Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament book of Leviticus which was written and recorded by Moses the servant of the Lord. More specifically, today’s passage is found chapters twenty-one through twenty-four of this Old Testament book. I AM THE LORD! I AM THE LORD YOUR GOD! I AM THE LORD YOUR GOD WHO BROUGHT YOU UP OUT OF EGYPT! I AM THE LORD WHICH HALLOW YOU! I THE LORD DO SANCTIFY THEM! FOR I THE LORD, WHICH SANCTIFY YOU, AM HOLY! I THE LORD YOUR GOD AM HOLY! FOR I AM HOLY! HE SHALL BE HOLY! THEY SHALL BE HOLY UNTO THEIR GOD! THE CROWN OF THE ANOINTING OIL OF HIS GOD IS UPON HIM! THAT HE PROFANE NOT MY SANCTUARIES! THEY SHALL NOT PROFANE THE HOLY THINGS OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL! THEY SHALL NOT PROFANE MY NAME! BLEMISHED PRIESTS! BLEMISHED SACRIFICES! INVITING DEATH! STARING DOWN DEATH! When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will encounter and come face to face with the living God speaking unto Moses concerning the holy priests which ministered before the LORD in His holy sanctuary and before His holy altar. As you read the words which are written and found within the openings verses of the twenty-first chapter you will quickly encounter the strong command given by the LORD concerning the holy priests who ministered before Him and how they dare not be defiled for the dead among their people. It’s actually quite remarkable and astounding when you think about this particular reality, for with these words the living God emphatically declared that except for those of their own kin and those of their own family, the priests who ministered before the altar and in the midst of the holy sanctuary of the living God would defile themselves before the Lord if they came near or came in contact with one who was dead—particularly and especially if that one whom they came near was not an immediate part of their kin and their own family. What causes this to be so incredibly intriguing is when you think about and consider the awesome and wonderful reality that according to the Law of Moses one could defile themselves by drawing and coming near to one who was dead. While in the Old Testament book of Leviticus this is in direct reference to the priests who ministered before the living God, I can’t help but think about the awesome and undeniable fact that for us who are on the other side of the Old Covenant and for us who are under the New Covenant, we have a better priest, and better sacrifices which are offered before the living God. As I sit here this evening and consider the opening words which are found within these verses I can’t help but think about and consider the strong and tremendous reality of Jesus the Christ who is not only a mediator of a better covenant, but also who is the great high priest of this new and better covenant.
If you take the time to read and study the New Testament—and specifically the New Testament epistle which was written unto the Hebrews—you will encounter the awesome and tremendous reality that not only is Jesus the Christ the mediator of a better covenant, but Jesus is also our great high priest who entered into the sanctuary with His own blood, which He presented before the mercy seat of the living God. The New Testament epistle which was written unto the Hebrews is a truly wonderful and remarkable book, for within its pages we come face to face with the reality that this Jesus Christ is a new and living priest of a better covenant and of better sacrifices. In order to understand where I feel the need to take the beginning and opening of this writing, I feel it absolutely necessary that I call and draw your attention to the words found within this New Testament epistle, for there are specific references found within this epistle that shine a great deal of light on to the overwhelming reality that Jesus the Christ is indeed our great high priest and is the mediator of a new and better covenant, and a mediator of a new and better way. In order to truly understand that which I feel is necessary concerning this Jesus who is the high priest, and where I would like to take this concerning the priests and not defiling themselves with and among the dead, I would like to draw and call your attention to chapters seven through ten of this New Testament epistle. It is what we find within these chapters that helps us truly understand how this Jesus the Christ was indeed and still is the great high priest who is the mediator the new Covenant which was purchased by and through His blood which was shed by the Romans, and even shed upon the cross of Calvary. Beginning with the seventh chapter, consider if you will the following words which are found in this New Testament epistle concerning Jesus being our great high priest:
“And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchizedek there ariseth another priest, who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. For there is verily a dismantling of the commandment going before for the weakness and uprofitableness thereof. For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God. And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made a priest: (for those priests were made without an other; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The LORD sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec) by so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament. And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death. But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this He did once, when He offered up himself. For the law make the men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore” (Hebrews 7:15-28).
“Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: we have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the LORD pitched, and not man. For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer. For if He were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law: who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, see, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount. But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises” (Hebrews 8:1-6).
“But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause He is the mediator of the New Testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet would, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you. Moreover, he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry. And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: nor yet that He should offer Himself often as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; for then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (Hebrews 9:11-28).
“For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? Because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more sonic Ece of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take way sins. Wherefore when He cometh into the world, He saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hath thou prepared me: in burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that He may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified though the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And ever priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the LORD, I will put my Lanas into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:1-22).
What I love about what is found in these passages is that they reveal the awesome and incredible reality that Jesus the Christ is not only the mediator of a better covenant, but He is also the mediator of a new and living way. What’s more, is that Jesus the Christ is indeed our great high priest who has made atonement for our sins, and has implemented a new and better covenant with His own blood which was shed more than two thousand years ago. With that being said, it is quite astounding to think about the fact that Jesus the Christ who was indeed and is still today the great high priest of the New Covenant was able to make atonement for our sins, and was able to be a perfect high priest in the sight and presence of the living God. That reality is quite astounding and astonishing when you think about it, for if you study His life and ministry you will find that there were a number of times when He came face to face with death. As you read and study the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ you can and will come face to face with the fact that while priests who ministered before the living God could not defile themselves by coming in contact with the dead who weren’t their kin—Jesus seemed to embrace death. If you read and study the accounts and narrative of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ you will find that not only did He not shy away from and avoid death, but it almost seemed and appeared that He embraced it. I would dare say that not only did death intimidate Jesus, but Jesus was not afraid to draw near to death in order that He might bring forth His abundant and resurrection life into the midst of the realm of death itself. I absolutely love that even before He took and laid hold of the keys of death, hell and the grave—not only did Jesus declare that He was the resurrection and the life, but He also embraced death within and throughout His public life and ministry, and turned back the throws of death. In the Old Testament book of Leviticus, none of the priests who were the anointed ministers of the Lord could defile themselves by coming in contact with death—save death that was found within their own immediate family and among their kin. That which we encounter and come face to face with when reading and studying the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ is that He was not intimidated by death, and He was not afraid to draw near and come unto death in order that He might bestow and restore life. Consider if you will the following narratives and accounts found within the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ which describe His willingness to stare death in the face and draw near to death in order that He might turn it back and overthrow it:
“When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, He groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, and said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept. Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him! And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the yes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died? Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days. Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of GOD? Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up His eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that you hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. And when He thus had spoken, He cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave clothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go” (John 11:33-44).
“And behold, one of the rulers of the synagogue came, Jairus by name. And when he saw Him, he feel at His feet and betted Him earnestly, saying, My little daughter lies at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, that she may be healed, and she will live. So Jesus went with him, and a great multitude followed Him and thronged Him…While He was still speaking some came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house who said, Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further. As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he said to the ruler of the synagogue, Do not be afraid; only believe. And He permitted no one to follow Him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. Then He came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and saw a tumult and those who wept and wailed loudly. When He came in, He said to them, Why make this commotion and weep? The child is not dead, but sleeping. And they ridiculed Him. But when He had put them all outside, He took the father and the mother of the child, and those who were with Him, and entered where the child was lying. Then He took the child by the hand, and said to her, Talitha, cumi, which is translated, Little girl, I say to you, arise. Immediately the girl arose and walked, for she was twelve years of age. And they were overcome with great amazement. But He commanded them strictly that no one should know it, and said something be given her to eat” (Mark 5:22-24, 35-43).
“Now it happened, the day after, that He went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him, and a large crowd. And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, Do not weep. Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, Young man, I say to you, arise. So He who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother. Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, A great prophet has risen up among us, and God has visited His people” (Luke 11-17).
THE PRIEST INVITES THE TOMB TO BE OPENED! THE PRIEST TAKES THE DEAD BY THE HAND! THE PRIEST LAYS HIS HAND ON THE COFFIN OF A DEAD MAN! While the words which we find in the opening verses of the twenty-first chapter reveal how the priests of the LORD weren’t to defile themselves by coming in contact with the dead which weren’t their kin, we find in the narrative and account of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ the living Son of God—not only not being intimidated by death, but also being willing to draw near to it in order that He might turn it back and overthrow it. The three passages which we find before us bring us face to face with a Jesus who was willing to have the tomb of the dead opened that He might speak to that one who was dead. What’s more, is within these three passages we find a Jesus who was willing to take the child which was dead by the hand, and speaking unto her calling her to rise. In the case of the only son of a widow we find Him—not putting His hand upon that one who was dead, but putting His hand upon the coffin and speaking to the dead calling him to rise. It’s interesting and worth noting that when it came to Lazarus, Jesus merely stood outside the tomb and commanded that the stone might be rolled away in order that He could speak to Lazarus and call him who was dead from the midst of the grave and into the land of the living. The case of the daughter of Jairus ruler of the synagogue, as well as the case of the only son of this widow were different from that of Lazarus and Jesus’ standing outside the tomb, for in both of these cases Jesus commanded those which were dead to arise. What’s more, is that not only did Jesus speak to those which were dead and command them to rise, but He also stretched forth His hand to those who were dead. In the one instance Jesus actually took hold of that one who was dead, while in the other case Jesus stretched forth His hand and touched the coffin of that one who was dead. It’s interesting that in each of these cases Jesus called those who were dead to arise, yet in each case there was something distinctive which separated it from the other. In the case of Lazarus, Jesus did not enter into the tomb and bring Lazarus forth from the grave, but commanded the stone be rolled away, and then commanded he who was dead to come forth. In the case of Jairus’ daughter, Jesus actually came to that place where this twelve year old girl was lying and took her by the hand and commanded her to rise. The account of the only son of the widow reveals how Jesus didn’t stretch forth His hand to touch this man who was dead, but rather, He stretched forth His hand to touch the coffin and command this man to arise. Oh how absolutely astonishing and remarkable it is to think about and consider the fact that this High Priest would—while He was upon the earth as the Word made flesh—not only commanded that stones laid in front of tombs be rolled away, but also was willing to stretch forth His hand in order that He might cause those who were dead to rise.
What makes all of this even more intriguing is when you think about and consider the fact that after Jesus had stretched forth His hand to take hold of Jairus’ daughter and commanded her to rise, and after the little girl had risen from the place where she had been lying, Jesus issued a very striking command to the disciples—perhaps even to the parents. If you read the account and narrative within the gospel written by John Mark you will find that Jesus strictly instructed them to speak of this event to no one. The question we must ask is why would Jesus issue such a command. After just commanding this girl who was undoubtedly dead to rise, why would Jesus then command and instruct both the disciples who were with Him, as well as the parents of this child not to speak a word. The more I think about and the more I consider this, the more I can’t help but draw the conclusion that according to the Law of Moses, stretching forth one’s hand to touch one which was dead was a clear violation. The law of Moses had some pretty strong words and language concerning the dead and the response to those which were dead, for coming in contact with one who was dead—let alone deliberately and intentionally touching that one who was dead—would have undoubtedly defiled that one who actually performed and completed the act. I can’t help but get the strong sense that Jesus issued the command to refrain from making known what had happened behind the closed door because it could—and most likely would have been considered a violation of the commands within the law of Moses. What’s more, is that it is quite intriguing that Jesus went into the room where the little girl was and only allowed those disciples who were with Him, as well as the child’s parents to be in the room with Him. Now I don’t believe for a minute that Jesus would have deliberately and intentionally violated the commandment within the law of Moses concerning the dead, however, I do believe that what He did in that room might very well have been considered to be a violation of the law of Moses. Consider how both He and His disciples were already accused on a number of occasions concerning violating the law of Moses. Stretching forth His hand to take hold of this dead girl would have undoubtedly been scrutinized, and undoubtedly there would have been a number of false reports and accusations swirling round about concerning Him. I find it absolutely remarkable and astounding to think about and consider the fact that not only would Jesus lay hold of the keys of death, hell and the grave when He descended into the depths and bowels of Sheol itself, but even before His own death and burial prior to His resurrection, Jesus would stretch forth His hand and take those who were dead by their hand that He might command them to rise. Oh how absolutely wonderful and remarkable this reality is when you think about and consider it in light of what is written and recorded within the twenty-first chapter of the Old Testament book of Leviticus, and the laws concerning the priests and defiling themselves by coming in contact with the dead bodies of anyone who wasn’t their own kin and family.
The more I sit here and the more I was the words which are found within these chapters the more I can’t help but encounter the tremendous language that was spoken by the living God unto Moses concerning the priests of the Lord—those who made the offerings of fire before and unto the living God, and those who ate of the sacred and holy bread. That which we find within these chapters is actually quite remarkable when you take the time to truly think about and consider it, for a bulk of the language that is contained therein deals exclusively and specifically with the priests and their call to be holy and consecrated unto the Lord. If there is one thing I can’t help but think about and consider when I read the words found within these passages it’s that offering the sacrifices of the holy God bu fire and eating of the consecrated and holy bread demanded and required so much more of you than simply ministering before and unto the Lord. We speak a great deal concerning the fact that the Levite’s and priests were called and chosen by the living God to be ministers in His holy sanctuary and ministers of the sacred and holy things, and yet we often Turks fail to understand that ministering in the sacred requires those who do so to be sacred themselves. Those who minister among the holy things of the living God must themselves be holy in the sight of the living God. Those who minister among the hallowed things of God must themselves be hallowed before and in the sight of the living God. We dare not, we cannot and must not miss this absolutely incredible reality, for it wasn’t merely enough to present the offerings of God made by fire, nor was it enough to partake of that which is holy and consecrated unto the living God, for such realities required and demanded a personal holiness which could not be altered in any way. It would be very easy to think about and consider the fact that those who ministered before and around the altar could do so simply because they were called and chosen by the living God, and yet what we encounter within these verses is that it was possible for the priests, and for those who ministered within the sanctuary of the living God to define and pollute themselves. If these passages point to and reveal one thing and one theme, it’s that ministry of and ministry with the sacred and holy things required a deep and personal holiness before and in the sight of the living God. Ministry in the midst of the sanctuary requires a deep and personal holiness which was to be found within the hearts and lives of those who ministered within the sanctuary and those who ministered in the holy things. MINISTRY WITH THE HOLY THINGS DEMANDS AND REQUIRES HOLINESS! With that being said we must also recognize and understand the tremendous reality that ministry of the holy things of the living God before His people required a very distinct separation and conservation of the priests and those who ministered in the sanctuary of the Lord their God. We dare not, we cannot, we must not miss and lose sight of this awesome and incredible reality, for to do so would be to miss that which is found within these verses and chapters concerning the sacred and holy priests.
SACRED THINGS, SACRED PRIESTS! HOLY THINGS, HOLY PRIESTS! That which we find within these chapters must be carefully and completely understood, and the words contained therein must not be quickly glanced over and quickly dismissed. It would be very easy to read the words which are found within these chapters and to allow ourselves to think that such language was for the priests of the Old Testament and were under the old covenant, and yet I am completely and utterly convinced that nothing could be further from the truth. There is absolutely nothing more dangerous than to read the words found within chapters such as this and to think that there is no application for us who live in this generation and are separated by several millennia from the priests of the Old Testament. There would be those who would read the words found within these chapters and verses and who automatically and quickly move past them without taking the time to truly think about and consider how the language contained therein directly applies and speaks to them. The language we find within these chapters is of such a wonderful and powerful nature that it must be considered by any one man or woman who seeks to walk with and follow the living God. If you read the words found in these chapters you will find time and time again the living God not only making the declaration that it was He who sanctified and made the priests of the living God holy, but the living God also called those who ministered before and unto Him to consecrate and sanctify themselves. This is truly astonishing and remarkable when you think about and consider it, for there is an apparent second side to the coin of holiness. On the one hand we find the living God declaring that it is He who sanctifies and makes us holy, but on the other hand we find the living God declaring before and unto us that it is up to us, and it is our responsibility to consecrate and sanctify ourselves. This reality must be carefully considered and carefully understood, for failure to do so would be to misunderstand the tremendous responsibility that is placed upon our shoulders to consecrate and make ourselves holy in the sight of the living God. It is true that the living God does indeed and does consecrate and make us holy, however, with that being said we must also come to terms with the fact that holiness also demands and requires from us a certain level of responsibility that must be completed and carried out in the sight of the living God. It is absolutely necessary that we think about and consider the absolutely incredible reality that is found within these chapters concerning the absolutely wonderful and powerful call to personal holiness in the sight of the living God. Consider if you will the words which are written and found within the final verses of the twentieth chapter of this Old Testament book and the tremendous and powerful call to holiness which was given by the living God unto Moses, unto Aaron, unto the priests and Levites, and unto the entire congregation of the children of Israel:
“Ye shall therefore keep all my statutes, and all my judgments, and do them: that the land, whither I bring you to dwell therein, spue you not out. And ye shall not walk in the manners of the nation, which I cast out before you: for they committed all these things, and therefore I abhorred them. But I have said unto you, Ye shall inherit their land, and I will give it unto you to possess it, a land that floweth with milk and honey: I am the LORD your God, which have separated you from other people. Ye shall therefore put difference between clean beasts and unclean, and between unclean fowls and clean: and ye shall not make your souls abominable by beast, or by fowl, or by any manner of living thing that creepeth on the ground, which I have separated from you as unclean. And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the LORD am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine. A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them” (Leviticus 20:22-27).
I am convinced that we find within this particular set of verses is actually quite remarkable and quite telling when you take the time to think about and consider it, for within these verses we find a clear declaration of the LORD concerning the separation of the children of Israel from the nations and peoples of the earth. There is within the language of these verses a wonderful and powerful declaration that the living God separated the children of Israel from other people, and this phrase was used twice within this particular chapter. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize this awesome and incredible reality, for to do so would be to understand something that is incredibly critical when considering the call to personal holiness in the sight of the living God. Within these verses we do in fact encounter the wonderful reality that the living God separated the children of Israel from other nations and from other people, however, that particular separation was only part of the equation. The true and living God separated the children of Israel from other nations and called them His own and made them His people, however with that initial separation would come a secondary separation—a separation that was personal and inward. SEPARATION BEGETS SEPARATION! I sit here this morning and I can’t help but be absolutely and completely overwhelmed with the wonderful and incredible reality that separation begets separation, and that the initial separation of the children of Israel from the nations and peoples of the earth was only the first step in the process of their separation before and unto the living God, for it would be this separation that would call for an even greater separation that would be needed in addition to this separation from the nations and peoples of the earth. In fact, it was this separation from the nations and peoples of the earth that required the children of Israel to separate themselves even further from that which was unclean, and that which would and could indeed defile and pollute them. When we speak about the separation that is found within these chapters, it is absolutely vital that we recognize and understand that the living God separated the children of Israel from other nations and other peoples—a separation and distinction which began to be made within the land of Egypt during the times of the plagues which struck the land of Egypt. Eventually there came a point during the plagues when the living God began marking and making a distinction between the children of Israel living and dwelling in the land of Goshen, and the people of Egypt who lived and dwelt within and throughout the rest of the land. While the LORD continued to decimate and devastate the land of Egypt through His judgments and plagues, He would draw a line in the sand within the land of Egypt and separate and set apart His people as holy and chosen before and unto Him. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand this absolutely wonderful reality, for failure to do so would be to miss out on the absolutely wonderful reality of corporate separation and personal and individual separation.
I used the phrase “separation begets separation” in the previous paragraph, and it is necessary that we recognize the awesome and wonderful reality of this initial separation, for it is this initial separation which demands and requires of us to separate ourselves even further—not only separate ourselves unto the living God, but separate ourselves from that which is clean and that which is defiled and polluted. It’s interesting and worth noting that in the Old Testament there was specific language concerning what was called “The Nazarite Vow,” which was a vow an individual could take if they wished to take their separation and consecration a step further. Through the Nazarite vow a member of the children of Israel could emphatically declare to the LORD, as well as to His people and holy congregation that they desired to take their consecration and separation before and unto the LORD further than others around them. What we must recognize and understand is that the Nazarite vow was never demanded or required by the living God of any man among the children of Israel except for a handful of those who were specifically called and chosen before their birth into this world. Old Testament men such as Samson and Samuel would be those who would take the Nazarite vow, and in the case of Samson it would be the word of the LORD concerning him—before he was even born—that no razor should ever come upon his head. The underlying principle concerning Samson was that the secret of his strength was not in the length of his hair, but in his separation before and unto the living God, and his willingness to guard that which the living God had instructed and commanded. In the case of Samuel you will find that when Hannah asked the LORD for a son she emphatically declared and vowed before and unto the LORD that if He inclined His ear unto her and heard her cry, she would dedicate her son unto the LORD, and he would indeed be a Nazarite from birth. While Samson and Samuel were two Old Testament examples of those who were Nazarites from before they were even born and conceived, both Jesus and John the Baptist were two New Testament examples of this Nazarite vow. In fact, it would be Jesus and John the Baptist who would be called by the living God to be Nazarites all the days of their lives, and it would be the angel Gabriel who would speak unto Zechariah and Mary concerning these two individuals, and how they needed this tremendous consecration and separation before and unto the living God. That which is so incredibly significant about the Nazarite vow was that through taking this vow one would emphatically declare and proclaim they were willing to take their consecration and holiness before the living God further than those before and around them.
What we learn and what we recognize when reading the words within these chapters is the absolutely wonderful and incredible reality that separation by the living God, and separation unto the living God demands and requires men and women to an even greater level of separation and consecration before the living God. It was true the living God separated the children of Israel from among the nations and peoples of the earth, however, we must recognize and acknowledge the absolutely wonderful reality that this initial separation would demand and require an additional separation that would be personal and private as the children of Israel would separate themselves from that which was unclean and that which would defile, pollute and corrupt them. The children of Israel were separated by the living God from the nations and peoples of the earth, and yet that separation demanded and required that as His people they separated themselves even further from those things which the nations and peoples of the earth engaged themselves in. What we find within these verses is the absolutely wonderful reality that the living God did in fact separate the children of Israel from the he nations of the earth, however, that separation demanded and required of them that they separate themselves from the practices of those nations and peoples. As a people that were separate and set apart as holy unto the living God, the children of Israel were to take that holiness even further and separate themselves from from that would defile them. The children of Israel were separated as a people and as a congregation, however, that separation would demand and require of them that they separate themselves from that which was unclean and that which the nations and peoples of the earth engaged themselves in before the living God. Taking this a step further we must recognize and understand that the priests of the LORD were themselves separated from among the children of Israel, and they were chosen and sanctified from among the people, however, that separation demanded and required of and from them an additional degree and measure of sanctification. The children of Israel were separated from the nations and peoples of the earth, and that separation demanded and required of them an additional separation from the practices and behaviors of the nations and peoples of the earth—both those nations and peoples within the land into which the living God was bringing them, as well as the peoples and nations surrounding and round about the land into which the living God was bringing them. With that being said, it’s worth noting and considering that the priests and the Levites were themselves separated from the children of Israel as consecrated and holy before and unto the LORD, however, that separation demanded and required of them an additional degree and measure of separation before and unto the living God. It is absolutely critical that we recognize and come to terms with this, for if we fail to miss on this reality, we fail to comprehend the additional measure and degree of separation that is needed and demanded by the people of God before and unto Him.
What we read and what we find within these chapters is a wonderful and powerful call of the living God to the priests of the sanctuary—those who were called and separated by the living God from among the children of Israel—and how they were to take personal holiness and consecration before the LORD very serious. For those who ministered among the offerings made by fire, and for those who ate and partook of the holy bread which was before the LORD in His holy sanctuary, the priests were demanded and required to engage themselves in personal separation and consecration before and unto the living God. The priests and the Levites were those who were separated from among the children of Israel, and yet this separation demanded and required that they guard their consecration and separation with everything they had within them. We must read these words and encounter and come face to face with the reality that the priests of the living God who were called, who were chosen and who were separated by and unto the living God were required to engage themselves in an additional separation and consecration—a consecration that was not performed by the living God, but rather one that was engaged in by themselves. The language and words we find within these chapters is quite remarkable and quite astonishing when you truly take the time to think about and consider it, for within these chapters we come face to face with the absolutely wonderful reality that the priests were those who were called to guard their holiness before the living God, and were responsible for guarding and protecting that holiness. Perhaps one of the most intriguing and astonishing realities that is found within these chapters is the demand and requirement of the priests to further consecrate and sanctify themselves before and unto the living God that they might continue to minister before the altar and within the sanctuary of the living God. The priests were themselves separated and consecrated as holy before and unto the living God, however, that consecration before and unto the LORD only demanded a further consecration and holiness before and unto the living God, as they were required to accept and assume responsibility for ensuring that they kept themselves from that which was unclean and that which would defile them. The priests who ministered before and around the sacred altar of the living God, and those who ministered in the holy sanctuary of the living God were required to accept responsibility for their own personal separation and consecration before the living God, for it would be that consecration and separation that would allow them to continue ministering before the LORD around and upon His sacred altar, and within His holy temple.
Would it shock and surprise you to think about and consider that it was possible for the priests of the LORD to defile and pollute themselves, and if they allowed themselves to become unclean, they were prohibited from ministering within the holy sanctuary of the living God. The priests of the living God were called by the living God to be holy and consecrated before and unto the living God, and yet it was possible for the priests of the living God to defile themselves by willingly or unwillingly coming in contact with that which was unclean. These chapters not only speak to the separation and consecration of the priests of the living God, but they also spoke to the absolutely wonderful reality that the priests were required of the living God to be holy and consecrated unto the LORD through their choosing to keep themselves from being defiled and polluted with and by the things of the world. I can’t help but be reminded of the final verse of the first chapter of the New Testament epistle written by James the brother of Jesus, for it is what we find in this final verse that helps us encounter and come face to face with this reality even more. Consider if you will the words which are found within this final verse found within the first chapter of this New Testament epistle: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27). This reality is expressed even more in the third chapter of the second epistle written by the apostle Peter in the New Testament beginning to read with and from the fourteenth verse. Consider if you will the words and language that is found within this chapter beginning with the fourteenth verse in order that you might understand and comprehend even more fully what is demanded and required of those who are consecrated and separated as holy before and unto the living God:
“Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless. And account that the the long suffering of our LORD is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall f rom your own stedfastness. But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our LORD and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and for ever. Amen” (2 Peter 3:14-18).
It is quite clear and quite obvious when reading the words which are found within these verses that separation by the living God as His people, as well as His priests demands and requires an additional degree and measure of separation and consecration from those things in the world that would defile and pollute us. These verses bring us face to face with the absolutely wonderful reality that the priests—those who ministered before and around the altar of the living God in His holy sanctuary—were required to give and commit themselves to be holy, sanctified, separated and consecrated before and unto the living God. There was an initial separation through calling and choice, but there must be an additional measure of separation through holiness and consecration in the sight of the living God. As those who were consecrated and set apart by the living God the priests were required of the living God to be holy and consecrated in all manner of things, and to keep themselves undefiled and unspotted from those things which defiled them. What we must recognize and understand is that not only were the priests separated from among the children of Israel, and as such were required to be holy and consecrate themselves unto the living God, but so also were the people of Israel themselves separated from among the nations and peoples of the earth. With their being separated from the nations and peoples of the earth they were to separate and consecrate themselves from those things which the nations of the earth did defile, corrupt and pollute themselves before and in the sight of the living God. Oh that we would truly recognize and understand this within he very depths of our heart and soul, for it isn’t enough to be separated by the living God from the nations and peoples of the earth. It wasn’t enough for the children of Israel to be separated from the nations and peoples of the earth, for that separation demanded and required that they separate themselves even more—a separation and consecration that was personal and private. The people as a whole were separated by the living God from among the nations and peoples of the earth, but that separation meant that they were to separate themselves from those things of the world which would and could indeed defile them. The separation of the children of Israel from the nations and peoples of the earth demanded and required that they draw a clear line of demarcation in the sand and keep themselves from those things which would and could defile and pollute them. These chapters bring us face to face with the tremendous reality that separation from among the nations and peoples of the earth, and separation from within and among the people of God themselves demanded and required a personal and private consecration and separation from those things which are unclean, unholy, and defiled before and in the sight of the living God.
BLEMISHED PRIESTS, BLEMISHED SACRIFICES! As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I feel it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the fact that within these chapters we find the living God being very clear concerning those who could come near unto the veil of the holy place, as well as come near the holy altar of burnt offering and sacrifice. What’s more, is that the living God was very clear concerning that which could be offered upon His holy and sacred altar which was found in the court of the sanctuary and Tabernacle in the midst of the people of God. If and as you read the words found within these chapters you will quickly encounter and come face to face with the awesome and incredible reality that not only was the LORD very clear concerning who could come near to His holy altar where the offerings made by fire were sacrificed, but the LORD was also very clear concerning that which could be offered upon His holy and sacred altar. In order for us to truly understand these chapters it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand the absolutely wonderful reality that the living God gave very clear and specific instruction concerning those who could come near unto his holy altar, and what could be offered upon His holy and sacred altar, for nothing which was blemished could come near His sacred and holy altar, nor could anything that was blemished be offered upon his sacred and holy altar. We must recognize and understand this absolutely wonderful and critical reality, for if we fail to do so we may very well find ourselves misunderstanding those who could come near the sacred altar of the living God, and that which could be offered and sacrificed upon that altar. The LORD was very clear concerning those who were permitted to come before and come unto the altar and unto the veil which separated the most holy place from the Holy of Holies, and was even clear concerning that which could and should be offered upon His sacred and holy altar. In verses sixteen through twenty-four of the twenty-first chapter of this Old Testament book we encounter and come face to face with those from among the priests who were prohibited from coming near the altar of burnt offering lest they defile it, while in verses seventeen through twenty-five of the twenty-second chapter we find the living God also taking it as step further and declaring unto the Moses that which was prohibited from being offered upon His holy altar. I bring this writing to a close, yet I can’t help but ask you who are reading these words what you are offering upon the sacred altar of the living God. I feel the great need to ask you who are reading these words concerning that which you are offering before and unto the living God, and whether or not you are offering and giving unto the LORD the best and the firstfruits of what you have, or whether you are offering unto the LORD that which is second-hand and that which is blemished. The Lord was very clear that there was to be nothing that was blemished, nothing that was blind, nothing that was broken, nothing that was maimed, nothing that had a wen, nor which had a scurvy, nor that which was scabbed should be offered upon the sacred and holy altar of the living God. With this being understood we must recognize and ask ourselves what we are bringing before and unto the living God, and what we are offering unto Him upon His holy and sacred altar. I leave you with the words which are found in the first chapter of the Old Testament book of Malachi, for it is what we find in this Old Testament that brings us face to face and confronts us with the challenging reality concerning what we are offering before and unto the Lord upon His sacred and holy altar: \
“A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: If I then be a father, where is mine honour? And I be a master, where is my fear? Saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name? Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible. And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? Offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? Saith the LORD of hosts. And now, I pray you, beseech God that He will be gracious unto us: this hath been by your means: will He regard your persons? Saith the LORD of hosts. Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nought? Neither do ye kindle fire on mine altar for nought. I have no pleasure in you, saith the LORD of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand. For from the rising of the sun, even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the LORD is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even His meat, is contemptible. Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness s it! And ye have suffered at it saith the Lord of hosts; and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? Saith the LORD. But cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrifice the unto the LORD a corrupt thing: for I am a great King, saith the LORD of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen” (Malachi 1:6-14).