Leviticus 16 talks about the direction God gave to Aaron through Moses on how to approach Him. It seems that Aaron needed to understand just how to enter the Holy of Holies so as to not enter “whenever he feels like it”. There obviously is a very special way to approach God, who was in there, as he was “present in the Cloud”. Makes me wonder just how we should approach God. Because of Jesus we have free and constant access to the Father through Him, but I do wonder if things wouldn’t be more effective if we followed some of the things that God instructs Aaron to do. Here are some of the “standard practice…perpetual ordinance” instructions that God gives Moses to share with Aaron:
- Bathe and prepare
- Put on the holy wardrobe
- Offer and sacrifice
- Burn incense on the fire
- Sprinkle the blood
- Make atonement for sin
- Refrain from work
- Be the only one in the tent
Scripture tells us that Aaron was to make atonement for “himself, his household, and the whole community”. There was a lot to do before he could enter to be in God’s presence. Sometimes I take that privilege a bit too lightly I think. I treat God like He is just sitting there waiting for me to lob a prayer request His way whenever it enters my mind.
One key thing this chapter tells us also is the importance of obedience. Check out how Aaron responds to what Moses tells him: “Aaron did it, just as GOD commanded Moses”. If you have a brother your relationship may lead to responses differently than this. It is one thing to do what God says, but to do what your brother tells you as part of that obedience may make it more difficult? Anyway Aaron does it God’s way and learns how to approach God. I am reminded of something I learned while in the BSU ministry at Iowa State many years ago – called the Prayer Hand illustration – that talks about the ways we can approach God.
A – Adoration
C – Confession
T – Thanksgiving
S – Supplication
I – Intercession
Consider each of these areas one of the fingers on your hand, and leverage these areas of prayer as you reach out to the Father. We could spend time on each, but the key is that we approach God not as our prayer puppet, but in reverence and with awe. We serve a mighty God and we need to treat Him as such.
Leviticus 15 gets right down to the personal stuff. God doesn’t leave any stone unturned in talking to His people about how to live. This chapter deals with “the procedures to follow for a man with a discharge or an emission of semen that makes him unclean, and for a woman in her menstrual period–any man or woman with a discharge and also for a man who sleeps with a woman who is unclean”. Wow – God gets right down to the nitty gritty here as He addresses the reality of life. Isn’t this a bit overkill? Not really. God wants to be involved in every aspect of our lives, even what happens in the bedroom or behind closed doors. He cares about all areas of our lives, and has a standard for us to live within. The thing to remember is that even things unseen, as talked about here, were enough to make people “ritually unclean” and cause the need for purification and sacrifice. Some of us may think that this is personal stuff and shouldn’t really be talked about. That is also the way a lot of people want to treat sin. What happens behind closed doors doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t affect anyone but me. Looking at that inappropriate material on the computer doesn’t hurt anybody, does it? Wrong answer my friends. It all matters in God’s economy. How we live makes a difference for today and for eternity. And the fact that God gets down to this level of detail in how He gives instruction to His people should make that very clear. God cares what we do and how we live. He doesn’t excuse anything, no matter how private you think it may be. God’s concern for how we live touches every area of our lives.
So how are you doing in keeping your personal life pure and free from the things that cause us to be “unclean” – which for us today is sin? Are you walking in the light so that others can help keep you accountable? Do you share with a small group of accountability partners who have been granted access to your life to keep you focused and on track? Or are you deceiving yourself that what happens in private doesn’t really matter? Don’t for a minute think you are getting away with anything. God doesn’t miss even the smallest of sins. He can’t, nor can he ignore them. He has created His Body as a place for us to become part of a community of fellow believers who are struggling with the exact same things so we can help one another walk toward holiness together. But that only works if we get involved and are willing to “get naked” with that small group of accountability partners we all need to have. It means we have to be transparent and show our warts. We have to be willing to be humble and admit we don’t have it all together. But it is the design of God’s church and we all need to be living it. Are you focused on getting and staying clean? God desires that from us!
Leviticus 14 deals with a couple kinds of uncleanness and God’s instruction to Moses and Aaron on how to deal with them both. The first continues the discussion from the prior chapters about unclean people – “the infected person…with a serious skin disease”. Most likely referring to leprosy here, a very serious condition and one considered a contagious disease at the time. God has a very specific set of instructions on how priests were to handle these people and the process of sacrifice and restoration to the community. But the reality is that all of us are unclean, and we need to be cleansed of sin in our lives. Fortunately God has made the process pretty straight forward for us today if we want to be cleansed and set free from the things that keep us out of God’s community and family headed for eternity – which is sin. We have to confess, repent, receive and confess again – at least those are some of the steps to cleansing.
- Scripture tells us to confess our sins – we have to be willing to admit we have fallen short of God’s standard and we need forgiveness.
- Scripture tells us we need to repent – which is to turn and go the other way – to stop our sinful behavior and put on a new way.
- Scripture tells us we have to receive the sacrifice that was provided to pay for our sin – a personal relationship with Jesus Christ that went to the cross to provide a way for us to be set free.
- Scripture tells us we need to confess that Jesus is Lord of our life – we need to tell people that we have a Savior and have been cleansed and set free.
There are probably some other things I missed here, but bottom line is we need to cleanse ourselves of sin and be set free to be part of the community, just like this process in Leviticus. The chapter also deals with “fungus…in the house” and the process of cleansing the home from this issue that caused it to be unclean. What fungus do you have in your home? Movies you shouldn’t have, Internet sites that are not appropriate, magazines or pictures that shouldn’t be there – what are your dark places and closets filled with. We need to cleanse our homes of things that cause us to be tempted and separated from God. We too often have junk that is just a distraction and causes us to waste time or spend it on things that have no value other than cause our precious 168 hours each week to vanish. What is the fungus in your home that needs to be cleansed? I know there is something in every person’s home that needs to be dealt with. God’s response to a home where the fungus continued to grow was that it “has to be demolished…removed to the garbage dump outside the city”. Pretty serious stuff when a home was unclean. How about your home? Is it clean (not physically although I am sure God is ok with that too) and free from the things that cause us to be separated from God – things that lead us to sin. Take a look around and decide what needs to go to the garbage dump today!
In Leviticus 12 and 13 God gets into the details of a number of health areas. He begins with direction for mothers who have given birth. They are to stay home for 40 days if they have a baby boy, or 80 days if they have a girl. I am not sure what the difference is here between giving birth to the two different sexes, but God is very clear that there is a plan. Don’t think for a minute that He is not a God of details. He goes on to deal with a number of skin diseases and issues. There are detailed instructions for the priests on how to examine and make diagnosis around the different things that may occur. Some are to be called unclean, some just a short issue. Seems like some of this could be good training for medical students today. The text is very detailed and clear in how these should all be diagnosed and treated. He gets into rashes and boils and fungus and many other things. The instructions tell people how to treat things, what to wash and how to live. Bottom line is that God knows how we are created and is the Great Physician. He gets the human body because He created it.
There also is a section in these chapters dealing with baldness. And white or yellow hair….seems like God is in the weeds here but the reality is that He is intimately acquainted and cares about us. As scripture tells us elsewhere, He knows the number of hairs on our head. He is a God of detail and has direction for us in every area of life – even health areas. Sometimes we don’t take the care of our body seriously enough. We lose track of the fact that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and needs to be cared for as such. God does care how we live and treat our body. He wants us to live right and be healthy. And part of the responsibility of the priests were to assist in those areas. Aaron’s job just keeps getting bigger and bigger. I thought handling all the sacrifices and rituals was a big deal, now he is playing doctor as well. Are you taking care of your body in a way that brings glory to God? If not, time to get with the program. God does care!
Leviticus 11 gives instructions on what can be eaten by the people. In fact, God goes into great detail as He speaks to Moses and Aaron on “instructions on animals, birds, fish and creatures that crawl on the ground”. It would take quite a bit to figure all this out. There are very detailed lists and directions on which animals could be eaten, and which could not. The key factors were the hooves and chewing of the cud. There is a debate over whether the New Testament changes the direction for what we should eat to be obedient to God. There are a number of passages that seem to indicate that laws regarding food were changed – as in Acts 10 when Peter gets the vision and is told to eat all kinds of animals. I don’t claim to be an expert here, but do know that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and we need to take care of ourselves. So what we eat does matter. And how we care for our body is important to God.
I want to focus on why this all matters to God. He gives these words as He wraps up instruction in this chapter: “Make yourselves holy for I am holy….be holy because I am holy”. This is why things matter in the area of obedience. God wants us to become like Him. We are to strive for holiness. We are to work toward becoming holy in all we do. God desires us to live His way every day. He wants us to put off all the things that keep us from becoming holy. I am reminded of the book by Gary Thomas called sacred marriage where he asks “what if marriage is designed to make us holy, not happy”? How much of life is like that – God uses it to make us holy and we want to think that it is all about being happy. No where in scripture do I see a promise that life will be a bed of roses and we will be happy all the time. But all through scripture we see God’s desire to purify us from sin and make us holy. We may need to adjust our attitudes a bit because it seems we only want to focus on the happy part, and not the holy part. Yet God is pretty single minded on what His goal is for your life and mine – to make us holy. Are you living with that as your goal and focus – to become holy? Is that the priority and funnel through which you make decisions and choices each day? We need to go there and live that way. Some may say that cleanliness is next to godliness, but in fact holiness is next to godliness – I am sure you have heard that saying…..it is far more true than we know. We need to live clean and holy lives to please God. As we get holy, we get closer to God. And we achieve His goal for our lives – to make us become more like Him every day!
Leviticus 10 tells a very sad story for Aaron and Moses. The time of ordination is underway. There were very specific instructions on what the priests that would attend to the Tent of Meeting were to do. Two of Aaron’s sons, “Nadab and Abihu….took their censors (firepans), put hot coals and incense in them, and offered strange fire to God – something God had not commanded”. So a couple of Aaron’s sons decide to spruce up the ordination time. They may have been getting bored with the process, or just trying to add something a bit more exciting to the festivity. But whatever their reason, it was a bad choice because they did not obey God. God did not ask them to do any of this, and in fact, it violated His instruction about incense which was forbidden in Exodus 30. They used common incense and common fire to try and create something for their ordination. God is not humored. In fact, “fire blazed out from God and consumed them – they died in God’s presence”. Wow – that seems harsh doesn’t it? Here we have a couple priests in the process of ordination who are trying to do something special for the event, and they are killed because they got a little creative…..does that seem right? Well it is all about obedience and God’s holiness and expectations for those who are serving in His presence. He gave very strict orders for the priests to follow. Were they not paying attention in class? I think it more likely they just decided to go ahead and do something on their own and it was not aligned with God’s instruction and as a result, the warning God had given to stay put for seven days and do what they were told as part of the ordination came to be – they died because they did not obey. Sometimes we want to focus on God’s love, which is unbelievable and good. But we cannot forget that God also is a God that requires us to be obedient and there is a price for failing to obey.
This chapter then goes on to continue the ordination process. Moses tells Aaron and the surviving sons, Eleazar and Ithamar what to do. Part of their role was not only to serve as priests that dealt with sacrifices, but also to “teach the people of Israel all the decrees that God has spoken to them through Moses”. So they had multiple things they were responsible for – to serve in the Tent of Meeting and be the priests that did the work, but also to educate and train people how to live. Their job just continues to expand and the responsibility goes up. We find later in the chapter that these remaining sons get a tongue lashing from Moses for not following protocol and he gets angry with them. They had failed to “eat the Absolution Offering….since it is most holy”. It seems there is a breakdown in following the rules by Aaron’s sons. It is easy to read this chapter and wonder why these boys did not obey. Then I look in the mirror and ask myself just how often I either ignore, chose to disobey, or change what God has told me to do through His Word. Far too often I want to make the rules for my life. God can give me some general guidance, but I can handle the details. That didn’t work here, and it really doesn’t work for us either. God’s direction is not a mere suggestion in scripture. He gives us things we need to obey and we need to do it His way. Are you lined up with God’s instruction?
Leviticus 9 talks about God’s instruction on what to do “so that the Shining Glory of God will appear to you”. The direction was a series of sacrifices and actions. There was atonement for the priests and the people. Aaron and his troops had to get things right with God. Sin had to be dealt with. That is a key to being able to be with and see God. Sin has to be dealt with. And after they followed God’s instruction, offered the sacrifices, made atonement for their sin – guess what? “When they came out they blessed the people and the Glory of God appeared to all the people”. No disappointment. God did exactly what He said He would, as He always does. If you check in my dictionary of what faithfulness means, it is defined as God. God always does what He says and in this case, like all others, He said He would show up and He did. And He did it in style: “Fire blazed out from God and consumed the whole burnt offerning”. Not just a yawner of an entry here – God came in style with all guns blazing. People didn’t miss His appearance.
So what were the key factors? People got right with Him. They dealt with their sin and they walked in obedience. He showed up in a very evident way. Pretty simple. But the thing that stands out to me is what happened when God was faithful to His word. Check this out: “When all the people saw it happen they cheered loudly and then fell down, bowing in reverence”. When is the last time you noticed what God was doing in your life? Do you even pay attention to what He is up to? When is the last time you cheered for God? Or gave Him credit for what He did? Did you tell anyone else or just keep His action quiet and to yourself? God deserves our praise. He desires that we cheer about what He does in our life. And yes, we should speak about it with others – give testimony to His faithfulness – shout it from the mountaintops – He is God and at work in our lives. When is the last time you fell down in reverence to God? Actually get down on your face and worship Him? I am poor in a lot of these areas – I take Him for granted and often don’t recognize His hand in my life because I am not paying attention and seeking to see Him at work. And even when I do, I don’t stop and share that touch with others, or even bow and give Him the reverence He deserves. We need to get with the program here. God is at work. He is doing all kinds of stuff in our life every day. We need to see it, acknowledge it, share it and worship Him as a result. Will you watch today, and let me know what God is up to and how you are giving Him the honor and glory and praise He deserves. We serve an awesome God. Same God as Moses, doing the same kind of unbelievable stuff. We need to tune in and get connected!
Leviticus 8 is the story of the ordination of Aaron and the other priests who will be serving in the Tent of Meeting. “God spoke to Moses” and Moses did exactly what he was told. He called “the entire congregation” together and they “gathered at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting”. This is where the ordination takes place and all the people are there to watch it. Moses washes Aaron and the boys, and then they sacrifice a bull and a couple rams. The blood is used to anoint the altar and the priest and prepare them for service to God. Sacrifices are offered and burned upon the altar and Moses leads the activity that purifies these men and prepares them to serve the people and God.
But it doesn’t end with the days activities. Moses instructs Aaron and the other priests to stay inside the Tent of Meeting for “seven days to complete your ordination”. This is a long process and one that they had to fulfill. It is serious business because Moses tells them that it is “what God requires, lest you die”. No messing around here. They had to stay put for seven days and fulfill the ordination process. It is important for us to understand that God’s directions are not mere suggestions. Failure to comply and obey have consequences. He states it well here: “this is what I have been commanded”. Moses makes it clear and the penalty for failing is extreme. So how are you doing in the obedience category? Are you listening to God’s direction and following it completely. There is a price for failing to obey. Life matters – how we live makes a difference – failing to obey has a consequence. Are you walking with God, or just taking a chance on the consequences of your actions. That is like playing Russian Roulette with bullets in all the chambers. You will pay a price for choosing to be disobedient.
Leviticus 7 continues the instruction around the different offerings. What a list there is. I am glad God made it easy for us today with replacing all these individual offerings with the blood of Jesus. There is one simple way to come to Him today. Here is a list that Moses instructs on just in this chapter:
- Compensation Offering
- Whole Burnt Offering
- Absolution Offering
- Grain Offering
- Peace Offering
- Thanksgiving Offering
- Contribution Offering
- Votive Offering
- Freewill Offering
- Wave Offering
- Ordination Offering
Wow – that is quite a list and there are more than defined in this chapter. God knew we couldn’t handle this many different offering to keep track of evidently because He changed the system and covered all our sin with Jesus.
It is interesting that the sacrificial meat had some very specific rules along with it. “Eat the meat …..the same day it is offered. Don’t leave any of it overnight.” Sounds like a meatlovers paradise to me. God has some very strict rules on what the priests could do with the meat that was on the altar. It was holy and needed to be eaten in a holy place, but the big thing is it had to be eaten the day it was sacrificed and could not be saved. That would be enough to make me be interested in working there….but I am sure it actually was a whole lot more work than eating to serve.
Leviticus 6 continues God’s instruction to Moses. It begins talking about things that happen between people. “When anyone sins by betraying trust with God”. Sounds like an issue between God and man doesn’t it? But read on and you find out that this betrayal occurs when we sin against one another. God calls out five areas where this happens:
- “Deceiving his neighbor regarding something entrusted to him
- Lies…swears falsely”
Sin happens when we do not obey God’s laws in how we relate with one another. Not only can sin happen when we disobey God intentionally, or fail to do things we should, but it also happens when we do not live appropriately with those around us. God holds us accountable for how we live with each other. We aren’t just to live right in relationship with God, but with everyone in our patch.
When a wrong is committed there is more to being set free from that sin than simply the sacrifice. God is clear that restitution and restoration is His standard here. He tells Moses that the people must “return” what they have taken and make “full compensation….add twenty percent….hand it over” in addition to the sacrifice that needs to be made. There is a price for sin. And in God’s direction here, the price comes with a 20% penalty attached as well. I don’t claim to know how that applies to us today, but I do know that God pays attention to how we live and treat one another. I do know there is a price for sin, a sacrifice is required, and that we need to pay for that sin and make things right. Most importantly I know God is in the restoration business of making people whole. He wants relationships fixed, people to be restored, and life to go on. Jesus died to give us that opportunity – to be freed from the chains of sin – but also to be able to get our life back on track and our relationships restored and back in order. God also tells Aaron to “Keep the fire burning on the Altar continuously. It must not go out.” The need for sacrifice was 24X7X365 – sin happens and needs to be dealt with. We need to deal with the sin of our life through a relationship with Jesus, and also get after the hard work of restitution and restoration so we can complete the process of making relationships whole. Is there sin in your life you need to address with another person? It doesn’t just go away by ignoring it. It needs to be dealt with so you can be set free!