A Christian Perspective on Leviticus (Pt. 8)

We have already discussed from Lev. 8-10, about the appointment of a holy priesthood in the time of Aaron but now In Leviticus 21-22 we revisit the topic of the priesthood, this time encountering laws ensuring the continuation of the message of hope for a perfect priesthood in every generation after Aaron. Every generation of God’s people must be taught the promise of a perfect priest who offers a perfect sacrifice for everyone’s atonement. For Christians, it is our Christ, Jesus the High Priest and his eternal priesthood of Melchizedek. The restrictions in 21:1-4 & 10-12 do not prohibit a priest from grieving the loss of extended family, but the priest must leave the ritually defiling process of burial to others. These restrictions were put in place not to make things difficult for the priests but rather to uphold the portrait of a clean and joyful, life-ministering priesthood, see 2nd Sam. 19:1-8. The beautiful attire of the high priest in Ex. 28:1-43 & his movements in performing his sanctuary duties, Ex. 28:33-35, and his abstention from practices of burial in Lev. 21:1-12 reflect a joyfully clean priesthood. Contrary to the common stereotype that priests were dour figures, the priesthood Christ undertakes is one filled with joy: “For the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross” Hebrews 12:2. Did God care about a priest’s physical blemishes more than his heart? Of course not, see 1st Sam. 16:7.. But part of the picture of atonement put on display in the tabernacle was the physical wholeness of the priest, Lev. 21:16-24. Why do you suppose that was the case? Are you as a Christian privileged or burdened to make sacrifices in evangelism, benevolent charity or money in the collection of the saints on Sunday?

Chapter 22 has an important distinction that Christians should be aware of, between freewill offerings and a vow offering. Verse 23 shows that freewill offerings were acceptable with animals that had certain deformities, but not for vowed offerings. The freewill offerings were made during Feast Days, such as Feast of Unleavened Bread before Passover, 2Chron. 35:7-9 & 30:24, and Feast of Weeks before Pentecost, Duet. 16:10 & 26:1-11, and the Feast of Tabernacles, Ezra 3:4-5, Numb. 29:39 & Lev. 23:37-38. Why would God make an accepted allowance for deformed animals in freewill offerings but not in vowed offerings? May it possibly have something to do with the perfect sacrifice of Christ being planned and purposed before the foundation of the world? See 1st Peter 1:13-20.  Laws like Leviticus 22:11 have often been interpreted to support chattel slavery, a careful study of the relevant passages does not support that conclusion. Although Israel had a system of debt slavery so that households that defaulted on loans could work off their debts, Old Testament law introduced provisions to ensure that such labor would not deteriorate into chattel slavery—like the slavery Israel had experienced while in Egypt and was never to impose on anyone else, see Lev. 19:33-34 & Job 31:13-15, loving your neighbor as yourself was a principle that should be intertwined within making someone a slave and/or a bond-servant, see Lev. 25:39 & Exodus 22:3. A good understanding as to how slavery was to be practiced is in Lev. 25:40-46. The reason the treatment of slaves is couched in the context of sacrifices is because of the way pagan nations around them treated their property in making their sacrifices to idols. There are 2 sections here, firstly Priests eating sacrifices, v1-9 and qualifications for other Israelites to share in leftovers, v10-16. Pagans turned their sacrifices into leftovers into a business by selling them in the market for profit, note how this affected Christians in 1st Corinthians 8:1-11:1. We as Christians must always be mindful to prevent the ways of worldly business to creep into the way the church conducts business!

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