Torah reading (in Israel): Leviticus 21 -24 (Overseas schedule one week behind)
Haftorah reading: Ezekiel 44: 15-31
In its essence, Leviticus is a book about worship. In it, the requirements for acceptable worship are carefully detailed.. You will remember that the book opens with the tabernacle having been constructed and the glory cloud of the Lord having descended—but Moses was still on the outside of the tabernacle. After the anointing of the priesthood in chapter 8, the priests, as instructed in chapter 9, then offered their prescribed sacrifices and the tabernacle was opened for corporate worship.
Unfortunately, soon thereafter (chapter 10) two of Aaron’s sons offered an unauthorized sacrifice before the Lord and died in His presence—on the spot. Their dead bodies were transported by their tunics and they were cast outside the tabernacle. There was still much for the Israelites to learn about holiness
God decreed that their eating habits were to be holy (chapter 11); their childbirth was to be regulated by God’s holy law (chapter 12); their personal and domestic hygiene was to be holy, as symbolized by the laws regarding leprosy (chapters 13—14) and those with reference to bodily discharges (chapter 15).
In chapter 16, the regulations for the yearly observance of the Day of Atonement were closely followed by instruction concerning the central place of the blood in acceptable worship (chapter 17). After all of this, in chapters 18-20, the Torah dealt other issues of practical, day-to-day holiness.
Clearly the central theme was God’s passion for His holiness and therefore His prescription that His people be holy. This is summed up in 19:2 with the words, “Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.’”
The same mandate applies to every generation
This week’s reading In chapters 21—22 continues the theme by addressing the priesthood.
In chapter 21, we learn that the priests had to meet certain prescribed qualifications if they would be deemed holy enough to serve in the tabernacle. No exceptions were to be made. It was serious business to serve God’s sanctuary.
In chapter 22, further regulations are given concerning the quality of the sacrifices that the priests were to offer. The priests in other words were responsible for the kind of worship offered by those whom they represented.
The overall theme is that those ordained to lead God’s people were to display unquestioning loyalty to the Lord God alone. They were to be holy.
Leviticus calls for holiness on the part of the congregation, on the part of the priesthood, and on the part of the high priest. And with each call to holiness, the demands become stricter.
This should not surprise us since the closer one gets to the Lord the holier one must be. This is pictured for us in the tabernacle itself.
The courtyard was where the people in general would gather and they certainly had a code of holiness for which they were responsible. The priesthood then had greater demands for holiness placed upon them, for they were allowed access to the Holy Place. But the high priest had an even higher standard of holiness placed upon him, for he alone was allowed access, one day a year, beyond the veil into the Holy of Holies.
The children of Israel were to be different, and the priests of the children of Israel were to be especially different. Those with greater privilege had greater responsibility.
In Tune with Torah this week = Let it not be said that these ancient words have no relevance to us for the scripture itself tells us that everything was written for our instruction.
First, leaders of God’s people today have the same responsibility to live in holiness.
Second, congregational members also have the responsibility to seek holiness for the admonition in last week’s Torah reading is clear: ‘You shall be holy as I am holy.’ That was spoken to the entire nation of Israel, not just the priests.
Third, the instructions to the priests provide a model of self-discipline which all of us need to apply to our lives.
Without discipline there is no holiness. Without holiness, there is no godly congregation. Therefore the call to be holy as He is holy is at once personal and congregational. As each of us grows in holiness, the entire community benefits.