1 Kings 8: the House of the LORD (pt. 3)

1(A) Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes,(B) the leaders of the fathers’ houses of the people of Israel, before King Solomon in Jerusalem,(C) to bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of(D) the city of David, which is Zion. 2And all the men of Israel assembled to King Solomon at(E) the feast in the month Ethanim, which is the seventh month. 3And all the elders of Israel came, and(F) the priests took up the ark. 4And they brought up the ark of the LORD,(G) the tent of meeting, and all the holy vessels that were in the tent; the priests and the Levites brought them up. 5And King Solomon and all the congregation of Israel, who had assembled before him, were with him before the ark,(H) sacrificing so many sheep and oxen that they could not be counted or numbered. 6(I) Then the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the LORD(J) to its place in(K) the inner sanctuary of the house, in the Most Holy Place, underneath the wings of the cherubim. 7For the cherubim spread out their wings over the place of the ark, so that the cherubim overshadowed the ark and its poles. 8(L) And the poles were so long that the ends of the poles were seen from the Holy Place before(M) the inner sanctuary; but they could not be seen from outside. And they are there to this day. 9There was nothing in the ark except(N) the two tablets of stone that Moses put there at Horeb, where(O) the LORD made a covenant with the people of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt. 10And when the priests came out of the Holy Place,(P) a cloud filled the house of the LORD, 11so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD.

After 2 chapters of describing the monumental significance of the Temple, the build-up inevitably leads to one very stark question – what is the LORD’s purpose for the Temple, and more importantly, where is the LORD in relation to the Temple?

This one question, uniting the LORD’s purpose and the LORD Himself to the Temple, is found firstly in Solomon’s worship of the LORD and the LORD’s response to Solomon’s worship.  We begin chapter 8 with Solomon assembling all the elders, heads and leaders to bring up the ark of covenant out of the city of David.  Of all the furniture in the Temple, the ark is the only item which is brought from the tabernacle to the Temple, whereas all the other items of the tabernacle are effectively replaced by the Temple.   It is important for us to see here that the ark is taken from the city of David, Zion, and brought to Jerusalem.  Although geographically different places, throughout the Word we learn that Zion and Jerusalem are identified as one and the same (soon thereafter Zion is the metonym for Israel and the Promised Land c.f. Psalm 147:12; Isaiah 2:3, 4:3-4, 24:23, Zechariah 8:3, 9:9 – though Jerusalem is the very name of the new city which we will inherit in new creation, c.f. Revelation 3:12; 21, whereas Zion is referred to as the Mount where the Lamb dwells (Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 14:1)).  It is significant for us to therefore recognize that the Temple is not built on Mount Zion, but rather is built on the very threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite where the LORD appeared to David and where the LORD will appear as prophesied by Abraham in Genesis 22 concerning Moriah in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 3:1).

Furthermore, this inauguration of the Temple takes place in the month of Tishri (before the Babylonian captivity, called Ethanim here (v.2)), both names bearing the significance of “strength” and “beginning”, the Feast of Booths, Day of Atonement, creation and fall of Adam and Eve, the dove’s final mission to obtain the olive branch (Genesis 8), the binding of Isaac (Genesis 22); the provision of the second set of tablets  (on 10th Tishri) and finally the erecting of the tabernacle itself on the first day of this month (Exodus 40:2) tells us that the inauguration of the Temple bears the full weight of the events of this month.  The Temple is not only a “renewal” of the tabernacle (though no longer mobile, but steadily built into the ground of Moriah), but it is also the House of the LORD where both Feast and Atonement occurs, where the fall of Adam and Eve is undone, where new creation and firstfruit of the olive branch is truly witnessed (1 Corinthians 15:20-23), where the prophecy of Abraham is fulfilled, where the first set of Mosaic law shall be shattered and fulfilled in the second set’s focus on the eternal Promised Land:

“The 2 stone tablets on which the Ten Words rest, represent the dual witness to Christ Himself, the Rock, the basis of all the Law, who will be shattered for our sins that we may be spared, like the temple, His body will be renewed, made again. During that time Moses intercedes for the people and the glory of the Lord is revealed, all testifying to the works of oblation and intercession of Christ on the cross. Thus the 2nd giving of the Decalogue is differently quoted from the first: Deuteronomy 5:13-16 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. 15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day. 16 “‘Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. The Sabbath is refocused on the new land, the new creation instead of on the first creation, and now things will go ‘well’ in that land.” – Dev Menon in “Law and Gospel” essay

Thus, taking us in an upward spiral through to the Temple’s establishment.

However, unlike Exodus 35:20-29 where the Israelites’ have collectively contributed to the materials of the tabernacle, there is nothing of that sort here.  Instead, it is the two Hirams and the hired workers who contribute the material; even David’s gold and treasures had to be stored (in 2 Chronicles 5:1) as Solomon did not exhaust them in the building of the Temple.  Contrarily, the tabernacle was finished with a very immediate entry of the glory of the LORD filling the tabernacle (Exodus 40:34-38), though here we witness in v.5 a grand sacrifice, the very first thing which comes to the mind of these many men in their worship of God.  In their free-will offering, they offer up lambs and sheep without blemish, such innocent creatures, providing the propitiatory image to us of the Temple.  Innocent blood is spilled as the first human act prior to the instatement of the ark in the Temple from Mount Zion, just as Christ’s blood was spilled prior to the Father and the Lamb’s entry into New Jerusalem from the Holy Hill of Zion.

Thus, v.6-8 sees the mediatory nature of the cherubim between us and the ark – as if acting as a barrier or a protection between us and the item which represents the holy Father (c.f. 2 Samuel 6:8, Uzzah’s death), His sent ones often acting on behalf of the Father to speak with us.  And in the extension of the poles into the Holy Place but not visible from the outside, so we also peer into the secrets of new creation as Christians standing in the Holy Catholic Church, represented by the Holy Place; yet only the Son who now stands in the Holy of Holies (Hebrews 8-9) is in the immediate and physical presence of the Father, compared to our present firstfruit yet dimness of the Father’s glory (1 Corinthians 13:12-13).

Finally, only once the ark has entered the Holy of Holies that the glory of the LORD, like a cloud, filled up the entire house (akin to Exodus 40, the establishment of the tabernacle).  Yet – it should be interesting to note the contrast between the author of Hebrews (chapter 9:4) and the author of 1 Kings.  It is specifically stated in v.9 that there is only the Mosaic tablets; yet what of the jar of manna and Aaron’s staff which the writer of Hebrews focuses on?  Some views on this matter:

But he says that the pot in which Moses had deposited the manna, and Aaron’s rod which had budded, were in the ark with the two tables; but this seems inconsistent with sacred history, which in 1 King s 8:9, relates that there was nothing in the ark but the two tables. But it is easy to reconcile these two passages: God had commanded the pot and Aaron’s rod to be laid up before the testimony; it is hence probable that they were deposited in the ark, together with the tables. But when the Temple was built, these things were arranged in a different order, and certain history relates it as a thing new that the ark had nothing else but the two tables.  – John Calvin

Though it may be due to the actual perspective and angle on viewing the items in and around the ark as John Calvin suggests (and depending on the time difference between what the writer of Hebrews understood to be in the ark and what was initially the case in 1 Kings 8), Matthew Henry visits the more spiritual reasoning behind these items:

This typified Christ, his perfect obedience to the law and his fulfilling of all righteousness for us. Now here we are told both what was in this ark and what was over it. [1.] What was in it. First, The golden pot that had manna, which, when preserved by the Israelites in their own houses, contrary to the command of God, presently putrefied; but now, being by God’s appointment deposited here in this house, was kept from putrefaction, always pure and sweet; and this to teach us that it is only in Christ that our persons, our graces, our performances are kept pure. It was also a type of the bread of life we have in Christ, the true ambrosia that gives immortality. This was also a memorial of God’s miraculously feeding his people in the wilderness, that they might never forget such signal favour, nor distrust God for the time to come. Secondly, Aaron’s rod that budded, and thereby showed that God had chosen him of the tribe of Levi to minister before him of all the tribes of Israel, and so an end was put to the murmuring of the people, and to their attempt to invade the priest’s office, Num. xvii. This was that rod of God with which Moses and Aaron wrought such wonders; and this was a type of Christ, who is styled the man, the branch (Zech. vi. 12), by whom God has wrought wonders for the spiritual deliverance, defence, and supply of his people, and for the destruction of their enemies. It was a type of divine justice, by which Christ the Rock was smitten, and from whom the cool refreshing waters of life flow into our souls. Thirdly, The tables of the covenant, in which the moral law was written, signifying the regard God has to the preservation of his holy law, and the care we all ought to have that we keep the law of God–that this we can only do in and through Christ, by strength from him nor can our obedience by accepted but through him. [2.] What was over the ark ( 5): Over it the cherubim of glory shadowing the mercy-seat. First, The mercy-seat, which was the covering of the ark; it was called the propitiatory, and it was of pure gold, as long and as broad as the ark in which the tables of the law were laid. It was an eminent type of Christ, and of his perfect righteousness, ever adequate to the dimensions of the law of God, and covering all our transgressions, interposing between the Shechinah, or symbol of God’s presence, and our sinful failures, and covering them. Secondly, The cherubim of glory shadowing the mercy-seat, representing the holy angels of God, who take pleasure in looking into the great work of our redemption by Christ, and are ready to perform every good office, under the Redeemer, for those who are the heirs of salvation. The angels attended Christ at his birth, in his temptation, under his agonies, at his resurrection, and in his ascension, and will attend his second coming. God manifest in the flesh was seen, observed, visited, by the angels.  – Matthew Henry

Yet, what I find fascinating is that all three items, the branch of Aaron (Numbers 17), the manna (Exodus 16), and the two tablets (Exodus 32-34) renewed are all sources of Israel’s shame, rather than Israel’s pride.  Their rebellion against God in all three circumstances remind us of the Father’s judgment; and rightly the three items represent three key events in Israel’s history, prior to their entry into the Promised Land and securing Moriah for Christ’s fulfillment, which prophesy the stripping down of Israel to her knees in anticipation of the Messiah who is the firstfruit, the bread of life, and the fulfillment of the New Covenant.  It is unimportant at what stage the Hebrews writer saw the three items in the Temple, whether it is in the construction of the Temple in 1 Kings 8, or whether some period further on – the key unshakeable understanding here is the sin of Israel cast within and under the very mercy seat of the ark of covenant, highlighting the Father’s mercy towards Israel, but not without the blood of sacrifice first.

Hence v.10-11 remind us that the cloud of the LORD is used as a veil and a protective covering (Psalm 105:38), just like the pillar of fire by night.  Yet, both rain of clouds and fire of the pillar are emblems of the first Noahic judgment and the coming global judgment of the world.  It is in this joint imagery of Temple establishment and impressive but bloody sacrificial offering of the innocent; mercy seat and Israel’s shame; and finally the cloud of the LORD (c.f. 2 Samuel 22:12; Psalm 18:11; compared against the pillar of fire) that we see a grander picture of the seemingly paradoxical ways of the LORD in uniting these dichotomies together under the name of Christ.

12(Q) Then Solomon said, “The LORD[a] has said that he would dwell(R) in thick darkness. 13(S) I have indeed built you an exalted house,(T) a place for you to dwell in forever.” 14Then the king turned around and(U) blessed all the assembly of Israel, while all the assembly of Israel stood. 15And he said,(V) “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who with his hand has fulfilled(W) what he promised with his mouth to David my father, saying, 16(X) ‘Since the day that I brought my people Israel out of Egypt, I chose no city out of all the tribes of Israel in which to build a house,(Y) that my name might be there.(Z) But I chose David to be over my people Israel.’ 17(AA) Now it was in the heart of David my father to build a house for the name of the LORD, the God of Israel. 18But the LORD said to David my father, ‘Whereas it was in your heart to build a house for my name, you did well that it was in your heart. 19(AB) Nevertheless, you shall not build the house, but your son who shall be born to you shall build the house for my name.’ 20Now the LORD has fulfilled his promise that he made. For I have risen in the place of David my father, and sit on the throne of Israel,(AC) as the LORD promised, and I have built the house for the name of the LORD, the God of Israel. 21And there I have provided a place for the ark,(AD) in which is the covenant of the LORD that he made with our fathers, when he brought them out of the land of Egypt.”

It is also interesting to witness Solomon’s thinking here – does he really believe that the LORD who dwells in such dread-inducing, awesome but fearful thick darkness (Isaiah 8:22; 60:2; Zephaniah 1:15) will truly dwell in this man-made house?  Of course not (see v.27).  It is entirely the mercy of the LORD’s and the outward pouring love between the Father and the Son (John 17) that the Father comes to dwell with us after the Son’s first humiliation.  Yet in the day that the Father dwells with us, He shall no longer be the very same darkness which plagued the land in Christ’s death (Acts 2:20); rather, He shall be the everlasting light (Revelation 22:5).  Even the very Hebrew phrasing of v.20 here, “Now the LORD has fulfilled his promise that he made” is better fitted if we were faithful to the verb quwm (יקם) which suggests that the LORD is arising / accomplishing this very promise that he made, but it is not necessarily already complete or fulfilled as the ESV indicates.

22Then Solomon(AE) stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the assembly of Israel and(AF) spread out his hands toward heaven, 23and said, “O LORD, God of Israel,(AG) there is no God like you, in heaven above or on earth beneath,(AH) keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart, 24who have kept with your servant David my father what you declared to him.(AI) You spoke with your mouth, and with your hand have fulfilled it this day. 25Now therefore, O LORD, God of Israel, keep for your servant David my father what you have promised him, saying,(AJ) ‘You shall not lack a man to sit before me on the throne of Israel, if only your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me as you have walked before me.’ 26(AK) Now therefore, O God of Israel, let your word be confirmed, which you have spoken to your servant David my father.

What we then see is a picture of humility, the bookends of this doctrinal prayer and plea beginning in v.22 and ending in v.54, the transition from Solomon standing before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, with hands widespread toward heaven, to kneeling with hands outstretched toward heaven.  Here is the mark of the man who begs for the LORD’s acceptance of the Temple – a man who seeks the LORD’s mercy and His Presence to grace the Temple, for the Temple is nothing without His Presence.  Like Moses whose arms and hands were spread during battle (Exodus 17:9-13), so also Solomon’s plea is one of weakness in the shape of Christ on the cross, arms widespread and entirely vulnerable to the Father’s will (and man’s abuse):

“For it was not without design that the prophet Moses, when Hur and Aaron upheld his hands, remained in this form until evening. For indeed the Lord remained upon the tree almost until evening, and they buried Him at eventide; then on the third day He rose again. This was declared by David thus: ‘With my voice I cried to the Lord, and He heard me out of His holy hill. I laid me down, and slept; I awaked, for the Lord sustained me.’ (Psalm 3:4-5) And Isaiah likewise mentions concerning Him the manner in which He would die, thus: ‘I have spread out My hands unto a people disobedient, and gainsaying, that walk in a way which is not good.’(Isa. lxv. 2; comp. also Rom. x. 21.) And that He would rise again, Isaiah himself said: ‘His burial has been taken away from the midst, and I will give the rich for His death.’ (Isa. liii. 9.) And again, in other words, David in the twenty-first (That is, Ps. xxii. 16–18.) Psalm thus refers to the suffering and to the cross in a parable of mystery: ‘They pierced my hands and my feet; they counted all my bones. They considered and gazed on me; they parted my garments among themselves, and cast lots upon my vesture.’ For when they crucified Him, driving in the nails, they pierced His hands248 and feet; and those who crucified Him parted His garments among themselves, each casting lots for what he chose to have, and receiving according to the decision of the lot. And this very Psalm you maintain does not refer to Christ; for you are in all respects blind, and do not understand that no one in your nation who has been called King or Christ has ever had his hands or feet pierced while alive, or has died in this mysterious fashion—to wit, by the cross—save this Jesus alone.” – Justin Martyr in “Dialogue with Trypho”, Chapter XCVII.—Other predictions of the cross of Christ.

Solomon rightly states that there is only one LORD in heaven and on earth who keeps covenants – all other “gods” are lifeless, and dead, non-responsive and unable to fulfill promises, testament to Elijah’s battle with the false prophets (1 Kings 18:36-39).  Such is the LORD who fulfills promises, the LORD of David (v.25-26), the second king of Israel who never saw the Temple built, just as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob looked forward to the day of the Messiah’s work on the cross, seeing it by the Spirit but long after they have fallen asleep (John 8:56).  What is Solomon’s mentality when the LORD promised David these things?  On what basis did David “pay close attention to his way” when walking before the LORD as an example to the later kings?  Surely this murderer of Uriah, adulterer with Bathsheba, passive contributor to the abuse of Tamar, among several other chronicled sins of his life marks him as perhaps even worse than Saul whose greatest sin seems to have been the unfounded persecution of David?

Yet, it is not David’s own righteousness which Solomon understands.  It is the LORD’s righteousness which David inherits; for David did not cease his pursuit of the LORD in spite of his life marred with sin.  David need only walk with the LORD, walking in the footsteps of the faith of our father Abraham (Romans 4:12), walking according to the Spirit (Romans 8:4; Galatians 5:16, 25), walking by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7), walking in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us (Ephesians 5:2), walking in Christ (Colossians 2:6), in the light (1 John 1:7).  David had walked in Christ, experienced the mercy of Christ the Angel at the field of Araunah (2 Samuel 24:16), the second LORD of David’s worship (Psalm 110), the Son who should not be denied (Psalm 2) – this is the way in which David walked.  So, too, will we be fellow heirs of the Father’s kingdom if we walk in Christ.

27“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold,(AL) heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built! 28Yet have regard to the prayer of your servant and to his plea, O LORD my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that your servant prays before you this day, 29(AM) that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you have said,(AN) ‘My name shall be there,’ that you may listen to the prayer that your servant offers toward this place. 30And listen to the plea of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen in heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.

And what we find in v.27-30 is also very profound.  Despite the Pharisees take on the Temple, Solomon, the builder of the Temple himself acknowledged that the man-made Temple cannot possibly contain God!  “But will God indeed dwell on earth?”, Solomon proclaimed (v.27)!  Yet, note his please in v.28-30 – this is a plea of mercy, a place of worship, a place where His name, Christ, will be there (Acts 19:17).  So also this dwelling is prophesied in Ezekiel 37:27, finally fulfilled in new creation (Revelation 21:3) where the LORD’s true dwelling place is with man and not simply to remain in third heaven.  So also, the LORD is man’s dwelling place (Psalm 91:9), the beauty of this mutual indwelling phrased by Paul in Ephesians 2:19-21, where the whole structure of the church is joined together, growing into a holy temple of the LORD; and in Him, we are built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.  Thus, in these times of end days we are growing into that eschatological Temple, the new creation dwelling where both God and man shall dwell forever.  And His Name shall be there – Christ shall be there, through Whom we experience the Spirit and the Father in fullness.

Upon noting Solomon and the saints’ Christological take of the true meaning of “God’s dwelling”, the portion of the plea and prayer in v.31-53 outlines Solomon’s thinking based on his theology of God’s merciful dwelling in relation to this symbolic house:

Summary Verses
“swears oath before your altar in this house… hear in heaven… and act and judge and condemn and vindicate and reward” 31-32
“turn to your name, pray and plead with you in this house… hear in heaven… and forgive and bring them to the land that you gave” 33-34
“pray toward this place… hear in heaven… and forgive, and teach, and grant rain upon your land which you have given to your people as an inheritance” 35-36
“plea…stretching out his hands toward this house… hear in heaven your dwelling place… and forgive, and act, and render, in the land that you gave 37-40
“pray towards this house… hear in heaven your dwelling place… and do so all may know your name” 41-43
“pray toward the city that you have chosen/house built for your name…” then  “hear in heaven…and maintain their cause” 44-45
“pray toward their land which you gave to their fathers, the city which you have chosen, the house that I have built…” 46-48
Then “hear in heaven your dwelling place… maintain their cause… forgive… grant them compassion… (they are your people, your heritage, from the midst of the iron furnace)… open your eyes, give your ears… you separated them when you brought out fathers out of Egypt” 49-53

A quick summary provides us with such important details which build upon each other – the first few statements which reveal that the Israelites are now to swear bear the altar of the house, turning to His name and praying in the house, praying toward the house, praying toward the city where the house is built, praying toward the land – all in the name of the Saviour of Israel during the great exodus.  As Solomon zooms out from the altar (v.31-32) to the land  (v.48), we begin to see that this house is symbolic of the salvation of Israel, of the elected church in the Elect Christ, so powerfully demonstrated by the Angel’s guidance out of Egypt through the pillar of cloud and fire.  For such salvation extends from personal and intimate, to the congregate (c.f. Joshua 7 – sin of Achan), and it is through this house as a medium that the LORD hears, even in the midst of the iron furnace of the refiner’s fire (Revelation 3:18).

One wonders – why must it be done through this Temple?  For Christ is the true Temple (John 2:19), in Whom we dwell and through Whom the mutual indwelling of the Trinity and us could be finally effectuated.  Yet, in the day of Christ, the Temple has lost its significance.  Rather than a house of invitation, it became a house of rejection; rather than a house of the priesthood of nation of nations, it became a house of isolation.  Solomon prayed over the house, that the LORD may mercifully use it as a typological medium between Him and man; yet Solomon, like the Christian saints before him, knew that the true medium, or better yet, Mediator, is the Anointed and Appointed Son and Lamb who will help build the new kingdom (2 Samuel 7) and take our sins away (Genesis 22) like a lamb to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7).

54(BN) Now as Solomon finished offering all this prayer and plea to the LORD, he arose from before the altar of the LORD, where he had(BO) knelt with hands outstretched toward heaven. 55And he stood and(BP) blessed all the assembly of Israel with a loud voice, saying, 56“Blessed be the LORD who has given rest to his people Israel, according to all that he promised.(BQ) Not one word has failed of all his good promise, which he spoke by Moses his servant. 57The LORD our God be with us, as he was with our fathers.(BR) May he not leave us or forsake us, 58that he may(BS) incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his rules, which he commanded our fathers. 59Let these words of mine, with which I have pleaded before the LORD, be near to the LORD our God day and night, and may he maintain the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel, as each day requires, 60that(BT) all the peoples of the earth may know that(BU) the LORD is God; there is no other. 61(BV) Let your heart therefore be wholly true to the LORD our God, walking in his statutes and keeping his commandments, as at this day.”

And what confidence Solomon has, in the LORD whose promises have never failed (v.56) spoken by Moses his servant; the LORD who inclines our hearts to him (v.58), He who renews us to life beyond our own volition for we are but living corpses (Ezekiel 37).  This is the House of the LORD, the House through which (and as a type of the “through Whom”) all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God, [that] there is no other (v.60)!

62(BW) Then(BX) the king, and all Israel with him, offered sacrifice before the LORD. 63Solomon offered as peace offerings to the LORD 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep. So the king and all the people of Israel dedicated the house of the LORD. 64The same day the king consecrated the middle of the court that was before the house of the LORD, for there he offered the burnt offering and the grain offering and the fat pieces of the peace offerings, because(BY) the bronze altar that was before the LORD was too small to receive the burnt offering and the grain offering and the fat pieces of the peace offerings.

This chapter thus ends beautifully with v.62-66 – by the peace offering (or better described as the fellowship offering as per the NIV translation of Leviticus 3):

“Of course, we learn much about Jesus through the peace offering, and something about the worshipper as well.  The worshipper should give the best portions to the LORD in response to his initiating love for us; yet this “best portion” business stems from Christ offering the best of himself to the LORD.  It is the Christ who, as a male young and without blemish, in the prime of his life (~30 years old), who offered himself willingly and voluntarily to appease the wrath of Himself and of His Father against sin and sinner.  This offering is one that is given wholeheartedly, expressed through the message of giving the “best portion” of the sacrifice to the LORD…

Eating the offering and the Holy Communion

On the point about eating the offering, the person sacrificing the animal is shown to be allowed to invite brethren to enjoy the meat at the tabernacle in the presence of the Seen God in the Holy of Holies.  This is the reason why I think ‘fellowship’ offering is far better than relying on the ESV translation of ‘peace’ offering – because there is now an image of the smaller fellowships of Israel congregating outside the tabernacle, having their self-sacrificial meal with the LORD.

This message is quite profound.  Unlike the last two burnt and grain offerings; and the following two concerning sin and guilt offering, the voluntariness and the grounded nature of this offering points to the importance of this offering is a natural outshoot of our Christian lifestyle.  Do we want to enjoy our fellowship with God, or do we want to go to ‘heaven’ where God does not preside (i.e. the Islamic heaven)?  Do we want to eat with God, or do we want to make God our omnipotent genie?

The fellowship offering therefore points towards the Marriage Feast of the Lamb in Revelation 19:6-9 – we will take part in consuming from the same table which the LORD eats; we will take part in consuming from the same food which the LORD partakes.

There is only one time that the fellowship offering is made compulsory, which is the Feast of Pentecost mentioned earlier in Exodus and later in Leviticus 23.  I have already spoken that the Feast is one which prophesies the coming of the Holy Spirit, and is a clear expression of the forward looking hope of New Creation – and there is no doubt that this fellowship offering speaks the same message of the Marriage Feast with the LORD which even Exodus 24, the manna, and the bread of presence merely point towards.

As application: the fellowship offering as we know it should be a time of spiritual intimacy and further bonding within the family (Deuteronomy 12:7):

7And(A) there you shall eat before the LORD your God, and(B) you shall rejoice, you and your households, in all that you undertake, in which the LORD your God has blessed you.

and Jude 12:

12These are hidden reefs[a](A) at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear,(B) shepherds feeding themselves;(C) waterless clouds,(D) swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead,(E) uprooted…

May we try and understand the utter importance of the Holy Communion and that though it is a physical manifestation of the spiritual truth, our LORD isn’t only Spirit, but he is also MAN – and he will come down to eat with us in New Jerusalem in physical form, just as we partake the meal with him in our physical bodies.” – from my commentary on Leviticus 3.

This is but the description of the fulsome peace/fellowship offering; not to mention the consecration of the area in the court, beyond that of the altar, for more burnt and grain offering!  So beautiful is the typology of the Temple and Solomon’s understanding of the Temple’s symbolic use that he does not stick to hard religion and understands that all ground can be holy, for the purpose of heart-felt sacrifice which no man-made altar could contain; such is the overflowing mutual love which Christ had hoped from His church (John 17:26), and now we see one of the rarer occasions where this is fulfilled in the Old Testament.  And to emphasise this as as an offering of fellowship rather than merely that of peace, note v.65 onwards:

65So Solomon held(BZ) the feast at that time, and all Israel with him, a great assembly, from(CA) Lebo-hamath to(CB) the Brook of Egypt, before the LORD our God, seven days.[c] 66On the eighth day he sent the people away, and they blessed the king and went to their homes joyful and glad of heart for all the goodness that the LORD had shown to David his servant and to Israel his people.

Can one imagine how glorious this image is, that of the holy golden Temple and House of the LORD taking the central typological stage where the church of Christ stands in relation to this House – a great assembly (להָקָ qel), the Hebrew word for the Greek equivalent of church in the NT (a great ekklesia,εκκλησια μεγαλη” c.f. LXX translation of 1 Kings 8:65), a full seven on seven days of worship (c.f. LXX which has two weeks, as opposed to one week, of celebration) of the feast of tabernacles, and rejoicing looking to the eighth day of true renewal after the seventh day of Sabbath:

“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 first2061 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.” – Justin Martyr’s “Dialogue with Trypho”, Chapter XLI.—The oblation of fine flour was a figure of the Eucharist.

In the words of Matthew Henry whereby “Solomon was herein a type of Christ, the great intercessor for all over whom he rules”, both him and Adam Clarke agree in the LXX interpretation of these final verses, that there is a feast lasting fourteen days (v.65) of the feast of tabernacles after the feast of dedication.  What beauty it is to see this joyful feast in relation to the Temple’s replacement of the tabernacle, both after the model of God’s design, both typifying Christ’s work from the Holy Place entering the Holy of Holies, as we await His glorious return from before the veil and the doors separating between us and the Father, finally and truly ripping this veil apart where we will see the Father face-to-face, and have true fellowship with the Trinity.

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1 Kings 8: the House of the LORD (pt. 3)

Leviticus 21-22: New Creation bodies

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew Henry points out the distinctions in Leviticus 21:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Foreigners

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

Conclusion

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

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

Leviticus 21-22: New Creation bodies