Leviticus 16 picks up where we left off in chapter 10 – with the death of Aaron’s two sons. They violated what God told them to do and paid with their lives. Now Moses is instructed by God to go tell Aaron “not to come at any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat that is on the ark, so that he may not die”. Ever think God’s truths don’t apply to you? Here is the number two man – center of God’s plan – and he is one decision away from death. God’s laws and truth always apply to everyone. There is no one that is above God, nor immune from His punishment should they choose to disobey.
Aaron is given a very long and detailed list of what he was to do to purify himself and become clean so he could enter the tent of meeting. He is the main priest – but that did not cleanse him. He had to offer a series of offerings and sacrifices to get right with God. Then he did the same for the people. Only after a very tedious set of steps had he “made atonement for himself and for his house and for all the assembly of Israel”. Getting right with God is an important thing for all of us. And those who are leaders need to lead others to do that same thing – to get right with God. Fathers, husbands, pastors, bosses, leaders – we need to take those who follow to a place of atonement – confessing their sins, repenting and turning the other way, and getting right with God.
As Aaron wrapped up the atonement process he placed “both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness. The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness”. Aaron had to get rid of the sin. It was prayed over and placed elsewhere. He had to se the people free from their iniquities. He had to give them freedom from sin.
Jesus is our “goat” today. He went to the cross to carry our sin away. He bled and died and presented us with the gift of grace so that through faith we could receive His blood as a covering for our sin. He alone is our path to freedom. We cannot deal with sin on our own. We have no where else to get rid of it. Aaron is not in the tent any more. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. It is in Him we can be set free. He carries our sin away. But only if we come to a saving relationship with Him. Only when we choose to make Him savior and Lord. Have you? It needs to happen! It has to happen to be set free from sin!
Leviticus 15 tackles a couple areas that the people were to pay attention to. Let’s begin with the consequences here to give an indication of how seriously God looked at these things: “Thus you shall keep the people of Israel separate from their uncleanness, lest they die in their uncleanness by defiling my tabernacle that is in their midst”. God took the instruction here seriously. These were not mere suggestions on what to do. They were direct orders and expectations and failure to obey was not acceptable. While the exact issue here may not be dealt with the same way today – this part of the story remains. God expects and demands obedience. When we fail to obey, there will be consequences.
Most of the world today wants to see God as a giver of grace. And He is – that is an accurate portrayal of our God. But the other side of the coin is that He also is a holy and just God and cannot just overlook disobedience and sin. We want to see Him that way. We want to believe He will give us a pass when we choose to disobey. But He can’t, He won’t, and there will be consequences to that decision to sin. Most then believe it won’t really matter in the end – somehow God would never send us away for eternity separated from Him. Unfortunately there are going to be a whole lot of surprised people at Judgment day because of those assumptions.
In this chapter Moses and Aaron are told to instruct the people on how men and woman were to deal with discharges from their body. In men it seems related to STD’s and sexual activity, in women it is around menstruation. God cared about how both sexes dealt with their sexual organs, particularly when there were situations resulting from potential improper use of such earlier in life. Bottom line is that God created sex, it is a good thing and part of His plan for marriage, but when treated improperly and not protected inside the bounds of marriage, bad things happen.
The instruction here is given over a dozen times – if there were issues it had to be confessed and atoned for. Sacrifices were needed and cleaning required. Over and over the passage says: “shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water”. It doesn’t say it once, or twice, but almost a dozen times. So there were many forms of sexual discharge and impurity that needed attention. Sex that is not part of God’s plan inside marriage causes issues. We need to be cleansed and most of all stop whatever activity is outside God’s plan. It is a God created, God ordained part of marriage. But it needs to be guarded and protected as such – not something that can be done whenever and however we choose. Remember the first part of this post – God takes obedience seriously. Never forget that one day we will stand before Him and give an account!
Leviticus 14 continues with teaching around leprosy. This chapter is about someone who has had the disease and been living outside the camp but is now healed. The priest comes and checks things out, and if it appears to be true, the leper can come into the camp and be quarantined for seven days. If he checks out then, he begins the sacrifice process to be restored and made clean. There are a series of steps the priest had to go through to make that happen.
It consisted of a series of offerings that were part of the “priest shall make atonement for him before the Lord”. The steps included the priest offering “the sin offering….the burnt offering….the grain offering….the wave offering”. Lots of steps to go through to restore this person to camp. Interestingly, there also was a bird that was sacrificed but also instruction to “let the living bird go into the open field” – so the second bird flew off to new life.
Leprosy not only infected the person, but also might infect their garments or even their house. God is clear that “This is the law for any case of leprous disease: for an itch, for leprous disease in a garment or in a house, and for a swelling or an eruption or a spot”. It was a serious disease that was dealt with in very serious and defined ways. The priests were key in that process. Purifying oneself requires something outside of what you can do on your own. Jesus is our purification from sin. Have you beenbcleansed from your sin? If not, now is the time!
Leviticus 13 is all about leprosy. Aaron and the priests not only were responsible for the Tent of Meeting and the sacrifices, they also had to examine and make decisions on whether or not people were affected by leprosy. It appears from the scripture that there were many variations of the disease. If someone was suspected of having it, they were to come to the priests to be examined. If it was not perfectly clear, they were quarantined for seven days and then re-examined. If no changes occurred, they were diagnosed as clean, otherwise as a leper.
Leprosy was no little issue. Their life was very different from the rest of the population. “The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean. He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp”. Being diagnosed as a leper meant you moved outside the camp and had to live alone. In many cases for the rest of your life – but certainly until the disease was gone.
The text describes a number of scenarios where leprosy exhibited itself. White hair, yellow hair, reddish-white area, dull white skin, black hair, itching disease and even baldness. It seems to take on a number of different expressions and it would be up to the priest to identify the source. The quarantine was the best method to watch it. If leprosy was identified, clothing and anything that had been in contact had to be burned. “You shall burn with fire whatever has the disease”. Left unchecked this disease would spread to others, which is why they took rather drastic means to deal with the problem. It may seem harsh and cruel, but these actions were to protect the rest of the community.
So what if we took this approach to dealing with the biggest disease we have as Christ Followers – sin? What if we treated sin like leprosy? We burned the things that caused us to continue to fall into it. We were quarantined for a week when we sinned. Lots of fires and people away for a week at a time. We need to view sin as a bad thing because it is – maybe the worst thing possible for us. The result of sin is actually far worse than leprosy. As a leper, you experienced pain and suffering in your body, and were put out of the camp to live, but it ended with your death. Sin doesn’t end when we die. In fact, the real consequence of sin begins then. We may experience some consequences here on this earth, but it is the eternal separation that is the big price to pay. We need to treat sin very differently. Thankfully God has created a way for us to deal with it through Jesus. We can be cleansed of our sin. Have you taken that step?
Leviticus 12 is a very short chapter of only eight verses. It covers the child bearing process and how a woman needed to be cleansed after giving birth. It is interesting that “if a woman conceives and bears a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days” versus “but if she bears a female child, then she shall be unclean two weeks”. That obviously sets the stage for some real great jokes, but we’ll pass on that for now.
It does, however, explain why they waited until “on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised”. That always seemed a bit curious prior. The purifying was 33 days when a male child was born versus 66 days when a female was born. In both cases, upon purification, the woman was to bring a lamb to the priest at the tent of meeting for a sin offering. Even in the midst of childbirth and the ensuing purification process, sin sneaks its way into our lives.
Sin has a way of just wedging into life whether it be intentional disregard for God’s expectation, or failing to do things that we are to be obedient to. Sin creates a division between us and God. It is important – sometimes we tend to think it is no big deal. One thing we should learn from the Old Testament is that sin is always a very big deal. God can’t ignore it. That is why there were lots of different sacrifices and offerings – to cleanse the people from sin.
Jesus is our sacrifice today. He went to the cross to set us free from the stain and price of our sin. The consequence of sin is still exactly as it was when scripture was written – ‘the wages of sin is death’ – eternal separation from God. But the blood of Jesus was shed to cover our sin. That gift of grace sets us free. But only if we receive it and make it our own. Grace only works when it becomes something we take and make ours. Have you taken that very important step? Is Jesus your Savior and Lord? If not, today can be the day of salvation in your life!
Leviticus 11 really drives home the point that God is into the detail business. We saw His attention and concern for detail in how He instructed the construction of the Tabernacle and Tent of Meeting but now we turn our attention to the food that His people were allowed to eat. To say He gets down to the nitty gritty is an understatement. In this chapter He lays out clearly what is and is not acceptable for their diet at that time. He begins with this overarching instruction: “Whatever parts the hoof and is cloven-footed and chews the cud, among the animals, you may eat….Everything in the waters that has fins and scales, whether in the seas or in the rivers, you may eat”.
As we often find in scripture, God knows that we humans don’t read well, listen well, or interpret well. He very effectively lists out the things that are not OK – it is black and white. While I realize these rules are not applicable today based on the teaching of Jesus and the New Testament, I do think taking a few minutes just to recognize God’s attention to detail is important. This is not the entire list in the chapter, but here are a few of the things God calls out here as being unacceptable for His people to eat: “The camel…. the hare….the pig….the eagle, the bearded vulture, the black vulture, the kite, the falcon….every raven….the ostrich, the nighthawk, the sea gull, the hawk….the mole rat, the mouse, the great lizard….the gecko, the monitor lizard, the lizard, the sand lizard, and the chameleon”. You get the drift. There are plenty more listed but this shows the detail of our God.
He is not really interested in us interpreting what He means. Often we spend a lot of time trying to spin scripture to fit our situation. We tend to throw in a lot of ‘God’s Word says this but’ or ‘I know that is what it says but He doesn’t understand my situation’. My friends – God more than understands your situation. He did when He penned the Bible through the hands of men over 2000 years ago. God knows what He wrote and it applies to you and me today. The only question is whether or not we will obey.
Why does it matter? God says it this way: “You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy”. In case you lost sight of the standard – there it is. We are to be holy like God. Bottom line is that we are screwed because we cannot achieve that standard. Our only hope is a relationship with Jesus Christ who can cover our sin with His shed blood and redeem us to a holy God. There truly is no other way. The details of holiness will cause us to miss the mark, even if we are generally good people. We will fall short and that means we are apart from God. Jesus is our way, our truth and our life. He alone can bring us to the holiness that God demands!
Leviticus 10 sheds a whole different light on obedience. Aaron’s sons – Nadab and Abihu – who were priests in the temple along with Aaron did not do things God’s way. “Each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord”. Don’t miss what happens here. These two brothers who are priests decide to take things into their own hands and do things their own way. Religious looking things – they were burning incense before the Lord. Seems like a pretty good thing doesn’t it?
So what is the rub here? To be honest the issue is that of obedience. After Moses and Aaron – these two brothers were some of the most respected people in the tribe. They served alongside their father continually. They held a place of honor. But looking at things more closely – here is what some of the commentary says.
- there is reason to think that they were puffed up with pride
- that they were heated with wine
- they rushed into the tabernacle to burn incense, though not at the appointed time
- they entered both together, instead of one alone
- they used fire not taken from the altar
Bottom line is that they broke God’s rules. They made the mistake of believing they were above or outside the rules and it cost them their lives.
Obedience is not about interpretation or choosing. It is about doing exactly what God says when He says it. These brothers began to take the liberty of how they would do their job as priests even though God had given very specific instruction on how that was to happen. They made decisions to do it their way – not God’s way. God is not looking for us to interpret His direction. He doesn’t need us to consider whether we will do it His way or not. The question is – will be obey which means doing it God’s way completely and immediately upon receiving His instruction.
Often the people of Israel show us a failure to obey. We read the old testament and wonder how they can wander away like they do. But if we look in the mirror we are guilty of exactly the same things. We want to interpret God’s instruction, we want to consider and choose what and when to obey. That does not humor God at all. In fact, I’m convinced we are going to learn that the hard way in many cases. God gives us His will as a roadmap for life – not to ponder and decide if we want to follow it or not – but so we can quickly obey and be blessed through that obedience. The flip side will be some pain and agony when we make the choice not to do so. It may not be instant death as these brothers experienced, but isobedience will yield some bad results. The far better option is to just trust and obey!