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SPECIAL RESPONSIBILITIES OF PRIESTS (vv. 1-15)
Since the priests were given the sacred privilege of drawing near to God on behalf of the people, they were therefore more responsible as regards their conduct. In our present dispensation of the grace of God all believers are priests, not by official appointment, as with Aaron and his sons, but in true moral character. The outward defilement that Israel's priests were to avoid is typical of the more serious moral defilement that Christians should be careful to avoid.
The priest was to have no contact with a dead body except for cases of near relatives, mother, father, son, daughter, brother or unmarried sister (vv. 2-3). In those cases he would likely have some responsibility for their burial. The dead body speaks of that which was once alive, but has turned into the corruption of death, as for instance inRevelation 3:1; Revelation 3:1, “You have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.” This was Sardis, once a thriving testimony to the grace of God, but now dead as regards any relationship to God. If believers have a priestly character they will keep clear of any association of a body of this kind.
Making their heads bald (v. 5), as some religious fanatics do, shaving the edges of their beards, making cuttings in their bodies, were things not to be practiced by priests. All of this was for show, in desire to improve the flesh. By making a show of ourselves in any way, we may too easily give the impression that the flesh in us is better than in other people. This is false.
The positive fact of their being holy to their God is again insisted on in verse 6, responsible not to profane His name, that is, to bring this name down to the level of fallen humanity. For they offered the offerings of the Lord and the bread of their God, by which He was given the highest place of dignity.
The priests' wives were to be carefully selected. One who had been a harlot or promiscuous, or who was divorced from a husband, was not to be taken as a wife by a priest (v. 7). While these things are not laws to govern believers today, yet they are typical of the moral defilement that believers are to avoid. We are told one may be at liberty to marry, but “only in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:39). A believer should have spiritual discernment as to whether a woman is the proper partner for him. The grace of God can so work with any of the above women as to greatly change their character, so that now, in this day of grace, one who is truly converted by God may be transformed into a faithful, devoted wife. The spiritual discernment of the believer as regards choosing a partner, therefore, is vitally important, whether in fact man or woman. The holiness of God is involved in this matter too (v. 8), and it is well to guard against any suggestion of compromising that holiness.
If a daughter of a priest acted as a harlot, she was to be burned to death, for she had profaned her father, showing contempt for his relationship to God. Today, grace does not carry out such a sentence, but may instead act in true restoration of such an offender.
The high priest was not allowed to uncover his head nor to tear his garments. This was because he is a picture of Christ who was always subject to the authority of God, as the covering symbolizes, and whose habits, symbolized by the garments, were absolute perfection. Tearing speaks of judging evil, but there was no evil in His habits to be judged. When the Lord Jesus stood before the Sanhedrim, the high priest disobeyed this law by tearing his clothes (Matthew 26:65). Thus he expressed his contemptuous attitude toward the word of God and toward the Son of God. In the Church of God a man is told not to cover his head when praying or prophesying, though the woman is told to cover hers (1 Corinthians 3:7). This is a marked contrast to Israel's law.
The high priest was not to have contact with any dead body, even that of his father or mother (v. 11). This again is because he symbolized the Lord Jesus, who is emphatically “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners” (Hebrews 7:26). For the other priests the law was not so rigid (vv. 1-3)
The high priest was told not to go out of the sanctuary, that is, the area of the sanctuary (v. 12). This must at least be true so long as he was acting in the capacity of high priest. So today, the Lord Jesus has entered the holy place (heaven itself) once, and maintains His service for His saints in that place (Hebrews 9:11-12).
The high priest was allowed to marry only a virgin of his own people (vv. 13-14). So the Bride of Christ, the Church, is considered “not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing” (Ephesians 5:27), and is only from the family of faith. The high priest was also responsible to preserve his own family from unholy degradation (v. 15).
CONDITIONS OF SERVICE FOR PRIESTS (vv. 16-24)
The Lord now instructs Moses to tell Aaron that no priest of Aaron's line could serve in presenting offerings to God if he had any physical defect. No offering was to have any such defect, and the priest was to be consistent with the offering. Physical defects are no hindrance to true worship for believers today, but physical defects are typical of spiritual or moral defects, of which there were none in the Lord Jesus.
So long as there is something wrong with one's sight, walk, attitude (as with a marred face), actions (hands) or anything else of a moral or spiritual character, it is not right for one to take a public place in approaching God, though that one may be a believer. “He may eat the bread of his God” (v. 22), but is disqualified from public service. One may be recovered from such spiritual or moral disfigurements, for grace can certainly change things. But even when there are some things defective, what grace it is that one is allowed to eat the food of his God. Mephibosheth is an example of one who ate at the king's table continually, though he was lame on both his feet (2 Samuel 9:13).
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Leviticus 21". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29