Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
great principles included in the formal regulations, as -
I. RELIGION SANCTIFIES, preserves, and perfects the whole humanity of man.
1. It preserves the true order - God first, the creature subject to the Creator.
2. It utilizes the central power of human nature, the moral and spiritual The mind is the man, and the mind is not mere intellect, but moral consciousness and aspiration after God.
3. It puts the individual and the social in their true relation to that which supports both - the positive and public worship of God. The temple at Jerusalem represented the center of the nation, Jehovah's throne. Humanity can be, will be, developed into a true family of nations only round the house of God. All non-religious influences arc disintegrating to the nation and the world.
II. THE LIFE OF MAN IS THE SANCTIFICATION OF ALL OTHER LIFE ON THE EARTH. The lower natures depend on the higher. God has taught us by his Law not only to use them, but to reverence them and to hallow their instincts and the laws of nature as exhibited in them. Science may discover secrets, but it will not protect the weak. The reverence for that which is below us is even more a yielding up of our nature to the Spirit of God than the mere bowing prostrate before that which is above us. The selfishness and tyranny of the stronger over the weaker can only be cast out by religion.
III. ALL LAW IS CONSISTENT WITH FREE AGENCY. "At your own will." The true service of God is that which the heart renders. We blend our will with God's will in the acceptable life. At your will, but by the regulations of the Law. The mere capricious individualism of the present day is no true liberty, but becomes the most degrading bondage. The covenant relation of Jehovah with his people lay at the foundation of their obedience: "I hallow you," therefore hallow my commandments and my Name. In that loving bond of sanctification all believers find their strength. They are not their own, they are bought with a price. Paul rejoiced to be a "slave of Jesus Christ." The Jews made their Law unto death, not life, because they departed from its simplicity and forgot its spirituality, and "made the Word of God of none effect by their traditions," forging their own fetters. The key-note of the Law is redemption. "I am the Lord which brought you out of Egypt," etc. The key-note of redemption is love. - R.
Leviticus 22Matthew 25:31-46. We saw that inherited infirmity, such as is mentioned in verses 18-21 of last chapter, while it excludes from office, does not exclude from sustenance. We now come across a disqualification sufficient to exclude from both office and support, and this is contracted defilement. Any priest venturing before God with uncleanness upon him will be cut off from his presence. We are taught hereby -
I. THAT IT IS CONTRACTED, NOT TRANSMITTED, DEFILEMENT WHICH NECESSITATES COMPLETE EXILE FROM JEHOVAH. The priest's child providentially scarred or maimed, whose blemish has been from the womb, and in which he had no voluntary share, which excluded properly from office, is not excluded from sustenance from the altar; while, on the other hand, he who has through negligence or waywardness contracted defilement is, while it lasts, excluded altogether from the privileges of the priesthood. The bearing of such an arrangement upon the question of original sin is plain on the least thought. The fact of original sin will not be questioned by any one who studies intelligently the question of heredity. Moreover, "representative responsibility," as a principle of providence, shows how we are held responsible for acts of others in which we have had no conscious share. At the same time, it is consolatory to think that transmitted evil will not of itself condemn its possessor to perpetual exile from God. When an infant dies, who has never been sufficiently advanced to contract any conscious defilement, who has never added to original sin any actual transgression, it is comforting to think that the righteous Governor will not exclude any such from the privilege of approaching him, but will purge away their inheritance of evil, and fit them for his everlasting fellowship. We believe in the salvation of the great multitude who die before coming to the years of discretion.
II. CASUAL, AS DISTINGUISHED FROM PERMANENT, CONNECTION WITH THE PRIESTHOOD DISQUALIFIES A PERSON FROM PARTAKING OF THE THINGS OF THE ALTAR. No mere casual guest, or even a hired servant of a priest's, was to eat of the holy things. If a servant had been purchased, and so became personally incorporated with the priestly family, he might eat of them. There is a corresponding casual and a corresponding permanent association with the Lord's work. Only those who enter on it with whole hearts, who dedicate themselves to it, body, soul, and spirit, need expect to participate in its privileges; while the mere casual associate will find himself excluded in the end.
III. THE SACRIFICES WERE TO BE AS UNBLEMISHED AS THE OFFICIATING PRIESTS; ANY PHYSICAL DEFECT DISQUALIFIED THEM FROM ACCEPTANCE. The unblemished character of the sacrifices teaches the same truth which we have already considered. As the sacrifices were practically substitutions, their perfection was to teach man not only that his Substitute must be perfect if God would accept him, but that he himself must be perfected, if he is to serve God in the great hereafter in a priestly spirit. At the same time, man is encouraged in the present state to offer what he can, even though it be not perfect. God does not insist on the absolute perfection of the work of his people. If it is willing (verse 23) - if it is really a "freewill offering " - then God will accept it in the spirit in which it is given. The perfection is to be kept steadily in view as the ideal to which we must always be struggling; meanwhile, we are to be doing all we can with willing minds, even though our work is often poor at best.
IV. INHUMAN ACTS DISQUALIFY SACRIFICES OTHERWISE ACCEPTABLE. Thus a bullock, sheep, or goat, would not be acceptable till after the eighth day. It would have been inhuman to have denied it its week with its dam. Moreover, may not the seven days with the dam, like the seven days before the man-child's circumcision, represent a perfect period spent under parental care, and thus become an emblem of the providential use of the family institution? Again, the dam and the young were not to be put to death on the same day. It has an inhuman appearance about it, like the seething of a kid in its mother's milk; and God arranged that the terms of the fifth commandment should be illustrated by, and not transgressed, even among the lower animals. While, therefore, sacrificial worship entailed much suffering on the part of the innocent victims, there was a humane element to run through the service of the priests, and inhumanity would disqualify them from sacrificially serving God. - R.M.E.
I. DISQUALIFICATIONS FOR EATING OF THE HOLY THINGS.
1. With respect to priests.
(1) A priest would be disqualified by any uncleanness in his flesh; thus, if he were a leper. The reason is that leprosy was a notable emblem of sin. Or if he had any running issue. Such things are in themselves loathsome, and evince a corrupt state of the body, and therefore fittingly represent moral corruption. This, under every dispensation, excludes men from that fellowship with God which was shadowed in the eating of the holy things.
(2) He would be disqualified by contact with a human corpse, or with the carcase of any unclean animal. The moral lesson here is that "evil communications corrupt good manners," that the "friendship of the world is emnity against God."
2. With respect to the families of priests.
(1) The stranger that sojourneth in Israel must become regularly proselyted to entitle him to the privileges of the Law. So those who would enjoy the corresponding spiritual privileges of the gospel must first become disciples of Jesus.
(2) The hired servant in the family of a priest is not sufficiently incorporated in the family to entitle him to eat of the holy things. And there are servants of the gospel - persons who take a commendable interest in its outward prosperity - who yet are not of the "household of faith," and have no experience of its spiritual mysteries.
(3) The daughter of a priest, by marrying a stranger, forfeits her right to eat of the holy things. If now in her father's house, she is simply a visitor, and has to be provided with common food. By yoking with the ungodly, the children of God forfeit his favour, and are only tolerated in the Church as visitors.
3. These laws may not be invaded with impunity.
(1) If by accident they were transgressed, there was mercy for the offender when he made reparation. This was the original value, with a fifth part added (verse 14). Paul obtained mercy for his sin against the gospel of Christ, "because he did it ignorantly in unbelief."
(2) For the wilful presumptuous transgression of the Law there was no mercy in its provisions. "That soul shall be cut off from my presence" (yen. 3). "They shall therefore keep mine ordinance, lest they bear sin for it, and die therefore, if they profane it" (verse 9). There is a law of extremity also under the gospel (Matthew 12:81, 82; Acts 5:l-11; Hebrews 6:4-6; Hebrews 10:26-29; 1 John 5:16).
II. HOW THESE DISQUALIFICATIONS MAY BE REMOVED.
1. In some cases by statute.
(1) Thus the servant of the high priest, bought with his money, though formerly an alien, is now so incorporated into his family that he may freely eat of the holy things. Being purchased, he is permanently under the power of the priest, and has no option to leave his service. So we, being redeemed by the blood of Christ and by a thorough repentance and conversion, renouncing all freedom to act against his will, may claim the privileges of his service.
(2) Those born in the house of the priest, viz. to his slaves or permanent servants, are also reckoned as belonging to his family, and privileged to fare as his own children. This birth into the household expresses more than mere natural descent from a godly ancestry. The children of the covenant made with Abraham were not those naturally descended from him, but those who were also the children of his faith. Natural birth in a godly family now gives the initiation to goodness, but the privileges of the gospel can only be enjoyed by those who follow up their advantages.
(3) The daughter of a priest, as we have seen, by marrying a stranger, forfeited her right to eat of the holy things. She was the figure of a backslider. But if there were no issue of the marriage, and her husband were dead, and she return to the house of her father as in her youth, she may again partake of the holy things. This teaches us God's mercy to the wanderer from Christ who returns to him with a true conversion (see Luke 15:11).
2. In some cases by ordinance.
(1) If a man contract pollution by contact, he "shall not eat of the holy things, unless he wash his flesh with water" (verses 4-6). As the baptism of water was necessary to qualify the ceremonially impure to eat of the holy things which were typical, so is the baptism of the Holy Ghost required to remove moral impurity, and give us the privilege of real fellowship with God (Hebrews 10:22).
(2) After this washing, "and when the sun is down, he shall be clean, and shall afterward eat of the holy things" (verse 7). The natural or civil day began at sunrise; the holy day at sunset, viz. when nature is involved in the shadow of death. So it is in the turning from nature to grace that we enter into the privileges of fellowship with God. - J.A.M.
offering not or eating not "unto the Lord" (see Romans 14:6). It often happens to us that by some misfortune - perhaps, as here, some bodily affliction we are disabled and detained from active service: it may be from
(1) Christian work, or
(2) public worship, or
(3) daily duty (business or household activities).
That which is unavoidable and for which we are not responsible may shut us out from many valued privileges. In this case we must render the service of abstention. We can -
I. SUBMIT IN PATIENCE.
II. BELIEVE WITH CHEERFUL CONFIDENCE: have faith to accept the truth that "they also serve who only stand and wait;" that God is as well pleased with the passive service of those whom he desires to "be still," as with those who -
"... at his bidding speed, III. WAIT IN HOPE. The hour will come, here or hereafter, sooner or later, when all bodily disabilities will have disappeared, and fullest access be given to the presence of the Lord. - C.
III. WAIT IN HOPE. The hour will come, here or hereafter, sooner or later, when all bodily disabilities will have disappeared, and fullest access be given to the presence of the Lord. - C.
(1) the regard which God paid (and still pays) to the sanctity of family life, and our duty to guard it;
(2) the fact, on the other hand, that mere blood relationship does not suffice to secure the favour of God; witness Nadab and Abihu. The son of the holiest minister of Christ may be a servant of the evil one, and an enemy of God. But the lesson of the text is -
I. THAT GOD WOULD HAVE US SEPARATE SOME THINGS FROM OTHERS WHICH WE MUST TREAT AS SACRED. "I the Lord do sanctify them" (verse 16). That which is closely connected with himself is particularly "holy," - his Name, his truth, his worship; also our own spiritual and immortal nature; the world which is to come, etc.
II. THAT WE ARE UNDER SOME TEMPTATION TO DISREGARD HIS HOLY WILL. Forgetfulness, the spirit of levity and untimely humour, the contagiousness of human example, that tendency towards the formal and mechanical which belongs to our frail humanity, - these things will account for it. The forms which this irreverence or profanation takes are manifold:
(1) taking in vain the holy Name of God, our Father, Saviour, Sanctifier;
(2) misuse of scriptural words - those especially which are of peculiar sacredness;
(3) irreverence in prayer or praise;
(4) the utterance of Divine truth by unhallowed, unappreciative lips;
(5) the partaking of the sacramental elements by those who are unreconciled to God;
(6) misappropriation of substance which has been dedicated to the service of Christ.
III. THAT MINISTERS OF CHRIST SHOULD BE SPECIALLY ON THEIR GUARD AGAINST THIS COMMON AND OFFENSIVE SIN. There are two reasons why those who minister in holy things should "watch and pray" against the commission of this wrong-doing.
1. They are under special temptation to commit it. Their very professional familiarity with the truth and service of God is likely to beget irreverence, utterance without feeling, action without inspiration.
2. Their example is more influential. Irreverence on the part of the minister is certain, in time if not immediately, to tell on the people. It will be communicated to them; or, at the very least, it will seriously lessen and lower the impression which would otherwise be made on their hearts and lives. - C.
I. SPONTANEITY OF SPIRIT. "Ye shall offer at your own will" (verse 19); "when ye will offer... offer it at your own will" (verse 29). There is a wilfulness in worship which is blamable (Colossians 2:23); but there is a willingness, a "cheerfulness in giving," which is peculiarly acceptable unto God. The service which is rendered of necessity, under strong constraint and against the inclination of the spirit, has the least virtue, if, indeed, it have any at all. That which proceeds from a heart in fullest sympathy with the act, delighting to do the will of God (Psalm 40:8), is well pleasing unto him.
II. COMPARATIVE EXCELLENCY. "Ye shall offer... a male without blemish.... whatsoever hath a blemish, that shall ye not offer: for it shall not be acceptable for you," etc. (verses 19-22). If the Hebrew worshipper brought that creature from flock or herd which, as being blemished, was least valuable, he did that which was offensive rather than acceptable. He put his Creator and Redeemer (verse 33) in the second place, and his own material interests in the first place. He was to bring his best to the holiest. We, too, must avoid this fatal error - must rise to this spiritual height. We must not put off our Redeemer with that which we shall miss the least - in kind, in substance, in time; we must bring to his altar the sweetness, the strength, and the beauty of all that we have to bring; we must reserve the choice treasures for his hand of love. So far as may be in a world of imperfection, our offering to a Divine Saviour "shall be perfect to be accepted" (verse 21).
III. REGARD FOR A SOLEMN PLEDGE. Absolute perfection, the positively whole and unblemished animal, might be difficult, or in some cases impossible, to secure. Hence some relaxation from the rule was allowed in the case of the free-will offering. But in the redemption of a vow no such departure was permitted (verse 23). Any vow which was made unto God was considered to be in the last degree obligatory (Deuteronomy 23:21, 22; Ecclesiastes 5:4, 5; Psalm 76:11). When "God's vows are upon us," when we stand pledged before him
(1) to discharge certain functions, or
(2) to abstain from certain evils or perils,
we should feel that we are bound with peculiarly strong bonds to make our sacrifice, of whatever kind it be, in its fulness and integrity.
IV. ABSENCE OF IMPURITY. (Verse 20; see Leviticus 7:15-18.)
V. PREFERENCE OF THE DIVINE WILL TO HUMAN GRATIFICATION. "Strangers" might bring their offerings to the house of the Lord. It was a pleasing and gratifying firing to witness the stranger bringing his bountiful tribute to the altar of Jehovah. It gratified the national feeling. But nothing might be accepted from the foreigner which was not worthy to be laid on the altar of the Holy One of Israel. His will to receive only unblemished offerings must outweigh their readiness or eagerness to receive outside testimony to the excellency of their institutions. We may be too eager to welcome the tribute of the stranger; we must require of him that he worship in sincerity and purity. The honour and the will of God should be more to us than the passing gratification we gain from any source whatever. Whatever we lose, he must be honoured and obeyed. - C.
I. WITH RESPECT TO THE SACRIFICES.
1. These must be the animals prescribed.
(1) Clean creatures. To offer swine upon God's altar would be an outrageous insult to his purity. It would be figuratively equivalent to asking his acceptance and approval of passions and conduct the most filthy and loathsome. To attempt to foreshadow in the sacrifice of a hog the sacrifice of Christ would be against the most sacred propriety a horrible blasphemy.
(2) Clean creatures of kinds specially selected by God. These are "of the beeves, of the sheep, or of the goats" (verse 19). The roebuck and the hart are clean creatures, but not of the kinds selected, so, however they may be fitted to represent saints, viewed under particular aspects, they were too wild and intractable to be made fit emblems of Christ.
2. They must be individuals without blemish.
(1) They must be free from disease. Therefore, if they have "scurvy," or a "wen," or a "running scab," which are symptoms of a diseased state of the blood, they are pronounced unfit. For disease is generally taken as an emblem of sin, and in this sense the reason should be understood, "because their corruption is in them" (verse 25).
(2) There must be no natural deformity, such as having any part too much extended, or, on the other hand, too much contracted. "We are shapen in iniquity." From our birth we are marred with moral deformities. But not so Jesus. He was in his birth the "holy thing."
(3) They must have no acquired blemish - no blindness, lameness, fracture, or mutilation of any kind. By actual transgression we have fallen upon moral disasters. But Christ "fulfilled all righteousness," and must not be foreshadowed by any imperfect creature.
(4) The same perfection was required in the sacrifice that was required in the priests. The best service and the best sacrifice should be given to the best Being (see Malachi 1:8, 12-14). The priest and the sacrifice were alike types of the same Lord Jesus, our Priest and Sacrifice.
(5) But who is to judge of the fitness of the victim? The Jews say the sagan, or suffragan high priest, had to determine this. Now, Annas sustained that office under Caiaphas, and he accordingly sent Jesus bound to Caiaphas, viz. as a Sacrifice fit to be offered (see John 18:12-14, 24). The offerer also had to pass his judgment upon the creature he selects from his herd or flock. If Pilate be viewed as a representative person in this capacity, we hear him say," I find no fault in this man." But God himself is the ultimate Judge; and has he not emphatically approved of Christ? (See Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:5; John 12:28.)
3. Blemished creatures may be given as free-will offerings.
(1) These were not prescribed in the Law, though permitted. They were things which piety might add to what was essential. They were not types of Christ, so they might be imperfect.
(2) Piety will give to God the most perfect thing she possesses when she would acknowledge his worthiness to be honoured. But she would also express with humility the imperfection of her best services, and this she might do most appropriately in the offering of a blemished oblation.
(3) But when the free-will offering is for a vow, then an imperfect thing will not be accepted. In this case the offering is prescribed in the Law because it is beyond the power of the offerer to retract (see Acts 5:4). And the sacrifice for a vow was a figure of Christ, who is pledged in the covenant of our redemption (see Psalm 22:25; Psalm 40:6, 7).
II. WITH RESPECT TO THEIR OFFERING.
1. They may not be offered till after the eighth day.
(1) For this there was a reason of humanity. The creature must remain "seven days under the dam." The Laws of God are framed to inculcate kindliness and tenderness of heart.
(2) It has also a reason of health. For the animal is scarcely formed in the first week of its life. Its hair and its hook are not grown. It is not wholesome food.
(3) But the typical reasons are the more important. The "eighth day" was that upon which circumcision took place. The import of both rites, that of circumcision and that of sacrifice, is the same. Both represent the cutting off of the Holy Seed out of the land of the living, to secure the blessings of the covenant to men. The Jews say that the eighth day was specified so that a sabbath must be included, for that "the sabbath sanctifies all things." No doubt, when the great sabbath of the eighth day arrives, which is that of the new heavens and earth, all things in that state will be sanctified. That state will be the consummation of the blessings of the covenant.
2. An animal and its young may not be killed the same day.
(1) This law respects fowls as well as larger creatures (see Deuteronomy 22:6). It inculcates tenderness of heart.
(2) But it has also a gospel import. It teaches that utter desolation is inconsistent with the idea of atonement. Life is spared because life is sacrificed. The death of Christ is vicarious; it is for the life of the world.
3. It should be eaten the same day on which it is killed.
(1) The moral here is that we must not delay to avail ourselves of the benefits of redemption in Christ. On the morrow (verse 30) it may be too late.
(2) On the third day it will be certainly too late (see Leviticus 7:15; Leviticus 19:6, 7). The third day, or age, is that of our resurrection (see Hosea 6:2). If we neglect salvation until then, it cannot be realized. Let us improve the opportunities of our probation.
4. They should be offered devoutly.
(1) The Name of God must not be profaned. God's Name is hallowed by keeping his commandments (verses 31, 32). The Name of God will be hallowed when his kingdom is come, for then his will shall be done upon earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:9, 10).
(2) He is to be recognized as our Redeemer. "I am the Lord which hallow you, that brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God." That redemption was only a figure of the great redemption through which God hallows his people in truth, of which also the oblations of the Law were figures. This is never to be forgotten. - J.A.M.
1. That the human spirit is never too young to be offered to God, whether
(1) in parental devotion or
(2) in self-dedication (verse 27).
2. That two generations of the same family may offer themselves simultaneously to the service of God. Parent and child have not unfrequently made profession, in the same hour, of attachment to Christ, and have simultaneously "given themselves unto the Lord." But the main lesson to be learnt is the culture of kindness. This was the end of the Divine precept. There would be an apparent ruthlessness in taking away the young immediately from its dam, and also in slaying mother and offspring together on the same day. Therefore these acts must be avoided. Everything should be done to foster kindness of heart, considerateness of feeling, as well as justice, purity, righteousness of life. The culture of kindness is an act of piety. It is well to consider -
I. THE TWO SPHERES IN WHICH IT SHOULD BE EXHIBITED.
1. The human world: the home; the social circle; mankind at large.
2. The animal world. Everything that has life has feeling, and has a claim on our considerateness. We may add to its pleasure or may multiply its pain; may prolong or shorten life.
II. THE TWO MOTIVES BY WHICH WE SHOULD BE ACTUATED.
1. The inherent; excellency of kindness. Unkindness is a shameful, shocking, deteriorating thing; kindness is intrinsically beautiful, admirable.
2. The will of God. These his laws (and see Deuteronomy 22:6; Deuteronomy 25:4) are an indication of his will; and we may be sure it is the will of him who creates and sustains sentient life that his human children should be kind to the dumb creatures of his thought and skill.
III. THE TWO SOURCES OF CULTIVATION.
1. That of our own minds. We must impress on ourselves that it is no less a tyrannical and cruel thing to use our great power to oppress the feeble creatures at our feet than it would be for others of vastly superior size and strength to our own to oppress and injure us. We must remind ourselves of those obvious considerations which will foster kind feelings and. restrain from hurtful actions.
2. That of those who teach us. The parents and teachers of youth who do not inculcate kindness toward the feeble, whether of the animal or the human world, sadly neglect their duty to their charge. Young people may grow up ignorant of languages or sciences, and they may yet be admirable and useful men and women; but those who have not learnt to hate cruelly and to admire kindness will have a blot on their character which no attainments will hide. - C.