Leviticus 7:19–20 (HCSB)
19 “Meat that touches anything unclean must not be eaten; it is to be burned up. Everyone who is clean may eat any other meat. 20 But the one who eats meat from the Lord’s fellowship sacrifice while he is unclean, that person must be cut off from his people.
This passage deviates slightly from the preceding few pericopes in that the fellowship offerings described are not strictly priestly instructions, but include lay instructions as well, since these offerings include the participation of all.
There are three types of fellowship offerings mentioned in this pericope: thanksgiving, vow, and freewill. We see that the first type, the thanksgiving offering, is handled differently than the other two. We also see that there are specific rules concerning the bread portion of the thanksgiving offering, while there is no mention of bread with the vow or freewill offering. Finally, the remaining difference is that the meat from the thanksgiving offering must be eaten on the same day as the sacrifice. Presumably, it is to be burned up if any were to remain uneaten. On the other hand, the vow and freewill offerings may be eaten on the same day, and anything left over can be eaten the second day, but nothing after that, it must be burned up if it remains longer.
The end of the pericope is concerned with the handling of unclean meat, and the handling of the fellowship offering meat. We should note the following scenarios:
- Meat that touches something unclean, thus becoming unclean, should not be consumed, but instead, burned up.
- Anyone who is ritually clean can eat any meat. The assumption is that the reference is the meat of the fellowship offering. Note that the text says, “everyone,” not just the priests, so this is inclusive of all Israelites.
- But if someone eats the offering meat while unclean, they are cut off from the people. Touching something unclean, just as if the meat touches something unclean, causes an individual to be unclean, and therefore excluded from eating the meat of the offering.
At first these might seem extreme, or nit-picky, or even silly. After all, couldn’t the individual simply wash up? But we must remember to keep perspective. The fellowship offerings are worship-type offerings, whether being praise to God, thanks for the fulfillment of prayer, or simply a voluntary expression of our love and wonder for Him. The point is, these were offerings dedicated to God, they are His, and defilement of an offering to a perfect God is unacceptable.
We should not be surprised that an offering that is made unclean and is consumed results in being cut off, or an offering that is consumed outside of the prescribed timeframe has no value. Instead, we should be thankful for a God that is perfect, rather than as broken and messed up as us, and lifts us closer to Him, through His power and guidance.
Lord, thank You for being the perfect God, and holding us to Your standards, rather than our own. I don’t need a god that is broken and messed up like me, I need a perfect, holy, righteous God! I pray that we would honor the spirit of the fellowship offerings, and reach for Your standards, through Your help and power, continually seeking to be closer to You. Amen.