Away for three months

Hi people,

The last 4 months have been exciting since I started the blog in April, and I have had the chance to check out other blogs and spaces and engage in some good theology-dialogues.  Cadence and I will be spending 3 months in Beijing working on our language skills (namely Mandarin) from tomorrow onwards, so we can be of some use later on next year for our mission trip in Qinghai, the North West of China.

A few things to pray for:

1.  The internet there (everywhere in China) is censored and monitored – so please pray that if I don’t blog here (not because I don’t want to, but simply because the blog is blocked; and my emails are monitored), I am still doing my commentary offline.  I hope to finish looking at Numbers and Deuteronomy by the time I get back in Christmas, so please pray that I don’t procrastinate on that front.  If you happen to send me an email, please refrain from using Christian terminology, and just learn to censor words (Chri*tian, Je*us, Y-H-W-H – or learn to refer to Christ with the other names given to him in Scripture, be that ‘Anointed One’, ‘High Priest’, ‘Second Person’, ‘Presence’… whatnot.  I happen to find this a very helpful spiritual exercise!).

2.  That we plug into a church there immediately and serve wherever God needs us to serve.  I hear the teaching in Beijing is generally awful and not Jesus-focused, so perhaps God can use me where I can somewhat contribute with my Christological convictions; and of course, pray for the servants-in-Christ over there.  I’m sure they are having a tough time if they are genuinely serving Jesus there.

3.  Mandarin training – 3 months is not a long time to study any language (given the basic education in boarding/high school of German and French which lasted for at least 4-5 yrs and I still CAN’T evangelise in either of those European languages), yet Mandarin will be the basic language which I will be using when I work with the missionaries in Qinghai.  It is no easy task, and as of now I have been asked to help lead some theology courses there in Chinese.  Pray the Spirit will be working through this entire process and that God’s Wisdom will be the source of my achievements in Christ for the next 3 – 6 mths.

4.  That I enjoy my time with new brothers and sisters in Christ, friends, family and with Cadence this year.

Hope to see you back here in Christmas: I won’t be blogging so feel free to catch up with the Genesis-Leviticus reading and help me discern the areas which are not clear, or questionable in my attempt at Christological exegesis.  I’ve uploaded the three book commentaries on the ‘Sermons/Papers’ page.  It would help to know that I am not writing in a vacuum.

Finally:

May you remember that as a truly circumcised Christian, Jesus and his Spirit are continually interceding for you, so you can persistently and confidently take and live the true life of a son and daughter who is already redeemed!  Christ has done it all for us!  In the words of Luther:

“If you are a preacher of Grace, then preach a true, not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly. For he is victorious over sin, death, and the world. As long as we are here we have to sin. This life in not the dwelling place of righteousness but, as Peter says, we look for a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. . . . Pray boldly-you too are a mighty sinner.”

Away for three months

Leviticus 26-27: Let God be true though everyone were a liar

We’ve come to the last two chapters of Leviticus.  Let me trace through the book as we come to these promising chapters of the entire Bible.

From Leviticus 1-15, we have had a detailed analysis of the types of sacrifices, offerings, and an anthropological analysis of man’s state by the LORD God.  It is dismal, and man cannot save himself.  There is a glimpse of this salvation through the priesthood, but even the priests cannot save themselves from their inherent sin.

Leviticus 16 is a breaking point, following on in theology from Nadab and Abihu’s death.  Who can be our goat of sacrifice?  Jesus Christ.  The Day of Atonement, symbolically in the first month of the Jewish year – a proclamation of Christ’s victory over sin.

From Leviticus 16-25, we have seen God’s commandments of holistic living.  How are the Israelites, as the redeemed, looking back at their exodus from Egypt?  How are the Israelites taking up the victory won through the Passover lamb?  How are the Israelites living as slaves of Christ, from the salvation through the waters of punishment at the Red Sea?

Now we turn to the last two chapters.  There is an acknowledgement from the LORD that the commandments thus far will have its limit because man is still sinful.  We are still awaiting the true Day of Atonement, when the trumpet is blown as an establishment of the true Jubilee that will last forever.  And this fulfillment does not come from the Israelites’ faithfulness – but it comes from God’s faithfulness alone.

1.  His promises to us (Leviticus 26)

2.  Jesus’ Devotion brings us to Complete Holiness in New Creation (Leviticus 27)

1.  His promises to us (Leviticus 26)

Lev 26:1-46  “You shall not make idols for yourselves or erect an image or pillar, and you shall not set up a figured stone in your land to bow down to it, for I am the LORD your God.  (2)  You shall keep my Sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD.  (3)  “If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them,  (4)  then I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.  (5)  Your threshing shall last to the time of the grape harvest, and the grape harvest shall last to the time for sowing. And you shall eat your bread to the full and dwell in your land securely.  (6) I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid. And I will remove harmful beasts from the land, and the sword shall not go through your land.  (7)  You shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword.  (8 )  Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall chase ten thousand, and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword.  (9)  I will turn to you and make you fruitful and multiply you and will confirm my covenant with you.  (10)  You shall eat old store long kept, and you shall clear out the old to make way for the new.  (11)  I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you.  (12)  And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people.  (13)  I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be their slaves. And I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.

In the space of v. 1-13, the LORD has made approximately 25 promises.  These promises have nothing to do with our capabilities.  Rather, it carries two linguistic implications: one is the imperative (“You shall do it” – as in, you will definitely do it), the other a promise (as in, you will definitely do it, and I promise you will do it).  These promises find their greatest meaning in a response to v. 3 – “if you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments“.  How?  Are they expected to be completely righteous?  Is this not a complete contradiction to their sinfulness?

It is first important to qualify the interpretation of v.3.  The LORD is not expecting them to walk perfectly in the statutes.  Rather, the LORD is telling them to walk in the law and observe it – and who is the one who walks in the law and delights in the law perfectly?  Christ – c.f. Psalm 1.  Who is the one who has the law written in their hearts?  (c.f. Jeremiah 31:33; Hebrews 8:10; Psalm 1) Christ alone.  And it is in and through Christ that we have the law written on our hearts, for He is the true image of God, the only one who has the law written in his heart entirely.  To walk and observe the law, is to be in Christ, so the Father sees us as His Son who walks and delights in the law perfectly – and v.4-12 are promises made subsequent to being in Christ (just as the same promises are made in Hebrews 8:10).

And what are the kind of promises made?  Fullness of food and seasons; victory in battles; fruitfulness of people – and most importantly, to anticipate the LORD God to walk among and with them.

Some may extrapolate from v.12 and say that the faithfulness of Israel in the Old Testament, the keeping of the law, has culminated in the coming of Christ as a fulfillment of v.12.  But this is too far from truth – it is exactly the failure of the Israelites to keep the law in Christ, that the gospel is given to the Gentiles (Romans 11:11).  Rather, v.12 is not a prophetic promise merely of the 1st advent.  It is a prophetic promise of the 2nd advent, of the Son who had walked with Adam and Eve and a restoration of Eden (Genesis 3:8 ), when heaven and earth were joined.  So God is asking them not to think merely of the physical and foreseeable land and future: he is asking them to perceive and partake in the spiritual truth of Jesus’ promises to them by having faith IN Jesus!  Only Jesus alone is the one to make eternal promises and imperatives where no one else can.

(14)  “But if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments,  (15)  if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant, (16)  then I will do this to you: I will visit you with panic, with wasting disease and fever that consume the eyes and make the heart ache. And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it.  (17)  I will set my face against you, and you shall be struck down before your enemies. Those who hate you shall rule over you, and you shall flee when none pursues you.  (18 )  And if in spite of this you will not listen to me, then I will discipline you again sevenfold for your sins, (19)  and I will break the pride of your power, and I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze.  (20)  And your strength shall be spent in vain, for your land shall not yield its increase, and the trees of the land shall not yield their fruit.  (21)  “Then if you walk contrary to me and will not listen to me, I will continue striking you, sevenfold for your sins.  (22)  And I will let loose the wild beasts against you, which shall bereave you of your children and destroy your livestock and make you few in number, so that your roads shall be deserted.  (23)  “And if by this discipline you are not turned to me but walk contrary to me,  (24)  then I also will walk contrary to you, and I myself will strike you sevenfold for your sins. (25)  And I will bring a sword upon you, that shall execute vengeance for the covenant. And if you gather within your cities, I will send pestilence among you, and you shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy.  (26)  When I break your supply of bread, ten women shall bake your bread in a single oven and shall dole out your bread again by weight, and you shall eat and not be satisfied.  (27)  “But if in spite of this you will not listen to me, but walk contrary to me,  (28 )  then I will walk contrary to you in fury, and I myself will discipline you sevenfold for your sins.  (29)  You shall eat the flesh of your sons, and you shall eat the flesh of your daughters. (30)  And I will destroy your high places and cut down your incense altars and cast your dead bodies upon the dead bodies of your idols, and my soul will abhor you.  (31)  And I will lay your cities waste and will make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not smell your pleasing aromas.  (32)  And I myself will devastate the land, so that your enemies who settle in it shall be appalled at it.  (33)  And I will scatter you among the nations, and I will unsheathe the sword after you, and your land shall be a desolation, and your cities shall be a waste. (34)  “Then the land shall enjoy its Sabbaths as long as it lies desolate, while you are in your enemies’ land; then the land shall rest, and enjoy its Sabbaths.

v.18, 21, 23, 27 – all the same refrain:  “if in spite of this” or something along the same phraseology or intention.  How merciful can our LORD be?  Three times the LORD disciplines the unchristian nation which deserves death, but the LORD is patient and slow to anger – but anger will come!  The type of gospel preached where God is unceasingly loving to all is a false gospel of universalism.  Here, this is true gospel – that true justice is shown through God’s judgment against all sin, so that holiness may prevail.

The discipline takes the form of:

v.16-17 – disease

v.19-20 – cursing of the land and the heavens, yielding no crop

v.21-22 – loosing of wild animals against Israeli

v.24-26 – pestilence sent to the Israelites even within the city, given to the hands of the enemies and the shortened supply of food, let alone food which can satiate desires

v. 27-33 – complete desolation, cannibalism, destruction, death, corpses.

One can see a progression of proportionality from v.16-33 – from bad to destructive, all in the attempt to save Israel.  This is the pattern shown in the 10 plagues, and the LORD’s character is one that is sensitive, but increasingly disciplinary, as is repeated in 2 Timothy 4:1-5:

2Ti 4:1-5  I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;  (2)  Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.  (3)  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;  (4)  And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.  (5)  But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

It seems that there is no hope left for the non-Christians but the message here isn’t that of destruction.  It is that of peace that results from the victory of the LORD.  It is that of peace, of the enjoyment of Sabbath.  Read the following verses 35-39:

(35)  As long as it lies desolate it shall have rest, the rest that it did not have on your Sabbaths when you were dwelling in it. (36)  And as for those of you who are left, I will send faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies. The sound of a driven leaf shall put them to flight, and they shall flee as one flees from the sword, and they shall fall when none pursues.  (37)  They shall stumble over one another, as if to escape a sword, though none pursues. And you shall have no power to stand before your enemies.  (38 )  And you shall perish among the nations, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up.  (39)  And those of you who are left shall rot away in your enemies’ lands because of their iniquity, and also because of the iniquities of their fathers they shall rot away like them.

This action in itself is an act of evangelism – the LORD’s faithfulness and his victory through the fulfillment of his promises through Israel is a great witness.  Rahab is a great example of someone who hears the news of Israel and wishes to become a Christian by joining the Israelite nation:

Joshua 2:8-13  Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof  (9)  and said to the men, “I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you.  (10)  For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction.  (11)  And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the LORD your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.  (12)  Now then, please swear to me by the LORD that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father’s house, and give me a sure sign  (13)  that you will save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.”

But the LORD is still merciful – he still wants more and more to come to faith, so that all may come to believe (2 Peter 3:9):

(40)  “But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers in their treachery that they committed against me, and also in walking contrary to me,  (41)  so that I walked contrary to them and brought them into the land of their enemies–if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity,  (42)  then I will remember my covenant with Jacob, and I will remember my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land. (43)  But the land shall be abandoned by them and enjoy its Sabbaths while it lies desolate without them, and they shall make amends for their iniquity, because they spurned my rules and their soul abhorred my statutes.  (44)  Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not spurn them, neither will I abhor them so as to destroy them utterly and break my covenant with them, for I am the LORD their God.  (45)  But I will for their sake remember the covenant with their forefathers, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am the LORD.” (46)  These are the statutes and rules and laws that the LORD made between himself and the people of Israel through Moses on Mount Sinai.

Verses 40-46 provide great comfort as I read them.  There is always a chance to repent until the day of true and final judgment – all that is in between is one of discipline, so that we are further refined to repent and know him better, to live as the redeemed as witnesses so people like Rahab can be saved.  So that Rahab can see Christ through our partaking in Christ’s work.  Let us be honed by the refiner’s fire Malachi 3:2, so that the new creation work (2 Corinthians 5:17) in us continues until we are refined like pure gold.  V.44-46 is almost an anticipation of the Babylonian Captivity, and an establishment that the Israelites will sin, but the LORD will continue to be faithful to them – preaching, again, the message that Canaan is not the promised land in itself; and that true salvation and uncompromised kingdom living will come only when the nation of Christians are filled with everyone who is holy and sanctified by the true Day of Atonement, so that no enemy can take over the New Jerusalem.

2.  Jesus’ Devotion brings us to Complete Holiness in New Creation (Leviticus 27)

Up to Leviticus 27, the LORD has been insistent on portraying the distinction between the unclean, clean and holy.  The prophetic promise of a nation of priests has not yet been fulfilled, but the vision of the tabernacle clearly shows that this fulfillment will yet come when the Spirit is given in part to both Gentiles and Jews alike, and given without limit when we are in New Creation with our new bodies.  This explains very much the division between priesthood, kingship and being a clean/common person (i.e. a type of ‘layman’).  Israel is a picture of the prophetic fulfillment in the New Testament and New Creation – and the message of Leviticus has been hammering the point that being clean is not enough to enjoy the LORD’s presence.

The things which are holy, include the priests, the sacrificed animals, the tabernacle, the altar, the ark, the table of shewbread of Presence, the golden lampstand and, of course, the LORD who is enthroned between the cherubim on the mercy seat on the ark.

Yet, the ordinary clean and common Israelite is seemingly excommunicated from these holy things.  How can the ordinary clean and common Israelite come to commune with the LORD?  Through the priests and the sacrifices.  Yet, it is the priest who represents us – he is our captain once and forever more.  The double imagery of priest and sacrifice provides the two-fold witness of Christ as both priest and sacrifice, imputing his righteousness to us as we impute our sins to him.  Only then can the common and clean people come before the LORD and enter the Holy of Holies ourselves.  We must cease to be common – and become deified in the Athanasian sense.

Lev 27:1-34  The LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  (2)  “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, If anyone makes a special vow to the LORD involving the valuation of persons,

It seems that a person could make a special vow of utter dedication to the LORD, and this is detailed a bit further in Numbers 6:

Num 6:2-8  “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When either a man or a woman makes a special vow, the vow of a Nazirite, to separate himself to the LORD,  (3)  he shall separate himself from wine and strong drink. He shall drink no vinegar made from wine or strong drink and shall not drink any juice of grapes or eat grapes, fresh or dried.  (4)  All the days of his separation he shall eat nothing that is produced by the grapevine, not even the seeds or the skins.  (5)  “All the days of his vow of separation, no razor shall touch his head. Until the time is completed for which he separates himself to the LORD, he shall be holy. He shall let the locks of hair of his head grow long.  (6)  “All the days that he separates himself to the LORD he shall not go near a dead body.  (7)  Not even for his father or for his mother, for brother or sister, if they die, shall he make himself unclean, because his separation to God is on his head.  (8 )  All the days of his separation he is holy to the LORD.

This vow is interesting, given its similarities to that of the requirement of the seventy leaders back in Exodus.  The LORD does differentiate between the clean and common, and those who wish to especially separate themselves to the LORD.  The seriousness should not be taken lightly and this is shown in the verses 3-7 by the entrance of payment of being part of the ‘holy’ (since being ‘separated to the LORD’ is equivalent to being ‘sanctified’ in many scenarios, albeit not all):

(3)  then the valuation of a male from twenty years old up to sixty years old shall be fifty shekels of silver, according to the shekel of the sanctuary.  (4)  If the person is a female, the valuation shall be thirty shekels.  (5)  If the person is from five years old up to twenty years old, the valuation shall be for a male twenty shekels, and for a female ten shekels.  (6)  If the person is from a month old up to five years old, the valuation shall be for a male five shekels of silver, and for a female the valuation shall be three shekels of silver.  (7)  And if the person is sixty years old or over, then the valuation for a male shall be fifteen shekels, and for a female ten shekels. (8 )  And if someone is too poor to pay the valuation, then he shall be made to stand before the priest, and the priest shall value him; the priest shall value him according to what the vower can afford.

And this process of sanctification is not reserved only for the wealthy as v. 8 shows – the priest shall value him according to what the vower can afford.  The LORD, again, displays the theology of tithing, money and possessions through the treatment of this process of sanctification.  It is according to the person’s heart and ability, and how much he actually offers to the LORD.  Giving huge amounts of money will not make any implication of the person’s devotion, unless it is a large percentage of his financial capacity – this very much reflecting the woman with the alabaster flask in the synoptic gospels.  There is again a picture of male and female differentiation here – the female is valued approximately half that of the male; and the young is valued approximately less than half that of the adult.

If our LORD intended this picture to portray that of holiness, and not of the result of the fall, then we must understand exegetically that these commandments are not inherently sexist.  Genesis 3 is not the reason that men and women are valued differently; rather, the LORD counts holiness as presenting the male and female as fundamentally equal, but sexually divided in terms of role and valuation.  This may serve to colour the picture of 1 Corinthains 11, 1 Timothy 2 and Ephesians 5 just that bit more clearly.  If the LORD does not care how much is given (given v.8 ), then the value he gives for each age group, and sexual gender is a reflection of holiness in gender complementarianism.  However, we would naturally view this division with biased and sexist eyes, because we have our mental baggage of the battles of the sexes in our minds and unconsciously eisegetically read into the text the sexism which is not there.  Adam was the head of Eve at the beginning of creation, before the fall; the only difference afterwards is that neither accepts the role of headship and submission respectively, but the ordination of man being the head like Christ, and woman being the submissive body like the church, has been ordained long before Genesis 3.

Another interesting thing about v.3-8 is that the age group of people who wish to be ‘sanctified’ ranges from 60 to a month old.  This speaks a lot about familial theology as well: the LORD clearly anticipates the Christians to dedicate their children to the LORD, or even better, the children dedicating themselves to the LORD!  How often it is that we only think of the ‘upper-tier’ age group from 20-60 today, and neglect the age group of a month old to 20 years old as capable of dedicating oneself completely to the LORD!  Indeed, the impact or the role taken may be “different” from that of the upper-tier age group (hence the lower valuation, akin to the male-female valuation comparison), but they too can love Jesus and be heart-circumcised.  The danger of modern day Baptist-theology prevents the welcoming of young Christians into the fold of responsibility in the church, and leaving it solely in the hands of 30-70’s, when the LORD expects sanctification from practically all age groups.

(9)  “If the vow is an animal that may be offered as an offering to the LORD, all of it that he gives to the LORD is holy.  (10)  He shall not exchange it or make a substitute for it, good for bad, or bad for good; and if he does in fact substitute one animal for another, then both it and the substitute shall be holy.  (11)  And if it is any unclean animal that may not be offered as an offering to the LORD, then he shall stand the animal before the priest,  (12)  and the priest shall value it as either good or bad; as the priest values it, so it shall be.  (13)  But if he wishes to redeem it, he shall add a fifth to the valuation.

In the same way, to make a vow for an animal is taken as a serious promise.  The redemption rate of an additional 20% would deter anyone from making this vow carelessly.  This begins and interesting train of thought as we move on to ‘houses’ being holy gifts to the LORD.  Paul Blackham muses that dedicating the animal to the LORD may have meant that it was reserved to be sacrificed on a particular day and there is nothing to which seems to indicate otherwise.  Whatever the case may be, holiness is expected (v.10) of the animal.

(14)  “When a man dedicates his house as a holy gift to the LORD, the priest shall value it as either good or bad; as the priest values it, so it shall stand.  (15)  And if the donor wishes to redeem his house, he shall add a fifth to the valuation price, and it shall be his.

Similarly, the dedication of the house as a gift to the LORD may reflect the entirety of one’s devotion the LORD, even with one’s sacrifices and the building in which one lives.  It is a reflection of an entire family’s devotion to the living God, and that what happens under the house is one which reflects the truth of the Trinitarian God (Ephesians 5-6).

(16)  “If a man dedicates to the LORD part of the land that is his possession, then the valuation shall be in proportion to its seed. A homer of barley seed shall be valued at fifty shekels of silver.  (17)  If he dedicates his field from the year of jubilee, the valuation shall stand,  (18 )  but if he dedicates his field after the jubilee, then the priest shall calculate the price according to the years that remain until the year of jubilee, and a deduction shall be made from the valuation.  (19)  And if he who dedicates the field wishes to redeem it, then he shall add a fifth to its valuation price, and it shall remain his.  (20)  But if he does not wish to redeem the field, or if he has sold the field to another man, it shall not be redeemed anymore.  (21)  But the field, when it is released in the jubilee, shall be a holy gift to the LORD, like a field that has been devoted. The priest shall be in possession of it. (22)  If he dedicates to the LORD a field that he has bought, which is not a part of his possession,  (23)  then the priest shall calculate the amount of the valuation for it up to the year of jubilee, and the man shall give the valuation on that day as a holy gift to the LORD.  (24)  In the year of jubilee the field shall return to him from whom it was bought, to whom the land belongs as a possession.  (25)  Every valuation shall be according to the shekel of the sanctuary: twenty gerahs shall make a shekel.

Here, we move on to the devotion of fields, possessed only by the priests.  This is also a reflection of new kingdom living and a mark of the representation of the jubilee that even the fields are dedicated to the LORD.  v.16-20, act similar to the devotion of the people of different age groups to the LORD, and these are all acts of willingness but the holiness is established not by the people’s devotion; rather, the LORD is willing to work with what is given to him (v.23 – the man shall give the valuation on that day as a holy gift to the LORD) and accepts it as a holy gift, whatever the valuation.  The refrain here is given: “shall be according to the shekel of the sanctuary”.  This is referred to earlier (Lev 26:2; 27:3) and it is again referring to the centrality of the Tabernacle in the people’s lives, from meditating on the wonders of the Trinity to the reverence of the implication of the sanctuary so much that holiness is immediately its conjoined definition.  As the devotion of fields, buildings, animals and men are expressions of holiness, the valuation is unsurprisingly made according to the shekel of the holy sanctuary.

(26)  “But a firstborn of animals, which as a firstborn belongs to the LORD, no man may dedicate; whether ox or sheep, it is the LORD’s.  (27)  And if it is an unclean animal, then he shall buy it back at the valuation, and add a fifth to it; or, if it is not redeemed, it shall be sold at the valuation.  (28 )  “But no devoted thing that a man devotes to the LORD, of anything that he has, whether man or beast, or of his inherited field, shall be sold or redeemed; every devoted thing is most holy to the LORD.  (29)  No one devoted, who is to be devoted for destruction from mankind, shall be ransomed; he shall surely be put to death.

Here is something again quite Christological and a reminder of the Passover.  The firstborn son of God is also devoted to the LORD, and anything devoted as such shall not be redeemed and shall be put to death – once it is devoted, it is most holy to the LORD (v.28 ), and this holy thing must be put to death.  Such is the same as us – every one of us will die, but the holy one must be put to death so he can raise us up with him into his ascension to the Holy of Holies.  Christ knew his devotion would result in his death: and his redemption came in the form of the resurrection, and not a redemption prior to his death; it is therefore entirely necessary that our LORD should suffer such a painful death, so he can be fully glorified and sit again on the right hand of the Father once more.

(30)  “Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the LORD’s; it is holy to the LORD.  (31)  If a man wishes to redeem some of his tithe, he shall add a fifth to it.  (32)  And every tithe of herds and flocks, every tenth animal of all that pass under the herdsman’s staff, shall be holy to the LORD.  (33)  One shall not differentiate between good or bad, neither shall he make a substitute for it; and if he does substitute for it, then both it and the substitute shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.”  (34)  These are the commandments that the LORD commanded Moses for the people of Israel on Mount Sinai.

Finally, every tithe of the land, seed, fruit of trees, tithe of herds and flocks passing under the herdsman’s staff shall be holy to the LORD.  This concludes chapter 27, with the theology of the Seed of God whom every Israelite is still looking toward (Genesis 3:15), and the fruit of the Spirit by abiding in Christ alone (Psalm 1; Galatians 5).  The passing of the herds and flocks under the herdsman staff is the mark of devotion for they are not stray sheep: they are ruled by The Shepherd (Psalm 23:1; Ecc 12:11; Isaiah 40:11; Matthew 2:6).

Therefore the entire chapter 27 has devoted almost everything conceivable to the LORD, and it contributes to the grand picture of New Jerusalem which we look forward to.  There is nothing there that is not devoted to the LORD, and all the devotion is established as holy which the LORD himself proclaims.  There is nothing in the devotion itself which is worthy of glory and righteousness, yet we are called a nation of priests, and saints, because of his proclamation, and because of His Son’s true devotion which we are merely shadows of.  By partaking in the true devotion of the Son, who was devoted for destruction from mankind (Lev 27:29), we partake also in his type of destruction, so that we partake also in his resurrection and his ascension alone.  Let us read this chapter with hopeful eyes, and not one of gnostic philosophy: not everything on earth is sinful; rather, the LORD is looking to make everything new, and even redeem the people, the buildings, the land, the animals, the fields, the vegetation and make them all holy as according to his plan of the heaven and earthly city.

Leviticus 26-27: Let God be true though everyone were a liar

Leviticus 24:10- Ch.25: Holistic Living in the New Land

Since chapter 16 we have been working towards the newness of life, from the cleanness of being in this world (and being sanctified by the Spirit) to being completely sanctified in New Creation (with new bodies).  It is a strong reminder that Israel, then, could not have been the chosen race because of their merit – it was something they looked forward to.  Canaan, to them, was a temporary place – representative of the renewed creation of New Jerusalem.

The previous two chapters referred to the importance of the Jewish feasts on an annual basis, and the next two work towards building up on this picture of holistic living, as a preparation for true kingdom living in new creation; as well as incorporated temporarily the aspects of looking forward to new creation where this forward-looking hope is erased in Zion when all things are fulfilled (Hebrews 11).

1.  The Name (Leviticus 24:10-23)

2.  Sabbath and Jubilee (Leviticus 25)

1.  The Name (Leviticus 24:10-23)

Lev 24:10-23  Now an Israelite woman’s son, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the people of Israel. And the Israelite woman’s son and a man of Israel fought in the camp,  (11)  and the Israelite woman’s son blasphemed the Name, and cursed. Then they brought him to Moses. His mother’s name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan.  (12)  And they put him in custody, till the will of the LORD should be clear to them.  (13)  Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  (14)  “Bring out of the camp the one who cursed, and let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him.  (15)  And speak to the people of Israel, saying, Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin.  (16)  Whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.

When we first read these verses, it is easy to skim over and conclude that they relate to blasphemy.  In one sense, it is right to read it as such – but given today’s climate and interpretation of the word ‘blasphemy’, it is perhaps better to understand the actual Hebrew which seems to give it a much stronger tone (qalal – קלל – which literally means ‘to make lightly of’, but the figurative use of the Hebrew term is to despite and to curse).  Given the context and the choice of the English translation, it seems to be inclined to the Hebrew figurative.  This Egyptian-Israelite son is a blasphemer, a despiser, of the Name.

Before we move on to look at what this “Name” is, it is interesting to note the little detail about the child’s heritage.  He is of Egyptian-Israelite heritage: there can be many implications made about this mixed heritage.  Adam Clarke and Matthew Henry simply state the fundamental spiritual problem represented by the mixed heritage.  Henry goes on to say that the incorporation of the Egyptians into Israel during the Exodus is a cause of much strife since Exodus 12:38.

However, I think Calvin marks the message best.  We know from Genesis 12 that the LORD does not have essential problems against mixed-heritage marriage, so long as both are spiritual Israelites – so long as both are heart-circumcised.  Indeed, a command to marry only Israelites, and not outsiders, is more a proclamation of singleness of identity and loyalty to the LORD – the very name “Israelite” is the same as saying, “I am a citizen of those whose God fights for them”. How can an outsider, a Canaanite, or Amorite, or Ninevite say the same thing?  Their national identity preaches other truths (“Canaan” means humilitated).

Which is why the treatment of this Egyptian-Israelite child should not be different from anyone else.  v.16 explains it well: whoever blasphemes the name; the sojourner as well as the native.  The LORD does not actually differentiate between nations.  He is not making a statement against Egyptians.  He is saying that anyone who appears to be in the physical church will still be destroyed if they do not partake of the fruit of faith.  Only the spiritual church will be taken up to the Holy of Holies, and the physical church like the rest of the world remain reprobate and judged.

On another level, his treatment of the Egyptian child is also a mark of the LORD’s acceptance of Egyptians fully into Israel and his expectation of the child to obey the laws of the land be he Israelite or not.  Thus, physical lineage does not give us the privilege in itself; it is the national citizenry which we join as born-again Israelites and Gentiles which establishes that privilege.  The LORD here is destroying he who took pride in the Exodus which the child clearly did not remember nor took seriously.  His faith in Jesus was never true.

The Name

What is “the Name”?  Let’s work backwards in the NT.  Revelation 16:9 and 19:13 reveal that the blasphemy of this “name” will lead to people’s death.  This “name” is revealed as the Word of God, as explained in John 1 as Jesus Christ.  1 John 5:13 is especially important:

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.

The Christians did not have a generic understanding of “the Name”, as if it referred to some monotheistic God of divine essence.  The Christians viewed faith as a firm belief in the name of the SON of God, that you may know you have eternal life.  1 Peter 4:14 states that if you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of God rests upon you which corresponds directly to James 5:10 who tells the Greek and Jewish NT readers to look at the OT Scripture and the OT saints who spoke in the name of the LORD.  Which LORD was James speaking of?  What name was James speaking of?  Given Peter’s explanation that our persecutions are a result of bearing not just any “name”, but the name of CHRIST, the Son, James’ reference to the LORD is synonymous to that of Christ as well.  Hebrews 1:4 – “the name” of Christ, generated from the Father, establishing his identity as far superior to that of angels.  2 Thess 1:12:

so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul had clear Trinitarian worship in 2 Thess 1:12.  He refers that in his name we are glorified, according to the grace of our God (meaning the Father), and the Son.  He understood that it is by the grace of the Father, and in Christ, that we are glorified through Christ (c.f. Ephesians 5:20).  Philippians 2:10 – “so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth”.  One might ask – why would people profess another name in the OT, and why would God work under a different economy in the OT, if he intended to have people acknowledge the name of Christ in heaven, on earth, and under the earth?  If God himself has such a Christological focus of the entire creation, even in heaven and under the earth beyond what we see, perceive and understand?  The presupposition of exegesis, as we investigate the NT, shows that it must be Christological.  That it MUST presume Christ as the focus of every Israelite’s faith in the OT, before proven otherwise (c.f. Romans 9:17; 10:13).

The Council of Jerusalem shows exactly the contention shown – the Jews had no idea who this “Name” is, and that is exactly the tension between them and the circumcised Christians who understand that salvation must come through a Trinitarian understanding, by calling on the Christ, and saved and glorified by the grace of the Father:

Act 5:40-42  and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.  (41)  Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.  (42)  And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

Note, however, that v.42 implies that the some in Israel understood the name as synonymous with the Christ.  Many may not have understood the Christ to have come as God-man, but many did consider the Anointed One, the Seed, as the name on which they called.

Therefore, bringing us back to the Egyptian child – for him to blaspheme the Name is to blaspheme the very identity of the church of Christ.  He is directly blaspheming, cursing, despising, the only mediator who should be acknowledged in the heavens, earth and under the earth.

(17)  “Whoever takes a human life shall surely be put to death.  (18 )  Whoever takes an animal’s life shall make it good, life for life.  (19)  If anyone injures his neighbor, as he has done it shall be done to him,  (20)  fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; whatever injury he has given a person shall be given to him.  (21)  Whoever kills an animal shall make it good, and whoever kills a person shall be put to death.  (22)  You shall have the same rule for the sojourner and for the native, for I am the LORD your God.”  (23)  So Moses spoke to the people of Israel, and they brought out of the camp the one who had cursed and stoned him with stones. Thus the people of Israel did as the LORD commanded Moses.

It may sound completely ironic that after the stoning and death of the Egyptian child, v. 17-22 is preached.  However, remember that these passages relate to a tit-for-tat attitude of sin.  A sin shall be repaid – a life for a life.  However, what of the inevitable death of tens of thousands of billions of men and women who have died as a result of Adam’s inherited sin?  That must be repaid by a mediator who is more than man – a mediator who is fully man and fully God.  That is the cost of Christ’s death, and how absolutely wonderful and glorious it is!  How little of the impact of the cross we know of!  Thus, the proportionality of the punishment is reflected in the stoning prior to this commandment.  It is as if Christ is saying that the stoning is completely appropriate and proportional to the blaspheming of the Name, and so it is, for who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit who brings us the eyes of our hearts to Christ who not be saved (Matthew 12:32; 1 Corinthians 2).

2.  Sabbath and Jubilee (Leviticus 25)

Lev 25:1-55  The LORD spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying,  (2)  “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath to the LORD. (3)  For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits,  (4)  but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the LORD. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard.  (5)  You shall not reap what grows of itself in your harvest, or gather the grapes of your undressed vine. It shall be a year of solemn rest for the land.  (6)  The Sabbath of the land shall provide food for you, for yourself and for your male and female slaves and for your hired servant and the sojourner who lives with you,  (7)  and for your cattle and for the wild animals that are in your land: all its yield shall be for food.

Again, the very first command is not to sacrifice to the LORD; it is not to do ‘good works’.  It is to simply keep a Sabbath to the LORD.  But note the important distinction: the LAND shall keep a Sabbath to the LORD.  The model of work for six, then rest on seventh.  Six days, seventh day rest.  Six years, seventh year rest.  We understand that this model of Sabbath is a continual reminder of the rest that we look forward to, that in new creation we will not work and toil in the same way as we do now.  But this commandment relates to the LAND: for the LAND is also looking forward to its own redemption as symbolised through the Sabbath (Romans 8:18-25).

(8 )  “You shall count seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the time of the seven weeks of years shall give you forty-nine years.  (9)  Then you shall sound the loud trumpet on the tenth day of the seventh month. On the Day of Atonement you shall sound the trumpet throughout all your land.  (10)  And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan.  (11)  That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; in it you shall neither sow nor reap what grows of itself nor gather the grapes from the undressed vines.  (12)  For it is a jubilee. It shall be holy to you…

While we have looked at the theology of numerology to some extent by looking at the significance of the numbers 1-7 (according to the significance shown on day 1-6 of creation, day 7 of Sabbath rest and divinity, day 8 of new creation and first day of new week, number 12 as representative of governmental perfection (c.f. the 144,000 in the new city of Jerusalem = multiple of 12, perfection of Christian political order; 12 Tribes of Israel; 12 Apostles).  Here, the Israelites are asked to wait 49 years (7 x 7 years), the fullness of the Sabbath multiplied!  The food is provided without any further need to work after the consecration of the 50th year. This is not the first time we consider the number 50 – the last time we saw this number is the commandment of the festival of Pentecost (23:15-22), simultaneous to the festival of harvest and as we know, the giving of the Spirit to both Jew and Gentile alike.  The festival was also a time of communion and unity through harvest-sharing (23:22).

We understand that the trumpet points towards the victory of Christ, but why is it on the 10th of Tishri instead of 1st of Tishri?  When the trumpet is normally blared on the 1st day of the Jewish civil year, it is a forward-looking action towards new creation.  However, the 50th year, the year of the jubilee, marks the actual joining of the victory of Christ to the Day of Atonement.  This is very important: if the trumpet signifies victory won, and the Day of Atonement signifies ascension, then the commandment to preach the victory won must be part and parcel with the ascension.  The Jewish understanding of the Day of Atonement, again, must not be tied to an actual trust in the goat sacrifice; it is symbolic of Christ’s work!  And, just as sure as Genesis 3:15 is preached, so the victory of Christ is something they look forward to but the LORD wants the Israelites to consider it as a victory already achieved.

There are a few things to note under this chapter:

(a)  Redemption of the Land from the lessees to God

Lev 25:13-18  “In this year of jubilee each of you shall return to his property.  (14)  And if you make a sale to your neighbor or buy from your neighbor, you shall not wrong one another.  (15)  You shall pay your neighbor according to the number of years after the jubilee, and he shall sell to you according to the number of years for crops.  (16)  If the years are many, you shall increase the price, and if the years are few, you shall reduce the price, for it is the number of the crops that he is selling to you.  (17)  You shall not wrong one another, but you shall fear your God, for I am the LORD your God.  (18 )  “Therefore you shall do my statutes and keep my rules and perform them, and then you will dwell in the land securely.

The verses state that for 49 years, the land may be leased to a fellow Israelite or sojourner, but it is freed in the 50th year to the owner. The next few verses continues on this theme of freedom:

Lev 25:25-28  “If your brother becomes poor and sells part of his property, then his nearest redeemer shall come and redeem what his brother has sold.  (26)  If a man has no one to redeem it and then himself becomes prosperous and finds sufficient means to redeem it,  (27)  let him calculate the years since he sold it and pay back the balance to the man to whom he sold it, and then return to his property.  (28 )  But if he has not sufficient means to recover it, then what he sold shall remain in the hand of the buyer until the year of jubilee. In the jubilee it shall be released, and he shall return to his property.

This theme is again shown in v.25-28, that even if the redeemer has insufficient means to recover the land, the buyer shall hold the consideration until the year of the jubilee where a return of the property will happen, regardless of the redeemer’s capability!

Lev 25:29-34  “If a man sells a dwelling house in a walled city, he may redeem it within a year of its sale. For a full year he shall have the right of redemption.  (30)  If it is not redeemed within a full year, then the house in the walled city shall belong in perpetuity to the buyer, throughout his generations; it shall not be released in the jubilee.  (31)  But the houses of the villages that have no wall around them shall be classified with the fields of the land. They may be redeemed, and they shall be released in the jubilee.  (32)  As for the cities of the Levites, the Levites may redeem at any time the houses in the cities they possess.  (33)  And if one of the Levites exercises his right of redemption, then the house that was sold in a city they possess shall be released in the jubilee. For the houses in the cities of the Levites are their possession among the people of Israel.  (34)  But the fields of pastureland belonging to their cities may not be sold, for that is their possession forever.

The only difference shown here is a dwelling house in a walled city:  with a right of redemption within a year of its sale, and shall keep forever it if it is not redeemed within a year.  But every other land outside of the walled city is considered as “fields of the land” (v.31).

Contrarily, the priestly Levites have the privilege of redeeming the houses in the cities they possess at any time.  These houses are their possession among the people of Israel; but the fields are their possession forever.

Some important things should be stated here – as we understand Canaan as representative of the spiritual Israel, the walled city is akin to the walled city of Revelation 21:12-19.  Therefore, anything within the walled city can be kept forever if not redeemed.  This perhaps implies an eschatological significance of the people of Israel no longer living in “the land” in tents, but living in walled cities built by the hands of God.  The ownership in the walled city belongs to us and to Christ.  This is why there is much privilege in being a Levite during the Mosaic law period, because of their typological significance as being like Christ.  The Levites have the power of redeeming the houses in the city, and the fields that they own are in their possession forever.

The picture here is quite important: for every non-Israelite, there is much ‘exchanging’, from lessee back to owner.  It is a picture of the land being redeemed to God, who is the true owner of the entire creation.  But this picture is even clearer when we look at the Levites – only they can own the land forever.  Only they can redeem the houses within the walled city at any time.  This teaches us that for everyone who is a doulos, a slave, who is redeemed into Christ, is truly and forever owned by Christ.  Only Christ can redeem us whenever and wherever, and when Christ redeems us, we are kept forever by his work on the cross (c.f. Romans 8:38 ).  It is a picture of salvation from the LORD and kept by the LORD.  True freedom is marked here by being joined to Christ; to follow Christ, who set us free to bear the cross — that is to gain true Christian freedom (Galatians 2:4; 5:1).

(b)  Debt management & slavery

Lev 25:35-55  “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you.  (36)  Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you.  (37)  You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit.  (38 )  I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God.

This is a perfect picture of kingdom living: v. 38 is the justifying verse of the behaviour of v. 36-37.  This is the type of holistic Christological lifestyle that should be conducting the actions of the Israelites and us Christians today.  Why do we love our neighbours?  Why do we love our brothers?  Why do we love our enemies?  It stems from the justification of v.38 – because He is faithful.  Because he brought the detestable and complaining Israelites out of Egypt.  The LORD did not ask anything from us as a contribution to salvation; so why would you ask your brother who becomes poor to return money at an interest?  As this holistic living is built upon salvation already won, it is not holistic living to gain the LORD’s approval.  It is how the LORD wants us to live by pondering our salvation in hindsight, and not to fight for our own salvation.

(39)  “If your brother becomes poor beside you and sells himself to you, you shall not make him serve as a slave:  (40)  he shall be with you as a hired servant and as a sojourner. He shall serve with you until the year of the jubilee. (41)  Then he shall go out from you, he and his children with him, and go back to his own clan and return to the possession of his fathers.  (42)  For they are my servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as slaves.  (43)  You shall not rule over him ruthlessly but shall fear your God. (44)  As for your male and female slaves whom you may have: you may buy male and female slaves from among the nations that are around you.  (45)  You may also buy from among the strangers who sojourn with you and their clans that are with you, who have been born in your land, and they may be your property. (46)  You may bequeath them to your sons after you to inherit as a possession forever. You may make slaves of them, but over your brothers the people of Israel you shall not rule, one over another ruthlessly.  (47)  “If a stranger or sojourner with you becomes rich, and your brother beside him becomes poor and sells himself to the stranger or sojourner with you or to a member of the stranger’s clan,  (48 )  then after he is sold he may be redeemed. One of his brothers may redeem him,  (49)  or his uncle or his cousin may redeem him, or a close relative from his clan may redeem him. Or if he grows rich he may redeem himself.  (50)  He shall calculate with his buyer from the year when he sold himself to him until the year of jubilee, and the price of his sale shall vary with the number of years. The time he was with his owner shall be rated as the time of a hired servant. (51)  If there are still many years left, he shall pay proportionately for his redemption some of his sale price.  (52)  If there remain but a few years until the year of jubilee, he shall calculate and pay for his redemption in proportion to his years of service.  (53)  He shall treat him as a servant hired year by year. He shall not rule ruthlessly over him in your sight. (54)  And if he is not redeemed by these means, then he and his children with him shall be released in the year of jubilee. (55)  For it is to me that the people of Israel are servants. They are my servants whom I brought out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

Again, v. 55 is the justifying verse for the jubilee redemption of the slaves and servants.  They are to look back on the Exodus as their salvation gained, so they can live holistically.  There is a refrain in this part of chapter 25:  The Israelite “shall not rule over (the servant/slave) ruthlessly” – the reason being v.55.  The servant/slave shall serve the Israelite until the year of jubilee.  Because of v. 55 – because we are the redeemed slaves of God – we are the LORD’s servant.  Paul’s statement is clear in Galatians 1:10 – doulos, literally meaning slave, of Christ.  v.47-55 sees the LORD maintaining national purity and integrity, requiring the relative of a slave to redeem him/her if the slave is subjected to a “stranger’s clan”.  These verses show the importance of familial redemption, and again, these verses find their meaning in v.55, and the year of the jubilee is the year of full redemption, whether the money is paid for the slave or not.

However, what of a pagan slave?  He will surely be ‘released’ back to his pagan owner!  It is not clearly stated here, but Deuteronomy 23:15-16 implies that refuge is not found in his pagan master!  Rather, refuge is found within the land of Israel, and the pagan slave shall find his identity within Israel.  The year of the jubilee therefore is a year where he is free, and will enjoy his freedom in attachment to the LORD who set him free.  The 7th years described in Exodus 21:1-4, and the jubilees, are all indicative of this inevitable redemption which is all justified from the great Exodus.  The book of Leviticus is not one of holistic living in a vacuum; and these chapters display that the work of the Exodus is not isolated either: it is tied very much to the 10 Commandments, the Tabernacle, and the new kingdom living as a result of salvation won.  The jubilee is merely a mock-representation of the great future Jubilee starting from the true Day of Atonement, the spiritual 10th of Tishri that we are all looking forward to.  However, are we merely going to wait for it, and not bring the reality of this new kingdom living now, by the power of the Spirit?  Let us continue to live as the Redeemed, and bring more strange clans and outsiders into the spiritual church of Israel so they, too, and live as the Redeemed and fight the slavery outside of Christ, for Christ alone gives us freedom in our slavery to His Name.

Leviticus 24:10- Ch.25: Holistic Living in the New Land

Leviticus 23-24:9: The Progression of, not towards, Christ – in the Jewish Feasts

We’ve considered many new things since the Day of atonement in Leviticus 16, all of which can be under the banner of cleanness to holiness of both the layperson and the priest to enjoy the only true privileges of being part of the church of Israel.  The progression is indeed intentional: and the progression of Christ through the layout of the gospel story so far in the first three books of Moses, rather than the progression towards Christ (as if Christ was not preached nor revealed until the New Testament) is again embodied by the famous Jewish festivities.

Many non-Christian cultures celebrate special days and events – and today, the Gregorian calendar (the calendar we use in the majority of the world today) is filled with all types of random days commemorating significant moments in history; from Jimi Hendrix’ birthday, which is coincidental to mine (November 27th), to the signing of the Treaty of Versailles to remember the end of the First World War on the 11th of November, 1918, to the catastrophic September 11th.

Each day is thus filled with its respective significance and the western calendar used today is therefore a mark of western anthropology; just as the Chinese lunar calendar’s timing of the Mid-Autumn festival is a time of celebrating the Chinese myth of the love story between a damsel on the rock orbiting the earth.  The calendar itself speaks of culture and ideology.  The Chinese calendar marks the myths, superstitions and religions of the Eastern Orient; the Gregorian now speaks of post-modernism, relativism and a global cultural melting pot.

What of the Jewish calendar which the LORD established?  Here, we find one of the most engaging and interesting aspects of Christianity, and how much the Calendar, the dates, and the feasts reveal the progression OF Christ.

Progressive Revelation of, not towards Christ in the Feasts

Just a cautionary note and perhaps a little bit of side-tracking: the title of this post is “The Progression of, not towards, Christ”.  The reason I say this is because of the relatively modern establishment of the concept of ‘progressive revelation’, which speaks of Christ as if the saints only, over time, knew that the God they trusted in was actually the Son of God.  The implications behind this, is that Adam had no idea he believed in the Son of God, and believed (as far as he is concerned) in a mono-theistic God; then David, in Psalm 110, had spiritual foresights and glimpses into the Trinitarian behaviour, but they are merely glimpses; Isaiah, only when he is filled with the Spirit, was literally possessed by the Spirit when he wrote his book – the clarity of the Trinity was not apparent to Him even as he was writing the verses about the future non-acceptance of Christ in Jerusalem (thus the common phrase: “they wrote better than they knew”); and only until the time of the gospel writers, no one had the clearest and most revealed concept of Jesus Christ as Son of God and mediator in the Trinity.

With much respect to those who struggle or hold strongly to this view, the progression towards Christ seriously frustrates me on many levels.  Primarily, the arrogance of our assumption that Adam had no faith in Christ.  Let me explain: Adam had faith in the Seed (Genesis 3:15), called his woman Eve (the mother of all living despite being cursed with death in the same chapter!), who in turn called their son Cain the LORD-man (mistakenly and prematurely, which simultaneously reveals their mentality of their faith).  If anything, his faith isn’t in the generic God – his faith is in the Seed considered as LORD-man, manifested through the burnt offerings which he taught his sons Cain and Abel as well (although the former forsook it).  I am not opposed to progression per se, because I am not saying that Adam knew where exactly Christ is born, what exactly Christ’s name is.

What I am proposing however is the progression of Christ, which is an important distinction.  The progression towards Christ, is a progression towards allowing Christ the role he plays – that being the Redeemer and Mediator between us and the Father (and himself, for the matter, for both are our Judges).  This makes the assumption that in the Old Testament, none knew consciously they needed a mediator – their concepts were vague at best, but not explicit.  This simply has no scriptural warrant (Job 19:25).  What progression of Christ means the different manifestations of God’s sacraments towards man; the different expressions of God towards man (be they Noah’s ark; rainbow; circumcision; Passover; manna; Tabernacle; Mosaic Law), they continue to express the same Mediator, the same Truth, the same Redeemer – Christ.  Thus, there is a progression of Christ towards his incarnation, and these expressions, shadows and signs have always pointed towards the fulfillment of the incarnation.

This means that Jesus is clearly known, through these teaching tools.  The people did not only trust in the signs and shadows – they trusted in what the signs and shadows pointed towards, being Christ!  The New Testament is therefore not a book of ‘revelation’ – it is a book of fulfillment of the work of the Anointed One.  It is what the Old Testament had always pointed towards.  These feasts are simply a good way to express what the sacrifices could not – a school teacher if you will, like the rest of the Mosaic law.

What makes the feast stand out is for this reason:  it is tempting to look at the animal sacrifices and literally think they save them.  It is even tempting to think you are saved by your physical circumcision, and your diligence in obeying the law, despite the constant reminder from Moses not to be tempted to think so (c.f. Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:6).

But where is such a temptation when you’re looking at the Jewish Calendar?  What can YOU possibly do about these calendar dates?  They are absolutely external to us; these days were established from the LORD alone; and ALL of them pointed towards Christ and his work on the cross.  Like the sacrament of the rainbow, let this calendar speak of the extra nos (outside of ourselves) of Christ’s work.  However, this did not stop people from being self-righteous from the observing of the days and months and seasons and years (Galatians 4:10) – and Paul is exactly making the same point I am making about the spiritual significance of these significant periods.

This is a great opportunity dive into the Jewish calendar which I’ve touched briefly upon in Exodus chapters 23 and 34.

1.  Introduction to the Jewish Calendar

2.  The feasts (Leviticus 23)

3.  Oil and bread (Leviticus 24:1-9)

4.  Progression of Christ and the Three Pilgrimage Festivals

1.  Introduction to the Jewish Calendar

Taken from here:

Hebrew English Number Length Gregorian Equivalent
Nissan (in Hebrew) Nissan 1 30 days March-April
Iyar (in Hebrew) Iyar 2 29 days April-May
Sivan (in Hebrew) Sivan 3 30 days May-June
Tammuz (in Hebrew) Tammuz 4 29 days June-July
Av (in Hebrew) Av 5 30 days July-August
Elul (in Hebrew) Elul 6 29 days August-September
Tishri (in Hebrew) Tishri 7 30 days September-October
Cheshvan (in Hebrew) Cheshvan 8 29 or 30 days October-November
Kislev (in Hebrew) Kislev 9 30 or 29 days November-December
Tevet (in Hebrew) Tevet 10 29 days December-January
Shevat (in Hebrew) Shevat 11 30 days January-February
Adar (in Hebrew) Adar I (leap years only) 12 30 days February-March
Adar II (in Hebrew) Adar (called Adar II in leap years) 12 (13 in leap years) 29 days February-March

Now, we must not look at the Jewish calendar is if it is identical to the Gregorian one which we use.  Although there are parallels to be made in identifying the corresponding Gregorian month to the Jewish month, there are additional months added in leap years (or literally, pregnant years).  The beginning of the month is normally established from observing the first teal of the moon, after the darkened moon – and therefore, each month is approximately 20-30 days, hence the discrepancy in some of the months.  However, the period between Nisan and Tishri are stable and unchanging: which means that the feasts and festivals and days of remembrance remain the same throughout those months.

Secondly, the ‘first’ month may be Nisan on the ecclesiastical year, but the actual first month of the Jewish year starts on the ‘seventh’ month – Tishri/Tishrei.  This is akin to the ‘school year’ of the Gregorian month, which begins often in September; for the Jews, Tishri is the ‘first month’ of the year – it is often referred to as a month of many significant days, from Rosh Hashanah on the 1st and 2nd of Tishrei (marking the beginning of the Jewish civil Year, as opposed to Nisan being the beginning of the Jewish ecclesiastical year), to Yom Kippur on the 10th (Day of Atonement), to the Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) beginning on the 15th.

The 1 Tishri is very significant.  It marks the same day where Adam and Eve were created; the sending of the dove after its return with the olive branch on Noah’s ark; the binding of Isaac in Genesis 22.  With such a small taster of the significance of the day, each day bears its own significance in preaching the truth of Jesus.

With this background knowledge, we can turn to the feasts.

2.  The feasts (Leviticus 23)

The progression of the festivals/feasts is as follows:

Feast/Festival

Hebrew Name

Dates

Christological sign

Passover

פֶּסַח, Pesach

14th of Nisan

Blood and death of Christ

Unleavened Bread

מצּה, Matstsah

15th– 21st of Nisan

The need for redemption, and that we are in the world but not of it

Firstfruits/Weeks

שבועות, Shavuot

6th of Sivan

Resurrection of Christ

Pentecost

Πεντηκοστή (the word ‘Pentecost’ is actually from the Greek, not Hebrew), and seen as a continuation of the harvest – Shavuot

50 days after 6th of Sivan

Giving of the Holy Spirit

Trumpets

זִכְרוֹן תְּרוּעָה, zichron teruah; ראש השנה Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Yr)

1st of Tishri

The return of Christ and the victory revealed

Day of Atonement

וֹם כִּפּוּר, Yom Kippur

10th of Tishri

Renewal of the entire creation

Tabernacles/Booths

סוכות, Sukkot

15th – 21st of Tishri

Waiting for this new creation

Sabbath (23:3)

“Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings.”

Before the festivals and the feasts, we begin with the remembrance of the first creation of 6 days (Exodus 20:11), ending with the seventh day of Sabbath, reminding Israel of the initial rest which the LORD took, before undertaking the work of new creation from the 8th day (John 5:17) onwards.  A new week, a new start. Deuteronomy 5:15 explains that this model of 6 days, then the seventh, is a model of our salvation as symbolised through the Exodus of Israel from Egypt.

The Sabbath is therefore a symbol of looking forward to the peace, the resting, of New Creation.  Do you take your Sabbath seriously?  Do you over-spiritualise it, and work every day without remembering that the LORD is in complete control and that our work is temporary on earth, for what-ever work we undertake is of two natures: the curse of Genesis 3 (the toil); or the Godly work of bringing people to the House of the Redeemed?  The former is temporary, and the latter is merely something we partake – for it is His work entirely, and not ours.  If even He rests on the Sabbath, what right do we have to work on the Sabbath?

Passover (23:4-5)

Lev 23:4-5  “These are the appointed feasts of the LORD, the holy convocations, which you shall proclaim at the time appointed for them.  (5)  In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight, is the LORD’s Passover.

So the first month of the ecclesiastical year begins with the Passover – but remember that the Jewish year begins with Tishri, not with Nisan – month number 7 is the ‘first month’ of a new year, not month number 1. This is the day that Christ went to the cross and died, and significantly so.  I have already considered the importance of the Passover in my exposition of Exodus 12.

Feast of Unleavened Bread (23:6-8 )

Lev 23:6-8  And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread.  (7)  On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work.  (8 )  But you shall present a food offering to the LORD for seven days. On the seventh day is a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work.”

I’ve already looked at the importance of the feast of the unleavened bread, where one’s waiting of leaven is the symbolism of one’s attachment to the world (during the Exodus of Israel – Exodus 12:39).  This is a period of the onlooking hope of full-redemption by arriving at the spiritual Canaan (1 Corinthians 5:8 ).

Firstfruits (23:9-14)

Lev 23:9-14  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  (10)  “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest,  (11)  and he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, so that you may be accepted. On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.  (12)  And on the day when you wave the sheaf, you shall offer a male lamb a year old without blemish as a burnt offering to the LORD.  (13)  And the grain offering with it shall be two tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, a food offering to the LORD with a pleasing aroma, and the drink offering with it shall be of wine, a fourth of a hin.  (14)  And you shall eat neither bread nor grain parched or fresh until this same day, until you have brought the offering of your God: it is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.

This is a time of harvest; and the very first of the harvest is offered to the LORD as they waited for the full harvest to be gathered later on.  This is a reminder of birth of the new life through the seed; the day of the seed, the third day (and also Day 3 of creation – Genesis 1:11-13), on which Jesus rose again is a perfect example of new life (John 12:23-24).  Jesus is the Seed which gives life to the firstfruits (2 Thess 2:13).

Feast of Pentecost (23:15-22)

Lev 23:15-22  “You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering.  (16)  You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the LORD.  (17)  You shall bring from your dwelling places two loaves of bread to be waved, made of two tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour, and they shall be baked with leaven, as firstfruits to the LORD.  (18 )  And you shall present with the bread seven lambs a year old without blemish, and one bull from the herd and two rams. They shall be a burnt offering to the LORD, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD.  (19)  And you shall offer one male goat for a sin offering, and two male lambs a year old as a sacrifice of peace offerings.  (20)  And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before the LORD, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the LORD for the priest.  (21)  And you shall make proclamation on the same day. You shall hold a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work. It is a statute forever in all your dwelling places throughout your generations.  (22)  “And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God.”

Out of the ecclesiastical year, this is the first feast which is so fulsome –

(a) a grain offering (v.16)

(b) two loaves of bread to be waved, baked with leaven as firstfruit (v.17)

(c) seven lambs a year old without blemish, and one bullock and two rams (as burnt offering v.18 )

(d) male goat for sin offering, two male lambs a year old as sacrifice as peace offering (v.19)

So this feast is one representative of the arrival at the Promised Land – for now, there is time to use yeast!

The Firstfruits marked the beginning of the harvest, as Pentecost marks the end of it; the firstfruits looked at salvation of those from the beginning of the world until Christ’s second advent – and every Christian in this period is seen as ‘firstfruits’.  However, the Pentecost looks at the fulness of this redemption – the revealing of all the sons of God in new creation (Romans 8:19).

However, how are we made the firstfruits?  By the power of the Spirit – which, unsurprisingly, is the day on  which the Spirit was given to Gentile and Jew alike in Acts 2.  Now, and not later, do we have the intimacy and fellowship with God in Christ.  We may not ‘feel’ it, or ‘experience’ it daily, but we taste the firstfruits of it.  The true intimacy we will experience with our new bodies in New Creation, but now we already know God because he knew us first (John 17:3); we already love God because he loved us first (1 John 4:19).

Out of all the feasts, this is the only one that required fellowship/peace offering.  Let’s work through the progression: first burnt offering, then sin offering, then peace offering – it is tracing the work of salvation.  Christ’s propitiatory work on the cross as burnt offering, his blood as our sin offering, and then the Spirit given as peace and fellowship offering.  Only by the power of the Spirit do we now that true communion with God, and this fellowship consists in the form of eating with God (hence the feast of Pentecost).  That is why we are a son of God, through the Sonship of Christ.

This does not end the analogy, for the latter parts of Acts 2 displays a sharing of the property of the believers.  “Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need”.  This is a parallel to v.21 – 22.  Do not do any work, as a mark of rest; and you shall not reap to the edge of the land as a form of provision to the poor and the sojourner.

Day of Trumpets (23:23-25)

Lev 23:23-25  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  (24)  “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of solemn rest, a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets, a holy convocation.  (25)  You shall not do any ordinary work, and you shall present a food offering to the LORD.”

This marks the coming of Christ, as the trumpet blast has signified so often throughout both OT and NT.  The ram’s horn was sounded in Exodus 19; then again in Joshua 6:13, v. 16, v. 20; Isaiah 18:3, 27:13; Ezekiel 33:5; 1 Thess 4:16; Revelation 11:15.

Note in the references above that the trumpet is a two-fold sign: a sign of rejoicing for those in Christ, but a sign of dread and punishment for those without Christ – rightly so; are we going to be under God’s wrath, or hiding in the cleft of the Rock?

Day of Atonement (23:26-32)

Lev 23:26-32  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  (27)  “Now on the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be for you a time of holy convocation, and you shall afflict yourselves and present a food offering to the LORD.  (28 )  And you shall not do any work on that very day, for it is a Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the LORD your God.  (29)  For whoever is not afflicted on that very day shall be cut off from his people.  (30)  And whoever does any work on that very day, that person I will destroy from among his people.  (31)  You shall not do any work. It is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwelling places.  (32)  It shall be to you a Sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict yourselves. On the ninth day of the month beginning at evening, from evening to evening shall you keep your Sabbath.”

Some observations about this day –

(a)  No work (v.28 )

(b)  Who does not deny himself will be cut off (v.29)

(c)  Who works on that day will be destroyed (v.30-32) as a Sabbath.

It is quite clear that the Day of Atonement is a day of rest, combined with the significance of the Day of Atonement as a symbol of the death, resurrection and primarily the ascension of Christ, as well as the second advent of Christ (the High Priest’s return from the Holy of Holies).  This is a hope of new creation, with no regular work – it is a celebration of Sabbath rest for the whole of creation – this theme is repeated consistently between v.26-32.

Feast of Tabernacles (23:33-44)

Lev 23:33-44  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  (34)  “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, On the fifteenth day of this seventh month and for seven days is the Feast of Booths to the LORD.  (35)  On the first day shall be a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work.  (36)  For seven days you shall present food offerings to the LORD. On the eighth day you shall hold a holy convocation and present a food offering to the LORD. It is a solemn assembly; you shall not do any ordinary work.  (37)  “These are the appointed feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim as times of holy convocation, for presenting to the LORD food offerings, burnt offerings and grain offerings, sacrifices and drink offerings, each on its proper day,  (38 )  besides the LORD’s Sabbaths and besides your gifts and besides all your vow offerings and besides all your freewill offerings, which you give to the LORD.  (39)  “On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the produce of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the LORD seven days. On the first day shall be a solemn rest, and on the eighth day shall be a solemn rest.  (40)  And you shall take on the first day the fruit of splendid trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days.  (41)  You shall celebrate it as a feast to the LORD for seven days in the year. It is a statute forever throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month.  (42)  You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths,  (43)  that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”  (44)  Thus Moses declared to the people of Israel the appointed feasts of the LORD.

v.37-38 acts as summary verses for chapter 23, and now we move on to the Feast of Tabernacles.

On the eighth day they hold a holy convocation and present a food offering to the LORD – it is a solemn assembly without ordinary work.

In many ways, this feast of tabernacles focuses on the lifestyle of the church on earth as we await the fulfillment of the Day of Atonement, which prophesies the truth of the life of the True High Priest. Starting on the 1st day with solemn rest, and 8th day with solemn rest (therefore beginning both weeks with rest).  Additionally, one should take the fruit of splendid trees, with branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook and rejoice before the LORD for seven days (v.40).  Then, they will dwell in the tents (v.42) for those seven days – and all native Israelites shall dwell in booths to remind the surrounding nations that the sign of the booth is significant.

Firstly, the importance of the solemn rest is again a concurrent theme throughout the festivals and feasts: but then the offering is one of fruit, branches, boughs, willows.  They are all related to the trees. Numbers 33:6/1 Kings 6:32/John 12:13/Revelation 7:9 indicate that palm trees are associated with life and victory; leafy trees is also a sign towards new life (Ezekiel 20:28 ).

What of the significance of living in tents/booths for seven days?  Hebrews 11:8-10 explains it away:

Heb 11:8-10  By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.  (9)  By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.  (10)  For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.

3.  Oil and Bread (Leviticus 24:1-9)

Lev 24:1-9  The LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  (2)  “Command the people of Israel to bring you pure oil from beaten olives for the lamp, that a light may be kept burning regularly.  (3)  Outside the veil of the testimony, in the tent of meeting, Aaron shall arrange it from evening to morning before the LORD regularly. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations.  (4)  He shall arrange the lamps on the lampstand of pure gold before the LORD regularly.  (5)  “You shall take fine flour and bake twelve loaves from it; two tenths of an ephah shall be in each loaf.  (6)  And you shall set them in two piles, six in a pile, on the table of pure gold before the LORD.  (7)  And you shall put pure frankincense on each pile, that it may go with the bread as a memorial portion as a food offering to the LORD.  (8 )  Every Sabbath day Aaron shall arrange it before the LORD regularly; it is from the people of Israel as a covenant forever.  (9)  And it shall be for Aaron and his sons, and they shall eat it in a holy place, since it is for him a most holy portion out of the LORD’s food offerings, a perpetual due.”

The oil of the lamp is that of the Spirit, who burns regularly.  The twelve loaves of bread, representing the 12 tribes and the 12 apostles.  The frankinsence and gold (Isaiah 60:6), an indication of the coming King!  If this is a food offering to the LORD, then the gifts given to Christ in Matthew 2:11 is an indication of an offering to Christ as LORD, as God.  This, following on from the Feast of Tabernacles, is a forward looking prophecy of the coming of Christ in his office as High Priest, and the sustenance of the Holy Spirit as our deposit throughout the end of the ages.

4.  The Progression of Christ and the Three Pilgrimage Festivals

I wrote in my post on Exodus 22-24 that out of these festivals, there are three where the all males are required to attend, namely the progression of Passover/Pesach, to Pentecost/Shavuot, to Sukkot/Tabernacles/Booths. I also mentioned in that post that the Passover represented the Son.  The Pentecost the Spirit.  The Sukkot, the Father – for it is a reminder that we may have both the Son and the Spirit, but the Father remains unseen except through the Son.  We are still in necessity of a Mediator Christ, and of his power the Spirit.  The Sukkot, therefore, reminds us that we are not yet in new creation, and are looking forward to it.

Let’s look at all these festivals in their progression – the ecclesiastical year therefore begins with the Passover, the death of Christ.  Our trust in the Passover leads us to be on our spiritual Exodus from this world to the new creation (Hebrews 13:13) signified by the Unleavened Bread, looking towards the fulfillment of Christ’s resurrection displayed through the Firstfruits.  The Pentecost, the giving of the Spirit, is the progression of Christ’s death on the cross on Passover, then resurrection on the 8th day of the week (New Creation), third day since he was dead (day of the creation of seeds), and became the firstfruit of creation as we are in him, by the power of the Spirit which he gave 50 days after Firstfruits.

All Christians of all ages therefore looks forward to the sounding of the trumpet, announcing the destruction of the reprobate and the salvation of the faithful, where the Day of Atonement, akin to the Day of Resurrection, will see the full renewal of our bodies and entire creation.

This is where the sign and blueprint of God’s plan throughout the OT to the NT is displayed – and this is the progression of Christ, not towards Christ.  For if we are speaking of towards Christ, then these ‘signs’ and calendars make no sense.  They are but extremely vague shadows, and cannot be given the Christological significance Christ tells us they deserve (John 5:39).

Which is why, AFTER the establishment of these signs, God however brings us back to our current state and establishes the feast of tabernacles after telling us of these important annual dates.  He reminds us essentially to wait for the fulfillment of these signs.  Wait for the progression of Christ from these signs to the future fulfillment.  This, therefore, should be a source of hope for the Christians in the Old Testament.

But remember the Jewish civil calendar as opposed to the ecclesiastical calendar.  The year essentially began in Tishri – and Tishri is the month starting with Trumpets and Yom Kippur.  Thus, the Jewish year begins on a joyous note of VICTORY!  Just as the new week starting on the 8th day is the day that Christ rose, so the new year represented new creation!  And the end of the Jewish year also ends joyously with the Pentecost, looking forward to the day when we eat bread with leaven in New Jerusalem, established by the trumpet blast.  The Tabernacles, Passover and Unleavened Bread are almost insignificantly sandwiched between – but it is Christ who has always been the alpha and the omega (Revelation 1:8 ) – even displayed through the Jewish Year!

Leviticus 23-24:9: The Progression of, not towards, Christ – in the Jewish Feasts

Leviticus 21-22: New Creation bodies

The last four chapters 16-20 spoke of the holy priesthood.  What of the priests?  What about their “lifestyle”?  What about what they eat?  Who can also eat?  What about what is offered by the people?  Leviticus 21-22 seeks to answer these questions, moving from the nation of priests to the true priests themselves and the pattern of our lifestyle.. in New Creation.

1.  Without Blemish: the renewed Bodies (Leviticus 21)

2.  Priestly food: the Tree of Life (Leviticus 22:1-16)

3.  Priestly sacrifices: the unblemished Lamb (Leviticus 22:17-33)

1.  Without Blemish: the renewed Bodies (Leviticus 21)

Matthew Henry points out the distinctions in Leviticus 21:

This chapter might borrow its title from Mal_2:1, “And now, O you priests, this commandment is for you.” It is a law obliging priests with the utmost care and jealousy to preserve the dignity of their priesthood.  I. The inferior priests are here charged both concerning their mourning and concerning their marriages and their children (Lev_21:1-9).  II. The high priest is restrained more than any of them (Lev_21:10-15).  III. Neither the one nor the other must have any blemish (Lev_21:16, etc.).

Note that while the priests themselves are ‘lower’ than the high priest, the priest witnesses to the high priest, just as the high priest witnesses directly to Christ.  However, note that there is no partiality in terms of blemish: both must be without blemish, whether high priest or not.  Let’s understand Jesus better by looking at the meanings of God’s establishment of holiness on these priests.

Lev 21:1-24  And the LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them: No one shall make himself unclean for the dead among his people,  (2)  except for his closest relatives, his mother, his father, his son, his daughter, his brother,  (3)  or his virgin sister (who is near to him because she has had no husband; for her he may make himself unclean).  (4)  He shall not make himself unclean as a husband among his people and so profane himself.

The meanings of these verses display the complete dedication of the priests to their duty, to the point where they have no ‘liberty’ to weep for peopl besides the immediate family.  This may sound harsh, but it reflects much about Christ’s work.  Christ indeed wept for people during his 30-year ministry on earth:

Joh 11:32-35  Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  (33)  When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.  (34)  And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.”  (35)  Jesus wept.

Who was this dead man? Lazarus: yet, did Jesus know him intimately?  No.  In fact, if we were to read Leviticus 21:1-4 correctly, it appears that the only people Christ would have wept for is Mary, Joseph, and James, depending on whether you see him as Christ’s blood brother or spiritual brother (I vouch the former, for not many other Christians in the New Testament were referred to specifically as the LORD’s brother).  However, Jesus’ weeping for Lazarus means something incredibly profound: that he would consider us so dear to him like the “closest relatives” (Leviticus 21:2), before Lazarus even rose from the dead!  That is the significance of Christ’s love for us, before we even loved Him; his faithfulness to us, before we even try to be faithful (Romans 3:4).

(5)  They shall not make bald patches on their heads, nor shave off the edges of their beards, nor make any cuts on their body.  (6)  They shall be holy to their God and not profane the name of their God. For they offer the LORD’s food offerings, the bread of their God; therefore they shall be holy.  (7)  They shall not marry a prostitute or a woman who has been defiled, neither shall they marry a woman divorced from her husband, for the priest is holy to his God.  (8 )  You shall sanctify him, for he offers the bread of your God. He shall be holy to you, for I, the LORD, who sanctify you, am holy.  (9)  And the daughter of any priest, if she profanes herself by whoring, profanes her father; she shall be burned with fire.  (10)  “The priest who is chief among his brothers, on whose head the anointing oil is poured and who has been consecrated to wear the garments, shall not let the hair of his head hang loose nor tear his clothes.  (11)  He shall not go in to any dead bodies nor make himself unclean, even for his father or for his mother.  (12)  He shall not go out of the sanctuary, lest he profane the sanctuary of his God, for the consecration of the anointing oil of his God is on him: I am the LORD.  (13)  And he shall take a wife in her virginity.  (14)  A widow, or a divorced woman, or a woman who has been defiled, or a prostitute, these he shall not marry. But he shall take as his wife a virgin of his own people,  (15)  that he may not profane his offspring among his people, for I am the LORD who sanctifies him.”

There is much to be said about v.5-15, but it would be entirely appropriate to classify these verses under the priest’s sexual purity.  v.5-6 speaks of holiness manifested through the priests’ obedience in not making marks on their bodies, most likely reflecting the pagan cultures surrounding them – and again, it is re-emphasised that they are not merely called to be clean – but to be holy (v.6).  Therefore, their purity is maintained by not marrying a prostitute, or a woman divorced from her husband – thus, a virgin (v.7-9, 13-15).  This is entirely significant, and follows on from the imagery of Adam and Eve in the Garden.  God created both in his image (Genesis 1:26-27), and both revered God as to embody the picture of Adam’s headship over Eve’s submission, which manifestly displays Christ’s love for the church which submits (Ephesians 5:22-33).  However, where is this picture shown when the priest, or High Priest, ‘goes into’ or ‘knows’ (both terms relating to sexual intercourse) or ‘marries’ a prostitute or a divorced person?  The reason simply given in Leviticus 21:7 is “for the priest is holy to his God“.  Holiness is readily defined time and time again throughout Leviticus, which ultimately speaks of God’s personality.  Leviticus is God’s biography – and he is manifestly telling us that Christ is not going to marry a corrupt, ungodly church.  That is the picture of adultery, when Israel has been constantly referred to as idolatrous and adulterous because of her unfaithfulness (c.f. books of Hosea and Ezekiel).  Thus, for a priest to marry a prostitute is akin to Christ marrying, for example, a Canaanite who still offers herself to other gods and idols. That is why in v.14 it says that he shall take a virgin from his own people – for Christ marries none other than his own.  What kind of gospel are we preaching when we, as Christians and as priests of God, date or marry a non-Christian?  It is a ‘gospel’ of universalism and open theism.  Let us not be false teachers people, and learn to devote ourselves to Christ in our relational life.

But why marginalise the ‘prostitues’, ‘divorced’ and ‘widowed’, over the ‘virgin’?  This is speaking about the purity of the person coming before the priest; the purity of the person coming before Christ.  The definition of ‘purity’ and ‘without blemish’ will come more into play in the later verses, but it is important to note that this seeming partiality towards the divorced and the prostitute is extremely important in our eschatological theology.  What the LORD is essentially telling us, is that in new Jerusalem, where we have our wedding feast with Christ – only there will we be officially married to Christ.  It is most important to remember however that before we can even stand before Christ in new creation, we must be in our wedding garbs of righteousness (Isaiah 61).  What this means is mani-fold, but just to pick out two: it means that we are completely righteous before Christ and the Father, as if we are Christ himself (since we are in Christ now).  Remember however that Christ is a virgin – that he never knew a person during his lifetime on earth.  This, along with other reasons why he remains celibate, completely contradicts the “Brownian effect” (a term I coin for Dan Brown’s ludicrous theology), and is just merely an expression of someone who simply did not understand Christ’s ministry on earth.

If we are in Christ, and we are presented to the Father as if we were Christ himself, that means we inherit his body, his resurrection, his ascension, his righteousness… and undoubtedly, his virginity.  Therefore, it is most important that the wife is a virgin – to emulate the virginity of Christ, as the church takes on Christ’s very being.

(16)  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  (17)  “Speak to Aaron, saying, None of your offspring throughout their generations who has a blemish may approach to offer the bread of his God.  (18 )  For no one who has a blemish shall draw near, a man blind or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or a limb too long,  (19)  or a man who has an injured foot or an injured hand,  (20)  or a hunchback or a dwarf or a man with a defect in his sight or an itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles.  (21)  No man of the offspring of Aaron the priest who has a blemish shall come near to offer the LORD’s food offerings; since he has a blemish, he shall not come near to offer the bread of his God.  (22)  He may eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy and of the holy things,  (23)  but he shall not go through the veil or approach the altar, because he has a blemish, that he may not profane my sanctuaries, for I am the LORD who sanctifies them.”  (24)  So Moses spoke to Aaron and to his sons and to all the people of Israel.

People may read v.16-21 and say that it is harsh.  Remember however, that this priesthood was not ‘gained’ by Aaron and his sons, because of their faithfulness.  It has always been God’s pattern to gift us with ministries and salvation (Genesis chapters 12, 15; Romans 9:6).  If we continually look at the priests Christologically, we are learning something valuable about the comparison of the human priests to our God-King-Priest Yeshua/Joshua/Jesus.  Because, the human priest is after all weak, and will succumb to God’s sovereignty over their birth defect, or defect eventually gained in their life (v. 18 ).  But the fully divine AND human priest is sinless, and without blemish.  The LORD, through the expression of these verses, is solidifying his holiness over man’s incapability of remaining holy without the LORD’s permission or sovereignty over even his own birth.  One cannot help but read these verses and completely kneel and give oneself to the living God’s interaction with us, and ability to humble us so we do not misappropriate the true role of priesthood in our own hands, when we have been given this privilege through Christ alone, who is our only sinless High Priest without blemish (Hebrews 4:15).  Without a High Priest without blemish, he would not be capable of representing the assembly of Israel to take the blood of the sacrifice before the ark of the covenant within the Holy of Holies (v.21 and 23).

However, do not be discouraged because you are born with, or you now have, a physical defect.  That is not God’s intention nor his expression in these verses: he is actually giving us a message of hope and humility to stand before him without arrogance, and trusting only in Christ.  Because Christ took on human flesh, he rose again in a renewed body.  In the same way, our Christ whose body was without blemish, who was a virgin, who ascended to heaven and sat at the right hand of God – WE also, will appropriate these things because of him.  Leviticus 21 is a picture of hope for us only if we stand by the unblemished High Priest, so we look forward to our new creation bodies without blemish.

2.  Priestly food: the Tree of Life (Leviticus 22:1-16)

If the holiness and unblemished character of the priests reflect that of Christ’s unblemished nature, what of the priestly food?

Lev 22:1-33  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  (2)  “Speak to Aaron and his sons so that they abstain from the holy things of the people of Israel, which they dedicate to me, so that they do not profane my holy name: I am the LORD.

The opening verses of chapter 22 follows on naturally from chapter 21 – firstly, if the priest is holy, so also the “things” are holy.

It is quite interesting as to why both priest and the offering are holy – for they speak of how Christ is both priest and sacrifice.  We play no role in creation nor redemption!  We are partakers, and taken up into that role of creation and redemption.  Here, we see a picture of God’s definition of redemption: that Christ the holy priest offers himself as holy offering.  Jurgen Moltmann in his “The Church in the Power of the Spirit: A Contribution of Messianic Ecclesiology”:

“It is not the church that has a mission of salvation to fulfill in the world, it is the mission of the Son and the Spirit through the Father which includes the church”

It is therefore through Christ that we can even partake in God’s work.  God continually reminds the Aaronic priests that it is not them actually remitting the sins of Israel, for they are actually sinful!  This is explained in v.2 – that the Aaronic priests should abstain from the holy things while he has uncleanness as explained in v.3 onwards:

(3)  Say to them, ‘If any one of all your offspring throughout your generations approaches the holy things that the people of Israel dedicate to the LORD, while he has an uncleanness, that person shall be cut off from my presence: I am the LORD.  (4)  None of the offspring of Aaron who has a leprous disease or a discharge may eat of the holy things until he is clean. Whoever touches anything that is unclean through contact with the dead or a man who has had an emission of semen,  (5)  and whoever touches a swarming thing by which he may be made unclean or a person from whom he may take uncleanness, whatever his uncleanness may be–  (6)  the person who touches such a thing shall be unclean until the evening and shall not eat of the holy things unless he has bathed his body in water.

This is actually a great verse, in exposing the truth of Genesis 3:22.  Here is the verse:

And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever…

Now, some people think there is a defect in the translation – and I think there is.  But it is better interpreted as such in the context of Genesis 3.  Remember that man has eaten from the tree of good and evil, celebrating the seeming autonomy of man pitted against God.  Satan has effectively influenced man through the tree of the law – and man attempted to do the works of the law and fulfill the law in itself.  However, man can at any time take from the tree of life, having already sinned against God.  Can man just live forever and God will look away at man’s great offence against Him?  No – and that is why God bars the way to the tree of life.  We simply do not deserve it: and our sin must be dealt with.  To live forever as self-proclaimed and self-righteous and self-justifying “God-men” (in terms of judging what is good and evil for ourself) is simply heresy.

However, we can eat from this holy tree, if we are clean.  Adam and Eve solidified their uncleanness by eating of the tree of good and evil, thus God barred the way to the tree of life signified by the cherubim and the burning sword, manifested in the veil with the cherubim pattern.  The only way we can enjoy the food, the feast, is if there is blood to cleanse us so we have renewed bodies.  Only with a renewed body can we take food from the tree of life – any other attempt is futile and we will only be caught up in the veil-flame between the Holy of Holies and the Holy Place.  Revelation 2:7 and 22:14:

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

and

Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.

And who can overcome?  Who can do his commandments?  Christ.  And in Christ, God looks at us as if we are Christ himself – and we stand as the righteous and blessed man, through His Son’s blood and water.

(7)  When the sun goes down he shall be clean, and afterward he may eat of the holy things, because they are his food.  (8 )  He shall not eat what dies of itself or is torn by beasts, and so make himself unclean by it: I am the LORD.’  (9)  They shall therefore keep my charge, lest they bear sin for it and die thereby when they profane it: I am the LORD who sanctifies them.  (10)  “A lay person shall not eat of a holy thing; no foreign guest of the priest or hired servant shall eat of a holy thing,  (11)  but if a priest buys a slave as his property for money, the slave may eat of it, and anyone born in his house may eat of his food.  (12)  If a priest’s daughter marries a layman, she shall not eat of the contribution of the holy things.  (13)  But if a priest’s daughter is widowed or divorced and has no child and returns to her father’s house, as in her youth, she may eat of her father’s food; yet no lay person shall eat of it.  (14)  And if anyone eats of a holy thing unintentionally, he shall add the fifth of its value to it and give the holy thing to the priest.  (15)  They shall not profane the holy things of the people of Israel, which they contribute to the LORD,  (16)  and so cause them to bear iniquity and guilt, by eating their holy things: for I am the LORD who sanctifies them.”

v.16 – “For I am the LORD who sanctifies them”.  What of this seeming intolerance of “lay persons”?  Let’s go through verse by verse.  v.7-8 is a re-iteration of the law on eating, and the refrain again: “I am the LORD who sanctifies them” (v.9).  Then, v. 10: a lay person shall not eat a holy thing.  Therefore, the contrast is established: a holy unblemished priest can eat of holy things: but a lay person, who is merely clean cannot eat of holy things.  v.11 explains: a slave bought as the priests property for a price, can eat of it.

Let’s stop here for a bit: a doulos (greek for slave) who is bought at a price for his life?  1 Corinthians 7:22:

For he who was called in the Lord as a slave is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a slave of Christ.

However, given the potential exegetical fallacy in comparing the NT greek for ‘doulos’ with the OT ‘ebed (עבד Hebrew for bond-servant), there is a high possibility that they convey subtle different meanings.  Indeed there is – the word doulos is in fact such a limited semantic choice the translators picked for the ESV.  Consider the LXX on v.11:  psyche (ψυχή), which actually means breath or spirit.  Thus, matching the LXX against the Hebrew, it can be re-translated as “but if a priest buys any soul as his property for money“.  The semantic range for “soul” (psyche in Greek, nephesh in Hebrew, נפשׁ ) is vast:  it can simply mean a breathing creature, a creature which has life or simply Spirit (though I think a living creature is more appropriate, since the Spirit is often referred to as wind, or ruah in Hebrew).

The Trinity in relation to those who take part in the House of the Priest

Let’s look at the first semantic choice: if a slave can now eat of the holy food as if he was actually born in the house of the priest (aka, becoming one of the priestly line), then he is adopted into the Holy family!  What a wonderful picture of the Holy Trinity!  Matthew 11 is my proof text for comparison:

Mat 11:25-27  At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;  (26)  yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.  (27)  All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

These verses from Matthew reveals just how closely intertwined one’s salvation is to one’s knowledge of the Trinity: one simply cannot be saved without acknowledgment of the Trinity.  When we are adopted into the Holy Family of God, we are now seen as sons of God (meaning the Father: c.f. Romans 8:14, so we are not sons of Christ), like Christ, because we are joined to, and in Christ! We NOW partake in Christ’s sonship and directly capable of speaking to the Father by the power of the Spirit making all of this possible.  Without the Trinity, salvation simply does NOT make sense.  The implications of this are vast – or should I say explicit nature, rather than implicit nature.  If we follow after Abraham’s faith in Romans 4, and Hebrews 11 states very clearly that these Old Testament saints had the same faith which we now follow, then how is it possible that the Old Testament saints can even be saved without any saving knowledge of the Trinity?  Leviticus 21-22 is a lesson plan, teaching them about the Trinity in the context of New Creation!  For the people alive during Moses time who not only had the passages of Genesis and Exodus to read concerning the Angel of the LORD, the Burning Bush, the Pillar of Cloud and Fire, the Passover Lamb, the Three Tabernacle Furniture described BEFORE the Tabernacle itself, the Father who descended on Mt. Sinai on the Third Day – these are all profound and explicit pictures of not the multi, but tri-Personal nature of the Trinity.  Otherwise, there is profound difficulty in Jesus being the sacrifice to himself – when he is clearly bringing his blood to the Father, and not to himself!  What we may end up with is a modalistic nature of God who ‘acts’ as sacrifice, Son, Father, Spirit when he wishes, which is clearly impossible given the separate actions of each to fulfil the fulsome picture of a Holy Family who are separate in number and persons, but not separate in entity.

That, however, is merely the limited semantic concerning the English translation ‘slave’ or ‘bondservant’.  What of the specific usage of psyche and nephesh – the spirited creature?  I have investigated the claim concerning fish which are the only creatures without breath, without a soul (Genesis 1:30 implies that only the birds in heavens, beast of earth and everything that creeps on the ground has the breath of God sustaining them).  This in fact is a picture of salvation, coloured by the salvation of spirited beasts in Jonah (Jonah 3: 8 ) – which points again towards New Creation (Isaiah 11:6-10) where only the creatures with the Spirit sustaining them will co-exist with us there peacefully.  Thus, v.11 isn’t exclusive of the beasts who, throughout Scripture, are mentioned to be saved unto God to new Creation – and the semantic range of v.11 simply refers to the salvation of every creature (including man and beast) to New Creation, by adoption through Christ, the true priest!

A layman is simply ‘clean’ – and even God says that is not enough.  That is the explanation of the Ascension: if we are left with death and resurrection, then as Christians, we are left with a blank slate whenever we return to Christ.  He is like an eraser, who erases our sins.  But that is merely a burnt and a sin offering for cleansing.  What about our priestly ordination?  What about our ability to eat of the holy fruit: we must become holy; we must be sanctified.  This is why the ascension is CRUCIAL to the work of the cross: without it, we will not be sanctified and go with Christ through to the Holy of Holies.  We would forever remain as clean laypeople but barred from even going through the veil of fire.  What good would that be?  What kind of God ‘saves’ us, but leaves us stranded on the proverbial limbo?  Not the Jesus of the Bible: for he desires not only to cleanse us, but to impute to us HIS holiness, so WE as a body of Christians can commune with the Triune God manifested through food, as symbolised by the great wedding feast which is the first thing that awaits us in New Creation!  He is, as He repeatedly says, the LORD who sanctifies us – through Jesus Christ alone.

3.  Priestly sacrifices: the unblemished Lamb (Leviticus 22:17-33)

(17)  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  (18)  “Speak to Aaron and his sons and all the people of Israel and say to them, When any one of the house of Israel or of the sojourners in Israel presents a burnt offering as his offering, for any of their vows or freewill offerings that they offer to the LORD,  (19)  if it is to be accepted for you it shall be a male without blemish, of the bulls or the sheep or the goats.  (20)  You shall not offer anything that has a blemish, for it will not be acceptable for you.  (21)  And when anyone offers a sacrifice of peace offerings to the LORD to fulfill a vow or as a freewill offering from the herd or from the flock, to be accepted it must be perfect; there shall be no blemish in it.  (22)  Animals blind or disabled or mutilated or having a discharge or an itch or scabs you shall not offer to the LORD or give them to the LORD as a food offering on the altar.  (23)  You may present a bull or a lamb that has a part too long or too short for a freewill offering, but for a vow offering it cannot be accepted.  (24)  Any animal that has its testicles bruised or crushed or torn or cut you shall not offer to the LORD; you shall not do it within your land,  (25)  neither shall you offer as the bread of your God any such animals gotten from a foreigner. Since there is a blemish in them, because of their mutilation, they will not be accepted for you.”

Now, we turn to priestly sacrifices which are also seen as without blemish (v.20-21).  If our priests are without blemish, and that the food they (and the other priests, including slaves of priests and those who return to the house of the priest as wholly devoted, like the woman who has returned to singlehood and no longer bound to another, so she can devote herself fully to Jesus in spiritual marriage to Him) eat gives them life as classified as a holy thing, then HOW can we receive these things?  Through sacrifices without blemish.

You may wonder: what does this have to do with v.24-25 – the sacrifice’s ‘testicles’?  This is because this is where the seed comes from: the seed that gives life.  I have investigated the truths behind ‘semen’, behind ‘seed’ theology (Genesis 1:11), behind circumcision (Genesis 17) – and that they find their definitive meaning of renewed eternal life in the Seed of Genesis 3:15.  Therefore, to provide an animal with crushed testicles, then that is to preach that the animal is incapable of giving new life – that the animal is not an appropriate sacrifice which preaches Jesus’ ability to give new life, as symbolised by the renaming of Eve as the mother of all living, and through Mary the literal mother of the Son of True living.

(26)  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  (27)  “When an ox or sheep or goat is born, it shall remain seven days with its mother, and from the eighth day on it shall be acceptable as a food offering to the LORD.  (28 )  But you shall not kill an ox or a sheep and her young in one day.  (29)  And when you sacrifice a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the LORD, you shall sacrifice it so that you may be accepted.  (30)  It shall be eaten on the same day; you shall leave none of it until morning: I am the LORD.  (31)  “So you shall keep my commandments and do them: I am the LORD.  (32)  And you shall not profane my holy name, that I may be sanctified among the people of Israel. I am the LORD who sanctifies you,  (33)  who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am the LORD.”

Again, let’s not smoothe over the details of the birth of the ox or sheep, which awaits the 8th day of Christ’s resurrection after Sabbath to be seen as acceptable as food offering to the LORD.  It is a forward looking sacrifice to new creation of the 8th day.  The cutting of the flesh through which seed is borne in the male genitalia (Genesis 17) is directly analogised to the cutting of the flesh of the beast – and both are suitable examples of Christ’s work on the cross – he is the God, the man, and the Lamb.

v28 is interesting and is a humane presentation of God’s view to sacrifices – he is not bloodthirsty: but the sacrifices are still necessary.  Here is Matthew Henry’s take on the verse:

That the dam and her young should not both be killed in one day, whether in sacrifice or for common use, Lev_22:28. There is such a law as this concerning birds, Deu_22:6. This was forbidden, not as evil in itself, but because it looked barbarous and cruel to the brute creatures; like the tyranny of the king of Babylon, that slew Zedekiah’s sons before his eyes, and then put out his eyes. It looked ill-natured towards the species to kill two generations at once, as if one designed the ruin of the kind.

And v.29-30 is again a re-establishment of the laws already taught in Leviticus 7:15; 19:6-7.

No Foreigners

v.10 and v.25 of chapter 22 speaks quite clearly against foreigners: this immediately symbolised the purity of Israel which we have already looked at.  It is a witness towards spiritual purity – and that the only acceptable person to eat of the Holy food, off the Tree of Life, is a Christian – not a ‘foreigner’ who confesses not Christ.  Secondly, the animal sacrifice shall be provided by a local, and not a foreigner – again to display the salvation of Christ through the Jews, explaining his incarnation as a Jew – to be part of their ethnic and spiritual identity.

Conclusion

The last two verses of chapter 22 summarise many of the truths spoken of since Exodus 20 to Leviticus 22: “I am the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am the LORD”.  Since Exodus 20, every statement has been a pattern of things to come – that even the 10 commandments are filled with “You shall” statement.  Statements of promise that we will do these things without blemish.  Similarly, v. 31 repeats it: “you SHALL keep my commandments” – not you must.  Remember this is no works-salvation: the Israelites are learning these commandments on the basis of having been already saved – the constant phrase of “I am the LORD who saved you out of the land of Egypt“.  A God who saves will not then require them to prove themselves as save-worthy – that would be akin to asking the Israelites to do as Nadab and Abihu did, and provide strange, additional hostile offering.  Rather, this is a God making promises: Here is a Father, and the Son, and the Spirit, authoritatively and confidently establishing what we will and we shall do eventually – in new creation.  Are you confident in your own ability to be the priest who provides an unblemished sacrifice of your own, whether in the form of your devotion in religion, the number of times you pray, or the number of pilgrimages and fasts you have committed yourself to?  Or are you confident in Christ’s ability to be the priest who provides himself (Genesis 22) as the unblemished sacrifice?

Let us inherit the hope of New Creation – looking forward to our own sanctification so we can finally eat of the Tree of Life which God had always intended for us to enjoy with us by His side.

Leviticus 21-22: New Creation bodies

Leviticus 17-20: You shall be a holy priesthood

Now we have come to what I deem the ‘second half’ of the book of Leviticus – not in the numbers of chapters, but in the manner of these commandments coming post-Day of Atonement.  We’ve looked at the importance of the Day, and thus every teaching now speaks not merely of cleanness, but something more about God’s holiness and our relation to His holiness.  We’ve looked at sacrifices, we’ve looked at priestly ordinations – but now, we turn to the holiness of every single aspect of our lives which Leviticus 17-27 offers to teach by the power of the Holy Spirit.

1.  It is in the blood (Leviticus 17)

2.  You are salt and light: sexual morality (Leviticus 18 )

3.  The holy intra-trinitarian community: Sermon on the Mt. Pt.2 (Leviticus 19)

4.  Punishments (Leviticus 20)

1.  It is in the blood (Leviticus 17)

Running directly from Leviticus 16, and from the previous 15 chapters on sacrifices and the priestly management of sacrifices, the picture of blood is vivid in the Israelites’ mind.  Through looking at the scapegoat and the sacrificial goat, we see how utterly painful it is for true remission of sins.  Without blood, there is no remission of sins.  It does not matter how hard we work; it does not matter how devout we are; it does not matter how much faith we have; it does not matter how many other types of sacrifices we give.  If we do not stand in the cleft of the Rock from Whom the waters of the Spirit flows, Whose blood is shed for the remission of all our sins so that all may come to repentance (2 Peter 3), then anything we do is empty.  It is, as the Teacher in Ecclesiastes called it, vain – in the Hebrew הבל, “hebel”, meaning transitory – like vapour.

So the lesson continues through to Leviticus 17 – it is therefore important not to read Leviticus in bits, but to read it continuously from chapter 1 down to 17 to see the importance of the lesson of blood.  The last few verses pulls out the central meaning of the chapter:

Lev 17:14-16  For the life of every creature is its blood: its blood is its life. Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, You shall not eat the blood of any creature, for the life of every creature is its blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off.  (15)  And every person who eats what dies of itself or what is torn by beasts, whether he is a native or a sojourner, shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening; then he shall be clean.  (16)  But if he does not wash them or bathe his flesh, he shall bear his iniquity.

Everything preceding it is teaching how the life of anything is in the blood.  The chapter begins with people bringing all the ox, lamb or goat they had intended to kill to the door of the tabernacle as an offering to the LORD.  The repercussions are serious if anyone fails to do that (including the sojourners – v.8 ), “bloodguilt shall be imputed to that man. He has shed blood, and that man shall be cut off from among his people” (v.4).  Not only is he ostracised from the Israelite community, but he shall bear the bloodguilt of the animal.

If you had doubts that the LORD did not care for the animals – this chapter could not be more revealing of the LORD’s heart.  He absolutely detests the taking of life; yet, for our sake, our Creator God bears the dual role of also being our Redeemer God.  He is responsible, and not deistic, leaving us to our own devices.  And through Leviticus 17, he is teaching that because he detests the taking of life to save another, we should also learn to respect the work of the Son similarly.  The Father did not take joy in punishing the Son on the cross; like the Son, the Father was equally pained.  Yet, that is the mark of his love for the Bride of Christ.  This is no cosmic child abuse – to say that is to completely misunderstand the character of the 1st Person of the Trinity.

V.7-9 is also quite revealing of the mindset of those early Israelites – God had foreseen that they would be tempted to sacrifice to other idols, to other Gods, despite seeing these wonders.  Yet, are we so different?  The LORD teaches that even such heresy will result in them being cut from the church of Israel.  Let us heed Christ, and give to him wholeheartedly, for he detests idolaters and calls them whores (Hosea 3:3).  In the Mosaic time, it may have been a goat idol (which may cast some thought on the meaning of ‘Azazel’ in chapter 16).

Eating

There is something quite important that needs to be said about the blood.  If the life is in the blood, as established not only in Leviticus 17:11, but back in Genesis 9:4-6, and even implied strongly in Genesis 3 when an animal was slaughtered before Adam and Eve’s eyes just so they can have the righteous robes of the animal skin, the prototypical progression in displaying the righteous robes of Isaiah 61.  It is emphasised again in Acts 15:28-29; yet, listen to Christ’s word: we must eat his flesh and drink his blood.  Heresy? (John 6:53-57).

Rather, if life is in the blood, and the LORD is teaching us not to take the blood of other flesh, He is fundamentally teaching us not to eat and to receive life from an animal which is not given to God.  Jesus is teaching us that no other blood is suitable for us – only HIS blood.  To take the blood of other animals is to consume the life of something other than Christ!  Are we eating of the Lamb of the Passover, or are we eating of an animal we sacrifice elsewhere for ourselves?  This is the reason why we pray before we eat: to remember that life has been sacrificed for us, as we consume the flesh and live.  Every flesh we eat of is a pale comparison to the true flesh and Christ’s blood which we partake.  To pray before we eat is to ask for God’s blessing over the meal, and for God to remain faithful and remind us of the true flesh and blood which gives us life.  To merely give thanks for food is insufficient; it is as if we merely give thanks to Christ offhandedly, like Simon the Pharisee; but to think wholeheartedly about the blood of Christ even at the meal-table is to become akin to the woman with the alabaster flask (Luke 7) – to know the true meaning of the cleansing of sin by Christ’s blood alone (Revelation 12:11).

Yet so often we regress to our Adamic behaviour – for the first thing he ate is the forbidden fruit.  But the LORD asks us to eat from the tree of life.  Eating is an important theology to consider, and the greatest meaning found through the significance of the blood.  Let us not forsake our Christian theology at the dinner table, for there we are found most starved; yet, in moments of pitiful degrees of starvation, it is then that we realise how much we need Christ Whose shadow is only shown when we consume our meals.

2.  You are salt and light: sexual morality (Leviticus 18 )

There is much comparison between Leviticus 18-20 and Exodus 21-23.  Both symbolically occur after the “Day of Atonement”.  In Exodus 19-20, the Father and the Son were on Mt. Sinai on the third day, and rules of kingdom living were given shortly afterwards.  In Leviticus 16, the Christ was crucified and his work on the cross was completed – on the third day (although the word ‘third day’ is not used in Leviticus 16, we understand that the giving of the second Decalogue was symbolic of the work of the Son on the Day of Atonement, and the connection is easy to make between Leviticus 16 and Exodus 19-20).  Because of this, the following chapters of Leviticus refer to righteous kingdom living, and what a community with the Trinity would be like in heaven.

Unsurprisingly Exodus 20 ends with this verse (v.26):

And you shall not go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness be not exposed on it.

It is the very first exposition after the 10 commandments: that one should not expose one’s nakedness to the altar!  Then again, this connection is made between Leviticus 16-18.  We were taught about the Day of Atonement and the significance of blood and life (between chapters 16-17) – a message preached also when the Father descended to Mt. Sinai on the third day between Exodus 19-20.  And in both circumstances, the immediate message preached is – do not expose your nakedness in an ungodly manner!  Thus begins the message on sexual morality.

In a post-Ted Haggard climate where both Evangelicals and Catholics, just to name two of the biggest Christian denominations, are facing charges of abuse in leadership and hypocrisy over homosexuality, Leviticus 18 comes as a wake-up call.  The amount of detail which the LORD provides is fear-inducing.  Just how depraved can man be?  To read this and to simply deny the truth of it, is to laugh in the face of God’s anthropological assessment in comparison to what he intended us to be like.  Here is a quick break-down of the things listed in this chapter:

  1. Next of kin (18:6)
  2. Mother/step-mother (18:7-8 )
  3. Sister/stepsister (18:9)
  4. Grand-daughter (18:10)
  5. Daughter of step-mother (i.e. step-sister) (18:11)
  6. Aunt, by father or mother (18:12-13)
  7. Uncle’s wife (18:14)
  8. Daughter-in-law (18:15)
  9. Sister-in-law (18:16)
  10. A woman and her daughter; son’s daughter, or daughter’s daughter (18:17)
  11. Two sisters at the same time (18:18 )
  12. During Menstrual uncleanness (18:19)
  13. Neighbour’s wife (18:20)
  14. Offering of child to Molech (18:21)
  15. Lie with male as with woman (18:22)
  16. Lie with animal (whether man with animal or woman with animal) (18:23)

Yet, what is the significance of sexual purity and sexual morality?  The significance of sexual purity is found primarily in Genesis, when God made man on day six.  In Genesis 2:18, after man had witnessed that each beast had its own companion of the opposite gender, only he was alone.  God however doesn’t create a host of female companions for him – God created one, that was cut from Adam’s side.

The meaning of our sexuality, found in Genesis 1:26-27

The implications of this are vast, and I have covered it in my earlier posts on Genesis.  Primarily, the meaning of the rib taken from Adam’s side finds its meaning in both of them being in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27).  The true of image of God is Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:15-17), thus, for Adam to be asleep whilst the rib was taken from him is to imply that a new creation was made in the symbolic ‘death and resurrection’ of Adam.  The concept of sleep, as we know, is Christologically symbolic of death – and to be awake, in the morning, is to theologically rise again on the Resurrection Day.  Richard Baxter has this to say on the daily lifestyle of a Christian:

Therefore, when we read the 16 listed commandments concerning sexual relations, we may wonder: why those relationships?  Why don’t we succumb to the Muslim teaching of polygamy?  Or secular teaching of tolerance of bisexuality or homosexuality?  Indeed, my response would be – if Christ was preached in those sexual relationships, then yes, they are indeed pleasing to God.  My response however, would not simply be – those relationships are morally repulsive; or will cause genetic, scientific defects and diseases (though, this is partially a consequence of many sinful types of sexual relationships; this may explain why the earlier humans, with the Spirit striving in them (Genesis 6:3), may have had less problems with genetic defects given the impossibility of having sexual relations with anyone who isn’t a next of kin).  The primary response nonetheless is – can their sexual relationships preach the gospel?  Can it show the relationship in Ephesians 5, that Christ would love the church, his bride?  In the Hebrew, this is stronger: would the male heavens unite with the female terra as a proclamation of new creation when heaven and earth are renewed and conjoined as in the time of the Garden?  The usage of the gender in Hebrew often relates to the role of the female in relation to the male to display some Spiritual truth, so we should not under-estimate the role of Hebrew gender in preaching the gospel either.

To reach that conclusion however, we must dissect some things.

To begin with, in Colossians 1:15-17, we see that Jesus is the visible God of the unseen God.  The divine nature shown is his relationship within the Triune God of Father Son and Holy Spirit.  To understand therefore what God meant when he preached the gospel of creation is to understand that his Trinitarian nature is imprinted in creation (Psalm 19, Romans 1) – especially in man, where we are the image of him as I formerly mentioned (Genesis 1:27).  Only in this “image” can the Trinitarian divinity become visible – but only in Christ do we find the true meaning of this visible image.

And this Trinitarian nature gives much meaning to say, for example, 1 Corinthians 11:1-16.  The concept of headship finds its only meaning in Fatherhood and Sonship – and nothing else.  To assume a merely cultural understanding of 1 Cor 11:1-16 is to fail to understand that the Trinity is not only cultural in a divine way – it is eternal.

Paul’s Argument in Romans 1:18-32

Which brings us back to Romans 1.  Paul’s argument of our fallen nature starts with ‘sexual immorality’ and the human body.  This begs the question: why?  Why did he not start with pride, as it seemed to be one of the first sins of Satan (Ezekiel 28 )?  Why focus on man’s nature, his image in God?  In fact, the corruption of this image is the very reason why Paul starts his argument of sin in this way.  He states in Romans 1:28 – God gave them up to debased minds.  We’ve looked at just how sinful man can be, and Leviticus chapters 1-16 could not have spoken a truer picture.  The ESV in Romans 1:21 is strong – it says we have “futile” thinking, outside of Christ.

In essence, what this means is that the male and female image of God no longer proclaims the truth that God had intended through Christ.  No longer is the message of the gospel, of the Trinity, preached in the inter-sexual relationships, because we now preach all types of sexuality – from gender ‘neutrality’, to the war of the sexes, to homosexuality, to celibacy (not for godly purposes) and so on.  Thus, to look upon sexual immorality (which includes homosexuality, and this sexual immorality does not include a specific type of sexuality), which is clearly spelt out in verses 26-28:

Rom 1:26-28  For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature;  (27)  and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.  (28 )  And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.

v.28 explains it well: they did not see fit to acknowledge God.  BECAUSE they did not want to preach God, they expressed their idolatry THROUGH these debased relationships.  It is important therefore to understand what it means when I say it isn’t about gender neutrality: what I mean is that there is indeed a significant division in terms of role for each gender.  Ephesians 5, 1 Timothy 2:14, 1 Corinthians 11, just to name a few, are not patriarchal teachings in terms of chauvinism.  In fact, many of the teachings were difficult for the irresponsible males in the Greek society.  It had nothing to do with chauvinism – but everything to do with leadership, responsibility, and perfect love.  For, in response, the woman in a submissive state is to not only ‘submit’ – but the Greek hupotasso ὑποτάσσω, is actually saying “under obedience”.  But without the husband’s unconditional love, then the obedience will become one of fear – and only in God’s perfect love (1 John 4:18 ), will our fear of him be a godly fear, and not one of fear of punishment.

Therefore, not only homosexuality – but every type of sexual intimacy OUTSIDE of heterosexual marriage is a rejection of the doctrine of God!  It is a rejection of Christ’s marriage proposal, sealed with the engagement of the Holy Spirit as our ‘wedding band’ (Esther 8 ), that he awaits until New Creation to enjoy true intimacy with us, his female bride on the female terra (earth), whilst he resides in the male heavens!  Similarly, that the woman, cut from Adam, preaching the message of Genesis 1:1 that the heavens and the earth are cut-down from Christ!

This means that every homosexual relationship preaches the message of Christ marrying himself or something identical – this is a periphery of self-idolatry.  Or perhaps a relationship subsumed of headship, preaches the message of the church, teaching Jesus what to do!  How ridiculous does that sound?  Or a heterosexual relationship outside of marriage, teaches that one can have the same intimacy outside or within marriage.  But that is not true either, for we, in engagement to Christ, await Christ’s second advent because of the very reason of such small glimpses of the true intimacy we have on this side of creation!

Back to Leviticus 18 – the message preached therefore is one of gospel.  Natural relations is a way that humanity was created as male and female, and what is ‘natural’ is found in the image of God, in Jesus’ sonship to the Father’s fatherhood.  To define ‘natural’ as anything else is to be merely anthropological – and not biblical nor Christological.

Romans 1:28 says that to be even further etched into the world’s definition of ‘nature’ and ‘sexuality’ is to be in further alienation from God.  This is why God gave them over to a depraved mind – expressed strongly through their sexuality.

Therefore, matching this truth with the 16 commandments of sexuality, we must understand how Christ would not propose himself to sexual intimacy with beasts or other creatures, for he died for man alone (Hebrews 2:16).  Christ would not marry someone who belongs to someone else, because that is adultery.  What this means is that he requires us to wholeheartedly follow HIM and HIM alone, leaving our adulterous life (Hosea 3).  Nor does he want there to be a rivalry in relationships, which is why he requires a personal relationship with one figure, because he is marrying only one Church that proclaims his name! (Psalm 148 ) – Thus, the message of marriage is preached the best when you witness a leading husband, sanctifying and loving his submissive wife – and there, you see the picture of Christ loving the church.  Sexuality should have no other meaning – even sexual intimacy finds its only meaning in Christ’s intimacy with the church!

Two anomalies?  Abortion of Children and Menstrual Uncleanness

Under my numerical labelling, commandment 12 and 14 stand out like sore thumbs.  However, they are in fact tied very much to sexual relationships – what kind of sexual relationships only concern the husband and the wife, and not of the children?  What kind of sexual relationships concern only the husband or only the wife?  Commandment 12 states that to have intimacy during menstrual uncleanness is a sin – because menstrual uncleanness is a period of groaning and pain, akin to the groaning and pain of creation.  To enter the woman in that period is to preach that Christ’s return and the filling of his seed in the woman causes pain and blood!  Rather, the filling of Christ’s seed and his intimacy with his church is a time of rejoicing and NOT a time of creation’s groaning.

Secondly, commandment 14 seems also to be quite irrelevant, but this is akin to the modern practice of abortion.  Molech (meaning “king”) is a pagan God, some saying that he is synonymous with Baal.  The reason why this commandment is sandwiched within the commandments of abomination is because every children we bear is dedicated to the LORD, not to some pagan-king, most likely finding its symbolism and derivation from Satan who wants to be the LORD himself (Ezekiel 28 ).  Deuteronomy 6:7 teaches that every commandment of the law is taught to the children diligently.  Not only that – Malachi 2:15 teaches that the church is to bear godly offspring.  Are we going to dedicate our children to secular education and secular teachings, and leave him or her to their own devices in knowing God?  Are we going to raise up a child in God’s holy commandments, or kill him for our own glory and our own plans and convenience?  Or are we going to practise the role of loving parents, and imprint in their hearts God’s commandments so they learn to turn from God’s law to the gospel?  As children, they must be taught the law, so they can spiritually remove their childhood under the devilish rulers of the elements by the power of the Spirit and become mature in the gospel (Galatians 4:3).

Word of Warning

It is very important not to judge homosexuals or bisexuals over extra-marital heterosexual relationships.  Paul Blackham states it quite nicely, and I paraphrase – to discern and rebuke a man who is living with another man, is to be biased and to be self-righteous if we fail to equally discern and rebuke a man who is living with a woman.  The greatest message of discernment and rebuking comes in our relationships.  Are WE preaching the gospel with our sexuality?  Are WE preaching the gospel with our sexual purity?  If not, then what right do we have to force others to follow these sexual codes and morals?  Leviticus 18 is a chapter of hate and love amongst Christians and politicians.  Let us not preach it, unless we bring also the message of the gospel alongside it.  Without the gospel, we are only creating better heterosexual Pharisees who appear righteous – but in their heart, their relationships speak nothing of Jesus Christ.  It is most important to remember Christ’s attitude in handling these situations: he hates the sin and the sinner, but he is careful not to be biased (c.f. John 8:1-11) and is just.

Additionally, these teachings are hard to bear – but so is every other commandment that challenges our world-view to the core.  This is because we were saved from death to life, from depraved, futile non-gospel thinking to a new world of gospel and Christ-focused glory.  Let us bring our sorrows and sins to Jesus Christ, and remember that even he is looking forward to the great intimate moment on the Resurrection Day:

Rev 21:4  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

3.  The holy intra-trinitarian community: Sermon on the “Mount” Pt.2 (Leviticus 19)

As aforementioned, Leviticus 17-20 are chapters which expose the truths of the Ten Commandments, like Exodus 21-23.  Both Exodus and Leviticus start with ‘nakedness’, for we began in the Garden naked, and left with the necessity to hide our nakedness with animal skin; and so we hide under the skin of Christ to be presentable to our Father in heaven.  Leviticus 19:2 sets the tone:

You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.

Then the commandments move from ‘nakedness’ to other areas of kingdom living.  There are several commandments in chapter 19 and Adam Clarke is helpful in listing as he usually is:

Exhortations to holiness, and a repetition of various laws, Lev_19:1, Lev_19:2

Duty to parents, and observance of the Sabbath, Lev_19:3.

Against idolatry, Lev_19:4.

Concerning peace-offerings, Lev_19:5-8.

The gleanings of the harvest and vintage to be left for the poor, Lev_19:9, Lev_19:10.

Against stealing and lying, Lev_19:11; false swearing, Lev_19:12; defrauding the hireling, Lev_19:13.

Laws in behalf of the deaf and the blind, Lev_19:14.

Against respect of persons in judgment, Lev_19:15; tale-bearing, Lev_19:16; hatred and uncharitableness, Lev_19:17; revenge, Lev_19:18; unlawful mixtures in cattle, seed, and garments, Lev_19:19.

Laws relative to the bondmaid that is betrothed, Lev_19:20-22.

The fruit of the trees of the land not to be eaten for the first three years, Lev_19:23; but this is lawful in the fourth and fifth years, Lev_19:24, Lev_19:25.

Against eating of blood, and using incantations, Lev_19:26; superstitious cutting of the hair, Lev_19:27; and cutting of the flesh in the times of mourning, Lev_19:28; prostitution, Lev_19:29. Sabbaths to be reverenced, Lev_19:30.

Against consulting those who are wizards, and have familiar spirits, Lev_19:31.

Respect must be shown to the aged, Lev_19:32.

The stranger shall not be oppressed, Lev_19:33, Lev_19:34.

They shall keep just measures, weights, and balances, Lev_19:35, Lev_19:36.

Conclusion, Lev_19:37.

While there is merit in divulging the truth of every single law, two things must be stated: the Spirit behind the law, and the expositional nature of these commandments in relation to the law.

Scripture witnesses within itself

Firstly, the expositional nature of these commandments.  The 10 commandments did not leave itself to be interpreted widely and openly to the anthropological desires of these depraved men and women; rather, the LORD interprets it for them.  This is most important and is not the first time this has occurred.  What this indicates is that Scriptural interpretation comes from the power of the Spirit, and not from our personal experiences and cultures!  Above all, it is even above what theologians have to say who twist Scripture to their personal opinions of God.  In other words – let the written Word witness to the eternal Word.  When we find ourselves reading Scripture, and the 10 commandments, we often (if we are Catholic) leave it to the Magisterium or the Pope; or if we are Protestant, we leave it to Don Carson or John Piper.  This is what Luther has to say when he was exposing Genesis 1-3:

“If then we do not understand the nature of the days or have no insight into why God wanted to make use of these intervals of time, let us confess our lack of understanding rather than distort the words, contrary to their context, into a foreign meaning… If we do not comprehend the reason for this, let us remain pupils and leave the job of teacher to the Holy Spirit”.

Indeed, what we witnessed in Exodus 21-23, and now in Leviticus 17-20 is the work of the Spirit in interpreting the meaning of the third day, and/or the Day of Atonement – followed by explicit teachings on kingdom living framed by the 10 commandments. Here is an example:

Lev 19:9-10  “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest.  (10)  And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God.

If I found myself reaping the harvest of the land, I may have forgotten what it means to love my neighbour and to provide for the sojourners – and God is teaching in v.10 about compassion to our neighbours.  I think we should not exclude v.9-10 from v.11, which I believe reads on from v.10.  “You shall not steal” and “You shall not deal falsely”.  If the actions in v.9-10 teaches that we are ‘stealing’ and ‘dealing falsely’ simply by being overly economically rigorous, it means that we are not completely possessed by true Christian kingdom living.

Leviticus 19:31 is also explained in some manner too: that one would be defiled if they communicate with dead spirits.  Why?  Because, it is akin to touching the dead – it defiles us (Leviticus 21:11-12).  This is followed closely by v.32 about respect for the elderly, which is explained in the form of the colour of the hair.  Grey hair is a mark of the elderly, and within Scripture it witnesses to this truth (Proverbs 16:31; 20:29 and Daniel 7:9 where the Father is shown to have white hair).  To disregard the elderly is to indirectly disregard the living God.  These, again are merely examples of how the Scriptures testify within itself to provide its sufficient meaning in relation to the living Trinity.

Spirit behind the law

Secondly, is the dichotomy between gospel and law.  As stated, the law in Exodus 20 is related somewhat to the land of Canaan, making it partially abolished and partially fulfilled when Christ came (I am careful not to divide the law into the three-fold Aquinian definitions c.f. Galatians 5:3).  What this also means however is that we should dissect between the law which relates to the land, Canaan, which is merely temporary; and the law which relates to the future kingdom, new Jerusalem.  For example:

Lev 19:23-25  “When you come into the land and plant any kind of tree for food, then you shall regard its fruit as forbidden. Three years it shall be forbidden to you; it must not be eaten.  (24)  And in the fourth year all its fruit shall be holy, an offering of praise to the LORD.  (25)  But in the fifth year you may eat of its fruit, to increase its yield for you: I am the LORD your God.

v.23-25 clearly relates not to new Jerusalem, but it is saying something about new Jerusalem.  Three years it is forbidden to eat of the tree for food, and only afterwards will its fruit be given firstly as offering to the LORD as holy fruit; and THEN it will increase its yield.  Considering the significance of the number three, in terms of the crucifixion and resurrection, and as well as creation – where day 1 – 3 is one of formation, and day 4 – 6 is one of filling, day 4 also represents the first day of filling the formations of God’s creation.  Thus, the fourth year is one which speaks of offering to Christ; and fifth year speaks of the increase in its yield for us.  These numbers of years speak entirely of Jesus’ death for us, eventually leading to true holy offering of his blood to the Holy of Holies, while we reap the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5).

What this also implies is that wherever they go, INCLUDING Canaan, they are facing all types of pagan worship.  Canaan was never the destination – it is a temporary location to signify the grand macrocosmic scheme of the world’s Christians making our way to the spiritual Canaan – the true New Jerusalem.  That is why the Old Testament saints lived in tents (Hebrews 11).  Canaan, like any other land, as v.23-25 implies, bears forbidden fruit.  Where else is forbidden fruit mentioned?  In Genesis 3, where the tree was rooted in the Garden with the tree of wisdom.  This shows the Garden for what it is:  it is merely a pale image of the true New Kingdom, thus explaining the existence of the tree of knowledge and wisdom in the Garden (and its removal in the new heavens and earth), just as Adam was a pale image of the true image of God, Christ.   Thus, to plant a tree in any land is to remember that the fruit which first came out was forbidden, for Adam first ate of forbidden fruit.  Leviticus 19:19 adds colour to these verses:

You shall keep my statutes. You shall not let your cattle breed with a different kind. You shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor shall you wear a garment of cloth made of two kinds of material.

There is much purity to be implied in these commandments, and the theology of the Seed is mentioned here – whether it is the true Seed of Christ that bears Spiritual fruit?  Or the seed of Satan?  Whether we wear linen, or linen mixed with wool?  Whether we eat the blood of other flesh, as if feeding NOT on Christ’s blood alone?  Whether we are spiritual Israelites, or spiritually allegiant to both Israel and Canaan/Ammon/Hong Kong/London/world?  But the Second Adam, after the third day, offered his holy fruit to the Father, and afterwards presented himself to be eaten so we partake in his pure holiness and bear fruit in return and present the true spiritual meaning behind the law entirely as displayed by the lifestyle of the Christian when they understand the true meaning of the law (c.f. David eating the shewbread “against” the law:  Matthew 12).

It is therefore easy to see that there is no such thing as ‘new’ commandments per se when Christ’s work fulfilled and abolished the law.  Rather, the true meaning of the law is exposed – and Moses and others understood that.  Even the Spirit interpreted that in the final few verses of chapter 19:

Lev 19:33-34  “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong.  (34)  You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

The teaching of “loving thy neighbour as thyself” was etched in the Israelite mind at such an early stage.  Thus, what Christ taught in the NT is not “new” – it is merely a fulfillment of what the law taught.  The fulfillment of true kingdom living, not on this earth, but in new Jerusalem! How great it would be if Israel DID commit to these teachings: but they clearly did not.  Was it a failure on God’s part to introduce these teachings?  Again: NO.  It was God’s intention to show what true new Jerusalem living is all about, and how far away these Israelites are from such righteous living.

Let thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven

The problem we therefore reach is: how did the Israelites interpret these commandments?  Did they know that it related BOTH to the bondage of the law and the gospel of Christ?

It is the same question we ask ourselves when we read the Old Testament.  My conviction, by the Spirit, is that anyone filled with the Spirit in the Old Testament would not have come to any conclusion of works-salvation.  Neither would they have come to the conclusion of not seeing Christ, such as just worshipping a ‘generic’ God shown through the kingdom living.  Nor even a matter of waiting for the NT ‘revelation’, so they can read the NT back onto the OT and “re-interpret” Christ in the OT.  The matter is, whether Christ is inherently spoken of in the OT, and already revealed.  Jesus seems to have said so in John 5:39, BEFORE he was crucified.

Instead, the most Spirit-filled Israelite would see the Trinity, working within itself, interpreting the 10 Commandments within the Triune body; the Spirit teaching us the truth of God, after the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ (an implication of the giving of the Spirit after the ascension of Christ).  The Father being revered by both Son and Spirit.  Leviticus 16-20 therefore speak very strongly of the work of the Trinity and the community and none else.

It is however a shame when people twist the law and attempt to fuse these teachings into politics.  1 Corinthians 5:12-13 is exactly what the Spirit is behind the law: it is used to judge those within the church, NOT outside.  What matter does the law have outside the context of Christ?  What matter is there to infuse it into the national law?  What they fail to realise is that Christ’s coming abolished any land-based teachings: and fulfilled the true meaning of the Mosaic law which was only introduced temporarily.  Many times, “let thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”, is misinterpreted as establishing a “Christian Kingdom” on earth.  Rather, we are not establishing Christian “factions” or “states”.  We are establishing a church family, looking forward to the true Christian Kingdom after the Second Advent of Christ!  Only there can we commit to true Spirit-led kingdom living without compromise!  That is exactly why kingdom living is preached AFTER the ASCENSION of Christ.  That is why the Day of Atonement is on the same day as the Second giving of the Decalogue.  Because in both cases, we look forward to new creation!  And there, we will not find a community of spirit and law-less beings.  There, our lives will be led by these laws but we will commit to them perfectly in the true Christian Kingdom with the Lamb as the Light!

4.  Punishments (Leviticus 20)

And the inclusion of Leviticus 20 grounds us back onto the fact that we are not now establishing a holy Christian Kingdom par excellence and without blemish.  Why?  Because of the existence of punishment: only in a world of sin is there any punishment.  The outline of Leviticus 20 goes like this (with Paul Blackham’s additions of the punishment in italics):

Of giving seed to Molech, and the punishment of this crime, Lev_20:1-5. death by stoning

Of consulting wizards, etc., Lev_20:6-8. exile from the people

Of disrespect to parents, Lev_20:9. death

Of adultery, Lev_20:10. death

Of sexual intercourse with step-mother or daughter-in-law, Lev_20:11, Lev_20:12. death

Homosexual intercourse Lev 20:13. death

Marrying a mother and a daughter Lev 20:14. death by burning

Bestiality, Lev_20:15. death for human and animal

Incest Lev_20:17 shame and exile

Sexual intercourse during menstrual flow Lev 20:18 exile

Sexual intercourse with aunt/uncle Lev 20:19-20 infertility

Marriage to brother’s wife Lev 20:21 infertility

Exhortations and promises, Lev_20:22-24.

The difference between clean and unclean animals to be carefully observed, Lev_20:25.

The Israelites are separated from other nations, that they may be holy, Lev_20:26.

A repetition of the law against wizards and them that have familiar spirits, Lev_20:27. death by stoning

As the beginning of Leviticus 19 spoke of God’s holiness and Israel’s response to God’s holiness, so Leviticus 20 ends with the same holiness of the Israelites from other nations.  Chapter 20 therefore, like 19, focuses on the purity of Christian living.  The repetition of wizards, spirits and sorcery throughout Leviticus 20 is not out of place either – for the desire to be a sorcerer is a manifestation of the desire to be like God, in control of the spirits (Acts 8:9-25).

We must continually remember that throughout the Mosaic law, not one has it taught anything about works-salvation.  Everything has been following a pattern of heaven from Exodus 20 onwards (Hebrews 8:5) – not only the tabernacle, which is still at the centre of attention while these laws were taught when the Angel spoke from the tabernacle.  It is entirely symbolic that the Angel in the tabernacle is teaching the Israelites while they were either standing or sitting outside – for they also are taken up to the heavenly patterns and understand what true Christian, holistic living is when it is uncompromised.  The standards are extremely strict – to maintain true spiritual purity.  The refrain “death“, “exile” and “infertility” all stem from the same source of corruption and lack of sanctification.  Without true anger against both sin and sinner, the LORD is not proven righteous, but proven a biased God.  Such ‘extreme’ hatred against sin is entirely justified, for only God the Son himself could bear this burden to carry these repulsions on his shoulders.

Therefore, let Leviticus 20 speak the final word to us: that without Christ, there is no room for us to be self-righteous.  If you thought Leviticus 16 bombarded the message of dependence on Christ’s work, the Angel hammered the point again and again through the commandments of holistic living from chapters 17-20.  And if Leviticus 17-19 did not speak enough of true uncompromised holistic living in New Jerusalem, Leviticus 20 reminds us that there will be people who are punished for their sins. And their punishment is death, infertility, and exile.  Their punishment is simply exclusion from the community of God. Leviticus 20:3 says it best:

I will set my face against that person and will cut him off from among his people.

Do you want to be excluded for your own decision to rebel against the Holy God who knows true Justice?  Or do you want to know the meaning of true Christian freedom, and partake in the Holy Community of the Holy Trinity now, taken up in Christ, so that we can experience it physically as well as spiritually in Zion?

Leviticus 17-20: You shall be a holy priesthood

Leviticus 16: Jesus’ Second Coming – the Day of Atonement

Leviticus 16 is a special chapter which is not the most mysterious, but rather should be the most well known in every Jew and Christian’s heart.  The sacrifices themselves witness to this truth, this “Day of Atonement”, and yet, this chapter comes straight after the death of Aaron’s two sons, Nadab and Abihu as the first verse indicates.

Why is chapter 16 not placed right after chapter 10, so chapter 10 flows naturally onto chapter 16?  I think it has very much to do with the significant placement of the Day of atonement in the book of Leviticus to show a particular progression, from uncleanness to holiness.  The first 16 chapters has been spent explaining the meaning of the sacrifices and the procedure for each type of person/group; followed by the ordination and the preparation of the priests, then Nadab and Abihu’s death, which seems to be sandwiched insignificantly between the deaths of the sacrifices and the animals.  Then, chapters 11-15 speaks of the type of flesh which is edible and which is not, in the form of the three categories of ‘holy’, ‘clean/common’ and ‘unclean’.  Chapter 16 comes as the only example which represents everything that came before it and ties everything that comes after it.  It is like a centrifugal force of Leviticus: the preceding and consequent chapters circle around this day of atonement.  To focus on Nadab and Abihu’s death now is most relevant, because the Day of Atonement is a day of OUR holiness, a day of OUR sanctification as well as a day of the sanctification, a renewal, of the entire universe – however, not because of our extra offerings (especially not that of Nadab or Abihu as history showed!) but because of Jesus’ eternal offering.

Thus, chapter 17 until 27 fittingly begins to speak of not only cleanness, but holiness for the congregation of Israel.  We’ve seen what cleanness and uncleanness is, and a glimpse of holiness between chapters 8 to 10.  But now, we see the nation becoming sanctified and the commandments for that, between chapters 17-27, AFTER the Day of Atonement in chapter 16:

Chapter 1-15: Teachings on how to become clean from being unclean, and only the priest is sanctified

Chapter 16:  Teachings on how nothing we do can actually make ourselves sanctified.  The Day of Atonement preaches an atonement once and for all.

Chapter 17-27:  Teachings on how to become sanctified from being clean.

1.  Jesus’ ascension (Leviticus 16)

(a) The Most Holy Place

The High priest, Aaron, dare not enter the Holy Place inside the veil (referring to the Holy of Holies, because the Angel is referring to the mercy seat on the ark of covenant, which is in the Most Holy Place), so that he may not die (v.1-2).  This is quite important, given the importance of Aaron having just seen the death of his two sons for giving an alien/hostile/strange offering.  Thus, whatever offering should take place in this chapter is the one offering that can take the mere mortal into the Holy of Holies, as opposed to being destroyed.

As stated, we already understand the meaning of the Most Holy Place as the small cubic room inside the Tabernacle, and the Holy Place as the room with the table of shewbread, golden lampstand, and the altar of incense.  The ark effectively acts as the throne room, with the mercy ‘seat’ whereupon the Father sits; then the Table and the Lampstand respectively represent Son and Spirit.  Altar of incense is our prayers (Revelation 8:4) – and so this altar is in the middle of the three pieces of furniture, to show how the Trinity takes our prayers very seriously.

There is a veil between the ark, and the two other pieces of furniture representing the persons & and altar of incense which is very close to the veil.  This veil, sown with cherubim represent the time when the angel with a flaming sword that turned every direction prevented Adam and Eve from entering the Garden from the east entrance.  Therefore, whenever the High Priest enters the Most Holy Place (or Holy of Holies), it is symbolic of a re-entrance to where God had resided (since the garden was also called the “garden of God”, implying that the garden AND heaven were united in a way we cannot perceive except spiritually and theologically today).  Jesus’ work on the cross and his entrance to the third heaven is exactly what the High Priest’s entrance into and work in the Holy of Holies preaches, and we will be working through that now.

(b) The Holy Garments

Aaron must then take a bull from the herd for a sin-offering, and a ram for a burnt-offering, whilst he puts on holy garments (holy linen coat, with linen undergarment on his body, with linen sash and linen turban).  He shall wash himself with water before putting on these holy garments (v.3-4).

Something should be said about linen:

In Deuteronomy 22:11, it states that “You shall not wear cloth of wool and linen mixed together”.  Why?  What is the great significance of this material?  Why the purity of this material?

Then, in Jeremiah 13:1, the LORD said to Jeremiah to buy linen loincloth and put it around the waist without dipping it in water.

Once more, in Ezekiel 9:3-11, 10:2 – calling to the “man” clothed in linen with a writing case at his waist who places a mark on people who should not be struck dead, akin to the Passover.  Ezekiel 16:1-14 – that Jerusalem is wrapped in fine linen, a proverbial method of showing God’s covenant faithfulness and sanctification of Israel. The connection between linen and wool is again made in Ezekiel 44:17 – that when they enter the gates of the inner court, they shall wear linen garments… have nothing of wool on them, while they minister at the gates of the inner court.  The faithful Levites who kept charge of the LORD’s sanctuary when the Israelites went astray wore such clothing to signify purity, who happen to be wearing the same clothing as the High Priest Aaron on the Day of atonement (c.f. Ezekiel 44:17-18).  The garments were literally holy – v.19 suggests that if they wore the garments outside the holy chambers, the holiness would have been trasmitted to the people! And how fitting it is in Ezekiel 44:23, that the faithful priests shall teach the LORD’s people the different between holy and common, unclean and clean.

Daniel 12: a man clothed in linen who is Christ (c.f. Daniel 12:8 – the Hebrew used for ‘my lord’ is Adoni – this is the sovereign lord, which CAN refer both to a divine and a human lord; it would however, be quite odd to call an ‘angel’ lord as the angel is a servant and by no means sovereign over anything).

Finally, John interprets the meaning of the linen: Revelation 19:8 – ‘”it was granted her to clothe herself with the fine linen, bright and pure” — for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints”.  But who is the perfecter and founder of the faith of the saints, so the saints can even do such righteous deeds?  In Christ alone (Hebrews 12).

(c) The offerings and the “Scapegoat”: the important procedure

He shall take two goats, one of which is to be determined by lot to be a sacrifice; the other to be a scapegoat, v. 5-10.

He shall offer a bull for himself and for his family v.6 and v.16 – this is preceding any other sacrifice, and this is an atonement for his household for cleansing (as a sin offering for themselves) before he can approach the tabernacle and complete his priestly duties.

Following this, v.7-10 explains the nature of the two goats: Aaron will cast lots over the two goats, one for the LORD and the other for “Azazel”.  The goat for the LORD is what the lot falls on; this is a sin offering for the congregation of Israel.  Contrarily, the other goat on which the lot fell for “Azazel” shall be presented alive for the LORD to make atonement.  Afterwards, this goat will be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel.

And now, he shall do this in order:

(i)  Kill the bull for himself and his family; (v.11)

(ii)  provide sweet incense (representing the prayers of the saints – Revelation 8:4) (v.12-13)

(iii)  v.14 – he shall take the blood of the bull and sprinkle it in front of the mercy seat on the east side, and in front of the mercy seat with his finger seven times.

(iv)  Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering for the congregation of Israel and bring the blood inside the veil and do the same as with the blood for the bull (v.15).

(v) The four procedures above is explained as atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleanness of the people of Israel, their sins and transgressions (v.16)

(vi)  This step is extremely important:  NO ONE may be in the tent of meeting from the time he enters to make atonement in the Most Holy Place until he comes out.  I will be covering this in the next section, under “Awaiting His return”.

(vi)  Then he shall go out to the altar before the LORD to make atonement for the altar, and put the bull and the goat’s blood on the horns of the altar sprinkled with his finger seven times.  The altar is thus cleansed and consecrated from the people of Israel’s uncleanness.

(vii)  AFTER all this symbolic procedure, THEN Aaron prays over the scapegoat, the goat for Azazel, and lays his hands on the head of the goat whilst confessing the iniquities of the children of Israel.  After this,the goat shall be permitted to escape to the wilderness (v.20-22).  This is ended with v.22 which states that: “the goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness“.

(viii)  Then v.23-28 is a reverse procedure of taking off the linen holy garments, leaving it in the Most Holy Place, and cleansing himself with water in a holy place and put on his common garments and offer burnt offering for himself and the congregation.  All the offerings are systematically burnt up outside the camp, with skin, flesh and dung burnt up with fire.

(ix)  This is a statute forever, in the seventh month, 10th day.  This is a day of no work, either the native or the stranger who sojourns with the Israelites (v.29).

(x)  It is a Sabbath of solemn rest (v.31) – again, it is a statute forever.

Christological reading of the offerings & Scapegoat

We already understood from Exodus and established that the mercy seat, which represents the throne of the Father, is in the Holy of Holies, which represents third heaven; and this is contrasted to the Holy Place which represents the spiritual church with the furniture of the table of shewbread (Christ), with the golden lampstand (the Spirit) and the altar of incense (the prayers of the saints in the middle of the Trinity).

The importance of cleansing not only the people of Israel as an annual cleansing, but also the cleansing of the tabernacle again marks something of new creation: like the mildew which grew on buildings and clothings, the LORD wishes everything to be renewed.  This is especially true of the tabernacle which is in the midst and not in the outskirts of the people of God!  For the LORD to be present before them, the work of the blood of cleansing as sin offering must be done for the tabernacle to also be cleansed.  This is the same blood which cleanses man – thus, the message of the same blood cleanses and renews not only men, but also physical creation. It is important that the blood is sprinkled on the east side, for we have discussed the implications of the east side – being the only exit and entrance of the Edenic Paradise represented once more in Ezekiel 43:2-4, the only entrance where the Glory of the LORD entered the New Creation.  The blood sprinkled on the east is representative of the new opportunity to enter the renewed kingdom of God.

We shouldn’t forget also that the 10 Words of God on Mt. Sinai are placed within the ark, as well as the budding of Aaron’s staff (but that will be later).  It is important to see that God’s holiness manifested in the law is tied up with the blood of the goat.  To be surprised that the Messiah did not come as a literal king, but as a person who beared the offence of society and would shed blood on the world’s behalf is to forget the profound imagery provided by the Angel and the High Priest.

Therefore, the renewal of the tabernacle in entirety, with the blood on the east side of the mercy seat, and the cleansing of the altar of sacrifice, shows the RENEWAL of the tabernacle AND the altar of sacrifice: the cleansing of the two holy symbolisms of both Jesus Christ and the New Creation of the New city of Jerusalem, where heaven and earth join.  Zion, where the LORD will commune with the completely sanctified spiritual Israelites.

Let’s not forget that during this period in the Holy of Holies, the cloud on the ark is actually an indication of the presence of Christ – the Angel of the LORD (Colossians 1:15).  Anytime the congregation of Israel meets with “God” is a meeting with the Son, whose role is to present the works and the thoughts of the Father.  He is inextricably tied to the Father’s works (John 6:38), making Christ’s identity mysterious.  What are his own works?  What are his OWN intentions?  Indeed, his OWN intentions IS to obey the Father completely – and it is shown here, by his presence, instead of his Father’s on the ark.

The offerings, unsurprisingly point to Christ – but the bull offering for the priest simply shows that the priest himself is sinful.  Yet, Christ need only offer himself and need not die for his own sins; rather, it is quite important that he dies for the sin of the others, whilst the human priest must acknowledge his own incapability of removing others sins without dealing with his own first.  In the same way, how can a Christian preach the gospel if he isn’t himself made righteous?  And only in Christ are we righteous.  The ‘ascension’ of the high priest, wearing linen representing the ‘righteous deeds of the saints’, is the same ascension of Christ in Acts 1-2.  You may ask why the ‘holy garments’ here is so simple compared to the ordination in Leviticus 8-10; it is because there is a renewal of all things on the Day of Atonement (as if the priestly ordinations prior to the Day of Atonement were merely ‘mock-offerings’, and a warm-up, a teaching tool, to this one day.  Indeed – the Old Testament law came only for a temporary period to teach them about the gospel, and many believed the gospel through this teaching tool.  Yet, Christ had come to fulfill what they had already perceived by the power of the Spirit, and so the offerings all year round effectively leads people to look forward to the ‘great cleaning’ of the Day of Atonement which only happens annually.  For us, Christ still remains in the Most Holy Place to this day.

In this sense, the goat, the scape goat, is sent out with the sins of Israel and our sins are removed as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).  It is important to note that the two goats were taken from the community (v.5) because they represented the community; in the same way, Christ was taken as man, as partaker of our community, to be sacrificed for us.  Thus, the goat that died for us is the goat which represented Calvary; but the goat which is sent off into the wilderness is the epitome of “evil” and the “way of the devil”, which is why it is effectively ‘banished’ to outside the camp.  The wilderness has always been seen as a place of ‘desolation’ and representative of no communion with God.  Hence, the significance of Hagar, Mt. Sinai, and the covenant of the Mosaic law being made at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 20; Galatians 4) implies the existence of the law merely to magnify the transgressions.. yet the law is completely undergirded by the gospel (Genesis 12 preceding Exodus 20) which is the meaning of the statute forever which ends this chapter of Leviticus (Leviticus 16:33-34).  I would go as far as to say therefore, that the goat of sacrifice is the Second Adam, Christ; but the scapegoat, is the first Adam, in whom we sinned as an entire human race.  It is only right to make this connection, because of the two creatures sacrificed being the same type of goat, taken from the same community; and both Adam and Christ bore the same human flesh, albeit the latter was sinless, but the former bore the sins of the community and was banished to the wilderness to the east of the Garden in Genesis 3.

It is quite important also to look at the significance of the term Azazel, which seems to be omitted in the KJV.  The Hebrew is עזאזל (the English being almost a literal translation from Hebrew: “aza’ zel“, and the LXX rendition is αποπομπαιω (apopompaiow) and αποπομπαιου στησει in v.10 which are both hard to translate.  There is no indication that the LXX sees “Azazel” as a figure, a person, like Satan or a fallen angel – rather, it is implied in the LXX that “Azazel” is like a high cliff, or even just a magnification of the word ‘wilderness’.  In the Hebrew, there is no indication of the distinction between ‘scapegoat’ and Azazel – it is as if both as tied together inextricably. Adam Clarke has this to say about the term:

“azazel, from עז  az, a goat, and אזל  azal, to dismiss; the dismissed or sent away goat, to distinguish it from the goat that was to be offered in sacrifice. Most ancient nations had vicarious sacrifices, to which they transferred by certain rites and ceremonies the guilt of the community at large, in the same manner in which the scapegoat was used by the Jews.”

Whatever merit there is to compare Jewish rites with other religions, it is clear that the other ‘religions’ and cultural practices are merely mock-ups of the true sacrifice of the great exchange of imputed sin and righteousness which is clearly shown in the Day of Atonement.  This begs the question: did the Jews know it clearly?  I hope so, otherwise they are no better than their Egyptian counterparts who have similar, but unChristian cultures in the time of Moses.

Perhaps the spiritual understanding of the scapegoat is offered in Zechariah 3:1-10 –

Zec 3:1-10  Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.  (2)  And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?”  (3)  Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments.  (4)  And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.”  (5)  And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD was standing by.  (6)  And the angel of the LORD solemnly assured Joshua,  (7)  “Thus says the LORD of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here.  (8)  Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you, for they are men who are a sign: behold, I will bring my servant the Branch.  (9)  For behold, on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven eyes, I will engrave its inscription, declares the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day.  (10)  In that day, declares the LORD of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree.”

The significance here is that Satan is present, and is rebuked symbolically by Jerusalem, our nation.  The choice of Jerusalem is of course the choice made in Christ; for Jerusalem is the elect only because Christ is the elect one in whom Jerusalem as a new nation resides.  Joshua, as High Priest in the book of Zechariah, bears the same Hebrew name as Jesus – and he therefore works as a twofold prophetic witness to Christ’s work on the cross and through to ascension.  The rebuking of Satan is a prophetic picture of the rebuking of the goat, whilst the blood of the first goat is offered to cleanse the uncleanness of both man and creation.  It wouldn’t therefore be far-fetched to say that the goat in some sense is offered to go back to Satan, the first liar, deceiver and murderer, just as the filthy garments are left behind immediately after the LORD’s rebuking of Satan.  This is true symbolism of ridding ourselves of our filthy rags which smell of Satan, and wearing the new clothes from God which is aromatic of Christ.

Finally, the significance of the Sabbath ending the Day of Atonements (v.31-34) is indicative of looking forward to the 8th day of Christ’s circumcision on the cross.  The 8th day of New Creation.  This significance of ‘day’ cannot be underplayed – neither should we overlook the significance of this Day of Atonement as part of the seventh month of the Jewish calendar, the month of Tishrei and the 10th day of Tishrei.  In Jewish history, “Tishrei” is the month where Adam and Eve were created, and they consider the 1st day of Tishrei to be day six of creation.

Following this, on the 10th day of Tishrei in Moses’ time is the day when the Second Tablets, the second set of Ten Words were given to Moses.  This is extremely significant: if the 10th day of Tishrei is when the second set of the Ten Words, which were different from the first (the first set pertained strictly to the land; the second set looked beyond that!), then the Day of Atonement isn’t just any other day.  It is both a Sabbath, looking forward to the 8th day; and this 8th day is shown in the giving of the second set of 10 words, looking forward to the fulfillment of the promise of Genesis 12 instead of Exodus 20.

2.  Awaiting His return

So, we understand the work of the priests as completely re-enacting the patterns of heaven on earth.  Hebrews 9 was written with a detailed explanation of this truth, which would not have escaped Moses’ and Aaron’s knowledge either.  It is worth quoting the chapter from v. 11-28 with some emphasis:

Heb 9:6  These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties,
Heb 9:7  but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people.
Heb 9:8  By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing
Heb 9:9  (which is symbolic for the present age).
According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper,

The meaning here is quite important: the first section is still standing – and that is the present age.  We are STILL in the age where the veil is unbroken; and the veil is merely broken spiritually, but we are still removed from the Holy of Holies where Christ is now, until his second coming.

Heb 9:10  but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.
Heb 9:11  But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation)
Heb 9:12  he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.
Heb 9:13  For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh,
Heb 9:14  how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

Again, the emphasis is on the tent of meeting being a copy of the greater representation NOT of this creation.  Something which cannot be made with human hand.

Heb 9:15  Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.
Heb 9:16  For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established.
Heb 9:17  For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive.
Heb 9:18  Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood.
Heb 9:19  For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people,
Heb 9:20  saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.
Heb 9:21  And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship.
Heb 9:22  Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.
Heb 9:23  Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.

Remember: the blood of the covenant shown in the Old Testament, in the form of the blood of goats and bulls and rams is merely symbolic of the blood necessary to purify the symbolic furniture and tent of the Godly tent of meeting not of this creation.

Yet, it is important to ask a few questions: how then, was Moses saved by the Spirit and by Christ, if Christ had not already died?  If the Spirit was not already given?  I find it quite troubling when people answer that the Old Testament saints were saved by another way, but Hebrews 9 states it quite clearly.  “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you”.  The law only came temporarily, from Moses onwards; the law clearly did not save them.  Not only did the law not save them, but Moses did not need to trust in the sacrifices as a peripheral trust in Christ.  No – Moses trusted in Christ directly.  Without that, he would not have understood the sacrifices.  In the same way, we would not have come to understand the spiritual truths of the Mosaic law if the covenant to Abraham was not made prior to the law, which is merely for a temporary period.

If the tabernacle, which came only temporarily, represented an eternal truth which cannot be described fully, then also the blood of the covenant represented an eternal truth of Christ Jesus, whether he had already fulfilled his work on the cross and had given the Spirit already or not.  How did Oholiab, the architect of the tabernacle have the Spirit if Christ did not die, resurrect and ascend to give the Spirit?  How can Moses, in Deuteronomy, ask the Israelites to have their hearts circumcised except by the Spirit?  Such are the important mysteries of God’s being in becoming, and the mystery of Revelation 13:8.

Heb 9:24  For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.
Heb 9:25  Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own,
Heb 9:26  for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
Heb 9:27  And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,
Heb 9:28  so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Finally, Christ need NOT offer himself repeatedly.  This is where the Catholic Eucharist entirely fails, because of the doctrine of transubstantiation which teaches that Christ is continually offered!  The point of the day of atonement is that it is done symbolically annually, which is taken to mean once and for all.  Christ’s work need not depend on our re-enactions, but Christ’s work was done before the foundations of the world!  v.27 – as it is appointed for man to die once, so Christ will appear a second time NOT to die again, nor to deal with sin, but to save those who are waiting.

Transubstantiation?

Not only this, but let’s meditate on the importance of Christ in the Holy of Holies now.  He is not WITH US now.  His meaning in Matthew 28, that he is with us to the end of the ages, is in terms of access by the power of the Spirit.  Christ, very much, still resides in third heaven.  To assume that the Eucharist, the Sacraments, physically and manifestly brings Christ down to us is nigh-heresy (c.f. J.C. Ryle’s “Five English Reformers” who were martyred when they spoke against this Papist doctrine).  Rather, we are taken back to Christ in its symbolism.

In the significance of sacraments, we must remember it in three parts: the sign, what it signifies, and the connection of the two.  In what way, therefore, is the consecrated bread and wine the body and blood of Christ?  The Catholic view of bread and wine is physically changed into the body and the blood.  Much thanks to Paul Blackham’s study notes from his series on the Biblical Frameworks on the Sacraments for these three broad-stroke views within the Reformed view of communion:

Zwingli

He is most extreme in the sense that there is no bodily presence of Christ in the elements of the Eucharist.  The bread and wine were literally mere symbols of the body and blood of Christ.  When it states that “this is my body”, it is really”this represents my body”.  The meal is a remembrance that the LORD was here – so Matthew 28 means His Spirit is with us.

Calvin

Calvin wanted to distinguish from Zwingli, though he basically believed also that there is no physical presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  But he also stated that the Eucharist was more than a ‘mere commemoration’, for Calvin believes that Jesus is located in one place, at the right hand of the Father in third heaven.  He, therefore, cannot be bodily present in the Eucharist.  Yet, also, because of his divinity, he can be present in all places at once, filling the entire universe.  In this way, Christ is not present with us in any real sense, but his influence by the Spirit is with us.  I personally take to this view, because it balances between Jesus’ divinity and humanity, as well as relate the role of Christ to the Spirit as the parakletos, the Helper whilst Jesus is not ‘here’ (John 14:16).

Luther

Now Luther thinks this is all ridiculous and his proof-text is Ephesians 4:10 – “He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all heavens, in order to fill the whole universe”.  How can Jesus fill the whole universe if He is located simply in one place, at the Father’s right hand?  Calvin and Zwingli are essentially saying that Jesus’ human nature is in one place, while his divine nature is everywhere.  But Luther could not separate Jesus’ humanity with his divinity, and said instead he’s “rather drink blood with the Papists than wine with these fanatics”… and paraphrasing him, if Christ is not clothed in our humanity, then he would be ‘nothing to do with us’.  Thus, Christ was omnipresent in BOTH divinity and humanity (1 Corinthians 15:44).

Luther’s position is therefore a bit more nuanced in answering to Matthew 28:20 “surely I am with you always”.  This is not like Rome’s position because for Luther, the bread and wine remain the same and they do not become the body and blood of Christ.  We take the blood and body of Christ with the bread and wine, and thus take the LORD’s Supper seriously (1 Corinthians 11:27-30).

While there are further things to be said about Calvin’s and Luther’s position, as opposed to Zwingli’s overly-spiritual tangent on the Communion, I think Calvin’s position holds more water here.  Whatever the merit is on both sides, we can see that the Papist position does injustice to the once and for all concept of Christ’s work for us; and I believe all three reformers would agree that Christ’s filling of the universe and taking the blood to the throne room is the cause for this discussion to break away from the Papist view of the Eucharist, and remember that Christ has not yet manifestly returned to us yet.

We are waiting for the High Priest to return

And so, we are still in the stage of Leviticus 16:17 – we are still waiting for his return.  Are you?  Some people complain that he has spent too long a time in the Holy of Holies – that he should return now.  Indeed, having that desire is not sinful, since we ARE looking forward to Christ’s second advent!  Yet, to also ‘complain’ and not wait patiently is to misunderstood his work for us.  2 Peter 3 is poignant on this point:

2Pe 3:1-18  This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder,  (2)  that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles,  (3)  knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires.  (4)  They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”  (5)  For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God,  (6)  and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished.  (7)  But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

The significance here is that the “word of God” (v.5) is the source of creation – and the subsequent destruction of that creation and a renewal of the world is a direct prophecy of our times today.  We are, as Peter explains, in the ‘in-between’ time of the Word of God creating the world, and the oncoming renewal of creation by fire.  The scoffers in Noah’s time asked where the punishment is?  Where is the Christ?  And the scoffers in our times ask the same question.  As inevitable as the flood was, and as much of a surprise it was in Noah’s time, the fire, the Resurrection Day will come as a surprise to the scoffers today.

(8)  But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.  (9)  The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.  (10)  But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.  (11)  Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness,  (12)  waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!

The LORD is still working to this day for the salvation of many.  V9 is great: “that all should reach repentance“.  This, coupled with Romans 16:7, displays that we were not ‘pre-elected’.  Rather, the Elect One, is Christ – and by partaking in Christ, in his work on the cross, then we also are taken up with Christ.  We are the elect only because he is the elect one; we are righteous because he is the definitive righteous one (Psalm 1).  So, it is important to remember that we are waiting for Christ’s return, but should not ‘rush’ him – he is not slow to fulfill his promise, that all should reach repentance.  His bringing of his blood to the Holy of Holies and awaiting his own return is his expression that as many people as possible should reach repentance.  Do you have that sort of love for your neighbour, or do you care only for your own salvation?  If the latter, what kind of Jesus are you believing in?  Not the Jesus of the Bible for sure.

The ending words of 2 Peter are especially relevant for this post on the Day of Atonement.  Meditate of these words well, and look to Christ even more so:

(13)  But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.  (14)  Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.  (15)  And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him,  (16)  as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.  (17)  You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.  (18)  But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

Leviticus 16: Jesus’ Second Coming – the Day of Atonement