Then the LORD said to Moses, "Speak to Aaron's sons, the priests, and tell them: 'A priest is not to defile himself for a dead person among his people,
I. THE BLAMELESSNESS OF THE MINISTRY A NECESSITY OF THE CHURCH'S LIFE.
1. Spiritual leaders a natural requirement and a Divine appointment. We want teachers both in word and act. The priesthood of the old dispensation was abolished, but in the new there are those who, both by their superior knowledge and piety and by their consecration of life to the sanctuary, become the responsible leaders of the Church.
2. An impure priesthood the greatest calamity to the cause of religion. Like priest, like people. The corruptions of the Middle Ages mainly traceable to the defilement of those who should have been first and foremost in faithfulness to truth and duty. The hindrance to the spread of Christianity now is largely the indifference and blindness and worldliness of those who serve the sanctuary. The life of the public representative of religion should be above reproach in all things.
II. GOD'S HOUSE AND CAUSE SHOULD HAVE THE CHOICEST AND BEST OF HUMAN CAPACITY AND ENERGY DEVOTED TO IT.
1. That the Church itself may be edified and become a praise unto God. Our religion demands and satisfies our highest efforts. The truth of God's Word is inexhaustible food for the mind and delight to the heart. Endless scope for the development of human powers in the service of God. Worship should be spotlessly pure, a glorifying of humanity in the light of Divine favour.
2. The world is won to God, not by hiding the graces of God's people, but by making the light to shine before men. No limit to the demand upon the talents and energies of the Church. We should urge those naturally gifted and superior to take their proper places. Yet natural defects can be wonderfully supplied by special Divine gilts. Much work has been done by the physically weak, and even by those whose characters were faulty. - R.
I. THE HOLINESS OF SAINTS DEPENDS UPON NO OUTWARD CONDITION, REQUIRES NO SPECIAL GIFT OF NATURE OR OF PROVIDENCE, OF UNDERSTANDING OR WISDOM, NAY, I MAY SAY, OF GRACE. It need not be shown in any one form; it does not require the largeness of any one grace; still less does it consist in austere sadness, or stern constraint, or rigid severity as to ourselves or others, except as to our sins. The blessed company of the redeemed saints have and have not found one road to heaven. One road they found, in that they were saved through one Redeemer, looking on to Him and believing in Him before He came or looking to Him when He had come. But all else in their outward lot was different. They were "redeemed to God out of every kindred, and tongue, and people and nation."
Ye shall be holy unto Me: for II. Let us endeavour TO EXPLAIN THE MEANING, AND THE FORCE OF THAT REASON FOR WHICH HOLINESS IS SO UNIVERSALLY ENJOINED. "Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy." And so God's holiness is made the motive for ours. And why? The Lord our God is holy; therefore should we labour to become so likewise, in order that we may become like Him in the most lovely and glorious of His attributes. We should labour to become like Him in the most lovely and glorious of His attributes in order that by so doing we may become well-pleasing in His sight; and, by becoming well-pleasing in His sight, to attain to that eternal happiness which God hath prepared for all those who, because they are like Him, He will condescend to love.
II. Having seen why the holiness of God is proposed to us as the motive to become holy, let us proceed to examine into THE NATURE OF THAT HOLINESS WHICH WE ARE COMMANDED TO IMITATE, THAT WE MAY HAVE A MODEL OF THAT WHICH WE ARE TO PURSUE.
1. First of all, then, we are taught that God is a Spirit. As the heavens, therefore, are higher than the earth, so also must we place our conceptions of what constitutes the essential holiness of the High and Lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, above the pollution of every earthly passion. Therefore in knowing, in the first place, what is the model of that holiness of God which you are to pursue, you must first of all remember that no earthly pleasure, no carnal imagination must have a place within the sanctuary of the heart. The utter banishment of all these lusts, then, both from our minds (lest they be defiled), and from our actions (lest they become unholy), must be the first of our labours, must be our perpetual care.
2. But God is not holy in Himself alone, He is holy also in His acts towards every creature in His power. And herein we have another point on which we are to labour after the similitude to God's holiness; we must throw aside every regard towards the persons of men, which courts the lofty, which rejects and despises the lowly man; we must account the welfare of all an object of our care; we must consider none too mean to be helped by our hand — none too high to mete out to them things which are expedient and their due. We must think of all, we must feel for all, we must be just to all; and so to show forth the similitude of God's holiness to all.
3. Thus holy in Himself, and holy in His acts, God is holy, in the third place, in the manner in which He regards both sin and the sinner. The face of the Lord is against them that do evil; and the wicked, though he be exalted, shall not stand in His sight, for He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. To turn, then, away our eyes, lest we look upon vanity, and to separate ourselves from all commerce with ungodly men — to give no encouragement to transgression, nor to the transgressor — to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather to reprove them, both in word and deed — these are the duties to which in imitation of God's holiness this third particular would more particularly direct us.
III. BUT WHO IS SUFFICIENT FOR THESE THINGS? Imperfectly as we have delineated the holiness of the Lord, few as are the features which we have had time to detail, yet who can consider his own failings in life without confessing how feebly he has attained to the conformity of the Almighty's holiness? When the text is taken in itself, as the measure of the duty required of all, and when we compare it with our weak and wavering performances, there is nothing left for man but destruction and despair. But the same God, who hates every unholy person and thing, has made a way to escape, that we may be able to bear it. Christ has fulfilled the law of holiness for man
; and He who knew no sin, has been made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. This is at once the apparently great mystery, and this the consolation of our religion.
(Jas. Vaughan, M. A.)
II. HOLINESS WAS MADE FOR ALL. It is the end for which we were made, for which we were redeemed, for which God the Holy Ghost is sent down and shed abroad in the hearts that will receive Him. God did not will to create us as perfect. He willed that we, through His grace, should become perfect. But what He willed that we Should be, that, if our will fail not, we must become. His almighty will vouchsafes to depend on ours. What God commands; what God wills; what God so willed that He made us for this alone, that we should be holy, and being holy, should share His holiness and bliss — that must be within our reach if we will.
III. THE MISTAKE OF MISTAKES IS TO THINK THAT HOLINESS CONSISTS IN GREAT OR EXTRAORDINARY THINGS, BEYOND THE REACH OF ORDINARY MEN. It has been well said, "Holiness does not consist in doing uncommon things, but in doing common things uncommonly well." Few can ever do great things, and the few who can do them can each do but few. But every one can study the will of God, and can give great diligence to know it and to do what he knows. Your daily round of duty is your daily path to come nearer unto God.
(E. B. Pusey, D. D.)
II. A STUDIOUS AVOIDANCE OF THE CUSTOMS OF UNGODLINESS. "Ye shall not walk in the manners of the nations," &c. (ver. 23). Conformity to the world was prohibited. However sanctioned, or desirable, or seemingly harmless, the customs of the ungodly were to be shunned.
III. A CAUTIOUS SELECTION OF SOCIAL ENJOYMENTS AND INDULGENCES. "Ye shall put difference between clean and unclean," &c. (ver. 25). Palate not to be gratified, tables not to be spread with promiscuous viands. God's wish and word were to rule them in every enjoyment, and self-restraint was to mark them in every gratification.
IV. A HERITAGE OF SPECIAL PRIVILEGES AS GOD'S PEOPLE. "Ye shall inherit their land, a land that floweth with milk and honey," &c. (ver. 24). Sinners lose earthly felicities, as the penalty of their impiety: "therefore I abhorred them" (ver. 23). The godly possess rich heritage of good as the mark of God's favour: "I will give it unto you to possess" (ver. 24).
V. A SEAL OF DIVINE SANCTITY RESTING UPON THEM: They show themselves to be —
1. Divinely "separated" (ver. 24), from other people. Their history and career attest God's dealing with them as with no other people.
2. Divinely sanctified. "Ye shall be holy unto Me: for I the Lord am holy, and have severed you from other people" (ver. 26). For the very "beauty of the Lord" rests upon the character and conduct of those He redeems. Note:(1) God claims His people: they are not their own; may not follow their own desires and delights; He is their law, they must surrender to Him. "That ye should be Mine" (ver. 26). It is a blessed fact co belong to God: but it carries its obligations.(2) Privileges are conditioned upon fidelity (ver. 22). The inheritance would be forfeited if obedience were withheld. All God's covenant promises to us wait upon our loyalty to Him. "Ye are My friends if ye do," &c.
(W. H. Jellie.)
I. But, first of all, LET US DEFINE WHAT HOLINESS IS. The word means simply separation. So the Latin word sacer, from which comes our word "sacred," is employed to denote profane as well as sacred — means wicked as well as holy. Hence the expression "Auri sacra fames," literally translated, "The sacred thirst of gold," but strictly and properly, "The accursed thirst of gold." The meaning, therefore, of a holy person is one severed or separated to something; and when applied to that which is pure and just and true it means separated to God. And we can only form an idea of what holiness is by seeing it defined by God, as embodied in His character and explained at length in His Word. Holiness in a Christian is just separation, sanctification, severance from the excessive love of things lawful, from the forbidden love of things sinful, to the growing love of what God has commanded in His holy Word, and of the grand image that God has depicted in every page of His revelation.
II. Now having seen what this holiness is, let me state, in the next place, HOW CHRISTIANS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT ARE CONSTANTLY ASSOCIATED WITH IT.
1. They are elected to it. He has chosen us in Christ from the foundation of the world, that we should be holy.
2. Now, this holiness, in the next place, is true and lasting beauty; it is real and original beauty. The King's daughter has all her beauty within, that needs a spiritual eye to discriminate and discern. The mass of mankind can only see glare, pretension, gaudiness, but the true Christian sees a city where the world sees none, for Christ, when He came to His own, His own recieved Him not; there was no beauty in Him that the world should desire Him.
3. And this holiness, too, of character is the highest possible honour. It is the livery of Heaven; it is the very robes of the King of glory; it is the dress which He prepares for His own; it is the Apocalyptic garments "white and clean, which are the righteousness of saints"; it is the raiment white and clean which no moth can gnaw, which no rust can decay, which no thief can break through and steal.
4. Arid, in the next place, this holiness is fitness for heaven. A man without an ear cannot enjoy music. In the same manner, a person without a sanctified heart, without holiness, is not fit for heaven.
5. In the next place, it is the distinguishing mark of the true Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is this that makes a Christian; and without this he cannot see God or put forth any valid claim to be a Christian at all.
6. In the next place, the Holy Spirit is the Author of this holiness.
III. Thus we have seen what this holiness is and who is the Author of it; let me notice now THAT ALL THE INSTITUTIONS OF THE GOSPEL ARE MEANT TO PROMOTE IT. Preaching is meant to promote it; sacraments are meant to promote it; the reading of the Bible is meant to promote it; the teaching of teachers is meant to promote it; all our schools and institutions, our preaching and hearing, our praying and communicating, are all helps that, by the blessing of the Spirit of God, bring us nearer to Him who is the Fountain of all holiness, of all light, and of all life.
IV. And in the next place, ALL THE CHASTISEMENTS OF GOD'S PROVIDENCE ARE MEANT TO PROMOTE THIS.
(J. Gumming, D. D.)
( M. Henry..)
(T. Chalmers, D. D.)
(H. G. Salter.)-And have you never cried in your hearts with longing, almost with impatience, "Surely, surely there is an ideal Holy One somewhere, or else how could have arisen in my mind the conception, however faint, of an ideal holiness? But where? oh, where? Not in the world around, strewn with unholiness. Not in myself, unholy, too, without and within, and calling myself sometimes the very worst of all the bad company I meet, because that company is the only company from which I cannot escape. Oh! is there a Holy One whom I may contemplate with utter delight? and if so, where is He? Oh I that I might behold, if but for a moment, His perfect beauty, even though, as in the fable of Semele of old, the lightning of his glances were death."
(Sunday School Record.).
Speak unto the priests the sons of Aaron.
I. ABSOLUTE AND INDESTRUCTIBLE RELATIONSHIP. Every son of Aaron was a "priest." Of this union with Aaron it is observable that —
1. It results from a living relationship. By birth he was connected with Aaron, a lineal descendant of God's high priest. And no truth is more a truism than that every Christian is by birth-relationship connected with Christ — the moment he is quickened and becomes a believing and a living soul, he is a "priest unto God." By no process of spiritual development or self-culture or studied effort does the convert to Christ become a "priest"; he is that by virtue of his living relationship to the High Priest: for as all the sons of Aaron were priests, so are all the sons of God through their connection with Christ.
2. The relationship is inalienable and indestructible. Conduct is not the basis of relationship with Christ, but life. A son of Aaron may be defiled "for the dead" (ver. 2), yet he did not thereby cease to be related to Aaron. If we were only priests to God as our conduct was faultless, who could stand? We are all unclean; defile ourselves continuously with "the dead," the guilty and contaminating things of earth. But "our life is hid with Christ in God"; and by virtue of that life-union we remain priests.
3. Imperfections of nature and character do not sever relationship. A "blemish," deformity of body, prove a disqualification for ministry, but did not destroy association with Aaron. Yes; there is exclusion from high and honoured services in consequence of irremediable defect and fault; and Christians with incurable weakness of disposition, worldliness of sympathy, infirmities of character, vacillation of purpose, are thereby set aside from honour in the Church and highest ministries for their Lord; yet still the relationship to Christ continues, for it is a birth-relationship, based upon a life-union with Jesus. But though relationship is absolute and indestructible —
II. PRIVILEGE IS DEPENDENT AND CONDITIONAL.
1. Defilement is a disqualification for near fellowship and highest enjoyment of the priestly relationship.. Contact with "the dead" was forbidden; it excluded the priest from the service of God until cleansed anew and so reinstated. All contamination works disqualification, therefore "touch not, taste not, handle not." A priestly life should be pure.
2. Defect is a disqualification for highest service for our Lord.(1) Physical deformities even now form a natural barrier to the loftiest offices in the Church of Christ. Not unfitting the sufferer for many lowlier and less public ministries; for sacred grace is not dependent upon physical "form and comeliness."(2) Defects of character, of mental and moral constitution, also exclude from loftiest stations and services in the Christian kingdom. They are a barrier to such positions in the Church as require noblest qualities of character: for eminence gives influence; and he who moves in the public gaze must be free from such weaknesses of will, or principle, or conduct as would lay him open to inconstancy.
(W. H. Jellie.)
Holy unto their GodI. THE HONOURABLE POSITION OF THE PRIESTS.
1. They are sanctioned by God, consecrated to His especial service, they bear His stamp upon them, wear His livery, and receive of the honour that belongs to Him.
2. They perform the high function of offering the bread of God. This phrase included not only the placing of the shewbread in the sanctuary, but also the presentation to God of the various sacrifices which become the materials for His glory and praise. The enlarged priesthood of the New Testament, embracing the whole body of believers in Christ Jesus, are similarly dedicated to sacred office. They present spiritual sacrifices, they "showforth the excellences of Him who called them out of darkness into His marvellous light."
II. HONOUR INVOLVES OBLIGATION AND RESTRICTION. Many acts permissible to the people were not so to the priests. They were evidently to be models of holiness in their persons, families, and social relationships. Men like the idea of occupying posts of dignity, but do not sufficiently realise the responsibilities thence accruing. We are always more anxious to get than to give; sinecure livings are at too high a premium of estimation.
III. PERFECT HOLINESS IMPLIES BEAUTY, LIFE, AND JOY. It is in opposition to disfigurement, death, and sorrow. How different this conception of holiness from that of gloom and moroseness which many entertain. Let young people know that God loves pretty children, and handsome men and women, when the glory of the Spirit is thus reflected in the outer person; He delights in the vigour and innocent mirth of the young, and in the happy enthusiasm, the lively rejoicing of their elders, when these are the outcome of righteousness and devoted service. The imperfection of this present state is evident in the fact that holiness does not mean exemption from anxiety and tribulation. It sometimes appears as if the most faithful children of God were visited with heaviest chastisements. We are assured of a future state where these contradictions shall be removed. The ideal shall not only be approximated, but attained to; "death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying, nor pain any more: the first things are passed away," symbolical and ascriptional righteousness shall give place to real perfect holiness; in the presence of God there shall be fulness of joy.
(S. R. Aldridge, B. A.)
I. The ancient priest was REQUIRED TO BE PHYSICALLY PERFECT. Otherwise he could not be a fit representative of that perfect humanity which was found in our Saviour. He was required to be without bodily blemish, that Israel might know what sort of a Priest Messiah to expect. Their eyes were to be directed to Jesus as one "altogether lovely."
II. The ancient priest was REQUIRED TO BE PROPERLY AND PURELY MATED. As a type of Christ in all other respects, so was he also in his espousals. The Lamb is not alone. He has His affianced bride — His holy Church. He hath chosen her as a chaste virgin — as one whom "the daughters saw and blessed." Not a divorced woman — not a vile offender — not an unclean thing — is the Church of Jesus. And the priest's wife had to be pure to typify these pure espousals of the Lamb, and the excellencies of that Church which He has chosen for His everlasting bride.
III. It was required of the ancient priest THAT HIS CHILDREN SHOULD BE PURE. The transgression of his daughter degraded him from his place. It is one of the demands laid upon Christian pastors to have "faithful children that are not accused of riot, nor unruly." The reason is obvious. A minister's family, as well as himself, is made conspicuous by the very nature of his office. Their misdeeds are specially noticed by the world, and readily laid to his charge. Any unholiness in them operates as a profanation of his name. It is so much taken from his power. The Holy Ghost therefore calls upon him to "rule well his own house, having his children in subjection." But the law was typical. It relates to Christ and His Church. It points to the fact that everything proceeding from His union with His people is good and pure.
IV. There are other requirements which were made of the ancient priests, both in the twenty-first and twenty-second chapters, which I will sum up under the general name of HOLINESS. They were not to defile themselves with the dead, or by eating improper food, or by contact with the unclean, or by irreverence towards the holy things. They were to be very particular about all the laws, and to devote themselves to their office as men anointed of God. In one word, they were to be holy; that is, whole, entire, complete, fully separated from all forbidden, and fully consecrated to what was commanded. This was necessary for personal and official reasons; but especially for the high priest as a type of Christ. It was a requirement to shadow forth the character of Jesus, and the sublime wholeness and consecration which were in Him. Men have despised and desecrated the sanctity of everything else related to religion; but when they came to the character of Jesus, their hands grew powerless, their hearts failed, their utterance choked, and they turned aside in reverent awe of a goodness and majesty which could not be gainsaid. Infidelity itself has freely and eloquently confessed to His matchless excellence. Paine disavows "the most distant disrespect to the moral character of Jesus Christ." Rousseau is struck with admiration at His excellence. "What sweetness, what purity in His manner! What an affecting gracefulness in His delivery! What sublimity in His maxims! What profound wisdom in His discourses l What presence of mind, what subtlety, what truth in His replies! How great the command of His passions! Where is the man, where the philosopher, who could so live, and so die, without weakness and without ostentation?... Yea, if Socrates lived and died like a sage, Jesus lived and died like a God." What would man be without Christ — without His holy life? In Him, and in Him alone, earth rises into communion with heaven, and light shines in upon our benighted humanity.
V. There is yet one particular in the requirements concerning the ancient priests to which I will refer. It is said of the high priest, "HE SHALL NOT UNCOVER," &c. (Leviticus 21:10-12). That is to say, he was not to allow any natural sympathies to interfere with the pure and proper discharge of the duties of his high office. Some have regarded this as a coldness and harshness thrown around the old priesthood, which has nothing to correspond to it in the Christian system. I do not so understand it. The very reverse is the truth. The high priest was a great religious officer for the entire Jewish nation. He belonged more to the nation than to his family or himself. It would therefore have been a most heartless thing to allow a little natural domestic sympathy and affection to set aside all the great interests of the Hebrew people. So far from throwing a chilliness around the high priesthood, it gave to it a warmth and zeal of devotion, and showed an outbreathing of heart upon the spiritual wants of the congregation, superior to the love of father or mother. And it was meant to shadow forth a precious truth: viz., that Christ, as our High Priest, consecrated all His highest, warmest, and fullest sympathies in His office. He loved father and mother, and was properly obedient to them; but when it came to the great duties of His mission, the interests of a perishing world were resting upon His doings, and He could not stop to gratify domestic sympathies. Rising then above the narrow circle of carnal relationships, "He stretched forth His hand toward His disciples, and said, Behold My mother and My brethren!" His sympathies are those of the spirit, and not of the flesh.
(J. A. Seiss, D. D.)
Any blemish.— To be a child of God is one thing; to be in the enjoyment of priestly communion and priestly worship is quite another. This latter is, alas! interfered with by many things. Circumstances and associations are allowed to act upon us by their defiling influence. We are not to suppose that all Christians enjoy the same elevation of walk, the same intimacy of fellowship, the same felt nearness to Christ. Alas! alas! they do not. Many of us have to mourn over our spiritual defects. There is lameness of walk, defective vision, stunted growth; or we allow ourselves to be defiled by contact with evil, and to be weakened and hindered by unhallowed associations. In a word, as the sons of Aaron, though being priests by birth, were, nevertheless, deprived of many privileges through ceremonial defilement and physical defects; so we, though being priests unto God by spiritual birth, are deprived of many of the high and holy privileges of our position by moral defilement and spiritual defects. We are shorn of many of our dignities through defective spiritual development. We lack singleness of eye, spiritual vigour, whole-hearted devotedness. Saved we are through the free grace of God, on the ground of Christ's perfect sacrifice. "We are all the children of God, by faith in Christ Jesus"; but, then, salvation is one thing, communion is quite another. Sonship is one thing, obedience is quite another. These things should be carefully distinguished. The section before us illustrates the distinction with great force and clearness. If one of the sons of Aaron happened to be "broken-footed, or broken-handed," was he deprived of his sonship? Assuredly not. Was he deprived of his priestly position? By no means. It was distinctly declared, "He shall eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy and of the holy." What, then, did he lose by his physical blemish? He was forbidden to tread some of the higher walks of priestly service and worship. "Only he shall not go in unto the vail, nor come nigh unto the altar." These were very serious privations; and though it may be objected that a man could not help many of these physical defects, that did not alter the matter. Jehovah could not have a blemished priest at His altar, or a blemished sacrifice thereon. Both the priest and the sacrifice should be perfect. Now we have both the perfect priest and the perfect sacrifice in the Person of our blessed Lord Jesus Christ.
(C. H. Mackintosh.)
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