Leviticus 11-13; Psalm 33
So far in Leviticus, we've read through the Israelites rituals and the ordination of priests. Both are pivotal in defining the Israelites' relationship with God. The book opened with detailed instructions on ritual sacrifices. Each of these served a unique purpose in affirming the Israelites' commitment to God.
We had the Burnt Offering, Grain Offering, Peace Offering, Sin Offering, and even the wave offering. What was interesting about the Sin Offering was that it was only for unintentional sins. There was no offering for intentional sins.
Then we transitioned to the priests. We read through their preparation for service. They were washed, clothed, and anointed, preparing them to serve in God's presence.
But then things turned sour. After the priests make their first offerings, two of Aaron's sons decide to do things their way rather than God's way. They use their own incense. In that moment they were struck down by God.
It was a key moment, reminding the people that the ultimate result of choosing things your way rather than God's way leads to death.
Aaron was then told that he and his descendants were not to drink before entering the Tabernacle. It may have been the case that his two sons were drunk, and that's what led them to behave how they did.
The focus of these chapters is all about cleanliness. Not in the sense of having a shower to get clean, but the idea of certain things can contaminate you so that you are unworthy to enter God’s presence.
The first category we get is clean and unclean foods. God lays out a list of animals it’s okay to eat and animals that are unclean and should not be eaten.
With our modern heads, we can often think that these animals were banned because they were unhealthy or because they would have been difficult to cook well without risking food poisoning.
The reality was these were animals that, for whatever reason, were considered ritually unclean. It may be because they didn’t have clear categories they fit into. For example, amphibians, which are animals that aren’t fish but live happily in water and on land, are forbidden.
The reasoning for this might be that that there was an Ancient Near Eastern association with mixtures of stuff and being unclean. Later on we see that different kinds of cattle or crops weren’t allowed to crossbreed, and garments weren’t allowed to be made of different kinds of material.
Remember the nephilim from back in Genesis 6:1-4. They were an unholy mix of spiritual being and human. Because God’s people are to be a clean people and avoid anything unclean, these animals are forbidden.
There are no offerings made for people who eat one of these animals. They would have just been cut out of the community. However, there are offerings made for those that accidentally touch one of these animals.
Next are the rules around a woman after giving birth. Again, this can seem so foreign to us today. How dare you say a woman is unclean after giving birth.
But the thinking at the time was that it takes a lot out of a woman to give birth. She loses a lot of fluids and blood. This loss would have made her less whole, and so she needed time to recover. It would be wrong for her to enter God’s presence, not fully whole.
It’s also worth mentioning that while a woman brings a sin offering after giving birth, that doesn’t mean she has done something wrong. Sin is also what we call the contaminating force that is opposed to God. Because she has lost a lot of her life force, a woman may be considered contaminated by sin in a way that is not her fault and is not held against her.
You may think this is all unfair, but God is really trying to bring home a point here. We’ve seen this before. Everything needed to be perfect in the tabernacle for God’s presence to come down. The priests had to be perfect, clean and whole to work in God’s presence.
The same applies to everyone else, including women who have given birth. Anything that could even be considered to make them unclean, or not whole, needs to be dealt with before they can be brought back into God’s presence.
Finally, we have rules on skin diseases. This is perhaps a clearer example of how something would make you unclean. A disease, particularly at this time, was a symbol of death.
We see it less with modern medicine, but this stuff would literally waste away your flesh. In many ways, a skin disease is a physical example of how sin works. Both infect and contaminate and then spread outward.
Again, this contamination needs to be dealt with before someone can reenter God’s presence. We get a similar metaphor for sin in tomorrow’s reading.
Just to clarify, because of the work Jesus did at the cross, and because of the new relationship we have with God, this stuff does not make us unclean today. Jesus makes us completely clean and pure.
This is the first psalm we’ve read since Psalms 1-2 that isn’t attributed to king David. Instead, this psalm is anonymous. It fits in the category of praise psalm.
Psalm 33:1-3 - A call to praise
Psalm 33:4-9 - Praising the word of the Lord
Psalm 33:10-12 - Praising the counsel of the Lord
Psalm 33:13-19 - Praising the Lord’s eye and his might
Psalm 33:20-22 - concluding declaration of trust
The psalm opens with a call to those who are upright and righteous to praise God. They are to shout for joy, give thanks, sing songs, and play instruments. It then lists a number of reasons why.
The first is the word of the Lord. God’s word maintains order through righteousness and justice. It is one of the primary ways that we see God’s faithful love, as we read of his promises.
It is also through God’s word that heaven and earth and all that are in them are created. Because of this, everyone should fear God and be in awe of him.
Next up is the Lord’s counsel. His plans, purpose, and leading. While the plans of humans will often lead them to be frustrated, blessed are those allowed themselves to be counselled and led by God.
After that, we see a connection between the eye of the Lord and his might. God sees all things. Nothing is missing from his sight. He evens sees the intentions of our hearts.
Humans might look to kings to save them, but the reality is a king isn’t saved by a great army, or strong warriors, or war horses. Might belongs to God, and with his eye he is able to see the hearts of all. Those who love him and those who do not.
And so the psalm draws to a conclusion on a declaration of trust. We will wait on the Lord as we trust in him. Finally, we end with a request of God. Be faithful and loving to us.
From this psalm, we see the power and authority of God in every area of our lives. As we read through these words, this truth should lead us to a place of praise and trust.
Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.