Leviticus 21 Devotional
by Pastor Mark Hudson
21:1-9 Restrictions on mourning and marriage for ordinary priests
21:10-15 Restrictions on mourning and marriage for high priests
21:16-24 Physical impediments for priests
We see in Lev 21 and 22 the holiness, not of regular people, but the priests. We commonly find that leaders are held to higher standards than others. This should not surprise us since we intuitively factor that in to most leaders. Let’s look at these sections one by one. In v. 1-9, a dead person makes one unclean so the priests could not be around the dead except for his closest relatives. Verse 5 may suggest a mimicking of other cultures in grief or worship. It was unlawful to mutilate the body in any way. Wholeness for the body is a key theme in this book. Notice the theme of holiness goes back to God’s holiness in vs. 6, 7, and 8.
Next is the requirements for the high priest. At times, Aaron is called the priest Ex 31:10; Numbers 25:11; chief or high priest in Num. 35:25, 28. Later in the Bible, priests like Eli, Jehoiada, Hilkiah occupied this same office. After the exile, the priest was granted or assumed governmental functions. Originally this was not so. This role is purely religious.
God’s restrictions are grounded in “I am the Lord” v. 12 or “I am the Lord who sanctifies him” v. 15. In verse 12, it may mean that the priest may not leave the tent of meeting or tabernacle for everyday tasks but could leave to return to his dwelling. The priest’s directions were clearly much different than the normal person of Israel.
In the last section vs. 16-24, physical perfection, or close to it, is necessary to serve as priests. Theses verses do not imply that people with deformities cannot serve God now or share any less of the image of God that someone who does not have a deformity. But wholeness was a function of cleanness.
As read these themes in Leviticus reflect on the constant theme of holiness and the holiness that is required of us is always connected to God’s holiness. We are to be holy because God is holy. Our holiness is never an instrinsic holiness but one that we strive for but can never attain on our own. Only one person was ever that holy. He earned that by living a perfect sinless life. His holiness came from the inside and proven and established by what we can see from the outside.
And only a holy, perfect sacrifice could take away our sins. “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” claims John the Baptizer in Jn 1:29. Jesus is the Lamb of all lambs. All those animals and birds pointed to the Lamb. Only He could take away the sin of the world. No goat, bull, lamb, bird, or grain offering could do that.
As you read Leviticus, may the Holy Spirit help you to grasp the depth of the gospel. May you better understand the death of Christ, His perfect life that made Him a perfect sacrifice, the full forgiveness that these sacrifices in Leviticus could only point to, and may your heart be lost in wonder and adoration for the perfections of our Lord Jesus.
Father, help us to never tire of learning more about how You forgive us. Sometimes we yawn at the most majestic event in the history of the universe. Yet it is this glorious gospel that keeps all of heaven enthralled for eternity, captivated by Your grace. Make my heart begin to sing and join that ongoing eternal chorus that has never and will never end. Oh Jesus, as You draw Me to Your Presence, reveal to me the ugliness of cosmic treason that the sin is. Help me to turn from my self (the god of every age) to the true and living God that gives hope and purpose to everyone who believes in You. In the name of the Lamb of God, Amen.