This Week’s Reading: Leviticus 12- 19
After the unexpected death of Aaron’s kids, Moses knew he better do something quick to stem the rising hysteria in the masses. Like a builder of a massive community project, Moses started laying out the blueprints of life with God; His standards of holiness were non-negotiable.The shocking death of the two young priests made it clear to all that it was a new season in Camp Israel, that sin wouldn’t be tolerated any longer. Moses offered this principle to Aaron in response to Nadab and Abihu’s quick dispatch: This is what the Lord spoke, saying: ‘By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified’”(Lev. 10:2).
For a people brought out of Egypt, where dark occult practices and idol worship was normative, life with Almighty God meant that those standards had to change. God was now establishing a new normal. He was giving the Israelites the goods they needed to shift upwards in worship and outwards in community living protocols and compromise with sin and sickness would no longer be acceptable.
In Leviticus, Moses outlines that those with leprosy, those menstruating, those who have had sexual intercourse and those attending a loved one at their deathbed were unclean. They needed some personal time out to get clean before participating in corporate worship. The priesthood, instead of a ritual office for worship, now had very practical application, as the priest was to journey outside the camp to the unclean and bring healing and atonement for sin so that none in need would be left behind.
Camp Israel, by virtue of God’s Presence, had to maintain a standard which pagan, Egyptian-raised Israel had not yet experienced: the camp needed to be holy. Food was now shifted into clean and unclean categories (Lev. 11). New rules were given for women after childbirth (Lev. 12). Illness now had to be dealt with ( Lev 13,14) . Human discharge was no longer to be just accepted. Those with discharge, male and female, had to deal with their reality ( Lev 15). They needed the priest to make a sin offering and could not worship or eat holy offerings before the tabernacle until they had dealt with their issues. Reality, not denial, was the new order of life with God.
The powerful grace of Leviticus offers good news for the sinful, the diseased and grieved in Israel: Outside of the camp is where His mercy and healing flows deepest. For those willing to deal with their sickness and sin, beyond the camp was God’s infirmary, staffed by His priesthood, where the diseased were healed, the grieving were restored and the community could grow forward together. For the leper, Leviticus 14:3,7 reveals God’s plan to use His priesthood bring healing, stating:
“And the priest shall go out of the camp, and the priest shall examine him; and indeed, if the leprosy is healed in the leper… And he shall sprinkle it seven times on him who is to be cleansed from the leprosy, and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the living bird loose in the open field.”
With God around, leprosy wasn’t a death sentence. The outskirts of the Israelite camp was actually a place of healing, not banishment. When the priest journeyed out of the camp to verify the miracle, and the man or woman was declared clean once again, he let loose a blood-dipped bird to fly so that all the community could see that restoration had happened. For a woman with discharge, Leviticus 15 offered similar days, cleansings and offerings. For the man with discharge, Leviticus 15 established clear expectation for the man to wait, to clean, to atone and to be restored.
God’s intention for the camp outskirts was for healing, not neglect. Outside of the camp, the individual would wait for healing, and then a merciful and compassionate priest would bring relief, declare the person healed and welcome them back into the camp where God lives. Unlike Egypt, God, Jehovah Ropha, the God of Healing lived at Camp Israel. Restoration and mercy ruled the day. If an Israelite journeyed outside the camp to find God in their darkness, they could return to God in the camp and be transformed by His light.
Though Numbers deals with these same issues, in Leviticus, the blood sacrifice is revealed as the single factor between death and life, sin and atonement. As Moses outlined the steps that the high priest must do on the Day of Atonement, blood is sprinkled at every part of the worship. The priest’s function to apply the blood to pay for the sin and the national need for cleansing is clear:
And the priest, who is anointed and consecrated to minister as priest in his father’s place, shall make atonement, and put on the linen clothes, the holy garments; then he shall make atonement for the Holy Sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tabernacle of meeting and for the altar, and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly (16: 32-33).
Handling sacrifices and blood now became crucial markers for life with God for Israel. All worship to idols, sacrifice to idols had to go (Lev. 17). In fact, anyone who sacrificed any animal without the priest was to be removed permanently from the community. Blood drinking was cause for immediate eviction. God reminded His people, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul”(17:11). The blood was not to be handled lightly and anyone who did would pay with ex-communication from the community. God needed to shift His people into the integrity of a life of worship and compromise or casual adherence wouldn’t meet the new standards of holiness.
Holiness to God is by its nature uncompromising. For the people of Israel, whose living experience of worship was limited to Egyptian idol worship and wilderness groans, leaving the tabernacle to the priests was normative. Aaron and the Levies could be the “holy ones” just like the Egyptian priesthood had all types of lifestyle aberrations which the common people didn’t share. God had a different plan. In establishing His residency, He informed Israel that His greatness impacted more than His tabernacle; in fact, by virtue of His holiness, anywhere God lived had to be holy, set apart and thus the entire nation would be impacted and expected to live holy before the Holy God.
This standard of all people to recognize the impact of their sin and deal with disease in their camp wasn’t just for their own standard of living to improve. God references His plan in Leviticus 18-20 as He reviews the new standard of holiness in community:
I am the Lord your God. According to the doings of the land of Egypt, where you dwelt, you shall not do; and according to the doings of the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you, you shall not do; nor shall you walk in their ordinances. You shall observe My judgments and keep My ordinances, to walk in them: I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the Lord”(18:2-6)
As Moses outlined fair practices in business, healthy boundaries in sexual relations, kindness to the poor and life of integrity in community, he finishes with stern admonitions to flee from occult, child sacrifice, incest and anyone who practices such things. Love had come down to Israel with standards, and for the people to live before God they had to shun the dark practices from which they had been delivered. The laws of God brought safety, virtue and healthy living to His people, and those who practiced His new standards would enjoy blessed community in ways the Israeli slaves have never before encountered.
God’s plan had Jesus at the forefront all along. It is His blood God was establishing as life giving when He outlined daily sacrifices, sin offerings, peace offerings, burnt offerings from animals in the wilderness. The blood sacrifice of animals could never cleanse sin if God had not already committed Jesus to death, the atoning sacrifice before the foundations of the world ( 1 Peter 1:20).
As royal priests, we can glean so much from Leviticus, as it outlines the dual functionality of worshiping the living God and ministering to the needy, the sick, the sinful with the blood. As royal priests, God’s beloved, we are armed with the incredible good news of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, Son of God, spotless Lamb who was slain for the sin of the world ( John 1:26, 1:36. Rev. 5:6) to minister to the poor, the needy, the disenfranchise and for our own sin. Can we embrace the grace and propitiation of the blood from these pages of Levitical standards? Can we see the mercy of Father God as he took His people deeper into the holy life, always offering the blood as the way to cleanse, to heal, to atone, always expecting His standards of Holiness to be established in our community?
Let’s Pray: O God Almighty, thank You for Holy standards! Thank You for leading us into the fullness of life by Your Word. Thank You for the Blood which atones for our sin! Thank You, Wonderful Saviour, for paying for the sin of the world, that we might have life abundant. Teach us Holy Spirit, to hear and do Your Word. Lead us into deeper revelation of the standards of holiness and the mercy of God for the blood to heal and cleanse when we sin! O God Almighty, how Great You Are! Amen.
Next Week’s Reading: Leviticus 20 – Numbers 1
- Hebrews describes Jesus as our High Priest. Given the role of the priesthood to minister to the sick, diseases, defiled and sinful, can you receive Jesus as your priest and be encouraged by all He wishes to do for you, for your community?
- We are called kings and priests unto God in the book of Revelations, in Hebrews and in 1 Peter. How has Leviticus shifted your understanding of what you have been called? What does that look like in your family, in your community, when you have been empowered with the blood of Jesus to bring healing and freedom?
- God’s standards of holiness bring vibrant life in community and force us to face reality when we have sin or sickness in our life. Do you need to pause in your ministry and go outside the camp to meet your High Priest, Jesus? Has God ever paused you when you couldn’t face reality? What was the outcome?
- God loves His people and knew that standards of holiness would be breached. The sacrificial system of the blood always pointed to Jesus’s blood and death on the cross. Have you minimized the need for the blood of Jesus in your life? Does the daily levitical standard of morning and evening sacrifice shift your own consideration for daily repentance and forgiveness? Do you see your need for the blood of Jesus today?