Leviticus 21-23; Psalm 37
So far in Leviticus, we've explored a range of rituals and rules crucial to the Israelite community.
We started with ritual sacrifices. These included Burnt, Grain, Peace, and Sin Offerings. Each offering has a special role, from showing commitment to dealing with unintentional sins. It's clear these rituals are central to the Israelites' relationship with God.
Next we read about the ordination of priests. They underwent cleansing, dressing, and anointing, marking their sacred duty. However, Aaron's sons, deviating from God's commands, faced grave consequences. This episode teaches the importance of following divine instructions.
Then we shifted to ritual purity. We learned about dietary rules, practices around childbirth, skin diseases, and mould. These laws aren't just about health; they're about staying spiritually and physically clean before God.
Then we covered the Day of Atonement. This significant annual event was where the high priest atones for the people's unintentional sins. The camp was ritually cleansed of the contamination of the nation's sin, and the sin itself was sent out into the wilderness.
We then covered moral purity. Now the Israelites have been cleaned there are particular ways they need to live to stay clean. Holy. This section set strict guidelines on sexual relations, aiming to preserve family structures and the Israelites' unique identity. It reminded us that living according to God's laws is key to the community's wellbeing.
We’re continuing on with the Holiness Code (Leviticus 17-26), with today looking at the specific requirements of the priests and then the festivals the people are to keep.
First, we get instructions for funeral rites and restrictions on who a priest could marry. Touching a dead body made you unclean. This was because a corpse obviously symbolises death and God is a God of life.
The priests were allowed to make themselves unclean for close families, but no one else. They’re needed in the tabernacle in God’s presence, so they couldn’t3 afford to be unclean unless necessary. The high priest wasn’t allowed to touch any dead body, no matter how close a relative he was.
We then get a list of bodily defects that mean a priest is no longer worthy to serve in the tabernacle. Some of these are permanent and some are temporary.
While this may feel like unfair discrimination to us, we have to remind of ourselves of the importance of ‘wholeness’ and perfection when it comes to the Israelites and God’s presence.
This followed by a list of the benefits for being a priest and then finally by specific instructions on the offerings that are brought and then performed by the priests.
Leviticus 23 gives us a collection of the important feasts and festivals that the Israelites should keep. Here’s a list of them.
The Sabbath: The weekly day of rest
The Passover: The reminder of God bringing them out of Egypt
The Feast of Unleavened Bread: Linked with the Passover as a remind of God bringing them out of Egypt
The Feast of Firstfruits: A Thanksgiving feast for the first fruits of the field. A bit like our harvest festival
The Feast of Weeks: A celebration seventh weeks (seven lots of seven days) after Passover
The Feast of Trumpets: A celebration of the first day of the seventh month. This later became the Jewish New Year. It celebrates new beginnings.
The Day of Atonement: The tenth day of the seventh month. The day that the sins are paid for the whole nation
The Feast of Booths: The fifteenth day of the seventh month. A feast where the people live in tents for seven days, to be a reminder of their time in the wilderness when they finally enter the promised land.
Notice that the seventh month (seven being an important number) has the most feasts.
The idea with these feasts is that they instill healthy rhythms into their lives. Looking back to Genesis, the seventh day was a day of rest. Similarly, here many of these feasts revolve around some form of seven, where that’s seven days, seven weeks, or the seventh month.
Thees feasts exist to help the people slow down, rest, and remember what God has done for them.
This psalm is attributed to king David and fits into the category of wisdom psalm. It instructs the reader/listener on how to lead a moral life.
The psalm is an acrostic, where every couple of verses start with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
A) Psalm 37:1-8 - The righteous must ignore the wicked and trust God
B) Psalm 37:9 - Wait and inherit the land
C) Psalm 37:10-15 - The righteous will inherit the land and the wicked’s plotting will be destroyed
D) Psalm 37:16 - The righteous are blessed
E) Psalm 37:17 - Yahweh upholds righteous
F) Psalm 37:18a - Yahweh guides the righteous
G) Psalm 37:18b - The righteous inherit
H) Psalm 37:19 - The righteous get
I) Psalm 37:20 - The wicked perish
H) Psalm 37:21 - The righteous give
G) Psalm 37:22 - The bless inherit
F) Psalm 37:23 - Yahweh guides the righteous
E) Psalm 37:24 - Yahweh upholds
D) Psalm 37:25-26 - The righteous are not forsaken
C) Psalm 37:27-33 - The righteous will inherit the land and the wicked’s plotting will be destroyed
B) Psalm 37:34 - Wait and inherit the land
A) Psalm 37:35-40 - God destroys the wicked but saves the righteous
The psalm opens with an encouragement not to get too concerned with the wicked. They may be successful now, but it won’t last long. Instead, trust in the Lord that he will be your provision.
He will cause you to dwell in his land, give you the desires of your heart, act on your behalf, and lead you in righteousness.
All it requires is that you patiently wait on him, and he will cause you to prosper in a way that the wicked never could.
So refrain from getting angry, because the wicked will be cut off for their evil. They will be no more, and the righteous will inherit the land. This message is repeated throughout the psalm (Psalm 37:9, 22, 28-29, 34, 37-38) and can be seen as the main focus on the psalm.
Each pairing of verses reinforces this message. Do not become jealous of the wicked who seem to prosper. They won’t. Ultimately, they will fail and fall away. Instead, live a blameless life and you will be sustained and blessed by God.
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.