Leviticus 21

Leviticus 21 is a chapter that might seem pretty non applicable to us today.  It is written to Aaron and the priests and was given to them by God through Moses.  But one thing we should continually remember about God is the importance of authority and leadership.  God could have spoken directly to Aaron on many occasions but chose to always speak through His chosen leader Moses.  It was Moses who carried God’s words to the people and priests – not the priest directly or themselves.

This chapter and the following one are addressed specifically to the priests and define how they are to live out holiness in their day to day life.

  • How the priests are to avoid being profaned (21:1-9)
  • How the high priest avoids being profaned (21:10-15)
  • Physical imperfections that profane priests (21:16-24)

The previous chapters in Leviticus have addressed holiness for the people of God in general, but now the microscope gets focused and the bar gets raised to a higher standard for the priests.  It is even higher for the high priest.  God holds those He places in authority and high places to a higher standard.  It is part of the expectation and requirement.

Some make the assumption then that if they are leaders or in a place of authority, they are holier than the regular person.  That isn’t what God is doing here – putting leaders on a pedestal to be idolized or worshipped.  In fact, the teaching really is that greater position and privilege brings higher responsibility. In the teaching of our Lord, “To whom much is given, much is required”, we see the New Testament reinforce what God tells Moses here.  If we have a place of leadership – we also carry a burden of responsibility.

We must be careful not to interpolate that measuring personal holiness in terms of ceremonial and ritual purity is the answer. The holiness of God is measured through obedience to God’s commands and by loving one’s neighbor as oneself.  It is about obedience, not the specifics of the commandments God gave.  Holiness is a condition of the heart that begins with a desire to walk in God’s ways, and becomes action when we make the intentional choices to do exactly that.


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