Technical problems prevented me from accessing the site this morning, so I’m just being able to upload the commentary now!
Reading Schedule and Intro
Today’s Bible Reading is Leviticus 22-27.
Next week we will go back to the apostles’ writings, to the Gospel of Mark. The overall year’s plan is here.
My commentaries are sometimes long. The Bible is the priority. Read it first, and my commentaries are carefully sectioned so you can find the passage you may want help on. Please use the comment section of my blog if I missed something or you have something to add!
Leviticus 22:1-32: Priests and Perfect Sacrifices
Again, these are fleshly laws meant to put earthly pictures in front of God’s earthly nation. Their primary meanining, however, is in their spiritual fulfillment in the new covenant, where all these laws represent spiritual things. We must learn that there is behavior worthy of a priest. We must learn that spiritually, it is not okay for us to leave ourselves weak, and crippled.
Lift up the hands which hang down and the feeble knees. Make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame will not be turned out of the way. Instead, let it be healed. (Heb. 12-13).
Verses like 1 Cor. 1:8 and Jude 24 tell us that God is able to bring us faultless before his throne. Let’s not carry along with spiritual diseases and weaknesses, but let us pursue holiness, without which no one will see the Lord (Heb. 12:14). God expects us to diligently free ourselves from those spiritual diseases.
There are many ways to do so. The Holy Spirit works with us, even praying for us (Rom. 8:26). We must discipline our bodies, as Paul did his (1 Cor. 9:27; Rom. 8:13). We can confess our faults to one another and pray for one another, and we will be healed (Jam. 5:16). All of us should be giving thought to how to provoke one another to love and good works (Heb. 10:24) because we can’t do without the exhortation, comfort, and encouragement that we get from one another (Heb. 3:13).
We have all these tools, but most of us don’t realize how important it is that we use them. We can really become divine children of God, living like those great spiritual men we’ve read about like Joseph! (2 Pet. 1:3-4). We must only believe that we have really entered the new covenant of God where each one of us, down to the lowliest handmaiden and servant, receive the Spirit of God and hear his voice! (Acts 2:18).
Leviticus 22 is a reminder. God has already said all this in previous chapters, but he says it again. We should take heed to it. We are to live like holy people, like people in whom the Spirit of God dwells, and we should take heed to our lives to honor God and not ourselves.
Leviticus 23:1-44: Feasts of the Lord
I said in a previous commentary that the sons of Israel had to appear before the Lord, wherever the tabernacle was stationed (that is, until Solomon’s temple was built), three times per year. I didn’t get the feasts right, however.
This chapter straightens that out. The first feast is Passover, combined with the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This occurred in the first month, and it was a feast of great rejoicing for it represented their deliverance from Egypt.
The second feast was Pentecost, a word that means fifty (v. 16). It referred to fifty days, seven Sabbaths plus a day, after the waving of the first sheaf of the year dug up from the ground in the first month of the year. (Israel’s first month, Abib or later Nisan, fell in the early spring.)
The third feast was in the seventh month. There was an announcement of the month with trumpets, and then on the 10th of the month was the Day of Atonement. This was a day of repentance, rest, and affliction of the soul. It was followed, however, by the Feast of Booths on the 15th of the month, which was another time of great rejoicing. There, they remembered their travels through the wilderness and gave thanks for the land that God had given them.
Each of the feasts had their own special sacrifices. Eventually, as we finish the Torah, we will see that there were daily sacrifices, morning and evening; weekly sacrifices for the Sabbath; monthly sacrifices associated with the new moon; and yearly sacrifices associated with the feasts. When Israel was running well spiritually, they did all these things, and the phrase "Sabbaths, new moons, and feasts" (or "feasts, new moons, and Sabbaths") became a reference to these days of special sacrifice. You’ll find the phrase used in: 1 Chr. 23:31; 2 Chr. 2:4; 2 Chr. 8:13; 2 Chr. 31:3; Ezra 3:5; Neh. 10:33; and Ezek. 45:17. God complains about those weekly, monthly, and annual sacrifices being done in pretenses in Isaiah 1:14 and Hosea 2:11.
I tell you that to tell you that the apostle Paul tells us that all those things, the feasts, the new moons, and the sabbaths, are all just a shadow being cast by Jesus Christ, who is the real substance of those things (Col. 2:16-17). All of the feasts, all of the new moons, and even the Sabbath day finds its fullness in Jesus, which is the reason that the early churches could say, "We keep perpetual Sabbath," (Justin, Dialogue with Trypho 12, c. A.D. 155) because they knew they could live in continual rest in Christ (Heb. 4).
Leviticus 24:1-16: Strict Control
Clearly God did not intend to let things get out of hand in this new nation. When a young man cursed "the Name," the penalty was death. There was nothing unusual about such strict punishment for crimes committed knowingly, especially when it involved cursing the King himself.
In fact, if you find any of the Israelite laws unusual compared to modern times, or perhaps too harsh, you should read through the Code of Hammurabi. Sometimes it can be difficult to sort where his laws come from!
Leviticus 24:17-23: An Eye for an Eye
Most of us are aware of the law about "an eye for an eye" because of Jesus’ statement about it in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:38-42). We tend to think, though, that this law means that if someone knocks our tooth out, we punch him back on the spot and knock his tooth out.
But look at Leviticus, and you will see that this is a legal process and punishment. If your eye was removed in an attack, you could take your attacker to court, and the court would punish him by removing his eye.
This puts a little different spin on Jesus’ statement, too. So perhaps Jesus is not just saying, "If someone slugs you, don’t hit him back," but also, "If you have the right to take someone to court, don’t do it. Let him go."
I’ll leave that for you to chew on, but it is clear enough that this passage in Leviticus is talking about legal proceedings, not taking vengeance.
Leviticus 25:1-55: The Year of Jubilee
God had the Israelites track Sabbaths of years. On the seventh year, they were not to plant their fields, letting them grow wild. Everyone, owner and stranger alike, was allowed to glean from the growth of those fields, and God promised he would provide enough in the sixth year to take care of any shortfall.
The Jubilee happened every seven sabbaths of years. Every 49 years, all property reverted to its original owners.
When God brings the Israelites into the Land of Canaan, he is going to dish out the land, and it is to remain dished out in that way. The Israelites could not sell their own property, they could only sell the crops from the land until the next year of Jubilee. Prices for land would vary depending on how soon it was until the next year of Jubilee, but once it came, the sale was over.
It was the same with a man who became so broke that he had to sell himself out as a slave or hired servant. He could sell himself to the next year of Jubilee, but he could always be redeemed by a relative or by himself. No Hebrew remained in service past the year of Jubilee.
Leviticus 26:1-41: Blessings and Cursings
I mentioned as we began Genesis that the Torah is a Law, a Suzerain Covenant. It has three parts:
- What the King did for the people
- What the King required of the people
- The blessings and cursings for obedience and disobedience to the King
Here’s our first good taste of part three. If the Israelites obey, they can look forward to prosperous harvests, great joy, and victory over their enemies. If they don’t, then it starts bad and gets worse.
As we read through Israel’s history, we will find that they provided opportunity for every one of these curses to be carried out, but they also experienced times of the most incredible prosperity and joy.
Leviticus 27:1-34: Items Devoted to God
People, land, and animals could be devoted to God. This meant that the animal, person, or land would be put into the priests posession until they were redeemed. So, at the time that the item was devoted an evaluation was made. If the person making the offering ever wanted to redeem the offering, they would pay the amount of the evaluation plus 20%.
It is this sort of Law that allowed Samuel to be devoted to God by Hannah, his mother (1 Samuel 1:1-28).
Even with this sort of devotion, land still needed to be restored at the year of Jubilee, so evalutation was made with this in mind. God meant for the land to stay distributed the way he had distributed it.