Friday, January 19, 2024

2024.01.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ Leviticus 24:10–23

Read Leviticus 24:10–23

Questions from the Scripture text: What does Leviticus 24:10 tell us about the origins of the person about whom it is speaking? Where did he go out? What did he do with a man of Israel? Where did they fight? What did the Israelite woman’s son do to the Name (Leviticus 24:11)? What else did he do? To whom did they bring him? What information does v11 now add about his mother? What did they do to him (Leviticus 24:12a)? Until when (verse 12b)? Who spoke to whom in Leviticus 24:13? Where is Moses to take the man who cursed (Leviticus 24:14)? Who are to do what first? And then who are to do what? To whom is Moses to speak (Leviticus 24:15)? What is he to say to them about one who curses God? And what about one who blasphemes the Name of YHWH (Leviticus 24:16)? Who should be included in carrying out the sentence? Who else must suffer the sentence (Leviticus 24:17)? As opposed to someone who does what (Leviticus 24:18Leviticus 24:21)? And what must he suffer for what other offenses (Leviticus 24:19-20)? To whom do these specific laws apply (Leviticus 24:22)? Why? What does Moses do in Leviticus 24:23? And where do they take the man who had cursed? And what do they do to him? How does the end of verse 23 summarize all of this?

How does what happens in the Holy Place work itself out among the holy people? Leviticus 24:10–23 prepares us for the evening sermon on the Lord’s Day. In these fourteen verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the Lord’s congregation are a holy people, coming to Him in His own way, and therefore must reflect that holiness in the keeping of all of His commandments. 

A Holy People. Leviticus 24:10 begins in a way that initiates the question: what can be expected or must be demanded from a child of an unbelieving father? Is he holy? Is he part of the holy people? God had made provisions for an Egyptian to go from status of stranger to incorporation into a household by circumcision (cf. Exodus 12:46–48). But the man in this passage continues to be called an Egyptian.

Leviticus 24:11b establishes the Israelite woman's son's right to judgment as discipline, and perhaps even a right to mercy. Whatever the case, he will be pointed to spiritual and everlasting mercy, even if he is excommunicated or executed. By giving only Shelomith’s name and heritage, and not the name of the Egyptian, God establishes the holiness of the child of just one believer. When we see it again in 1 Corinthians 7:14, it is not a new concept. The child of only a believing mother is just as consecrated/holy as if his father also were holy. The connection between 1 Corinthians 7:14 and Leviticus 24:10–11 establishes that the covenant membership of the children of believers continues under the administration of Christ.

Christian parents, your children are holy! They are members of the church. They are called saints. Holiness is expected from them not only as creatures made in the image of God, but as members of the covenant community. And yet, they cannot produce it apart from new life, and faith, and union with Christ. Bring them to Him in His means. He will be faithful to employ the means that He has appointed with the children whom He Himself placed in your household. 

So, teach your child not just “behavior” but holiness, and point him ever to Christ, Who alone can be your child’s holiness, and Who alone can produce holiness in him. 

This holiness of the people applies not only individually, but especially corporately. Those among whom this son went (Leviticus 24:10) are a holy people (cf. Psalm 16:3). This, too, is not a new concept, when the New Testament frequently calls them “saints.” In fact, doing so hearkens back to Exodus and Leviticus, reminding us that New Testament church congregations are joined to that original congregation (“church”) in the wilderness of which Moses wrote and Stephen spoke (cf. Acts 7:38). 

And the Lord teaches them about this by the procedure that He commands. The leaning ceremony in Leviticus 24:14 implies that this is about more than just one man and his own penalty for what came out of his own mouth. In verse 14, the entire congregation identify with him. They must be cleansed of his unholiness, because the people as a whole are holy.

The holy Lord has put Himself in the midst of a sinful people, and even as they cast the stones, they are identifying themselves, not as ones who haven't sinned, but as sinners themselves who (by mercy!) are may have God in their midst. 

This understanding exposes the great error of those who brought the woman caught in adultery (cf. John 7:53–8:11). They cared nothing for the holiness of the people as a whole, or the holiness of the temple, or the holiness of those who were gathered to Christ (cf. John 8:2). They actually brought a freshly-caught adulteress into the temple! They were only trying to entrap Christ (cf. John 8:6). 

Christ however cares perfectly not only about the woman but about the holiness of God (cf. John 8:11). And He is going to bring these two cares to their perfection at the cross! He came as both the new temple Himself (cf. John 2:21) and the everlasting High Priest, Who would bring a change even to the ceremonial law’s intersection with the civil law (cf. Hebrews 7:12).

A Holy Place. “Among the children of Israel” in Leviticus 24:10 identifies not only “among whom” this occurred but “where.” “The camp” is a holy place (Leviticus 24:14), just as the land one day shall be (n.b. “born in the land,” Leviticus 24:16), when they arrive.

Still in Leviticus 24:10, the identity of the location as being in the camp has received a significant upgrade since the end of the book of Exodus. The camp is now the place with the tabernacle at its heart, and with the holy of holies at the Tabernacles heart, and the divine presence at the heart of the holy of holies. Holies. The camp as a whole may not be as holy as the divine presence, but it is certainly consecrated by its identity being tied to the divine presence.

Leviticus 24:23 will take us back to verse Leviticus 24:14, emphasizing the boundary of the camp, the boundary of the people, as a boundary of holiness. This holiness reaches its height in the holy of holies, where the testimony is (cf. Leviticus 24:3). So the earlier part of this chapter took us from testimony to veil, from veil to lampstand, from lampstand to table. 

Though the holiness increases as one approaches the ark, and is a term reserved for the tabernacle precinct, the consecration of that presence has implications for the entire congregation as a people, and the entire camp/land as a place. The Lord and His presence consecrate even the place where His people dwell. 

In Leviticus 24:15-16, the whole nation is spoken of as a congregation. Leviticus 24:16 actually speaks of the land not geographically but ecclesiastically: the holy location of the holy congregation. But what happens when it is defiled by blasphemy? The one who defiled it must carry the weight of the sin, and of the cleansing of the sin (Leviticus 24:15). And the congregation as a whole (“all the congregation,” Leviticus 24:16) must participate in the censure by which the offender carries his weight. This is what is happening in the stoning under Moses. And it continues to happen in excommunication under Christ. 

Or at least it ought to continue. How carefully congregations and their members would use the name of the Lord Jesus if blaspheming that Name carried the quick censure of admonition, and doing so unrepentantly carried the quick censure of excommunication!

A Holy Name and a Holy God. The emphasis on the holiness of the divine name in Leviticus 24:11 is intensified by not actually using it. In verse 11, the text says only that he “blasphemed the Name,” and in Leviticus 24:16, “when he blasphemes the Name.” The word “YHWH” does not appear in those two places. Literarily, this has the effect of emphasizing that this Name stands alone in its holiness. There is no other name that it can be. 

The Spirit is now completing for us a lesson in the first table of the law: 

  • The first commandment emphasizes the holiness of the Divine being; nothing else may be considered deity. 
  • The second commandment emphasizes the holiness of the divine presence and presentation. There are no man-made ways by which actually to have the presence of God or by which to have God presented to us. The Lord prescribes His own way of worship (and this has been the point of the second half of Exodus and of all of Leviticus). So, the first two commandments correspond, in this chapter, to the light that shines (as it were) from behind the veil (cf. Leviticus 24:1-4), which must be given no competition from what is imagined by man, who is represented by the table and the bread (cf. Leviticus 24:5-9). Only the one true God (first commandment) can give the way for man to approach God (second commandment). 
  • The fourth commandment emphasizes the holiness of the times of special communication of God’s presence and fellowship. This corresponds especially to the Sabbath and the ceremonial sabbaths (cf. chapter 23) and, in the more immediate context, to the table with the showbread, where that fellowship was communicated.  
  • Now in the second half of the chapter, the Spirit emphasizes the third commandment and the holiness of the Divine Name, especially upon and among those upon whom God has set that name and into whose mouths God has put that name.

Since it is the Lord Himself that makes His people holy. If we are truly part of His congregation, then not only are we holy, but we enter into holy assemblies that participate in the worship in glory, the great Holy of Holies, coming in God’s holy way, at God’s holy time, to the true and living and holy God Himself!

Our lives must reflect this holiness! Let us show it by being first-table people most of all. A first-great-commandment people most of all. Even above the keeping of the last six commandments, let us live with regard for the holiness of God’s being, the holiness of God’s worship/presence, the holiness of God’s Name, and the holiness of God’s appointed worship times.

Holy Neighbors and Holy Property. Leviticus 24:17-23 now extend the holiness of the people from the first table into the second. We have seen already that being born of an Israelite has ramifications, which is an application of the fifth commandment. Also, living in the Israelite land means coming under Israelite authority—also an application of the fifth commandment. 

Leviticus 24:17-21 emphasize the difference in penalty between killing a man and killing an animal. This is explained by Genesis 9:6. The universal death penalty for murder is due to man’s being made in the image of God.

These verses also emphasize restitution, in application of the eighth commandment and the tenth commandment. “Whoever kills an animal shall make it good, animal for animal” (Leviticus 24:18). “Whoever kills an animal shall restore it” (Leviticus 24:21). Not only is man made in the image of God, but man’s property is providentially assigned to him by God. Stealing is an offense against this providential assignment. 

The ninth commandment is also applied in the passage, with the seriousness of bearing witness communicated in the leaning ceremony in Leviticus 24:14; it must be performed by those who witnessed the event.

Though the seventh commandment is not specifically applied in the passage, from the passage as a whole we do learn something profoundly significant about the second table of the law. Even when considering those commandments that govern our interaction with other people (and even with property), the most important thing is how we are relating to God Himself! In this way, the importance of how we treat God is what lends itself to the importance of how we treat man. The first table of the law clearly takes first priority. But if the second table isn't being followed, than the first table is not being genuinely followed either.

Thus, the Lord Jesus says “the second is like it,” when He summarizes the whole of what Scripture commands us to do in this way: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37–40).

What are the specific names by which He has revealed Himself, and how are you seeking to be careful with how you speak them? What Name has He put upon you in your baptism? How are you carrying that Name on your life? How are you prioritizing the first table of the law in your life? How does the connection of the first table to the second actually intensify (rather than reduce) the necessity of keeping the second? How has Scripture commanded for the congregations of the Lord to have their holiness maintained today? 

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for taking us to Yourself and making us holy in Yourself. Forgive us for how lightly we have taken this. Grant that we would worship only You, only Your way, only with reverence, and especially at Your appointed times. And grant that the knowledge of Your holiness would drive our respect for Your image in others and Your providence in the property that You have assigned o them. Thank You for giving to us Christ to be our Tabernacle, our Priest, and our Sacrifice through Whom we ask this, AMEN!

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

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