Up to this point, the theme of Leviticus has been atonement. The fallen world should appreciate that truth more than any other; for by thus fully setting forth atonement before us, God shows Himself to be willing to save us! And even if He were to do no more, the blame of being unsaved would all rest upon Man. But now, as if it to “compel them to come in,” the Lord now speaks of the state of sinfulness in which this world lies. He wishes to make the sinner flee to the Atonement by creating in his mind a loathing of the sin that defiles him.
In this chapter, the Lord gave the people directions concerning the animals that they were allowed to eat, and those that they were not to eat. For example, only animals that had cloven hoofs and chewed the cud were considered clean, and only sea creatures that had fins and scales were considered clean. Thus, every day, an Israelite would meet an object that would require him to discern between the clean and the unclean. This taught them about God’s discernment of sin, and it showed them the stigma that He sets upon it. Although there was nothing morally different between one beast and another – yet if God put a difference between them, they must regard them in the same manner. In this way, every creature became a reminder of the law to them; for it forced them to distinguish between what was right and what was wrong, and between what was permitted and what was forbidden. Hereby the Lord set up so many fingerposts that pointed Israel back to the Fall, and reminded them that they were living in a fallen world. In addition, these regulations would help keep the Israelites distinct and separate from other nations, for many of these forbidden animals were objects of superstition and idolatry to the heathen – not to mention that the Lord only had the best interests of His people’s health in mind as well.
Some might reckon such minute rules to be trifling. But the principle involved in obedience or disobedience to them was none other than the same principle which was tested in Eden, at the foot of the forbidden tree. It was really this: “Is the Lord to be obeyed in all things, no matter what He commands? Is He a holy lawgiver? Are His creatures bound to give implicit assent to His will?”
Anyone who even carried the dead body of an unclean creature became defiled and remained unclean until the evening (verse 25), even after washing their garments. The washing of the clothes plainly represents being cleansed in the blood of Jesus. Pollution is washed away by Christ’s death, which is applied to us by His Holy Spirit. But why, then, would they remain unclean until the evening? Why could they not enter their dwelling, as an undefiled man or wo-man of Israel, until the day was over? Perhaps it was to represent the truth that although fallen man – through Christ – may be justified entirely from the sins laid upon him, and although he may receive the Holy Spirit to sanctify his polluted nature; yet nevertheless, he is not entirely free from the effects of the Fall until his “night” has come. At death, he lays down his polluted raiment and is counted as quite clean. But in truth, it is not until “the next morning” that his complete deliverance from all the consequences, misery, and shame of the Fall is apparent to all. On the Resurrection-morning, it will be undeniably evident that all the effects of yesterday’s defilement are gone! On that happy day, we will go forth with joy as Jesus’ redeemed sons and daughters!
Special reference is made in this chapter to the uncleanness of creatures that creep upon the ground. Certainly the serpent is chiefly aimed at here. They are unclean because they remind Man of the Fall (Gen. 3). They remind him of Satan, the great deceiver. Sly, unheard, and unseen, he wound his way into the heart of Eden’s Paradise – and then into the souls of Adam and Eve. These creeping things were natural pictures of the Fall, which degraded men to the very dust – as if they bowed down on their bellies under the weight of the curse. And thus, by contrast, the promise of the Seed of the Woman would daily be brought into the minds of the Israelites. Every time a creeping creature crossed his path, a Godly Jew would remember that First Promise. As often as a serpent darted in front of him, the thought of the coming Deliverer would dart into his soul. His eye was thus turned to Messiah at all times of the day, and his soul was drawn forth to expect the time when He would come to set him free from the bondage of sin and uncleanness.
How beautiful is this arrangement by which the Lord has thus brought us to the feet of His Son, even at the close of such a singular enumeration of clean and unclean animals! We are left to rejoice in Him Who sets us free from corruption, and Who will also set Creation itself free from the same. “For the creation was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who subjected the same, in hope; because the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom. 8:20, 21).
Dearest Jesus! Enable us to look to You as we study every part of the ceremonial law. And since we are members of Your spiritual Body, give us grace to be holy as You are holy. Separate us from all that is unclean. Let all filthiness and uncleanness be driven far from us, and let it not even be named among Your saints. Make our bodies Your Temple; and bring our every thought captive to obey You, Lord Jesus! Amen.
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