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Leviticus 21-24

by Chuck Smith

Shall we turn now to Leviticus, chapter twenty-one?

As we have often told you, a priest had a two-fold function. First he was to stand before God representing the people, bringing their offerings before the Lord, and there standing before God for the people. Then he would come out and he would stand before the people, for God. He was the people’s representative to God; he was God’s representative to the people. He was a go-between. Thus, the priest was a special kind of an individual.

Even as in the New Testament there were special rules for the bishops, lifestyles that they had to adopt in order to be a bishop in the church. Certain rules that applied to the bishop that didn’t apply to all the others within the church, because his life was to be exemplary. As Paul said to Timothy, “Be thou an example unto the believer” (1 Timothy 4:12). It is never a very effective leader who said, “Now do as I say”. The truly effective leader will say, “Now do as I do,” setting the example. Thus, the priest as God’s representative was to be a special kind of person.

So in chapter twenty-one, God gives some of the special aspects of the priests and of the priesthood.

Now they were not to defile themselves for the dead among the people (21:1):

Now if a person died and you touched the dead body, you were considered unclean. Ceremonially you could not enter unto God until that day was over, until sundown. Then you’d have to take a bath and then you could come into the tabernacle. But for ceremonial purposes, approaching God purposes, you couldn’t do it; you were unclean. Now the priest was never to touch a dead body of anyone except those of his own immediate family; that is, a mother, a father, a son, a daughter, or those of his immediate family, lest he would defile himself with a ceremonial uncleanness.

So that’s what this is pertaining to in the first part in the twenty-first chapter, of those that he could touch.

his sister who was a virgin, that is near to him, who has no husband; But he will not defile himself, being a chief man among his people, to profane himself. Neither should they make any baldness upon their heads, [That is in a taking of a vow. Many times people would shave their heads. A priest was not to take that kind of a vow. He wasn’t to get the Hari Krishna look.] and neither shall they shave off the corner of their beards, nor make any cuttings in their flesh (21:3-5).

In other words, his body was to be a rather unblemished kind of body. He wasn’t to defile his body or to mark up his body, because really the priest was standing before God. Standing before God, God wanted the fellow to be whole and sound, and not weird looking and so these are the requirements.

They shall be holy [Or separated, the word holy is actually separated] unto their God, and not profane the name of their God: for the offerings of the Lord are made by fire. Now they shall not take a wife who was a whore, or profane; neither shall they take a woman who has been put away from her husband: [He was not to marry a divorced woman.] He is to be set apart; for he offers bread to God: [because the Lord said] I the Lord, which sanctify you, am holy. Now the daughter of any priest, if she would defile herself then she was to be burned with fire. And when the high priest had the anointing oil poured on him, then he was not to defile himself for any dead body, he wasn’t to touch any dead body as long as the anointing oil was upon him, not even of his father, or mother; [Again dealing with a wife] He was to take a virgin of the children of Israel as a wife (21:6-14).

Now there were certain things physically that could disqualify a person from the priesthood, and God deals with the physical disqualifications.

If any man has any blemish, he shall not approach God, that is a priest can not be blind, or lame, or have a flat nose, or anything that is superfluous, [You couldn’t have any weird growth on your body,] or a man that is brokenfooted, or brokenhanded, Or crookbacked, or a dwarf, he that has a blemish in his eye, or scurvy, or scabbed, cannot really approach unto God. No man that has a blemish of the seed of Aaron the priest shall come nigh to offer the offerings of the Lord (21:17-21):

So the physical disqualifications for those who would approach God.


Chapter 22

Now in the twenty-second chapter he deals with the priests and the things that they could eat. You see the things that were brought in sacrifice; a portion of them became meat for the priest. So the qualifications now are the rules regarding the sacrifices that he ate, only the priest and his family could eat them. They were not to give them out to strangers, or if he had company, he wasn’t to offer to the company the food that had been offered as a sacrifice to God, that was his portion as a priest. If he had a daughter who was divorced from her husband, and had moved back home, then she could eat it. Yet, it was only to be eaten by him and his immediate family. If he hired a servant, the hired servants couldn’t eat that food. But if he had purchased a slave, the purchased slave being a part of the household could eat then that food. So the various persons that could eat the food that belonged to the priest, as his part from the sacrifices that were made.

Then in verse seventeen, God is talking now about when you make a sacrifice unto the Lord. And when you give something unto God, that what you give is, first of all again, of your own free will, but you’re not to offer unto God any kind of animal that has a blemish. In other words, you weren’t to take your animals that were of no value and give them to God. God didn’t want the cast-offs. “Well, we don’t know what to do with it. We might as well give it to God.” God didn’t want it.

In years of ministry we have received just a lot of interesting kinds of things that people didn’t find any use for anymore. But they didn’t want to throw it away, and so we had one ugly, old rocking chair in the parsonage in Tucson. These people didn’t want it in their home because it was so old and ugly, but they didn’t want to throw it away because it was grandma’s rocking chair. She rocked all the kids in that chair before she died, and so it had a lot of sentimental value. So they gave it to the church, but we can’t give it away because it was grandma’s. You know it’s got to be out there, and it’s a mess to try to deal with those kinds of things. God didn’t want to be bothered, want the priest to hassle with those kinds of things, He said, “Look if it’s broken, if it’s blemished, don’t give it to God.” I think that’s a good rule. I think it’s sort of an affront to God to give Him something that has really no value to us.

In fact, you remember when David wanted to buy the threshing floor of Ornan in order to offer a sacrifice, and he wanted to buy the ox that was there. Ornan said, “Hey I’ll give it to you David.” David said, “Oh no, I won’t sacrifice to God that which cost me nothing.” David had very strong feelings about that. “I’m not going to give to God something that didn’t cost me anything.” So God here declares that, “when you offer to God a burnt offering and all, it shall be without blemish”.

And whatever has a blemish you’re not to offer it, for it will not be accepted by God. It shall be perfect [verse twenty-one] to be accepted; there shall be no blemish therein. Therefore if you have an old blind lamb, or broken down ox, or maimed, or if it has a disease, or scurvy, or scabbed, don’t offer those to the Lord to make an offering by fire. Or any bullock or lamb that has any thing superfluous or lacking in his parts, [That is, if it was born a freak kind of an animal with two heads or something like that, you weren’t to offer it to God.] now you may offer it for a freewill offering if you want, but not for a vow because God won’t accept the vow. So ye shall not offer unto the Lord that which is bruised, crushed, broken, or cut; neither shall you make any offering thereof in your land. Neither from a stranger’s hand (22:20-25)

In other words, God just isn’t interested in broken down, scurried things to be offered to Him.

I read a story one time of a farmer who came into his wife all excited, and as he sat down, he said, “Well, a cow calved this morning and they’re twins. I’m just so excited I decided to give one of them to the Lord. So we’ll raise them together, and when they get old enough or big enough to sell, then one of them is the Lord’s, and whatever comes from it we’ll just give to the Lord.” So she said, “Oh that’s fine, honey. I think that’s a wonderful idea.” So she went out and looked at them, and she said, “Oh that’s great, now which one’s the Lord’s?” He said, “Oh, it really doesn’t make any difference.” So a few months went on, and he came in one morning. He wasn’t looking so good, she said, “What’s wrong?” He said, “Oh, the Lord’s calf died.”

I’m afraid that quite often we are like that with the Lord. We want to give of our surplus. You remember how Jesus was standing with His disciples one day, watching the people as they dropped their money in the treasury. The wealthy people were coming in and making their big ostentatious donations. In the crowd a little woman, widow woman came with a mite. Now there are ten mites to a penny. She dropped a mite into the treasury. Jesus turned to His disciples, and said, “She just put in the biggest gift of all.” “What do you mean Lord?” He said, “The rest of them were giving out of their abundance”, in other words it didn’t cost them anything to give, “but this woman has given of her very sustenance.”

So God doesn’t really measure your gift by the amount of what you have given. The measure that God puts on your giving is, “What did it cost you to give to God? What did it cost you?” That’s what God is looking at. Not at the amount of the gift. That’s never a consideration with God. Therefore some of the poorest of you will have the greatest rewards in heaven, who have given to God out of your very sustenance. Some of those who have made these large, great contributions to God will hardly be noticed in heaven. Because it didn’t hurt them, didn’t cost them, they just gave out of their abundance. It wasn’t costing them anything. In fact, it was a good tax write-off. So in giving to God, free will always, of his own will always. But then giving God the best, not the cast-offs, not that which you can’t use anymore, not that which really has no value to you, “Let’s give it to God” kind of a thing. But honoring God, showing our love to God, giving God the best that we have. It’s important indeed.


Chapter 23

Chapter twenty-three, God outlines the various holidays, the feast days for the children of Israel. First of all in the first three verses, God deals with the Sabbath day once more.

The seventh day is a sabbath day of rest, a holy convocation; you shall not do any work: it is the sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings. [Now there are seven feasts that are listed here.] On the fourteenth day of the first month [The month of April in the Jewish calendar, the fourteenth day] is the Lord’s passover. [So then is when the Passover feast was celebrated, the fourteenth day of the first month.] And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the Lord: [So the fourteenth day is Passover, then the next day begins a seven day feast period of unleavened bread in which they were to cleanse their house of all leavened bread, and they were to have this week of vacation, resting, feasting unto the Lord They’re not to do any work during that week’s time. So they were vacations, actually.] And the Lord spake unto Moses saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, [verse ten] when you’ve come into the land that I’ve given it unto you, and you shall reap the harvest thereof, then shall ye bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: And he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it. And ye shall offer that day when ye wave the sheaf of the he lamb without blemish of the first year a burnt offering unto the Lord. And the meal offering [and they tell how it should be given] and the drink offering (23:3-6, 9-14)

So this was the offering of firstfruits unto God, which was separate from the Feast of Pentecost. But this was just bringing to God when they come into the land, the firstfruits of the harvest. The firstfruits belonging to God and recognizing that the firstfruits are God’s, not the leftovers, but that which is first.

Then God deals with the Passover Feast.

And then you shall count from the day after the sabbath [That is the final sabbath of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.] that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering; for seven sabbaths shall be complete: Even on the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer the new meal offering unto the Lord. And ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: and they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked [notice] with leaven (23:15-17);

Now each of these feasts had its fulfillment in Jesus Christ, and in the church, and in the New Testament. Of course, the Feast of the Passover, we have no problem with that, Christ becoming our Passover, Christ the bread of life, unleavened, so the Feast of the Unleavened Bread.

Then we have the Feast of Pentecost of fifty days. Interestingly enough, the bread is to have leaven; offer the whole loaf leavened. Now the Feast of Pentecost was the foreshadowing of the church actually, so it was significant that in Acts chapter two, when the day of Pentecost was fully come, the disciples were gathered together in one accord, in one place. And suddenly there was a noise from heaven that sounded like a mighty rushing wind. And there were cloven tongues of fire that sat upon each of them, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them the ability, or prompted their speech. So the descent of the Holy Spirit, the birth of the church was foreshadowed by the Feast of Pentecost, which was really the ingathering of the firstfruits unto the Lord. Which on the day of Pentecost, the first of the multitude that were to be saved through the preaching of the gospel and through the ministry of the church were brought in. Some three thousand souls were added to the church that day, that was the firstfruit.

Now Jesus knew that His church would never be perfect or pure. He gave parables that indicated this, and God knew it in the Old Testament. That’s why the loaves were to have leaven in them, because leaven is always a symbol of sin actually. So in this offering, which was a foreshadowing of the church, there was leaven in it. Don’t let anybody tell you that the church history is pure, it isn’t; it’s horrible. That’s one reason why I’m glad I’m not really related to any human, organized effort called a church, because I don’t have to answer for the corrupt history of the church. Believe me, its history is corrupt. I blush when I read of some of the things that the Popes have done in the past. If they made movies out of them they would be worse than Hollywood has come out with yet. The history of the church is not pure. God knew that there would be a corrupting influence in the church.

Jesus gave parables of the kingdom of heaven, and people have misinterpreted these parables, completely twisting them around. For instance, Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a woman hiding a bit of leaven in the meal, and in the loaf”, you know making her dough, putting a bit of leaven in it, “until the whole loaf is leavened” (Matthew 13:3). “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that is very small, and yet it grew up into a great tree, and the birds of the air came and nested in it” (Matthew 13:31-32), and people found shelter in the shade underneath.

So there were those theologians that interpreted those parables as being wonderful. The church was the leaven in the loaf, which was the world, and the church is going to gradually bring its good influence until the whole world is going to be converted. The church was the mustard seed planted in the world growing up into a great tree that everything can find shelter underneath. It was going to just cover the earth and shelter all men and they would all be benefited by the shade. But wherever you find birds in the Scripture, you find them in an evil sense, “where birds were lodging in its branches”. Unfortunately, there have been a lot of birds lodging in the branches of the church.

Now the Lord knew that the church’s history wasn’t going to be pure, wasn’t going to be ideal; and thus, even in the preshadowing of the church in the Old Testament, God had them make loaves. Now it isn’t just sheaf the wheat, but now it is baked in a loaf which is a cohesive kind of a unit, but yet it has the leaven within it as it’s offered to God. So the feast of Pentecost.

Then God gave a special little rule in verse twenty-two, which I find very fascinating.

When you reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when you reap, neither shall you gather any gleaning of your harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: for I am Jehovah your God (23:22).

So the welfare program in the state of Israel was a very interesting welfare program. It wasn’t a give-away. If you were poor, what you could always do is go and gather from the corners of the field. The people in the harvesting of their fields weren’t to harvest the corners. Also, they weren’t to go back through the second time for gleaning purposes. When they went through and picked the apricots or the peaches or whatever, once through that was it. Whatever was left, whatever wasn’t ripe in the first pickings had to be left on the tree for the poor people to come in and gather. So the gleaners who would go in and gather after the harvesters. And thus, it was a welfare program for the poor people in the land, and the strangers; I feel a very excellent welfare program.

I notice that after they thresh the beans around here, that you’ll see sometimes people going through and picking up the beans in the fields out here. I used to do that every year when I was a child. We had right behind our house a walnut orchard, and they always planted beans between the trees. We would go out and gather several quarts of beans when we were kids. Then we’d have those neat baked lima beans in the wintertime. Then my hands were always black because I’d go out after the harvesters, cause they always went through the walnut crop twice, but after the second time through, then whatever was left was ours. We were kids; we used to get a gunnysack of walnuts every year, sort of gleaning after them. A very excellent provision that God put in the law that they weren’t to glean their fields. They were to leave that for the poor in the land.

Now we continue with the feast in verse twenty-three, or verse twenty-four.

In the seventh month, the first day of the month, there shall be a memorial of the blowing of the trumpets, a holy convocation. [You weren’t to do any work on that day. Again it was just a holiday, the first day of the seventh month, because it marked actually the most holy month of the calendar, the Blowing of the Trumpets.] And then on the tenth day of the seventh month shall be the day of atonement: [Yom Kippur the day that the priest was to make an offering before the Lord for the sins of the people. And then also in the seventh month they were to have the feast of tabernacles] (23:24, 27-28).

Now in verse thirty-two God is talking about this Yom Kippur.

It shall be unto you a sabbath of rest, ye shall afflict your souls: in the ninth day of the month at even, and from even unto even, ye shall celebrate your sabbath (23:32).

That is why the Jews celebrate and count days not from midnight, they count days from sundown to sundown. So they celebrate their Sabbaths from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. Then Saturday night the big sort of a celebration. They all take to the streets. They have street dances and everybody’s cruising on their feet up and all walking up and down the streets. In fact, it’s so crowded that you just have a hard time. It takes almost an hour to walk a block. You’re just moving with the people but it’s just everybody’s out on Saturday night, because the Sabbath is now over. But this is where they get it. They were to celebrate “from even to even”. They were to start on the evening on the ninth day, and they were to celebrate through the evening of the tenth day. So their day began at sundown and begins at sundown.

Now the Feast of Tabernacles was to take place on the fifteenth day of the seventh month. The tenth day was to be Yom Kippur, the first day, the Blowing of Trumpets. You’re announcing, “This is the holy month”, being the seventh month. On the first day of the Feast of the Tabernacles there was to be a holy convocation, not to do any work, on the eighth day a holy convocation. So the Feast of Tabernacles went for eight days that whatever day the Sabbath fell on was in that period, but also there were two extra Sabbaths. The first day of the feast and the last day of the feast were always Sabbath days, and considered as the Sabbath where there was no work to be done and to be observed just as any Sabbath day is observed.

Now at this Feast of Tabernacles this was a feast, which was a memorial to remind them of how God preserved their fathers through the forty years of wandering in the wilderness. So during this feast in the latter portion of the chapter, they were to build little booths. They were to move out of the house and live in these booths for the eight days of this feast. After you come in the land, you build houses and so forth, then you’re to build these little booths beside your house. And you’re to move into these booths and live in them for these eight days just to remind yourself of the hardships that your ancestors went through when they were coming out of Egypt, and coming into this land that God had promised unto them. So it was going back to rugged living for one week out of the year. I imagine the kids really had a great time with that. I don’t suppose the parents appreciated it too much, but it was probably an exciting adventure, just like kids like to sleep out in tents and all. So they would make these booths and move out during this particular feast.


Chapter 24

Now the beginning of chapter twenty-four, God commands them to bring olive oil so that they might keep the lamps burning continually in the tabernacle.

Then God explains the shew bread. He gives the formula by which it should be made, and how it should be laid out in two rows of six upon the golden table there in the tabernacle. How it was to be changed once a week. The bread that was then being removed was to be eaten only by the priest. It was a holy bread because it had stood there before the Lord. Each loaf representing one of the tribes of Israel. Then after the week of sitting there on the table it was to be eaten by the priest.

Now a situation arose in verse ten where there was an Isrealitesh woman, who had an Egyptian husband, and her son was in a fight. While he was in this fight, he blasphemed the holy name of Jehovah, in cursing this fellow. Several people heard him, and they reported it to Moses. And so he was arrested and he was put in jail until they could get the mind of the Lord on what should be done concerning him.

Now this to me is interesting. Here is a situation that has arisen, “What shall we do?” So they put him in the jail until they could determine what God wanted to be done. So they waited upon God, that God would direct what should be done concerning this man who had blasphemed the name of Jehovah. They put him in the ward, which is the jail that the mind of the Lord might be shown unto them. I like that, waiting upon God.

You know, I think one of the facets of the early church that made it so successful is that they were actually so yielded to the direction of the Holy Spirit. They looked to the Holy Spirit for guidance in all things. I think that one of the great weaknesses of the church today is that we think that we know everything. After all, we’ve been to seminary, and we’ve been educated, and we’ve taken our best minds to develop all of these church programs, and surely we can work it out now in committees. After all you’ve got efficient committees, why do you need the Holy Spirit? We really don’t look to the Holy Spirit anymore for guidance and direction. So often we move impulsively. But the early church was governed and guided by the Holy Spirit.

So Paul said, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us”. We read that the Holy Spirit said, “Separate unto me Paul and Barnabas for the ministry wherein I’ve called them”(Acts 13:2). We see how the Holy Spirit was directing the activities for the early church. I believe that that is one of the keys to the success of the early church. I think when we come to the place where we can confess, “God, I don’t know how. I don’t have the answers. Lord, we need Your help.” We start seeking again the guidance of the Holy Spirit to direct its functions and the activities of the church; we’re going to see again the power of God working in His church. I love it that they would wait to get the mind of the Lord. Oh what is the mind of the Lord in this situation?

I’m convinced that God is desiring to reach each community with His love with a message of salvation. Not only is He desiring to reach each community, I’m convinced that God has a plan to reach each community. I think in going into a community, the most important thing is to get the mind of the Lord, “What is God’s plan to reach this community?” I think that we make a mistake when we try to develop a plan that would be a national plan because each community has its own individual little characteristics, but yet I believe that God has a plan to reach each community. And what we need is to be open to the plan of God, to get into harmony with what God is wanting to do. Because that’s all that God is looking for, people who are in harmony with what He is desiring to do. “For the eyes of the Lord go to and fro throughout the entire earth to shew Himself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are perfect towards Him.” Looking for people whose hearts are in tune with what He is wanting, in order that He might invest in them His power to reach out into that community.

So I am really not behind the national programs of evangelism as such or worldwide programs thinking that we have one program that’s going to be adaptable for the whole world. I think that we need to seek the mind of the Lord in each community in each area. We notice that Paul didn’t follow a pattern in going into new communities. He went in to sort of feel the thing out. He got the feel of it before he began his ministry. Some of them he went into the synagogue, some of them he just started talking to people on the street. Getting the mind of Christ, so vital.

So they got the mind of the Lord. The Lord said, “Those that heard the guy swear, take him out of the camp, let them put their hands upon his head, and then let people stone him to death.” Blaspheming the name of Jehovah.

Then God went on to say,

If any man kills any man [verse seventeen] he shall surely be put to death. If you kill another man’s beast, you’re to make it good; beast for beast. If you cause a blemish in your neighbour; as he has done, so shall it be done to him; Breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth: as he has caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be done to him. He that kills a beast, he shall restore it: and he that kills a man, he shall be put to death. Ye shall have one law that is operating, whether a person be a stranger, or one of your own country men (24:17-22):

In other words, there was not to be any kind of favoritism shown in the justice system, one law for all. I think that that’s the greatest weakness of our judicial system today is that there isn’t one law for all. It all depends on which judge you’re standing before, and it all depends on what kind of a mood he’s in. Whether you get a six-month suspended sentence or five years of hard labor. The judge has just had a big fight with his wife and is angry and upset; man, he’s liable to really lay it on you. If it’s getting close to Christmas time, he might be in a jovial mood and say, “Oh well”, you know. The sentence; that isn’t real justice. That’s the problem with our judicial system. If you’re very wealthy and can afford the great attorneys and all then you can get off. It’s not fair; it’s not right. I do not believe in our system of justice today.

I think that there’s much lacking in our whole judicial processes. They need much improvement. It would be well if we had a governor who was wise enough to make decent appointments. Well, I mean when his appointees are calling up and making obscene telephone calls to people, and when they are growing marijuana in their own yard, and when they’re avowed homosexuals, what can you hope for? How can you expect there to be a true system of justice? I’m going to move on cause I could get in trouble real quick. Now it’s interesting when the law says “breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth”, et cetera. That Jesus said, “Now you heard that it hath been said, eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth”(Matthew 5:38), so forth. But I say unto you the law of Christ is love, forgiveness, the better part is that of love and forgiving. God help us. But because we are not all able to come up to the standard of Jesus Christ, there are limitations that have been placed and it should never be more than a breech for a breech, never more than an eye for an eye, never more than a tooth for a tooth. “You knocked out my tooth? Let me give you a tooth sandwich brother.” You know you don’t want to just hit one, you want to get his, you know, the mouthful if you can. We want to take revenge over and beyond, and so the limitations were put. But even better than that is the forgiving love. “Oh well what difference does it make?” God help us to come to the standard of Jesus Christ.

Chuck Smith

Pastor Chuck Smith began his ministry at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, in 1965, with just twenty-five people.