READ: Leviticus 21:1-15
Laws of the Priests
Much could be said about this passage; much of which has already been said in other places throughout this series. This is one of the greatest practical illustrations of the book’s theme verse in 10:3 – essentially, as you approach God you must prepare.
We’ve already covered many of the insturctions and standards of the everyday person within and without the Israelite camp. Instructions that were to keep them holy and focused on God so that they could participate in the religous rituals and worship in the Creator’s presence.
Now, in the first nine verses of Leviticus 21 there is a list of rules partiuclarly for the priests that were to specifically place them a cut above the rest because they had a ministry closer to the central, holy presence of God – in the Holy of Holies.
The priest was only allowed to bury the closest of his relatives. If he were to bury anyone, relative or not, he would become unclean for touching a dead body and would thereby be exluded from his duty until pronounced clean again (this refers to a literal burying). Nor was the priest allowed to mutilate and thereby imperfect his body, he had to remain physically whole. Neither could these priests just marry any gal from off the street – again, his marriage bed had to be a cut above the rest, it has to be pure. He has greater responsibilities to stand before God as holy becasuse he is a representative of the people; the priests had a task above the everyday Joe Bloe and so he was to be especially set apart and whole [vs. 6, 8].
Then there was the High Priest, with an even higher level of standards to keep him whole and separated [vs. 10-15].
The High Priest was to remain in the temple, he wasnt’ to leave even for the purpose of mourning the death of his own parents – such an instruction doesn’t mean that he spent his life at the temple 24/7, rather his duties in the temple took precedence over everything else. The High Priest had to marry a virgin woman who was of his own people so that there would be no chance of degrading the priestly line (he couldn’t even marry a widow as the other preists could do – probably to protect any unworthy step-sons taking over his role). Remember, it is the High Priest who was the only one who could stand in the Holy of Holies – he was the one who could physically stand in the closest physical relation to the physical expression of God’s presence.
Now, the real question is how does this relate to us? It is important to remember that we all live in the presence of God, whether we recognize and acknowledge it or not. We all have the privelage of approaching God’s throne of Grace (Heb 4:16) and yet it is still not without a mediating priest. These mediting priests had to live higher standards of holines, right up to the highest imposed standards of the High Priest, so that the everyday people could live before God. Does this mean that we need to live by the highest standards possible? NO! We are not our own mediators!
“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympahtize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” – Hebrews 4:15-16
Jesus is our High Priest who has lived a human life but he did so far better than any High Priest before Him – He lived the life without sin; He lived the life in perfect holiness. Now, because he has lived that life, not only can we go to Him at the throne of God and know that He sympathizes with our trials and difficulties but we know that He stands before God as our mediating High Priest – the best that could ever be had!
“…Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of god, who also makes intercession for us.” – Romans 8:34
The story of the Gospel and all its facets is endless. No wonder Jesus is worthy of all praise and has been highly exalted; no wonder He deserves our service and love; no wonder He will receive all praise and worship. [Phil. 2:9-11]