The laws of Leviticus continue in this section. God has filled the tabernacle with his holy presence. Now, he is instructing his people how to live in proximity with it. In the last section, there was a key aspect highlighted how this relationship would be made possible. Israel must be holy as God is holy.
One of the main ways this holiness is maintained is through the work of the priests. Therefore, if Israel must be holy as God is holy, her priests must be all the more set apart. That is because they are the ones who perform the rituals that cleanse the people of their sins.
Representatives of God’s Perfection
Why is God so concerned with the purity of the priests? To modern readers, his concern may even look like discrimination. But God says the reason the priests must be holy as they purify people of their sin is because they are representing God who is the ultimate holy one who cleanses people of their sin. The priests are imaging God.
For that reason, these verses prohibit people with blemishes and deformities from carrying out the priestly responsibilities. That is not because God doesn’t love or accept these people, but because God must be represented as perfect. In fact, those who are disallowed from functioning as priests still get to share in the priest’s benefits, such as a right to eat the food brought for sacrifice.
Representatives of The Perfection We Need
Not only must the priests be perfect, but the sacrifices they bring to the altar for themselves and for the whole nation must also be perfect. No one may bring any animal that has a blemish, deformity, or anything else that makes it less than desirable.
The animal’s perfection is important. They must not bring something as a gift to God that they wouldn’t want themselves. The sacrifice must be valuable. And in a culture where meat is rare and animals are a main source of income, nothing could be more costly than giving up a perfect animal from your flock.
The sacrifice is also representing the cleanliness and perfection the worshipper was requesting be granted them from God. The worshipper was already deformed and blemished by their imperfection. They needed a spotless sacrifice, then, to bear their blemishes and represent the purity given to them in the exchange.
Where is Jesus?
These rules teach us so much about the beauty and sacredness of Jesus’ sacrifice.
Jesus is God’s Perfection
Jesus is the only high priest who truly never had a blemish, deformity, or sin that needed atonement. He is perfect in himself. That gave him the right to enter into God’s presence on behalf of all people. He does not only give us a representation of the holy God who cleanses us, but he is the holy God who cleanses us.
Jesus is The Perfection We Need
What’s more, he is not only the perfect priest who brings the sacrifice without blemish, he is the spotless, perfect sacrifice himself.
A spotless male lamb was very valuable to an Israelite, but nothing was more valuable than “the precious blood of Christ” which 1 Peter tells us was “like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Pt. 1:19). For our sacrifice, God gave the very best heaven had to offer - his very self. God held nothing back from all that heaven possessed when he gave himself for us in the death of Jesus.
There has never been a more perfect sacrifice and there has never been a more perfect representative. If the blood of animals sacrificed by the hands of men offered any cleanliness, forgiveness, and access to God, how much more clean, forgiven, and near God are we who have Jesus as our sacrifice and priest?
See For Yourself
I pray that the Holy Spirit would show you the God who cleanses us perfectly to live in his presence. And that you would see Jesus as the only one who perfectly cleans us, forgives us, and brings us to God.