Leviticus 22 ~ 20170219 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
02/19 Leviticus22; Perfect Priest; Perfect Sacrifices ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170219_leviticus-22.mp3
God's Work and Our Response; YHWH Sanctifies
Leviticus 21 and 22 are a section of the holiness code in Leviticus that specifically addresses the priests. This section is a reminder, as we hear 6 times in these two chapters, I am YHWH who sanctifies you. It is God who makes holy, who sets apart, who cleanses. We are to refrain from profaning or treating as common his name, his reputation, because he has set us apart. Our motive for living set apart lives, lives that are different from the world around us, is that we have been set apart by a holy God. We have been called to a greater purpose! We do not attempt to live holy lives in order to gain God's favor; rather we respond to God's gracious acceptance of us by making it our aim in all things to please the one who has so freely loved us. These chapters are addressed to priests who have been set apart for service to God. They are now exhorted not to smear God's name by their conduct, because it is YHWH who sanctifies them.
Romans 5 makes this clear that
We were still weak, ungodly, still sinners, enemies when Jesus died for us. Now that we have been made holy by his sheer unmerited grace, we respond with love to him, living lives which honor him.
God is serious about uncleanness. Remember our diagram that illustrated the necessary separation of the unclean from the holy.
←← SACRIFICE ←←
← Sanctify ← Cleanse
[holy] [clean/common] [unclean]
Profane → Pollute →
→→ SIN and INFIRMITY →→
[G.Wenham, NICOT, p.19, 26]
Anything that had become unclean though any of the various means of uncleanness must be first cleansed through sacrifice before it can come into contact with that which is holy. Remember, a primary role of the priest in Israel was to be the inspector who declared a person or an object clean or unclean.
If you look back to our outline of these two chapters, you will notice that the first section of chapter 21 forbade any priest from making himself unclean by burying the dead except for close relatives of his immediate family. The second section narrowed this for the high priest, who could not even become unclean by burying his mother or father.
Now, the first section of chapter 22 deals with priests who have become unclean, either by contact with the dead, or a disease, or any of the other ordinary ways someone could become unclean through daily life. So chapter 21 commanded the priests to avoid uncleanness except on very rare occasions, but chapter 22 deals with the all-too common circumstance when a priest would become unclean. Priests were to guard the holiness of God. They were not to allow an unclean person to come into contact with the holy things. If a priest himself was unclean, this is a warning that he too was excluded from the holy things, because God's holiness was to be guarded. A portion of some of the offerings of the people, we saw especially in chapters 6 and 7, belonged to the priests as their income. Meat and grain from these offerings was holy, dedicated to the LORD, and was to be treated as holy. So the priests who were clean were allowed to eat of the holy things, but priests who were unclean were not allowed to eat. Notice the severity of the consequences; verse 3 says that any priest who treats lightly his uncleanness and approaches the holy things while in an unclean state, 'that person shall be cut off from my presence.' To be banned, literally 'cut off' from God's presence is the most serious consequence. God takes his own holiness seriously. After the high priest's sons Nadab and Abihu were consumed by fire in the presence of the LORD in chapter 10, The LORD said:
Here in verse 9 the priests are warned to keep God's command, 'lest they bear sin for it and die thereby when they profane it.'
You may have heard Christians use this phrase: 'I'd rather err on the side of grace.' Usually I have heard that said in reference to Christians coming down hard on others, demanding that they be held accountable for their questionable actions. That is legitimate; we who have been shown incalculable grace by our overwhelmingly gracious God to not be quick to judge but rather quick to extend grace to others. But this is dangerous if we use it as an excuse to not examine our own hearts and behavior in the light of God's revealed truth. If we treat lightly our own sins, if we presume on God's grace toward us, if we claim God's grace as a license to sin, that is dangerous. Jesus said:
Jesus teaches us extend God's grace toward sinners to others, but he also teaches us to address our own sins with severity. Jesus died to free us from sin. It is unthinkable for one purchased with the precious blood of Jesus to treat sin as no big deal.
Commoners to Abstain from Holy Things
This section is necessary to define who is included in a priest's household, and who can legitimately benefit from that which is set apart for the priests. Graciously, God allows restitution to be made for someone who unwittingly eats of that which he is not eligible to eat. Only holy people can eat holy things.
It is interesting to note, that in 1 Samuel 21, when David was fleeing for his life from Saul, and he and those with him were hungry and in need, he came to the priest and was given the holy bread to eat. When Jesus' disciples were hungry and eating grain on the Sabbath in Mark 2
Jesus affirmed this law in Leviticus, that it was not lawful for any but the priests to eat the holy bread, but he also affirmed that the ceremonial law was made for man to bless him, and that mercy toward those in need supersedes the strict adherence to the letter of the law. Jesus affirms that one greater than even King David is here, and that he himself is lord of the Sabbath.
This section deals with what constitutes an acceptable sacrifice. Starting from verse 3 of chapter 1 of Leviticus, is was made clear that offerings were to be animals without blemish. Here in chapter 22, addressed to the priests who would oversee the offerings of the people, it is spelled out in more detail what constitutes an acceptable sacrifice, and what kinds of blemishes would disqualify an animal from being offered to the Lord.
In the second temple period the prophet Malachi rebukes the priests for despising his name and his table. He says in Malachi 1
God is dishonored when his people offer to him less than the best. Is he not worthy of the best, the first? If a great king came to visit, would you pull out the week-old leftovers from the back of the fridge to set before him, or do you kill the fatted calf and prepare a great feast? It is not that God needs something from you. "If I were hungry, I would not tell you" God says in Psalm 50. The goal of the offering is 'that you may be accepted' (verses 19, 20, 21, 23, 25, 27, 29); for God to be pleased with, to delight in, to approve of, to satisfy. God does not need your offering; but the quality of your offering is evidence of your heart attitude toward God. Where does he rank in your priorities, in your desires? Does he have first place in your heart? In your finances? Jesus said:
Perfect Priest, Perfect Sacrifice
It is interesting if we look back at the outline of these two chapters, we see that the last section of chapter 21 prevented any priest who had a blemish from approaching God or drawing near (21:17, 18, 21 twice, 23), and the last section of chapter 22 prevents any animals with a blemish from being accepted as an offering. Chapter 21:18-20 lists twelve blemishes that prevent a priest from drawing near. Chapter 22:22-24 lists twelve blemishes that prevent an animal from being accepted as a sacrifice. Almost half of the list of blemishes are identical between chapters 21 and 22. There is a symmetry between these chapters that highlights the fact that as a priest must be without blemish to draw near, so must the sacrifice be without blemish to be acceptable. And even a priest without blemish would often be temporarily unclean and excluded so as not to profane God's name or his sanctuary. We all know that there is no perfect animal, and there is no perfect person. We are all flawed in various ways. All this would leave the worshiper longing for a more perfect priest and a more perfect sacrifice, by which to draw near and be accepted.
Hebrews 5 tells us
This leaves us aching for a priest who is not ignorant, wayward, beset with weakness. This leaves us thirsty for “one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb.4:15). We understand that there is no perfect animal, and that "it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins" (Heb.10:4). This leaves us desperate for a better sacrifice. Leviticus leaves us hungry and thirsty for Jesus! Hebrews 7:26 says:
In Jesus the perfect priest and the perfect sacrifice become one! Jesus is the perfect priest, holy, innocent, unstained, without weakness, without sin. Jesus is the perfect “lamb without blemish or spot” (1Pet.1:19), who “committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth” (1Pet.2:22); who “offered himself without blemish to God” (Heb.9:14). Jesus is the hope that Leviticus leaves us longing for.
Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org