Israel Holy to Jehovah: 1

Leviticus 17:1‑9  •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 12
The great day of atonement occupies the entire chap. xvi. of this book. We see its relation to the feasts of Jehovah in chap. 23:26-32. But it also claims a distinct place, as Jehovah gave a special revelation with ample detail because of its independent importance, not more central in the book of Leviticus than in the ways of God, as shadowing that work of Christ on which, for a lost world as well as a people, all blessing depends, for Jews or Greeks or the church of God, for earth and heaven, for time and eternity.
Having already sought to expound that chapter by itself, however imperfectly but at least with simplicity and for practical use, I may now turn to the scriptures which follow, up to chap. 23., which may well call for a separate but briefer treatment. Each of these six chapters is devoted to divinely given regulations, to preserve the priests and the people of Israel from defilements to which they were exposed. It is not the offerings, as in Lev. 1-7, nor the priests duly established and failing (Lev. 8-10), or discharging their duties as to food, and the natural defilements and purification (xi.-xv.), ending with the day of atonement (xvi.). Here it is to guard priests and people from other defilements.
Let us now look into the portion before us.
“1And Jehovah spoke to Moses, saying, 2 Speak to Aaron, and to his sons, and to all the children of Israel and say to them, This [is] the thing which Jehovah hath commanded, saying, 3 Every one of the house of Israel that slaughtereth an ox or sheep or goat in the camp, or that slaughtereth [it] out of the camp, 4 and doth not bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, to offer [it] as an oblation to Jehovah before the tabernacle of Jehovah, blood shall be reckoned to that man: he hath shed blood; and that man shall be cut off from among his people, 5 to the end that the children of Israel bring their sacrifices which they sacrifice in the open field, that they bring them to Jehovah, to the entrance of the tent of meeting, to the priest, and sacrifice them as sacrifices of peace-offerings to Jehovah. 6 And the priest shall sprinkle the blood upon the altar of Jehovah, at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and burn the fat for a sweet savor to Jehovah. 7 And they shall no more sacrifice their sacrifices to demons (or hairy ones, satyrs) after whom they go a whoring. This shall be an everlasting statute to them for their generations. 8 And thou shalt say to them, Every one of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among them, that offereth a burnt offering or sacrifice, 9 and bringeth it not to the entrance of the tent of meeting, to offer it to Jehovah; that man shall be out off from his peoples” (vers. 1-9).
When God set the world that now is after the flood on the new condition of responsible government in man's hand, it was preceded by sacrifice; and the sweet savor was so acceptable, that Jehovah said in His heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake, for the thought of man's heart is evil from his youth. The very evil of man is the occasion of grace shown by Him, the unchanging God, Who used man's evil to bring out what He is in Himself, and is therefore incomprehensible save to faith. God thereon laid down that life belonged to God, and that man was bound to own His claim by not eating the blood. This principle was acknowledged by the apostles, elders, and brethren in Jerusalem, at the very assembly which vindicated the liberty of Gentile believers, but insisted on the restriction under Noah.
Here however it is not God dealing with man, but Jehovah instructing His priests and people in their peculiar relationship to Himself. It is the thing which Jehovah commanded every man of the house of Israel and no others; and it is here imposed on their wilderness estate. Whoever there slaughtered an animal for food without the camp must bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting to offer it as an offering to Jehovah before His tabernacle. If not, blood was imputed to him; and because he shed blood without thus acknowledging Jehovah, his own life was forfeited: “that man shall be cut off from his people.” It was an abandonment of Jehovah, and a denial of the ground on which he stood before Him. If he partook of animal food, he was bound to own, what the Gentiles that know not God had forgotten, that life belonged to Jehovah; He demanded the confession of the truth every time one took an animal's flesh for his food. Nor this only; but as He enjoined, solemnly before His tabernacle. Though for food, it was their duty to bring such to Jehovah and the priest as sacrifices; not of course as a sin-offering, but as expressive of communion with Him, sacrifices of peace-offerings to Jehovah.
Nor was the priest to fail on his side, but to sprinkle the blood upon the altar of Jehovah at the appointed place, and burn the fat for a sweet savor to Jehovah. Hence the profane and selfish wickedness of Eli's sons at a later day in the land, not only morally but in contempt of the law, even in the formal sacrifices and that which was exclusively Jehovah's right (1 Sam. 2:12-2512Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the Lord. 13And the priests' custom with the people was, that, when any man offered sacrifice, the priest's servant came, while the flesh was in seething, with a fleshhook of three teeth in his hand; 14And he struck it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; all that the fleshhook brought up the priest took for himself. So they did in Shiloh unto all the Israelites that came thither. 15Also before they burnt the fat, the priest's servant came, and said to the man that sacrificed, Give flesh to roast for the priest; for he will not have sodden flesh of thee, but raw. 16And if any man said unto him, Let them not fail to burn the fat presently, and then take as much as thy soul desireth; then he would answer him, Nay; but thou shalt give it me now: and if not, I will take it by force. 17Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord: for men abhorred the offering of the Lord. 18But Samuel ministered before the Lord, being a child, girded with a linen ephod. 19Moreover his mother made him a little coat, and brought it to him from year to year, when she came up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice. 20And Eli blessed Elkanah and his wife, and said, The Lord give thee seed of this woman for the loan which is lent to the Lord. And they went unto their own home. 21And the Lord visited Hannah, so that she conceived, and bare three sons and two daughters. And the child Samuel grew before the Lord. 22Now Eli was very old, and heard all that his sons did unto all Israel; and how they lay with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. 23And he said unto them, Why do ye such things? for I hear of your evil dealings by all this people. 24Nay, my sons; for it is no good report that I hear: ye make the Lord's people to transgress. 25If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him: but if a man sin against the Lord, who shall entreat for him? Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the Lord would slay them. (1 Samuel 2:12‑25)). As the people were not to count their part irksome but a privilege as Jehovah's people, so the priests were called cheerfully to sprinkle the blood and burn the fat on the altar. How due to Him! how happy and good for His people
It was a needed safe-guard against idolatry too. For so inveterate a snare for man is it to turn aside to strange gods, that even here Jehovah deigns to notice the danger for His erring people. “And they shall no more sacrifice their sacrifices to the goats (or, satyrs), after whom they go a whoring. This shall be a statute forever to them throughout their generations.” So now that we as Christians rest on the one perfecting offering of Christ, it is our place and joy, whether we eat or drink or whatsoever we do, to do all to God's glory, to do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to the Father through Him. It is not only in offering up a sacrifice of praise to God, but as not forgetting to do good and communicate (i.e., to share our goods with others); for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
Verses 8 and 9 take in also the strangers that sojourned among the Israelites and denounce the evil of offering a Burnt Offering or a sacrifice except at the one divinely assigned meeting-place with Jehovah. How sad for any in professing to own Jehovah with an offering to disregard His goodness in giving a place, and but one place, of outward access to Himself How active and wily is the unseen foe in everything, and not least in the ostensible worship of God to put scorn on the good and acceptable and perfect will of God! So it was in Israel then: so it has ever been, and with not less dismal success, in the church from near the first till our day.