READ: Leviticus 7-8
BACKGROUND: This section is thick with imagery and importance. I’ll try to hit the major stuff, and feel free to ask any more questions you have in the comments section and I’ll get back to you.
7:11-36 – This supplements chapter 3 by discussing the 3 types of Fellowship Offerings (thank, vow, & freewill)
12-15 – Thank offerings were a response of gratitude for healing, deliverance, or blessing
15-16 – Why did the meat have to be eaten so quickly? Simple: no fridges. Many of the laws God set forth seem arbitrary to a reader in our setting but none are. Even the laws about what is clean and unclean, as modern science looks back, are really provisions that protected the Israelites from some of the diseases and sicknesses that spread easily and quickly in the Ancient Near Eastern world.
20-21 – Not cut off for eating the unclean meat but for blatantly dishonoring God.
22-27 – I am generally ecumenical but I don’t mine letting my Baptist/Free Church roots show because I am unapologetic about what I believe even though I respect those within the church across denominations who believe differently. That said, difficult if not impossible read these verses and then imagine that Jesus instructed his disciples to really eat his flesh and drink his actual blood (as opposed to the bread and wine being symbols of his sacrifice). And difficult if not impossible to believe that – knowing that law – the disciples would not have recoiled at the suggestion if they thought that’s what he meant. Communion/The Lord’s Supper/Eucharist is symbolic. God’s people don’t eat flesh or drink blood.
8:2 – Exodus 28:4-43 contains a more detailed description of the priestly garments if you’re looking for a refresher.
8 – What in the world are the Urim and Thummim (pronounced ooreem & toomeem). Well, there is some debate as to exactly what the words meant and exactly what they were, but it is clear from this passage (as well as Exodus 28 & 1 Samuel 2) that they were tools that the High Priest used to inquire of God (like casting lots) and that God used them to communicate his decisions back to the priest as necessary. The most likely meaning is something like Curses & Innocents/Perfections. This, uniquely, describes the state of all of us in God (cursed by sin yet made perfect by his grace) and also provides a clear dichotomy for making decisions once the lots were cast.
14 – Because theses priests were imperfect, a sacrifice had to be made to atone for their sins to make them clean before they could offer sacrifices for others. The great high priest, Jesus, needed no such thing.
31 – This whole thing was done in front of the entire nation of Israel so that they all would see and get a picture of what God was doing.
THINK: Every year I take a large group of high school students to downtown Minneapolis to run a giant day-long Amazing Race style event where they run around the entire Twin Cities area deciphering clues and completing various challenges to see which team is the best. Each team generally has 5-8 students and 1 adult leader. And it is no small secret each year that the teams who are led by adults who know their way around downtown have a decided advantage. A team may be very smart and athletic but those skills do them very little good if they don’t know where they are going!
See, every clue leads to a certain destination. To win the race – to even finish the race – teams must get to the destination. And the best way to get where they need to go is to follow a leader who knows the way. Teams that don’t do that…well…they run a lot of extra miles. A lot. And no matter how right they think they are, no matter how convinced they are that they’re headed in the proper direction, no matter how many places they arrive at hoping they’ve found the right spot, at the end of the day they have to get to the precise destination and nowhere else. There’s only one.
Take just a second right now to skim back through Leviticus 8 and count the number of times the phrase “just as the LORD had commanded him” (or something similar depending on your translation). Whenever a phrase is repeated over and over again in the Bible, and especially when it’s in the Hebrew of the Old Testament, that’s the author’s way of saying, “Hey! This is a critical point I’m making here! Pay attention!” So the question is, what point is Moses making when he makes sure to repeat that phrase so many times as he’s writing this passage about the ordination of Aaron? The answer? Follow the leader.
Moses makes it clear here that the people of Israel have no ability to make their own way into God’s presence. They have to rely on God to show them the way. Even in ordaining those who would lead them it isn’t about their wisdom or their choices or their desires but about specifically following God’s. There was only one way into the presence and redemption of God and only God could provide the way.
That’s no less true today, even though we live in a world and a culture that would very much like to believe that every person can make their own way to God as long as they are sincere. The truth is that worship is all about coming before God in his terms, not ours, because he alone makes it possible for us to experience him. Worship is about acknowledging that we cannot make our own way, and that when we try we simply cause ourselves pain and suffering and get lost.
God alone makes it possible for us to have a relationship with him. In this chapter he is reminding his people that even the priests are able to come before him, on their behalf, through his own gracious provision and plan. They are obediently performing duties that symbolize the forgiveness that is found only in and through God. And we know that Jesus is the great example of and reason for that forgiveness. And he is the only way to God. He is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through him.
Thank God for his gracious provision of a way for sinners to be reconciled to him!
PRAY: Come to God on his terms and worship him for providing the way. If you have a few minutes, worship him through this song, which hit me powerfully as I thought about God’s provision of a way through the incredible sacrifice of Jesus.