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.