In this chapter, which is a continuation of the former, we read of laws for the priests that were to be carried out in relation to themselves and their households. We also have precepts at the conclusion of the chapter respecting the unblemished nature of things that were offered in sacrifice to the Lord.
At all times – even in the private circle of their homes – the priests were to be vigilant, watchful against wickedness, and abstaining from all appearance of evil. Even in the most secluded situations, the priest had to be holy and free from ceremonial uncleanness, because he was a picture or foreshadow of Jesus. When he was at home, he still had to be careful to handle holy things with reverence, and not grow careless just because he was outside of the sanctuary. Ministers of the Gospel of Jesus may learn from this law; they must beware of letting their domestic comforts disturb their soul, so as to lead them to speak of holy things too casually. They are under God’s eye in a special way; He sees if they walk in the steps of Jesus, both in their homes and at their studies. They must always be separated to the Lord.
We also find that anyone who was a permanent member of the priest’s household was allowed to eat of the holy things. This was because it was taken for granted that the home of a priest or a minister is (or should be) consecrated to the Lord – even more than other Christian households. A peculiar air of holiness is understood to be there. It is a holier spot, and a more deeply sacred circle. As Paul writes, a minister must be “one that ruleth well his own house … with all gravity” (1 Tim. 3:4).
A large portion of this chapter is occupied with the Lord’s regulations concerning the sacrifices that were offered to Him. They, too, were required to be free from all blemishes and defects. This teaches us that the worship we offer, and the worshipers who offer it, should be filled with “holiness to the Lord.” Of course, the only perfect Priest was Jesus Himself, and the only perfect sacrifice that was ever offered was His own. But the day is approaching when all true believers shall be presented to the Lord as a glorious Church, without spot or blemish or any such thing – disinfected of its sins, and consecrated afresh.
The glorious and perfect sacrifice of Christ would have been misrepresented if any animal had been offered that was disfigured or blemished in any way. It is very fitting that everything that we employ for God’s honor should be the best of its kind. He is the greatest, brightest, and best of beings; and naturally, He must have the best of all that we can offer Him. The first chapter of Malachi (particularly verses 8, 13, and 14) shows us how greatly and justly displeasing the breach of this law was to the holy God. This requirement of perfection in the Levitical sacrifices caused them to be better representations of Christ – the great Sacrifice from which all these derived their virtue. In allusion to this law, He is said to be a Lamb without blemish or spot (1 Pet. 1:19). When Pilate declared, “I find no fault in this man,” he was effectually pronouncing the Sacrifice to be without blemish (John 19:4).
No creature was allowed to be offered in sacrifice until it was eight days old. Any sooner than that, it was not fit to be used at men’s tables; and therefore, it was not fit to be offered at God’s altar, either. Also, the mother and her young were not permitted to both be killed on the same day, whether in sacrifice or for common use (verse 28). This was forbidden because it looked barbarous and cruel to God’s creatures – like the brutality of the king of Babylon, who murdered Zedekiah’s sons before his eyes, and then blinded him. Moreover, the meat of the people’s offerings of thanksgiving was to be eaten on the same day that it was sacrificed (verses 29, 30). This is a repetition of what we read before in chapters 7:15 and 19:6, 7. And the chapter concludes with a general charge that we have so often read now – a charge to keep God’s commandments, and to not profane His holy name (verses 31, 32).
These laws concerning the priests and sacrifices were all given for the preservation of the honor of the Lord’s sanctuary. Let us remember with thanksgiving that since our Great High Priest is perfect, He cannot be hindered by anything from fulfilling His office! And let us also remember that He requires us to reverence His name, His truths, His ordinances, and His commandments. Let us acknowledge our sinful defilements, and seek to be purified from them in the blood of Jesus, and by His sanctifying Spirit. If we attempt to expiate our own sins, or if we draw near to God in the pride of self-righteousness, we put an affront on Christ and His perfect work. A faithful minister who loves the souls of his people will call upon them to repent of their sins and forsake them; and he will also encourage them to put their whole trust in the atonement of Jesus, by faith in His name, in order to obtain pardon and peace with God. This is the only way in which the Lord will make us holy, as His own people!
O Lord, may Your Holy Spirit enlighten our understanding so that we may discover the allusions to Jesus that are here in this chapter! When we approach Your throne of grace, keep us from bringing anything of our own in order to be accepted; for all that is in us or from us is corrupt. Rather, may we look wholly to You, O Lamb of God, in Your infinite holiness and purity; for the Father will accept Your all-sufficient offering, and sanctify our souls by Your precious merits! Amen.
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