Be Holy: Discovering The Message Of Holiness In The Book Of Leviticus
No, it is not some horrible disease. It is the third book of the Bible and appears in the section known as the Pentateuch or the five books of the Law given by Moses to Israel. It is called Leviticus because it contains instructions for the priests of Israel, which were taken from the tribe of Levi. We will read about the five offerings of the Law, the consecration of the priests, the laws of uncleanness and other laws pertaining to the government of Israel and the tabernacle services.
Some of you may be thinking, “Robert, that doesn’t sound very interesting. And what does that have to do with me anyway?” For years I felt the same way and never paid much attention to the book of Leviticus. Then, I discovered that there is much more to the book than just a bunch of laws for Israel. God gave them these things, as copies, shadows and symbols of true spiritual realities concerning Christ and His church, for us today (Col. 2:16-17; Heb. 8:5; 9:9, 23-24; 10:1). For every copy there must be an original, for every shadow there must be the substance and for every symbol there must be the reality.
So I want to invite you to join with me in reading and studying the book of Leviticus in an effort to discover the true meaning of this book. The permeating theme is found in Leviticus 19:1-2, “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.” The term “holy” is used about 150 times in this book. It calls for a holiness that is based in the nature of God. We have all sinned (Rom. 3:23) and our sins have separated us from God (Isa. 59:1-2). But the book of Leviticus teaches us how we can be reconciled to God in holiness (1 Pet. 1:13-16).
THE BURNT OFFERING (LEV. 1; 6:8-13) The book begins with the burnt offering (Lev. 1). It was a whole burnt offering exclusively for God (Lev. 1:9) emphasizing the consecration of one’s whole self to God (Rom. 12:1; 2 Cor. 8:5). It probably appeared first in Leviticus before the offerings of atonement to emphasize the importance of being consecrated to God. It is better to be consecrated than to need atonement. It was “a sweet aroma to the LORD” (Lev. 1:9) emphasizing God’s pleasure with consecration to Him (Phi. 4:18).
The Gift In every offering there was a gift. One never came empty handed. The offerings were gifts to please God and to seek His favor (Mark 7:11).
In the case of the burnt offering it could have been a bull, sheep, goat or bird depending upon one’s resources (Lev. 1:3, 10, 14). God does not desire to deprive man but asks him to give as he has prospered (1 Cor. 16:2). It is not the amount that matters to God, but the sacrifice that one is willing to make (Luke 21:1-4). Often I am asked, “How much should I give to God?” I usually answer that question by asking two more questions: “How much can you give? How much are you willing to give?”
Notice, also, that these were domesticated animals that the offerer had invested in, rather than wild ones. God does not want from us that which cost us nothing (2 Sam. 24:24). The sacrifice that cost nothing is worth nothing.
The animal was to be a male (symbolic of strength) and without blemish (Lev. 1:3, 10). This represents holiness. It speaks of the holiness of Christ (1 Pet. 1:18-19) and of the “holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). It was the unholy lives of the Jews that rendered their offerings unacceptable to God (Isa. 1:10-17; Amos 5:21-27; Mic. 6:6-8).
It was to be given freely (Lev. 1:3). God desires that we give voluntarily because we want to, not because we have to (2 Cor. 9:7).
The gift of the burnt offering teaches us to give freely, in holiness, of the very best that we have to God.
The Ritual It was important that every detail be carried out just as God specified because this is the copy, shadow and symbol of the true. If the copy is not accurate, then it could not accurately point to the true. And if it was necessary for Israel to hold to the pattern of the copy, how much more important is it to hold to the pattern of the true as revealed in the New Testament (2 Tim. 1:13).
The offerer presented the gift to God at the door of the tabernacle (Lev. 1:3). He could not have someone else go and do this for him. Neither could he leave his offering and immediately walk away. He was an active participant in the ritual, not a passive spectator. We cannot worship and serve God by proxy (Rom. 14:12).
He laid his hands on the head of the sacrificial victim (Lev. 1:4). This signified that the animal was a substitute for the offerer (Num. 8:9-18). What happened to the animal was perceived as happening to the offerer or on his behalf. The offerer would mentally identify himself with the animal through each stage of the ritual. It was as though he was saying to God, “I give this animal to you as representative of myself.”
He killed the animal (Lev. 1:5, 11). The priest wrung the heads of the birds (v. 15). In killing the animal the offerer was agreeing with God’s judgment concerning his sin (Eze. 18:20; Rom. 6:23). There is an implied confession and repentance of sin, as though he was saying, “God, I hate sin and want to destroy it!” Similarly, Christ was slain for our sins (Acts 2:23; Isa. 53:6; 1 Pet. 2:24) and we put to death the old man of sin by identifying with Christ in baptism (Rom. 6:1-11). We must realize that our sins are what drove the nails through his hands and feet, putting Him to death. That’s what we deserved!
The priests, not the offerer, sprinkled the blood on the sides of the altar in the courtyard of the tabernacle for atonement (Lev. 1:5, 11, 15). The people were dependent upon the priests for atonement. The blood stood for life and was required for atonement (Lev. 17:11). God taught Israel this lesson when He plagued Egypt with the death of the firstborn, saying, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you” (Exo. 12:13). All must depend upon Christ as sacrifice and priest to carry out the atoning process through His blood (Heb. 9:24-26).
He removed the skin of the animal (Lev. 1:6, 16). The skins would be given to the priests. Perhaps, this was done to eliminate the stench of burning hair from the courtyard. When the man and woman first sinned in Eden, God provided skins to cover their nakedness (Gen. 3:21). God has provided Christ to cover our sins (Rom. 4:7).
He cut the sacrifice into pieces (Lev. 1:6, 12, 17). This was the Hebrew way of making a covenant. It goes back to Genesis 15 when Abraham offered a sacrifice to God by cutting the animals in two, down the middle. Vultures came and Abraham drove them away. When the sun went down, a smoking oven and burning torch passed between the pieces of the sacrifice which Abraham had divided on the altar and God confirmed His covenant with Abraham concerning the promised land. Much later when Judah was guilty of breaking God’s covenant, Jeremiah reminded them of the covenant they had made with God “when they cut the calf in two and passed between the parts of it” (Jer. 34:17-21). Jeremiah compared their impending destruction by the Babylonians to vultures consuming the pieces of their sacrifices which they had divided on the altar (vv. 20-22). Under the Law, the offerer would only mentally pass through the middle, renewing his covenant commitment to God. It was as though he was saying, “If I break the covenant of God, may He do to me as I have done to this animal. May He feed me to the vultures.”
Before the sacrifice was burned on the altar, the offerer would wash the entrails and legs with water (Lev. 1:9, 13). This was to remove the blood or anything else that might contaminate the sacrifice. Blood was not offered as “a sweet aroma”, but for atonement.
Finally, the priest would burn the sacrifice on the altar (Lev. 1:7-9, 12-13, 17). He would put fire on the altar, lay the wood in order on the fire, then put the pieces of the sacrifice on the wood. The fires would turn it into smoke and it would be fumed as incense to God. This was the central part and final stage of the ritual. The offerer was still observing and mentally personalizing the whole ritual to himself. He himself was given to God! It was as though he was saying to God, “All I am, I give to You!”
This free will offering of consecration could be offered by the people at any time, but the priests were to make this offering every morning and evening, and the fires of the altar were never allowed to go out (Lev. 6:8-13). This emphasizes the daily and continual devotion involved in consecration to God (Luke 9:23; 1 Cor. 15:31, 58; Heb. 13:15-16). The entire thirty-three years of Christ upon the earth may be compared to the daily burnt offering and continual fires upon the altar (Eph. 5:2). His “fire” of devotion could not be put out (John 2:17). He came to do the will of God (Heb. 10:7) and with Him God was “well pleased” (Mat. 3:17).
Yes, here in Leviticus we see the gospel of Jesus Christ and we are encouraged to respond by giving our lives wholly to God.
THE GRAIN OFFERING (Lev. 2; 6:14-23) In the grain offering one consecrated what he had to God: “All that I have, I give to You!” Like the burnt offering it was a freewill offering and “a sweet aroma to the LORD”, and it was offered by the priest daily along with the burnt offering. It was normally, if not always, offered in conjunction with other offerings, probably because it was a bloodless sacrifice. And when we give ourselves then all that we have will follow (2 Cor. 8:5). It was given out of gratitude to God recognizing that all things come from Him (1 Cor. 4:7; Jam. 1:17).
The offering was prepared before it was brought to the altar (Lev. 2:1-13). It was made of four ingredients (Lev. 2:1, 13).
Fine flour, a representative portion of that which sustains daily life, was given in recognition of man’s dependence upon God (Mat. 6:11). Jesus Christ spoke of Himself as the Bread of Life come down from heaven (John 6:35). Just as God provides the bread that is necessary for our physical life, He has provided the One who is necessary for our spiritual life. Jesus paid the price for our sins by giving His body and blood at the cross. We partake of Him and the life He gives by believing and obeying His word (vv. 63, 68; also cf. Mat. 4:4).
Oil was poured on the gift to consecrate it to God. Oil was poured on the priest to consecrate them to God (Lev. 8-9; Psa. 133:2). Christ was anointed by God to be king over all (Psa. 45:6-7; Heb. 1:9). We are set apart for God by the Holy Spirit by means of the gospel, the truth (Rom. 15:16; 1 Pet. 1:22; 1 John 2:20-27).
Frankincense would give off a fragrant aroma when burned. It was a symbol of prayer of thanksgiving and joyful praise (Psa. 141:2). Incense always burned in the tabernacle (Exo. 30:8; cf. 1 The. 5:17). When Zacharias went into the temple to burn incense the people were praying outside (Luke 1:10). In John’s vision of the throne of God he saw “golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (Rev. 5:8). In a later vision an angel with a golden censer “was given much incense that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints” (8:3). All our gifts ought to be given with grateful hearts (Eph. 5:20).
Salt seasoned every grain offering as a sign of covenant (Lev. 2:13; Num. 18:19; 2 Chr. 13:5; Luke 17:32 – Lot’s wife’s disobedience was immortalized in a pillar of salt. She broke the covenant when she looked back on corruption). Christians are God’s covenant people (Mat. 5:13) and must not lose their covenant standing (Mark 9:49-50).
Two ingredients were forbidden to be used in the grain offering (Lev. 2:11; 6:17).
Leaven could not be added as it represented corruption (Exo. 12:15, 19; Mat. 16:6; 23:27-28; Luke 12:1; 1 Cor. 5:6-8; Gal. 5:9).
Honey may have been forbidden because it was used in ancient times to cause fermentation in vinegar or because of its frequent use in idolatrous sacrifices of the Gentiles.
Though leaven and honey could not be added to the grain offering and burned on the altar, they were to be offered in their own rights as firstfruits (Exo. 22:29; Pro. 3:9).
Various methods could be used in preparing the grain offering. God allowed some flexibility under the Law. This is also true for us today who live under the Law of Christ (1 Cor. 9:21). For example, the New Testament of Christ teaches us to assemble for worship on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; Heb. 10:25), but has left it up to the church to decide what time, place and the order of worship. Our worship is acceptable to God as long as we do not add to or take from Christ’s law (John 4:24; 1 Cor. 4:6; 2 John 9-11; Rev. 22:18-19).
It could be offered as fine flour, with oil poured on it and frankincense put on it (Lev. 2:1).
It could be baked in an oven (probably a portable earthen vessel) into cakes or wafers (Lev. 2:4).
It could be cooked in a pan (or griddle) by breaking it into pieces and pouring oil on it (Lev. 2:5-6).
It could be cooked in a pan with a covering (or frying pan) (Lev. 2:7).
The offering was presented to the priest and brought to the altar (Lev. 2:8; 6:14). A portion was burned as a memorial on the altar (Lev. 2:2, 9; 6:15; cf. Acts 10:4). “To remember God is to be remembered in turn by God” (Pulpit Commentary). The remainder of the offering was eaten by the priests (Lev. 2:3, 10; 6:16-18).
It was termed “most holy” (lit. a holy of holies). “All offerings were holy, including the portions of the Peace-offerings which were eaten by the [people]; but that was most holy of which every part was devoted either to the Altar, or to the use of the priests” (Barnes).
It was eaten in the courtyard of the tabernacle.
The grain offering of firstfruits (Lev. 2:14-16). The instructions were the same for this grain offering except that “green heads of grain” were to be used. They were dried by the roasting fire so that the grain might be beaten out of them. We are to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Mat. 6:33). The first and the best of all that we have belongs to God. He will not accept the leftovers of our lives, nor will He accept any place in our lives but first place.
The early Christians of the first century were called the firstfruits of God’s creatures (Jam. 1:18; Rev. 14:4), implying that many others would also become Christians. Christ is “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20-23). As the sheaf of the firstfruits was followed by the whole harvest (Lev. 23:10-11), Christ’s resurrection guarantees the resurrection of all who follow Him.
The grain offering of the priests (Lev. 6:19-23).
It was offered daily (cf. Luke 9:23).
It was made of 1/10 of an ephah of fine flour (about 3 quarts), enough to sustain a man in his daily food (Phi. 4:19).
Half of it was offered in the morning and half of it at night (Psa. 1:2; 55:17).
It was baked in an open pan (a griddle) in pieces with oil.
It was wholly burned, no part of it was eaten.
It reminded the priest of his dependence upon God. To offer others thanks, he needed to be thankful himself.
The grain offering is typical of Christian service and worship to God. The Hebrew writer speaks of our worship and service to God as a grain offering (Heb. 13:15-16). Paul presents the Gentiles whom he had converted to Christ as a grain offering to God (Rom. 15:15-16). These Gentile converts had been set apart by the Holy Spirit through his preaching of the gospel of Christ. Paul compared the gift sent to him from the church at Philippi by the hands of Epaphroditus as a grain offering to God (Phi. 4:17-20). Peter compares Christian worship and service to priests offering up sacrifices, such as the grain offering, in the temple (1 Pet. 2:5).
What about your worship and service to God? Do you realize that all you have comes from God, belongs to Him and should be used to His glory? Are you sacrificing to God daily with a thankful heart, or is your Christianity merely a Sunday thing? Are you careful not to let any sin corrupt your life? Does God get the first and best that you have to offer? Is your life a sweet smelling aroma to Him, is He pleased with you? Are you saying to God with your life: “All that I have, I give to You!”?
THE PEACE OFFERING (Lev. 3; 7:11-38) Like the burnt and grain offering it was a freewill offering and “a sweet aroma to the LORD”, an offering of consecration to God. In the burnt offering one consecrated himself to God: “All that I am, I give to You!” In the grain offering one consecrated what he had to God: “All that I have, I give to You!” In the peace offering one completed his consecration to God: “If anything is lacking, I give it to you!” That’s what the word translated “peace” literally means, “making up that which is lacking”. The peace offering was eaten in celebration of the peaceful relationship between God and the offerers.
As in the ritual of the burnt offering there was the presentation, laying on of hands, killing of the sacrifice and sprinkling of the blood (Lev. 3:1-2, 6-8, 12-13).
Birds were not used in the peace offering, probably because they had too little fat (which we will see is an important aspect of this offering) and because they would have been too small for a communal meal.
The poor could partake of the peace offerings of others.
All fat was to be removed and offered on the altar (Lev. 3:3-5, 9-10, 14-16). The fat was “as food, an offering made by fire to the LORD” (Lev. 3:11), “all the fat is the LORD’s” (v. 16). Fat symbolized richness, abundance, the best (Gen. 45:18; Deu. 32:15; Psa. 36:8; Isa. 25:6; Rom. 11:17). It belonged to God and, like the blood which was for atonement, it could not be eaten (Lev. 3:17; 1 Sam. 2:12-17). This was a beautiful expression of fellowship with God.
The breast and right thigh were removed and given to the priest (Lev. 7:28-34). The breast was removed first and waved toward the altar. This showed that the breast belonged to God. Having acknowledged God as the giver of the breast, the priest took it home to consume it. Similarly, the right thigh was removed and lifted toward heaven before given to the priest. Archaeological investigations at Lachish found a heap of bones by an ancient altar, the majority of which were the right foreleg. God was making provision for His priests (Deu. 18:2; 1 Cor. 9:13). He is the ultimate provider for those who serve Him (Phi. 4:19).
The rest of the animal was eaten by the offerer (Lev. 7:11-18). There were three kinds of peace offerings.
Thanksgiving (Lev. 7:11-15). The Hebrew is “horah” from which we get our word “hooray” (Psa. 107:22; 116:17). The animal had to be eaten on the first day of sacrifice. Any leftovers were burned outside the camp, not on the altar, and could not be eaten on the second day. This may have indicated that the thanksgiving offering was the highest level of peace offering.
Vow (Lev. 7:16-18). The Hebrew is “neder”. The offering was accompanied with a vow or an oath (Lev. 22:21; Psa. 66:13-15; 116:12-19). Leftovers could be consumed on the second day, but not on the third day. Flesh begins to see corruption on the third day (John 11:39). Christ was raised early on the third day so His flesh did not see corruption (Acts 2:27, 31).
Voluntary (Lev. 7:16-18). The Hebrew is “nidebah”, a freewill offering (Lev. 19:5; Psa. 54:6). As the vow offering, it could be eaten on the second day but not the third (Lev. 19:5-8).
It was eaten with rejoicing “before the LORD”, in the courtyard (Deu. 12:5-7, 17-18). God was host in His house (Psa. 23:5)! Christians may eat with rejoicing in God’s house (Mat. 22:1-14; Luke 12:37; 14:15-24; 15; 22:24-30; 1 Cor. 10:16-17; Heb. 13:10; Rev. 3:20; 19:9; 20:9).
Christ is our peace offering (Eph. 2:14; Col. 1:20) As priest and king (Isa. 9:6-7 rule as prince of peace on the throne of David; Zec. 6:12-13 while on the throne he would also serve as priest; 9:9-11 He would come into Jerusalem riding on a donkey and speak peace to all the nations of the world). As a sacrifice for our sins (Isa. 53:5; Rom. 5:1-3; 2 Cor. 5:19; Eph. 2:11-17; 1 John 1:3-2:2). As the giver of peace (John 14:27; 16:33; Phi. 4:6-7; Col. 3:15).
Are you at peace with God?
THE SIN OFFERING (Lev. 4:1-5:13; 6:24-30) The burnt, grain and peace offerings were freewill offerings, “a sweet aroma to the LORD”, offerings of consecration to God. The sin offering is an offering of atonement for forgiveness of sin (Lev. 4:20b, 26b, 31b, 35b; 5:6b, 10b, 13; 6:30). This offering was for sins committed unintentionally or mistakenly out of ignorance, carelessness or weakness (Lev. 4:2, 13-14, 22-23, 27-28; 5:1-4; Num. 15:22-31; Psa. 19:12-13; 139:23-24; Luke 12:47-48; Acts 8:22-24; 17:30-31; Gal. 6:1; Heb. 5:2; 6:4-6; 10:26-31; Jam. 5:19-20; 1 John 5:16-17). It required a confession of the sin committed (Lev. 5:5; Num. 5:5-7; Jam. 5:16; 1 John 1:5-10).
The ritual involved the presentation, laying on of hands, confession of sin, killing the sacrifice, sprinkling the blood, burning the fat as a sweet aroma to the LORD and the distribution of the body (Read Lev. 4:4-12). Parts of the ritual varied depending upon the perpetrator (i.e. his position, power, and influence). These differences indicated a greater responsibility (i.e. judgment or guilt) for some than for others (Eze. 9 – man with inkhorn sent thru Jerusalem to mark forehead of all who mourned over the sins of the people, avengers slay all that do not have mark without pity, “begin at My sanctuary”; 1 Pet. 4:17 ; Jam. 3:1; Luke 12:48; 1 Tim. 4:16; Mat. 15:14).
Different animals were offered. The priest (responsible for all, God’s representative) (Lev. 4:3) and the whole congregation had to offer a bull (the largest, most valuable animal) (Lev. 4:13-14). The civil ruler (judge, prince, king) was required to offer a male goat (Lev. 4:22-23). The common man was to offer a female goat. If he did not have a goat he could offer an ewe lamb. If he did not have an ewe lamb he could offer two doves or young pigeons. If he did not have any of those he could offer 1/10 ephah (a little over 2 quarts) of fine flour (Lev. 4:27-28, 32; 5:6-7, 11).
The blood was sprinkled in different places. For the priest and the whole congregation blood was sprinkled on the horns of the altar of incense in the Holy Place (Lev. 4:6-7, 17-18). This emphasized atonement. For the civil ruler and common man blood was sprinkled on the horns of the altar of burnt offering in the courtyard (Lev. 4:25, 30, 34; except of birds or flour – 5:9). Here atonement was still given a primary emphasis.
The distribution of the body was different. In the case of the priest and whole congregation the body was burned (seraph – divine vengeance upon sin) outside the camp because the blood had been taken into the Holy Place (Lev. 4:12, 21; 6:30; Heb. 13:10-13 – a sign of rejection by the people of Christ). In the case of the civil ruler and common man the priest received the body. It was to be eaten in the courtyard (Lev. 6:26, 29). Again, God was seen as host in His house.
Christ is our sin offering (Isa. 53:5-6, 10; Mat. 1:21; 20:28; 26:28; John 1:29; Rom. 8:1; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 9:14; 1 Pet. 1:18-19; 2:24). God transferred the penalty of sin to Christ. He paid the price! Only the blood of Christ could atone for sins (Heb. 10:1-18). The blood of animals did not provide for forgiveness, but had to be offered by those who lived under the Law of Moses in order to be forgiven (Heb. 9:22). They were not forgiven by animal blood, but they were not forgiven without it! They did not merit their forgiveness by offering the sacrifice! God forgave those who in faith obeyed His law in view of the sacrifice of Christ to which the sin offering pointed (Rom. 3:24-27; Heb. 9:15). God forgives us when we in faith obey the gospel because of what Christ did for us on Calvary (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6).
Have you obeyed the gospel of Christ?
THE TRESPASS OFFERING (Lev. 5:14-6:7; 7:1-10) The burnt, grain and peace offerings were freewill offerings, “a sweet aroma to the LORD”, offerings of consecration to God. The trespass offering, like the sin offering, was an offering of atonement for forgiveness of sin (Lev. 5:16, 18; 6:7; 7:7).
It was for sins committed which required restitution (Lev. 5:16; 6:4-5; Luke 19:8). One might have trespassed against God in regard to the holy things (Lev. 5:14-19) by eating what was to be offered to God (22:14-16).
One might have trespassed against God by trespassing against man (Lev. 6:1-7).
Lying about something left in your care or given on loan (Eph. 4:25)
Fraud (i.e. falsely representing something in a sale or deceitfully obtaining something, forcing to sell cheaper than actually worth)
Falsely swear about something found that was lost (i.e. Deu. 22:1-4 – find lost property, use it, abuse it, lie about it, should pen up cow and treat as own until find owner and return)
The trespass offering emphasized the strict demands of justice. Under the Law the punishment was to fit the crime (Lev. 24:17-22). The decision of the court was to be strictly upheld (Deu. 17:8-13). It was not to be set aside or reduced out of compassion (19:21). A man was to get what he deserved, but the punishment was not to be excessive (25:1-3).
Confession and restitution was required before the offering was accepted (Mat. 5:23-26). A confession of the specific trespass was made publicly to show that the person wanted to make things right (Num. 5:7a). Restitution was also required (Num. 5:7b-8). This was the full value amount plus 1/5 (20%), a double tithe as a fine to recompense for damages. The guilty could see no profit. The one trespassed against was deprived of possession and use of property or suffered loss, thus must be recompensed.
It was offered individually (Lev. 5:15, 17; 6:2; Rom. 14:12).
There was no collective trespass offering. A male sheep (ram) was offered by all.
No special provision was made for the poor, as poverty was no excuse for trespass (Acts 10:34-35).
The laying on of hands was not necessary because the confession and restitution had taken care of the issues involved in the wrong.
The animal was killed and blood sprinkled on the sides of the altar of burnt offering (Lev. 7:2). Atonement was not emphasized here because the confession and restitution had taken care of the issues which offended justice. Atonement was necessary, however, in order to “be forgiven” even though confession and restitution was made.
The fat was removed and incensed to God as a sweet aroma (Lev. 7:3-5). After restitution and atonement was made, fellowship was restored and God was pleased.
The law of the sin and trespass offering was the same in regards to the body of the sacrifice. The priest received the body as a gift from God and it was eaten in the courtyard (Lev. 7:6-7).
Christ is our trespass offering (Isa. 53:10-11 – three key words: pleased, satisfied, justify). He satisfied the demands for justice in regards to our sins. The New Testament word is propitiation (Rom. 3:21ff; Heb. 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 4:10; 2 Cor. 5:19). Realizing we cannot pay the price for our sins, we must look to Jesus for our salvation!
THE CONSECRATION OF AARON AND HIS SONS (Lev. 8) God chose Aaron and his descendents to serve as priests in the tabernacle. In this chapter, we read of their consecration (i.e. how they were set apart by God for this service). This is a copy, shadow and symbol of the priesthood of God in the true tabernacle, His church (1 Pet. 2:5, 9-10; Rev. 1:6). Moses conducted the ceremony at the door of the tabernacle according to God’s command (vv. 1-5). It involved four requirements to qualify the priests to perform their functions.
The Washing of Water (v. 6) This would be done at the bronze laver which stood in the courtyard of the tabernacle just outside the entrance into the holy place. If a priest were to enter the holy place without first washing in the water he would die (Exo. 30:17-21).
A washing of water is required of us today, in order to become priest of God and enter the church. It is one’s obedience to the gospel of Christ in baptism (John 3:5; Acts 22:16; Eph. 5:25-27; Tit. 3:5; Heb. 10:19-22; 1 Pet. 3:21; Rev. 1:5-6). We must confess our sins so that we might continue to be cleansed by Christ’s blood (1 John 1:7-9). God will no more accept us today in His church without baptism into Christ than He would accept the priest into the tabernacle without the washing of water.
The Proper Garments (vv. 7-9) Beautiful and glorious garments were made especially for Aaron and his sons (Exo. 28). The ephod was a colorful apron. On the breastplate there were 12 precious stones, each engraved with one of the names of the tribes of Israel, so that the names of God’s people were always over the heart of the priest. The Urim and Thummin were sacred lots used to determine God’s will. On the golden plate was written: “HOLINESS TO THE LORD”. This was worn on the front of the turban.
In order to be a priest in God’s house today, one must discard the old garments of sin and put on the clothing of righteousness found in Christ (Rom. 13:11-14; 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 3:26-27; Eph. 6:10-20; Col. 3:5-17).
The Anointing of Oil (vv. 10-13) This was to show the people that God had chosen Aaron and his sons to be priest in the tabernacle. The psalmist used the grand memories of this very special occasion to illustrate how wonderful it is for brethren to live in harmony with one another (Psa. 133:1-2).
We, too, who are priests of God, have an anointing (1 John 2:20). It is the anointing of the Holy Spirit by the truth of God’s word (v. 27). God chose to save all those who will believe and obey the gospel (Mark 16:15-16). It is by this word that we are set apart from the world and made holy (1 Cor. 1:2; 2 The. 2:13-14; 1 Pet. 1:22-23; 2:9-10).
The Offerings (vv. 14-29) First there was the sin offering made in atonement for their sins. Then there was the burnt offering, the peace offering and the grain offering. These were offerings of consecration of oneself, one’s possessions and if there be anything else lacking it was all consecrated to the Lord. Notice, how in the peace offering Moses put blood on the right ear, thumbs of the right hand and big toes of the right feet of Aaron and his sons. This extensive use of the blood emphasize the total consecration of oneself to God. The right side was touched with the blood because this is the side symbolic of strength, power and authority. It was to be used to God’s glory. Their ears were to be bent to hear God’s word, their hands used in His holy service and their feet to walk blameless before God.
Like the priests of old we are in need of a sin offering to atone for our sins. Jesus is that offering (2 Cor. 5:21; 1 John 2:2). When we are baptized into Christ’s death and are cleansed by His blood (Heb. 10:22), we die to sin to live for Christ (Rom 6). We must give ourselves upon the altar of God’s worship and service to live lives of holiness before our God, separate from this world (Rom. 12:1-2; Heb. 13:15-16).
The consecration of Aaron and his sons continued for seven days (Lev. 8:30-36). This was symbolic of the complete, perfect consecration we enjoy in Christ Jesus. Holiness is possible! But it is only found in Christ (John 14:6).
THE DEATH OF NADAB AND ABIHU (Lev. 9-10) We would all do well to pay close attention to these chapters, because they are a great warning to those of us who are Christians and serve as priests in the church of Christ. The story takes place at the very beginning of the priestly ministry of Aaron and his sons before God at the tabernacle.
God appeared to Israel at the tabernacle (9: 1-24). Moses instructed offerings to be made first for Aaron and his sons, then for the congregation of Israel because the LORD would appear to them that day (vv. 1-7). This emphasizes one of the differences between Christ, our high priest and the priests of Israel. Christ did not need to make offerings for Himself because He was without sin (Heb. 7:26-28).
Offerings were made for Aaron and his sons (vv. 8-14).
Offerings were made for the people of Israel (vv. 15-21).
The glory of the LORD appeared to all the people at the tabernacle (vv. 22-24). He accepted their offerings and the people fell in worship before Him. This marked the beginning of a new day in Israel. The tabernacle was erected, all its furnishings were completed and put in place, the priesthood had been consecrated and the LORD then showed His acceptance of it all by appearing to them in awesome fashion.
Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, foolishly rushed in where angels fear to tread and were killed by the LORD (10:1-3). They offered profane fire before the LORD which He had not commanded. The wrong persons used the wrong fire in the wrong place at the wrong time in the wrong way. Only the high priest, Aaron, could offer incense using fire from the altar of burnt offering in the most holy place once a year on the Day of Atonement with the washings, sacrifices and garments which God had commanded (Lev. 16). Apparently, caught up in the emotion of the moment, Nadab and Abihu had acted foolishly because they acted without any commandment from God.
God could not allow this to go unpunished. If Israel’s leaders were allowed to transgress, how would the people learn to obey God? It was important that He set the precedent at the beginning: God’s holiness must be respected! Israel could not approach Him whenever, however and wherever they chose but must have authority from Him for all things. He would accept no additions, subtractions or changes to His commandment (Deu. 4:2; 12:32).
God has not changed (Mal. 3:6), but expects the same reverent obedience of us today who live under law to Christ (1 Cor. 4:6; 9:21; Gal. 1:6-10; 2 John 9; Rev. 22:18-19). When men presume to worship and serve God in their own way without authority from Christ, it is no more acceptable to God than was the offering of Nadab and Abihu (Mat. 28:18-20; Col. 3:17). For example, when men worship God with a mechanical instrument, hand clapping, praise teams, solos and choirs they are offering profane music which He has not commanded. When men partake of the Lord’s Supper on some other day than the first day of the week or with some other emblems besides unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine, they offer profane worship which He has not commanded (John 4:24; Mat. 15:9). When men change God’s plan of salvation, the name and organization of His church, His rules for Christian living they fall under the same condemnation as Nadab and Abihu, only worse (Heb. 10:26-31).
Aaron and his other two sons were not allowed to mourn the death of Nadab and Abihu (10:4-7). Mourning the dead priests was denied, lest it be read as condoning the sin of Nadab and Abihu. Not mourning let Israel know that they fully agreed with God’s judgment in this case.
If our family members must ever be disciplined by the church, we should not become angry with the church, speak out against the church and side with them just because they are family, but stand with God’s judgment in the case (Mat. 10:37).
Aaron and his sons were warned by God not to drink intoxicating drink (10:8-11). Had Nadab and Abihu been drinking? Is this what caused them to use such poor judgment? I do not know, but God clearly shows that drinking intoxicating drink and holiness do not mix. They could not serve the tabernacle and teach the people God’s commandments if they did not themselves live holy lives.
We as Christians, are God’s priests in His house. As such we must learn to distinguish between that holy and unholy (Phi. 1:9-10; Heb. 5:14). We will not partake of intoxicating drink (Eph. 5:18-19; 1 The. 5:6-8; 1 Pet. 4:3). How many souls have been destroyed and lost because of intoxicating drink? How can we hope to teach others if we will not live holy lives?
Moses instructs Aaron and his two surviving sons to carry out the Lord’s commands regarding the offerings that day (10:12-20). They performed their priestly duties, but in view of the two deaths in the family they felt they could not eat as they normally would have done. Moses recognized their feelings and was satisfied with their answer.
What should have been a great day in Israel ended up a disaster, because Nadab and Abihu did not respect the holiness of God. Some today do not recognize how serious a matter this is. We must be careful that we only do what God has authorized us to do. We cannot come before God on our own terms but only on His terms.
LAWS OF CLEANLINESS (Lev. 11-15) Under the Law of Moses certain things were rendered clean and other things were rendered unclean. Israel was to distinguish between the clean and the unclean, lest they themselves become unclean and be separated from the congregation. In order to be restored to the congregation of Israel, they would have to cleanse themselves according to God’s instructions, lest they die in their uncleanness.
These laws of cleanliness were another way of teaching Israel to be holy (Exo. 22:31; Lev. 20:22-26; Deu. 14:21; Exo. 4:14; Dan. 1:8; Acts 10:14). Everyday they were reminded that they were to be a separate people because they belonged to a holy God. This principle is stated in regards to the laws of clean and unclean animals (Lev. 11:44-47) and in regard to bodily discharges (15:31). In the same way, everyday we as Christians must distinguish between that which is right and wrong (Phi. 1:9-11; Heb. 5:12-14) so that we do not become polluted by the sins of the world (2 Cor. 6:14-7:1). As Israel would be cast out from the congregation, so we must put away the wicked man from among us (1 Cor. 5:13). To be restored, we must be cleansed of our sins by the blood of Christ according to God’s instructions (Acts 8:22-24; 1 John 1:5-2:1), lest we die in our sins.
Laws concerning animals (11). Israel was not to eat nor touch the carcasses of any animal that had cloven hooves or chewed the cud (vv. 3-4, 8). They were not to eat nor touch the carcasses of any fish that did not have fins and scales (vv. 10-11). Certain birds were not to be eaten (vv. 13-19). Flying insects that creeped on all fours were not to be eaten, unless they had jointed legs above their feet with which to leap on the earth (vv. 20-21).
If Israel touched any of these carcasses they were to wash their clothes and would be unclean until evening (vv. 24-25). Anything that was touched by these carcasses was unclean (v. 32).
Christians, too, must make distinctions when it comes time to eat. Today, we may eat any of God’s creatures for food (1 Tim. 4:1-5), but we must not be gluttons or drunkards (Rom. 13:13-14).
Laws concerning childbirth (12). If an Israelite woman gave birth to a male child she would be unclean for 40 days (vv. 2-4). If she gave birth to a female child she would be unclean for 80 days (v. 5). She had to bring a burnt offering and a sin offering to the priest at the tabernacle to make atonement for her (vv. 6-8).
These laws do not imply that having children is sinful (Gen. 1:28; Psa. 127:3) or that children are born with sin (Eze. 18:20; Mat. 19:14). The woman was rendered unclean because of her protracted flow of blood. These laws would give her time to recover and help to protect her from infection.
Under the law of Christ, there is a distinction between the male and female (1 Cor. 11:8-9). Though a woman is not inferior to a man (vv. 11-12), wives are to submit to their husbands (Eph. 5:22-33) and women are not to take a position of authority over men in the church (1 Tim. 2:8-15). Christians must also be careful to keep “the bed undefiled” (Heb. 13:4).
Laws concerning leprosy (13-14). If an Israelite had a sore on his body he was to be inspected by the priest who would pronounce him unclean if he had leprosy (13:2-8). This was also done in the case of boils (13:18), burns (v. 24), sores on the head or beard (v. 29) and white bright spots on the skin (v. 38). The lepers were isolated from the camp of Israel (vv. 45-46).
If a garment had a leprous plague (mold, fungus or similar infestation) it was to be burned (vv. 47-59).
If a leper was healed he was to be cleansed by: 1) An offering of two birds (vv.3-7). 2) Washing and shaving (vv. 8-9). 3) A grain, trespass, sin and burnt offering (vv. 10-13). 4) An application of blood and oil by the priest (vv. 14-18).
If a house had a leprous plague it was to be removed (vv. 34-42). If it returned the house was to be destroyed (vv. 43-45). Anyone who went in the house was to wash his clothes (vv. 46-47). If the plague is removed and it does not come back the house was to be cleansed with an offering of two birds (vv. 48-53).
Leprosy is a type of sin. Like leprosy, sin is loathsome, progressive, contagious, and incurable by human means. We must not allow our souls to become unclean by sin (Jam. 1:27; Jude 23). As Israel had to be concerned about leprosy in their garments and houses, so we must not be sinful in our dress and keep sin out of our homes. The cleansing of the leper was symbolic of our cleansing from sin, today (bird killed = Christ’s death, earthen vessel = Christ’s humanity, running water = anointing of the Holy Spirit by the word of God, living bird = Christ’s resurrection, cedar wood = Christ’s deity, scarlet = Christ’s blood, hyssop = Christ’s humility, letting the bird loose = release of sinner from bondage of sin, washing = cleansing of Christ’s blood, shaving = putting off of sin, the offerings = Christ’s offering for us, the application of blood and oil = our consecration to Christ).
Laws concerning bodily discharges (15). If a male Israelite had a discharge from his body, his discharge was unclean (v. 2).
This included emissions that ran (uncontrolled bladder, diarrhea, running nose) or were stopped up (restricted bladder, constipation, congestion) (v. 3). It also included emissions of semen (v. 16).
The unclean man was to wash his clothes and bathe in running water for seven days, then bring an offering to the priest at the tabernacle to make atonement for him (vv. 13-15). Anything that touched the unclean man was unclean and anyone who touched the unclean man or touched anything the unclean man touched was to wash his clothes and bathe in water, and was unclean until evening (vv. 4-12, 16-18).
The same laws applied to a woman who had a discharge of blood from her body (vv. 19-30).
These laws protected Israel from the spread of germs and infection, indicating that Moses who could not have known about bacteria was inspired of God. We are warned by God of the even greater danger of sin in the world (1 The. 5:21-22; 1 Tim. 5:22; 2 Tim. 2:22; 1 Pet. 2:11).
Every time Israel went to eat a meal, a child was born, they found a spot on their skin or had a bodily discharge they were reminded that they were a nation set apart from all other nations, holy unto God. In all of our life we, too, must remember that we are a people set apart from the world, holy unto God. As Jesus prayed we are in the world, but not of the world (John 17).
THE DAY OF ATONEMENT (Lev. 16) The Day of Atonement was the most important day in the Jewish calendar. It involved the most elaborate ceremony or ritual under the law. God’s instructions for this day began with a warning.
A Warning (vv. 1-3) This is a reference to Leviticus 10, where they learned to respect God’s holiness. On the Day of Atonement, Aaron would enter the Holy Place with the blood of a sin offering and a burnt offering.
A Washing And A Change Of Garments (v. 4) He would wash his body and put on linen garments. The Jewish year was 360 days, 359 days the high priest wore glorious multi-color garments as heaven’s representative among the people but on the Day of Atonement he would immerse himself into another role as an ordinary servant priest.
A Sin Offering And A Burnt Offering For The Priests And For The People (vv. 5-11) He would make offerings: First for himself and his house – a bull as a sin offering (v. 6). Then, for the people he would take two goats (vv. 7-10). One was for the LORD as a sin offering (they wrapped a scarlet ribbon around its neck), the other a scapegoat (lit. strong removal) (they put a ribbon on its horns) would be let go into the wilderness.
A Burning Of Incense And A Sprinkling Of Blood In The Most Holy Place (vv. 12-17) The high priest could only enter the most holy place with incense and blood or he would die. He realized he did not deserve to be there, he was a sinner coming into the presence of the sinless One.
God had given the recipe for the incense He required in Exodus 30:34-38. It was to be burned in the censer with coals of fire from the altar before the LORD (v. 12). Remember, Nadab and Abihu offered profane fire which the Lord had not commanded (Lev. 10:1).
The high priest would sprinkle the blood of the bull and then the blood of the goat seven times on the mercy seat to make atonement for the tabernacle and for all the sins of Israel (vv. 13-16). Seven is a symbolic number in the Bible and here speaks of a full, complete, perfect covering of all sins.
Notice, also, from verse 17, that no man could be in the tabernacle when the priest goes in to the holy place to make atonement.
The Cleansing Of The Altar Before The LORD (vv. 18-19)
A Sending Away Of The Live Goat (vv. 20-22) The live goat was sent into the wilderness with all the sins of the people from the past year. They wanted the goat to go far away and never to return. If they found it they would send it over a cliff.
A Washing And A Change Of Garments (vv. 23-24a) The high priest would take off the linen garments and put on his glorious garments. He had disappeared into the holy place with his glorious garments and reappeared coming forth with his glorious garments.
A Making Of Offerings And Some Washings (vv. 24b-28) The high priest would offer his burnt offering and the one for the people to make atonement. He would fume the fat of the sin offering on the altar to God (vv. 24b -25).
The one who released the goat would wash his clothes and bathe (v. 26). The bull and goat whose blood was brought into the Holy Place were burned (seraph, consuming fire) outside the camp (v. 27). The one who burned them would wash his clothes and bathe (v. 28).
A Statute For Israel (vv. 29-34) This was an everlasting (age lasting not eternal, as it finds its fulfillment with the coming of Christ) statute for Israel. It was on the 10th day of the 7th month (our September/October). It was a sabbath of solemn rest, a sabbath of sabbaths. It was a day of penitent, fasting (i.e. afflict your souls). It was a day of atonement (Hb. yom kippur, lit. day of covering).
According to Leviticus 23:26-32, it was a holy convocation or assembly in which no work was to be done. If anyone did not enter into the spirit of this day by afflicting their souls they would be cut off and if anyone did any work on this day they would be destroyed.
So, what is in all of this for us today?
Just as they were warned at the beginning of this chapter, so we are warned to regard the holiness of God. We learn from the Day of Atonement how the Holy God made it possible for us sinful beings to be made holy so we could come to Him through Jesus Christ. In all this we see the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ by which we are saved from our sins to live a life of holiness with God forever!
Just as the high priest removed his glorious garments to put on the lined garments of a servant, so Jesus put off His glory with God in heaven to put on the flesh of man upon the earth (John 1:1, 14; Phi. 2:6-8).
Jesus is that goat who died for our sins. He is that one who was let loose in the wilderness taking our sins far away from us (Isa. 53:5-6; 1 Pet. 2:24). After 1400 years of sins carried away on goats, God finally, once for all took care of sin through the death of Christ on the cross! The sins of all were atoned for (covered) by the blood of Jesus (Rom 3:24-26; 4:7; 1 Tim. 2:6; Heb. 10:9; 1 John 2:2).
Jesus is our high priest who entered the true holy place of heaven with His blood to make full, complete and perfect atonement for our sins (Heb. 9:12). The incense that was brought into the holy place was symbolic of prayer and speaks of the intercession of Christ before God on our behalf (Heb. 4:14-16; 7:25).
Just as we learned no other person could enter the tabernacle while the High Priest was making atonement for sins, so only Jesus Christ can truly atone for the sins of the world. There is no other Savior (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).
Just as the bull and goat whose blood was brought into the Holy Place were burned (seraph, consuming fire) outside the camp (v. 27), so Jesus was crucified outside the city of Jerusalem (Heb. 13:11-12).
Just as the high priest took off the linen garments and put his glorious garments back on, so Jesus was raised from the dead to return to glory with His Father in heaven (Phi. 2:9-11).
We no longer keep the Day of Atonement as the Jews once did because it has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ. The date of that day (10th day = complete, 7th month = perfect) pointed to the day when God would accomplish complete and perfect redemption through Jesus. They had the symbols of salvation, but now the real person of salvation has come. We put our faith in the true One, not in the symbolic ritual of the Law. Ever since God’s judgment on Israel for their rejection of Christ in 70 AD with the destruction of the temple it is impossible to keep the Old Law. There is no more Aaronic priesthood, altar or holy place. These were all just symbolic of the greater priesthood of Christ, the altar of the Cross and the Most Holy Place of heaven we have in the New Covenant.
As Israel rested on that day, so we have rest in Christ from the burden of sin, now, in death and in eternity (Mat. 11:28-30; Rev. 14:13; 21-22). As they afflicted their souls on that day, so we are cut to the heart whenever we recall the price Jesus paid at the cross for our sins, especially when we assemble on the Lord’s day at the Lord’s table. At the same time, we rejoice in Him knowing that our sins are now covered, once and for all (Heb. 10:10).
Are your sins covered by the blood of Christ?
LIFE IS IN THE BLOOD (Lev. 17) With chapter 17, we begin what has been called by some “The Holiness Manifesto”. This chapter contains laws in regards to blood sacrifices and the eating of blood and teaches that life is in the blood.
Israel was to bring their offerings to the tabernacle (vv. 1-8). This was to be done whether it was killed inside or outside the camp (v. 3). To fail to do so would result in being cut off from among the people (vv. 4, 8-9). This meant that they were excommunicated or put to death. This was to discourage the heathen practice of sacrificing to demons in the field (vv. 5-7).
Israel was not to eat any blood (vv. 10-16). To do so would result in being cut off from among the people (vv. 10, 14).
The life of the flesh is in the blood (vv. 11, 14). There was a time not too long ago when men practiced blood letting or used leeches to suck a man’s blood from his body if he was diseased. We now know that that was a mistake. Needed oxygen is carried to the body in red blood cells. Instead of bleeding people to death, we will replenish their blood supply by way of transfusion. No flesh can survive without blood.
This is a universal principle that still applies today (Gen. 4:10; 9:3-4; Acts 15:19-20, 28-29).
The blood of the animals offered on the altar was given by God to make atonement for their souls (v. 11). This blood was required under the Law in order to be forgiven of sin (Lev. 1-7). It could not pay the debt of sin, but was pointing to the blood of Christ which takes away the sins of all (John 1:29; Acts 20:28; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14; 1 Tim. 2:6; 1 Pet. 1:18-19; 1 John 2:2). Our soul salvation is dependent upon the blood of Christ.
The blood of the animals given by God to be eaten was to be drained and covered with dust (v. 13). If they ate an animal that was found dead, they would have to wash their clothes and bathe in water and would be unclean until evening (vv. 15-16).
These laws of holiness reminded Israel that they were sinners in need of atonement and that atonement for their sins could only be found in the blood. The fact that they continued to offer one animal after another indicated that the blood of animals could not pay the price for their sins, but only point to the One who would come and die for them, shedding His blood once for all (Heb. 9:11-10:18). We, too, need to be reminded that we are hopelessly lost without the blood of Christ.
Are you washed in the blood of Christ? His blood cleanses you when you are baptized into Him (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3-4; 1 Pet. 3:21; Rev. 1:5). His blood cleanses us when we walk in the light (1 John 1:7-9). There is life in the blood!
THE STANDARD OF HOLINESS (Lev. 18-20) The key phrase in these chapters is “I am the Lord your God” (6x in 18, 15x in 19, 3x in 20). God sets the standard, not the nations (18:1-5). God has been and always will be the standard for holiness. He is the Holy One and we are to be holy as He is holy (Lev. 19:2; 1 Pet. 1:15-16). Laws of sexual morality (18). Moses uses the phrase “uncover the nakedness” to refer to sexual intercourse.
Incest was forbidden under the Law of Moses (v. 6).
With your father or your mother (v. 7).
With your stepmother (v. 8; cf. 1 Cor. 5:1).
With your sister or half-sister (vv. 9, 11). This was not forbidden before the Law (Gen. 20:12; 2 Sam. 13:13).
With your granddaughter (v. 10).
With your aunt (vv. 12-13) or your uncle (vv. 14).
With your daughter-in-law (v. 15) or your sister-in-law (v. 16).
With a woman and her daughter or her granddaughter (v. 17).
With a woman and her sister (v. 18).
Today, under the Law of Christ there is no specific teaching against marrying one’s near relative, but we have found that this can cause excessive exaggeration of certain traits in children born to such unions and other abnormalities to the offspring.
Verse 19 refers to the uncleanness caused by blood under the Law of Moses (cf. 12; 15).
Adultery was forbidden under the Law of Moses (v. 20) as it is under the Law of Christ (Heb. 13:4).
Child sacrifice was forbidden under the Law of Moses (v. 21). Children were sacrificed and burned in fire to the gods while acts of harlotry were committed (Deu. 12:31; Lev. 20:2-5; Eze. 16:20-26; Psa. 106:37-39). Such idolatrous acts of worship are still condemned by Christ (Mat. 4:10). As they gave their children to Molech, some today are guilty of giving their children to Satan.
Homosexuality was forbidden under the Law of Moses (v. 22) as it is under the Law of Christ (Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-10).
Bestiality was forbidden under the Law of Moses because, like homosexuality, it is a perversion (v. 23) of God’s design and order of creation from the beginning (Gen. 2:18-24). We must respect God’s order today as well (Mat. 19:4-6).
To commit such acts of sexual immorality would defile the people of God and the land. It would cause them to lose their place in the land and as the people of God (vv. 24-30). Our laxity toward sexual sin is likewise abhorrent to God and will lead to the downfall of this nation.
Moral and ceremonial laws (19). This chapter is sometimes called the Old Testament Sermon on the Mount (cf. Mat. 5-7). It deals with:
Hatred and love (vv. 17-18, 33-34; cf. Mat. 22:39; Luke 17:3-4; 5:43-48).
Mixing livestock, seed and material (v. 19; cf. Deu. 22:9-11; 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1 teaches us to have no unholy association with the world).
Sexual immorality with a slave (vv. 20-22). We must treat all with respect (Gen. 1:26-27; Eph. 6:5-9; Col. 3:22-4:1; 1 Tim. 6:12; Philemon).
Fruit trees (vv. 23-25). All that we have came from God and belongs to Him (1 Cor. 4:7; Jam. 1:17).
Paganism and prostitution (vv. 26-29; cf. 1 Cor. 8:1-11:16).
Witchcraft (v. 31; cf. Gal. 5:19-21). We must turn to no other source of revelation but God (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
Respect for the elderly (v. 32; cf. 1 Pet. 5:5).
God’s law then and now is characterized by reverence, kindness and fairness, not a “survival of the fittest” philosophy.
Penalties for breaking the law (20). God’s standard of holiness was upheld by the death penalty (stoning) in the following cases:
Molech worship (vv. 1-5).
Witchcraft (vv. 6, 27).
Cursing parents (vv. 8-9).
Sexual immorality (vv. 10-21). If a man marries a woman and her mother they were all to be burned with fire (v. 14).
God's standard of holiness is to be upheld in the church by withdrawal of fellowship if necessary (1 Cor. 5; 2 The. 3:6, 14-15). God’s people then (vv. 22-26), and now, must be holy (1 Pet. 1:13-2:12).
Seeing how God expected His people to live holy lives, keeping His commandments and living separate from the world teaches us to be holy. We are warned of the seriousness of sin and the importance of obedience to God’s law in every area of our lives. We are also thankful that God has made provision for our sin through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ so that we might be forgiven and not lose our souls eternally. Let us come to Christ and commit ourselves to follow Him.
THAT WHICH THE LORD HAS MADE HOLY (Lev. 21-23) A key phrase in chapters 21 and 22 is “I the LORD sanctify” (21:8, 15, 23; 22:9, 16, 32). These chapters, as well as the remaining chapters, speak of that which the Lord has made holy. They point us to that which is holy in Christ.
Holy Priests (21) The priests were to set the example in service to God and in life. They were called to a higher standard than the rest of Israel.
Except for their closest relatives, they could not mourn the dead (vv. 1-4).
As others in Israel, they could not do anything that might associate them with the pagans or idolatry (vv. 5-6).
They were given stricter laws of marriage (vv. 7-8).
Their children were expected to be obedient (v. 9).
As Christians are priests to God (1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Rev. 1:5-6), we are to set an example for those in the world, living up to the higher standard of Christ (1 Pet. 1:13-16; 2:11-12; 4:1-4).
The high priest was held to an even higher standard than the other priests.
He could not even mourn his near relatives (vv. 10-12).
He could only marry a virgin (vv. 13-15).
He served as a symbol of our perfect high priest, Jesus Christ (Heb. 7:26-28).
No priest could serve in the tabernacle if he had any physical defect (vv. 16-24). This served as a symbol of the moral perfection that God expects of us today (2 Cor. 7:1; Heb. 12:14-16).
Holy Offerings (22) The offerings could not be eaten by the priests if they were unclean (vv. 1-9). Neither can we partake of God’s blessings if we live unholy lives.
The offerings could not be eaten by anyone else but the priests’ family and the servants that he owns (vv. 10-16). Every spiritual blessing is found in Christ (Eph. 1:3).
The offerings had to be without blemish (vv. 17-25). God still deserves our very best (Rom. 12:1). He will not accept the “lame” worship and service offered by some Christians (cf. Mal. 1:8).
The offerings had to be offered according to God’s commandments (vv. 26-33). We must worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24; Mat. 15:7-9).
Holy Days (23) The days were set apart by God for Israel to gather and feast (vv. 1-2; cf. Heb. 10:24-25).
The seventh day of the week (v. 3). This was to be a sabbath or day of rest. There remains a sabbath for the people of God (Heb. 4:9-10).
The fourteenth day of the first month (Nisan or Abib, the time of the barley harvest, our March-April) (vv. 4-5). This was the Lord’s passover (Exo. 12). At this feast the parents reminded the children of how God rescued them from Egyptian bondage (vv. 21-28). Christ is our passover (1 Cor. 5:7). We remember our deliverance from the bondage of sin each Lord’s day by partaking of the Lord’s supper (11:20).
The fifteenth to the twenty first day of the first month (vv. 6-8). This was the feast of unleavened bread which was necessary in Israel’s hurried journey from Egypt. We celebrate our freedom from sin every day by living holy lives (1 Cor. 5:8).
The first day after the sabbath following passover (vv. 9-14). This was the feast of firstfruits. As the firstfruits were offered in gratitude to God for the rest of the harvest, so Christ is the firstfruits of those who are fallen asleep (1 Cor. 15:20-23; cf. Col. 1:18).
The fiftieth day after the sabbath (thus always falling on Sunday) following passover (the time of the wheat harvest) (vv. 15-22). This was the feast of weeks. It is also known as the feast of harvest (Exo. 23:16) and Pentecost (Acts 2:1). This marks the day the Law was given at Sinai, and points to the day the gospel was preached in Jerusalem which resulted in a harvest of souls (Acts 2).
The first day of the seventh month (first month of Babylonian agricultural calendar, our September-October) (vv. 23-25). This was the feast of trumpets and points to the second coming of Christ (1 The. 4:16-17; 1 Cor. 15:52). It is celebrated today by the Jews as Rash Hashanah.
The tenth day of the seventh month (vv. 26-32). This is the day of atonement (Lev. 16). The Jews call it Yom Kippur. It is the only day that including fasting. If anyone in Israel failed to enter into the spirit of that day they would be killed. It pointed to the suffering and death of Christ for our sins (1 John 2:2). Without Christ we are all hopelessly condemned (John 14:6; 2 The. 1:6-10).
The fifteenth to the twenty second day of the seventh month (vv. 33-44). This was the feast of Tabernacles. It was celebrated with joy for the harvest, while dwelling in booths to remember how God cared for them in the wilderness and brought them into the promised land. We now trust God to care for us and bring us into our eternal home (Heb. 11:13, 16, 10; 1 Pet. 2:11; Phi. 3:20-21).
God’s feasts were given to Israel to remember what He had done for them. After seventy years in captivity, God sent Zechariah to Israel in Babylon. His name means “the Lord has remembered”. Perhaps, Israel thought that He had forgotten them. Then, He sends Haggai, which means “My feasts”. Mr. Feast comes preaching when they hadn’t celebrated God’s feasts for seventy years. Let us never forget what God has done for us through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Let us remember that we have been made a holy priesthood to God by the blood of Jesus Christ (Rev. 1:5). That we are to offer up holy sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 2:5). And may we never cease to celebrate Christ, our sabbath rest, our passover of deliverance from sin, our firstfruits or pledge of resurrection from the dead, our gospel of salvation and law for Christian living, our savior who is coming at the sound of the trumpet, our atonement for sin, our sustainer in this world until we are able to go home (John 14:1-6).
Holy Place And Holy Name (24) For those things in the holy place, the key word was “pure” (vv. 2, 4, 6, 7). We must be pure in the church (Mat. 5:8; 1 Tim. 4:12; 5:22; 2 Tim. 2:22; Jam. 1:27; 3:17; 1 Pet. 1:22; 1 John 3:3).
The lamps were to burn continually (vv. 1-4). We are to shine as lights in the world reflecting the light of Christ (Mat. 5:14-16; John 8:12).
The bread was to be eaten and replaced every Sabbath (vv. 5-9). Christ is the bread of life to whom we must come and believe (John 6:35). His death is to be remembered every Lord’s day by partaking of the Lord’s supper (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:23-26).
Those who blasphemed the holy name were to be stoned to death (vv. 10-16). This was in accordance with the strict demands of justice under the Law. The punishment was to fit the crime (vv. 17-21). There was to be no partiality (v. 22; cf. 1 Pet. 1:17). Christians ought not to blaspheme and curse (cf. Psa. 111:9; Jam. 3:9-12).
Holy Years (25) The seventh year was to be a year of rest for the land (vv. 1-7). This would prevent soil depletion. Whatever grew on its own was to be left for the poor and the animals (cf. Exo. 23:10-11).
The fiftieth year was to be a year of Jubilee (means “ram’s horn”, the Hebrew trumpet) (vv. 8-55). The trumpet would sound on the Day of Atonement (v. 9). This is fitting as reconciliation with God leads to reconciliation with others. All property rights would return to the original owners (v. 10). This would prevent the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few. It was also a year of rest for the land (vv. 11-12). No one was to unfairly take advantage of the Jubilee, but all prices should reflect this law of return (vv. 13-17).
God would care for Israel if they would obey His law (vv. 18-22). They would be safe in the land and instead of a shortage on the seventh year, the sixth year would produce enough for three more years (cf. Mat. 5:25-34).
Jubilee was given to remind Israel that the land belonged to God, He had given it to them and that it was not their permanent home (vv. 23-34; cf. 2 Pet. 3:10; 1 John 2:15-17).
Before Jubilee, anyone was to be allowed to buy back his property or some relative could buy it back for him (vv. 25-28; cf. Ruth 2:20). This did not apply to houses bought within a walled city after one year of the sell, unless it was the house of a Levite (vv. 29-34). The poor of Israel were to be helped without charging interest (vv. 35-38). This law did not forbid charging interest in every situation, but was given to prevent taking advantage of the poor. The poor of Israel who sold themselves were not to be treated as slaves but hired servants because they belonged to God who had brought them out of slavery (vv. 39-55). They could be bought back before Jubilee. If not, they were to be released on Jubilee. A Hebrew servant was also to be freed after serving six years (Exo. 21:2; Deu. 15:12; Jer. 34:14).
We must remember that all we have is from God and belongs to God (1 Cor. 3:21-4:2, 7; Jam. 1:17). We must not become covetous but help the poor and use all to the glory of God. We must realize that we belong to God (1 Cor. 6:19-20). He set us free from the slavery of sin to serve Him (Rom. 6:17-18). We have been redeemed by the blood of Christ (1 Pet. 1:18-19).
Holy Vows (26-27)
God’s vows to Israel (26)
If Israel obeyed God they would be blessed (vv. 1-13). For example: Rain and bumper harvests (vv. 4-5), peace and victory over their enemies (vv. 6-10) and God’s presence (vv. 11-12).
If Israel disobeyed God they would be cursed (vv. 14-39). For example: Disease, famine and defeat (vv. 16-17), drought (20), wild beasts (v. 22), war which leads to starvation, cannibalism and exile(vv. 25-39).
If Israel repents, God will keep His covenant and will keep a remnant (vv. 40-45).
Obedience still brings blessing and disobedience brings curses (Rom. 11:22; Gal. 6:7-8). God still stands ready to forgive and save those who repent (Luke 15:11-32; 1 John 1:7-9).
Israel’s vows to God (27) This last chapter gives instructions about how to redeem someone or something that was promised to God. At first glance this chapter appears to be an afterthought. However, that the subject is redemption suggests it was placed here on purpose. As the last chapter in the book it indicates that the purpose of the whole Levitical system is redemption.
Vows were voluntary under the Law, but once made were to be kept (Deu. 23:21-23; Ecc. 5:4-5). One type of vow was a promise of someone or something to the Lord. Whatever was so consecrated became the Lord’s property forever unless redeemed. An Israelite could dedicate himself to the Lord as did Absalom (2 Sam. 15:7-8), or his or her own children as did Hannah with Samuel (1 Sam. 1:11, 22) and Jepthah (Jud. 11:30-40).
The value of persons was based upon gender and age (which may indicate earning power), as well as one’s ability to pay (vv. 1-8). Redemption was to be paid with the shekel of the sanctuary, a silver coin used for holy offerings (vv. 3, 25).
Clean beast could not be bought back; unclean beasts could be redeemed by paying their appraised value plus 1/5 or 20% (vv. 9-13).
Houses and land could be bought back with the 20% charge (vv. 14-25). A dedicated field that is not redeemed or sold to another goes to the priest at Jubilee (vv. 20-21). If a field bought from another is dedicated it will go back to the original owner at Jubilee (v. 24).
The firstborn could not be vowed to God as it already belonged to Him (vv. 26-27; cf. Exo. 13:15; Mat. 6:33).
Nothing that had already been devoted to God could be included in a vow, then redeemed or sold (vv. 28-34). That which had been devoted to destruction was to be destroyed (Num. 21:2-3; Jos. 6:17-18; 7:12; 1 Sam. 15:21). The tithe was already owed to God (Num. 18:26). Anyone who attempted to redeem his tithe was required to pay the value of the tithe plus 20% (Lev. 27:31).
Jesus Christ voluntarily vowed His life in exchange for your soul. He is the substitute for the payment that we owe because of our disobedience. He has redeemed us and we are now set apart by this real and final act of redemption (Heb. 10:4-10, 19-23).
In baptism we are devoted to God (Rom. 6). As Christians, we are to present ourselves to God as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God (Rom. 12:1). Have you given yourself to God? Are you living a life of holiness?