Posts tagged ‘Leviticus’

Perfect and Imperfect People

In Leviticus 22, we read about the kind of sacrifices that are acceptable to God:

When anyone brings from the herd or flock a fellowship offering to the Lord to fulfill a special vow or as a freewill offering, it must be without defect or blemish to be acceptable. (Leviticus 22:21)

What the ancient Israelites offered to God was the be the best of the best. What is often overlooked, however, is that Leviticus speaks not only to what could be offered to God, but to who could offer it:

No man who has any defect may come near: no man who is blind or lame, disfigured or deformed; no man with a crippled foot or hand, or who is a hunchback or a dwarf, or who has any eye defect, or who has festering or running sores or damaged testicles. (Leviticus 21:18-20)

These restrictions concerning who may bring an offering to the Lord may seem eyebrow-raisingly blunt to us, but their core implication is inescapably clear:

Only perfect people are allowed before God.

Not only did the sacrifices to God have to be perfect; the people who made them had to be perfect, too.

This requirement for perfection is one of the reasons Jesus’ ministry so scandalized the religious professionals of His day. Jesus gladly interacted with precisely the kinds of people Leviticus 21 barred from service to God. Jesus healed the blind, made the lame walk, and even reconstructed a man’s deformed hand. These were not just healings; they were testimonies to a new day and a new way. Under the Levitical covenant, to which the religious professionals of Jesus’ day subscribed, only perfect people could approach God. But now, Christ, in word and in deed, was announcing that God was approaching imperfect people.

Jesus addresses the scandalized religious professionals’ concerns by summarizing His ministry like this:

It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. (Mark 2:17)

Jesus takes the core of Leviticus 21 and turns it on its head. With these words, He announces:

Only imperfect people are allowed through Christ.

Only imperfect people are allowed because, if we are honest with ourselves, we have nothing perfect to offer to God in the form of either ourselves or a sacrifice. This is why the preacher of Hebrews writes:

Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. (Hebrews 10:11)

These sacrifices never took away sins because they never met the demands of Leviticus 21 and 22. They simply were not perfect enough. But Jesus was. And Jesus is. This is why God offers Jesus as a sacrifice for us.

The temptation to point fingers at the defects and blemishes of others can be acute. Those who are different from us can sometimes seem to almost invite criticism by us. But Christians must remember that our mission is not to demand perfection from people, but to point them to the One who already is. May we do so gladly.

January 25, 2021 at 5:15 am 2 comments

Pandemic Fatigue

Credit: Anna Shvets / Pexels.com

The book of Leviticus is filled with all sorts of rules and regulations, many of which address cleanliness and purification in the face of infectious diseases. Here’s a sample:

When anyone has a swelling or a rash or a shiny spot on their skin that may be a defiling skin disease, they must be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons who is a priest. The priest is to examine the sore on the skin, and if the hair in the sore has turned white and the sore appears to be more than skin deep, it is a defiling skin disease. When the priest examines that person, he shall pronounce them ceremonially unclean. If the shiny spot on the skin is white but does not appear to be more than skin deep and the hair in it has not turned white, the priest is to isolate the affected person for seven days.On the seventh day the priest is to examine them, and if he sees that the sore is unchanged and has not spread in the skin, he is to isolate them for another seven days. On the seventh day the priest is to examine them again, and if the sore has faded and has not spread in the skin, the priest shall pronounce them clean; it is only a rash. They must wash their clothes, and they will be clean. But if the rash does spread in their skin after they have shown themselves to the priest to be pronounced clean, they must appear before the priest again. The priest is to examine that person, and if the rash has spread in the skin, he shall pronounce them unclean; it is a defiling skin disease. (Leviticus 13:2-8)

This passage was the kind that used to make people roll their eyes and groan with boredom and wonder why God bothered to include such pedantic instructions concerning something as seemingly insignificant as a skin rash. Now, passages like these feel strangely relevant and current.

In these verses, we have it all: a health screening for signs of disease, a quarantine, a demand that a person test negative for that disease, and special concern with disinfecting practices. Sound familiar?

Beyond the specific instructions for addressing sicknesses, passages like these make a larger point: God cares about our health and wellbeing.

As we enter into the eleventh month of our battle with the COVID-19 pandemic, a fair amount of pandemic fatigue has set in. At least, it certainly has for me. I am looking forward to the day when the vaccine for this virus will be available for anyone who wants it. In the meantime, however, Leviticus 13 with all its regulations can serve as an encouragement to us: God sought to take care of His people by attending to their health. We can do the same as we continue to endure screenings, quarantines, testing, and disinfecting. Remember, we’re getting closer to having this pandemic under control! And for that, I rejoice and am extremely thankful.

January 18, 2021 at 5:15 am 3 comments

Cherry Picking Scripture

I had to chuckle as I was watching coverage of the Democratic National Convention last week.  I tuned in to see San Antonio’s mayor, Julian Castro, deliver the Convention’s keynote speech, which is quite an honor no matter what your political persuasion.  But what made me chuckle were not the speeches at the Convention, but the political pundits pontificating on the state of our nation between speeches.  I began watching the coverage that evening by tuning into a liberal-leaning news channel.  They asked a question that has become ubiquitous in political circles every time a presidential election rolls around:  “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”  One of their correspondents trotted out a chart that included numbers for jobs created and the state of the Standard & Poor’s index and confidently concluded, “Yes.  We are better off than we were four years ago.”  I then flipped over to a conservative-leaning news channel.  Interestingly, the pundits on this channel were debating this same question:  “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”  But my mouth dropped open when they too trotted out a chart with numbers on unemployment and the national debt and confidently concluded, “No.  We are not better off than we were four years ago.”  Apparently, whether you believe we are better off than we were four years ago depends on which numbers you look at – or which numbers you want to look at.

I am not surprised when politicians and the politically minded cherry pick the facts and figures which bolster their particular partisan position.  But it disturbs me when Christians do the same thing – especially with the Word of God.

In Acts 20, Paul is leaving the church in Ephesus which he had planted and subsequently served for three years as its pastor in order to journey to Jerusalem at the Holy Spirit’s behest.  One of the things that Paul touts about his ministry to the Ephesians is that he “did not shrink from declaring the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).  In other words, when Paul served the Ephesians, he didn’t cherry pick his favorite Bible verses or stories, nor did he selectively or subversively read the Scriptures in an effort to bolster a particular partisan theological platform.  Instead, he courageously declared the Word of God – all of the Word of God.

Part of the reason Paul prided himself on proclaiming all of the Word of God has to do with Paul’s belief concerning the nature and character of Scripture.  For Paul believed that all of Scripture comes from God and therefore all of Scripture is worthy of our attention, study, and application.  As Paul writes to the young pastor Timothy, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).  All Scripture is useful, Paul declares.  There is not a book, a verse, a word, or, to use Jesus’ description, even “a jot or a tittle” (cf. Matthew 5:18, KJV), which is not useful for us to know and take to heart.

The other day, I came across a blog titled, “5 Reasons Why We Should Still Read The Book Of Leviticus Today.”[1]  In this post, the author recounts a conversation he had with a PhD scientist who, though he was a Christian, saw no need to for believers to concern themselves with Leviticus, or with any other part of the Pentateuch for that matter.  After all, what could modern-day people possibly learn from a book that covers the eating of shellfish, the wearing of polyester, and the donning of tattoos?  Not much, in this guy’s mind.  But this blogger went on to do a terrific job arguing for the relevance – and, more importantly, for the divine inspiration – of this book.  He notes that the credo of Leviticus, “Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy” (Leviticus 19:2), is still the preeminent model for Christian sanctification.  In our acting, speaking, and thinking, we are to reflect the God in whom we trust.  Indeed, Jesus Himself affirms this holiness credo when He declares, “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).  More vitally, this blogger notes that the sacrificial system of Leviticus is a foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.  Without Leviticus, our understanding of Christ’s sacrifice would be significantly diminished, for the whole point of the Old Testament sacrificial system was to lead to and find its telos in Christ’s supreme and final sacrifice (cf. Hebrews 10:1-12).  In other words, the whole point of Leviticus, though it was written some 1400 years before Jesus, was to point people to Jesus.  And anything that points people to Jesus is something a Christian should want to know about.

Leviticus is just one example of the theological richness that Scripture has to offer – if we will only take the time to look.  If you choose cherry pick from Scripture, however, you will miss so much of what Scripture is and what Scripture gives.  So devote yourself to Scripture – all Scripture.  You never know what you will find, how you will be changed, and how your faith will grow.


[1] Scott Fillmer, “5 Reasons Why We Should Still Read The Book Of Leviticus Today,” scottfillmer.com (8.21.2012).

September 10, 2012 at 5:15 am 1 comment


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