August 17, 2015.
Daily Reading: Leviticus 19-21.
Background: Leviticus 16-18.
Concepts and Connections.
1. Holiness: The beginning of this chapter, which will be somewhat of a list of things for the children of Israel to abide by, begins with a discussion on holiness. The children of Israel were called to be Holy, just as the Lord God is Holy. Peter repeats this idea in I Peter 1:16, for we too are children of the Most High, called to be holy. For the children of Israel, holiness derived from the Law. Notice what the next statues are from the ten commandments: honor your father and mother, keep the Sabbaths, put no other gods before Him. Then the text goes on to talking about eating sacrifices in a timely fashion, and then further on to statues of law and love.
2. Love your neighbor: This next section, verses 9-18, can be grouped into laws of love for your neighbor/fellow man. The children of Israel were held to a standard of compassion and fair treatment to one another. Notice that this section starts off with the law that allowed for gleaning, which made provisions for the poor and traveling, so that the children of Israel would not cut down all their crop at harvest or pluck their bushes bare, but leave a few rows and bushes for the poor/traveling person could have something to eat. Then the text goes into laws that command the fair and right treatment of one another, elevating justice. There are many things that are said here about social justice, but they can all be summed up by what is said in verse 18: “you shall love your neighbor as yourself…” Jesus called this the second greatest commandment, behind love the Lord with all your heart, strength, soul and mind, for in these two commands does the whole Law hinge (see Matthew 22:34-40).
3. The Lord’s statutes: The final section of this chapter gives some more of the statues that the children of Israel were except to abide by being the chosen people of God. There are some laws here that make sense to us, such as don’t make our daughter a prostitute, whereas there are others that might not make much sense to us, such as not being able to cut the corners of their beards, which may have had a cultural purpose behind it. Notice the emphasis placed on not eating blood, preforming justice and being hospitable to strangers, as they were once strangers in the land of Egypt.
1. Punishment for child sacrifice: The first nine verses of this chapter deal with the horrific practice of child sacrifice and a little bit on mediums and necromancers. There was apparently a custom of the people around them to sacrifice children to Molech, to appease this false god. This would play a larger role in Israel’s history when kings who did not do what was right in the sight of the Lord ruled over the people (see I Kings 11:7 and II Kings 23:10). Note that not only those who were doing the child sacrifice are held accountable here, however, but also any who say what they were doing and did not speak out. This should ring loud in relevance to us today, as it was a protection for the children who could not protect themselves, by those who could protect them. The people were also not to turn to mediums and necromancers, but rather were to keep the commands and statues of the Lord their God. This concept is repeated at the end of the chapter.
2. Punishment for sexual immorality: The next section deals with sexual immorality, dividing what is said into two subtle categories of punishment, death (v. 10-16) and being cut off from the people (v. 17-21). Those sins that were punishable by death included adultery, taking one’s father’s or son’s wife to lie with them, taking a mother and her daughter both to lie with, the act of homosexuality and the act of bestiality. Those sins in which the punishment was being cut off from the people include sexual acts with close relatives and uncovering a woman during her menstruation.
3. Being holy: This chapter ends with another section on holiness (see previous chapter) and why the children of Israel were called to do these things. They were to keep all the rules and the status, lest the land to which they were going should spit them out, just as the Lord was going to do to the inhabitants that were there now. The children of Israel were warned against following after their ways and going after their customs which would defile them. They were to be holy, concentrated to the Lord. This is the reason given to make a distinction between an animal who is clean and one that is unclean. Sometimes we take for granted that there just were clean and unclean animals without realizing the reason behind it. They had been set apart as God’s chosen people. They needed to act like it.
Holiness for priests: This chapter deals with the priest’s holiness, how their connection and restrictions went beyond what the typical Israelite would have had to abide by. The first 9 verses deal with an address to priests in general, and verses 10-15 apply specifically to a priest who was chief among the priests, what we might think of as a chief priest or a high priest. The priests in general had a stricter law on not defiling themselves by touching a dead body. Priests could not do this except it be one of his closest relatives such as his mother, father, son, daughter, brother, or virgin sister. High priest could not even touch the dead body if it was his mother or father. Priests were to marry a virgin daughter of the children of Israel, not someone who had already been defiled, whether in a marriage relationship or not. The priests were to be sanctified and set apart. Those who had physical abnormalities were to be excluded from the priesthood, or at least from offering bread on the table of God.
Tomorrow’s Reading: II Kings 16-20.
Be Holy, for He is Holy.