Leviticus 16-18; Psalm 35
So far we’ve seen instructions for individual offerings and sacrifices for specific sins and mistakes the people make. The problem with this is that things fall through the net.
So God brings in one final offering that happens once a year and becomes a catchall. In Hebrew, this becomes known as Yom Kippur. In English we know it as the Day of Atonement.
First of all, God reminds Aaron that he can not come into the Holy of Holies, the centre of the tabernacle, whenever he wants. He points to Aaron’s sons, who died as an example for what happens when priests don’t take this role seriously.
Aaron is to wash himself so that he might be physically clean to come make the offering. After that, he is to sacrifice a bull to make himself spiritually clean, and then he can sacrifice the first goat (there are two) so he can make the Holy of Holies clean.
The problem was that just the general sin of an entire nation slowly began to bleed into the tabernacle and Holy of Holies, hence once a year Aaron needed to go in and purify the Holy of Holies.
Aaron would then take the second goat and lay his hands on it, placing the sin of the entire nation onto this one goat. Someone else took that goat and led it out into the wilderness before letting it run free, essentially removing the sin of the people from the land completely.
Finally, Aaron and the one who led the host into the wilderness would wash themselves and purify themselves one last time.
Moving forward, we get God forbid anyone from eating blood. All blood needed to be drained out of their meat before they ate it. The reason for this was it was the blood in their sacrifices that purified them, and so God wanted them to see blood as important and significant.
Then in Leviticus 18 we have a lot of rules about sex. Some of these may seem like common sense to us, but maybe that’s because by this point they’ve been around for 3,500 years.
Before this point, particularly in the surrounding nations, this stuff was very common. The focus of this chapter is actually maintaining the family unit and the family line.
The first collection of rules is about not having sex with family members. When you start having sex with family members, the family line starts to become very confusing. Your uncle is now somehow your brother, etc. The Israelites’ whole life was built on family and tribes, so it was important they kept those family lines very clear.
The second collection of rules is less about not confusing the family line and more about maintaining it. We get rules about not having sex with someone in their period, not sacrificing your children to Molek (one of the gods of a neighbouring nation), men not having sex with other men, and not having sex with animals.
You may have strong or conflicting opinions on some of these. The point of these was this. Israel was meant to grow and prosper. To do that, it needed children. Three of these are ways of having sex that don’t produce children. One of them involves killing the children you already have.
If Israel were to engage in these acts, their family lines would die out and they wouldn’t grow as a nation. That’s the context that these laws are written in.
This psalm is attributed to king David and falls into the category of lament psalm. It can be split into three sections, with each section ending with a promise to praise.
Psalm 35:1-3 - A prayer for help in battle
Psalm 35:4-8 - A request for enemies to fall
Psalm 35:9-10 - A promise to praise
Psalm 35:11-16 - Lament
Psalm 35:17 - A request for help
Psalm 35:18 - A promise to praise
Psalm 35:19-26 - A request for enemies to be put to shame
Psalm 35:27 - A request for supporters to rejoice
Psalm 35:28 - A promise to praise
The psalm opens with a call to God for help. Military language is used to ask God for his protection. May he be a shield to protect, and a spear to keep enemies at bay.
The psalmist turns to his enemies and asks for them to be put to shame. They have pursued the psalmist and intended to harm him, so may they meet their own destruction.
Having made his request, the psalmist looks forward to God’s victory and deliverance. Trusting that God will intervene, they anticipate the sense of joy and the praise that they’ll bring to God.
But then the psalmist dips back into lament. They bring to God the suffering and persecution they’ve experienced. This time legal language is used. Their enemies are like witnesses that have accused them in court, seeking their defeat.
What’s made it worse is the psalmist grieved and mourned for their enemies when they were struggling. He treated them as friends and family, but now they rejoice at his struggles.
So the psalmist asks God to intervene. To rescue them from this attack. And once again he looks forward to that moment where God breaks in, and the praise that he will speak out before many.
One last time the psalmist turn to his enemies and asks that God put them to shame. May they no longer be able to rejoice because they have pursued wickedness and deceit.
It has felt like God has been absent in this situation, so the psalmist asks that he rise up and vindicate them. Put to shame their enemies and give their supporters a reason to rejoice.
Finally, the psalmist ends with anticipation. God will intervene and punish the wicked, and when that happens the psalmist will speak God’s praise ‘all day long’.
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.