God is Holy. And because God is Holy, He is picky as to what can and cannot come before Him. Here in Leviticus, God is laying down the rules on purification. People had to go through rituals of bathing and waiting before they could be considered “clean” rather than “unclean”. If you failed to do the things as God directed, then you faced His judgement and death.
However, for us, Jesus solved this problem once and for all. I’ll explain. Let’s dig in…
22 …Aaron raised his hands toward the people and blessed them. Then, after presenting the sin offering, the burnt offering, and the peace offering, he stepped down from the altar. 23 Then Moses and Aaron went into the Tabernacle, and when they came back out, they blessed the people again, and the glory of the Lord appeared to the whole community. 24 Fire blazed forth from the Lord’s presence and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When the people saw this, they shouted with joy and fell face down on the ground.Leviticus 9:22-24 NLT
This is what God did with the offerings. We saw before that when the offerings were done correctly, they were a “pleasing aroma to the Lord.” But what happens when the ritual is done wrong? What happens when men take it upon themselves to do their own thing? Let’s find out…
Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu put coals of fire in their incense burners and sprinkled incense over them. In this way, they disobeyed the Lord by burning before him the wrong kind of fire, different than he had commanded. 2 So fire blazed forth from the Lord’s presence and burned them up, and they died there before the Lord.
3 Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord meant when he said,
‘I will display my holiness
through those who come near me.
I will display my glory
before all the people.’”
And Aaron was silent.
4 Then Moses called for Mishael and Elzaphan, Aaron’s cousins, the sons of Aaron’s uncle Uzziel. He said to them, “Come forward and carry away the bodies of your relatives from in front of the sanctuary to a place outside the camp.” 5 So they came forward and picked them up by their garments and carried them out of the camp, just as Moses had commanded.
6 Then Moses said to Aaron and his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, “Do not show grief by leaving your hair uncombed or by tearing your clothes. If you do, you will die, and the Lord’s anger will strike the whole community of Israel. However, the rest of the Israelites, your relatives, may mourn because of the Lord’s fiery destruction of Nadab and Abihu. 7 But you must not leave the entrance of the Tabernacle or you will die, for you have been anointed with the Lord’s anointing oil.” So they did as Moses commanded.
Instructions for Priestly Conduct
8 Then the Lord said to Aaron, 9 “You and your descendants must never drink wine or any other alcoholic drink before going into the Tabernacle. If you do, you will die. This is a permanent law for you, and it must be observed from generation to generation. 10 You must distinguish between what is sacred and what is common, between what is ceremonially unclean and what is clean. 11 And you must teach the Israelites all the decrees that the Lord has given them through Moses.”
12 Then Moses said to Aaron and his remaining sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, “Take what is left of the grain offering after a portion has been presented as a special gift to the Lord, and eat it beside the altar. Make sure it contains no yeast, for it is most holy. 13 You must eat it in a sacred place, for it has been given to you and your descendants as your portion of the special gifts presented to the Lord. These are the commands I have been given. 14 But the breast and thigh that were lifted up as a special offering may be eaten in any place that is ceremonially clean. These parts have been given to you and your descendants as your portion of the peace offerings presented by the people of Israel. 15 You must lift up the thigh and breast as a special offering to the Lord, along with the fat of the special gifts. These parts will belong to you and your descendants as your permanent right, just as the Lord has commanded.”
16 Moses then asked them what had happened to the goat of the sin offering. When he discovered it had been burned up, he became very angry with Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron’s remaining sons. 17 “Why didn’t you eat the sin offering in the sacred area?” he demanded. “It is a holy offering! The Lord has given it to you to remove the guilt of the community and to purify the people, making them right with the Lord. 18 Since the animal’s blood was not brought into the Holy Place, you should have eaten the meat in the sacred area as I ordered you.”
19 Then Aaron answered Moses, “Today my sons presented both their sin offering and their burnt offering to the Lord. And yet this tragedy has happened to me. If I had eaten the people’s sin offering on such a tragic day as this, would the Lord have been pleased?” 20 And when Moses heard this, he was satisfied.Leviticus 10 NLT
Points to Ponder
- You might be thinking that the punishment was rather harsh, but Aaron’s sons defiled the tabernacle. They knew what type of fire to burn the incense on, yet they brought in something that was unclean. The proper fire was made from wood only. Coal comes from the ground and is unclean. (I’m assuming.)
- Aaron’s sons perished by God’s fire of judgement.
- Obeying the Lord’s decrees, commands, and rules is crucial.
- Disobeying has consequences — perishing.
- Remember when Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s one, simple rule? They were banished from the Garden of Eden forever and all humankind was cursed because of it.
Leviticus 11 — Clean and Unclean Animals
Have you ever wondered why Jews don’t eat ham or bacon? Or why the Orthodox Jews only eat Kosher foods? Here’s why…
Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 2 “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel.
“Of all the land animals, these are the ones you may use for food. 3 You may eat any animal that has completely split hooves and chews the cud. 4 You may not, however, eat the following animals that have split hooves or that chew the cud, but not both. The camel chews the cud but does not have split hooves, so it is ceremonially unclean for you. 5 The rock badger chews the cud but does not have split hooves, so it is unclean. 6 The hare chews the cud but does not have split hooves, so it is unclean. 7 The pig has evenly split hooves but does not chew the cud, so it is unclean. 8 You may not eat the meat of these animals or even touch their carcasses. They are ceremonially unclean for you.Leviticus 11:1-8 NLT
He then goes on to list marine animals that are clean and unclean. They can only eat seafood that has fins and scales. Then birds and insects. Why? These animals represented two people groups: Jews and Gentiles. This set apart the Jews from everyone else. You can read the rest of the chapter here.
Subsequently, Jesus abolished this distinction when the first Gentiles were saved in the Book of Acts. In the New Covenant, all people are made clean through Jesus’ sacrifice.
When Peter was in Joppa, he had a vision…
9 The next day as Cornelius’s messengers were nearing the town, Peter went up on the flat roof to pray. It was about noon, 10 and he was hungry. But while a meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw the sky open, and something like a large sheet was let down by its four corners. 12 In the sheet were all sorts of animals, reptiles, and birds. 13 Then a voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.”
14 “No, Lord,” Peter declared. “I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have declared impure and unclean.”
15 But the voice spoke again: “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.” 16 The same vision was repeated three times. Then the sheet was suddenly pulled up to heaven.Acts 10:9-16 NLT
The next 3 chapters goes into detail for when women give birth, when someone has a skin disease (leprosy, boils, burns, sores, etc.) or bodily discharges. In all these conditions the people are ceremonially unclean. Depending on the situation, they had to go through a cleansing ritual and wait, usually 7 days, before they could enter the tabernacle. You can read the chapters for yourself here. A person could not enter the sanctuary until purified or made ceremonially clean. Why do you think there were so many bathing areas near the temple in Jerusalem? Everyone had to purify themselves. No one could defile the tabernacle or the temple or they would die.
Look what Jesus tells the leper after He heals him…
Large crowds followed Jesus as he came down the mountainside. 2 Suddenly, a man with leprosy approached him and knelt before him. “Lord,” the man said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.”
3 Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared. 4 Then Jesus said to him, “Don’t tell anyone about this. Instead, go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.”Matthew 8:1-4 NLT
Another condition was a woman bleeding continuously. She could never enter the sanctuary. That’s what makes this healing story so special….
19 So Jesus and his disciples got up and went with him. 20 Just then a woman who had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding came up behind him. She touched the fringe of his robe, 21 for she thought, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.”
22 Jesus turned around, and when he saw her he said, “Daughter, be encouraged! Your faith has made you well.” And the woman was healed at that moment.Matthew 9:19-22 NLT
It is also found in Luke 8 in greater detail. Imagine not being able to go worship in the temple for 12 years!
Uncleanliness = Sin
Uncleanliness symbolizes sin. Cleanliness symbolizes salvation.
- Sin spreads like yeast through dough or like a virus
- Sin destroys and defiles
- Sin kills
It’s Your Choice!
If you’re not sure if you’re saved or not, if you truly want to be born again and have the assurance of salvation, receive the Holy Spirit, and get a 1-way, non-stop ticket to Heaven after you die, or that you won’t be left behind at the Rapture, which can happen at any moment, this is what you have to do…
Believe. Repent. Be Baptized. Receive the Holy Spirit.
- Believe — have Faith — that Jesus is the Christ and He died taking your sins away forever and that He rose from the dead 3 days later.
- Repent of your sins — stop sinning! Do a complete 180 degree turn in your life and surrender your life to Him.
- Be Baptized — show the world and yourself that you have died to your old life and are born again in Christ.
- Receive the Holy Spirit in your heart.
Soli Deo Gloria! To God Alone Be the Glory!
Top image by Bill and Shelley Houser from FreeBibleImages.org. (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)