts.

We learn elsewhere in Leviticus (17:10-11) that the blood is not to be eaten because it is the life of an animal and God has dedicated that part to the act of atoning for His people.  A life for a life, as it were.  The blood was for a special purpose.  So also was the fat.  On every occasion with every offering that involved an animal the fat was to be offered to God – it was never to be eaten.  Someone has suggested (Hartley, WBC: Leviticus) that the fat was symbolic of the animal’s strength – something that only God could ultimately give and take away.  Whatever the reason was, God had dictated that both the blood and the fat were His – really, that should be reason enough.  A certain proportion God would give back to the people but the rest (blood and fat) was to be His no matter what the situation was.

Its probably a good reminder of a distinction between God’s and Ours.  Essentially, everything we have in the first place is because God has granted it as a gift.  But, are there things in life that God hasn’t allowed and yet we still try to take anyway?  May I suggest that anything whereby you need to use manipulation and conniving to get may not be rightfully yours in the first place.  Just a thought!

READ:    Leviticus 4:1-21

Two ‘sin offering’ scenarios.

It is a very worthwhile time to note, if you haven’t noticed this already, a particular action that occurs when an animal is offered as the sacrifice – as is the case of these two circumstances.  It may depend upon the version that you read from as to how obvious this action is described.  Essentially, it boils down to the fact that it is up to the guilty person that has brought the offering to lay their hands on the animal’s head…and to kill it (vs. 4, 15).  That is up close and personal!

I’ve watched animals being killed.  A swift hit with an axe that turned into a few attempted swift hits  (for a chicken); a shovel to a snake; a quick breaking/wringing of the neck; I’ve seen them done but I would find it hard to do myself.  Too hands on and personal for my licking and comfort zone.  When the Israelites brought their offerings because of their guilt due to some wrong doing, it seems they had to kill the animal themselves.  Because the blood was to be separated for the sacrificial purposes the killing was generally done by slitting the throat and letting the animal bleed.  Sounds nasty, ay!  I guess the process magnified the guilt in the hand of the guilty.

Can you imagine yourself standing over a lamb, slitting its throat???

Can you imagine yourself killing God???

Although you may not have physically cut His throat, Jesus, the Son of God, died because of you.  It is true, He died willingly, but He died because of your guilt.  ‘He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So he opened not his mouth’ – Is 53:7.  Throughout history the Jews have been condemned for killing Jesus; although they may have physically cried for Him to be crucified at that exact point in the space and time continuum, and although it was the Romans that hammered the nails, in many ways they were just echoing the actions of our own guilt.  Jesus, the Son of God became your lamb and He died because of your guilt and He bore your sins upon His head – if you ask me, that is up close and personal.

Such a thought is not meant to make you feel guilty all over again; such a thought is supposed to humble you to the point of praising God for being that selfless servant that became a man and played the lamb even to the point of death for you!

READ:    Leviticus 4:22-35

Two more ‘sin offering’ scenarios

I just want to share a quick thought for today’s reading.  You may have already noticed this thought as you read through the instructions of the previous offering situations.  This chapter demonstrates it quite well though.

As you progress through the different stages of this chapter it is broken into sections of explaining how the offering should be conducted depending on the person brining the offering.  The first person (vs. 3-12) is the case of a priest; then the entire nation (vs. 13-21); next is the case of a gulty ruler (vs. 22-26); finally it is the case of ‘any old soul’ (vs. 27-35).

Different animals are to be brought depending on who the offending party was – the more important you became, the higher the standard of animal.  Eg. bulls for the priests and the nation; a male goat kid for the ruler; and finally just a female kid or lamb for the ‘any old soul’.  In other cases, sometimes a number of different animals could be brought so that the offending party had every opportunity to make the sacrifice.  The common people had a number of options (lamb or a goat kid) and the animal only had to be a female (the male animals were more popular in the sacrifices); the King had to bring a male goat kid – which is more specific and probably harder to attain; the congregation and the priests had to bring a young bull (which would have been an even rarer animal amongst these shepherds).  In the case of some other offerings, if the worshipper couldn’t afford the sheep or goats etc. they could simply bring two birds; if he couldn’t even do that then it was possible to just offer grain (see chapter 5).

God is gracious!  I think God knows what is in our means to give and only expects us to be able to contribute what we have avaiable to us.  There is certainly a principle of ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ in the sense that the higher the person was the more important their offering had to be – but I don’t think those expectations were outside their ability to meet.

Is it possible (I personally think it is very prevalent)  that we place blanket expectations of service, attendance, giving, sacrifice, and work on all people within a church culture???  We expect to see the single mother at church every Sunday just as we expect to see the retired couple sitting in the same seats every week?  We expect the busy, travelling businessman who has a young family to get involved in every homegroup, men’s meeting, morning prayer time and Sunday service.

I’m not trying to state God’s expectations of people, I just want to suggest that maybe God is more gracious with His practical expectation of people than we are ourselves.

READ:  Leviticus 5:1-6:7

‘Guilt Offerings’

I know, quite a big selection to read and somewhat repetitive.  It is important, though, that you notice some of those repeated ideas.  For instance, one of the big themes of this reading was an ignorance of the wrong doings and the guilt that resulted in a realization of the wrong.

Take the example of vs. 2.  Someone has touched something that was unclean – therefore, they officially should have been unclean themselves.  But at the time they didn’t know that what they touched was unclean and so they didn’t know that they were unclean and they went about life without undertaking the proper purification steps (we’ll read about all that soon).  It is true that they had always been unclean and yet they had not realized their guilt – now that they realized their guilt, steps had to be taken and a ‘guilt offering’ was made.

The next example, in vs. 3, is very similar.  The person must deal with their guilt once it has become known.  Vs. 4 talks of someone that ignorantly makes a stupid vow and then, once he has known of his stupidity, become guilty under the law – his guilt must be dealt with.

And so the examples continue.

Reminds me of something the Apostle Paul said in Romans 7:7-8, ‘What shall we say then?  Is the Law sin?  May it never be!  On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “You shall not covet.”  But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sins is dead.’

When there is no law can someone be tried for their wrongs?  Paul says that a Law must exist, and a knowledge of that law, before someone can be deemed guilty for their actions…seems to also be the practice of Leviticus

READ:  Leviticus 6:8-13

‘Burnt offerings” – Priestly instructions.

The rest of chapter 6 and all of chapter 7 complete the instructions regarding the offerings.  Yes, we’ve already read about all of these but this time they are approached from the perspective of the priests.  Previously the instructions related to how the offering was supposed to be brought and the general steps of making the offering; now the instructions relate to how the priest was to prepare and process each of the offerings.

 

First, notice the specific steps the priest was to take in vs. 10-11.  After the offering had been burnt, the priest, who was dressed in his white linen priestly garments, was to take the ashes off the altar and place them beside the altar.  Then, this is especially important, he was to change his clothes and take the ashes outside the camp and place them in a ‘clean’ place.  The priest’s white linen garments were holy and ‘sanctified’; they had been set apart for use only in the tabernacle/temple and could not be used for anything else.  That is a good illustration of part of the meaning taught by holiness and sanctification – something that is set apart, distinguished and used for a special purpose.

 

The other thing you must notice, a repeated emphasis of this passage is that the altar’s fire had to be kept burning (vs. 9, 12, 13).  Jewish tradition states that the fire that comes down from God (Lev 9:34) was kept burning on the temple altar.  There are a number of suggestions as to why this was supposed to be a continual fire that never went out – generally they relate to the idea that it reminds the people that God is always present and they are always in need of atonement.  I love what Charles Wesley wrote in one of his hymns.

O thou who camest from above

The pure celestial fire to impart

Kindle a flame of sacred love

On the mean altar of my heart.


There let it for Thy glory burn

With inextinguishable blaze

And trembling to its source return

In humble prayer and fervent praise.

 

I think that is a great point to ponder and prayer to pray for this day!

READ:  Leviticus 6:14-23

“Grain offerings” – Priestly Instructions

 

This passage records an interesting variation between the grain offering of a non-priestly person in comparisson to the grain offering of the priests (the twice daily offering).

One of the key principles of the sacrifices and offerings is the very obvious point that it is a ‘sacrifice’.  Depending on the situation, some of the items to be sacrificed were the very core of the nations substance and daily existence.  It wasn’t just a  matter of selecting one of the 200 bulls from the paddok – to sacrifice a bull for many would have substantially impacted their wealth.  To make an offering was to make a sacrifice.

Now, in many cases the priest was allowed (expected) to eat a certain potion of the people’s sacrifices.  It is quite possible that these potions became their daily food while serving in the temple.  How would it have been if they benefited from their own offerings???  It would almost be like they had a hidden agenda in making their ‘sacrifices’ – in the long term they would reap the benefits.  When they offered their own grain offering it was to be entirely burnt.

I think that is an important principle to apply in our own lives – when we make a sacrifice (take financial offerings and gifts to the church for example) we make it under the principle that we leave all claim behind.  We don’t expect to have some long term pay outs; we don’t expect to personally beneft; we don’t expect to receive great recognition – we make a sacrifice with no selfish motives.  We burn our ‘stakes’ on the altar of our sacrifice.

Even with our own lives, which we present as a ‘living sacrifice’ (Romans 12:1), we so often are quick to claim it back to do with as we please.  When we give an offering and make a sacrifice we must do so unselfishly!

 

(P.S. Sorry this was a late posting)

READ:  Leviticus 6:24-7:10

‘Sin & Guilt Offerings’ – Priestly Instructions

Remember, these passages record specifically how the priests were affected by the offerings.  This particular reading flows somewhat from yesterday’s observation about certain offerings of which the priests were banned to eat.  This time the offerings relate to specific wrongs and guilts.  Vs. 30 of Chp. 6 says that any offering having had blood brought into the tent of meeting and sprinkled in the holy place had to be entirely burnt, it too could not be eaten by the priest.

If you take a look at the instructions of Chapter 4, there were two offerings of which the blood was sprinkled before the veil of the Holy Place.  Those offerings were for the priests (4:3) and for the entire congregation (4:13).  Again, we have the same issue of the grain offering – the priest would be eating a sacrifice that was made on his behalf.

The other issue with this partiucular style of offering is the phrase in vs. 29, ‘It is most holy’.  Because the offering was holy it could only be eaten in a certain place, by certain people, under certain circumstances.  If the person eating the offering wasn’t made holy then the offering would come of no effect.  And so, whenever an offering was made on behalf of the priest it was entirely burnt.

READ:  Leviticus 7:11-38

“Peace Offerings” – Priestly Instructions

 

I’ve just sat down after helping to clean out our fridge.  I know that cheese is reportedly supposed to get better with age (even though I have dutch blood I hate aged cheese) but did you know that cheese can grow so much fur that it looks like a big cotton ball?!  At least with cheese it is expected to get old and still be understandable; but not so with meatloaf – meatloaf should not be left for any length of time…it becomes a marshland of mold.

Imagine keeping a meatloaf for three days without a fridge (even my strong stomach couldn’t handle that).  Verse 18 is a great illustration of the holiness idea in Leviticus.  If there was any of the food portion of the Peace offerings left over by day three it was to be burned!  If the people so much ventured an attempt at eating this now ‘unclean’ food (see chapter 11 for the same use of ‘abomination’) then the offender would become guilty of a wrongdoing; he would ‘bear guilt’ for his eating of the unclean animal.  I love the practical nature of this clean/unclean system of the Law.  This was to keep the people as complete and perfect as possible (disease was not considered clean and would defile a person – they weren’t ‘whole’ and so could not be ‘holy’).

But this abuse of the food even went a step further than just ‘uncleaning’ the eating party.  This abuse of the offering would even annul it’s effect in the eyes of God.  ‘It shall not be accepted, nor shall it be imputed’.  God set a standard for His people – a standard of health, holiness, and if nothing else it was a standard of obedience.  If that standard was broken then everything that hinged upon what the offering was suppose to accomplish was undone.

It reminds me of the unforgivable sin.  If the very foundation of that which brings us forgiveness before God is undermined/denied/rejected then how can the forgiveness be completed.  If we have no faith in the person and work of both Jesus and the Holy Spirit (the foundations of God forgiving work) then how could we ever expect to experience forgiveness – we have turned our back on the very thing that brought that forgiveness – therefore it is the only act that would be unforgivable.

 

As a side, it is interesting to compare the mention of the offering being associated with vows with Acts 21:17-27.

READ:  Leviticus 8:1-13

Preparation of the Priests

The scene now changes to a new section in Leviticus.  Everything has been working towards these next three chapters.  In these chapters the priest hood is dedicated and their ministry begins.  This is one of the few narratives in the entire book.

Take note of the use of oil in vs. 10-13.  If you were to follow the use of oil throughout the Scriptures you would note that it is often used as a form of preparation – if nothing else it was at least a sing of preparation/dedication.  In a practical sense oil was used as a sweet smelling odorizer.   It would almost be like when we get out of the shower and spray deodorant – we are preparing ourselves for what is about to come.

The temple and high priest were being prepared for their service.  They were about to be put into full time service – their most important mission and role in life – and so they were prepared and symbolically dedicated for that roll by the sprinkling of oil.

The apostle James talks about using oil to prepare in James 5:14.  If anyone was sick they could call for the elders who would pray and anoint the person with oil.  It was a symbol to say we are preparing this person to be well again because we have faith in God hearing our prayers.

Maybe, in our often reserved culture, we shy away from publicly giving testament of our dedication to God.  Maybe we could do more public, symbolic oil sprinkling and dedication?!?!

As you read on over the next few days, keep in mind that these three chapters are all a series of events that occurred in close succession.

READ:  Leviticus 8:14-30

Dedication Sacrifices

READ:  Leviticus 8:31-36

Seven Days of Ordination

 

There is an interesting concept in this particular reading.  The first day of the dedication ceremony has been completed, but that is just the beginning.  The priests are instructed to continue a ritual of sacrifices and cleansing for themselves for the next seven days.  ‘…for it will take seven days to ordain you.’ – ESV

Seven is an interesting number throughout Leviticus; it is used some 28 times.  Sometimes it is just used to define a particular day of the month; most often though it is referring to a seven day period – generally this is a cleansing period, eg. woman have given birth and around menstruation (12:2; ch 15), people/clothes/houses with diseases (ch. 13-14), a lamb/calf was to remain with its mother for at least 7 days before it could be separated (22:27).

For me, the use of seven in these contexts denotes the idea of completeness (the world was completely created in seven days).  In such a serious deal as dedicating the priests to their holy roles it wasn’t just enough to have a simple ceremony – this had to be complete in every possible way.  It took seven days for the priests to be totally dedicated to God.

I think, in modern church culture, our dedication to God is kind of a one day affair – Sunday.  Our dedication to God should be complete it should be seven day affair.

 

READ:  Leviticus 9:1-24

On the Eighth Day

After spending seven days confined to the temple competing their consecration the priests officially begin their public ministry.  They have been completely consecrated and separated for their roles and so there was one task left – to complete the process for the entire camp.  So, offerings are brought on behalf of the priests and on behalf of all the people.  This is the first occasion when Aaron and the priests make the offerings themselves, up till now Moses had been conducting the sacrifices for the priests.

One would have thought that with the offering made for the priests on day one (the same offerings made on day eight); and with the seven days of consecration, the priests would have been ready to serve God in the temple.  Yet, there was still the need for more offerings!  In fact, burnt offerings were to be offered every morning and every evening – there was no end to the need for these offerings.

“And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.”  “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.”  “…We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:11, 4, 10)

How great is it to live under the auspices of the New Covenant.  Knowing that our very being has been purged on a once for all occasion.  There is no longer a need to offer sacrifices for our sins because that was done sufficiently by the sufficient Lamb of God with a single sufficient sacrifices that could truly take away all our sins.  The further beauty of Jesus sacrifice that makes it far greater than the regular offerings of the priests was that it cleansed every part of our being.  It wasn’t just a forgiveness for our individual sinful acts – Jesus’ sacrifice cleansed the fact that we are sinful by nature.

Thank you God for your perfect Lamb offered ONCE as the perfect atonement for my life!

READ:  Leviticus 10:1-7

Unholy Offering

Finally, an actual story 🙂  Not a very positive one at that though!   I would suggest that amongst the words of this story is the key verse of Leviticus.  Verse 3, “By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified.” Leviticus is all about the people knowing how they are to live in the presence of God; God is holy and so they must live to God’s set standards of holiness.  The laws and regulations was an attempt to keep the people holy before God and always focused on Him and His character.

This story is an example of two priests that failed miserably in regarding the holiness of God and approaching Him correctly.  These two sons of Aaron offered something that God had not told them to do; they tried to incorporate their own practice into God’s system.  It is very possible that their ‘profane fire’ (also translated as ‘alien/foreign fire’) was a remnant of the Hebrew’s stay in the Egyptian culture.

Because of their disrespect, God struck them dead (with fire nonetheless).  Notice that the priests that had to dispose of the bodies were careful not to touch the dead men but to ‘carry them by their garments’ otherwise they would have become unclean (as we shall soon read in Leviticus).

I think this story is an important reminder to respect the holiness of God.  We, praise God, have been granted an eternal holy standing before God through Jesus Christ.  But if you take Jesus’ work from our lives (if that were some how possible) then where would we be left before that still same holy God?!?  And so, as wonderful as Jesus’ once for all sacrifice is and what has been accomplished for us through that gift, we must be humbly reminded that on our own steam we have the same fate as Nadab and Abihu when we stand before God as unholy creatures.

It is an important reminder that amongst all our praises and fellowship with God we must be humble to remember our place but for the Messiah.

READ:  Leviticus 10:8-11

Warning to Priests

This is such an interesting passage.  Simply stated, God warns the priests (directly through Aaron for a change), not to drink wine while on duty because it will cloud their judgement.  The priests had a particular role to play as priests; they were to distinguish between what was clean and unclean and they were to teach the people.  Can you imagine a stone drunk priest trying to tell if the lamb was perfect and without blemish when he was already seeing double.  Or can you imagine the priest trying to teach a congregant the ‘Lewiticel Lawsh’.

Even just in these three verses we have rather a clear statement of the role of the priests – to distinguish between the clean and unclean and to teach the people.  But along with that statement of roles comes an introduction to the next section of Leviticus.  From here we lead into verse after verse of what would and wouldn’t constitute cleanness in the camp.  It was important that the priest could live by these laws himself as well as be able to teach them.

There is a practical nature to this principle for our lives also.  The fear was that the priests would loose their senses and not live as they were supposed to be living – they would somehow slip up because the dulling affect of ‘strong drink’.  Although the Scriptures don’t condemn drinking alcohol altogether [this passage directed to the priests would probably be the closest you could get to it] it is still a fair warning of what alcohol has the potential to do for anyone.  It can still dull our senses [even if we aren’t yet drunk] to the point where we begin to ‘relax’ and have difficulty distinguishing between right and wrong.

Drinking isn’t a sin but please be wise about it – no one wants to see you have one too many and take one step too close!

 

READ: Leviticus 10:12-20

Aaron Confronts Moses

READ:  Leviticus 11:1-23

Clean and Unclean Animals

We’ve just finished reading about the role that the priests had to distinguish between the unclean and the clean (10:10).  Now we launch into a number of chapters that expound on what is considered clean and unclean.  Today I want to share a thought on the practical nature of this chapter, tomorrow I want to share a thought from a spiritual nature.

We’ve noted already that a number of practices played a pracical roll in Jewish life (eg. the eating of food and the giving of food to priests).  It has long been thought that this list of animals that were kosher for the Jews played an important role of health regulation.  Many of the animals that are considred unclean did themselves have a higher risk of being unclean – literally and religously.  The pig is one well known literal example; many of the birds are carnivours – they would feed on the carcasses of other dead animals; other animals were forigers and had an unclean way about life – flies for instance.  It is also important to note that if one of these animals had touched another dead animal then they too would most likely have been unclean (we read later about a dead rat that falls on a pot makes the pot unclean).  So there was a very practical aspect to stop the spread of germs, bacteria and disease.  The ‘Creator’ God knew what was and was not healthy for His special people.

So why do we eat these animals today?  The truth is, no one is making you eat them – you don’t have to if you don’t want to.  The more important point to make is that no one is stopping you from eating them.  This system of clean and unclean animals is no longer a matter of sin and unholiness.  You may remember the vision given by God to the Apostle Peter.  Have a quick read in Acts 11:1-18.

Also, compare the whole subject to this passage from Romans 7:1-8 (NET)

‘Or do you not know, brothers and sisters (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law is lord over a person as long as he lives?

For a married woman is bound by law to her husband as long as he lives, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of the marriage.  So then, if she is joined to another man while her husband is alive, she will be called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she is joined to another man, she is not an adulteress.

So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you could be joined to another, to the one who was raised from the dead, to bear fruit to God.  For when we were in the flesh, the sinful desires, aroused by the law, were active in the members of our body to bear fruit for death.  But now we have been released from the law, because we have died to what controlled us, so that we may serve in the new life of the Spirit and not under the old written code.’

So, I’m not about to go chow down on a rock badger, nor am I going to munch on any locusts (even though they are clean and have been very numerous around here), but neither am I going to stop enjoying pork!

READ:  Leviticus 11:24-47

Unclean and Clean People

We just read yesterday about the animals that were considered edible for the Hebrews and the animals that were an ‘abomination’.  This passage reflects on more of those animals but also adds the extra dimension of the person being made unclean by the eating and touching of certain dead animals.

It is important to note that holiness and uncleanness were not always an issue of salvation; a person who was unclean because they touched a dead body did not need to offer sacrifices and receive atonement.  Being holy as God was holy is simply a matter of being complete – living up to the purpose for which you had been designed.  You don’t wear a shirt to work that has been stained with ink from the day before – it would be considered an ‘unclean’ shirt – it is not fitting its purpose.

The Israelites were called by God to be a sanctified (separated) people – they were to be different from those around them.  By following these clean and unclean laws the people were reflecting their special distinctions (distinctions that were practical and symbolic in the nature of the animals that were considered unclean).  If the separation wasn’t being fulfilled then they weren’t being the people that God had designed them to be.

But these distinctions went far beyond what could be seen on the outside by someone looking in.  Jesus Himself said that it wasn’t the outward actions that defiled a person but it was the heart that ultimately determined the defilement of an individual (Matthew 15:17-20).  In many ways, these ceremonial and ritual laws tested the hearts of the people.  Would their faith motivate them to obey?  Would their hearts follow God and show a concern for His calling; or would they disregard God and reveal their defilement?  It was always an issue of the heart; even though man may be concerned with what is on the outside, God’s concern has always been the heart (I Sam 15:7).

God’s concern is still with our hearts!

Check out Hebrews 8:8-13, could this passage refer to the ‘new heart’ as talked of in Ezekiel 36:26?

READ:  Leviticus 12:1-8

Uncleanness in Childbirth

This is quite a passage!  An explanation of a woman being considered unclean for between 40 (for boys) and 80 (for girls) days after giving birth.  This chapter actually changes perspective on the clean and unclean laws by shifting focus from outward influences that would ‘defile’ a person (in the previous chapter) to inward occurrences that would cause a person to be considered unclean and therefore unholy.  Remember, of course, that a state of uncleanness was not always an issue of having or losing salvation; uncleanness was an issue of not being whole and as complete as was expected and therefore was ritually considered unholy.

After giving birth a woman was considered unclean and could transmit that uncleanness for the period of her’customary impurity’ (which relates to the same length of unclean time during ‘each month’); after that 7/14 day period she became unclean only in the sense that she could not eat of holy food or go into the temple.

I guess one of the biggest questions of this passage is why childbirth was an occassion to be considered unclean!?!  Maybe, the best suggestion would be the symbolism of the loss of blood after childbirth.  It was through blood that atonement was bought (17:11) but at the same time a loss of blood (which has been medically suggested happens longer at the birth of a female that a male) pictured a loss of life – it was a state of incompleteness – therefore a picture of unholiness.

In light of blood being both essential and ‘defiling’ one commentator makes an interesting point that ‘Our greatest woes result from the corruption of our highest good.’ (Wenham, NICOT)

Things in life that have the greatest of potential for blessing and perfection can also be tools for curses and pollution.  Take speech for example – from the same use of the tongue flows both blessing and cursing (James 3:1-12).  For these areas in life to be considered practically holy they were to be used for the purpose they were created – the purpose of the tongue is not to degrade mankind.

It is an interesting exercise to think through the many practices and gifts of life and to ponder how we can ‘redeem’ those areas towards practical holiness.

 

READ:  Leviticus 13:1-28

Skin Disease Diagnosis

READ:  Leviticus 13:29-46

Skin Disease Diagnosis (cont.)

So far the chapter has been dealing with the discovery and diagnosis of skin diseases (there is debate as to whether the Hebrew actually refers to leprosy becasue this same ‘disease’ could be found in clothing and houses, it also doesn’t fit a medical description of leprosy symptoms; whatever the passage refers to it must have been a very unpleasant disease).  There are a number of different cases thoughout this chapter; in each case there is a general flow of how the problem is to be addressed.  1) a preliminary statment of the symptoms; 2) an inspection by the priests; 3) the specific symptoms on which the priest would base his diagnosis; 4) the priest’s diagnosis and treatment.

If a person had (after a second and possibly a third visit) been diagnosed as unclean then verses 45-46 explain the actions that were to follow.  Firstly the infected person was to ruffle his hair, tear his clothes, cover his lip, and walk around crying ‘Unclean! Unclean!’.  Secondly, if that wasn’t humbling and humiliating enough, the infected individual would have to live outside the camp/city.  These people were as good as dead to the rest of the world, they were cut off from the general life and society of the nation.  Their unclean state mean that they could not participate in the rituals and customs of the nation (including the sacrifices) becasue they could not approach the temple; even if they could make it to the temple they couldn’t sacrifice the lamb or bread becasue even if they just touched the animal it became unclean.

Imagine the life of such people.  Imagine a day just outside a small village.  Ten lepers stand a distance off the road as a crowd of people walk past, a crowd that includes the now famous Jesus.  “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us,” the lepers called to Jesus.  Jesus turned aside and instructed them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.”  Showing themselves to the priests was as we have just read the step they were to take to see if they could be cleansed and considered clean once again.  As they found their way to the priests the story says that they were cleansed of their disease.  One man came back to Jesus (a Samaritain nonetheless).  He praised God with a loud voice, fell at Jesus’ feat and thanked Him.  “Where are the other nine?”  Jesus asked, “Where there not ten men who were cleansed?  Is this the only man who turns back to give praise to God?”  And you have got to love the words with which Jesus parted.  “Your faith has made you well!” (could be translated ‘your faith has saved you’).

I don’t think we can begin to imagine the sheer joy and relief that these men must have experienced; there was nothing that could cure them – there was next to nill hope of them ever being considered as clean and righteous and holy.  They all had a sense of faith becasue they called on God to save them and took Him for His word; because of that faith they were healed of their disease but only one of these men came back to thank Jesus – and he did so with loud praises to God.

Stop what you are thinking and give praise to God (loud praise if you wish).

Our sin, Levitical sacrificial religion or not, has made us unholy before God – we have been cast out and separated from Him.  But faith, the same faith that spritually saved a leper in Moses day, the same faith that spiritually saved the leper in Jesus’ day (Luke 17) has aslo given you spiritual cleansing and healing.  Spend a moment to thank Jesus and glorify God – He deserves every bit of it!

 

P.S. Sorry this was posted so late in the day.

READ:  Leviticus 13:47-59

Diseased Clothing

It is quite amazing to think about the Sovereignty of God.  We’ve mentioned before the practical essence to many of these laws in Leviticus.  These laws (including some in the next chapter) deal with cleanliness even in a person’s clothes.  Obvioulsy, we know now what God knew then but the world did not properly discover until the late 1800 – the existence of germs and the curbing of disease in sanitation.  In a time when a bloody apron was the mark of a good doctor, Florence Nightingale introduced sanitation to hospitals.

I don’t offer anything profound with today’s reading other than to say that as far as I can see, instructions such as we have just read don’t come from man.  No man could lay down guidelines as to whether or not a garmet should be destroyed or simply washed depending on the response of some ‘growth’ – many may not have even cared up to 150 years ago.  It is amazing to ponder the Creator’s Sovereignty in revealling these very partiucalr steps to His chosen people in the law.

READ:  Leviticus 14:1-32

Leper Cleansing

The number seven occurrs some 43 times throughout the book of Leviticus (second in frequency only to Genesis).  The Jews believed that these numbers had significance and meaning in what they pictured.  Certainly, as you read through the instructions of Leviticus – especially the instructions relating to the treatment of skin diseases – seven days is a popular time to wait until purification.  It has been said that the number 7 is God’s perfect number.  Maybe so (my brother used to love the fact that he was born on the 7th and he was over the moon when he turned seven).  In Seven days God completely created the world and rested (Genesis 1); it took seven days of being shut up in the temple for the priests to complete their ordination (8:33); seven days completed an unclean period (12:2; ch. 13, 14, 15); seven days a calf had to remain with its mother before it could be sacrificed; and there are so many multiples of seven thoruhgout the structure, length and dates of the feasts (Lev 23).  For the leper, whether he was being diagnosed (ch. 13) or cleansed (ch. 14) seven days held his future in balance – would he be considered complete and clean?  Or would he be cast out of the camp?  Seven carries the significance of completion – so many things are completed in seven days or with seven sprinkles.

So maybe these seven days of waiting outside the camp + another seven days of waiting outside one’s tent, then finally, an offering made to begin a new stage of life on day eight are all significant in the picture of God expecting the people to be ‘complete’, to be ‘holy’.

How’s your service; how’s your worship?  Is it ‘complete’?  Does your dedication last for a completed time each week or is it only a fractional committment of your life?

 

See also:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_symbolism#The_symbolic_values_of_numbers

http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=366&letter=N

READ:  Leviticus 14:33-57

Diagnosis and Cleansing of Houses

It is amazing to think that in this passage we see that God is not only concerned with the completeness, cleanliness and holiness of his people but that it relates also to items and even houses within the nation.  There are times when items are dedicated and ‘cleansed’ before God (Exodus 29, Leviticus 8).  These items are separated from what makes them unclean and sanctified, or dedicated, to God.  I guess that is the same of what goes on in this passage also.

Of course there are health reasons for how this disease is treated when found in houses, as we’ve mentioned so much already and will continue to see.  People that enter the house have to follow set rules of waiting or washing to make sure that they too are clean – again, health reasons.  There is also a spiritual picture of what is happening.  A picture of everything in life, including one’s house, being separated and dedicated to God as holy.

The real issue to think through in this passage though, comes from verse 34, a passage in which God says that He has placed the leperous disease within the house.  I don’t want to say too much because that simple verse and statement is sermon material.  You have to at least acknowledge God’s sovereignty in every area of life, even in the areas that seem distressing for us – God knows and God is in control.

 

READ:  Leviticus 15:1-18

Male Discharges

Wow, what does one say to that without going into interesting territory.  Let me be a little blunt and bold and just share a thought or two about the last three verses – even more particularly vs. 18.  If a man and woman sleep together they need to wash and then they will be unclean until evening.

Obviously, this whole chapter is a great example, as we continue to see, about the practical hygenic health regulations of the law.  But remember, these laws also had a spiritual significance.  Unclean people were not allowed to take part in the religious ceremonial rites of the nation.

This passage is made all the more interesting when you compare it with Exodus 19:15.  In Exodus, the people were about to see God’s glory descend on the mountain and the instruction was that they couldn’t go near a woman (do I need to explain what that means?!?).  Why not?  I mean, isn’t sex in the right context OK?  Sex between husband and wife isn’t unholy!  It isn’t unrighteous is it???  So why were these instructions given?  Why did they have to abstain when they were to take part in the temple proceedings???

I would suggest that the answer comes in a form of focus.  Rather than focusing so much on each other you take the opportunity to focus on God.  Imagine a newly married couple on their honeymoon, they kind of have all their thoughts and focus on each other – that is why they go on a honeymoon, they can be alone for some time.  Try to factor God into that whole mix and He is almost taking a back seat.

The Apostle Paul probably explains this far better in the first few verses of I Corinthians 7, maybe he even had these passages is mind.  Here he talks of a benefit in a husband and wife fasting from sexual relations with each other – a form of spiritual renewal and growth by fasting.  Of course, he warns that you don’t let that allow either of you to fall into temptation and commit a sin (you’ve got to read ALL of the six verses).

So, does this all say that sex is wrong?  Not in the slightest (in the right relationship of course)!  The point is, just like sex can become a distraction, it can also be used as a tool of focus!

READ:  Leviticus 15:19-33

Female Discharges

READ:  Leviticus 16:1-10

Day of Atonement Pt. 1

Verse 1 sets the scene of this passage, right after the events of chapter 10 when Aaron’s two sons had been struck dead because they did not properly prepare before the Holiness of God.  So now, Aaron is given very specific instructions as to how he can approach the holy place – he is given very specific instructions as to how he must prepare to come before a holy God.

Chapter 16 relates instructions to one of the most central events in the religious life of the Hebrews – the Day of Atonement.  Some have suggested that this is the central chapter of Leviticus because it accounts the central event of their lives and practice.  Because God is such a holy God, as was practically witnessed when Aaron’s two sons were struck dead, even the Highest Priest was to guard how he approached God.  To enter the Holy of Holies was the closest that anyone could physically get to the presence of God – certain steps had to be taken, the priest had to properly prepare.

One of these preparation steps was to change his clothes.  This simple outfit – linen tunic, linen trousers, linen sash, linen turban – were different from his normal clothes (they are described in Exodus 28 and referred in Leviticus 8:7-9).  This particular outfit was very plain; probably even planer that that of the priests of whose outfits Exodus 28:40 says were made for ‘glory and beauty’.  This outfit is different; this outfit is very basic and doesn’t at all seem to be made for glory or beauty.

For so long the priest was to minister on behalf of the people; the High Priest was to be seen by the people as their mediator.  As Wenham so aptly puts it, ‘his splendid clothes draw attention to the glory of his office’ (NICOT p. 230).  On this particular occasion though the High Priest came before God with all humility.  Before man he was the HIGH priest; before God he was brought low, he was simple and plain and nothing special.  This man still had to bring offerings for himself before he could even begin to make offerings on behalf of the people (16:6).

I guess the thought occurs to me, as I’ve mentioned before and as I see more and more through Scripture, we must remain humble before God.  Maybe God, through Jesus, has given us a holiness that makes us worthy of His presence; maybe God has made us righteous and He treats us now as His children; maybe we have all right to boast in the work of God in us.  As the prophet Zechariah (3:4) once prophesied, ‘Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you and I will clothe you with pure vestments.’ Even still, we should never forget our place before God.  Take away the covering of Jesus that God sees us through and we are nothing more than dirty rotten rags that stand before a clean and pure God.  I think it is an important exercise and it does us well to ‘clothe ourselves with humility’ – to remind ourselves of our place before a Holy God.

“God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” – I Peter 5:5

 

READ:  Leviticus 16:11-19

Day of Atonement Pt. 2

This Day of Atonement was at the epitomy of the Hebrew calendar; the whole religious regulations seem to revolve around the actions of this day (even when the writer of the book of Hebrews looks back on the sacrifices this Day of Atonement is at the forefront of his mind).  In this particular reading we begin to see the process that the High Priest must follow in conducting this ultimate ritual of dealing with the nation’s sins.

First, the High Priest must prepare himself to stand before God; he must make a sacrifice on his own behalf.   So a sin offering of a bull is made by the priest for himself.  Then the priest brings a sin offering for the people – to cleanse the temple (from the inside to the outside – vs. 20) and to cleanse the nation.  As we will see in tomorrow’s reading, the final step is to lay all these sins and wrongs upon the head of the ‘scape goat’ and send it and its burden into the wilderness.  This is the central (possibly considered as a culminating) ceremony whereby everyone and everything is cleansed from the unholiness and sins of the year.  Here the High priest and his family are atoned for and atonement is made for the temple – except for specific instances (e.g. Lev 4:3 and the original dedication in chp 8-9), this is the only occassion when atonement is made for these holy items and people.

There is only one man that could stand between everything that represented the people and their method of holiness (being the temple sacrificial system) and God.  The High Priest was the only person that could play this role of mediator.  While this whole process was being conducted, no one was even allowed into the temple precinct, only one man could play this role.

Under both testaments there is but one mediator that could stand between humanity and God – in the Old Testament it was seen as the High Priest; in the New Testament we are told that there is still only one mediator between us and God.  There is still only one Way!  I Timothy 2:5-6 gives us a great verse to either conclude or inspire our thoughts for today.

“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all…”

READ:  Leviticus 16:20-34

The Day of Atonement Pt. 3

Now we read the instructions that concern the two ‘kid goats’ that were selected to be used as a sin offering (vs. 5), one became the ‘scapegoat’.  This is truly an amazing offering ritual.  The scapegoat isn’t a normal offering; the only time it is practiced is during this Day of Atonement.

The High Priest, after sprinkling the blood of the sin offering behind the veil in the presence of God, was to come out and complete the atonement of the people by laying both his hands on the head of the live goat and confessing the sins of all the people.  As the passage said, he was putting all the sins and failures of the people on the head of the goat.  And then the goat is sent far away into the wilderness.  This whole process is symbolic of the principles of Psalm 103:12, “As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”

There is a great passage in I John 3:5, ‘And you know that He was manifest to take away our sins…’  The role that Jesus has played on the cross is to fulfill, in part, the role played by the scapegoat.  Jesus has borne our sins upon His shoulders and He has removed them from sight forever.

The ‘taking away’ of such sins on a once for all basis means that with that removal our conscinece has been cleansed; there is no longer a reason for guilt.  There is no longer a need to feel guilt because the wrong has been removed as far as the east is from the west.  Sometimes there is a natural consequence depending on the seriousness and impact of our wrongs, a consequence that seems to contain a continual reminder of certain sins.  In such a case there needs to be a difference between the guilt that motivated our repentance and reminds us not to walk such a track again and a guilt that makes us feel like we are judged by God – when our sins have been forgiven by the blood of Jesus our guilt before God no longer exists.  Praise God!!!