Leviticus 5-7; Psalm 31
So far in Leviticus, we find the Israelites engaging in a series of offerings to establish and affirm their relationship with God. Each offering serves a unique purpose, but they all aim to affirm and deepen their relationship with God.
The Burnt Offering is the first step, where an animal is wholly burnt on the altar. This has nothing to do with sin but represents someone willingly coming before God. The rising smoke symbolises God's presence.
Next is the Grain Offering, a shared meal of sorts. Some grain is burnt for God, while the rest is consumed by the priests. This reflects the communal aspect of faith, recalling the shared meal between God and the elders of Israel in Exodus 24.
The Peace Offering celebrates an existing peace between God and the people. It involves burning part of an animal and sharing the rest as a meal among the priest and the person who brought it. This act mirrors today’s Christian communion, emphasising relationship-building.
Finally, we reach the Sin Offerings. These are designated for unintentional sins, with the first two focusing on the priests and the nation, and the latter two aimed at individual leaders and community members. The purpose here is to cleanse and purify, allowing people to approach God, foreshadowing where Leviticus will be going.
Continuing on with the offerings, Leviticus 5 looks at different circumstances for sin. It looks at those who sin by not doing something they’re meant to have done, those who sin accidentally and don’t even realise it, those that contaminate God’s holy space by accident and don’t realise it, and finally those who do something wrong, initially lie to cover it up, and then have a change of heart and confess.
All of these things fall under the category of unintentional sins, though a couple of them fit very loosely. Again, the point is emphasised there is no offering for someone who intentionally goes around sinning.
Then Leviticus 6-7 are some extra details on all the offerings we’ve learnt so far. If Leviticus 1-5 are what the offerings should be, Leviticus 6-7 are how the priests should conduct the offerings. Because it’s a lot of specific how-to’s there’s a lot that doesn’t seem relevant to us, but there are little bits we can glean from.
In Leviticus 6:10 it mentions the priest putting on his garments and his undergarments. In other Ancient Near Eastern religions, it was common for offerings and sacrifices to include nudity and sex.
For the Israelites, God wanted to make it clear that nudity and sex wasn’t something that they used in this context. In fact, the only context it was acceptable was the privacy of the marriage bed. By making sure the priests are fully clothed there’s no chance of even accidental nudity featuring in their rituals.
In Leviticus 6:12 God gives the command that the fire of the altar should never go out. This was to be a symbol to the people that God was always there and they could always come to him. Now that we have the Holy Spirit with us we can also be confident that God is always there and we can always come to him.
One other thing that appears a lot throughout Leviticus 6-7 is the priests being able to eat from the offerings. We mentioned it briefly yesterday, but again just to say this was the priests sharing a meal.
Sometimes the person who brought the offering could eat some, but mostly it was just the priests. This was the personal relationship that the priests had with God.
This is why communion is so exciting to the Christian. It’s not just a select few that can take communion. It’s not just the pastor or those in leadership. We all get to take communion together, as equals. We are united with each other and in close relationship with God as we share this meal together.
This psalm is attributed to king David and falls into the category of lament psalm. It follows a chiastic structure, where the passage reflects itself, with a closing section of thanksgiving and prayer.
a) Psalm 31:1-5 - Prayer
b) Psalm 31:6-8 - A declaration of trust
c) Psalm 31:9-13 - Lament
b) Psalm 31:14 - A declaration of trust
a) Psalm 31:15-18 - Prayer
d) Psalm 31:19-24 - Thanksgiving and praise
The psalm opens with a prayer to the Lord to intervene. The psalmist appeals to God as his refuge and fortress, and repeatedly asks God to help, deliver and rescue.
They then declare their trust in the Lord. While others may trust in idols, the psalmist only trusts in God. They can be confident that they will be able to rejoice, because God is faithful and will not deliver them to their enemies.
Next comes the lament, as the psalmist shares their struggle. They are in distress. It feels like they are wasting away from grief. Their entire life seems to be spent in sorrow, and their strength fails them. They are hated by those who know them, and those that don’t avoid them.
Having shared their lament, the psalmist goes back to declaring their trust in God. This leads them to make bigger requests from God, knowing that he will answer them. They ask to be rescued from their enemies and blessed with God’s love. To save them from shame, but bring the shame of the wicked upon themselves.
And then the tone of the psalm shifts, as though the psalmist has heard from God and knows that he will intervene. The psalmist now turns to thanksgivings and praise. He is a God that stores up good things for his people. He protects them from the wicked.
God has been faithful and loving. Though the psalmist felt like God was hidden from them, God had heard their cry. The psalm ends with a call to the others saints, those who are faithful, to love God. May they be strong and take courage as they wait on God.
This psalm shows the power of lament, and how it leads us to making big requests of God. To begin with, all the psalmist could do was ask God to save them. But as they alternated between declaring their trust, and sharing their hurt and pain, it brought them to a place where they could ask God not only to save them, but bless them.
From there, God’s faithfulness led them to a place of praise and thanksgiving.
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.