I Am the Lord Your God (Leviticus 18:1-20:27)

It’s graduation time when parents will be enduring long graduation ceremonies for a glimpse of their sons and daughters walking across a stage to receive a diploma or degree certificate. The last graduation ceremony I attended was for a dear friend receiving his Ph.D. certificate. After many years of ministry in his home country of Uganda, he earned his doctorate in Christian counseling. I was thrilled for him and told those sitting near me how proud I was to have him as a friend. Belonging to the same family in Christ meant everything to us. During years of separation, while he was in Uganda and I was in other countries, our bond never faltered. He lived the Bible, appreciating Christ’s holy calling, and mentored young men to do the same. My friend has since passed away, but we’re still in the same family, to be reunited when Christ returns. Perhaps you’ll attend a graduation for a child—I’ll just bet when they walk across the stage, you’ll proudly say, “That’s my son or daughter!” At that moment, all your children’s disobedience and disappointments will take a back seat to your joy in their accomplishments. The rules they broke while living under your roof may have called for some harsh penalties, but here is a fresh start. In this less-than-perfect illustration, we have a picture of Israel’s belonging to God. The Lord called Israel “his people,” “his treasured possession,” and “chosen.” The Old Testament is about God’s relationship with his people and their blessedness, based on his expectations, rules, and plans for them. The Lord called His people to faithful obedience by being different from the pagan nations, establishing His holy boundaries to bless His people and those they witnessed to. He desired that the pagan nations would take note and seek him based on Israel’s biblical conduct and lifestyle. And, now, we who are followers of Jesus Christ are called to love God’s boundaries, love others, and demonstrate our holy sanctification through our devotion to living biblically. One day, we will “graduate,” when Christ returns and we are raised and transformed in glory. But for now, we are called to obey because we belong to Christ.

“I am the Lord.”

The phrase, “I am the Lord,” appears twenty-five times in Leviticus 18-20. “Up to this point in Leviticus, most of the laws have focused on the tabernacle…Chapters 18-20 now turn to matters related more broadly to living as a kingdom of priests in the Promised Land. Leviticus 18 and 20 focus on the unholy practices of the land’s inhabitants that must be avoided, while Leviticus 19 addresses unholy practices to be avoided as well as holy practices to perform. If the Israelites obey the Lord in these things, they will prove themselves to be his holy people and will enjoy life under his favour and blessing.” (1) “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, I am the Lord your God. You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 18:1-5) “The Bible regularly connects obeying the Lord’s commands with living in the sphere of his favour. This is because his commands are like the borders of his kingdom, and those who stay within those borders proclaim their allegiance to him as King and remain within the sphere of his blessing. It is crucial to understand that [these verses do] not mean the Israelites were to earn relationship with the Lord through their obedience. The larger context makes clear that the Lord gives the Israelites the law after he redeemed them. The law regulates this relationship; it does not create it. As in the New Testament, relationship with the Lord is always grounded in his gracious redemption. Naturally, as in any relationship, faithfulness to the other parties is necessary in order to continue in fellowship with them, a point Jesus himself emphasizes (John 14:21; 15:1-6, 10). But such faithfulness is never seen as a way to gain relationship with the Lord; it is always seen as a right response to the gracious Lord who has rescued his people and given them his law, that they might walk in fellowship with him and reflect his good and holy character in all the earth.” (2)

“I am the Lord your God.”

“You shall keep my statutes and my rules and do none of these abominations, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you (for the people of the land, who were before you, did all of these abominations, so that the land became unclean), lest the land vomit you out when you make it unclean, as it vomited out the nation that was before you. For everyone who does any of these abominations, the persons who do them shall be cut off from among their people. So keep my charge never to practice any of these abominable customs that were practiced before you, and never to make yourselves unclean by them: I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 18:26-30) “There were certain practices in Egypt and Canaan that were forbidden to the Israelites. These practices fall into two main camps: illicit sexual activities and illicit worship practices..” (3) “God did not call His people to legalism; He miraculously delivered His people from slavery, He graciously set them free, and He called them into a loving relationship with Himself. As part of that relationship He gave them laws to guide them so they could enjoy life…The apostle Paul stated this truth beautifully in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11…Followers of Jesus still commit sins, but as one preachers said, people who know Jesus lapse into sin and loathe it, and people without Jesus leap into sin and love it…We are spiritual beggars just like every sinner; the only difference is that we…have found [Christ’s] forgiveness, the eternal life He gives, the truth and guidance of His Word, and the power of His Holy Spirit… God’s laws protect our happiness, and they protect the innocent and the vulnerable. We praise Him for that. We praise Him that His law shows us our sin. We praise Him for His grace in Christ that forgives our sin and sets us free. We praise Him that one day we will be in His presence forever where no sin exists.” (4)

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.”

“God reminded His people that He is God. He is making sure that they would have no doubt who is in charge—the God of the universe was giving these rules. He is the authority. Authority is a fundamental issue in our culture today. Who determines what is right and wrong. When we hear a command, its authority in our lives is determined by who gives the command. If I am walking down a sidewalk and somebody behind me shouts, ‘Freeze! Put your hands behind your head!’ I check immediately to see who is shouting. If the person behind me is a policeman, he has the authority to give that command and demand compliance. So I hope he is shouting at someone else, not me. A command has authority if the one who gives it has authority…For many people, their authority is personal opinion. Every individual decides for herself or himself what is right and wrong…Another source of authority…is the opinion of the majority, or law. We submit to the standards of the society in which we live…[But] We need a source of authority that transcends societal changes and personal opinions, an authority that protects the weak and the innocent. We need God’s transcendent authority. For the people of God, the issue of authority has been settled—our authority is God, and He has expressed His will in His Word, the Bible…Followers of Jesus cannot waver on our source of authority. Our authority is God’s Word.” (Mosley, 18:1-5) “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy…You shall keep my statutes… I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt. And you shall observe all my statutes and all my rules, and do them: I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:1, 36-37) “The Lord’s unmatched moral purity and love sets him apart as distinct. It is this moral purity and love that the Israelites have been set apart to embody in the Lord’s world, demonstrating his character to all who watch…In short, holiness is not restricted to ‘religious’ matters: all of life is a stage on which holiness is to be lived out…the Lord makes clear that his people will live holy lives by imitating him…The Lord makes clear that his commands for holy living cover all aspects of life. It is especially noteworthy how many of these commands relate to interactions with other people…Holiness is manifest in relationships characterized by integrity, honesty, faithfulness, and love’. Simply stated, holiness becomes real as we live out the Lord’s love to others.” (5)

“I am the Lord who sanctifies you.”

The Lord called His people to faithful obedience by being different from the pagan nations, establishing His holy boundaries to bless His people and those they witnessed to. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to loathe sin, love others, and demonstrate our holy sanctification through our devotion to living biblically. “How do we grow in holiness or sanctification?… It happens through His power in us. In John 17:17, Jesus did not pray that we would be better people in our own strength; He prayed to God the Father, ‘Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.’ God sanctifies us…When God works in us so that we are holy and we live out that holiness in the way we behave, inevitably we will relate to people differently…Jesus said the two greatest commandments are to love God and love people…Where do we get the power to obey God’s command to love? Romans 5:5 says, ‘God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.’ That’s another way God makes us holy. He pours His holy love into our hearts.” (6) “I am the Lord who sanctifies you……You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.” (Leviticus 20:8, 26) “The penalties [in chapter 20] were meant to teach the Israelites at least three principles. First, sin is a serious matter. These laws came from the King of heaven, who had created this world and shoe in it to display and experience his kingdom of love, justice and goodness. This is why breaking his law is so serious; it is treason against the King, as well as violence against the love, justice and goodness he intends for his creation. Second, sin among the Lord’s people must be addressed. They are the King’s ambassadors to the world. If the ambassadors fail in their duties, the King’s message is never heard, leaving the nations with no testimony to their gracious Creator. Third, those continuing in sin will experience the Lord’s justice. Even if the people of God fail to discipline unfaithful covenant members, the Lord himself will ensure that the discipline happens. As Paul would later say, ‘Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows’ (Gal. 6:7). Of course, these penalties were never God’s intent for humanity, whom he created to experience his favour and blessing as they walk in close fellowship with him in this ways. Such blessing and relationship now come to those who heed Jesus’ calls to enter into the yoke with him, learning from him how to walk in God’s ways and thus finding rest for their souls (Matthew 11:28-30). (7) “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

Related Scripture: Exodus 19:4-6; 20:2; 26:13; Deuteronomy 4:5-8; 7:6; 22:9-11; 30:15-16, 19-20; 2 Kings 16:1-4; 17:17-18; Nehemiah 9:28-29; Psalm 106:34-45; Isaiah 62:12; Jeremiah 16:17-18; Ezekiel 20:9-11; John 14:21; 15:10-11; 1 Corinthians 5:1-2; 16:19-20; Galatians 5:7, 14; 6:7; 1 Timothy 1:8-10; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 2:3.


1. Sklar, Jay, Leviticus, An Introduction and Commentary, Leviticus 18-20, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, IVP Academic, 2014.

2. Sklar, Ibid.

3. Sklar, Ibid.

4. Moseley, Allen, Exalting Jesus in Leviticus, Chapter 18, Christ-Centered Exposition Series, B&H Publishing Group, 2015.

5. Sklar, Ibid.

6. Mosley, Chapter 19, Ibid.

7. Sklar, Ibid.

May 25, 2023

The Blood of the Covenant—Leviticus 17

Don’t eat that! I heard these three words when I pinched a little raw ground beef as a child, as my mother prepared dinner, followed by “You’ll get trichinosis.” I later learned that trichinosis is a parasitic disease caused by eating raw meat (especially pork), usually game animals (mainly pigs). But since my mother scientifically or medically trained, I wonder if her viewpoint resulted from her Orthodox Judaism more than anything health-related. Besides, we never had pork in my home growing up (although we did have bacon). So I grew up in a house that was a little influenced by the Old Testament commands to refrain from eating the blood of (raw) animals. Even now, when I know the meat is fresh, I’ll enjoy beef or fish tartar and sushi, but I am wise about the health hazards and conscientious about where to eat raw proteins. So, I don’t have to live by my mother’s “never” rule (which, I admit, I never really did). Christians no longer live by the Old Testament rules God provided to keep his people set apart because of Christ, our perfect, once-for-all sacrifice. But, as Christians, we are still called to be set apart through the blood of Christ—not conforming to the world’s values or priorities. In Leviticus, Moses records God’s reminders to Israel that He called His people into a distinct relationship with him, set apart from the other nations. They owed their lives, devotion, and respect to their merciful King by respecting all life since it belonged to him. They were to give special treatment to animals serving as atonement for their sins. How much more do we owe our lives, worship, and respect to Jesus Christ, who was crucified on our behalf, shedding his blood to atone for our sins?

“And the Lord spoke to Moses…

‘Speak to Aaron and his sons and to all the people of Israel and say to them, This is the thing that the Lord has commanded.’” (Leviticus 1) “Chapter 17 begins a new division in Leviticus…[describing] the holy living God required of His people…knowing God and worshipping God are to be at the center of the lives of His people. That was true for His people in the old covenant period, and it is true for His people in the new covenant period…Followers of Jesus have no higher privilege, no more solemn obligation, and no greater joy than exalting God in worship…Leviticus 17 describes three worship principles—God commands us to worship only Him; God commands us how to worship Him; and God commands us to worship Him through blood.” (1) “Polytheism was to ancient Israel what materialism is to many today; it was so much a part of the cultural air they breathed that they were very slow to turn from it, even after deciding to follow the Lord…The Lord himself had entered into a covenant relationship with the Israelites, and they betrayed that covenant, like an adulterous spouse, whenever they worshipped other gods.” (2) “If any one of the house of Israel kills an ox or a lamb or a goat in the camp, or kills it outside the camp, and does not bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting to offer it as a gift to the Lord in front of the tabernacle of the Lord, bloodguilt shall be imputed to that man. He has shed blood, and that man shall be cut off from among his people.” (Leviticus 17:3-4) “Following this command would help to stop idolatry and syncretism, and would unify the Israelites in their worship of the Lord…This was because the blood represented the animal’s life, which belonged to the Lord and could only be used as he allowed, for example, in sacrifice to him.” (3) “The people of Israel may bring their sacrifices that they sacrifice in the open field, that they may bring them to the Lord, to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and sacrifice them as sacrifices of peace offerings to the Lord. And the priest shall throw the blood on the altar of the Lord at the entrance of the tent of meeting and burn the fat for a pleasing aroma to the Lord. So they shall no more sacrifice their sacrifices to goat demons, after whom they whore. This shall be a statute forever for them throughout their generations.” (Leviticus 17:5-7)

“For the life of the flesh is in the blood…”

God called Israel, and those who joined the nation to a particular relationship with him; they showed their King respect by respecting all life that belonged to him. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life…For the life of every creature is its blood: its blood is its life. Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, You shall not eat the blood of any creature, for the life of every creature is its blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off.” (Leviticus 17:11, 14) “The [blood is the] primary seat of the soul or life, from whence motion and pulsation take their rise…for it [is] the blood [that] makes an atonement for the soul…typical of the sacrifice and atonement of Christ…there being no atonement, no remission of sins without shedding of blood; and the reason of the prohibition of eating blood was [for]…the atonement for sin, and to keep up a reverence of it, and a value and esteem for it; but now seeing that blood has been shed and atonement made by… Christ’s blood [which] is now to be eaten in a spiritual sense, the eating of blood in a literal sense, properly dressed, is lawful.” (4) “When a body loses its blood, it is lifeless, so it is very natural to equate a body’s life with its blood. It is perhaps for this reason that the Israelites may have considered lifeblood to possess special powers and so used it for occult practices…all life is the Lord’s as implied when he states, ‘I have given it to you’…[The Lord] provided lifeblood to be used for a very specific purpose: ‘to make atonement for your lives’…To use blood for any other purpose is to deny the Lord’s sovereign ownership of it…the animal’s lifeblood was accepted as the ransom payment in place of the offeror’s…graciously accepted by the Lord…rescuing the offeror from due punishment and restoring peace to the relationship between the sinner and the Lord…It must not be missed that such ransom could take place only because of the Lord’s grace…the Lord, in his great love and mercy, has graciously made such a means of forgiveness possible…’I myself have given it to you’…Sacrifice was indeed something the Israelites gave to the Lord, but first and foremost it was something he gave to them, in his grace, as a means of atoning for sin and achieving the forgiveness they so desperately desire.” (5) We now owe our blood (lives), worship, and respect to Jesus Christ, who was crucified on our behalf, shedding his blood to atone for our sins.

Worshipping God Through the Blood

“If any one of the house of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn among them eats any blood, I will set my face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from among his people.” (Leviticus 17:10) “God’s immutable, eternal law is that sin leads to death. God’s perfect holiness and justice requires sin to lead to the death of the sinner…The blood of goats and bulls substituted for the blood of old covenant worshipers, atoned for their sin, and reconciled them to God. The blood of Jesus accomplishes the same substitution, life for life, perfectly and eternally for all who put their faith in Him…The Westminster Confession of Faith says that the Old Testament laws of worship prefigure Christ—His grace, actions, sufferings, and benefits. This is why we worship Jesus. First, we worship Him because of His grace. Second Corinthians 8:9 says, ‘For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ: Though He was rich, for your sake He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich.’ We also worship Jesus because of His actions. What action did He perform for us? Jesus said in John 10:17-18, ‘I am laying down My life so I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down on My own’.…We also worship Jesus because of His sufferings. First Peter 3:18 tells us to regard Him as holy, ‘For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring you to God’…Finally, we worship Jesus because of His benefits. Romans 5:9 says of Jesus, ‘Much more then, since we have not been declared righteous by His blood, we will be saved through Him from wrath.’ The shed blood of Jesus gives us eternal benefit: we are saved from God’s wrath against past sin; and we are saved for a future in glory. The wrath of God was poured out on Jesus when He died on the cross in our place as our sacrifice. Praise His name! We praise Him because of what He did on the cross. We also praise Him because in Leviticus, written 1,400 years before the incarnation of Jesus, ‘God was pleased to give…laws…or worship, prefiguring Christ, His graces, actions, sufferings, and benefits’ (Westminster Confessions).” (6)

Atonement for All People

“Other texts make clear that aliens could become a part of the covenant community; for this reason, many laws address their participation in Israel’s covenant worship. Such laws not only prohibited syncretism of religion, they also welcomed the nations into the blessing of relationship with the Lord, the very blessing he had always intended to extend to the nations through the Israelite people (Gen. 12:3)…[God] was [Israel’s] covenant King, and it is this King alone whom they were to serve. As Jesus taught, ‘No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other’ (Matt. 6:24)…the Israelites [were] to respect their covenant King by respecting that which belonged to him, namely, life itself. In this context, that meant using an animal’s blood—which was equated with its life…to ransom their lives: they could offer an animal’s lifeblood in place of their own. Such mercy and love is seen with even greater clarity when Jesus offers his own life as a ransom for us This ransom far exceeds that of Leviticus…’But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ (Rom. 5:8)! (7) Luther, when asked about the sacrament of Holy Communion, “What is the benefit of such eating and drinking, wrote: “‘[It] is shown to use in these words: Given, and in shed for you, for the remission of sins; namely, that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through [the words of 1 Cor. 11:24-25]. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation’…the primary emphasis here is that this is an activity of God to the sinner, not the other way around… It’s not something we’re offering to god, but something that God decidedly does for us in his mercy.” (8) “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.” (John 6:53-57)

Related Scripture: Genesis 17:10-13; 35:1-4; Exodus 12:48-49; 24:15-17; Numbers 15:14-16, 26, 29; 25:1-5; Deuteronomy 12:5-7; 29:10-14; 31:12-13; Joshua 8:33-35; 24:14-15, 23-24; 1 Kings 18:20-39; Psalm 34:15-16; Jeremiah 3:6-12; Matthew 26:28; Mark 10:45; Romans 3:25; Ephesians 1:7-10; Hebrews 9:22.


1. Moseley, Allen, Exalting Jesus in Leviticus, Leviticus 17, Christ-Centered Exposition Series, B&H Publishing Group, 2015.

2. Sklar, Jay, Leviticus, An Introduction and Commentary, Leviticus 17, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, IVP Academic, 2014.

3. Sklar, Ibid.

4. Gill, John, John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible, Leviticus 17:11, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/geb/leviticus-17.html.

5. Sklar, Ibid.

6. Mosley, Ibid.

7. Sklar, Ibid.

8. “Four Confessions, One Supper: A White Horse Inn Roundtable,” Modern Reformation Magazine, Vol. 32, No. 3, May/June 2023, Sola Media.

May 11, 2023

Christ’s Greater Atonement—Leviticus 16

Someone recently asked about my coming to faith in Jesus Christ. As I recounted God’s amazing awakening and softening of my heart, I spoke of my miserable, troubled first year as a Christian. I had sinned so much over thirty-three years and wounded many people. I am exceedingly grateful to the Lord for repeatedly bringing me to my knees that year in tearful confessions and for the reconciliation he later provided in my relationships, especially with my birth family. Being a Christian is not “happy-clappy” but mostly about being low and broken if we are true believers. We can only rejoice in our salvation to the extent that we have humbled ourselves under God’s holy rule, as Christ was. We observed Easter recently, with all its celebratory accompaniments—special outfits, Easter eggs, lilies, and lots of food. Christmas is similar, with gifts, family gatherings, parties, more parties, and lots of food again. While this is typical of most religious holidays, the Jewish “feasts,” as prescribed by our Lord in the Old Testament, had none of these frills. At the most, there was a break-fast after a day of fasting and prayer. This was especially true for the three major holidays—Rosh Hashanah (New Year or Harvest), Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) ten days later, and Passover in the Spring. Yom Kippur was the most solemn day of prayerful confession with sacrifices at the temple or tabernacle. Today religious Jews solemnly observe the Day of Atonement, but many families, like Christians are more ceremonial in their observance than personally involved. However, the Lord called Israel to sincerely and personally confess all their sins annually because of the corruption that resulted from them, in themselves, the tabernacle, and the camp. For Christians, Christ’s atonement—once for all believers everywhere—provides access to God if we sincerely humble ourselves. We rejoice in confessing our sins and those of our community and the world for sanctified purification, forgiveness, and reconciliation with God and others.

Why a Day of Atonement?

“Some commentators have referred to the sixteenth chapter of Leviticus as the central chapter of the book. Chapters 1-15 describe laws for sacrifices and purity, and chapters 17-27 describe the holy living that God required of His people. Chapter 16 stands in the middle of those two divisions of Leviticus, and it describes the holiest day of the year for God’s people of the old covenant…The ceremonies of the Day of Atonement are also the most important Old Testament ceremonies for New Testament Christians because they most clearly explain and illustrate God’s central and final act of atoning grace—the death of Jesus for our sins.” (1) “By this point in Leviticus, it is clear that the Israelites’ sins and impurities defiled not only themselves, but also the Lord’s sanctuary. This created a serious problem, because defiling a king’s home was viewed as a treasonous act to be met with swift justice…The Lord, however, was Israel’s redeeming King, who always desired to continue in covenant fellowship with his people. He therefore provided this day–the ‘Day of Atonement’–to make full atonement for their sin and impurity, thus removing the threat of his judgment and assuring the Israelites that they could continue in covenant fellowship with him…Taken together, [all] these rites underscored that full atonement was made for all sin and impurity. Such rites were powerless, however, if not accompanied by faith.” (2) Just as God called Israel to annually confess all their sins—which corrupted them, the tabernacle, and the camp—for purification and reconciliation with Him on the Day of Atonement. Now, Christ’s atonement—once for all believers everywhere—provides access to God, so we rejoice in confessing our sins and those of our community and world.

The Priest’s Atonement

In Leviticus 16:1-10 Moses reports the instructions God gave him for Aaron’s personal atonement—and that of every future high priest of Israel. “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat that is on the ark, so that he may not die. For I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat. But in this way Aaron shall come into the Holy Place: with a bull from the herd for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering…Aaron shall offer the bull as a sin offering for himself and shall make atonement for himself and for his house…And Aaron shall cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other lot for Azazel. And Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the Lord and use it as a sin offering, but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the Lord to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness.” “Aaron must not come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place… the Lord manifested his presence here directly, appearing in his cloud of glory over the ark. For Aaron to barge into this room–as his sons had tried to do–would have been a sign of great disrespect, resulting in the same fate: he would die…To begin, Aaron must have the necessary animals and clothing. Rather than his ornate high-priestly clothing, he was to wear a simpler set of plain linen clothes. The reason is not stated. Since his ornate clothes had kingly overtones, these might have been deemed inappropriate when coming into the heavenly King’s presence. Alternatively, humbler clothes might have been considered a more appropriate way to show contrition. In either case, the clothes’ simplicity suggests humility.” (3) Here is a shadow of Christ’s calling to humble ourselves, offering God our “broken and contrite hearts,” as prescribed in the Old Testament through David’s confession (Psalm 51:17). It is a blessing to confess our personal and communal sins and to receive God’s forgiveness, and more profound union with Christ.

The Tabernacle’s Atonement

Verses 11 through 18 describe Aaron’s requirement to purify the tabernacle. “Aaron…shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleannesses of the people of Israel and because of their transgressions, all their sin. And so he shall do for the tent of meeting, which dwells with them in the midst of their uncleannesses.” Leviticus 16:15-16) “How [and why] does one make atonement for an inanimate object and why is that necessary? God was communicating the message that sin defiles us and our environment. Therefore, part of the Day of Atonement was devoted toward cleansing the space where the people had brought their sins to God all year. In the minds of the people, that space was surely associated with sin, since sacrifices were offered for sin constantly…Why have Americans felt the impulse to build a significant structure on the site of the former World Trade Center in New York City? That place was where a great evil was perpetrated, and we want to redeem the site for good. The place did nothing wrong; people did wrong at that place. Still, we associate the wrong with the place. Sometimes that happens in our personal lives. We did something wrong, and whenever we go back to the place where we committed that wrong or every time with think of that place, we feel the guilt all over again. The tabernacle had done nothing wrong. Nevertheless, [Israel] associated that place with their sin. It was supposed to be a holy place, but their sin made it dirty. God gave the ceremonies on the Day of Atonement to help His people start over again, to sanctify that space.” (4) The Lord’s holy dwelling place, like heaven, was to be free from the sinful corruption of his people, and he himself provided for its cleansing.

Sending Sin Away

“And when he has made an end of atoning for the Holy Place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall present the live goat. And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness. The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness.” (Leviticus 16:20-22) “This rite addressed sin as a lethal substance that had to be removed from the camp. Aaron began by confessing all the Israelites’ sins and placing them on the goat. This is in keeping with the biblical principle that confession is the necessary first step when seeking atonement. The goat then bore on itself all their sins to a land cut off. Unlike the rites within the Most Holy Place, this rite was performed in full view of all the Israelites, who could watch the goat—laden with their sin—disappear into the wilderness, never to return. The goat bore not only their sins, but also the penalty their sins deserved…the phrase ‘to bear sin’ is used elsewhere to refer to bearing sin and its penalty. In short, the lethal burden and penalty of the Israelites’ sin was taken off their shoulders and placed on the goat, which bore it away and endured its consequences on their behalf. [See] Isaiah 53, which uses the language of this chapter to describe the suffering servant as the one who ‘bore the sin of many’…The New Testament sees Jesus as the ultimate suffering servant who bears the sins of others.” (5) So, Hebrews 4:16 encourages us to “approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time.” “In the new covenant age, because of God’s grace in Jesus, He welcomes us into His presence not merely one day per year, but every day of our lives.” (6)

Christ’s Atoning Offering

After Aaron completed the purification rites described for himself, his household, the tabernacle, and Israel, “Then Aaron shall come into the tent of meeting and shall take off the linen garments that he put on when he went into the Holy Place and shall leave them there. And he shall bathe his body in water in a holy place and put on his garments and come out and offer his burnt offering and the burnt offering of the people and make atonement for himself and for the people.” (Leviticus 16:23-24) As I studied these words, I wondered if Aaron foreshadowed Christ, who left the linen shroud in the tomb when he was raised from death. The symbolism in the Day of Atonement drives us to look to Christ. “The ninth and tenth chapters of the book of Hebrews describe in detail how Jesus’s death on the cross supersedes the Day of Atonement and all the old covenant sacrifices. Hebrews says that on the Day of Atonement the high priest offered the blood of animals; Jesus offered His own blood, and since He is eternal His atonement for our sins is eternal. The high priest entered an earthly tent; Jesus offered His sacrifice in the presence of God Himself. The high priest offered sacrifices for his own sins; Jesus had no sin so He was the perfect high priest and the perfect sacrifice. The high priest had to offer sacrifices repeatedly; Jesus offered Himself as a sacrifice once for all eternity. The writer of Hebrews concluded that the old covenant sacrifices were ‘a shadow of the good things to come,’ and Jesus has abolished the old covenant and established the new covenant in His sacrifice on the cross.” (7) James Boice offers food for thought in his commentary on John. “Where did Jesus spend the forty days between the events of this Easter morning and his final ascension into heaven nearly seven weeks later?…During those days Jesus passed freely between earth and heaven, the first time being early on the first Easter morning…he said to Mary, ‘Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father,’ but then a very short time later allowed the other women to touch him and that evening invited the disciples to do so also (Matt. 28:9; Luke 24:39). It is an apparent contradiction, but the answer that seems right to me is that between the two occurrences Jesus did ascend to the Father…Jesus had to ascend to present the value of his atoning death before the Father in fulfillment of Leviticus 16. Thus, the announcement of a completed atonement is also a part of the resurrection day’s significance.” (8)

A Perpetual Observance

God did not intend to keep Israel stuck in the cycle of sin and atonement forever, so when we read verses 29-31 we must look to Christ. “And it shall be a statute to you forever…it is a statute forever.” “Here are typified the two great gospel privileges, of the remission of sin, and access to God, both of which we owe to our Lord Jesus. Christ is both the Maker and the Matter of the atonement; for he is the Priest, the High Priest, that makes reconciliation for the sins of the people. And as Christ is the High Priest, so he is the Sacrifice with which atonement is made; for he is all in all in our reconciliation to God…Christ dying for our sins; the scapegoat a type of Christ rising again for our justification…Christ, the Lamb of God, takes away the sin of the world, by taking it upon himself (John 1:29). The entrance into heaven, which Christ made for us, was typified by the high priest’s entrance into the most holy place…By the atonement we obtain rest for our souls, and all the glorious liberties of the children of God…Here are typified the two great gospel duties of faith and repentance. By faith we put our hands upon the head of the offering; relying on Christ as the Lord our Righteousness, pleading his satisfaction, as that which alone is able to atone for our sins, and procure us a pardon. By repentance we afflict our souls…inwardly sorrowing for sin, and living a life of self-denial, assuring ourselves, that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. By the atonement we obtain rest for our souls, and all the glorious liberties of the children of God. Sinner, get the blood of Christ effectually applied to thy soul, or else thou canst never look God in the face with any comfort or acceptance. Take this blood of Christ, apply it by faith, and see how it atones with God.” (9) “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” (1 John 3:1-3)

Related Scripture: Exodus 25:22; 26:31–34; 30:10; Numbers 29:7-11; 2 Chronicles 26:21 Isaiah 53:6; John 1:29; Hebrews 7:26-28; 9:9-28; 10:1-2, 19-25; 13:11-12; 1 Peter 2:14, 24.


1. Moseley, Allen, Exalting Jesus in Leviticus, Christ-Centered Exposition Series, Leviticus 16, B&H Publishing Group, 2015.

2. Sklar, Jay, Leviticus, An Introduction and Commentary, Introduction to Leviticus 16, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, IVP Academic, 2014.

3. Sklar. Ibid, Leviticus 16:1-10.

4. Mosley, Ibid.

5. Sklar, Ibid, Leviticus 16:20-22.

6. Mosley, Ibid.

7. Mosley, Ibid.

8. Boice, James, Boice Expositional Commentary Series, John 5:9-16, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.

9. Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, Leviticus 16, https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-concise/leviticus/16.html.

10.Mosley, Ibid.

April 28, 2023

Purity Through Christ’s Righteousness—Leviticus 11-5

My hairdresser has a plaque by her chair that says, “I’m a stylist, not a magician.” It reminds me to have a realistic, correct viewpoint about my hair styling. We often have a distorted view of what is humanly possible, perhaps because God gave us the ability to do so many amazing things. I remember another sign at a medical clinic in Lilongwe, Malawi, where I was seen while living in Mzuzu. The African Bible University’s health clinic has a large sign at reception: “We treat, God Heals.” That truth is directly related to the purification liturgy in Leviticus when viewed from a biblical worldview. In his sovereignty, the Lord used the Israelites’ skin diseases to remind them of their need for spiritual cleansing. In the five chapters we will consider today, there is a particular focus on skin diseases that made a person or her possessions unclean and God’s process for purification. I suggest scanning the chapters, as I will be viewing them from a high altitude, to get the big-picture view rather than concentrate on the many interesting, symbolic details. In summary, “The Lord was now dwelling in the Israelites’ midst in his holy palace, and it was important that they did not disrespect him by defiling his dwelling with their ritual impurity. As a result, the priests were responsible for teaching them how to distinguish between various ritual states (impure, pure, holy) and especially, how to address their ritual impurity. Leviticus 11–15 meets this need, describing the causes of ritual impurity and how to address it properly. (1) As we move through the chapters, I pray we will be encouraged to submit and be accountable to God’s Word, embracing Christ’s invitation to purify our lives, hearts, minds, worship, and service.*

I Am the Lord

Our passage begins with a profound and motivating truth. “I am the Lord who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy. This is the law about beast and bird and every living creature that moves through the waters and every creature that swarms on the ground, to make a distinction between the unclean and the clean and between the living creature that may be eaten and the living creature that may not be eaten.” (Leviticus 11:45-47) “The rationale of why a creature is placed in one category vs. the other has puzzled commentators throughout the ages, and there is still no consensus of opinion…it is probably fair to say that no single one of [the possible explanations] can provide a rationale that works for all the animals in [Chapter 11]…[But] the purpose of these laws is clear. In brief, they were to help Israel–as the Lord’s holy people–to make distinctions between ritual cleanness and ritual uncleanness. Significantly, making these distinctions in the ritual realm would no doubt serve as a constant reminder to the people of their need for making the parallel distinctions in the moral realm as well. Further, adherence to these food laws expresses Israel’s devotion to the Lord…just as he separated the Israelites from the other nations, so they must separate clean from unclean foods. This is why the restrictions can be removed in Acts 10:9–28, when the Jew vs. Gentile distinction is no longer relevant in defining the people of God.” (2) “These laws set the Israelites apart as his people…they underscored the Lord’s holiness to the Israelites. Impurity is the opposite of holiness and incompatible with it…these laws served as a reminder to seek purity in all of life…The New Testament leaves behind the cultural concept of ritual purity and impurity. Nonetheless, it vigorously maintains that believers are to seek moral purity–and avoid moral impurity–in every aspect of their lives. As it was for the Israelites, this is to be a response of worshipful obedience to the Lord’s redeeming activity in our lives and a way of acknowledging and reflecting his own holiness to a watching world.” (3)

Ritual Impurity From Natural Causes

Chapter 12 is relatively short and moves into personal impurity for both men and women, explicitly addressing the blessed event of giving birth, which made a woman unclean. “And when the days of [a woman’s birthing] purifying are completed, whether for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring to the priest…a sin offering, and he shall offer it before the Lord and make atonement for her. Then she shall be clean from the flow of blood.” (Leviticus 12:6-7) “Leviticus 12 addresses the impurity experienced by the mother who has just given birth. The text makes clear that her impurity is not because of the child’s arrival (an event of great joy in Israel, but because of the blood lost during and after the birth process…The first half of this law would have reminded the Israelites of the Lord’s blazing holiness: only those who were ritually pure could draw near to his dwelling. Significantly, it would have been easy for the Israelites to see that, if this were true in the ritual realm, it would be even more so in the moral realm. At the same time, the Lord mercifully provided careful directions on how to become ritually pure, so that the mother could once more participate fully in Israel’s covenant worship. As a result, the Israelites would be reminded of the Lord’s intention for humanity since the beginning of creation: namely, to come before him in worship and to celebrate covenant fellowship with him and with one another. Such worship and fellowship are the very things Jesus came to bring his followers, and will characterize his kingdom in all its fullness.” (4) The Lord addressed these specific needs for purification before worship and fellowship; he held his people accountable to enjoy communion with him. God also delights in our sanctified worship, fellowship, and communion with him through Christ, who transforms our understanding of holiness before God.

Spiritual Cleansing For and From the Lord

Leviticus 13:1-14:32 focus on the uncleanness that results from skin diseases, which we usually classify as leprosy. “When a man is afflicted with a leprous disease, he shall be brought to the priest, and the priest shall look…if the leprous disease…covers all the skin of the diseased person from head to foot…he shall pronounce him clean of the disease; it has all turned white, and he is clean…But when raw flesh appears on him, he shall be unclean…Raw flesh is unclean, for it is a leprous disease…But if the raw flesh recovers and turns white again, then he shall come to the priest, and the priest shall examine him, and if the disease has turned white, then the priest shall pronounce the diseased person clean; he is clean…Then the priest shall make atonement for him before the Lord.” (Leviticus 13:9-12, 14-17; 14:18) “We should note at the beginning that that the purpose of these laws is not medical but ritual. God did not prescribe medical procedures to cure skin diseases. Instead, God decreed that certain kinds of sickness rendered His people ritually unclean. People who were unclean were not allowed to enter worship or to be with God’s people…The goals of Leviticus 13-15 are to teach the Israelites how to diagnose conditions that made them ritually unclean and how to return to a state of cleanness so they could return to worship and fellowship…Sin separated them from the place of worship. That physical reality carried an important spiritual lesson—sin separates us from God…the skin disease was an external reminder of sin and the physical deterioration sin causes. Why did God choose skin disease as a symbol or reminder of sin and the physical deterioration sin causes? There are many forms of sickness, many diseases. People were not excluded from worship because of a heart attack or headache…We should remember that these rules come from God, and since He is God, making the rules is His divine prerogative…our understanding is finite and God, who gave the laws, is infinite. However, if for some reason we reject God’s law or decide it is incorrect, we are at least being impertinent, if not blasphemous. God had a reason for all the laws He gave, even though those reasons may not be clear to us.” (5) “Skin disease symbolized sin and separation from God because that is the symbol God chose…Leprosy is progressive; its effects grow worse over time. Sin also is not stagnant. Sin seems insignificant at first, but it is insidious. The Devil and the world deceive us, and we deceive ourselves about how lethal sin is…Also, at the time God gave this law, leprosy was incurable. Sin is also an incurable disease as long as we are on this earth. Jesus saves us from sin, but we will never be completely without sin on this side of heaven…Leprosy affects the nervous system so that infected people become progressively desensitized to pain. Most forms of sickness cause suffering by making us hurt; leprosy causes suffering by making its victims incapable of hurting. Sin affects us the same way. The more we sin, the more we are desensitized to sin and its pain.” (6)

Spiritual Healing Supersedes Physical Healing

“In the laws concerning skin disease God gave the priests no ritual for healing the disease. Healing was in God’s hands. People with a skin disease would get well or get worse, and that was according to the sovereign providence of God. The laws God gave describe what to do it people got well, to re-introduce them into the community and into worship. So these laws are not about physical healing; they’re about ritual cleansing, being prepared to be in the presence of God. God gave a process for His people to follow to move from a state of uncleanness to a state of cleanness. If they followed the process God gave, they could be confident that they were no longer unclean. The process was gradual; it involved multiple steps. The people saw that being re-introduced into the presence of God in the sanctuary was not automatic or thoughtless. We too have a process to follow when sin has made us unfit to be in God’s presence. It involves confession, repentance, and seeking God’s presence in prayer and worship…Christians can and do sin, so we still need help in dealing with our sin problem. God gives that help in His forgiveness, His cleansing, and His sanctifying power in us…God gave His laws concerning cleanness and uncleanness in the context of His covenant with His people. God has now established the new covenant in Jesus. God’s old covenant prepared for Jesus’ coming and taught us principles that help us understand the person and work of Jesus…The process described in Leviticus 13-15 is now obsolete. So are all the laws related to the old covenant ceremonies. Jesus made that clear when Jewish leaders confronted Him about non-compliance with ceremonial law…Colossians 2:16-17 refers to old covenant ceremonial law as ‘a shadow of what was to come’…[Yet] The old covenant law shows us our dirtiness in God’s sight, and Jesus came to be the way we become clean—not just clean on the outside, but clean on the inside, and clean forever. He graduates us from symbol to substance. Paul wrote in Galatians 3:24 that the law is our ‘tutor’ or ‘guardian’ to lead us to Christ.” (7)

From the Law to Christ— From Symbol to Substance

“The aging process is, like leprosy, a process of gradual deterioration. When we age we face all sorts of physical challenges as our bodies grow weaker…Paul wrote, ‘our outer self is being destroyed’ (2 Cor. 4:16). However, he also wrote about our future. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul wrote, ‘We will all be changed. For this corruptible must be clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal must be clothed with immortality’ (vs. 52-53). In eternity, when we will have immortal bodies, what will life be like? Revelation 21 gives a glimpse of what heaven is like. ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away’ (vs. 3-4). Skin disease will pass away. Uncleanness will pass away. Death will pass away. Sin will pass away. Life without infirmity is in store for every person who knows Jesus as Savior—no more pain, no more crying , no more death or mourning…Our bodies will be eternally well, and our hearts will be unspeakably joyful. In the meantime, God teaches us in passages like Leviticus 13-15 to keep ourselves clean and holy until we are in his holy and loving presence forever.” (8) We do this by submitting and being accountable to God’s Word, appreciating and accepting Christ’s invitation to purify our lives, hearts, minds, worship, and service. We delight in our communion with Christ through the Holy Spirit. “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13)

Unholiness Affects Everything

Chapter 14 concludes with the problem of a “sick” house. I suppose today we would call it “mold,” but in the Promised Land, it was known as the same skin disease that made a person impure. God superintended over Israel’s life just as he does over ours. “When you come into the land of Canaan, which I give you for a possession, and I put a case of leprous disease in a house in the land of your possession, then he who owns the house shall come and tell the priest, ‘There seems to me to be some case of disease in my house’…If the disease breaks out again in the house, after he has taken out the stones and scraped the house and plastered it, then the priest shall go and look. And if the disease has spread in the house, it is a persistent leprous disease in the house; it is unclean. And he shall break down the house, its stones and timber and all the plaster of the house, and he shall carry them out of the city to an unclean place. Moreover, whoever enters the house while it is shut up shall be unclean until the evening, and whoever sleeps in the house shall wash his clothes, and whoever eats in the house shall wash his clothes. But if the priest comes and looks, and if the disease has not spread in the house after the house was plastered, then the priest shall pronounce the house clean, for the disease is healed.” (Lev. 14:33-35, 44-48) “For Israelites, ritual impurity could have an impact on every area of their lives, whether their bodies, their clothing or their homes. This impurity had to be addressed properly in order to prevent it from spreading through the camp and defiling the Lord’s holy palace. This often required Israelites to undertake costly actions, whether dwelling outside the camp, burning garments or tearing down their homes. The costliness of these actions would have underscored how deeply the Israelites were to respect the holy Lord who had redeemed them and now dwelt in their midst…[and] reminded the Israelites of the love they were to show their neighbours. Failing to deal properly with these diseases or infestations could have a tremendously negative impact on the camp as a whole; love of neighbours often requires costly actions in order to prevent harm from coming to them. At the same time, these regulations were reminders to the Israelites that, just as ritual impurity could have an impact on every area of their lives, so too could moral impurity. The regulations would therefore have functioned as calls to holiness in all of life. Biblical religion is never about committing just part of our life to the Lord, but all of it.” (9)

Separating Ourselves From Uncleanness

Finally, we get to Leviticus 15, about normal, natural physical processes called “discharges.” Cleansing rites are given for men and women and their possessions, so the entire community, especially the tabernacle, remains clean. The chapter ends with this warning: “Thus you shall keep the people of Israel separate from their uncleanness, lest they die in their uncleanness by defiling my tabernacle that is in their midst” (vs. 15:29-31). “Leviticus 15 tells the Israelites how to address each impurity and so maintain covenant fellowship with their holy Lord…by providing the Israelites with a way to cleanse their impurity–and where necessary to atone for it–the Lord demonstrates his desire for his covenant children to come into his presence in worship, as well as to enjoy covenant fellowship with one another…such lessons in the realm of ritual purity and impurity would have served as pictures of what was expected in the realm of moral purity and impurity. Leviticus 15 would have therefore reminded Israelites to seek moral purity in every aspect of life (especially in terms of sexual purity), as well as to look to the Lord to provide moral cleansing. Believers today are to do the same, having a holy hatred of sin, as well as a firm assurance that the blood of Jesus can cleanse us–thoroughly and completely–of all unrighteousness.” (10) Today, we have Christian liberty to determine what we do, how and when we do it, and whom we affect by our conduct. We also have tremendous medical resources to diagnose and heal our diseases, making it harder to depend upon God to heal our souls, hearts, and minds. So we must continue to look to God’s Word for our guidance. And His Word says, “‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful, but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor…So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:23-24, 31)

Related Scripture: Job 2:10; Psalm 23:1-4; Isaiah 1:16; Jeremiah 4:14; Mark 7:14-23; Romans 14:13-14; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Colossians 2:16-23; Hebrews 10:1-18; 1 Peter 1:13; 2:11-12; Revelation 21:1–7.


* I was motivated by external factors to finish this devotion in a week, rather than two. I’ve also edited it several times to try shorten it for easier reading. I hope you will appreciate its thoroughness despite its length.

1. Sklar, Jay, Leviticus, An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, Introduction to Chapters 11-15, IVP Academic, 2014.

2. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Introduction to Leviticus 11, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.

3. Sklar, Ibid, Leviticus 11 Meaning.

4. Sklar, Ibid, Leviticus 12 Introduction.

5. Sklar, Ibid.

6. Moseley, Allen, Exalting Jesus in Leviticus, Christ-Centered Exposition Series, Leviticus 13-15 B&H Publishing Group, 2015.

7. Mosley, Ibid.

8. Mosley, Ibid.

9. Sklar, Ibid, Leviticus 14:33-54.

10.Sklar on Lev. 15

April 13, 2023

Worshipping God Rightly—Leviticus 6:8-10:20

For the first 17 years of my life, I followed the Jewish traditions of observing the Shabbat, weekly worship at the temple, keeping the Passover, Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), and Hanukkah. And yet, not once did I experience the Lord’s presence in my observances. But I remember hearing how the rabbi, cantor, and elders carried the eternal flame from the old temple to the new temple, six miles away. They moved as a processional and walked the distance. I found it fascinating, mainly because it was only then that I paid attention to the fire burning over the ark (cabinet) that holds the Torah scrolls. Similarly, we often pass over details or principles in Scripture until something draws our attention to them. We may have never heard about many details in Leviticus, which can make a fascinating study. Every aspect of Israel’s worship was specified by the Lord for a particular reason, to honor him and imitate his holiness, through sincere, personal and corporate fellowship with the him. By the grace of God, he has brought me into Christ’s family, and now I rejoice to see how his calling to Christ started thousands of years ago among his people, Israel. Today’s passage is long, and I will be quoting a minimum number of verses, so I recommend stopping here to scan Chapters 6-10. These five chapters cover instruction for the perpetual fire on the altar (6:8-13); personal holiness through that which is clean (6:14-7:38); consecration of the priesthood (Chapter 8); inaugural worship in the tabernacle (Chapter 9); and Nadab’s and Abihu’s disobedience, a warning to the priests (Chapter 10).

The Importance of God’s Instructions for Worship

Aaron and his sons were to make offerings only after they had been made clean, were clothed appropriately for their sacred duties, and were knowledgeable about God’s requirement for their service to Him. God called Israel to worship according to his instructions, in holiness and purity. Our calling, in these post-incarnation days, having received the grace of God through Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension, is to worship and serve God in purity through confession, clothing ourselves with Christ’s righteousness, and yielding to the Holy Spirit’s power for our witness. “Here, for the first time in Leviticus, the Lord tells Moses to address the priests directly…focusing on the proper handling, distribution and disposal of the offerings. Such commands were vital to the priests, who, as the very attendants of the holy King, needed to treat his holy property with due reverence…[After] the priests are ordained, the Israelites could begin their public worship of the Lord. The inauguration of this worship was a highly significant event, so the day was marked by a special ceremony in which all the Israelites gathered at the King’s palace where the priests presented offerings on their behalf. Since the King himself was to appear, the entire chapter focuses on the priests and the Israelites preparing themselves for the appearance of the Lord..the King appearing in all his glory and accepting their sacrifices…made clear that he was dwelling in their midst and they were welcome to draw near to him in worship…[But] Nadab and Abihu greatly disrespect the Lord in the context of worship, and experience his judgment as a result…[Then] the Lord warns Aaron, the high priest, to avoid the errors of his sons and to carry out his priestly duties faithfully. Aaron demonstrates his reverence for the Lord by faithfully following his commands in the context of worship. The negative example set by Nadab and Abihu at the beginning of the chapter is replaced by their father’s positive example at the end, emphasizing the importance of priestly faithfulness.” (1).

The Perpetual Fire

“The burnt offering shall be on the hearth on the altar all night until the morning, and the fire of the altar shall be kept burning on it…Fire shall be kept burning on the altar continually; it shall not go out.” (Leviticus 6:8, 13) “For the Israelites fire surely would have evoked thoughts of the presence and power of God. At the beginning of the Israelites’ wilderness wandering, Exodus 13:21 says that the Lord went before them as a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night…Exodus 19 records an awe-inspiring manifestation of God’s presence on Mount Sinai… Moses’ first close encounter with the Lord was when He appeared to Moses by means of a fire in a bush that burned but was not consumed (Exodus 3:2). The Lord also revealed Himself to Ezekiel in a vision of fire (Ezekiel 1:4, 13, 27). Daniel had a vision in which the Lord’s throne was fire, its wheels were burning with fire, and fire came out from the presence of the Lord (Daniel 7:9-10). The New Testament also represents God with fire. Hebrews 12:29 calls God a consuming fire.’…We always have access to God’s presence, and that was symbolized by the perpetual flame on the altar of sacrifice. The fire of God’s presence never goes out. In Isaiah 43, God says, ‘I will be with you when you pass through the waters…you will not be scorched when you walk through fire, and the flame will not burn you…do not fear, I am with you’ (vs. 2-5)…There will never be a time when [believers] don’t have access to the presence of God; Jesus said, ‘I am with you always, to the end of the age’ (Matthew 28:20).” (2)

Our Personal Holiness Matters

“God directed His command to be holy to all of His people. In [Leviticus] chapters 21 and 22 God specifically addressed the priests. He called them to be holy—set apart from the world and consecrated to Him. If God intends for all His people to be holy, certainly He intends for their spiritual leaders to be holy. Robert Murray M’Cheyne was a Scottish pastor in the nineteenth century. With reference to his leadership in the church, M’Cheyne once wrote, ‘The greatest need of my people is my personal holiness.’ I believe he was right. The personal holiness of church leaders may not be everything, but without it they have nothing.” (3) In Leviticus 6, we read, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, This is the law of the sin offering. In the place where the burnt offering is killed shall the sin offering be killed before the Lord; it is most holy. The priest who offers it for sin shall eat it. In a holy place it shall be eaten, in the court of the tent of meeting. Whatever touches its flesh shall be holy, and when any of its blood is splashed on a garment, you shall wash that on which it was splashed in a holy place.” (Leviticus 6:25-27) “Much of the book of Leviticus is devoted to teaching God’s people to observe the boundary between things that were clean and things that were unclean. The distinction between those two was important because God was teaching His people that he wanted them to be different…Throughout God’s Word, God makes it clear that he does not want us to engage in something holy, like worship, when our lives are unholy. He wants us to live holy lives and offer holy worship. When God told His people not to worship after touching something profane, God was giving a physical, visible illustration to teach us to avoid sin and embrace holiness…It was the command of God that made animals clean or unclean. It was not the thing or the animal that defiled people; it was disobedience to God’s command that defiled. Disobedience to God in the matter of touching unclean things was a signal of a a deeper problem of the heart, and that problem was rebellion against God and His command…In the New Testament Paul…wrote, ‘Come out from among them, and be separate, says the Lord; and do not touch any unclean thing’ (2 Corinthians 6:17).” (4) Perhaps unbelievers think, ‘What’s the big deal about being holy, after all, we’re only human?’ Holiness is a big deal because God says so repeatedly in his Word. Holiness is a big deal because sin corrupts God’s image. It’s such a big deal that Jesus Christ had to leave his perfect, heavenly abode, live in this sinful, dirty world, suffer, and die an undeserved criminal’s death, separated from the Godhead on the cross. But sin is no longer the biggest deal for unbelievers since Christ was resurrected, overcoming the corruption of sin and the consequence of condemnation for all who believe.

Consecration of the Priests

“The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Take Aaron and his sons with him, and the garments and the anointing oil and the bull of the sin offering and the two rams and the basket of unleavened bread. And assemble all the congregation at the entrance of the tent of meeting.’ And Moses did as the Lord commanded him, and the congregation was assembled at the entrance of the tent of meeting…And Moses brought Aaron and his sons and washed them with water. And he put the coat on him and tied the sash around his waist and clothed him with the robe and put the ephod on him…And he set the turban on his head, and on the turban, in front, he set the golden plate, the holy crown, as the Lord commanded Moses. Then Moses took the anointing oil and anointed the tabernacle and all that was in it, and consecrated them…And Aaron and his sons did all the things that the Lord commanded by Moses.'” (Leviticus 8:1-10, 36) “Generally, a ceremony brings about a change in status for the main participants through a series of rites directly related to the ceremony’s purpose. The purpose of a wedding ceremony, for example, is to change the status of the bride and groom from being single to being married, and this is done through a series of rites directly related to this purpose: exchanging rings as a symbol of their love, taking vows of lifelong faithfulness, and so on. In this chapter, the purpose of the ordination ceremony is to set Aaron and his sons apart as ritually holy priests…through a series of rites directly related to this purpose…By having the ordination ceremony take place before all the Israelites, the Lord made clear to them that they needed representatives before him. And, by providing such mediators, the Lord assured the Israelites that he desired them to enter his presence and enjoy covenant fellowship with him. This is the Lord’s heart for his entire creation, for ‘he desires all people to be saved’ and has now provided the ultimate mediator—Jesus Christ, the righteous one—to save us and bring us into covenant fellowship with him…The ceremony emphasizes that [the priests] could not enter into this state proudly. The elaborate series of rites they went through to become ritually holy indicated that they were not holy in and of themselves; they were just as sinful and impure as the other Israelites and just as much in need of atonement. This underscores the contrast between these priests and Jesus Christ, our great High Priest. Instead of needing atonement for a sinful life, he makes perfect atonement by his holy life, offering himself as the ultimate atoning sacrifice for sinners.” (5)

The first tabernacle service

“Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting, and when they came out they blessed the people, and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces…This is what the Lord has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.'” (Leviticus 9:22-24; 10:3) Moses, Aaron, and Aaron’s sons made offerings only after they had been made clean, were clothed appropriately for their sacred duties, and were knowledgeable about God’s requirement for their service to Him. Only then were they fit to bless God’s people as models of personal holiness. “What is the most memorable, powerful worship experience of your life?… I’m not referring to man’s power but to God’s power. Leviticus 9 describes a manifestation of God’s power. It happened in worship at the tabernacle…God manifested His presence. He visited His people. That’s powerful worship—not the power of man but the power of God that’s expressed when we invite Him to worship and He shows up and does in us what only He can do. When He comes, He can convict us, break us, forgive us, restore us, call us, transform us, direct us, empower us, save us, and sanctify us…We plan the content of each worship service based on the content of God’s Word that we will read on that day…However, the experience of worship is always better than the plan…when God visits us He does what no person can do. Only God can send fire from His presence and light the altar…powerful worship is the result of God’s presence, not man’s.” (6) We are called to worship God by clothing themselves with Christ’s righteousness and yielding to the Holy Spirit’s power to experience God’s presence.

The Nadab’s and Abihu’s Mistake

“Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.” (Leviticus 10:1-2) The incident with Nadab and Abihu is mentioned in Numbers twice and in 1 Chronicles once as a warning. “Next to Moses and Aaron, none were more likely to be honorable in Israel than Nadab and Abihu. There is reason to think that they were puffed up with pride, and that they were heated with wine. While the people were prostrate before the Lord, adoring his presence and glory, they rushed into the tabernacle to burn incense, though not at the appointed time; both together, instead of one alone, and with fire not taken from the altar. If it had been done through ignorance, they [would have] been allowed to bring a sin-offering. But the soul that does presumptuously, and in contempt of God’s majesty and justice, that soul shall be cut off. The wages of sin is death. They died in the very act of their sin. The sin and punishment of these priests showed the imperfection of that priesthood from the very beginning…Though Aaron’s heart must have been filled with anguish and dismay, yet with silent submission he revered the justice of the stroke. When God corrects us or ours for sin, it is our duty to accept the punishment, and say, It is the Lord, let him do what seems to him good.” (7) “The New Testament affirms that those who teach God’s people are held to higher account (James 3:1). This story serves as a strong exhortation to pastors and preachers in particular to be diligent in their duties and faithful in their lives, crying out for help and strength to Jesus, our great Hight Priest, ‘who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.’ (Hebrews 4:15)” (8) “In Leviticus 8:35 Moses had warned Aaron and his sons to obey the Lord’ so that you will not die.’ Nadab and Abihu did not heed Moses’ warning. They did not obey the Lord, and they died…Nadab and Abihu failed to treat God as holy, and to fail to treat God as holy is to treat Him as if He is like us. God judged them by striking them dead. It was a strict judgment for a strategic moment. These were the first days, possibly still the first day, of worship in the newly erected tabernacle. God had given specific directions as to how He wanted His priests to conduct worship. If God allowed priests like Nadab and Abihu to lead worship in any way they wanted, that would have established a pattern of disobedience for years to come—perhaps for generations to come…When we observe what is happening in the world, virtually every day it seems everything is spinning out of control. On that day in the tabernacle God demonstrated that He is in control…He does not allow us to overrule where He has ruled. He is in charge…God’s judgment of Nadab and Abihu stopped a pattern of sin that would have continued and increased…The death of Nadab and Abihu is a warning not to trifle with the commands of God or misrepresent the glory of God…[But] rhe fire of God’s wrath does not have to consume us. God has already poured out His wrath on Jesus on the cross…All we have to do is take our stand where the fire has already burned, where God’s wrath has already been expressed, on Jesus…The fires of God’s judgement burned themselves out on Jesus, and all who are in Him are save forever; they’re standing where the fire has been.” (9) “He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25) Praise the Lord, we have the risen Christ! Happy Easter.

Related Scripture: Exodus 28:40-43; Numbers 3:1-4; Leviticus 21; Ezekiel 44:19; 1 Chronicles 24:2; 1 Timothy 2:1-5; 4:11-12; Hebrews 4:14; 7:27; 9:12, 14, 26; 10:19-25; 13:5; 1 Peter 2:9; 3:18; 1 John 2:1; Revelation 1:5-6.


1. Sklar, Jay, Leviticus, An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, Chapters 6-10 Context, IVP Academic, 2014.

2. Sklar, Leviticus 6:9-13, Ibid.

3. Moseley, Allen, Exalting Jesus in Leviticus, Christ-Centered Exposition Series, Leviticus 21-22 Introduction, B&H Publishing Group, 2015.

4. Mosley, Leviticus 7, Ibid.

5. Sklar, Leviticus 8, Ibid.

6. Mosley, Leviticus 9, Ibid

7. Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, Leviticus 10, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mhn/leviticus-10.html.

8. . Sklar, Leviticus 10, Ibid.

9. Mosley, Leviticus 10, Ibid

April 5, 2023

Reconciling True Guilt—Leviticus 5:14-6:7

During the US tax season, even the clever commercials for tax preparation apps and services don’t entice us to enjoy doing our taxes. It’s just not a pleasant task. Sometimes, when we owe estimated taxes because we had a “good” year (or sold off some stocks), but we know we won’t owe a dime this year, we must still pay estimated taxes. We lament that we’ll lose interest on it for a year, but, if we get a refund from paying estimated taxes, we can tithe with some of it to devote some to God’s work. If we had left the money in investments, God would receive none. But having withdrawn it and being reimbursed, we can honor God twice—once by rightly paying the estimated tax and then giving some back to him. If we resented paying the estimated or regular taxes owed, we should repent of our willful resistance to God’s work through our government. Paying taxes was also an issue in Jesus’s day, and people resented those who collected them. God’s Word instructs us to respect our governments, to “Give to Caesar the things which are Caesar’s” (Matthew 22:21). Paul wrote, “…one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” (Romans 13:5-7) In Jesus’s day, the corruption of tax collectors was a huge problem. One tax collector, in particular, comes to mind—Zacchaeus. “He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.’ So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully…And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house…For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.'” (Luke 19:2-10) Zacchaeus wasn’t saved because he promised to restore what he defrauded—he demonstrated the fruit or works accompanying saving grace. John the Baptist preached, “Produce fruit consistent with repentance” (Matthew 3:8). This was not a new idea for God’s people; Leviticus 5 and 6 record God’s instructions to his people to make compensation for guilt with a sorrowful and repentant heart.

Demonstrating Repentance

God’s provision for reconciliation, started in the Old Testament sacrificial system, is fulfilled in the New Covenant. Israelites then and today’s believers obey God through confession and compensation to others for injury or abuse to others or the Lord. “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court.” (Matthew 5:23-25) Similarly, we read in Leviticus 5:14-6:7, “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘If anyone commits a breach of faith and sins unintentionally in any of the holy things of the Lord, he shall bring to the Lord as his compensation, a ram without blemish out of the flock…for a guilt offering. He shall also make restitution for what he has done amiss in the holy thing and shall add a fifth to it and give it to the priest. And the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering, and he shall be forgiven…he has indeed incurred guilt before the Lord…If anyone sins and commits a breach of faith against the Lord by deceiving his neighbor in a matter of deposit or security, or through robbery, or if he has oppressed his neighbor or has found something lost and lied about it, swearing falsely—in any of all the things that people do and sin thereby—if he has sinned and has realized his guilt and will restore what he took by robbery or what he got by oppression or the deposit that was committed to him or the lost thing that he found or anything about which he has sworn falsely, he shall restore it in full and shall add a fifth to it, and give it to him to whom it belongs on the day he realizes his guilt….and he shall be forgiven for any of the things that one may do and thereby become guilty.” (Leviticus 5:14-6:7) This prescription for forgiveness is even for those times when the individual is unsure if she offended someone but thinks it’s a possibility. “As the phrase, ‘though he did not know it’ indicates, these verses concern the person who suspects he has transgressed against divine law or another person but is not sure. Sacrificial remedy is provided for those with an uneasy conscience and reparation is offered to God.” (1) Besides an uneasy conscience, a person may realize that a friend is suddenly cold toward him or that a relationship has changed dramatically, which may be an indication of unknowingly offending the person.

Profaning God’s Holy Things

“It’s common to reduce guilt by revising our definition of sin…people have revised what makes us guilty, excluding God. Ironically, that has not reduced feelings of guilt. People are lining up in greater numbers than ever to see psychiatrists, counselors, and psychologists, paying $100 an hour for someone to help them feel less guilty…[But] from the beginning, God intended the Old Testament sacrificial system to be temporary. His perfect plan was for this system of sacrifices to be pedagogical and preparatory. That is, God used the sacrifices to teach world how sinful people are reconciled to him and to prepare the world for the coming of the Messiah, Jesus, who is the final sacrifice for sin and through whom all people can be reconciled to God.” (2) “Followers of Jesus are in a covenant relationship with God—the new covenant in Christ—and any sin we commit is unfaithful to that covenant. We’re guilty when we violate our covenant with God because a covenant relationship with God is a sacred covenant…Israel was the Lord’s bride, and when Israel was unfaithful to the Lord, He called it adultery. A marriage covenant calls for absolute faithfulness…In marriage, 99 percent faithfulness is 100 percent unfaithfulness…God calls us to be faithful in His covenant with us. His covenant is a sacred covenant because it is with God.” (3) We, who are the bride of Christ, are often unfaithful to our Bridegroom and his friends, so we repent with our hearts and conduct. “The law [in 5:15] reminded Israelites of the importance of showing due respect to their holy King by showing due respect to his holy property. To do so was to demonstrate covenant loyalty; to do otherwise was to demonstrate utter disregard for the covenant King. Paul picks up on this same principle when he exhorts Christians to lives of sexual purity, thus acknowledging that their bodies are the Lord’s holy property, his temple, and when he warns them not to harm the church as a whole, since it too belongs to the Lord…[But in Israel, how did] sinners know to bring a sacrifice if they do not know what their sin is?…They experience some type of misfortune and conclude that they must be suffering guilt’s consequences. In short, the person has sinned, but is unaware of what the sin is. The sinner therefore assumes the worst (the profaning of a holy item) and brings the costly reparation offering for atonement and forgiveness…even an inadvertent and unknown sin could be very serious, so much so that it could result in the Lord’s discipline by means of suffering. This certainly served as an exhortation to the Israelites to avoid sin at all costs, an exhortation also given in the New Testament. But it also highlighted to the Israelites the Lord’s grace, in that he provided a way for his people to address such sin and so put their hearts at ease. Believers whose hearts are repentant before the Lord also can have peace, knowing Jesus’ sacrifice atones for all their sins, even those that remain unknown to them.” (4)

Living the Law Through the Gospel

God did not call Israel to merely know the law as a type of liturgy. They were to love it, live it, and witness it. Before God instructed Moses to build the tabernacle and begin the sacrifices, he gave his people the Ten Commandments—to honor God, his Sabbath, and his people. “The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 7:7, ‘I would not have known sin if it were not for the law. For example, I would not have known what it is to covet’…From the beginning God ordained that sin leads to death—physical death and spiritual death. In the sacrificial system God ordained another principle, a principal of His grace. He said that instead of sin leading to the death of the sinner, He would allow sin to result in the death of an animal that would serve as a sacrifice, a substitute for the sinner to be killed in his place. When a sinner repented and accepted God’s remedy of sacrifice, he would be forgiven…God used the sacrifices to teach the world the means by which sinful people are reconciled to holy God…[and] to prepare the world for the coming of the Messiah, Jesus, who is the final sacrifice for sin through whom all people can be reconciled to God…When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, He became our restitution offering. God offered the restitution offering for us when He was in Christ on the cross, laying down His life for ours…All our past sin, everything we have done that was against God’s commands, everything that we should have done but did not do, every wicked thought, every careless word—forgiven.” (5)

The Need for Confession and Compensation

“The case [law in 6:1-7] describes four ways in which sinners could commit fraud against a neighbor…taking something that had been entrusted to them;… ‘robbery’: that is, seizing another’s goods by force; withholding that which belongs to another, for example, cheating others by not giving them due wages; and finding lost property and lying about it, effectively stealing the item from its rightful owner…[The] Israelites learned by this that their sin against others must not only be confessed to the Lord, but also to those they had wronged. Jesus emphasizes the same…true spirituality involves a proper posture to the Lord, as well as to those around us…True repentance goes beyond saying, ‘I’m sorry’; it extends to correcting the wrong as fully as possible.” (6) Zacchaeus vowed to repay four times over to those he defrauded after his conversion. But that was only the beginning of Zacchaeus’s changed life and priorities because he lived in a culture of legalism. We live in a culture of relativism. “In a culture where relativism reigns, acknowledging moral guilt often requires a reversal of worldview…When applied to morality, or right and wrong behavior, concepts like ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are defined individually or socially, not universally or authoritatively…[But] the Bible describes a God who has revealed specific, propositional truth about who He is, who we are, and what He requires of us. That truth is not relative, it is absolute; it is not a matter of human opinion, it is a matter of divine revelation; and it is not malleable, it is unalterable. And it is precise…We are not guilty of sin when we feel guilty or when our friends or society tell us we are guilty; we are guilty when God says we are guilty.” (7) We are to confess our possible sins against our brothers and sisters in Christ and repay what was lost, even respect and honor. “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!'” (James 2:14-19)

Related Scripture: Exodus 19:7-8; 22:4, 9; Leviticus 19:11-12; 22:14-16; Numbers 5:5-7; Deuteronomy 24:14–15; 1 Kings 8:31–3; 2 Samuel 12:4-6; Ezra 10:19; Proverbs 6:30-31; Matthew 5:23-26; 22:37-40; Acts 5:1-11; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 7:9-10.


1. The Reformation Study Bible, Leviticus 5:17-19, Reformation Trust Publishing (Ligonier

2. Ministries), Sanford, Fl., 2015.

3. Moseley, Allen, Exalting Jesus in Leviticus, Christ-Centered Exposition Series, Leviticus 5:14-19, B&H Publishing Group, 2015.

4. Mosley, Ibid.

5. Sklar, Jay, Leviticus, An Introduction and Commentary, Leviticus 5:14-6:7, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, IVP Academic, 2014.

6. Mosley, Leviticus 6:1-7, Ibid.

7. Sklar, Ibid.

8. Mosley, Ibid.

March 23, 2023

Unintentional Sin and Guilt (Leviticus 4:1-5:13)

The highway and overpass road construction continues near my home, now in its third year. Since I drive through it daily, I know it changes depending on which section the crews are working on. However, other drivers who aren’t as familiar are unsure which lanes on the overpass are open and they jog to the left or right around the work. So I try to be cautious. Then, when I am past that area, I relax. Lately though, I’ve been cut off by drivers on other roads at an alarming frequency. It got to the point last week that I asked the Lord to show me if there was something I was doing that was confusing those drivers. Maybe it was me and not them because I was too relaxed. Unintentional mistakes, sin, and guilt are all very real. After I prayed and examined my driving, to know if I was the problem, either I somehow corrected my driving or I became more cautious; I haven’t had that experience as much. Unintentional sin is still sin and carries actual guilt, even if we don’t realize its presence. And, “sin’s defiling effects [make] an impact not only on the sinner, but also on those associated with the sinner. In this way, sin [is] like dishonour. For example, when children do wrong, they bring dishonour on themselves, as well as on their family, especially their parents. In a similar way, Israelites who committed certain wrongs brought a defiling dishonour on themselves, their nation (their covenant family) and especially on their covenant Lord. This dishonour clung to the Lord’s ‘home’, the tent of meeting, just as the dishonour of a child’s wrong can cling to the parent’s home.” (1) In Leviticus 4 and 5, we see how God provided the sacrificial system to relieve His people from the corruption and guilt of their unintentional sins, reinstate His relationship with them, and cleanse the tabernacle and community. One takeaway is to be willing to admit and confess our real guilt about unintentional sins, knowing that they negatively impact our relationships with the Lord, each other, and our communities. I am sure that studying our Leviticus passage resulted in my self-examination about my driving. Hopefully, it will extend to all areas of our lives.

All God’s People Were Guilty

“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the people of Israel, saying, If anyone sins unintentionally in any of the Lord‘s commandments about things not to be done, and does any one of them, if it is the anointed priest who sins, thus bringing guilt on the people, then he shall offer for the sin that he has committed a bull from the herd without blemish to the Lord for a sin offering…If the whole congregation of Israel sins unintentionally and the thing is hidden from the eyes of the assembly, and they do any one of the things that by the Lord’s commandments ought not to be done, and they realize their guilt…When a leader sins, doing unintentionally any one of all the things that by the commandments of the Lord his God ought not to be done, and realizes his guilt, or the sin which he has committed is made known to him, he shall bring as his offering a goat, a male without blemish…If anyone of the common people sins unintentionally in doing any one of the things that by the Lord’s commandments ought not to be done, and realizes his guilt, or the sin which he has committed is made known to him, he shall bring for his offering a goat, a female without blemish, for his sin which he has committed.(Leviticus 4:1-3, 13, 22-23, 27-28) “One question to ask with respect to the offering in Leviticus 4 is what to call it…the purpose of this offering was to deal with sin but also to remove defilement in a more general sense. So possibly it’s best to refer to this sacrifice as the purification offering. The fourth chapter of Leviticus describes the procedure for the purification offering for four groups of people—‘the anointed priest’ (or high priest), ‘the whole community,’ ‘a leader’ of the people, and ‘any of the common people’…Sin is not stagnant; it’s powerful and destructive. When we sin, it affects other people; if we’re in a position of leadership, what we do affects more people. When somebody has a contagious infection, he shouldn’t be around others, because the more people he touches or breathes on, the more people he’ll infect. A person in a position of leadership touches a lot of people, and if the leader is infected with sin, his or her sin will affect many. One message of the purification offering is that sin is serious; it’s serious for the congregation as a whole, it’s serious for each individual, and it’s serious for people in positions of leadership.” (2) But the Lord didn’t leave his people in their guilt. He provided the sacrificial system to relieve them from the defilement of their unintentional sins. God wanted an unhindered relationship with His people through the cleansing of their community and the tabernacle. God is immutable; he wants us to continue, through Christ, to influence each other and our communities for his glory. But we don’t always know what we’ve done or even considered doing that offends the Lord, so he offers us the opportunity to ask for illumination, to question our motives, intentions, desires, and choices.

Unintentional Sins

In Israel’s case, “[They] might not realize that they were ritually impure, and eat fellowship offering meat. A modern parallel would be ‘overlooking signs and so unwittingly driving the wrong way down a one-way street.” (3) “The word ‘unintentional’ refers to a sin of error. It comes from a verb that means to stray’. An unintentional sin is not premeditated or planned; it’s a sin we just wander into—because of either ignorance or negligence. We unthinkingly stray into trouble, like a sheep (Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way.”)…Just because we commit unintentional sins out of ignorance or negligence doesn’t mean that we don’t experience consequences because of these sins. We’re defiled by all sin, so God provided a sacrifice to atone for unintentional sins.” (4) Those times when we realize that we may be experiencing the consequences of neglect or ignorance are the best times to ask the Lord or others to help us see whether we have unknowingly sinned against God and others. We experience consequences for a reason. A biblical worldview sees circumstances through God’s eyes, which are superior to ours and his view should encourage and delight us for our sanctification.

Help for Leaders and Common People

“When a leader sins, doing unintentionally any one of all the things that by the commandments of the Lord his God ought not to be done, and realizes his guilt, or the sin which he has committed is made known to him, he shall bring as his offering a goat, a male without blemish…If anyone of the common people sins unintentionally in doing any one of the things that by the Lord‘s commandments ought not to be done, and realizes his guilt, or the sin which he has committed is made known to him, he shall bring for his offering a goat, a female without blemish, for his sin which he has committed. (Lev. 4:22-23, 27-28)

“The phrase, ‘his God’, is here added, and is not used neither of the anointed priest, nor of the congregation, nor of one of the common people; only of the prince, to show, that though he is above others, God is above him, and he is accountable to him; he is his God, of whom he is, and by whom he rules; wherefore if he breaks any of his commandments, though ignorantly, he must bring a sacrifice for it…no man is free from sin; all sorts of persons, of all ranks and degrees, high and low, rich and poor, men in office, civil or ecclesiastical, or in whatsoever state of life, are liable to sin, and do sin continually, either ignorantly or willingly; and Christ is a sacrifice for all sins and for all sorts of sinners.” (5) “This section underscores the fact that the sin of those in authority is viewed as more serious than that of those they lead . This is no surprise: leaders have the greatest potential to lead others astray and to bring dishonor on the Lord’s name. Moreover, since leaders have been entrusted with much, much more is required of them…because the Lord knows that sheep follow the shepherd, he continually emphasizes the need for shepherds to be ‘examples to the flock’ (1 Tim. 3:1–13). Even more than its emphasis on a leader’s responsibility, however, this section underscores both the purity and the mercy of the Lord….Because of the Lord’s great purity, he could not permit such defilement to exist in the midst of his holy camp. But because of his great mercy, he could not help but provide a way for his people to deal with this defilement: the purification offering. With this offering, the animal’s lifeblood served to ransom sinners from the Lord’s just punishment, as well as to cleanse the defilement of their sin. Such mercy is seen in even greater depth in the New Testament, which speaks of Jesus’ death as the ultimate purification offering, one that was powerful enough to cleanse all our sins. Indeed, it is by means of Jesus’ lifeblood that the Lord can ‘forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (Heb. 10:10, 12).’” (6)

Taking Remains and Guilt Outside the Camp

Israel was instructed to take the remains of the sacrificial animal “outside the camp.” “He shall carry the bull outside the camp and burn it up as he burned the first bull; it is the sin offering for the assembly.” (Leviticus 4:12, 21) “The Jewish writers interpret it without the three camps, the camp of the tabernacle, the camp of the Levites, and the camp of the Israelites; when the temple was built, such sacrifices were carried and burnt without the city of Jerusalem…this was typical of Christ being led out of the city of Jerusalem, and suffering without the gates of it.” (6) “For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.” (Hebrews 13:11-12) When God provided the sacrificial system to relieve His people from the corruption and guilt of their unintentional sins, it was complete, and reinstated His relationship with them. Not only was God’s dwelling place, the tabernacle cleaned, but the entire community within the camp was purified by removing anything leftover from the sacrifice to outside Israel’s encampment. When we sincerely confess our sin to the Lord, there is no reason for any guilt to remain. Only doubt in God’s mercy and arrogance holds onto guilt over confessed sin. The Lord has provided forgiveness for confessed sins that should no longer hinder our relationship with him, each other, and our community. “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.” (Psalm 103:11-13) “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2) What more encouragement do we need to rid ourselves of unintentional sins against the Lord and others?

Related Scripture: Leviticus 15:31; Numbers 17:22-26; Joshua 7:19; 1 Kgs 12:25–33; 14:16; Psalm 19:12-13; Ezra 10:1-5; Romans 8:3-4; 1 Tim. 3:1–13; 4:12; James 3:1; Hebrews 9:23-28; 10:12-14; 13:11-13; 1 Peter 5:1-4; 1 John 1:9-10.


1. Sklar, Jay, Leviticus, An Introduction and Commentary, Leviticus 4:1-5:13, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, IVP Academic, 2014.

2. Moseley, Allen, Exalting Jesus in Leviticus, Christ-Centered Exposition Series, Leviticus 4:1-5:13, B&H Publishing Group, 2015.

3. Sklar, Ibid.

4. Mosley, Ibid.

5. Gill, John, John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible, Leviticus 4, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/geb/leviticus-4.html.

6. Sklar, Ibid.

7. Sklar, Ibid.

8. Gill, Ibid.

March 9, 2023

The Peace Offerings—Our Peace in Christ (Leviticus 3)

On one furlough during my missionary days, I was hosted at the home of a family in England whom I didn’t know but supported our work. My luggage had been lost in Amsterdam, and I was moving around England, visiting different groups each day, chasing my suitcases by phone. So I was tired and somewhat frazzled when dinner was served on the day I arrived at the home of the lovely people who welcomed me very warmly. They served a pork roast with all the fat lovingly basted and preserved as a special treat. My portion had a large strip of fat, which I would typically remove before eating the lean meat. However, seeing that others were enjoying it, I took my fork and knife to it, trying not to think about what it was doing to my arteries. I ate it for the sake of my relationship with my new friends, who offered it for my encouragement. My hosts had a Old Testament biblical viewpoint, unlike those who now eat pork belly for gastronomy. Their concern for a missionary having the best possible part of the animal was similar to the peace offerings described in Leviticus. Israel was instructed to seek peace with God through fellowship offerings, which symbolized a shared meal between the offerer, priest, and the Lord, for God’s help and thanksgiving. They were to offer the Lord the most honorable parts of the animals—especially the fat. We, who are joined to Christ, have found eternal peace with God. We are called to meet with him often, offering him our deepest, best, and even most vulnerable needs—something exceedingly more valuable than animal fat, which symbolized this.

A Fellowship Meal with the Lord

Depending on which Bible translation you use, Leviticus calls this third category of offerings (after the burnt and grain offerings) either peace or fellowship offerings. But the intention of the sacrifices is the same. “The burnt-offerings had regard to God as in himself the best of beings, most perfect and excellent; they were purely expressive of adoration, and therefore were wholly burnt. But the peace-offerings had regard to God as a benefactor to his creatures, and the giver of all good things to us; and therefore these were divided between the altar, the priest, and the owner. Peace signifies reconciliation, concord, and communion. And so these were called peace-offerings, because in them God and his people did, as it were, feast together, in token of friendship. The priest, who was ordained for men in things pertaining to God, gave part of this peace-offering to God…burning it upon God’s altar; part he gave to the offerer, to be eaten by him with his family and friends; and part he took to himself…it was a symbol of friendship and fellowship between God and man, and a confirmation of the covenant of peace.” (1) “If his offering is a sacrifice of peace offering, if he offers an animal from the herd, male or female, he shall offer it without blemish before the Lord. And he shall lay his hand on the head of his offering and kill it at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall throw the blood against the sides of the altar. And from the sacrifice of the peace offering, as a food offering to the Lord, he shall offer the fat covering the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails, and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins, and the long lobe of the liver that he shall remove with the kidneys. Then Aaron’s sons shall burn it on the altar on top of the burnt offering, which is on the wood on the fire; it is a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord.” (Leviticus 3:1-5) “The burnt offering was entirely consumed on the altar, whereas the fellowship offering was not. Instead, only the fat of the fellowship offering–the very best part of the meat–was burned on the altar. The rest of the animal was divided…[a] fellowship offering consumed by three parties: the Lord, the priest and the offeror…expressing covenant fellowship between the offerers and the Lord…The fellowship offering meal was a way for Israelites to honor the Lord by giving him the very best of the meat, as well as to reaffirm and celebrate the covenant relationship they enjoyed with him and with one another…As a celebration, the offering underscored for Israelites that their covenant partner was none other than the Lord, their redeeming God, who had rescued them from Egypt and was now dwelling in their very midst. This type of worship is the natural reflex of all those who understand the Lord’s character. The concept of the covenant meal was not just for ancient Israel; it is the very concept Jesus employs when he establishes the Lord’s Supper for members of the new covenant. Like the fellowship offering, the Lord’s Supper serves as a time for believers to celebrate the redemption the Lord has won for them, in this instance through the sacrificial death of Jesus. And, like the fellowship offering, such remembrance propels believers to reaffirm their commitment to their covenant Lord and to their fellow covenant brothers and sisters. Remembering the Lord’s redemption is the spring from which a life of wholehearted faithfulness gratefully flows.” (2)

Finding Peace With God

“The Bible says that we’re not automatically at peace with God. In fact, outside of our faith and His salvation, all humans are at enmity with Him. Romans 5 [v. 10] says before people come to Christ they’re ‘enemies’ of God. Colossians 1:21 says, ‘You were alienated and hostile in your minds because of your evil actions.’ Many people are not ready to admit their sin and alienation from God. Pride wars against such an admission. People often want to think of themselves as just fine the way they are…The Bible’s pronouncement that we’re alienated from God, hostile in mind, and engaged in evil deeds does sound harsh. But it’s terribly true. And it’s true of all people, regardless of rank or breeding…God is holy—so holy that no sin is allowed in His presence. God is just; He always punishes sin. The penalty God has ordained for sin is death. People are sinners, so in our sinful state we’re not allowed into God’s presence, and our sin will lead to death…How did the one true God who is holy, just, gracious, loving, and faithful respond to sinful human beings? He responded by establishing a system of sacrifices through which sinful people could be reconciled to Him and worship Him. (3) Israel was instructed to seek peace with God through peace (fellowship) offerings, which symbolized a shared meal between the offerer, priest, and the Lord, for God’s help and thanksgiving. They were to offer the Lord the most honorable parts of the animals. We, who have Christ and are joined to him, have found eternal peace with God. So, we are called to meet with him often, offering him our deepest, best, and our most vulnerable needs. “Christ is our peace, our peace-offering; for through him alone it is that we can expect to obtain mercy, and an answer of peace to our prayers; and in him an upright prayer shall be acceptable and successful, though we bring not a peace-offering…And we must offer to God the sacrifice of praise continually, by Christ our peace; and then this shall please the Lord better than an ox or bullock.…[which] must be killed; and, although this might be done in any part of the court, yet it is said to be at the door of the tabernacle, because the mercies received or expected were acknowledged to come from God, and the prayers or praises were directed to him, and both, as it were, through that door. Our Lord Jesus has said, I am the door, for he is indeed the door of the tabernacle. (4)

“All fat is the Lord’s.”

So says verse 16, and the instructions for the peace offerings conclude with: “It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations, in all your dwelling places, that you eat neither fat nor blood” (v. 17). “Here is a general rule laid down, that all the fat is the Lord’s, and a law made thereupon, that they should eat neither fat nor blood, no, not in their private houses. As for the fat, it is not meant of that which is interlarded with the meat, but the fat of the inwards, the suet, which was always God’s part out of the sacrificed beasts; and therefore they must not eat of it, no, not out of the beasts that they killed for their common use…The blood was universally forbidden likewise, for the same reason that the fat was, because it was God’s part of every sacrifice. The heathen drank the blood of their sacrifices; hence we read of their drink-offerings of blood (Psalms 16:4). But God would not permit the blood, that made atonement, to be used as a common thing (Hebrews 10:29), nor will he allow us, though we have the comfort of the atonement made, to assume to ourselves any share in the honour of making it.” (5) “The fellowship offering was the one offering from which the offeror ate, the chapter ends by underscoring the two parts of the animal that the offeror must never eat, namely, the fat and the blood…the blood represented the animal’s life and thus belonged to the Lord, the Creator of all life. Israelites were thus prohibited from eating an animal’s blood –that is, its life–as though it belonged to them instead of to the Lord. Stated positively, by abstaining from the blood, they were acknowledging that the Lord is sovereign over every life…the prohibition against eating fat or blood applied not only to meals eaten at the tabernacle, but also to meals eaten at home (and thus presumably to the fat and blood of any edible animal, whether sacrificial or not). As a result, whenever Israelites ate meat, they would be reminded that the Lord was most worthy of honour (by refusing to eat the fat as though they deserved honour), and that he was sovereign over every life (by refusing to consume the blood as though it belonged to them).” (6)

The Unique Peace of God

My furlough experience in 2006 was unique—I visited with about twenty different groups, stayed in the homes of several new supporters, and received my luggage on my last day in England before departing for the US. I admit that peace eluded me at times during those five days, but whenever I prayed for the Lord’s peace, I found it because of his gracious, omnipotent Holy Spirit. And you can be sure that I not only ate pork fat, but blood sausage, a staple of England. Now we have Christ, our true offering of peace. “Ephesians 2:14 says of Jesus, ‘He is our peace,’ and Ephesians 6:15 calls Jesus’ gospel ‘the gospel of peace.’ Romans 5:1 says it plainly: ‘We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’…We can look for peace from other sources, but they’re like applying a Band-Aid to cure cancer. If we look to possessions, power, or passion to bring peace we’ll live and die as fools and suffer eternally without God. That’s not peace, and it’s certainly not peace with God. Through Jesus we have peace with God, and through Jesus we have the peace of God. Jesus said, ‘My peace I give to you’ (John 14:27).” (7) Are you seeking peace in fellowship with the world or the Lord? Let us turn to him for his unique, eternal soul peace.

Related Scripture: Genesis 9:4-5; 24:31; 26:28-31; 45:17-18; Exodus 29:22-25; Leviticus 7:23-32; 9:18-24; 17:10-14; 24:9; Deuteronomy 12:5-7; Judges 19:16-21; 1 Samuel 2:12-17; Psalm 96:7-9; Ezekiel 44:6-8; Luke 22:19-20; Romans 5:1; Acts 15:20, 29; 1 Corinthians 10:14-22; Ephesians 2:14; 6:15; Colossians 1:20; Hebrews 9:11-15.


1. Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible, Leviticus 3, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mhm/leviticus-3.html.

2. Sklar, Jay, Leviticus, An Introduction and Commentary, Leviticus 3, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, IVP Academic, 2014.

3. Moseley, Allen, Exalting Jesus in Leviticus, Christ-Centered Exposition Series, Leviticus 3, B&H Publishing Group, 2015.

4. Henry, Ibid.

5. Henry, Ibid.

6. Sklar, Ibid.

7. Mosley, Ibid.

February 23, 2023

The Grain Offerings of Leviticus 2 and Christ, the Bread of Life

I love good bread. One unexpected benefit of living in Africa was the availability of delicious bread. I will never forget the olive loaf from the French bakery that I munched on during my intense two-hour drive home during lunchtime. The brioche from the Indian grocery store in Ghana and the flatbread in Liberia were also favorites. For the first few years back in the US, I tried to find bread that could equal what I had in Africa but failed—I couldn’t even find a bakery that sold bread. I used to bake bread using the best flour I could find, but none of it compared to the African bakers’ loaves. And certainly, even those didn’t compare to God’s “bread from heaven.” When the Israelites left Egypt to journey through the wilderness to Canaan, God instructed them to make bread without yeast, which we now call Matzo. Then God provided them with daily manna, the substance of life, intended to prepare God’s people for the true Bread of Heaven, Jesus. “Jesus then said to [his disciples], “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (John 6:32-33) Throughout the Bible, God’s people are called to remember that God provides everything necessary for both physical and spiritual life. Giving thanks was to be a vital aspect of Israel’s life, along with atonement for sin, praise, and prayer.

Bread in the Sacrifices and the Bread of Life

God gave Himself so fully to the Israelites, providing daily manna for them, and in return, he wanted a grain sacrifice for thanksgiving. When he came in the flesh, Jesus offered his people himself, the Bread of Life—and in return, he wants our faithful devotion. The bread sacrifice represents the law in the Old Testament, and the Bread of Christ represents the power of Christ’s gospel to save from the Law. As we embark on Leviticus 2, we ask, “What does the description of the grain offering [in Leviticus 2] teach us about our relationship with God and our worship of Him? The Hebrew word for grain offering is minchah. Elsewhere in the Old Testament minchah is used to refer to gifts people gave to a king. Hence, the meaning of minchah included the act of a servant nation offering a gift to an overlord nation…the Israelites gave grain offerings to God not merely because He was a superior overlord, but because He is God. They offered Him not only service and allegiance; they offered Him the worship that is due only to God…God’s people worship Him as the One who provides all good things (James 1:17). He is the Lord, the King, and in bringing Him their gifts, His people were expressing their allegiance to Him. As they brought the sacrifice, they were thanking God for His provision, dedicating their harvest to Him, and symbolizing their dedication to Him… That’s what God’s people do in worship today…We know that what we have received, so [we worship] thanking and praising God for His gift of daily bread [especially in the Lord’s Prayer].” (1) God provided everything for Israel, his chosen people, and explicitly instructed them to bring their best gifts to the tabernacle in worship to express their gratitude. We are also called to demonstrate our gratitude to Christ, our faithful, most excellent sacrifice, by giving him our highest offerings—our best, most loving devotion, thoughts, conduct, and worship.

Purpose of Grain Offerings—Leviticus 2

“After the exodus, God spoke to Moses and gave him His law for His people. God knew His people would transgress His law, but instead of giving up on His people, He provided a means of atonement for their sin so they could come into His presence. The sacrificial system was that means of atonement. The first chapter of Leviticus describes the first type of sacrifice—the burnt offering. The second chapter describes the grain offering. The burnt offering and the grain offering were similar…Both the burnt offering and the grain offering had to be of the best quality, both were offered by fire, and both resulted in a pleasing aroma to the Lord, meaning that the Lord was pleased with the offering.” (2) But, “it has never been the offering itself that has pleased God; it has always been what the offering has represented. If the offering is an expression of penitence for sin, a desire for God’s forgiveness, and dedication to God in the heart of the worshiper, then God is pleased…God meant His people to offer sacrifices mindful of the atonement He was providing and would provide, and mindful of their dedication to the God they were worshiping…Paul wrote about dedicating our bodies (ourselves) to God, and he used the language of presenting an offering to God (Rom 6:13).” (3) When we consider the importance of daily bread to the Israelites, who had no way to plant new crops in the wilderness or purchase anything, their sacrifices of fine flour, oil, frankincense, and salt take on a new meaning. “When anyone brings a grain offering as an offering to the Lord, his offering shall be of fine flour. He shall pour oil on it and put frankincense on it and bring it to Aaron’s sons the priest. And the priest shall take from the grain offering its memorial portion and burn this on the altar, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord.” (Leviticus 2:1-2) God provided everything for Israel, his chosen people, and explicitly instructed them to bring their best gifts to the tabernacle in worship to express their gratitude. We have Christ, our faithful, most excellent sacrifice, and are called to give him our best offerings— our first, most loving devotion, thoughts, conduct, and worship.

Excluding Leaven

God instructed his people to bring him only unleavened flour or bread. “When you bring a grain offering baked in the oven as an offering, it shall be unleavened loaves of fine flour mixed with oil or unleavened wafers smeared with oil…No grain offering that you bring to the Lord shall be made with leaven, for you shall burn no leaven nor any honey as a food offering to the Lord.” (Lev. 2:4, 11) “The process of leavening involves fermentation, which is a form of decay and therefore is related to death. In Leviticus the realm of holiness, or cleanness, is the realm of life; and the realm of the profane, or uncleanness, is the realm of death. God’s people were to stay in the realm of holiness, or life; and they were to stay away from the realm of the profane, or death. Certainly they were to stay away from the realm of death in worship. Paradoxically, sacrificial animals were killed in worship, but the slaying of the animal was for the purpose of demonstrating that sin leads to death. As for yeast, it was associated with decay or death, so it was to be kept away from worship. Yeast is associated with corruption throughout the Bible. In Luke 12:1 Jesus said to keep away from ‘the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.’ In 1 Corinthians 5:1-8 Paul mentioned sexual immorality, malice, and evil; and he referred to all of that as yeast. He said to get the yeast out of the church, because a little yeast permeates the whole lump of dough. When we come to worship, we exclude corruption. Scores of statements in the Bible emphasize that God’s people cannot offer acceptable worship to God if the way we’re living is not acceptable to God. Sinful living or thinking is yeast; it’s corruption.” (4)

The Memorial Portion, the Most Holy Part, and Salt of the Covenant

Some of the ingredients for bread were offered to God as a “memorial portion” The rest was meant to feed the priests who served in the tabernacle, and was called the “most holy part,” possibly to remind them of their calling of holy service to God. “And the priest shall take from the grain offering its memorial portion and burn this on the altar, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord. But the rest of the grain offering shall be for Aaron and his sons; it is a most holy part of the Lord’s food offerings” (vs. 9-10). “What exactly was the function of the memorial portion? It was not only to serve as a token of the offering itself, but also, as its name implies, to bring the offeror to the Lord’s ‘remembrance…to be ‘remembered’ before the Lord was to experience his favour. The grain offering’s memorial portion was therefore burned on the altar…serving as the offeror’s request to be remembered with favour when presenting praise or petition.” (5) Salt is not mentioned at the beginning of Leviticus 2 because it is assumed that Israel knew the importance of including salt in all their offerings. It is spelled out in verse 13: “You shall season all your grain offerings with salt. You shall not let the salt of the covenant with your God be missing from your grain offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt.” “In covenantal contexts, salt underscored the covenant’s permanence. The covenant in mind here is that which the Israelites had just entered into with the Lord in Exodus (Exodus 20–24)…By requiring the Israelites to add salt to their offerings, the Lord provided a way for them constantly to affirm their covenant relationship with him. This affirmation would have greatly encouraged the people, by reminding them of the Lord’s steadfast commitment to be their covenant King. They especially needed this encouragement as they prepared to enter the Promised Land and establish God’s kingdom there. Only the presence of their covenant King in their midst could give them confidence in the success of their mission…The salt of the covenant [also] served to remind the Israelites of their covenant obligations. The Lord had chosen them to be ‘a kingdom of priests and a holy nation’ and the covenant laws he had given them had to be followed in order to show to the nations the Lord’s wisdom, righteousness and holiness.” (6) “They were symbolizing the continuation of their covenant relationship with God. That’s what we do in worship. We have a covenant relationship with God—the new covenant through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for our sins. When Jesus shared His Last Supper with His apostles, He said, ‘This cup is the new covenant established by My blood’ (1 Cor 11:25). When we come to worship, we remember the covenant we have with the Lord through the blood of Jesus, and in worship we affirm that covenant.” (7)

Jesus wants to be our Bread of Life, depending on him rather than a good roll or loaf from the bakery, or anything else in this world for our spiritual wellbeing.Will I demonstrate my gratitude to Christ, our faithful, most excellent sacrifice, by giving him my best offerings— most passionate devotion, thoughts, conduct, and worship? We pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread,” who is Christ. (Matthew 6:10-11) “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” (John 6:56-58)

Related Scripture: Exodus 29:1-9; Leviticus 21:6; 24:5-9; Numbers 18:19; 1 Chronicles 23:15-30; 2 Chronicles 13:5; Matthew 16:12; Acts 10:1-4; 1 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 4:18; Colossians 4:6.


1. Moseley, Allen, “Exalting Jesus in Leviticus, Christ-Centered Exposition Series,” Leviticus 2, B&H Publishing Group, 2015.

2. Mosley, Ibid.

3. Mosley, Ibid.

4. Mosley, Ibid.

5. Sklar, Jay, “Leviticus, An Introduction and Commentary,” Leviticus 2, Tndale Old Testament Commentaries, IVP Academic, 2014

6. Sklar, Ibid.

7. Mosley, Ibid.

February 9, 2023

Christ, Our Burnt Offering (Leviticus 1)

I’ve been watching two competition reality shows—The Ultimate Cowboy Showdown and The Great British Menu. Both challenge the contestants to perform in their area of expertise according to very high standards, with a specific goal in mind. In the first one, the team members have to complete a particular task in a trial, usually to finish in the least time. In the second, the chef has to choose the best menu item for each of four courses to meet the specific banquet “brief” for the season, with excellent gastronomy that will please both the veteran competition evaluator and four judges at the end of the week. In both cases, the more experience each person has in the competition, as the week goes on, the higher their marks, with increasing chances of success in winning. Those who focus on their own ideas of what is required or will be acceptable don’t win for lack of focus on the clearly stated brief. In the Christian life, the longer our experience with Christ, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit, with a focus on God, the more we can appreciate and apply the benefits of our atonement. The more we live by God’s precepts and reflect his holiness. The more we are living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, as he created us to be. God has given us his Word to instruct, guide, and correct our understanding, to serve as our brief or goal for life. We need to be accountable to his Word to refocus on his priorities, which he has clearly set before us. We win when we are fully prepared for eternity, and others notice that we are not living for ourselves and want to taste what God has “cooked” in us. God’s cowboys aren’t prideful, prejudiced, or passive—we go after the blessings of Christ with bold enthusiasm. But instead of proving ourselves with physical endurance, speed, or strength, we prove our spiritual growth with greater understanding, appreciation, and application of Christ’s atonement as taught in the Old and New Testaments.

Why study Leviticus?

“It is important to try to understand the rituals in Leviticus for two reasons. First, rituals enshrine, express, and teach those values and ideas that a society holds most dear. By analyzing the ceremonies described in Leviticus, we can learn about what was most important to the OT Israelites. Second, these same ideas are foundational for the NT writers. The concepts of holiness, cleanness and uncleanness found in Leviticus shed important light on how NT writers interpret the death of Christ…Certain themes are especially prominent in Leviticus. First, God is present with His people, a direct result of the tabernacle having been constructed. Second, because God is holy, His people must also be holy (11:45). Third, since people are sinful and ritually unclean, they cannot expect to come close to or dwell near the holy God. Contact between a sinner and divine holiness will result in death. Hence, atonement for sin through the offering of sacrifice is of paramount importance.” (1) In Leviticus Chapter 1, we find these ideas stressed: burnt offerings made to the Lord, a pleasing aroma to him, and the sprinkling of blood—all for the atonement of God’s people. God commanded Moses, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When any one of you brings an offering to the Lord, you shall bring your offering of livestock from the herd or from the flock. If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer a male without blemish. He shall bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the Lord.” (Leviticus 1:2-3) “The word translated ‘bring’ in verse 2 is the causative form of the verb that means ‘draw near.’ God was telling His people to draw near to Him and to bring offerings to Him. Even when we turn our backs on God and break His laws, He loves us and pursues us to reconcile us to Himself. That’s the way the book of Leviticus opens. God provides guidelines for sinful people to come into His holy presence. The sacrificial system is God’s invitation for people to meet with Him. The one true and holy God is an inviting God.” (2) The Lord gave his chosen people, called Israel, God’s own son, specific instructions for bringing burnt offerings of atonement to the priest at the tabernacle. Do we highly esteem Christ’s offering of himself for atonement? How do we demonstrate our regard for Christ? Will we die to ourselves to live for him and his goals for us—to enjoy and glorify him forever?

God’s Brief For His People

“He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him. Then he shall kill the bull before the Lord, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall bring the blood and throw the blood against the sides of the altar that is at the entrance of the tent of meeting…And Aaron’s sons the priests shall arrange the pieces, the head, and the fat, on the wood that is on the fire on the altar; but its entrails and its legs he shall wash with water. And the priest shall burn all of it on the altar, as a burnt offering, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord.” (Leviticus 1:4-9) “‘Make atonement’ is of fundamental importance for what the ritual achieves by the shedding of blood, burning of the flesh, etc. While some take this Hebrew term as referring to expiation (the removal of sin) as opposed to propitiation (the appeasement of wrath), both realities seem to be involved. On the one hand, sin calls forth God’s wrath and results in the offerer’s needing to be ransomed so that the Lord’s wrath is appeased (propitiation). In this way, the sacrificial animal dies instead of the offerer. On the other hand, sin is also defiling and must be removed (expiation). The offerings that ‘make atonement’ are the burnt offering, the sin offering, and the guilt offering, but not the grain offering or the peace offering.” (3) “When the NT writers sought to expound the significance of Golgotha, they most often did so in sacrificial terms derived from Leviticus and related priestly material…Whereas those animal offerings’ could not perfect the conscience of the worshipper’ (Heb. 9:9), Christ entered the heavenly sanctuary through His own blood ‘thus securing an eternal redemption’ (Heb. 9:12). (Indeed, it is only by depicting our Lord as both sacrifice and sacrificing high priest that the writer of the letter to the Hebrews can take account of the full implications of His death.)” (4) [The Lord] gives covenant laws to his covenant people so that they can be faithful members of his covenant kingdom. These laws helped them to manifest faithfulness in two ways. First, they let the Israelites know how to maintain covenant fellowship with the King now dwelling in their midst…Second, they let the Israelites know how to reflect the holiness of their covenant King, so that they could fulfill their covenant mission: being ‘a kingdom of priests and a holy nation’ to ‘all the earth’ (Exodus 19:4–6). In both instances, the goal was relational: to guide the Israelites in their relationship with their covenant King, as well as with those who live in his world. As Jesus would later affirm, the Lord’s laws always have this dual goal in mind (Matthew 22:37-40).” (5)

Jesus—Utterly Devoted and Consumed by God’s Wrath

Moses writes, “And the priest shall burn all of it on the altar, as a burnt offering, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord…And the priest shall offer all of it and burn it on the altar; it is a burnt offering, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord.” (Lev. 1:9, 13) “The burnt offering was the most costly sacrifice: it had to be burned up completely on the altar. Unlike grain, purification and reparation offerings (of which the priests ate), and unlike fellowship offerings (of which the priest and the offeror ate), no one ate any of the burnt offering: it was all given to the Lord. The reason becomes clear once we understand the burnt offering’s purposes. At least two may be identified. The first is atonement…By giving the whole animal to the Lord, offenders acknowledged that their sinfulness before a holy God was so great that only a full and costly ransom payment would suffice. This in fact explains why the death of Jesus on behalf of sinners is described with the language of the burnt offering. Jesus is the ultimate burnt offering that ransoms guilty sinners (Heb. 10:1–10). (6) In his commentary, John Gill comments on how the burnt offerings specifically point to Christ. “Offer a male; and not a female, pointing at the Messiah’s sex, and his strength and excellency…the Son to be given…without blemish…denoting the perfection of Christ as man, being in all things made like unto his brethren, and his having not the least stain or blemish of sin upon him…The flaying of the burnt offering may denote the very great sufferings of Christ, when he was stripped of his clothes, and his back was given to the smiters, and his cheeks to them that plucked off the hair; and the skin of the sacrifice, which belonged to the priest, may be an emblem of the righteousness of Christ…… that robe of righteousness, and garments of salvation, which all that are made kings and priests to God are clothed with.” (7)

Our Living Sacrifice

“The burnt offering’s second purpose was to underscore the offenders’ prayers, a type of exclamation point to what they were saying. In either case – whether petition or praise – the burnt offering served as an exclamation point. Paul picks up on this idea in the context of praise when he exhorts Christians: ‘Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship’ (Rom. 12:1).” (8) “We were buried therefore with [Christ] by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4) “‘Living’ means that [we] will not be put to death as OT animal sacrifices were, for Christ has fulfilled what was predicted by those sacrifices. Whereas OT worship focused on offering animal sacrifices in the temple, Paul says that spiritual worship in a broad sense now includes offering one’s whole life to God.” (9) The Lord gave Israel specific instructions for bringing burnt offerings of atonement for sin to the priest at the tabernacle because they belonged to God. We who belong to Christ are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. It’s our ‘brief’ from him, not just for a day or a week, but from now until eternity. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)

Related Scripture: Genesis 8:21-22; Exodus 12:5; Numbers 15:22-26; Leviticus 4:26;5:15; 6:12; 9:22-24; 17:11; 2 Chronicles 29:23-24; Isaiah 56:6-7; Matthew 22:37-40; Luke 2:22-24; Philippians 4:18; Hebrews 5:1; 10:19-22; 12:18-24; 13:15-16; 1 Peter 1:2


1. The Reformation Study Bible, Introduction to Leviticus, Reformation Trust Publishing (Ligonier Ministries), Sanford, Fl., 2015.

2. Moseley, Allen, Exalting Jesus in Leviticus, Christ-Centered Exposition Series, B&H Publishing Group, 2015.

3. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Leviticus 1:3, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.Zondervan, Intro to Leviticus

4. Sklar, Jay, Leviticus, An Introduction and Commentary, The Offerings, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, IVP Academic, 2014.

5. Sklar, Ibid.

6. Gill, John, John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible, Leviticus 1:2-17, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/geb/leviticus-1.html.

7. Sklar, Ibid.

8. ESV Study Bible Notes, Ibid, Romans 12:1-2.

January 26, 2023