Some Strive to be “Real,” but God’s Standard is Still “Holy!” (Leviticus 22)

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Scripture reading– Leviticus 22

It has been said that “familiarity breeds contempt,” which, unfortunately, is often true of religion, especially when practice is susceptible to becoming mindless rote and traditions. The same was true for the priests of Israel. Therefore, today’s Scripture reading addressed the conduct of God’s ministers (Leviticus 22:1-9) and reminds us that the LORD requires those who serve Him to be holy in person and practice (22:1-2).

Discerning Between the Clean, and the Unclean (22:1-9)

Unclean priests were not allowed to touch or eat anything dedicated to the LORD (22:3). Several concerns could render a priest unclean and, therefore, unfit for service. As such, he was prohibited from partaking in sacrifices reserved for their consumption (22:4-9). For instance, a priest with leprosy, or an open sore (“running issue”), was deemed unclean and could not “eat of the holy things, until he [became] clean” (22:4). Also, touching a dead animal, or an unclean animal, would render a priest unclean (22:5).

To be declared clean, a priest would bathe with water and then wait until “when the sun is down” (22:6-7). When pronounced clean, the priest could eat the portion “of the holy things; because it is his food” (22:7).

Once again, we are reminded that when an animal died of natural causes (whether sickness or disease) or was torn and maimed, it must not be eaten (22:8). Failure to keep God’s ordinances regarding meat to be consumed could result in sickness and even death from an acquired disease (22:9).

Eligibility to Eat the Priest’s Portion of the Sacrifices (22:10-16)

The “stranger,” one who was not of the priest’s family or household, was not to eat a portion of the sacrifice reserved for the priest and his family (22:10). Slaves and servants of priests were allowed to “eat of [the priest’s]meat” (22:11).

While the daughter of a priest could eat a portion of the sacrifice reserved for her father, a daughter married to a man who was not a priest was excluded from his table (22:12). Should the daughter of a priest return to his home, she would be allowed to partake at her father’s table (22:12-13).

In case one unknowingly ate a portion of the priest’s sacrifice, he was required to restore the portion he had taken and give an additional “fifth part” (20%) to the priest (22:14-16).

Acceptable Sacrifices (22:17-33)

Sacrifices offered to the LORD were to be of the highest standard (22:17-25).  There was the temptation to offer animals for sacrifice that were deformed, ill, or injured. God’s standard for an acceptable sacrifice was “a male without blemish” (22:19-20). “Peace offerings,” whether cow, oxen, sheep, or goat, were to “be perfect to be accepted” and with “no blemish” (22:21).  The LORD accepted only the best (22:22-25).

To remind us that God is compassionate, no firstborn bull, sheep, or goat was to be taken from its mother and sacrificed until it was at least eight days old (22:27). Furthermore, it was never acceptable to offer a cow or sheep on the same day her young would be sacrificed (22:28). No explanation is given for the law, but the very thought of killing two generations in one day seemed callous, and even barbaric (Exodus 23:19; Deuteronomy 22:6,7). Freewill offerings of thanksgiving were to be sacrificed and then eaten “on the same day” (22:30).

The chapter closed by reminding us that the LORD is holy and commands His people to keep His “commandments, and do them” (22:31). Because He had saved Israel from slavery, the LORD reminded them, “ I am the Lord which hallow you, 33That brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the Lord” (22:32-33).

Closing thoughts: Believers no longer offer blood sacrifices because Christ is our sacrifice, Savior, and Redeemer (Hebrews 9:14, 28).

So, what does the LORD require of believers?

First, in light of His mercies and grace expressed through the shedding of Christ’s blood, He asks that we “present [our] bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is [our] reasonable service” (Romans 12:1). While the world demands we conform to its mold, the LORD commands that we should be “transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1–2). Only the highest standard was acceptable to the LORD, and He will accept no less in those who serve Him.

Questions to consider:

1) What were the sons of Aaron forbidden if they were unclean? (22:3-8)

2) Who could not eat a portion of the priests’ meat? (22:10, 12)

3) What offerings did the LORD accept? (22:19)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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