Category Archives: Leviticus 16-20

Leviticus 19:19

Scripture: by special request:

Don’t let your livestock mate with those of another kind, don’t sow your field with two different kinds of grain, and don’t wear a garment of cloth made with two different kinds of thread.

Observation: Normally with a commandment this bizarre, we look at the context (the type of rules it’s grouped with) for clues.  In this case, the surrounding verses are a complete jumble, so that’s no help.

So why do we do these things?  Why do we interbreed our livestock and produce and mix fibers in our clothing?  Usually it’s because we hope the result will have the advantages of both and the defects of neither.  We hope to be able to pick and choose the things we like.

While this probably isn’t a problem when applied to consumables, it’s a very big problem if we apply that attitude to God.  There’s plenty of people who try to pick and choose the aspects of God that they like.  There’s even people who combine multiple religions, keeping the nicest holidays and traditions from each one.

But God doesn’t work that way.  He is Himself, unchanging and indivisible.  We don’t get to pick the bits of Him that we like and ignore the rest.  He won’t let us.

We don’t get to have it all our own way.  We don’t get to be in control all the time.  And I think this law, arbitrary as it is, was meant to remind people of that: God is Himself and there is no changing Him.

Application:  Don’t try to mold God into the box you’d like Him to be in.  Celebrate differences instead of rejecting them.

Prayer:  Father, I am sorry that I am not big enough to see you properly.  I am sorry that I expect you to act the way I want you to.  Help me to remember that doing things your way is far more sensible than doing things my way.  Thank you for being Yourself.  Amen.


Leviticus 20:15-27

Scripture: verse 21

If a man takes his brother’s wife, it is uncleanness; he has disgraced his brother sexually; they will be childless.

Observation:  The penalties for sexual impurity varied depending on the offense, sometimes without any obvious reason.  Sometimes the offenders were killed, sometimes they were exiled, and sometimes they weren’t punished by the community, but by God.

This reminds me of the story in 2 Samuel 24.  David does something idiotic (David was good at that.  But then, who isn’t?) and God gives him a choice of punishments: three years of famine, three months of war, or three days of plague.  David chooses the plague, because he’d rather be punished by a gracious and loving God than fall into the hands of men.

Which is not to say that marrying one’s sister-in-law is a good plan, of course.  Sin never is.  But I’m glad that I can trust God with my heart and know that even His correction is loving and as gentle as possible.  That God sees me and knows me and is working in me and won’t break me.

Sometimes it’s scary, walking the path that God sets out.  Sometimes I have to tell things to my friends or my husband that I’d rather keep private.  Sometimes He asks me to do things that make me feel vulnerable.  But I know that I’m safe.  That He holds my heart, and that He is my shield.  And if I’m going to trip and fall (and I’m definitely going to trip and fall sooner or later) there’s no safer place to do it than in Him.  Because even His discipline is full of grace.

Application:  Trust God with your sin.  Trust Him to know how to fix you.  Better wounds from a Friend than kisses from an enemy (Proverbs 27:6).

Prayer:  Father, it scares me sometimes that you can see all my sin.  Thank you for being patient and gracious and calling me righteous when I’m not perfect.  Please help me to trust you as you guide me.  Amen.

Leviticus 20:1-14

Scripture: verse 3

I will set myself against him and cut him off from his people, because he has sacrificed his child to Molekh, defiling My sanctuary and profaning My holy name.

Observation:  The first section of the chapter forbids child sacrifice, which is good.  Obviously.  What I found interesting was this verse – God will reject the person who sacrifices his child, not because he killed his child, but because he has betrayed God.

I don’t really like talking about this, what with the young mother hormones kicking in, but it’s important. God’s perspective on our lives is really kinda weird.  From His point of view, our relationship with Him supersedes every other consideration.  The death of a child may not even be that big of a deal to Him, assuming the child just goes straight up to heaven.  The turning away from God, however, is earth-shattering.

What we see is not all that is.  God sees a much bigger picture than we do.  He is acutely aware of our every thought and action and emotion, and He longs for us to be similarly attuned to us.  We are His, and His desire is for us (Song of Songs 7:10).

Application:  Seek intimacy with God.  Remember that He doesn’t work the way you think He does.  Let Him teach you about His perspective.

Prayer:  Hi God.  You’re crazy.  Or, more likely, I’m crazy, along with all humans.  We just don’t see things clearly.  Help me to see things the way you see them.  Help me to trust that you understand things better than I do.  Amen.

Leviticus 19:19-37

Scripture: verses 23-25

When you enter the land and plant various kinds of fruit trees, you are to regard its fruit as forbidden — for three years it will be forbidden to you and not eaten.  In the fourth year all its fruit will be holy, for praising Adonai.  But in the fifth year you may eat its fruit, so that it will produce even more for you; I am Adonai your God.

Observation:  Leviticus has some weird rules, you know that?  If you plant a tree, you have to wait five years to eat the fruit.  Even longer if it takes a year or two to start producing fruit at all, I would imagine.

I’m not sure why God did this.  It’s probably better for the tree or the land or both.  It’s also an act of faith: giving the first fruits to God and trusting Him to make sure that the tree keeps producing in the future.  It also encourages long-term thinking and planning, which generally leads people to make better decisions.

Happy Money says that we’re happier when we have to wait for things.  Not while we’re waiting, obviously, but once everyone gets their treat the person who had to wait is significantly happier than the person who got what they wanted right away.  Waiting isn’t a bad thing.

God wants us to put down roots.  He wants us to settle down in Him, not harvest His blessings and move on.  He wants us to take the time to make eye contact.

Those things take time, but God is the Master of Time in the first place.  He knows whether we have enough time to talk to Him.  He knows whether our plans and ministries and investments will bear fruit.  We can afford to stop and spend time with Him instead of chasing after the wind.

Application:  Spend time with God instead of worrying about the results you’re getting.  Don’t rush the harvest.

Prayer:  Father, thank you for having plans for me.  I’m sorry I worry about results too much.  Help me to stay focused on you and your provision.  Amen.

Leviticus 19:1-18

Scripture: from verse 13

…you are not to keep back the wages of a hired worker all night until morning.

Observation: The passage is about being nice and fair to each other: don’t prank the blind person, don’t lie to each other, give to charity, that sort of thing.

I liked this one because it’s such a little thing.  You aren’t refusing to pay the worker.  You’re just delaying it by a few hours.  I would guess that for most people that wasn’t usually a big deal.  (If nothing else, most of the foods required long preparation, so families weren’t expecting the money received in the evening to pay for dinner.)  But it might be a big deal, some of the time.  It might make life easier.  It might let him sleep better, without the worry of whether the boss will decide not to pay up in the morning.

I love that God noticed these details.  He isn’t just a God for the rich and privileged.  He’s a God who sees the working man and knows his concerns.

Application:  See the working man, I guess.  None of us are very good at putting ourselves in others’ shoes, and it’s awfully easy to look down on those who are not as successful as we are.  But if God cares about people, we should too.

Prayer:  Yeshua, thank you for coming to the people who needed you, not just to the people who looked nice and took baths.  Help me to see where I need to be generous to others.  Amen.

Leviticus 18:17-30

Scripture: verse 25

The land has become unclean, and this is why I am punishing it — the land itself will vomit out its inhabitants.

Observation: The Canaanites apparently practiced various defiling sins, including incest and child sacrifice.  (I wouldn’t think those two should get lumped together, but they’re definitely in the same section.)  According to this verse, their sin was poisoning the land, and the land itself would get rid of them.  God goes on to warn that if His people also committed these sins, the land would get rid of them, too.

I don’t really understand the connection between the people and their land.  We talk about such connections, of course, especially when discussing primitive people and the king and his land and that sort of thing, but it’s always fairly dismissive on some level.

And this doesn’t appear to be about the people communicating with the land.  It’s about the land reacting to their actions.  The land was being poisoned by their sin, whether they wanted it or not.

We don’t live in an agricultural society anymore, of course, but the same sort of thing can happen.  Our attitudes and our actions affect our jobs and communities and surroundings and bodies in ways we don’t really understand.  We’re starting to study them a little, but that doesn’t mean we can make sense of it.

So we need to watch our attitudes and our actions, because they change our environment.  Sometimes it seems like I can “afford” to hold a grudge or stay cranky, because I’m around people who will forgive and understand, but when I do so I’m also changing my body and my family in ways I can’t predict.  That’s never wise.

Application:  Whatever is true and noble and right and pure and lovely and admirable, think about these things (Phil 4:8).  And act on them.

Prayer:  God, help me to stay focused on you.  Help me to remember that your ways are pleasant ways and all your paths are peace (Proverbs 3).  I want my surroundings to reflect good decisions that I have made, so please help me to make good decisions.  Amen.

Leviticus 18:1-16

Scripture: from verse 3

You are not to engage in the activities found in the land of Egypt, where you used to live; and you are not to engage in the activities found in the land of Caanan, where I am bringing you…I am Adonai your God.

Observation:  The chapter is about sexual practices, mostly forbidding incest.

Humans do what other humans do.  We’re designed to do it, actually – it’s one of the things that makes civilization possible.  If all our friends jump off a bridge, we usually do so as well, which is not a bad thing if the bridge is on fire or the water is nice for swimming.  Our actions, our thought patterns, our moods and even our eating habits are influenced by those around us.

As I said, this isn’t actually a bad thing.  It allows us to make use of others’ experiences and pool our knowledge so we avoid certain kinds of mistakes.  The internet has allowed this sort of herd instinct and collaboration to happen even faster and wider, and that sort of crowdsourcing has produced some remarkable things.  (Admittedly it has also produced some real duds as well, but such is life.)

But God is other.  God is different.  God doesn’t do what other people do.  And He doesn’t want His people to do what other people do – at least not unthinkingly.

God designed us to collaborate and work together.  But humans are broken.  We’re flawed.  And the flaws come out in our collaborations, just as everything else does.  If we want to be holy, we need to watch not just our own actions, but also the trending actions of those around us.  Because if we aren’t aware of what others are doing, we’ll do the same things without even thinking about it.

This isn’t easy to notice, either.  If our culture is filled with an activity or an attitude, we tend to forget that it’s part of our culture.  We think all humans take vacations, or want to be thin, or gossip about others.  And that isn’t necessarily true.  We need to ask God for His perspective, so we can see where we are making false assumptions.

Application:  Keep an eye on yourself.  Be willing to be different.

Prayer:  Holy Spirit, thank you for enabling me to follow God’s word.  Help me to be holy, and to see where I need to be different in order to be holy.  Help me see the activities of my culture as just part of my culture and not an integral part of being human.  Help me to have the perspective to see things the way you do.  Amen.

Leviticus 17

Scripture: from verse 3 and 4

When someone from the community of Israel slaughters an ox, lamb or goat inside or outside the camp without [presenting] it as an offering to Adonai…he has shed blood, and that person is to be cut off from his people.

Observation:  So ANY time you slaughtered an animal – for food, for sale, whatever – you had to bring it to the tent of meeting to do it, and pour out the blood and burn the fat as an offering to the Lord.  (I’m guessing this didn’t apply to animals that were euthanized when they got sick – but I could be wrong.)  If you didn’t, you weren’t part of the community.

From the rest of the chapter, it looks like this was at least in part a way to keep people from offering sacrifices to other deities (“goat-demons,” according to verse 7).  If idolatry is the human baseline state, God had to make them make conscious choice after conscious choice to worship Him instead.

But I think it goes beyond just mandating fidelity.  It’s about allowing God to permeate every decision.  It’s about acknowledging that all our wealth is from God and belongs to God.  It’s about reminding ourselves that all life is precious (“the life of the flesh is in the blood” according to verse 11) and it is only because of sin that death has to happen.  Every mundane meal became a reminder of our spiritual state.

And what about us?  We no longer bring blood sacrifices, but creation is not yet healed.  Our identity has changed, but we still sin.  And God is still the One who provides everything we have.  That’s worth remembering.

Maybe that’s why we say grace before meals: to attach a reminder of our spiritual state to mundane actions.  To remember our Creator as we fill the needs of the body He created.  To make a conscious choice to worship instead of drifting back to the human baseline of apathy.

Application:  Choose to worship.  Remember that what we see is not all there is.  Give credit to the One who deserves it.

Prayer:  Father, thank you for providing everything my family has.  Help us to use it for your glory.  Thank you for bringing me out of darkness and into your glorious light.  Amen.

Leviticus 16:18-34

Scripture: verse 23

Aharon is to go back into the tent of meeting, where he is to remove the linen garments he put on when he entered the Holy Place, and he is to leave them there.

Observation:  The High Priest went into the Holy Place once a year, to make atonement for all of Israel.  He had to wash himself in a holy place and put on holy linen clothing before entering, and when he came out he had to disrobe and leave the clothes in the tent of meeting, before taking another bath and going out to rejoin the people.  (While he was in the Holy Place people were banned from the tent of meeting, so no one saw him wandering around naked.  I imagine one of the women collected the clothes later for washing, but it doesn’t actually say.)

We don’t normally take our clothes off the very instant we can do so.  We normally wait until we get to our bedrooms and can hang them up and put on something else.  If we take our clothes off the minute we walk through the door, it usually means that our clothes are very dirty, very uncomfortable, or both.  We take them off because we can’t wait any longer.

The priest’s clothes weren’t dirty (well, I guess they had some blood on them, from the sacrifices), but they were uncomfortable, because they were holy.  Humans aren’t very good at being holy.  We can sort of manage it for a little while, if we are only interacting with God, but as soon as the world presses in, we lose it.

In Yeshua, we’ve been declared holy.  We’ve been made into something other than what we are.  And it’s not always comfortable.  It’s not always easy.  But it’s still true.

Application:  Be holy, as He is holy.  It’s not actually possible, so we need to rely on the Holy Spirit to guide us and Yeshua’s grace to cover our mistakes.  And we watch for God to fulfill His promises of blessing.

Prayer:  God, thank you for making me holy.  I can’t accomplish much on my own, so thank you for accomplishing it for me.  Amen.

Leviticus 16:1-17

Scripture: verses 1 and 2:

After the death of Aharon’s two sons, when they tried to sacrifice before Adonai and died;  Adonai said to Moshe, “Tell your brother Aharon not to come at just any time into the Holy Place beyond the curtain, in front of the ark-cover which is on the ark, so that he will not die; because I appear in the cloud over the ark-cover…”

Observation:  People are screwed up.  We really are.  Despite the extensive instruction, and despite the thunder and fire and other manifestations of God being God, the new priests figured they knew what they were doing.  So they did things their way, and they died for it.  God isn’t like other gods.  He is Himself, and we shouldn’t assume that we can figure Him our or expect Him to make sense to us.

After those deaths, God created a new set of rules to remind the priests that they didn’t have things figured out either.  God is a different God.  They weren’t allowed to wander in and out of His presence.  They had to follow the rules too.

And what of us?  We are allowed to enter into God’s presence whenever we want to.  We are told to “boldly approach the throne of grace” in Hebrews 4.  Does this mean we have things figured out, that we don’t need to be reminded that God is holy?  Not likely.

We aren’t welcome because we have followed the Law correctly.  We aren’t welcome because we’ve gotten it right.  We’re welcome because we’re family.  Our actions haven’t changed, but our identity has.

That’s why Yeshua died.  The rules didn’t work to make us good.  We can’t serve God the way He wants to be served.  So we’re not asked to.  We couldn’t make it as servants, so we’re invited in as family.

Application:  Boldly approach the throne of grace.  Treat God like family.  Tell Him things, and expect Him to tell you things.

Prayer:  Hi God.  Thank you for welcoming me into your family.  Thank you for listening to whatever I have to say.  This has been a good day so far.  Thank you for making things go well, and help me deal with the things that don’t.  Amen.