Leviticus 21 - the big points
1) The priests of God are held to a higher standard. As people who are responsible for a nation they had an important role to play.
2) Be holy for I am holy. There's a lot of emphasis on sanctification as it relates to the priest and his family.
3) The reason for holiness: Yahweh is not like any other god and He deserves a level of holiness that idols don't.
A priest was not allowed to defile himself for the dead except for close relatives. Even then there were – guidelines. The priests were not allowed to follow the practices of the pagans – that meant no shaving of the beard or any bald spots.
It meant not cutting your flesh or getting tattoos for the dead. Jehovah does not want His people to follow the practices of the world.
What I love about this passage is that it is a reflection of the instructions given to the “ordinary people” in Leviticus 19:27-29. What God was telling us is that His priests were not exempt from following the rules. If anything – they had stricter regulations to follow.
The priests were also prohibited from marrying a non-virgin or an outsider. His children had to follow a higher standard as well. The whole point of this is:
God is holy so His priests must be holy. The priests’ family must be holy.
Let’s put it this way: we expect our church leaders, our world leaders and their families to act differently – one would even say “better” than the rest of the population. It’s the same concept here. And I know you’re thinking, “Yes, yes all good points; but where’s the grace?”
Well, here it is: verses 17 to 21 basically say that if a Levi had any physical imperfection or handicap he would not be able to serve as an anointed priest.
At first glance that sounds really harsh. But the truth is the priests represented God to the people and the people to God. God is perfect and He cannot be represented by an imperfect thing or person.
Similarly, for us to come into His presence, we have to be perfect. That was one of the points of the sacrifices.
If a man has a defect, he cannot offer the bread unto the Lord but – and it’s a big one -
But he could eat the holy and most holy things that were reserved for the priests. Did you get that? God still wanted to have fellowship with this “imperfect” man.
He still gave him freely of the portion that was His. God took care of him. And that just smacks of grace. Wonderful grace of a matchless God.
Father, we don’t deserve it but You show us time and again that You desire to have fellowship with us. Thank You for pursuing us and loving us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.