BOOK 3: PSALM 74 OF 89 – THE DEFENDER OF THE FAITH

74 O God, why do you cast us off forever?
Why does your anger smoke against the sheep of your pasture?
Remember your congregation, which you have purchased of old,
which you have redeemed to be the tribe of your heritage!
Remember Mount Zion, where you have dwelt.
Direct your steps to the perpetual ruins;
    the enemy has destroyed everything in the sanctuary!

Your foes have roared in the midst of your meeting place;
they set up their own signs for signs.
They were like those who swing axes
in a forest of trees.[b]
And all its carved wood
they broke down with hatchets and hammers.
They set your sanctuary on fire;
they profaned the dwelling place of your name,
bringing it down to the ground.
They said to themselves, “We will utterly subdue them”;
they burned all the meeting places of God in the land.

We do not see our signs;
there is no longer any prophet,
    and there is none among us who knows how long.
10 How long, O God, is the foe to scoff?
Is the enemy to revile your name forever?
11 Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand?
Take it from the fold of your garment[c] and destroy them!

 

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12 Yet God my King is from of old,
working salvation in the midst of the earth.
13 You divided the sea by your might;
you broke the heads of the sea monsters[d] on the waters.
14 You crushed the heads of Leviathan;
you gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.
15 You split open springs and brooks;
you dried up ever-flowing streams.
16 Yours is the day, yours also the night;
you have established the heavenly lights and the sun.
17 You have fixed all the boundaries of the earth;
you have made summer and winter.

18 Remember this, O Lord, how the enemy scoffs,
    and a foolish people reviles your name.
19 Do not deliver the soul of your dove to the wild beasts;
do not forget the life of your poor forever.

20 Have regard for the covenant,
for the dark places of the land are full of the habitations of violence.
21 Let not the downtrodden turn back in shame;
let the poor and needy praise your name.

22 Arise, O God, defend your cause;
remember how the foolish scoff at you all the day!
23 Do not forget the clamor of your foes,
the uproar of those who rise against you, which goes up continually!

 

Psalm 74, like many of the psalms, begin with the despair of the psalmist.  This is a cry of a holy man against the world.  He is distraught by how God’s sanctuary is profaned; he is troubled by the fact that God’s signs are replaced with worldly signs; that God’s prophet is replaced by a worldly seer.  If we think that the Maskil of Asaph (simply meaning an instructive psalm by Asaph) sounds like it is a product of its time, stop and consider this: we are in a world which treats not God’s sanctuary with the same level of respect as the Temple or tabernacle had received.

As Spurgeon says:

“Alas, poor Israel! No Urim and Thummim blazed on the High Priest’s bosom, and no Shechaniah shone from between the cherubim. The smoke of sacrifice and cloud of incense no more arose from the holy hill; solemn feasts were suspended, and even circumcision, the covenant sign, was forbidden by the tyrant. We, too, as believers, know what it is to lose our evidences and grope in darkness; and too often do our churches also miss the tokens of the Redeemer’s presence, and their lamps remain untrimmed. Sad complaint of a people under a cloud! There is no more any prophet. Prophecy was suspended. No inspiring psalm or consoling promise fell from bard or seer. It is ill with the people of God when the voice of the preacher of the gospel fails, and a famine of the word of life falls on the people. God sent ministers are as needful to the saints as their daily bread, and it is a great sorrow when a congregation is destitute of a faithful pastor. It is to be feared, that with all the ministers now existing, there is yet a dearth of men whose hearts and tongues are touched with the celestial fire. Neither is there any among us that knoweth how long. If someone could foretell an end, the evil might be borne with a degree of patience, but when none can see a termination, or foretell an escape, the misery has a hopeless appearance, and is overwhelming. Blessed be God, he has not left his church in these days to be so deplorably destitute of cheering words; let us pray that he never may. Contempt of the word is very common, and may well provoke the Lord to withdraw it from us; may his long suffering endure the strain, and his mercy afford us still the word of life.”

The enemy strikes at the heart of our faith, because the enemy knows that the sanctuary is our place of refuge, our place of worship.  It is not different today: the debates that take place within the church, even amongst believers, demonstrate that the enemy’s plans are still very much in operation.  We profane his House when we do not even preach His Word faithfully; we fall to the evil one’s temptations when we cater to the desires and concerns of man, rather than faithfully bear witness to God’s plans this day.  On a daily basis, the church is being torn down – brick by brick; not physically, but spiritually.  Every day, our beliefs are being eroded by the worldly agenda; and Jesus becomes that much more distant and less real to us.  “Thus sayeth the LORD” is slowly, but surely, being replaced by “Thus sayeth the man” – the man whom the world respects, the philosopher who frequently denounces His Lordship, the teacher whose musings distract us from the truth, the scientist who forces on us evidence which purportedly support the theories which, apparently, contradict His Word.

 

However, at all times, Asaph does not lose sight of God’s absolute sovereignty.  The enemy creates this chaos only because God has allowed it.  The chapter opens not with a ‘woe-to-me’ expression in response to the enemy’s acts; rather, the chapter opens with O God, why do you cast us off forever?  Why do You, with a capital Y – indeed, it is the LORD who is doing the casting off, rather than the evil one.  Why does Your anger smoke against the sheep, against the congregation whom He has purchased of old (v2)?

Asaph recognizes that both blessing, and judgment, comes from the same God.  He is no Marcionist; he believes that God’s capacity, ability, and discernment in judging is tied to his act of loving; there is no schizophrenia, or dichotomy, between the God of the Old or New Testaments.  Jesus is as much the sacrificial lamb, as He is the one who returns to judge the world (see John 5:22-30, 9:39; 2 Corinthians 5:10;  Revelation 19:11).

This theme, and understanding, of sovereignty stretches through to the remainder of the chapter.  Starting from v12, Asaph pleads the creation argument; this God who has the power to allow evil to roam (a mystery which only He can unveil to us), is the same God who has been working salvation in the midst of the earth, from of old (v.12).  He divides (v.13), he crushes (v.14), he splits (v.15), he dries (v.15), he established (v.16), he fixed (v.17) – this is a God whose actions are never-ending.

Do we react to our troubles in the same way?  Do we resort to our own actions to defend our faith, defend our church, use a worldly form of apologetics and philosophy to ‘explain away’ Christianity to those who poke at our beliefs?  Or do we understand that we are dealing in the realm of spiritual warfare, waging a war that only spiritual tools can address (see 2 Corinthians 10:3-5)?

Ultimately, we must put our own faith, our sanctification, our livelihood, our very salvation in the hands of God.  We plead the covenant that He made with those whom he purchased (vv.2, 20), the covenant of blood sealed by Christ on the cross; for if He is for us, who can be against us?  In the words of Spurgeon:

“What a mighty plea is redemption. O God, canst thou see the blood mark on thine own sheep, and yet allow grievous wolves to devour them? The church is no new purchase of the Lord; from before the world’s foundation the chosen were regarded as redeemed by the Lamb slain; shall ancient love die out, and the eternal purpose become frustrate? The Lord would have his people remember the paschal Lamb, the bloodstained lintel, and the overthrow of Egypt; and will he forget all this himself? Let us put him in remembrance, let us plead together. Can he desert his blood bought and forsake his redeemed? Can election fail and eternal love cease to glow? Impossible. The woes of Calvary, and the covenant of which they are the seal, are the security of the saints.”

 

If only those who recognize and paint the blood of the lamb on their door are saved, then what will happen to the scoffers who remain so until their dying breath?  Time will tell, but the enemy who has been destroying our sanctuaries will, himself, not experience any sanctuary himself.   There is but only one defender of the faith, He who is sovereign above all, and has the authority to determine where we are born and where we go.

 

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BOOK 3: PSALM 74 OF 89 – THE DEFENDER OF THE FAITH

1 Chronicles 8-11: The City of Jesus

1 Chronicles 8 begins with the genealogy of Saul with some notable Christians such as Jonathan and Merib-baal (Mephibosheth, the “contender against Baal”, he who was exalted by David in 2 Samuel 21:7).  It is interesting that v.29-40 are repeated in chapter 9, as if to emphasise the mighty descendants of Benjamin, the son of Jacob.  Yet, it is in the prophecy and in their names that we realise the promise of the Seed will not be fufilled through Benjamin.  This “ravenous wolf” who in the morning is devouring its prey, and in the evening dividing the spoil (c.f. Genesis 49:27) is but the proper presupposition with which we see Saul’s lineage.  His genealogy focuses not on Jonathan or Mephibosheth, the significant characters which seemingly redeems Saul’s posterity; rather, it ends with “the sons of Eshek” – which is means the sons of “oppression“.  Ulam, Eshek’s firstborn, being both “their strength“, yet also “their folly“.  These were indeed mighty warriors of Benjamin, having many sons and grandsons – emphasising once again from which son of Israel they descend in v.40.

Yet, almost immediately, we are shown the genealogy of the returned exiles.  From the glory of Saul’s days, his warriors which seem to be his lineage’s stronghold, the focus is not on the returned Benjaminites.  Rather, the focus is firstly the priests, the Levites, and the temple servants (1 Chronicles 9:2).  The meaning of the name of the chief of the gatekeepers, Shallum, is in contrast to Eshek or Ulam.  Where Shallum means retribution or a restoration of sorts, Eshek and Ulam are both folly and oppression – explaining why the Spirit does not inspire the narrator of 1 Chronicles 9 to focus any longer on the folly of Saul’s bloodline, the spirit of whom was followed continuously by the rebellious kings of Israel.  Rather, the Levitical focus of Chronicles reminds us of the importance of the Priesthood and the chosen tribe Levi – such as the Korahites (c.f. Numbers 26:58; 2 Chronicles 20:19 – musicians of the Lord).  Their work of service, their fathers being “in charge of the camp of the LORD” (v.19), their “duty of watching” (v.27) – all summed up in David and Samuel’s joint election (v.22).  Note once again that such genealogies were not elected by Saul – but by the prophet and the first king after the LORD’s own heart, the man who modelled his life after the Second LORD of his worship (c.f. Psalm 110; Matthew 22:45).  So also the work of the kinsmen of Kohathites (who had been the focus of Numbers chapter 4 in their service of the tabernacle), are brought to the fore.  It is not until a full exposition of the glory of the LORD’s restoration of Israel through the priesthood that the narrator seems to strangely return to Saul’s genealogy.  Yet, the purpose is apparent in comparing the genealogy in 1 Chronicles 9:35-44 with 1 Chronicles 8:29-40.  Verses 39 and 40 are removed from chapter 9:35-44 – no longer does the narrator focus on Eshek or Ulam or even the warriors or bowmen of Benjamin, for these things are useless in the face of restoring Israel after its captivity in Assyria / Babylon.

The folly of Saul’s lineage is made even more apparent in chapter 10, which opens with the death of Saul and his sons, and Saul’s plan to preserve his ego and reputation by falling upon his own sword rather than being overwhelmed by the Philistines.  Saul is accordingly diminished, whilst David, Samuel and the Levites are appropriately exalted.  The author of Chronicles is clearly intent on remembering the Lord as the Author of Israel’s life, and Refiner of Israel’s rebellion.  Chapter 10 therefore ends with “So Saul died for his breach of faith.  He broke faith with the LORD in that he did not keep the command of the LORD, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance.  He did not seek guidance from the LORD.  Therefore the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse” (v.13-14).  Instead of seeking guidance from a medium, he should have sought after the Mediator; instead of satiating his lust of self-preservation, he should have satiated his need to be preserved by Christ in the Father’s wrath.

Thus, as we turn to chapter 11, we come to understand why Jerusalem is not the city of Israel; nor is it the city of Saul.  For the true character of this city was not defined by the physical first king, nor from Israel, but from the LORD of the kings and the LORD of the nation.  David embodies the character of Jesus in taking over Jerusalem, the once city of the Jebusites, with the support of Israel declaring herself as David’s “bone and flesh“, reminiscent of the relationship between Christ and the Church in Genesis 2:23 and Ephesians 5:22-33.  Just as Israel submits herself to her king David, so also David’s victory came from seeking the Mediator’s guidance contrary to Saul’s actions – and of all the notable events of David’s life (such as his slaying of Goliath), the narrator opted to focus on the renaming of Jerusalem as the city of David (v.4-9), for this city is essentially not David’s city, but the city of the One Whom David’s worshipped – the city of Jesus.

For David to become such a great man in the LORD (v.9), it was befitting that he was supported too by mighty men as described in the remainder of chapter 11.  The emphasis, however, is not on how mighty they were; contrarily, their efforts cannot hold a candle to David’s sacrifice (c.f. v.18-19).  For it is David’s lifeblood which gives these men their life, not vice versa – “”…Shall I drink the lifeblood of these men?  For at the risk of their lives they brought it.”  Therefore he would not drink it.”  Indeed, the only cup that Christ shall drink is the cup of the Father’s wrath, pouring out His lifeblood for the mighty men.  Although the followers of Christ are co-heirs and perhaps mighty kings and mighty men, their exaltation comes from the humbleness of the One who poured His lifeblood out to us, so that we may drink of His blood and feast on His flesh (Matthew 20:28).  It is in this light that we are to read about the lives of such mighty men, their might hinging on the One whose might is in His weakness; whose might does not lie in men’s sacrifice, but in His sacrifice for us first.

1 Chronicles 8-11: The City of Jesus

2 Samuel 3: Abner and Nabal

The ‘long war’ spoken of, is this war of the end-times.  The Christian church grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul, the continual epitome of old Israel, became weaker and weaker (v.1).  Is this not the picture of the present day, that Israel (though the nation is re-established on the geographical map) has a long way to go before many are called to join the house of David?  While the gospel has gone out to the Gentiles and other worthless men who are now hiding under the banner of Jesus?

It is no surprise that v.2-5 is therefore a return to a genealogical account of David because it contrasts the birthing of new sons in the house of David against the death of Saul’s family, save for a few daughters such as Milcah and the son Ish-bosheth and a grandson Mephibosheth (c.f. chapter 4).  In the dwindling house of Saul, the head of this house is symbolically Ish-bosheth; but Abner is the real mediator between the two houses.  It is clear that there could be no procreation of this old Israel and that they must join with the house of David if they were to continue to exist.  In comparison to the richness of the wives and sons by David’s side, Abner and Ish-bosheth quarrel over a rumour of Saul’s concubine being disloyal, and fear and adultery rules in this house where the king is subdued by the army commander (v.11); where the head fears the body.  Yet, one thing is for certain – the looming fulfillment of the prophecy that David will be king (v.10) which has been burnt into Abner’s heart.  This shameful man Ish-bosheth must turn from this accusation of adultery and move onto the inevitable truth that the house of Saul must fail; and that like Abner, choose to surrender and follow the new head David.

Yet, it is in v.12-16 that we learn truly why the genealogical account was given in v.2-5:  because Milcah was David’s first wife.  Because Milcah is Saul’s daughter; and it is by Milcah that David is (by implication) to become the potential heir to the throne besides Jonathan and his other brothers.  And it is in God’s economy and irony that Saul’s own prophetic words are fulfilled (1 Samuel 18:21), but not for the good of Saul but for the pleasure of the Father in heaven.  Milcah is no snare and has not proven to be the catalyst for David’s rise to the throne; rather, it is David who initiated this fulfillment of the first marriage to honour the house of Saul just as Abner has been doing in lieu of Saul’s death.

Thus, it is by circumcision that the old enemy, the Philistines, is exchanged as a bridal price for Saul’s daughter (v.14), as Justin Martyr in his Dialogue with Trypho states:

“The command of circumcision, again, bidding [them] always circumcise the children on the eighth day, was a type of the true circumcision, by which we are circumcised from deceit and iniquity through Him who rose from the dead on the first day after the Sabbath, [namely through] our Lord Jesus Christ. For the first day after the Sabbath, remaining the first of all the days, is called, however, the eighth, according to the number of all the days of the cycle, and [yet] remains the first.”

And in this chapter we see the transfer of the bride to the true first head, God delivering (Paltiel) Milcah from the hands of the false husband who is the son of Laish, the ancient name of the tribe of Dan, the prophesied symbolic serpent (Genesis 49:17) rejected from the book of Revelation; of Abner declaring that his hand shall be with David to bring over all Israel to him (v.12), further declaring the long foretold prophecy of David as the true king of Israel (v.17-19) finally admitting that David is the true Messiah and not some king of the physical lineage of Saul’s.  Will this be the picture of Israel in the end-days, that they will no longer call Christ an imposter-Messiah but finally accept that the prophecies, shadows, sacraments and types of the Old Testament all point definitively to this God-man upon which the physical lineage of the kings are removed in favour of the priestly line of Melchizedek (Psalm 110)?

The joint fact that Abner had conferred with the elders of Israel privately and thereafter in v.20-21 had a feast with David (c.f. Exodus 24; Matthew 22 – the wedding feast typified by David’s reunification with Michal) upon his re-uniting with Michal is more than simply a message of the church uniting in new creation to finally see the Father and the Son face-to-face (v.13).  It is a message of the restoration of Israel under the banner of Christ; it is the message of the long-war whereupon the elect nation Israel will not be replaced by the Gentiles, but will submit to the true God alongside them (Revelation 21:12).

The transparency of Abner’s dealings with the elders of Israel depict a man who has finally accepted the fulfillment of Yahweh’s prophecy in Jesus Christ typified in David; yet Joab’s murder of Abner is not fuelled by love for his enemy but fuelled by wrath and blindness (v.25).  It is therefore interesting what pronouncement David makes over Joab’s house in v.29: “May it fall upon the head of Joab and upon all his father’s house, and may the house of Joab never be without one who has a discharge or who is leprous or who holds a spindle or who falls by the sword or who lacks bread!”  What a seemingly extreme curse in light of Asahel’s death (v.30)!  Yet, as we have looked at the last chapter that Asahel’s pursuit of Abner is more typical of the son of Zeruiah than the son of Mary (c.f. v.39), so David’s pronouncement is on this ‘missing father’ of these sons who take upon the matronymic label; instead, David’s pronouncement is not merely on some physical father but on the spiritual father of these sons – this spiritual father being Satan (John 8:44), who had used Joab to prevent the unity of the Israelite and the Gentile church which has been the subject of the end-times since Christ’s ascension (c.f. Acts 2, which shows the momentous act of the Gentiles speaking in tongues, and book of Ephesians which both focus on the addition of Gentiles to the church of Israel).

Thus, the burial of Abner at Hebron (v.32) is a mirror to the birth of David’s sons also at Hebron (v.2-5); just as the burial of Asahel at Bethlehem is a mirror of the birth of David in Bethlehem; just as the death of Michal’s second marriage to be replaced by the first love under David’s banner (1 Samuel 18:28).

“He speaks as one boasting that Abner did not fool himself out of his life: “Died Abner as a fool dies? No, he did not, not as a criminal, a traitor or felon, that forfeits his life into the hands of public justice; his hands were not pinioned, nor his feet fettered, as those of malefactors are: Abner falls not before just men, by a judicial sentence; but as a man, an innocent man, falleth before wicked men, thieves and robbers, so fellest thou.” Died Abner as Nabal died? so the Septuagint reads it. Nabal died as he lived, like himself, like a sot; but Abner’s fate was such as might have been the fate of the wisest and best man in the world. Abner did not throw away his life as Asahel did, who wilfully ran upon the spear, after fair warning, but he was struck by surprise. Note, It is a sad thing to die like a fool, as those do that in any way shorten their own days, and much more those that make no provision for another world.” – Matthew Henry

In David’s poetic cry Abner’s death is compared to the death and sacrifice of the Christ; upon his death are the Israelites and the Gentiles united.  Though this typology is imperfect for Abner is at fault for Asahel’s death (though made in self-defence), the poetry speaks of the contrast between Abner and Nabal; the former repenting of his treatment of David and willing to unite Israel under David, against the latter refusing to repent and leading to God’s punishment of death.

Further, in David’s fasting he uses a similar phrase as Abner had done in his heated conversation with Ish-bosheth – “God do so to me and more also” to identify that both men are of the same agenda.  Both men, though from different houses, have set in their mind matters of peace and mediation between the two houses, united under the prophecy of Yahweh’s anointing of David as the very centre of unity.  Abner is no mere army commander, but a prince and a great man (v.38) with whom he had made a covenant with (v.13) rather than directly with Ish-bosheth himself (c.f. v.14 where Ish-bosheth was asked to deliver Michal but nothing was stated about the covenant which he offered to make with Abner).  Though Asahel is buried in Bethlehem as a mark of the end of his ministry without mourning, the death of Abner in Hebron is marked with true mourning and fasting; where peace was achieved in chapter 2v.17 but denied by Asahel’s pursuit upon which he died a warrior’s death (Matthew 26:52), true peace was indeed achieved in this chapter (v.23) but again denied by the hands of a son of Zeruiah whereupon the curse is on the father of these sons and a blessing is proclaimed on the house of Abner – the house of Saul, with whom David managed to make a covenant with before Abner’s passing away.

2 Samuel 3: Abner and Nabal

1 Samuel 7: The Judge of Ramah

1 Samuel 7 ends the seven-chapter arc of the focus on Samuel’s story in comparison to the house of Eli, the house of the Dagon, the house of the Philistines. The chapter opens with the same message at the end of chapter 6 – that the Israelites are called to retrieve the ark.  However, it was placed in Kiriath-jearim, the city of woods, where it was brought into the house of Abinadab, a Levite, on the hill.  The lamenting after the LORD (v.2) is out of the Israelites’ character; why would they not go to retrieve the ark?  It was in the safe hands of the Levitical priesthood, and yet it lodged there for some twenty years, and would amount to seventy years (under the relevant biblical scholarship over chronology) until the ark was properly brought from the border of Judah and Benjamin (c.f. Joshua 18:14), from this city of woods, to the city of peace – Jerusalem!  It is not until David’s reign in 2 Samuel that the ark is retrieved and placed in Jerusalem; the return of the Father to the rightful place of new Jerusalem.  So also is the nature of John’s vision in Revelation 11:19 that to see the ark of the covenant is an act accomplished through the work of the cross; and here, David is the agent through whom this act is accomplished as he typifies for us the amazing work of the Son who walks the path in and out of the Holy of Holies with freedom:

1Ch 13:1-6  David consulted with the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, with every leader.  (2)  And David said to all the assembly of Israel, “If it seems good to you and from the LORD our God, let us send abroad to our brothers who remain in all the lands of Israel, as well as to the priests and Levites in the cities that have pasturelands, that they may be gathered to us.  (3)  Then let us bring again the ark of our God to us, for we did not seek it in the days of Saul.”  (4)  All the assembly agreed to do so, for the thing was right in the eyes of all the people.  (5)  So David assembled all Israel from the Nile of Egypt to Lebo-hamath, to bring the ark of God from Kiriath-jearim.  (6)  And David and all Israel went up to Baalah, that is, to Kiriath-jearim that belongs to Judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the LORD who sits enthroned above the cherubim.

This is the ark of God, called by the name of the LORD – the Name of God being Christ Jesus by which we are called into the Trinitarian fellowship (Acts 4:7, 4:10).  This emphasises the preparatory nature of Samuel; he is in the tri-office of prophet, priest and judge, paving the path for the true king David in the House of Israel.  It is important we remember that Israel was given the law after the exodus, after their salvation, and here the chosen Church of the Old Testament is to be ready for the time when the King comes to be her true ruler where they can fellowship truly with the LORD by the ark in Jerusalem.  It is this ark in Jerusalem which enables the Israelites to meditate the relational truth of the Unseen Father; and the symbolic meaning of the restoration of the ark in the Promised Land as a promise of us seeing the Unseen Father face to face clothed in the righteous robe of His Son (Isaiah 61; 1 John 3:2).  Where the veil to the Holy of Holies is literally ripped apart and we can stand before Him as the Son stands before Him.

However, like the book of Numbers, the Israelites are in the wilderness worshipping Ashtaroth and the Baals (v.4), and at the watchtower (Mizpah) they gathered to pour their hearts out in repentance to the LORD genuinely.  Thus, true circumcision and birth by water is shown here through the pouring of the water before the LORD (v.6) – and this happens before the symbolic death of the nursing lamb as offered as a burnt offering (v.9).  Such is the same picture offered in the chronology of Old Testament Scripture: that the LORD had favoured people’s repentance in Christ Jesus long before the introduction of the systematic Levitical framework of sacrifices; yet Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jethro, amongst the other pre-Moses saints, were already providing burnt offerings (c.f. Genesis 4:4; Genesis 8:20; Genesis 22; Exodus 18:12) not because the blood inherently was the source of salvation.  Rather, it was their circumcised hearts by the Spirit which led them to Christ in Whom they met the Unseen Father; and the burnt offering is but a visible sacrament of this spiritual truth.  Just as Noah and his family was saved through the raging waters in the coffin (the literal Hebrew of the ark) where they stepped onto dry new land as indicative of new creation and only offered the burnt offering then and received the sacrament of communion, the eating of flesh, then – so also the Israelites look to their Redeemer and Mediator where the truth is symbolically manifested in the death of the nursing lamb.

Yet, we should not forget the second layer of truth which 1 Samuel 7 is teaching us: namely that Samuel is still a type of Christ, that he is now the only High Priest available to represent the nation against the Philistines for the household of Eli has been removed, in favour of the spiritual household of Samuel.  He has offered to pray on behalf of Israel (v.5), and continually by his prayers has the LORD looked on Israel with favour (v.8).  This is a pure imitation of the High Priestly prayer of the Son to the Father (John 17) so that the Son may be one with the Bride as we are one with Him.

And during this beautiful two-fold Christocentricity firstly of Samuel as Christ, and secondly the sacrament of the burnt offering as symbolic of the Christian faith which the Israelites now exercise, we see the juxtaposition of the death of the nursing lamb with the wrath of the LORD upon the Philistines just as the punishment of the Father on the Son is a simultaneous judgment of wrath upon all those who are not shielded in the Son.  What we see here is an echo of the Passover in Exodus, that the Israelites may pursue and destroy the Philistines from the watchtower to the House of the Lamb (Beth-car); from the woods where the ark was hidden to the House of Peace where the ark will soon reside; from the present time of engagement with the enemy to the House of Christ under the name of David where the Israelites will finally overcome them.

Thus, it is in this path in between – the one path between the watchtower and Jeshanah (or Shen in certain translations), that Samuel places the stone of help (Ebenezer), stumbling those who consider it a rock to be neglected but a cornerstone for many (Psalm 118; Acts 4).  It is here that he emphasises that the saints of Old (Jeshanah) look to (Mizpah) the true Rock of Ages (Ebenezer), by whom the Israelites had fallen for not clinging to Him (chapter 4:1), but now are victorious by the covenant made with blood.  It is only upon the victory entering Beth-car, the victory of the return of the ark to Jerusalem, that this victory is fully realised under David typifying Christ Jesus as opposed to Samuel who is the testimony to Christ that the Philistines’ cities were displaced from the enemy’s hands and the earth inherited by all those who are meek (Psalm 82:8; Matthew 5:5) (v.14).  It is a restoration, the Irenaeus-esque recapitulation, for these lands were always promised to the Israelites (Deut 27:3) by the blood of the lamb and not by the false golden offerings which the Philistines had offered in chapter 6 and instead culminated in their demise as in chapter 7 though they witnessed the necessity of blood to enact a covenant (chapter 6:15-16).

Therefore, Samuel ends his life as judge by symbolically passes through three landmarks of Israel – Bethel, where Jacob received the dream confirming the covenant with Abraham, this “House of God” established by the nursing lamb; Gilgal, where the Israelites had their first Passover in Canaan (Joshua 5:10); and Mizpah, the watchtower.  This circuit displays the gospel in the Old Testament – the covenant which the Father offered to the Israelites in the Son seen in Bethel, firstly explicitly spoken through Abraham and confirmed in Jacob’s dream as he is the father of all Israelites; secondly, the Passover which is first tasted in the Promised Land at Gilgal; yet, thirdly, these are all but shadows of the true covenant as Samuel built his own altar to the LORD (v.17) waiting for the true King to bring the brazen altar of the tabernacle, the only appointed place of sacrificial offerings, back from Kiriath-jearim and into Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 13).  What Samuel looked forward to (Mizpah), as all the other Old Testament saints did (Matthew 13:17) was the fulfilment of the covenant in both Jews and Gentiles as Christ is banner of Shem and Japheth (Genesis 9:27); of the Passover by which we enter into New Creation; and no longer shall we then reside in Mizpah as there is no longer anything to look forward to, except to reside in our true Ramah, our true home at the end of the true ascension hill (Psalm 24:3) which Samuel returned to every year to judge, displaying to himself and to us the home we are to enter a new creation home which is redeemed by the One who will be our Judge, face to face, in communal love.

1 Samuel 7: The Judge of Ramah

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

Leviticus 8-10: Jesus, our only High Priest

We have covered the significance of the sacrifices, and just in how many multitude of ways they provide a 3-D rendition of the spiritual truth of Christ Jesus, in front of the tabernacle, which is also a physical manifestation of the truth of the heaven in relation to earth and the church of the Sent One.

From chapters 1-7, we have seen just how crucial the details are behind the sacrifices.  We have seen the intricacies, the types of animals, the ways the animals are cut, the way the blood is either drained or thrown onto the altar sides or horns… and the person at the center of all these sacrifices at large are the priests.  Thus, these next three chapters I will turn to understand the importance of the priests which we have touched upon in the previous 7 chapters.  One interesting thing to note is this: the sacrifice is a type of Christ, and the heart-circumcised Jews knew that in the OT.  The high priest is also a type of Christ.  Try meditating on the picture of a high priest sacrificing an animal – and both priest and animal are types of Christ and imagine the implications of Christ’s work on the cross.  I will be working through that in the latter part of this post.

1.  The Sanctification of Jesus Christ with the anointing of the Spirit (Leviticus 8 )

2.  The acceptance of Aaron’s offering (Leviticus 9)

3.  The Death of Aaron’s two sons – Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10)

1.  The Sanctification of Jesus Christ with the anointing of the Spirit (Leviticus 8 )

The first few verses sums up the chapters ahead:

1(A) The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2“Take Aaron and his sons with him, and(B) the garments and(C) the anointing oil and the bull of the sin offering and the two rams and the basket of unleavened bread. 3And assemble all the congregation at the entrance of the tent of meeting.” 4And Moses did as the LORD commanded him, and the congregation was assembled at the entrance of the tent of meeting.

Thus begins the detail about Aaron and his sons.  We knew from Exodus 4 that Aaron is going to be Moses’ assistant, chiefly his mouthpiece because of Moses’ ‘uncircumcised lips’ (i.e. speech problem); but slowly, Joshua exchanged the role with Aaron as his chief disciple and assistant, whereas Aaron became Moses’ helper, his peer – from bearing Moses’ arm during the fight against the Amalekites through Yeshua/Joshua’s victory.  Throughout Exodus, Moses’ work is inextricably tied with Aaron’s work – as if they were nigh inseparable.  Moses’ presence and faith in Christ is the picture which dominated the book of Exodus, until Exodus 28 points towards Aaron and his sons as the priests of the to-be-built tabernacle.  Now, the time has come, and Aaron is the prophesied high priest.  Yet, without Moses, Aaron’s work would not have occurred.  Moses therefore plays the role of the Christ in the Old Testament: the Christ who physically saves as the Angel, and as the LORD who brought them out of Egypt.  But in the New Testament, our Christ fulfills the meaning of that physical salvation by completing the true spiritual salvation by the blood.  So what if the Israelites are saved from the Egyptians?  They will still fall into idolatry.  It is the salvation by the blood of Christ which he brings into the room of the Holy of Holies which clinches that peace between us and the Father.  Moses – the type of OT Christ, the Rock, the Saviour, the type of the one who brought the Israelites out of Egypt, the land of no Jesus; Aaron – the type of NT Christ, the Lamb, the High Priest, the type of the one who emphasises that the physical exodus is only true if we are circumcised via the spiritual exodus to new Jerusalem (Galatians 4).  Make no mistake: the OT and NT are tied together; we are born under the Old Covenant so we can turn to the New.  And under both instances, we turn from law of Christ to the gospel of Christ – Christ is at the centre of both typologies of Moses and Aaron.

So, when we look at Aaron, we actually understand Christ better as he presented himself in the NT.  So often I hear that NT Christ sheds light on OT sacrifices; but that is not true.  If anything, without the OT, NT means nothing; however, with the OT, we can more of less shape the gospel save understand the fullness of the time in which Christ will come.  But the Israelites at this point already have a good grasp of the fundamental offerings, the mediator-nature of their Yahweh, and most definitely a visible concept of the Holy Trinity.  The NT is just a time of fulfillment (NOT ‘special’ revelation, for the entire OT is already special revelation of Christ); the OT is one of prophecy awaiting Christ who has already been specially revealed as Angel (Genesis 16, Exodus 3), as Lamb (Genesis 22), as animal sacrifice (Genesis 3), and now as High Priest.

So how can Aaron and co. be sanctified (i.e. set apart) for the LORD’s work?  How can they be holy?  This is different from being clean, as I hinted in the previous post.

The process of sanctification, of being set apart as Holy for the LORD, follows some procedure.  Adam Clarke sums it up nicely (and I put in the bracketed numbers to help you navigate):

(1)  Moses is commanded to consecrate Aaron and his sons, Lev 8:1-3.

(2)  Moses convenes the congregation; washes, clothes, and anoints Aaron, Lev 8:4-12.

(3)  He also clothes Aaron’s sons, Lev 8:13.

(4)  Offers a bullock for them as a sin-offering, Lev 8:14-17.

(5)  And a ram for a burnt-offering, Lev 8:18-21.

(6)  And another ram for a consecration-offering, Lev 8:22-24. The fat, with cakes of unleavened bread, and the right shoulder of the ram, he offers as a wave-offering, and afterwards burns, Lev 8:25-28. The breast, which was the part of Moses, he also waves, Lev 8:29.

(7)  And sprinkles oil and blood upon Aaron and his sons, Lev 8:30.

(8 )  The flesh of the consecration ram is to be boiled and eaten at the door of the tabernacle, Lev 8:31, Lev 8:32.

(9)  Moses commands Aaron and his sons to abide seven days at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, which they do accordingly, Lev 8:33-36.

Let’s quickly decipher them.  Moses, in this picture, is like the OT Christ baptizing the NT Christ – the reason I say that is because the New Testament picture provides that of John the Baptist baptising Jesus (Matthew 3:15), when Jesus began his public work as the Anointed One (“Christ” is the greek for the Hebrew term “Messiah/Mashiyach”, meaning “Anointed One” or the “Consecrated One” -משׁיח c.f. Psalm 132:10).  This explains why, in verses 4-12, Moses convenes a congregation (Hebrew: edah, meaning assembly, the Hebrew equivalent for ekklesia, church, in the NT) of Israel before the consecration of the High Priest.  The direct parallel is also shown in Matthew 3, when the church of Israel witnesses Jesus Christ being consecrated for his ministry as THE Anointed One, the High Priest fulfilling all righteousness.  More on this when we speak of the anointing with the oil as the third step of the ritual.

The establishment of the ministry of the Anointed One

The reason I make the typology of Moses as John the Baptist and as role played by Christ in the OT is twofold.  Firstly, John the Baptist is the very last prophet of the Old Testament prior to the first advent of Christ – and every prophet is merely a typology of THE chief prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15), THE chief messenger – Christ.  As Moses is playing the role of prophet, his role right here parallels the image of John the Prophet and Baptizer of Jesus.  Jesus as the Anointed One is now being portrayed by Aaron, the now consecrated High Priest, in front of the assembly/ekklesia/church of Israel.  Secondly, is the way I play with the name “Moses”, which means “drawn out of the water”.  How much more fitting is it therefore for Moses to baptise Aaron with the water for washing, drawing from the water of the Spirit (as represented by the oil later) after being kept alive by being drawn out out of the waters of punishment?

This is followed closely by the clothing of the priests AFTER the washing as the second step.  The clothing of the priests I’ve largely covered in the commentary in Exodus.  Primarily, the significance is to tie the burden and the hearts of the Israelites to this one High Priest – the stones on his shoulders and on his breastplace continually remind him that he is standing as the mediator between the Father and the church.  He is stepping temporarily into the shoes of Jesus.

The third step is the important ritual of anointing with oil.  v.10 reveals that Moses consecrated the tabernacle first, before consecrating Aaron and his sons.  1 Samuel 16:13 –

Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up and went to Ramah.

This shows just how important the Spirit is to any ministry.  Without oil, representing the Spirit, the work of the High Priests are in vain (1 Corinthians 2; 1 Corinthians 12).  Thus, the truth of the Spirit resting on Jesus, the Messiah, the Anointed One, is strengthened clearly in the picturing of oil everywhere (Isaiah 42:1-4, 61:1-3; Luke 4:14-21).  The oil comes again later in v.30.

The offerings in the preparation of Aaron & his sons

In v. 14-17, Aaron and his sons put their hands on the head of the bull as sin offering.  The bull, which “absorbs” the sin of Aaron and his sons is then destroyed away from the camp, so as not to threaten the purity of the camp or the Tent.  This “Great Exchange” of imputing our sins to Christ and his sins to us is spoken of in Romans 3 and 2 Corinthians 5:21 –

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Just is the essence of true Christian justification: we aren’t just made into a blank slate with the Father solemnly approving our entrance into heaven.  No no, much more!  We are actually pleasing in the Father’s eyes so long as Christ is our captain, and we are in Him, the true Noah’s ark!  The Father now looks on us like how he looks on his eternal Son!

Now that the altar is purified, the preparation of the priests is completed, to which we turn to the burnt offering for the atonement of their sins.  The first sin-offering cleansed them; and now, the burnt offering puts them in a position of pleasure before the LORD (refer back to 2 Corinthians 5:21) through the necessary substitute death of the animal sacrifice.  This anger of the LORD being soothed, the fellowship offering from v.22-29 takes the next stage.  First and foremost, all the offerings mentioned in these verses are forms of fellowship/peace offering (so they do not break-away from the 5-types of offerings in chapters 1-7, as if they are a sixth or seventh type of offering).

The reason why fellowship offering is so important is because it represents table fellowship with the LORD, so that we can eat with the Father and not only with the Incarnate Son (c.f. Last Supper).  Without the prior sin and burnt offering, this fellowship offering could not occur: this once against focuses on the truth of the importance of Jesus’ work on the cross before we can come before God as pleasing aroma of Christ and enjoy fellowship with Him.  Often, I have heard a simple phrase of “God is love” or “God is grace” – as biblical as the former is (1 John 4:16), the phrase is often taken out of 1 John’s context.  God is love through the propitiating blood of Jesus Christ.  God is love because of the propitiating blood of Jesus Christ.  Too often “Christ” and “blood” and “sacrifice” and “propitiation” is taken out of the picture, and we see a God who isn’t ‘judgmental’, but simply a God who is nice and loving – and this has caused the reason of so many heresies like contemporary pop-Marcionism: the OT God is full of wrath, the NT God is full of love.  Both the LORDS spoken of in OT and NT are Jesus Christ (yes, even the Old Testament usage of “LORD”, for who has known the Father without firstly knowing the visible Son of God (Luke 10:22)), and the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all angry at sin, yet the work of the cross fully deals with our punishment on the tree, and that is no blind grace – it is a true and legally justified salvation by grace.

One interesting difference is however found in the ordination/consecration (in the KJV) offering (v. 22-24).  The blood is applied on the priest’s lobe of the right ear, thumb of the right hand, and big toe of the right foot.  The right hand side is often seen as more important throughout Scripture (Genesis 48:14; Exodus 15:6; Deuteronomy 33:22; 1 Kings 2:19; Job 40:14; Psalm 16:8, 18:35; Ephesians 1:20), whether as a blessing on the next generation or as a powerful and protective force.  Jesus himself sits at the right hand of God, and many times people take refuge in the right hand of God, which depicts the power, protection and refuge of Jesus Christ.  Thus, the blood on the right hand side displays a full-allegiance not only to “God”, but to the right hand of God, Jesus Christ.  This right-hand side smearing of blood is practised later in Leviticus 14 on a leper, who through doing so is restored to full fellowship with God.  The priest is thus similarly cleansed and accepted into table fellowship with the Trinity.

The conclusion of the ordination ritual

The ordination ritual thus comes to an end with oil in v.30, covering the priests and their clothing once again.  The oil thus begins and ends as bookends for the offerings and depicts a clear message of what the Anointed One will do for spiritual Israel.  When priests are therefore engaged in their work, we will definitely think – “this, also, is what the Anointed One will do!”  This is far more profound than the shy provision of oil for prophets and kings: the priest is completely covered in the Spirit!  Psalm 133:2 –

“It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes!”

This section of Psalms presents some deep theology: the precious oil on the head of Aaron runs down his beard to the collar of his robes and later covering his clothing.  So also: the Spirit on the head of Christ, runs down to his body, the church, and through the work of the Consecrated and Anointed Priest – the work of the Great Exchange of imputing our sin to him and his righteousness to us so we can have table fellowship with the LORD – is then the church manifested by the firstfruits of the Holy Spirit to come to new life.

When these rituals are completed, Aaron and his sons are given the offerings to eat at the entrance of the tabernacle, and so these prototype mediators stand between the LORD and His assembly, eating the LORD’s meat whilst in the priestly clothing representing the church.  This is very similar to the eating and drinking before the LORD in Exodus 24, the table fellowship with the seen Jesus.  Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu are now re-experiencing that wondrous moment in the thickness of the clouds of Mt. Sinai, on the border of the cloud of darkness and pillars of fire – the boundary between heaven and earth, between east of the garden of Eden and the Garden itself.

The final five verses of Leviticus 8 finishes the ritual of the priests:

31And Moses said to Aaron and his sons, “Boil the flesh at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and there eat it and the bread that is in the basket of ordination offerings, as I commanded, saying, ‘Aaron and his sons shall eat it.’ 32And what remains of the flesh and the bread you shall burn up with fire. 33And you shall not go outside the entrance of the tent of meeting for seven days, until the days of your ordination are completed, for it(U) will take seven days to ordain you. 34As has been done today, the LORD has commanded to be done to make atonement for you. 35At the entrance of the tent of meeting you shall remain day and night for seven days, performing what the LORD has(V) charged, so that you do not die, for so I have been commanded.” 36And Aaron and his sons did all the things that the LORD commanded by Moses.

Thus, if the priests fail to eat of the remainder of the flesh, the pronouncement of judgment on the sinful flesh, it shall be burnt with fire – a picture of the true punishment via the lake of fire (Revelation 21).  This is mildly preached when Jesus ate the fish (Habbakuk 1:14 and Genesis 1 – the fish and sea creatures have no life in them, c.f. my post on Genesis Day 2 and 5), as a pronouncement of judgment on the mindless fish – the unsaved men.

And unsurprisingly, the seven days focus takes us back to the creation of the world in 6 days, and sabbath on the 7th.  This picture of creation of heaven and earth completed in 7 days is a foretelling of the re-creation of the world also told in the symbolic 7 days through the priestly work of Christ.  From the 8th day, the work of re-creation has already begun, just as Christ was resurrected on the 8th day (c.f. Genesis 17 circumcision, and Christ rising again on the 8th day AFTER the Sabbath on the 7th day, a picture of the new work of re-creation of heavens and earth, taking into account the symbolic second set of 7 days).  Hence, we move onto the 8th day in Leviticus 9.

A final note on the ordination is the question of whether modern-day ordination has similar significance.  Yes and No – Yes, in the sense that (as I will later cover in Leviticus 10), the ordination of these high priests is akin to the ordination of ministers and pastors.  They are given a highly responsible role of stewarding the sheep in the Shepherd’s stead, though of course, aligning to the Shepherd’s teachings.  The pastoral epistles such as Timothy and Titus were not written for any laymen, just as the 70 elders of Israel were chosen with specific character qualities.  However, the ordination of Leviticus 8 is not the same as the ordination of ministers at the same time – because the ministers are not made “holy” because of the ordination.  Rather, the holiness is one which all Christians inherit by the power of the Spirit.  We are to be a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:6), not a kingdom of laymen and minority of priests!  The message spoken of here is a message of us taking on the nature of Christ through his propitiating and cleansing work of his own blood and the waters and oil of the Spirit.  In that sense, today’s ordination of ministers does not make them any more “holy” than the time that they were, when they first came to Christ prior to their ordination.  Therefore, a minister’s state of ‘holiness’ is no more than the state of ‘holiness’ that we are given by the power of the Spirit in whatever ministry we are anointed to perform.

2.  The acceptance of Aaron’s offering (Leviticus 9)

The significance of the 8th day shouldn’t be downplayed.  You should feast your eyes on Bullinger’s Numbers in Scripture’s chapter on the number 8, and here is just a small excerpt which is by no means enough to show the parallel of 8th day and new creation:

EIGHT BY ITSELF:  It is 7 plus 1. Hence it is the number specially associated with Resurrection and Regeneration, and the beginning of a new era or order.

When the whole earth was covered with the flood, it was Noah “the eighth person” (2 Peter 2:5) who stepped out on to a new earth to commence a new order of things. “Eight souls” (1 Peter 3:20) passed through it with him to the new or regenerated world.

Hence, too, circumcision was to be performed on the eighth day (Gen 17:12), because it was the foreshadowing of the true circumcision of the heart, that which was to be “made without hands,” even “the putting off of the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ” (Col 2:11). This is connected with the new creation.

The first-born was to be given to Jehovah on the eighth day (Exo 22:29,30). But RESURRECTION is the great truth which is signified. Christ rose from the dead on “the first day of the week,” that was of necessity the eighth day.

So what happens on the 8th day is of serious importance to the understanding of God’s work of re-creation.  Adam Clarke’s commentary comes in useful again, with my edited numbering and extra notes in italics:

(1)  Aaron is commanded to offer, on the eighth day, a sin-offering (bull calf) and a burnt-offering (ram), Lev 9:1, Lev 9:2.

(2)  The people are commanded also to offer a sin-offering (male goat), a burnt-offering (calf and a ram, a year old without blemish), peace-offerings (ox and a ram), and a meat-offering (I think A.Clarke meant grain offering – mixed with oil) , Lev 9:3, Lev 9:4. They do as they were commanded; and Moses promises that God shall appear among them, Lev 9:5, Lev 9:6.

(3)  Aaron is commanded to make an atonement for the people, Lev 9:7. He and his sons prepare and offer the different sacrifices, Lev 9:8-21. Aaron and Moses bless the congregation, Lev 9:22, Lev 9:23.

(4)  And the fire of the Lord consumes the sacrifice, Lev 9:24.

The centrality of the verses above drives on two verses:  “so that the (Glory of the) LORD may appear to you”.  Part (1) relates strictly to Aaron and sons (with sin and burnt offerings), but part (2) involves the work of Aaron and sons for the congregation of Israel, which doesn’t just involve sin and burnt offerings, but also fellowship and grain offerings as fellowship and dedication to the LORD respectively.  Everything that priest has done is to involve themselves and to involve the congregation so that their own sins and the congregations’ sins are tied to these sacrifices, imputed onto them, and so that the LORD may appear to them.  This may sound odd, given that they were ALREADY witnessing the glory of God as a pillar of cloud and fire in the tabernacle!  No – what is meant here is the significance of these sacrifices in ORDER to meet with God.  They cannot just expect to dwell with Jesus, given their sinful nature (including the priests, who are after all only acting as the True Priest who is entirely sinless).

Lev 9:22  Then Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them, and he came down from offering the sin offering and the burnt offering and the peace offerings. 23 And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting, and when they came out they blessed the people, and the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. 24 And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.

This chapter ends on a high note – the work of re-creation, on the 8th day, is powerfully shown through the sacrifices made – and the “glory of the LORD appeared to all the people” as the High Priest lifted his hands to bless the people (an image of Melchizedek, who is Jesus, the Sent One who blessed Abraham the model of faith – Romans 4).  This “glory of the LORD” of course is no mere glory, for who has seen God except the visible person Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:15)?  Sometimes I hear people today saying things like “I saw God’s glory”, which they usually mean as “I felt the intimacy of God today”.  However, in Scripture, to see God’s glory is to actually see Him – not just to feel the intimacy, but to see Him with the eyes of our hearts, when a particular mystery in the fullness of Christ is revealed by the Spirit.  Can you see the glory of God through the music of a worship song?  Sure.  Can you see the glory of God through a pastor praying for you?  Indeed. Only if both take us back to Jesus Christ, and not because we feel like we are being loved.  It is important to distinguish the feelings from the fact of God’s revelation to us, for often the feelings of a compromising Christian precede that of fact: and this leads to all types of spiritual troubles in store for them.  Let the true glory of God, Jesus Christ, reveal more of the truth of his work on the cross for us, so we worship Him with more reverence.

The picture of fire coming out from before the LORD and consuming these offerings is one of acceptance of the people, while simultaneously pronouncing judgment on the now sinful animal sacrifices.  This rejoicing is bittersweet – they live, because of the death of another; yet, our rejoicing in Christ is not bittersweet – he will not only die on the cross, but will live and ascend to bring us up again to the new heavens and earth as fully righteous and not just a blank slate.

3.  The Death of Aaron’s two sons – Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10)

Although the last chapter ended optimistically, it is no mistake that Moses chose to juxtapose the glory of Aaron’s work, prophesying Jesus’ completed work on the cross starting from the 8th day (after Sabbath), with the decadence of the examples of Nadab and Abihu.

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them.  (Lev 10:1)

Because of this “unauthorised” fire, v.2 goes on to say that Nadab and Abihu were immediately consumed by the LORD’s fire.  What a horrific image: one moment, the church of Israel is rejoicing, because Aaron and his sons went through the steps with a mixture of solemnity (of imputing their sins onto the sacrifice), and joy (of the imputation of righteousness onto them); and another moment, Nadab and Abihu fail to remember these important steps to God’s love and are consumed!

Let’s decipher ‘unauthorised’ fire first.  In the KJV, this is “strange” fire.  The LXX translates this as “αλλοτριον” (from the lexical root allotrios), meaning strange, alien or hostile.  This is different from the “heteros”, also meaning strange but more akin to “different”, used in Jude 7 referring to different flesh.  While I understand the cultural and semantic distinctions between LXX greek and NT greek, the context helps us understand that this strange fire is very different from ‘strange flesh’ which refers in the latter part to angelic flesh.  This strange fire, however, is unauthorised as the ESV translators put it: it is alien, and it is most importantly hostile.

If we just read the narrative, the message is quite simple: both the sons of Aaron took his censer and put fire in it and literally gave a hostile offering before the LORD.  Of course, they did not think it was hostile – but the LORD did, hence His reaction in v.2.  Paul Blackham notes that some people have read v.8-9 of chapter 10 and came to the conclusion that Nadab and Abihu are drunk, though I agree with him that actually, this seems not so feasible since chapter 10 follows immediately after chapter 9.  There is no indication of a time gap, especially v.12-16, explaining how the food offerings haven’t yet been consumed.  Since v.3 follows on from v.2, the judgment on Aaron’s sons, it would perhaps give the best explanation of why Nadab and Abihu were punished:

“This is what the LORD has said, ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.'” And Aaron held his peace.

Moses’ explanation is straightforward: without committing to the right steps to salvation, committing ourselves to God’s glory through Jesus Christ, our prayers and desires are unheard.  This is extremely important: for we remain under wrath outside of Jesus Christ (John 3:16-18 ) – and so Nadab and Abihu show just how they were under judgment, if they provide unauthorised offerings.

But surely Nadab and Abihu were just adding to the offerings?  No – it isn’t that simple.  The significance of the entire sacrificial system, the priestly ordination, is that it is the LORD’s commandment.  He has ordained salvation to be wrought in an extremely specific and detailed way, and any subversion or alteration of it is to preach one thing: that we know it better than the LORD.  That we can take or add from the word of God (Revelation 22:18 ).  Some can even go as far as to say that what Nadab and Abihu were doing is a great example of works-salvation:  it is as if Aaron’s sons felt that the sacrificial offering through Jesus Christ is not enough, and they have to add their own to justify themselves.  Either way, the LORD is furious that we would want to alter, or add onto the salvation of Jesus.  HE is our rock, HE is our righteousness – not our unauthorised and hostile offerings which has no bearing on our justification before Him.

v.3-6 is a sad image of Nadab and Abihu’s relatives carrying the two brothers’ corpses out, while Aaron their father holds his peace.  Nadab, whose name means “generous”, and Abihu, whose name means “he is my father” (possibly referring to God), is carried out by their relatives Mishael (“who is what God is”) and Elzaphan (“my God has protected”), sons of Aaron’s uncle Uzziel (“my strength is God”).  I find it, however, quite touching how they still refer to Nadab and Abihu as brethren (in the KJV, and “brother” in the ESV), and carry them with their coats still covering them – though it is indeed a solemn reminder that the physicali clothing is not what makes them holy; the physical robes of “righteousness” still needs to be true spiritually.  Moses tells Aaron and his sons not to bewail the death of Nadab and Abihu; instead, the house of Israel will now mourn for Nadab and Abihu.

Why can’t Aaron and his sons mourn for his eldest and 2nd eldest son?  Because they are still anointed with the Spirit:

And do not go outside the entrance of the tent of meeting, lest you die, for the anointing oil of the LORD is upon you.” And they did according to the word of Moses.(v.7)

This corresponds to what Jesus taught in Luke 14:25-26 – if you do not hate your parents, your wife, your brothers and sisters, your sons and daughters compared with God, then you cannot approach Jesus.  This is the intense devotion to the living God, and the mark of the Spirit on Aaron and his sons is a mark not merely of cleanness, but holiness.  God isn’t asking us to hate our human family; rather, he is teaching us to respect his authority even above the authority of our family.  If Aaron mourned, then he is akin to those who Christ are condemning in Luke 14.

Then v.10-11 implies that Aaron and his sons do not have the mere job of managing the sacrifices: they also have the duty to teach the people the meaning of the sacrifices.  How fitting it is that Moses is reminding Aaron of such a duty, after his two sons have died because they failed to understand the statute fully.  I think this is a crucial verse: so often we practise baptism, communion, sacraments, marriage and many signs of God’s grace to us, but we fail to understand its meaning.  This is why we have denominations preaching damaging lies like works-salvation, believer’s baptism, inter-faith or homosexual marriages.  They fail to remember what Scripture taught about these practices, and looked upon the physical truth and bound their subjective spiritual definitions to it.  The story of Nadab and Abihu is profound: it is telling us to listen to God, and rest on Christ alone as the definer of our faith.

v.12-18 then sees Moses asking the sons of Aaron to do as they were told and ensure that the remains of the sacrifice are dealt with as already told.  The key word in v.16, is diligent.  Moses is not half-hearted, and the message again is especially poignant after the death of Aaron’s two sons.

v.19-20 sees Aaron admitting his mistake in failing to serve the LORD properly, but there is a mark of humility and repentance in his actions: “If I had eaten the sin offering today, would the LORD have approved?”- indeed, the LORD would approve, as Moses stated.  Aaron was inwardly and spiritually mourning as the Father of the two sons, and just like those who fast because they mourn for the days of Jesus’ return (Matthew 9:15), Aaron’s fasting is a mark of his love for his two sons.  Thus, the difference between Aaron’s mistake and his sons mistake is quite significant: the former is one who continually feared and revered God and acknowledged his mistake.  However, the latter represents two people who impudently and rashly entered His presence with hostile sacrifices even though they should already know the statutes well.  Thus, the responses from the LORD are proportional and appropriate.  Here is Matthew Henry on Aaron’s repentant heart:

Moses charged the fault upon Eleazar and Ithamar (Lev_10:16), but it is probable that what they did was by Aaron direction, and therefore he apologized for it. He might have pleaded that this was a sin-offering for the congregation, and if it had been a bullock it must have been wholly burnt (Lev_4:21), and therefore why not now that it was a goat? But it seems it was otherwise ordered at this time, and therefore he makes his affliction his excuse, Lev_10:19. Observe, (1.) How he speaks of affliction: Such things have befallen me, such sad things, which could not but go near his heart, and make it very happy. He was a high priest taken from among men, and could not put off natural affection when he put on the holy garments. He held his peace (Lev_10:3), yet his sorrow was stirred, as David’s, Psa_39:2. Note, There may be a deep sense of affliction even where there is a sincere resignation to the will of God in the affliction. “Such things as never befel me before, and as I little expected now. My spirits cannot but sink, when I see my family sinking; I must needs be heavy, when God is angry:” thus it is easy to say a great deal to aggravate an affliction, but it is better to say little. (2.) How he makes this an excuse for his varying from the appointment about the sin-offering. He could not have eaten it but in his mourning, and with a sorrowful spirit; and would this have been accepted? He does not plead that his heart was so full of grief that he had no appetite for it, but that he feared it would not be accepted. Note, [1.] Acceptance with God is the great thing we should desire and aim at in all our religious services, particularly in the Lord’s supper, which is our eating of the sin-offering. [2.] The sorrow of the world is a very great hindrance to our acceptable performance of holy duties, both as it is discomposing to ourselves, takes off our chariot-wheels and makes us drive heavily (1Sa_1:7, 1Sa_1:8 ), and as it is displeasing to God, whose will it is that we should serve him cheerfully, Deu_12:7. Mourner’s bread was polluted, Hos_9:4. See Mal_3:14.

Leviticus 8-10: Jesus, our only High Priest