Leviticus 17 Devotional
by Pastor Lawrence
In the Presbyterian Church we seek to follow the regulative principle of worship, which, simply put, states that we ought only to do in worship what God commands and requires of us. We do not have the freedom to worship God in any way we please. God has revealed not only who He is, but how He is to be worshipped, thus any innovation on our part is a departure from God’s command and is sinful in God’s sight.
This worship principle is based upon passages such as this one in Leviticus 17. God had given the Israelites abundant revelation in how to worship Him in an acceptable manner prescribing the types of offerings that He required, the way in which those offerings were to be given, the mediator through which they were to be received, and the place in which they were to be performed. We have numerous chapters in the Law of God in the books of Exodus and Leviticus providing a testimony on exactly what God demanded. Nevertheless, there would always be some who would ignore God’s clear commands and would seek to prepare an offering themselves apart from God’s priests, who would offer their sacrifices in the wilderness and in their own back yards rather than at the tabernacle. They thought to themselves that these offerings should be acceptable since they went through some effort to carry them out and actually gave up something that was valuable to them.
Yet, the clear record of Scripture is that God is never pleased with man-made worship. He is never pleased with imaginative worship. The reason for this is that for a sinful human being to enter into the presence of God in worship, an acceptable sacrifice has to be made on their behalf that is holy in the sight of God. If any unholy person tries to present themselves before our holy God without proper atonement being made, it never ends well for that individual. So the first part of the requirement in this passage of bringing the sacrifice to the tabernacle was to make sure that it was performed in the proper manner, especially since all of these ancient sacrifices pointed forward to the perfect Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. It is only through his blood that we can approach our heavenly father even now through prayer.
The second sin that was being addressed here was that of offering one’s sacrifices to another god other than the one true God. When one worshipped in his own back yard, he was more likely to do things in secret and to be influenced by other evil men seeking to lead them away from worshiping the one true God. This warning against the worship of goat demons is one of the first recorded instances in Scripture of the presence and work of demons in the world, particularly in the realm of idolatry. Other than the presence of the serpent in the Garden of Eden, there really hasn’t been much mention of the dark forces in league with Satan. But here, we see that although some Israelites were bowing down before statues of goats and bulls, there were demons at work through these statues leading the people of God astray.
In a similar manner, the eating or drinking of blood was a pagan practice often associated with the worship of demons. Instead of offering the blood of a creature to appease the wrath of God against sin, this form of idolatrous worship sought to gain power for oneself through the life blood of another. One of the main differences between Christianity and these false religions is this. Ours is a religion of weakness; it is the way of the cross. Theirs is a religion of power and the way of glory. Instead of recognizing the almighty power of God and the glory of His perfections, the worshipper believes the lie that he is glorious and powerful not understanding that he is in reality, “poor, blind and naked,” needing a savior. But that is the very appeal of idolatry to believe in a fantasy rather than to humble oneself before his creator and find in Him a savior and redeemer of a ruined life.