Leviticus 27:1-34

Key Verse(s):

Leviticus 27:28–29 (HCSB)

28 “Nothing that a man permanently sets apart to the Lord from all he owns, whether a person, an animal, or his inherited landholding, can be sold or redeemed; everything set apart is especially holy to the Lord. 29 No person who has been set apart for destruction is to be ransomed; he must be put to death.

Reflection/Application:

The final chapter in Leviticus addresses the dedication of people, animals, and property to God. Although in reality everything is already God’s, He just lets us use and care for His stuff, God nonetheless provided ways to dedicate stuff to Him, as well as rules for redemption.

There are two major things that jumped out at me in this long pericope:

  1. The first section that deals with dedication of people to God, at first glance, seems a bit out of character for God. Let me explain: God is loving, and sees all of us as invaluable, yet we have here this system of valuation of people. And what initially seems even more disturbing is that it is based on some things that we seem to always be fighting: gender and age. If we don’t slow down and pay attention to what is happening in Leviticus 27:1-8 we can miss the boat and make some rash judgments about God by thinking He values women and seniors less than men in their “prime”.
    But if we take the time to look more into this we see, what I think, is the opposite of that mindset. In fact, if we take Leviticus 27:8 on its own, we see a God that is not really even concerned with the money, the value, since He has established this sliding scale to meet everyone where they are financially. And when we take the section as a whole, it seems to me that God is less concerned about setting some value on us, and more concerned with us being
    dedicated to Him! The time has a society where men in their “prime” would, in general, have the ability to create more income, thus the value of dedication was more costly. It’s not that they were worth more to God, it is that God must be worth more to them… and to us.
  2. I love Leviticus 27:28. The idea that once we are dedicated to God, we are His, we are holy to Him, is an awesome thing. It is inspiring and uplifting. It brings cheer and calm. Leviticus 27:29 is not so warm and fuzzy. But that’s the great thing here, it shows the love, the grace of God, while at the same time slapping us in the face with the reality of our condition and its severity. This is what should move us to spread His word… because all those who have not been permanently set apart for Jesus are set apart for destruction. Christ has redeemed us, and we should want the same for everyone else, lest they suffer the determined fate. And again, God has not put this redemption out of reach for us, He has paid the price through Jesus, and offers it freely to us.

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for paying the price we could not. Thank You for redeeming us, all of us, despite our race, gender, and age, and that once we surrender to You as our Lord and Savior, You permanently set us apart as Yours, forever and ever. And we pray Lord that You would dwell within us, and empower us, to speak Your words and message to the world that does not yet know You, so that they may be redeemed as well. Amen.

Leviticus 26:1-46

Key Verse(s):

Leviticus 26:46 (HCSB)

46 These are the statutes, ordinances, and laws the Lord established between Himself and the Israelites through Moses on Mount Sinai.

Reflection/Application:

In this chapter God outlines the blessings that will flow from the Israelites keeping the covenant with God, as well as the punishments that flow from their breaking of the covenant.

The first 13 verses, Leviticus 26:1-13, are concerned with the benefits of keeping God’s covenant, while Leviticus 26:14-39 is concerned with the discipline God will apply if the Israelites do not keep His covenant. Despite the depressing tone of the middle section of the chapter, Leviticus 26 closes with God’s provision of an “escape clause” of sorts. In the end we see that God is not determined to punish man, but quite the opposite, He is determined to provide an avenue for our fellowship with Him.

The blessings of obedience include boons in weather, agriculture, foreign relations, domestic disturbances, might, and, most importantly, fellowship with God. This means the Israelites will never have want for food, security, prosperity, or a relation with God. Notably, in Leviticus 26:13, God reminds the Israelites of His freeing them from slavery in Egypt, and that He has, “enabled you to live in freedom.” Quite contrary to the skeptic’s claim that following God is restrictive, God is quite straightforward that adherence to His covenants is freedom, and He has enabled His people to live in this covenantal freedom.

The discipline that flows from disobedience seems to follow a pattern of increasing severity, possibly reminiscent of the Egyptian plagues? One might view this middle section as God’s “threat” for us to obey, and therefore miss what I think is the real point and tone of the chapter. Surely there is a threatening aspect to this section, but I think it is more a warning for our benefit, just as a parent would warn a child to avoid playing in the street or touching a hot burner. After all, if God was simply demanding obedience for the sake of obedience, then what would be the purpose of His continued degrees of discipline, and their obvious culmination in this hope of man’s return to God? Why wouldn’t God simply be done with man after the first bout of disobedience? Because there is love, concern, a desire of God to reconcile us to Him.

And that is what He outlines in Leviticus 26:40-45. God has a plan for us to be reconciled and the covenant to be reestablished. Be sure that there are consequences: “if they will pay the penalty for their sin.” (Lev 26:41) And what is more, and should not be forgotten, is that despite the Israelites rejection of God and His covenant, He still will maintain His covenant to not destroy His people (Lev 26:44).

And finally, the last verse of the chapter, should remind us that it was God alone who established the covenant, and all the laws and ordinances that go along with it. Man has no part in the covenant, other than to keep it and receive the blessings from doing so, or break it and bear the consequences. But, ultimately it is God who puts things in place and is in control.

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for Your covenant. I pray for the faith and will to observe Your covenant with us. And when we fail and fall short, humble us to repentance and confession of our sin, and restore us. Amen.

Leviticus 25:1-55

Key Verse(s):

Leviticus 25:55 (HCSB)

55 For the Israelites are My slaves. They are My slaves that I brought out of the land of Egypt; I am Yahweh your God.

Reflection/Application:

This chapter contains guidance on issues pertaining to social and economic issues: specifically the observance of the Sabbath year and the redemption of people and property. The overall theme of the chapter is justice, restraint from abuse of God’s people, and the covenant loyalty.

First, it seems clear that there is an intention to keep some sort of social equity in place within the Israelites. The Jubilee, the 50th year, allowed for a clean slate, a fresh start for each and every Israelite, on their land owned through the generations. The exception being homes within walled towns. It would seem clear that these homes would likely be just homes, not land. Therefore it would seem that there is a special enduring value inherent in the land: agriculture being something that would allow man to survive and therefore protected to ensure the social equity mentioned.

Leviticus 25:23 says, “The land is not to be permanently sold because it is Mine.” It would not be much of a stretch to consider social equity just one goal of this chapter. The idea that the Israelites are to observe this super-Sabbath, the Jubilee, and the ramifications that accompany it, i.e. that permanent selling of land is forbidden, means the Israelites are to honor the covenant with God. And observing this covenant means a recognition of God’s supreme status, and His ultimate ownership of all His creation. In the end, man has no right to sell land, because that land is not truly his!

Not only does this premise apply to land, but it applies to people themselves. Just as land is the creation of God, so are men. And just as God ultimately owns the land, so He owns those who He has created. And in the case of His chosen people, the Israelites, the Jubilee applies to them as well, allowing them to be freed from indentured service. And we should note that the rule applies to God’s people, the subject of value, the slave. For it is a binding law not just for the Israelite owner, but also for the foreigner who owns an Israelite.

Now to circle back to what initially seems like the least interesting part of this chapter: the law to leave the land fallow for a year, every seventh year. At first this seems to simply be a practical law that will allow for the land to “rest” and be rejuvenated minerally in order that is will continue to produce crops. It would seem no different than the system of crop rotation used to accomplish the same. But Leviticus 25:20-22 suggests a much deeper lesson. This is an issue of trust and reliance on God, and again, an adherence to the covenant between God and His people. I cannot help but wonder if today we have enough faith to trust that God will provide enough in the sixth year to sustain us through the seventh, or do we too quickly decide that God is not up to the task and attempt to provide for ourselves instead? Do we live as though we are God’s slaves, whom He has saved?

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for being our God, and for saving us. It is difficult at times to fully rely on You, even when You tell us to. I pray for Your strength and will to do so, to trust You rather than ourselves. Amen.

Leviticus 24:10-23

Key Verse(s):

Leviticus 24:16 (HCSB)

16 Whoever blasphemes the name of Yahweh is to be put to death; the whole community must stone him. If he blasphemes the Name, he is to be put to death, whether the foreign resident or the native.

Reflection/Application:

This pericope addresses the blaspheming of God’s name. There are interesting things to take away here, for sure.

First, we are to honor God! This should be common sense, that we honor the One who created us and everything around us, and is the only reason we exist. Yet how often we do not live that out. And to blaspheme God’s name is the utmost of disrespect towards God.

We might think the punishment here is extreme, especially in a culture of free expression, often to such an extreme it could be considered detrimental. But we must remember that the reality is that God is King, not man. Man’s rules do not trump God’s, man’s thoughts fall far short of God’s, and man is not the one whom we should worship and revere, God is. Just as we might think many of the punishments associated with previously outlined transgressions are extreme, yet when taken in context of the culture of the time, and the fact that God was the direct king of the Israelites, we should apply the same framework here.

It is interesting that the second half of the pericope deals with equal punishment for a crime, or sin. Surely this is to ensure man does not decide on his own, skewed, version of retribution, possibly exceeding the severity of the original crime.

But, is it also possible that, these verses exist here in order to reinforce the severity of the blasphemy outlined previous? When we look at the crimes outlined here, they are murder, killing of an animal, and permanent maiming. These are all serious in their nature, with murder being the most heinous crime of all. Might it be that these verses not only provide guidance on the crimes listed, but also add to the supremely severe nature of the preceding crime of blasphemy?

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for being our God. Even though we do not deserve Your mercy, You give it. I pray that we would not blaspheme Your name, and always honor and worship You. Amen.

Leviticus 24:1-9

Key Verse(s):

Leviticus 24:2 (HCSB)

2 “Command the Israelites to bring you pure oil from crushed olives for the light, in order to keep the lamp burning continually.

Reflection/Application:

This pericope, following the listing of the holy days, outlines the responsibility to provide olive oil for the lamp, and loaves of bread to be laid out on the table, both in the tent of meeting. There are three things to notice here:

  1. The Israelites are providers of these things: olive oil and bread. The olive oil is to be provided continually, since the lamp burns continually. And the bread is weekly, being replaced each Sabbath. So these are reminders, perpetual reminders, that we serve God. The weekly reminder of the bread, that God is our provider and sustainer, that we would not eat without Him. And the daily reminder that He is our light, our guide, and He alone shines through the darkness. How easy is it for us to “remember” God only on Sunday morning, and almost have forgotten Him by the time we drive out of the parking lot? Perhaps this was yet another safeguard that God so graciously provided the Israelites, so that they would not do exactly that.

  2. The lamp was to burn continually. Day or night, it was to be burning, inside the tent of meeting. Sure, it would have the practical use of light to see, but there is more to it than that. The fuel is to be pure olive oil. So a “pure” light? Symbolic of the light of the world? And Aaron is to “tend it continually”. It’s not a set-it-and-forget-it type arrangement. Surely the text does not mean Aaron literally stares and watches the lamp 24/7, but there is a sense of a regular checking of the lamp,  to ensure the light has not gone out. We have a sort of reverence for the Olympic flame, which stays lit during the entire Olympic games, via a complex system to ensure the flame is preserved. Yet how much more meaningful is it for a people to be assured that their God is constantly with them, and alive and active, and dispelling the dark? This is what the lamp, it would seem to me, symbolized.
  3. The bread is interesting in that it is tied to the Sabbath, being refreshed weekly. It would seem certain that it is unleavened, else we would not expect the priests to be eating it after sitting out for a week. It is interesting that there are to be 12 loaves… 12 being a sort of “perfect” number (12 tribes, 12 disciples, 12 apostles). The bread is part of the Israelites responsibility in the covenant with God, the observation of which means that they remain God’s people. We should note that the bread is not food for God! Man does not provide food for God, we have nothing God needs. It is a symbolic offering, which ultimately is consumed by the priests, God’s representatives, because they need food.

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for being with us always. For being the light in a dark, sinful world. And thank You for providing for us. I pray that we would always remember You are these things, as well as so much more: loving, merciful, patient, and the list goes on and on. I pray that You would help me to remember You daily, to stop cutting You out of my life at times, when I get caught up in the world, and instead be constantly reminded, and mindful, of You. Amen.

Leviticus 23:1-44

Key Verse(s):

Leviticus 23:3 (HCSB)

3 “Work may be done for six days, but on the seventh day there must be a Sabbath of complete rest, a sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; it is a Sabbath to the Lord wherever you live.

Reflection/Application:

This pericope is dedicated to making explicit the holy days that the Israelites are to observe. Although the different observations may be related to specific events in the history of the Israelites, and God’s provision for them, they all have a single overarching theme: glorify God.

Although many of the holy days are in remembrance, or observation, of specific events, such as the Passover, Festival of Unleavened Bread, and the harvest, it is also worth noting that the very first holy day mentioned is the weekly Sabbath day, defined way back in Genesis 2:2-3. And, although I am not going to argue about whether we should all be Sabbath-keepers or not, it is also worth noting that this observance is included here with a number of other holy days that we, as Christians, believe were, as Paul stated in Colossians 2:14, nailed to the cross with Christ. Hence we do not observe these holy days, along with all the sacrifices that accompany them, nor are we bound to strictly observe Saturday, the Sabbath, as the weekly day of worship. But I digress.

There is a consistent theme throughout the observances of these days. A few things often repeat (but are not necessarily mentioned in each): do no work, assemble, and make offerings. The consistency is this: do not be distracted and take your focus off of God. If the Israelites abstain from work then there is no tendency to obsess about getting things done, rather than glorify the One who sustains us. If the Israelites are gathering together, assembling, then they can better assure they maintain their focus on God by helping each other to remain so. And obviously by bringing offerings to God the Israelites will be reminded of His providence and holiness.

So, it would seem, that the system of holy days was not due to God being some sort of attention hog, or in need of validation of man, but instead to help man remain focused on God, reminded of His sustaining them, and all that He has done, and continues to do.

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for all that You have done, continue to do, and will do, for us. It is impossible to think that we could repay the debt, and that should not even be our focus. Instead, help us to glorify You, to celebrate Your grace, mercy, and love for us. I pray that in our day where the holy days have been satisfied and are not observed with the mandate the Israelites had, that we would have our own holy days where we focus solely on You, glorifying You, and worshipping You. Amen.

Leviticus 22:17-33

Key Verse(s):

Leviticus 22:20 (HCSB)

20 You are not to present anything that has a defect, because it will not be accepted on your behalf.

Reflection/Application:

The previous pericope discussed the purity of the priests, this pericope covers the purity of the animals presented as sacrifices. Just as the priests are required to be holy and “unblemished”, the sacrifices presented to God should be the same. And this nothing that should surprise us: the perfect God deserves the best.

There are a few things to note here:

  1. Judging by Lev 22:17, it would appear that it is not solely the responsibility of the priest to ensure the sacrificial animal is of the expected quality. Since God commands Moses to, “Speak to Aaron, his sons, and all the Israelites,” it would seem that the laity are also expected to take part in this. Perhaps this suggests that even today we should take care to recognize the one pure sacrifice, Jesus, as our savior and substitution.
  2. There is an exception to the rules for the unblemished animals when it is a freewill offering. One possible explanation, as outlined in the Continental Commentary series volume on Leviticus, is the nature of the sacrifice that allows for this exception, although even then it is not a total exception, only the allowance of an “elongated or stunted limb”. (Lev 22:23) So again we see how God provides for worship of Him, in a spontaneous way, by allowing for this, yet when something is planned the expectation is greater.
  3. Again this passage emphasizes the fact that God is holy, and the real source of these requirements is to honor and glorify Him in a way that He deserves. If we are unable to give the best of what we have to God, then do we truly love, follow, honor, and glorify Him?

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for giving Yourself for us! Nothing we return to You can ever compare, but I pray that we hold back nothing, and give our most prized treasures to You, and keep You in the right position in our lives. Amen.