Friday, December 22, 2023

2023.12.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ Leviticus 21

Read Leviticus 21

Questions from the Scripture text: To whom does YHWH speak in Leviticus 21:1 (cf. Leviticus 21:4, cf. Leviticus 10:4–6)? For whom is the message?  What mustn’t they do? For which relatives may they make an exception (Leviticus 21:2-3)? What else mustn’t they do (Leviticus 21:5, cf. Leviticus 19:27)? What must their mourning reflect instead (Leviticus 21:6)? Why, what special task do they have? What three types of women mustn’t they marry (Leviticus 21:7)? Why not (Leviticus 21:7-8)? What might a daughter of a priest do (Leviticus 21:9)? What does this do to her father? What must be done to her? Who has his own regulations (Leviticus 21:10)? What was done to his head and clothes? What mustn’t he do to them in mourning? For whom, even, may he not make an exception (Leviticus 21:11)? Where mustn’t he go (Leviticus 21:12, cf. Leviticus 10:7)? What type of woman, alone, may he marry, from what people alone (Leviticus 21:13-14)? What special consideration must the high priest have (Leviticus 21:15)? What new section introduction do we have in Leviticus 21:16? To what individual is this specifically addressed (Leviticus 21:17)? Who may not perform the holy-place ministry or altar ministry (cf. Leviticus 21:21)? What types of defects are excluded (Leviticus 21:18-20)? Yet, what may a man with a defect do (Leviticus 21:22)? From which types of bread? Why mustn’t he approach the veil or the altar (Leviticus 21:23)? How does Leviticus 21:24 conclude the two sections of the chapter?

Why were there special rules for the consecrated lives of the priests? Leviticus 21 prepares us for the evening sermon on the Lord’s Day. In these twenty-four verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that there were special rules for the consecrated lives of the priests in order to safeguard God’s holy worship.

Increasing degrees of consecration. In “the holiness code,” the Lord has given His people instruction, so far, on the sanctity of blood (chapter 17), the sanctity of marriage (chapter 18), the sanctity of saints (chapter 19), and the sanctity of the church (chapter 20). There has been a subtle progression of increasing consecration, as the Scripture narrows nearer and nearer to the Lord. Now, in chapter 21, it narrows to the priesthood (Leviticus 21:1–9), the High Priest himself (Leviticus 21:10-15), and the holy place and the altar (Leviticus 21:16-23). 

The priesthood, Leviticus 21:1-9. We already saw in Leviticus 10:4–5 that with Aaron, Eleazar, and Ithamar already in the tabernacle court, they could not leave or defile themselves for the sake of Nadab and Abihu. Now, we see in Leviticus 21:1-4 that even when they are not “on duty,” they may only subject themselves to uncleanness in order to attend to the dead if the deceased is the nearest of relatives. They have a husband’s/master’s duty to the living (Leviticus 21:4), and the work of the tabernacle ministry is too important to interrupt to attend to the dead, unless someone else, related as nearly, isn’t available to do so.

There were other safeguards for the consecrated ministry of the tabernacle. Priests were to be especially careful to follow the rules concerning grieving that we saw in Leviticus 19:27 (Leviticus 21:5-6). They were not to grieve like unbelievers do (cf. Genesis 49:29–33; 1 Thessalonians 4:13); the marks of hopeless grief profane the Name of the Lord (Leviticus 21:6). The list in Leviticus 21:7 does not exclude widows (as Leviticus 21:14 does); for priests in general, the point here is that they were to marry women of good character (cf. 1 Timothy 3:4– 51 Timothy 3:11). The priest who offers the bread of God (Leviticus 21:8) must be a man who presides over godly living in his own tent/home. By specifying the form of execution in Leviticus 21:9, the Lord ties this instance to chapter 20, where the Lord specified various methods of execution as an indication that it is He Who thus maintains the consecration of His church. In the case of Leviticus 21:9, the daughter of a priest must take into account how her behavior might defile God’s worship, for which God had set apart her father.

The High Priest himselfLeviticus 21:10-15. In the case of the High Priest, he must have regard for his office. His head had oil poured upon it (Leviticus 21:10), so he must not uncover his head in mourning. He has been dressed in the holy garments, so he must not tear his clothes in mourning. So, he mustn’t engage in even some appropriate expressions of grief, which do not include the disfiguring in Leviticus 21:5. Similarly, even for the death of one of his parents (Leviticus 21:11), he is not permitted to contract an uncleanness that would take him away from his high priestly labor (Leviticus 21:12). For him, even a widow will not do as a wife (Leviticus 21:13-14) not only on account of his current household, but because from him, the future high priests are to come (Leviticus 21:15).

The Holy Place and the altarLeviticus 21:16-23. The prohibitions in Leviticus 21:16-20 are in no way an indication of the personal worth of the handicapped man. Not only does he continue to be fully in the image of God, but if he is a priest, he continues to have the right to eat not only of the grain offerings, but even of the showbread (Leviticus 21:22)! 

However, much of the tabernacle service itself required arduous labor that must be done in the proper manner. The defects described here either diminish the man’s ability to do so, endanger the ministry of direct defilement (in the case of scab or sore, Leviticus 21:20). The last condition in verse 20 disqualified anyone from the holy assembly (cf. Deuteronomy 23:1). But we must therefore conclude that it only applied to those who had ritually mutilated himself as was done in various ancient near-eastern pagan rituals; for, there are indeed eunuchs who keep God’s Sabbath’s within God’s house (cf. Isaiah 56:3–5). 

The main point can be discerned from “offer the bread of his God” (in Leviticus 21:16), “to offer the offerings made by fire” (in Leviticus 21:21), and “near the veil or approach altar” (Leviticus 21:23). The priests’ role, in how God has provided for His people to draw near to Him, is too vital to risk compromising in any avoidable way. 

The great High Priest and the priesthood of believers. The ongoing application of this is wondrous and widespread. It is wondrous because the Lord Jesus consecrated Himself as High Priest for our sakes (cf. John 17:9). He offered Himself (cf. Psalm 40:6–8; Hebrews 10:5–9), in perfect obedience and atoning death. And the application of this chapter is widespread because through Christ’s work as Great High Priest, He has consecrated all believers into their new priesthood (cf. Hebrews 10:10)—so much so that in the New Testament, every single believer enters the Holy of Holies through Him (cf. Hebrews 10:19–25)! So, let us put off all willful sin, and always live with a view toward being ready in mind, heart, and life to enter again beyond the veil, in His worship assembly, in less than six days from now.

Who is your Great High Priest? What did He have to be and do to be holy? What important offering did He make? Who leads the worship that was consecrated by His blood? How near do you come to God in that worship? When are you next scheduled to do so? How should you live between now and then? 

Sample prayer:  Lord, we thank You and praise You that You have given Your own Son to be our Great High Priest. We praise You for His perfect righteousness, purity, and ability to carry out the ministry that You assigned to Him. And we thank You that under His new and everlasting priesthood, You have made all Who are united to Him to be priests to You. Grant that we would always live in a way that is mindful of the fact that we must soon gather to You as a holy people, in Your holy Son, for Your holy worship. Help us, we pray, by Your Spirit, through Your Son, in Whose Name we ask it, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP15 “Within Your Tent, Who Will Reside” or TPH165 “To Your Temple, I Repair” 

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