Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Leviticus 171 Corinthians 10:31. From the perfect atonement God provides, we are invited next to turn to the morality he requires. And no better beginning can be made than the acknowledgment of God in connection with our food. The beautiful way the Lord secured his own recognition as the bountiful Giver was by enacting that blood, since it is the means used in atonement, must be devoted to no meaner use. Hence it was to be carefully put away, either by the priest at the tabernacle, or by the huntsman in the dust of the wilderness, and the animal used as a peace offering before God (verse 5). What we have consequently in this chapter is the religious use of food, or, as we have put it, "Grace before meat." In this connection let us observe -
I. THAT GOD HAS IMPLANTED SOME MEMENTO OF HIMSELF IN ALL OUR FOOD. Vegetable as well as animal life, of which we are reminded at every meal, is the sign manual of the living God. It is worse than stupidity not to recognize in the food we eat the gifts of his bounteous hand. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (James 1:17). Why personify nature into a giver as a mere subterfuge for gross ingratitude? The Divine hand is behind the whole, and an honest heart can see it and will bless it as the source of all!
II. GOD REMINDS US AT EVERY MEAL OF ATONEMENT AS THE PRELIMINARY TO PEACE AND FELLOWSHIP, For all our food once thrilled with organic life. There is literally the sacrifice of life, vegetable and animal, in every meal. Vegetarians sacrifice microscopic life, after all their efforts to sacrifice nothing but vegetable life. Thus our race is reminded of the first principle of atonement, every time we sit down at the table which a bounteous providence has spread. In fact, it is our own fault if every feast be not in a certain sense sacramental. The Supper of the New Testament, as well as the Passover of the Old, embodies the sacrifice of life in order to the support of man. It is on this principle that the world is constituted. If, then, we listened to the voice of Nature as we ought to do, we would hear her calling in every feast for the grateful recognition of that principle in atonement to which we have referred. Peace and communion arc really based in the order of nature upon the sacrifice of life. "Vicarious sacrifice" is a principle of vast range, and the atonement of Jesus is but a single application of it.
III. THE RECOGNITION OF GOD IN EVERY PLEASURE WILL MAKE IT DOUBLY DELIGHTFUL. It is evident that God contemplated hunting as something which might be enjoyed religiously. The blood of the animal was to be carefully covered with dust in the hunting-field. Such a recognition of God may be carried into all legitimate enjoyment. As Charles Lamb suggests saying grace before entering upon new books, as something more fitting than a formal grace before gluttony, let us by all means carry the good custom into everything. We may develop our muscular powers in a religious spirit. Let us have religion in bodily exercise, religion in our social enjoyments, religion in business, religion in politics, religion in all things. "Whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." We should recognize a "muscular Christianity," and a mercantile Christianity, and a Christianity "which doth not behave itself unseemly" in society; in a word, the adaptability of the religious spirit to all lawful relations. The sooner we recognize and realize this, the better. - R.M.E.
I. IN RESPECT TO THE BLOOD OF SACRIFICE.
1. It must be brought to the door of the tabernacle.
(1) This requisition does not apply to animals ordinarily killed for food (comp. Deuteronomy 12:15, 21).
(2) It applies to the blood of sacrifices.
(a) To the blood of those offered at the door of the tabernacle. As a matter of course, the bleed of such sacrifices would be sprinkled and poured out at the altar.
(b) To the blood of those also offered outside the camp (verses 3, 5). Sacrifices were formerly offered wherever the providence of God might indicate (Genesis 12:8; Job 1:5). God still reserved to himself the right to sanction the offering of sacrifices where he pleased (see Judges 6:26; Judges 13:19; 1 Samuel 7:9; 2 Samuel 24:18; 1 Kings 18:23). Without such sanction, the altar of the tabernacle is the one place appointed for the shedding of sacrificial blood.
(3) Public worship is encouraged by this law (Hebrews 10:25).
2. The penalty of disobedience is excision.
(1) The statute was enacted to prevent idolatry. Sacrificing elsewhere, they might be tempted to sacrifice to devils (verse 7). The heathen thought the spirit of their god resided in his idol; such spirits are here called "devils." All idolatry is from Satan, and is devilish (1 Corinthians 10:20). The word (לשעידים) here translated "devils" is elsewhere rendered "goats." Perhaps the idols in which these spirits of devils were supposed to reside were of the goat-like form. Goats were worshipped in Egypt, and probably also in Canaan.
(2) Blood is imputed to him that sheds blood in sacrifice elsewhere than at the altar of the tabernacle (verse 4). To bring the blood to the door of the tabernacle taught the worshipper to discern Christ, through whose blood we enter heaven. To miss this lesson was to degenerate into abominable and fatal idolatry (see Isaiah 66:3). This law applied to proselytes as well as to native Israelites (verses 8, 9). There is but one way to God for the Jew and Greek (Romans 3:30). "He that believeth not shall be damned" (see verse 4).
II. IN RESPECT TO FOOD.
1. Blood as food is absolutely forbidden.
(1) The prohibition is among the Noachian precepts. He who reserved the tree of knowledge of good and evil in his grant of vegetables to man for food, reserved blood in his grant of animals (Genesis 9:4, 5). Being a Noachian precept, this law is obligatory upon the human family at large.
(2) The prohibition of blood was formally incorporated into the Levitical code (see verse 10; also Leviticus 3:17; Leviticus 7:26; Deuteronomy 12:25). The abrogation of the Levitical Law, however, does not repeal the Noachian precept. Unless, therefore, it can be shown that the Noachian precept is abrogated, it is still unlawful both to Jew and Gentile to eat blood.
(3) So far from being repealed, this precept is re-enforced under the gospel (Acts 15:28, 29). This "burden" our Lord still lays upon the Churches, even after the destruction of Jerusalem (see Revelation 2:14-24). The significance of this term "burden" must not be overlooked (comp. Acts 15:28 with Revelation 2:24).
2. Two reasons for the prohibition are assigned. These are:
(1) That "the life of the flesh is in the blood." This is philosophically true. Cut a nerve, you paralyze a member, but it lives; cut off the blood, the member mortifies. Blood flows to a wound, becomes vascular there, knits the living parts, and it heals. The vitality of the blood is seen in its power of maintaining its temperature against the extremes of heat and cold. The lesson of this reason is to teach us the value of life. Hence in connection with the Noachian precept prohibiting the eating of blood, we have also the law guarding the life of man by the penalty of death to the murderer.
(2) That "it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul" (verse 11). That should not be treated as a common thing which is the principle of atonement, and the type of the precious blood of Christ.
(3) For these reasons also things strangled are forbidden, things which died alone, or were torn; things not so killed as to let the blood properly flow from them. Thus the slaying of every animal used for food in the sacrificial way would remind the eater of the necessity of sacrifice for sin (see 1 Corinthians 10:31).
3. The penalty here also is excision
(1) If things strangled were eaten, the transgressor became unclean (see 1 Samuel 14:32, 33). He must wash his clothes, for his profession hath been polluted. He must wash his flesh, for his person is defiled. If he neglect this repentance and purification, he shall bear his iniquity; he is obnoxious to excision (verse 16; Leviticus 5:17; Numbers 9:13).
(2) What, then, can be said for a Church which professes literally to drink the blood of Christ in the cup of the Mass? Is not that Church thereby guilty of outraging the law of all the dispensations? It would evade this impeachment by impudently authorizing the eating of blood. But no impudence can evade the penalty: "But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat. And surely your blood of your lives will I require." Does not this plainly say that God will require the blood of the life of the blood-eater .9 David abhors the practice of the Syrians, who made libations of blood to their gods, and prophetically denounces and rejects our antichristian idolaters (see Psalm 16:4). Drunk as she is with the blood of the saints and the martyrs of Jesus, God will give her blood to drink, for she is worthy. - J.A.M.
I. We see that A LAWFUL ACTION MAY BE UNLAWFULLY PERFORMED. A wrong time or place may vitiate a deed otherwise permissible. Animals were given to man as food, and to slaughter and eat them was not in itself sin, but after the issue of this prohibition it became sin to do so without presenting them at the tabernacle. "Blood shall be imputed unto that man; he hath shed blood." So the homicide justifiable in war becomes murder, and the intercourse of matrimony fornication, and the "word spoken in season" a casting of pearls before swine, by reason of impropriety of person or season.
II. THE PEOPLE OF GOD MUST EXPECT RESTRICTIONS TO BE PLACED UPON THEIR LIBERTY. The nations may follow their own devices and desires, the chosen people are under a covenant to obey the commands of the Legislator. They are assured that his wisdom and kindness will prevent the adoption of unnecessary and inequitable prohibitions. For all his precepts there are the best possible reasons, and therefore obedience is cheerfully rendered. Note the noble reply which Milton puts into the mouth of the seraph Abdiel, to the taunts of Satan ('Paradise Lost,' book 6:170-181). Whilst the Israelites were in the wilderness, and the tabernacle abode in the midst of the camp, no hardship was involved in attending to this injunction, and it restrained them from evil practices, disciplining them against the time that they should enter the land of promise and have the injunction removed. Besides, animal food was scarce in the wilderness, as we learn from the complaints of the people.
III. TO RECOGNIZE GOD IN OUR COMMON ACTIONS AND ENJOYMENTS HALLOWS LIFE - MAKES IT A RELIGIOUS SERVICE. The slain animal is consecrated as a peace offering, its blood being sprinkled on the altar, the fat burnt for a "sweet savour unto the Lord," and the remainder partaken of with gratitude and joy. God is honoured and man profited. Alas! that so many can continually receive God's mercies without acknowledgment, no blessing invoked, and no emotion of holy gladness sweetening the repast! The Christian ideal is to do all in the Name of Jesus and to the glory of God.
IV. TO REFUSE TO GOD HIS RIGHTS IS TO COMMIT IDOLATRY. The Israelites were certain to turn the slaughter of an animal into a festival, and the question was, to whom should the feast be dedicated? Homage to the demons of the field could not be sanctioned, it was a breach at once of the first and seventh commandments. It is frequently forgotten that a neutral attitude in respect of God is impossible; we are either on his side or against him. Intellectualism, materialism, scientificism, agnosticism, it matters not by what name our rejection of the claims of religion is covered, it really designates the setting up of an idol upon the throne of the heart, and we adore the enemy of God.
V. THE PROBATIONARY CHARACTER OF MANY OF GOD'S REQUIREMENTS IS HERE MADE VISIBLE. In Deuteronomy 12 the precept of the text is repealed as relating to the settled condition of life in Palestine, when it would manifestly be difficult to comply with the law. By that period the precept had served its purpose in training the Israelites to abstain from evil practices, and to honour Jehovah with all their substance. And we today have our wilderness system of probation and training, many rules designed to meeten us for the society of just men made perfect. The injunction of the text pointed to the transitory nature of the Law as a whole. It has been abrogated by the gospel, the dispensation of promise, the land of liberty and rest. Yet, as in their residence in Palestine, the Israelites continued to observe the spirit of the repealed Law, so do we, under the gospel, retain the principles that underlay the Mosaic legislation. To acknowledge God in every meal and mercy, to hallow the secular and to promote it to the sacred, this, as it is the object of Christian endeavour, is the spirit of the command we have been considering in Leviticus. And equally so, the principles and spirit of our Christian earthly life will be recognizable in the higher worship and service of heaven. The accident changes, the essence alters not. - S.R.A.
(1) the instruction is explicit enough (verses 3, 4), and without qualification;
(2) the limitation is afterwards allowed in consideration of the change of circumstance (Deuteronomy 12:20, 21); and
(3) the difficulty in the case is less on consideration than it at first appears. It is objected that this would be a burdensome prohibition; but
(a) it only lasted (see above) while they were in the camp, near to one another, and all near to the tabernacle; and
(b) much less flesh was eaten there and then than is eaten here and now. A more largely vegetable diet would probably be wholesome for us; it was undoubtedly so in the desert of Arabia. When we more carefully consider this precept, we see its beneficent character; we perceive -
I. A FATAL EVIL, FROM WHICH IT WAS DESIGNED TO SAVE THEM. The practices of Egypt clung to them; among these was demon-worship (verse 7). They had gone after those demons, and offered sacrifices to them. If any animal might be killed anywhere for food, and the blood of it might not be eaten (Leviticus 3:17; Leviticus 7:26), there would be a strong temptation to the superstitious to pour it out in sacrifice to those demons of whose malignant interposition they were afraid. This temptation must, at all cost, be guarded against. It would introduce or foster that idolatrous usage from which it was the supreme object of all these statutes to keep Israel free. And if no animal might be slain save at the tabernacle door, there would be no danger of this disastrous lapse into Egyptian superstition.
II. THE GOOD IT WAS DESIGNED TO DO THEM. It would confer a threefold boon upon them.
1. It would bring them often to the tabernacle, and so to the near presence and worship of God; it would multiply their sacrifices (verses 5, 6).
2. It would lead them to associate their material blessings with the Divine hand; presenting them unto the Lord, they could not fail to be reminded that they were his gifts.
3. It would help them to look on Jehovah as their Divine Friend. These became peace offerings (verse 5), and the essential thought of such offering was human fellowship with God. We detect here some useful suggestions as to the true character of Christian service.
1. We must not make our Christian worship too deprecatory in its character. There is something painfully and dangerously like demon-worship in the devotion of some men; they seldom rise above the deprecatory in their thought, as if God were a being so stern and so reluctant to forgive that his people should spend all their devotional breath in deprecating his wrath. Surely to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ we should bring, beside this, our adoration, praise, gratitude, trust, love, consecration, etc.
2. We must learn to connect daily blessings with the Divine hand. We should, in thought though not in act, bring everything we have to "the door of the tabernacle," trace each good thing we enjoy to the generous Giver of all, to his heart of love as well as to his hand of bounty.
3. We should bless God for revealing himself to us as our Divine Friend, in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ has taught us to think and feel that we are the friends and guests of God (John 15:14, 15; John 14:23; Revelation 3:20). - C.
I. THE DOMINION OF MAN OVER THE LOWER CREATION.
2. Limited in its extent, by necessity, humanity of feeling, provision for the higher purposes of human life.
3. Capable of being blended with the Law of the sanctuary. We should afford all creatures dependent on us, as much as possible our own sabbath of bodily rest. We should make it a religious duty to protect them from injury and suffering. In so far as we use them for food, an offering of them should not be to the god of sensuality, but to him whose Law requires temperance, self-restraint, and reverence for the lower nature, that it may support the higher. All with thanksgiving.
II. POWER OF LIFE AND DEATH IS IN AND FROM GOD. As entrusted to man, whether over the lower animals or over his fellows, it is a power to be exercised as in the sight of God and at the door of his house.
1. Shedding of blood a solemn responsibility. In common life, lest we be guilty of cruelty and destruction of a true and valuable element in the world's welfare. In execution of law, lest we give to that which represents the Divine will the appearance of injustice and wantonness. Even in healthy sport, care must be taken lest there be an overbalance of the mind towards shedding of blood or disregard of suffering. In all questions of difficulty, bring the matter to the door of the tabernacle.
2. The sacredness of blood points to atonement. The devoted and slaughtered animal was received back again as a Divine gift for the use of the offerer, thus lifting up death into life. Sacrifice is not God's delight in death, but his promise of salvation. The sanctity attached to the blood of victims prepared the way to the higher sanctity attached to the blood of Christ. The Old and New Testaments explain one another.
III. PRESERVATION FROM IDOLATRY AND FALSE WORSHIP IN THE POSITIVE REGULATIONS OF THE LAW. Mistake of supposing that mere negative religion will purify men from corruption. Against the worship of devils we are never sate except as we are engaged in the worship of the true God. - R.
Leviticus 3:17; Leviticus 7:23-26). Its full and formal restatement is very significant, and this the more because of the emphatic utterance of Divine displeasure in the event of disobedience. "I will even set my face against that soul... and will cut him off," etc. (verse 10). Obviously, the highest importance was attached by God to the observance of this injunction not to eat "any manner of blood." We regard -
I. THE PRIMARY SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS LAW. This is clearly indicated in verses 11 and 12. We shall understand it if we consider the subject thus:
1. Happy and harmonious relations between Jehovah and his people were maintained by continual sacrifices at his altar.
2. In these sacrifices the life of the slain animal was accepted by God as an atonement for the forfeited life of the human transgressor.
3. But the blood of the animal was regarded as the seat and source of its life. When its blood was shed its life was taken, and the shed blood was sprinkled before the vail or poured on the altar (chapter 2:6, 7), as standing for the life which had been offered by man, and been accepted by God. "The blood of bulls and of goats," therefore, however insufficient of itself for the high purpose of atonement for human sin, was yet the outward and visible means which the Holy One of Israel was pleased to appoint for reconciliation between himself and his people. Therefore it was to be held sacred; the idea of it must not be vulgarized, as it would inevitably be if blood were used as common food at ordinary meals. Its sanctity must be carefully fenced. Men must associate with it, in their minds, nothing but the forfeited life, the atonement, with which it was so closely connected. All their domestic and social customs (verses 13, 15, 16) must be so ordered that the blood of animals, anywhere and anywise slain, should speak of those sacrifices at the altar in which the erring souls of men sought and found the mercy and the favour of their God.
II. ITS SIGNIFICANCE TO OURSELVES. It suggests to us the truth that, as the disciples of Jesus Christ, we also should count very sacred in our esteem the thought of atoning blood.
1. For we, too, are redeemed by "precious blood" (see 1 Peter 1:18, 19; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:12-14; Revelation 5:9). It may not have been needful that, in the literal sense, the blood of the Son of man should flow, but it was needful that his life, of which the blood is the source and the symbol, should be laid down.
4. His atoning death was the object of our soul's trust when we entered our Christian course, and will be at the hour when we shall complete it.
5. It is the will of Christ that we should keep it continually in view throughout our life. It is our wisdom as well as our duty so to do, inasmuch as the contemplation of his death for our sins will minister
(1) to our humility;
(2) to our gratitude;
(3) to a consecrated life of cheerful obedience and submission. - C.
Leviticus 17:10-16Leviticus 17:10-16. Verse 11, "The life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul."
I. THE NATURAL BASIS OF ATONEMENT.
1. The preciousness of life. The blood is the seat of life.
2. The exchange of the altar, blood for life, a lower for a higher, requires a supplementary value, which is represented by the altar itself.
3. The law proclaimed at the first against the shedding of blood taken up into the higher law of redemption; righteousness becoming at the altar of God the refuge of man.
II. ATONEMENT FOR THE SOUL PROVIDED BY DIVINE LOVE. "I have given it you to make an atonement."
1. All atonement must proceed from Divine love, otherwise it will be heathenish as effecting a change in God. Christ is set forth a propitiation.
2. Atonement is made, i.e., by being offered, the blood shed at the tabernacle door, offered upon the altar. Thus the sacrifice is a revelation and consecration of the bond of union in the covenant relation between God and man.
3. The blood, while representing the life, also represents the obedience active and passive of Christ, which was both a rendering up to God of a perfect humanity, and an exaltation of the Law in the sufferings and death of Calvary; the old man crucified, the new man glorified.
4. All human merit is excluded: "I have given it you." No amount of sacrifice would be of any avail except it be according to the will of God. We give back to him of his own. Hence the difference between the Jewish sacrifices and those of pagan nations, and between the morality which is founded on the sacrifice of Christ, and that which proceeds from mere self-will or an unjustifiable and false exaltation of human nature as it is. He that is not clean as God makes him clean shall "bear his iniquity." Necessity of insisting on this doctrine of atonement in the present day. Falsehood as to humanity, in the way of all true progress. Those who boast are not those who make sacrifices to elevate man. "Survival of the fittest" a cruel remedy for the world's miseries. Christ's doctrine is elevation of the lowest. Atonement for your souls is the beginning of all true life. - R.
offense, yet it must be remembered that violations of ritual become moral transgressions when they are committed against the known will of the recognized Legislator. This is especially the case when, as here, the Lawgiver condescends to explain the reason upon which the prohibition is founded. Such explanation ought to secure intelligent observance of the enactment. And that enactment was but the reissue of the former decree that gave animals to man for food, but annexed a prohibition against tasting the blood (Genesis 9:4).
I. The fact stated, that THE SHEDDING OF BLOOD CONSTITUTES AS ATONEMENT. Illustrated by the numerous sacrifices of the patriarchs, and the provisions of the Law that sacrifices should form a part of all national and individual festivals, as well as of all offerings to wipe away inadvertent transgression. See it in the sprinkling of the book and vessels and people at the ratification of the covenant. It is confirmed by the well-nigh universal practice of heathen nations, and is proved by direct Scripture statements in the Old and New Testaments. "Without shedding of blood is no remission" (Hebrews 9:22). It typified, therefore, the offering of Jesus Christ, whose blood redeems us "from our vain manner of life" (1 Peter 1:18). "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." This Mosaic way of speaking is ingrained in the apostles, showing how they regarded the death of Jesus as the fulfilment of the types of the Law.
II. The truth implied that THE CHIEF VIRTUE OF BLOOD AS AN ATONEMENT IS DERIVED FROM GOD'S APPOINTMENT. "I have given it unto you" indicates that the blood of animals had no intrinsic efficacy to atone for sin. And the same truth is shadowed forth in the words, "upon the altar." There was no difference in itself between blood ordinarily spilt and that presented before God, but the presentation constituted the difference. To sprinkle the blood upon the altar was to bring it emblematically into the very presence of the Deity. "God set forth" Christ Jesus "to be a propitiation, through faith, by his blood."
III. The reason afforded for the selection of BLOOD, that it IS THE VEHICLE OF LIFE. Physiology, and especially recent investigations with the microscope, confirm the dictum of Scripture, that "the blood is the life." It nourishes and sustains the whole physical frame; if it deteriorate in quality the body weakens, if it diminish in quantity power is lessened.
1. By such an atonement God is recognized as Lord of life and of all its consequences. He gave and takes away, to him alone should life be offered. Thus the sanctity of life was enforced. Man was not to feast upon that which was God's prerogative; blood must be poured upon the ground like water, thus returning to the earth.
2. The enormity of sin is represented, as enacting the utmost for an atonement that can be rendered. "Life is the most cherished of possessions, since man is powerless to create or to restore it." The crowning proof of Christ's compassion was that he gave "his life"a ransom for the many, and the gift revealed the awfulness of sin to require such a redemption.
3. It represents the substitution of one life for another, death being the sentence pronounced upon the sinner. "When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin" was Isaiah's prediction of the sacrifice of Christ. It may be observed that the word in the text translated "soul" and "life" is the same, corresponding to the use made of the equivalent Greek word in Matthew 16:25, 26. That but for the death of Jesus Christ we must have been subject to eternal death, is the plain import of many passages in the Word of God.
IV. THE FUTURE ADVENT TYPIFIED OF ONE WHO SHOULD BY HIS OFFERING: FULFIL ALL THE CONDITIONS OF A PERFECT ATONEMENT. Every Israelite might not perceive in the insufficiency of his sacrifices a prediction of the Lamb of God, but there it was portrayed visibly enough. An innocent, holy, human victim, a voluntary offering, being himself the Lawgiver, and by incarnation subjecting himself to the Law, making adequate acknowledgment of the righteousness of God and of the ill deserts of God's rebellious sinful children, revealing to man at once the loving heart of God and the hatefulness of sin which had estranged man from his Father in heaven, by his death exhibiting the length to which sin will go, and the willingness of Divine holiness and love to submit to extreme degradation and anguish in order that the curse might be removed and man's heart won, - this is the atonement of truest efficacy, a mighty moral power with God and man. This is the death that gives life to the world, the blood that cries out, not for vengeance, but for mercy, that sanctifies not merely to the purifying of the flesh, but to the purging of the conscience from dead works to serve the living God. And the shedding of the blood of Christ was the signal for release from the ceremonies and restrictions imposed by the Mosaic Law. The prohibition of the text had served its purpose.
CONCLUSION. With what rejoicing should we approach our altar, the cross of Christ (Hebrews 13:10)! And what guilt we incur if we slight the blood of Christ as little available for salvation, or, though professing to believe, yet by conduct show that we count the blood of the covenant an unholy thing! - S.R.A.