Today's Reading > Leviticus 16-18
Tomorrow's Reading > Leviticus 19-21
I'm sure some think chapter 16 should have followed immediately after chapter 10, with the account of Nadab and Abihu, and their disobedience to God's specific direction for the priests. But consider the chapters in between as the reinforcement needed for all to follow the direction of God in detail, in carefully observing the clean and unclean. I believe these intervening chapters provide a clear understanding of the roles and expectations of the priests and their duties.
Chapter 16 begins with the preparation required of Aaron. Note he is not wearing the detailed, ornamental priestly robes described in Exodus 28. Actually, this attire is more simple than the ordinary priests. He is dressed more like a slave than a king, a significant reminder that he is in the presence of the King and is to serve Him.
As we continue to read the chapter the ritual of sacrifices is discussed. In typical Hebrew tradition and from the basic description given, followed by the detailed accounts. Aaron is to bathe, purifying himself, then proceed in the following order; 1) HE makes a sin offering in atoning for his sins and the sins of his family or household. He enters the Most Holy Pace and lights the incense. This is believed to be done in order to prevent the priest from seeing the Lord and create a protective barrier. Aaron is to take the blood from the sin offering and sprinkle some on the mercy seat seven times. 2) He then casts lots to determine which of two goats will be sacrificed and which will become the scapegoat (more on that later). 3) Aaron makes a sin offering in sacrificing the first goat to atone for the sins of the people and sprinkle some of the blood of the goat as he did previously. He then is to come out and do the same for the Holy Place and the altar of burnt offerings. 4) Now he is to take the scapegoat and place the sins of the people upon the goat's head. He then turns him over to one appointed to set the goat loose into the wilderness bearing all the sins of the people. 5) Aaron is to go into the Holy Place and remove his garments and bathe once more. 6) Next he is to sacrifice a burnt offering for himself and the people burning the fat of the sin offering on the altar as usual. 7) The one appointed to escort the scapegoat out of the camp and into the wilderness returns, bathes, washes his clothing, and returns to camp 8) The final act of the day is to take the remains of the bull and goat used for the sin offering and dispose of them outside the camp. The one appointed to this task also washes his clothing and bathes prior to returning to camp. This concludes the events of the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. This was (and is) one of the most anticipated days f the year for Israel. It is to be established for all time.
There is an interesting side note to the "Scapegoat", or the goat of removal, also known as the goat for Azazel. Note in 17:7 the reference to "They shall no more offer their sacrifices to the goat demons". Traditional thought indicates the practice of sending the scapegoat into the wilderness was to send the sins of the people by way of this goat to Azazel, the name given to a demon who lived out in the desert wilderness. Basically the thought was to return the sins of the people back to the demon in a mockery as in , "Here are the sins you have engineered among the people. You can have them back as they no longer have any power over us." As I mentioned, this is only a traditional thought I found interesting and wanted to share with you. There are several other line of thought in regard to the term "scapegoat". The bottom line is the goat was to leave the presence of God and His people and was never to be seen again.
Chapter 17 returns to a continuation of the ceremonial rules of clean and unclean practices. The two main themes of holiness are again presented, that of difference and separation. to again pay attention to detail in practice, the first principle was to observe is the central place of worship (vv 1-9). Note the punishment for those who refuse to bring their sacrifices to the doorway of the tent of meeting. Apparently, some were "sacrificing in reverse and taking the meat for themselves first, and taking the meat to be sacrificed at the altar later. sounds a lot like us today, giving the Lord His after we get ours. The second principle addressed in the chapter is the eating of blood of any animal (vv 10-16). Note the command against this Is repeated five times in this passage, with the penalty for this practice stated twice - "He shall be cut off from his people." The only greater punishment to the Hebrew people was death.
Chapter 18 (and on to 19 and 20, which is scheduled for tomorrow's reading) is the heart of the Holiness Code. In today's society, this passage presents interpretation and application challenges for us. Do we believe the Bible literally? Quoting one of the texts used for study (the Preacher's Commentary) "While many of the behaviors set forth in chapters 18 and 19 are still being practiced among us, the penalties set forth in chapter 20, such as the death penalty for both parties involved in marital infidelity, are not likely to be recommended by most contemporary pastors." While we may live in a time where this is accepted by the world, we as Christians must be fully aware of the fact that we are judged by God. Temporary acceptance is not eternal judgment. Return to the scripture and read the first five verses of chapter 18. This is the law we are to obey. The "progressive " decisions made in the courts permitting same sex marriage, along with the permissive acceptance of declining morals that result in a lack of fidelity in marriage may be tolerated in the worldly culture. but we can rest assured they will be eternally judged by the One who created and ordained the sanctity of marriage. Sexual relations are designed by God for husband and wife, who are to "leave and cleave", become one flesh", and forsake all others. I truly believe this passage of scripture (chapter 18) could not be more explicit or easily understood. There are sixteen variations of male / female sexual relationships that are forbidden as well as homosexual and bestiality sins. Sexual integrity is to be preserved. It is commanded and variation will be judged and punished. You can bank on it.