LEV 21:17 –priests with disabilities and deformities
There’s an intriguing passage in Leviticus 21:17 and the verses which followed:
"Speak to Aaron, saying: 'No man of your descendants in succeeding generations, WHO HAS ANY DEFECT, may approach to offer the bread of his God.”
This passage enthralled me. We’ve read it before, but it really hits you how serious God is that His priests serving at the altar or in the holy place represented His perfection and holiness. Anyone with any defect could not serve. Wow! I hope you read Leviticus 21 carefully and slowly, on your knees. After all, whether you’re ordained or not, if we’re being called by our Heavenly Father, WE today are being called to be part of a “holy priesthood” (1 Peter 2:5; also Revelation 1:6; 5:10; and Rev. 20:6). Yes YOU. Forget the images in your mind of what a priest is, just for a minute. YOU are being called to serve God as part of a “royal priesthood”. Do you have any defects? What does this mean?
1 Peter 2:5, 9
“…YOU also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, A HOLY PRIESTHOOD, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” V. 9 – “royal priesthood”
We are called the house of God, a spiritual house. Our lives should be a house of prayer. I’ve spoken on that before. But then Peter says we are all being called to be a holy PRIESTHOOD in these new covenant times. In the first covenant times, only men could be priests. But in these second covenant times, though I believe scripture is clear that PASTORS of churches are to be male, scripture is also clear that spiritually speaking we are all of one. No more male or female as far as our spiritual potential goes. Women are co-heirs with us of the grace of life (1 Peter 3:7).
WOMEN who are led by God’s spirit are also being called to be priests of God in the new kingdom. Now there is no longer (spiritually speaking) male nor female, Jew nor Gentile (Gal. 3:26-28). SO whether you’re a man or woman, I hope I have your attention. The rules in Leviticus 21 for priests say a lot for us today – those of us in training to be priests of YHVH in the coming Kingdom.
In Leviticus 21, after some rules about dealing with dead bodies and rules for marriage, the rules for physical perfection are listed. We find Yehowah saying in verses 17-20 that if any priest is deformed, lame, blind, a dwarf or has imperfections like severe eczema or scabs -- he couldn’t serve in the tabernacle.
WHY? How does all this apply to us TODAY?
Read the rest of this blog for the intriguing answers. The answer will also help you understand much of the rest of Scripture if you apply the principle I’m going to employ.
SO what’s the key to understanding why Yehowah the Living God would be so restrictive about who could serve as a priest who would offer the bread of God? It sounds discriminatory today.
It’s relevance for US today is seen in its SPIRITUAL meaning. But first I share something from the Bible Exposition Commentary of the Old Testament by Warren W. Wiersbe:
The privilege of leadership brings with it the responsibility of maintaining a life that's above reproach. In their devotion and obedience to God, the priests were to be examples to the rest of the nation. Unfortunately, the priesthood in Israel declined spiritually and led the people astray. "They feed on the sins of my people and relish their wickedness. And it will be: Like people, like priests. I will punish both of them for their ways and repay them for their deeds" (Hosea 4:8-9, NIV).
“… The important thing for all of them was that they remain ceremonially clean before the Lord. The word defile is used four times in this chapter, and the word profane is used eight times. You will notice that at the end of each major paragraph in chapters 21-22, the Lord says, "I am the Lord who sanctifies you," or words to that effect (Leviticus 21:8,15,23; 22:9,16,32)”.
Yehowah called you and me as priests of the new covenant, to be set apart, sanctified, and to walk in His holy way. In fact Yeshua said we were to become “perfect”, as our heavenly father is perfect (Matthew 5:48). I realize that comes from the word meaning mature or grown up, but the point is God wants us representing Him very, very well. WE must put away anything about us that brings reproach to the One we claim to follow.
Having said that, the only one perfect – as we think of that word -- is our Leader, Jesus Christ. I know of no human being – minister or otherwise - - who is without fault. Even the Apostle Paul claimed he had been a chief sinner who had caused many believers to blaspheme by his cruel persecutions (1 Tim. 1:15). Jacob (Israel), late in his life, said “few and EVIL have been the days of my life” (Genesis 49:7).
You’ll soon see this has everything to do with Leviticus 21 and the holiness of the priests.
When we act like unbelievers, it causes people to blaspheme and speak derogatorily of us who are of the Way. Peter, Paul and others say we should no longer do the things we used to do before Christ came into our lives (1 Peter 4:1-4). Who hasn’t failed in this task? Do you remember that after David’s sin of murdering Uriah and seizing Bathsheba, the prophet Nathan also said that David had caused the enemy of Yehowah to blaspheme by his sins (2 Samuel 12:14). We are not a good light, me included, whenever we are poor examples of this Way in our speech and conduct. The priests of God were to bring glory to Him – not dishonor.
We pray: “Oh Master, give us more of your Spirit and please awaken our senses to where we fall so short of your glory. Help us follow you more closely each day. Forgive us, your children, for our imperfect walks. Have mercy, especially on us who teach your way, for we have been called to be leaders and priests. Help us grow up ever more to be in your image, to look and be like you.”
So now read the rest of Leviticus 21. It seems Yehowah is being pretty tough on what we would term disabilities today. The short explanation is this:
- They all pictured the perfection of Yeshua, the perfect High Priest without defect.
- These physical examples of disabilities are pictures of the spiritual. We must learn to read the Bible with the spiritual in mind, as well as for the obvious physical teachings.
17 "Speak to Aaron, saying: 'No man of your descendants in succeeding generations, who has any defect, may approach to offer the bread of his God. 18 For any man who has a defect shall not approach: a man blind or lame, who has a marred face or any limb too long, 19 a man who has a broken foot or broken hand, 20 or is a hunchback or a dwarf, or a man who has a defect in his eye, or eczema or scab, or is a eunuch.
None of these could serve in the tabernacle or temple. Let’s examine some possible reasons why:
BLIND OR LAME: God wants those who teach to see the truth and not just teach it, but walk in that way. There’s much in Scripture about spiritual blindness: Romans 11:25; Eph. 4:8; 2 Pet. 1:9.
BROKEN HAND: our hands point to our actions and works, what we do. This would again point to someone not handling the Word of God correctly or unable to or unwilling to do good works. See 2 Timothy 2:15. Titus1:16 speaks of those who profess to know God but in works deny him. Some deny His power to redeem and renew and change a sinner to a man or woman of God. In any case, our “spiritual hand” must be well, must be strong in doing the works of righteousness.
BROKEN FOOT, v. 18: probably points us to someone whose walk is not right. They can’t stand straight or walk straight. The spiritual point is clearly being made here. Sometimes our feet do slip, as David confessed in Psalm 94:18, but he teaches us that when we call out to Yehowah for help, His mercy will hold us up. Proverbs 4:27 – remove your foot from evil. Literally DOZENS of verses speak of walking with God, walking in the right path and so on. It’s a good study for you.
A DWARF could not serve as a priest in the tabernacle. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a midget being a strong believer in Messiah. But in first covenant times, he could not be a priest serving in the tabernacle. In 2nd covenant times, Zacchaeus, though he was very short and had to climb a sycamore tree to see the Christ – HE was the one Messiah chose out of the crowd. (Luke 19:1-10)
But spiritually speaking, being a midget pictures someone with spiritually stunted growth. They didn’t mature and come to the full stature of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:13-15 point us to the need to “grow up” into the fullness of the stature of Christ. Are we maturing spiritually?
DAMAGED EYESIGHT: Scripture has a lot to say about the eyes. They are the window into the soul – see Matthew 6:22-23; Luke 11:34-36. I love the old spiritual “Open my eyes, that I may see….” It ends up with “illumine me, spirit of God”. We must be able to see God’s truth as leaders and priests of Yehowah. Even today, the US Homeland Security folks identify suspicious persons by looking closely at their eyes. A good salesman watches the buyer’s eyes very carefully, as they speak volumes. SO it is spiritually, if our eye is good, the rest is probably OK too.
SEVERE ECZEMA OR SCABS: This is often caused by improper diet, specifically a lack of fruit or sometimes a lack of oils. Scurvy affects the scalp. That person has a scabby head. This could be pointing to someone who is not using the oils of the Spirit to produce fruit of the spirit. We won’t be healthy without a proper spiritual diet.
A EUNUCH could not be an active priest. Why? Perhaps this pictures someone spiritually who is not reproducing, not creating more converts to the Way. This should speak to all of us. Can you point to someone who is a believer today because of your witness? We should all be able to, over time. When the early believers were scattered from Jerusalem, they “went everywhere preaching the word” – and many were converted to the Way (Acts 8:4; Acts 11:19-24).
So I say again, look more to the spiritual meaning here rather than get depressed if you are disabled, or have birth defects or problems caused by accidents, aging or disease. Today we focus on the spiritual.
I hope this blog helps in a couple of ways.
- Read the Bible more and more for its spiritual intent.
- Let’s be brethren who serve our God with a “good eye”, strong feet quick to spread the gospel and walk this Way, strong hands which rightly divide the word, and with vigor to bring more converts to the Way.
So, priests of God, let’s ask our perfect High Priest to come live more than ever inside of us so we can more perfectly walk in His holy Way. It really becomes a matter of vigorously talking (praying) to our Leader Jesus Christ and following in His steps. He will guide us when we seek Him vigorously. He will come into our hearts and minds and re-live His righteous life, if we open the door to Him. He is knocking on your heart’s door, asking to come in. What’s He doing outside? Let’s bring Him in and let HIS righteousness become ours.