Leviticus 21 (NRSV)
The Holiness of Priests
Today is my husband’s birthday. David, thank you, in these years of our married life, for being such a wonderful example to me of devotion and obedience to the Lord. I love you.
The Lord said to Moses: Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them: No one shall defile himself for a dead person among his relatives, 2except for his nearest kin: his mother, his father, his son, his daughter, his brother; 3likewise, for a virgin sister, close to him because she has had no husband, he may defile himself for her. 4But he shall not defile himself as a husband among his people and so profane himself.
5They shall not make bald spots upon their heads, or shave off the edges of their beards, or make any gashes in their flesh. 6They shall be holy to their God, and not profane the name of their God; for they offer the Lord’s offerings by fire, the food of their God; therefore they shall be holy.
7They shall not marry a prostitute or a woman who has been defiled; neither shall they marry a woman divorced from her husband.
Priests were only to take virgins for wives, as an illustration of the commitment and purity that was required of priests. Priests, under the Old or New Covenant, were only to set their affections on that which is pure.
For they are holy to their God, 8and you shall treat them as holy, since they offer the food of your God; they shall be holy to you, for I the Lord, I who sanctify you, am holy.
9When the daughter of a priest profanes herself through prostitution, she profanes her father; she shall be burned to death.
10The priest who is exalted above his fellows, on whose head the anointing oil has been poured and who has been consecrated to wear the vestments, shall not dishevel his hair, nor tear his vestments.
The high priest who tried Jesus sinned against this command at the trial of Jesus (Matthew 26:65), in a dramatic display of horror that Jesus claimed to be God.
11He shall not go where there is a dead body; he shall not defile himself even for his father or mother. 12He shall not go outside the sanctuary and thus profane the sanctuary of his God; for the consecration of the anointing oil of his God is upon him: I am the Lord.
13He shall marry only a woman who is a virgin. 14A widow, or a divorced woman, or a woman who has been defiled, a prostitute, these he shall not marry. He shall marry a virgin of his own kin, 15that he may not profane his offspring among his kin; for I am the Lord; I sanctify him.
16The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 17Speak to Aaron and say: No one of your offspring throughout their generations who has a blemish may approach to offer the food of his God. 18For no one who has a blemish shall draw near, one who is blind or lame,
or one who has a mutilated face or a limb too long, 19or one who has a broken foot or a broken hand, 20or a hunchback, or a dwarf, or a man with a blemish in his eyes or an itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles. 21No descendant of Aaron the priest who has a blemish shall come near to offer the Lord’s offerings by fire; since he has a blemish, he shall not come near to offer the food of his God. 22He may eat the food of his God, of the most holy as well as of the holy. 23But he shall not come near the curtain or approach the altar, because he has a blemish, that he may not profane my sanctuaries; for I am the Lord; I sanctify them.
24Thus Moses spoke to Aaron and to his sons and to all the people of Israel.
What are you learning about the need for personal holiness as you are reading through Leviticus?
The priests of Israel were to be, in every detail of their lives, “holy to the Lord.” Peter says in 1 Peter 2:9 (Amplified Bible) —
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a dedicated nation, God’s own purchased, special people, that you may set forth the wonderful deeds and display the virtues and perfections of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.
So through Christ, all of us are priests — all of us are called to be “Living for Your Glory.” This song, HERE, is by Tim Hughes, who is the Director of Worship in an Anglican church in London.
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.