Leviticus 22:1-16

Key Verse(s):

Leviticus 22:9 (HCSB)

9 They must keep My instruction, or they will be guilty and die because they profane it; I am Yahweh who sets them apart.

Reflection/Application:

This pericope continues from the previous with additional commands for the priests, specifically concerning food. It is no surprise that this issue is addressed, since the food of the priests is generally what has been brought as an offering, and an offering to God is holy, as it is His.

And it should be clear that the issue at hand is not health and well-being, the avoidance of disease and contamination, but this is a spiritual issue. Notice how Lev 22:9 says, “They must keep my instruction, or they will be guilty and die because they profane it.” “It” surely refers to God’s “instruction” mentioned in the first part of the sentence. The issue is, then, keeping God’s instruction: following God’s instruction: following God. The rules provided here are not different than those provided the non-priest, excepting the punishment. But the context is different because these rules concern two things that are to be holy: the offering to God, and God’s priest.

Additionally, there are rules concerning the consumption of holy food by non-priests, and the fact that it should not happen. Again, this is a spiritual issue in that holy food is for holy beings. God’s appointed priests are the “holy” intermediaries here, and therefore the ones designated to consume His food. It is interesting to note that God does provide a way of retribution when one mistakenly eats holy food. But, a priest that does not actively keep the layperson from eating the offerings, else he again is “profaning” the offerings, and placing a burden upon the people. And although there is no explicit punishment listed for doing so, it would seem to me that the use of the same action of “profaning” suggests the penalty for Lev 22:15-16 would be the same as Lev 22:9.

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for providing for us, just as You did for the priests. I pray that we would honor that which is holy, everything dedicated to You, and especially You, and not profane these things. Help us to glorify only You, and not give in to the temptation to feed our own sinful pride. Amen.

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Leviticus 21:16-24

Key Verse(s):

Leviticus 21:17 (HCSB)

17 “Tell Aaron: None of your descendants throughout your generations who has a physical defect is to come near to present the food of his God.

Reflection/Application:

This pericope continues the requirements of Aaron’s descendants in order to serve as priests. Here we are presented with the concept that a physical deformity excludes one from being a priest. This, on the surface, seems flat out wrong to our modern sensibilities, but let’s examine this a bit closer.

  1. We must realize that a physical defect does not preclude one from being a child of God, one of His chosen people. That is absolutely critical to understand and come to grips with. Lev 21:17 says, in reference to the person with a defect, “his God.” He is still one of God’s people. And the other thing to come to grips with is that love and acceptance does not equal allowance to do everything. In other words, God can love and accept me, but not allow me to be an NBA superstar due to my lack of height, overabundance of weight, and absence of coordination. Some of these can be worked on, sure, but some are simply gifts of God that I do not have to the extent that would allow me to be an NBA superstar. This by no means suggests God does not love or accept me, it simply means He has a different role for me. Likewise, one with a physical defect is not an outcast from God’s family just because he cannot be a priest, he simply has a different role to fill in God’s kingdom.
  2. The physical defect requirement points to the animal sacrifice. After all, that is the food that is spoken of in the passage. Just like the animal, the priest is to exhibit a similar physical appearance: without blemish. Again, God deserves perfection, and this is a physical representation of such.
  3. The physical defect requirement also points forward to Christ! Christ was, and is, perfect! Was He physically perfect? I don’t know, probably not, I suppose, by our worldly standards of perfection. But He must have been without blemish!

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for the perfect sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus. The One who paid our debt, assures our salvation. I pray that we would be able to recognize the role You have for us, and not be consumed with what we are not designed for. Amen.

Leviticus 21:1-15

Key Verse(s):

Leviticus 21:12 (HCSB)

12 He must not leave the sanctuary or he will desecrate the sanctuary of his God, for the consecration of the anointing oil of his God is on him; I am Yahweh.

Reflection/Application:

God has called His people, Israel, to be holy and righteous. There have been rules, commands, laws, that they are to follow in order to remain clean and holy. So it only seems logical that God would also have expectations for the priests, those set apart to act as the go-betweens for the Israelites and God. This pericope is the beginning of those commands to keep the priests just that.

Some of the commands given in this passage are consistent with those given to all Israelites, but even for those there seems to be a difference due to the role of the priests.

Priests are to avoid corpses altogether, with the exception of their immediate family. This seems counter to what we are used to today, and in a modern context seems wrong. After all, quite frequently we would expect a pastor to officiate a funeral ceremony. But we must remember the time and culture God issued this command in. The avoidance of corpses was not to suggest a lack of compassion for the survivors, or to stop the celebration of the life of someone who has passed, or even to stem the mourning of someone. Instead, the command is to allow the priest to remain clean, which is critical as a representative of God, and to carry out the duties he needs to. In the case of corpses, the unclean state is not just a spiritual state, it has a physical, medical, sense as well.

We then read how the priests are to avoid certain grooming practices, and bodily effects. These are consistent with what has been prescribed for all Israelites, and possibly suggest an avoidance of pagan practices that might lead people away from God by these ritual practices.

The woman a priest marries must meet a certain expectation of purity. Again, it would seem that this is because being a representative of God requires a specific set of criteria, that of a purity that would not possibly suggest a promiscuous life is acceptable, or even rewarded. This even carries on to the daughters of a priest, only enhancing the importance of presenting a pure lifestyle for the family.

Finally, we get some additionally strict rules for the high priest. As the head of God’s priesthood, he is restricted even more, such as not even having the leeway afforded to the normal priesthood concerning a death of a close relative.

All these restrictions may seem excessive, or even unreasonable, by our standards today. But, when we remember the culture and context, we should understand the importance of remaining, and representing, the purity, and righteousness, of God by the priesthood for the people of Israel.

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for providing examples, righteous examples, for us to look at and model our walk after. We know a righteous life does not save us, only Christ can do that, but it shows You to the world when we walk in righteousness. I pray for the clarity to follow You, and the strength not to compromise. Amen.

Leviticus 20:22-27

Key Verse(s):

Leviticus 20:22 (HCSB)

22 “You are to keep all My statutes and all My ordinances, and do them, so that the land where I am bringing you to live will not vomit you out.

Reflection/Application:

This pericope seems to be the conclusion, or summary passage, concerning the holiness of the nation of Israel. There are three things that I see in this passage:

  1. God commands us to follow Him, and there are repercussions when we don’t.
    Lev 20:22 starts the passage out with God commanding the Israelites to follow all His rules. And if they don’t? They will be “vomited” out of the land that He is bringing them to! Does God expect perfection, that not a single of His commands ever be broken, lest the Israelites be kicked out of Canaan? Of course not! First of all, they’ve screwed up repeatedly on the way, yet God continues to lead them to Canaan. Second, only one Man has ever been perfect, sinless, and He died on a cross to pay for our sin… God knows the Israelites, nor we, are Him. But what God does expect is for us to follow Him. That means sometimes we trip and fall, sometimes we get distracted and veer of course, and sometimes we just flat out decide to take another route… but our overall goal is to go where He is going. When we screw up is there punishment? Of course! But what God is saying here is another level of punishment, one reserved for those who reject Him.
  2. We ought to look different than those not following God.
    Lev 20:23 says, “You must not follow the statutes of the nations I am driving out before you[.]” We should look, and behave, different than those who stand opposed to God. What the Canaanites had been choosing to do has earned them the “abhorrence” of God, and a loss of their homeland. And look, it’s not like the Canaanites didn’t have rules… they followed statutes. But their statutes were not keeping them following God, and that is the problem.
  3. You are what you eat!
    It seems interesting that the action described for the Israelites to take in order to avoid being “contaminated”, is about food, avoiding the unclean foods. Perhaps there really is something to the phrase, “You are what you eat!” Maybe it goes back to looking different than those opposed to God, and one, major, way to do that is via diet.

The oddball verse of the passage is Lev 20:27. It seems out of place, like it should have been with the pericope at the start of the chapter, Lev 20:1-8. It’s not that the command seems odd, it is spot on with the rest of the chapter, just odd placement.

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for setting us apart. We have no choice, when following You, to look and behave different than the rest of the world that stands in defiance of You. Please help us to recognize that, and embrace it. Amen.

Leviticus 20:9-21

Key Verse(s):

Leviticus 20:9 (HCSB)

9 “If anyone curses his father or mother, he must be put to death. He has cursed his father or mother; his blood is on his own hands.

Reflection/Application:

Many of the commands in this passage are a repeat of those in Leviticus 18. Where Leviticus 18 seemed to be primarily to show how the Israelites were to be different, and not follow the perverse and unholy practices of the Canaanites, the people He is to drive out ahead of them, Leviticus 20 is primarily concerned with expressing the punishments for doing so.

There is a lot of death in this passage. As usual, there are many who will “object” to a loving God commanding the death of someone, especially when concerned with some of the sexual activities described. It’s not that any of them are something that is considered “normal”, even in our ever more perverse culture, but death might be considered extreme for at least some of these. But, we must remember, the real issue here is sin against God, which carries death as the punishment. (Romans 6:23) Certainly the acts themselves are detestable on their own merit as well, lest we think they are not worthy of some form of punishment and discouragement.

Also, we must remember that God will be purging the land of Canaan in order to bring His people into the Promised Land. He is not purging them because they are following Him faithfully… they are being removed because they are opposed to God, and deserve all judgement they might receive. These commands and associated penalties are just as much a safeguard to keep the Israelites holy, free from the same sin, the same depraved behaviors, as it is anything else.

In fact, the phrase “blood on his own hands”, or something similar, occurs five times in the passage. This, it would seem, is to reassure us, and the Israelites, that this punishment is not on the hands of those carrying it out, but on those who have sinned in these ways. Nor can we blame God for their death, because He has made known the expectation and penalty… if one chooses to defy God and sin in these ways, it is their own choice and doing!

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for being a fair and just God. When we might think otherwise, we ought to check our hearts and see if it is because of some sinful desire, something we want to do that opposes You. I pray that we would seek You and Your ways, rather than our own. Help us to recognize punishment for our sin as just that, and not blame You. And most importantly, thank You for going to the cross and paying the price that we never could, and saving us. Amen.

Leviticus 20:1-8

Key Verse(s):

Leviticus 20:3 (HCSB)

3 I will turn against that man and cut him off from his people, because he gave his offspring to Molech, defiling My sanctuary and profaning My holy name.

Reflection/Application:

This relatively short, but intense, pericope is concerned primarily with the sacrifice of children to the false god Molech. Molech was apparently an Ammonite god. It would make sense that God would so strongly address this pagan practice in order to guide the Israelites to avoid associating with the Ammonites, and this detestable practice, now that they are being delivered into the Promised Land.

Despite this horrific act, and it’s obviously inherent evil, notice in Lev 20:3 what the real issue is. Yes, giving offspring to Molech is bad, but it would seem the real issue is that the act of doing so “defiles God’s sanctuary” and “profanes God’s name”. Evil practices, sin, is against God, and is detestable. And the punishment is severe for such a severe sin: death. And God uses His people to execute the judgement.

And, what is even more interesting, is if the people do not follow through and execute the offender, then God’s punishment is extended to the offender’s family as well, and those that “follow him”. Perhaps this means those that decided not to stone him in the first place? However far that extends, we see that refusing to address sin, and failure to follow God’s leadership and instruction, results in a broader circle of impact. We might want to take note of this principle in our own lives.

Finally, the pericope ends with the inclusion of those seeking “mediums or spiritists”. It seems to me this would be things like witches, psychics, those who communicate with the dead or demons, generally anyone who embraces and practices mystical or dark arts, or magic (not illusion like in entertainment, but actual magic where one attempts to tap into some mystical energy or power, or control it, in order to impact the world). It is easy to simply disregard these things as fanciful, superstitious, or just as crackpot nonsense, but it would seem God’s word says we should do otherwise, and treat them very seriously. Apparently seriously enough to be listed right after child sacrifice!

God has “set us apart”. He expects us to look different, and we should. We must be careful not to be influenced and swayed by the dark in the world, but to remain pure and righteous, constantly seeking Christ and being renewed by Him.

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for showing us the right way, Your way, and setting us apart from the world. I pray that I am never so darkened that I would contemplate something so vile and evil as what is described in this passage. But I know that I already do struggle with other dark and evil sin, since it is all dark and evil, and I ask for deliverance from it. Amen.

Leviticus 19:1-37

Key Verse(s):

Leviticus 19:37 (HCSB)

37 You must keep all My statutes and all My ordinances and do them; I am Yahweh.”

Reflection/Application:

This passage opens with a statement that sets the tone for the rest of the passage: “Be holy because I, Yahweh your God, am holy.” (Leviticus 19:2) The following verses are a slew of summary statements of previously stated commands and rules, all with the ten commandments as the underpinning.

The pericope is a summary of God’s rules, which guide His people. This is a guide to holiness, rather than destruction. Contrary to the notion that God is a killjoy, or desires our miserable existence, God provides these regulations to help us achieve holiness and be more like Him. This is a step towards life, a truly fulfilled life, rather than the death that is the fruit of life without, and in opposition to, God.

There are a number of things to note among these verses:

  1. There is an absolute, and consistent, reminder that God is God. That He is the One who should be honored and obeyed. The phrase “I am Yahweh” appears 13 times, certainly we should get the message: we are not god, God is!
  2. Although many of these prescriptions have obvious benefits, and clear reasons why we should obey God, there are others that sort of seem odd and out of place. Leviticus 19:19, for example, seems a little out of place among verses warning against prostitution and oppression. But when we remember the overall theme of the pericope we can see how even this verse passes on a wonderful truth and guidance: God demands our purity, avoidance of being mixed and diluted in our worship of Him.
  3. God expects all His ordinances be followed and obeyed. Failure to disobey just one of them results in defilement. None of these verses suggest that failing to obey a command might result in defilement, or will defile only when combined with disobeying some other command. We are held to a high standard, one that only One person could satisfy!

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for Your continued guidance. You demand, deserve, perfection, and only You could provide it through Your son Jesus. Thank You for saving me, and loving me. Amen.