Leviticus 17:8–9 (HCSB)
8 “Say to them: Anyone from the house of Israel or from the foreigners who live among them who offers a burnt offering or a sacrifice 9 but does not bring it to the entrance to the tent of meeting to sacrifice it to the Lord, that person must be cut off from his people.
Leviticus makes a shift here, rather than prescribing an offering to address a sin or uncleanliness, Moses receives instruction on what sacrifice should not be made. And ultimately the instruction here is a safeguard for our own hearts, not some rant of a megalomaniac.
At first it seems that God simply does not want any slaughter of an animal to occur without it being an offering to Him. And, although He can make such demands since He is God, it seems a bit arbitrary and disconnected. But as we read on we get a fuller picture of what is happening here.
- God’s intention is to bring us to Him. Leviticus 17:5 says, “This is so the Israelites will bring the Lord sacrifices they have been offering in the open country.” God is looking for intentionality here I think. There is less of a sacrificial and worshipping attitude when we “do for God” on our own terms, out of our own convenience. If the requirement is to go to the tabernacle in order to make an offering to God, that requires participation, determination, and sacrifice on our part. It shows investment and worship.
- I think God is laying the groundwork for His church. Leviticus 17:5-6 speaks of the priest being extensively involved in the process. We know that we have individual relationships with God, and we are free to come to Him anytime, but God has also established His church for His purposes, and expects that we find our role within it, and interact and be part of it. This pericope seems to promote that via the contrast of the old practice and what God expects.
- God demands to be number 1, and He is providing a way to ensure He is. Leviticus 17:7 warns us about sacrifices made to “goat-demons”! If nothing else, it would seem that this pericope provides a safeguard to keep us from slipping into the act of worshipping false gods and demons. If we bring our offering to church, to the pastor, what are the odds that it will end in the worshipping of a goat-demon? It is a safeguard from God to protect us from our own sinful ways, and place us in His presence, in a position of worship
Lord, thank You for providing safeguards for us. I pray that we would not see Your ways as limitations, but as guardrails keeping us safe. Amen.