Leviticus 22 says that priests must be holy when they are offering sacrifices to the Lord. Those who are not holy can’t offer sacrifices to the Lord, nor can they eat the sacred offerings dedicated to Him. For example, verses 12-13 says, “If a priest’s daughter marries anyone other than a priest, she may not eat any of the sacred contributions. But if a priest’s daughter becomes a widow or is divorced, yet has no children, and she returns to live in her father’s household as in her youth, she may eat her father’s food. No unauthorized person, however, may eat it.” How can we interpret the meaning of these verses?
Our Bible studies are not a word for word explanation of the chapter we are reading because we can’t do this in just one or two hours. The focus of each of our Bible studies is to follow the leading and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Our fellowship is often closely related to our life and work from the past week.
As we have mentioned many times, our Bible study’s goal is to have the Word of God speak to us and change us by giving us a fresh perspective and insight. Knowledge without being moved by the Spirit means the study wasn’t as effective as it should be. In other words, we may have understood the words being said, but we didn’t understand the Spirit behind the words. II Corinthians 3:6 tells us, “For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. In today’s study, we’ll share the inspirations that the Holy Spirit encouraged us with, and hopefully, it will help you also.
In this week’s meeting, a lady shared an experience that she had recently. She made a negative comment to a colleague. On the one hand, as a Christian, she felt she shouldn’t have said it. On the other hand, the Lord showed her that this comment exposed her real spiritual state, which wasn’t very good. She felt awful about it and couldn’t find any inner peace during prayer. She brought this situation to our study in hopes of getting help from others.
The members of the study encouraged her not to be too hard on herself and realize that Christians are human beings who say and do things in the flesh. They encouraged her to confess to God, apologize to the offended person, and receive God’s grace.
The story looks like it has nothing to do with this chapter of the Bible, but it ties into this chapter deeply. Through experience, we recognize that when members of our study have problems in life or at work, sharing their stories often leads the Holy Spirit to show us how these experiences tie into the chapter we are reading, which helps us to go deeper.
What makes this woman sad is her lack of intimacy with the Lord. She’s often with her atheist colleagues who influence the flesh rather than the Spirit. She also feels bad about her Christian testimony. On the other hand, she felt like she prayed, and God didn’t listen, so she didn’t have inner peace.
As a Christian who is seeking a deeper inner spiritual life, the feelings she was experiencing are normal. Nominal Christians or unbelievers may feel like you are causing your own problems. A principle in the spiritual realm is that the closer we are to the Lord, the more sensitive we are. The Lord’s expectations are higher for those who are closer to Him. For example, let’s look at the temple in the Old Testament. Many ordinary Israelis could come to the outer courtyard to offer cattle and sheep sacrifices, but only the Levites could serve in the Holy Place. Only people who were descendants of Zadok could serve priests in the Holy Place. The other Levites could not serve as priests (Ezekiel 44:13). Taking it a step further, only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies once a year.
Leviticus chapter 22 is a case where the priest offers sacrifices to God and eats the sacred offerings knowing what to do to avoid defiling himself. You can’t just casually go inside God’s sanctuary and offer sacrifices. You must be holy. After being defiled, you need to be cleansed first before you can enter the sanctuary again to offer sacrifices.
This woman’s experience is closely related to what we mentioned earlier in chapter 22:12-13. These two verses say: “If a priest’s daughter marries anyone other than a priest, she may not eat any of the sacred contributions. But if a priest’s daughter becomes a widow or is divorced, yet has no children, and she returns to live in her father’s household as in her youth, she may eat her father’s food. No unauthorized person, however, may eat it.”
Deuteronomy 7:6 says, “The Lord your God has chosen the Israelites out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.” (Deuteronomy 7:6, NIV).
They were called to bear witness to the Gentiles and attract the nations to God. The law required that the Israelites not inter-marry with Gentiles. This meant that they shouldn’t imitate the degenerated customs of the Gentiles. But I don’t believe this was asking the Israelites to not associate with the Gentiles. Would that make sense? It wouldn’t be possible for the Israelites to testify to the Gentiles without forming a relationship with them.
As Christians, we are spiritual Israelites. We live in the world, just as fish live in the sea. Although they live in saltwater, they are not salty. If a fish is salty, it is probably dead because it is infused with seawater. Although Christians live in the world, we do not live according to the system of the world. We are like the salt on the ground and the light in the city. We’re the light that illuminates the whole world. If we conform to the world’s way of living, we lose our ability to influence or salt our environment rendering us useless as a witness for Christ. Or if we hide our light or Christian testimony, our influence for Christ will be lost.
In Leviticus 22:12-13, if a priest’s daughter married anyone other than a priest, it was like us being conformed to the world and losing our authority. Romans, chapter 7 likens our carnal nature to the first husband and our new nature in Christ as the second husband. Paul said that if a husband dies, his wife is no longer bound to that first husband, meaning that when we are born again, and our old nature is crucified with Christ, we are free from the law of sin and death. Our new born again nature lives by the law of the Spirit in Christ.
Can you see the difference here? When a priest’s daughter marries anyone other than a priest, she may not eat any of the sacred contributions, nor may the guest of a priest or his hired worker eat it. (Leviticus 22:10, NIV). But in verse 11, it says that “If a priest buys a slave with money, or if slaves are born in his household, they may eat his food.”
What is the difference? The difference is whether God and the priest have a dominant position. If the priest bought a slave or the slave was born in his household, they could eat the sacred offerings. They represent the people who were reborn and purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ. If you marry a gentile husband, the husband usually has the final say at home. The husband here represents your old man or the Gentiles who don’t believe in God. In this case, you can’t eat the sacred offerings. Why? You are not strong enough to go against the world’s influence and could be carried away by it.
The Israelites were not forbidden to make contact with the Gentiles. Christians are also not forbidden to make contact with the unbelievers. Instead, we need to have enough influence to impact them to lead them to God. God will bless us for making the contacts. For example, if your atheist friends drag you to the casino, you could be faced with the temptation to gamble, even to the point of bankruptcy. In this situation, God may not be with you or won’t allow you to go. If you insist on going, you are on your own. But if you’re the type of person who is not tempted by gambling, and a good friend of yours is immersed in gambling, God may encourage you to go and help him break free from his addiction.
The daughter of a priest was married to an outsider. As she fell away from God more and more, she even gave birth to a child and was cut off from eating the sacred offerings to God. We won’t talk about offering sacrifices here because she’s not even qualified to eat the sacred offerings. The qualifications for offering a sacrifice are now higher. In the Old Testament, only the priests could offer sacrifices. But in the New Testament, every saved Christian is a spiritual priest. We can offer sacrifices to God. What is our sacrifice? Christ is our sacrifice, and we offer sacrifices to God through confession and repentance as David did or through praise and thanksgiving as in Hebrews 13:15.
The Lord Jesus said that He is the bread from heaven, and we must eat His flesh and drink His blood to have eternal life. He is our spiritual sacrifice. South African pastor Andrew Murray said that prayer is offering the Christ that is dwelling in us to Christ in heaven, or you can say that prayer is the Christ that is living in us praying to the Christ in heaven. When we conform ourselves to the world, we are deprived of the right to enjoy the sacrifice. So, how can we even talk about the sacrifices that we are going to offer to God?
I told the woman who’s story we shared earlier that it was very normal for her to feel weak when she prayed to the Lord and wasn’t able to please Him and have peace. When a person lives according to the flesh’s desires for some time, they lose strength, feel isolated, and cannot enjoy God’s sacrifices. This weakness is due to a lack of intimacy with God, and it makes sense that they feel weak and powerless even after praying.
Another pleasing sacrifice that we have is repentance. When we repent, God accepts our sacrifices and restores our communication with Him. Then, we can continue to eat God’s sacrifices and will slowly gain strength and have the ability in prayer to please Him. So, I shared with this woman that if her prayer doesn’t feel acceptable to God, and she doesn’t have inner peace, it may be that repentance is needed.
We often make mistakes, but when the Spirit of God encourages us to repent, we often give excuses. This was the case with Saul in the Old Testament. Samuel asked Saul to wait for him to come before offering sacrifices, but Samuel came late, and Saul had offered up a burnt offering because of his fear of the masses. Samuel was furious and blamed Saul for not waiting for him. Saul argued that the masses would not wait. Samuel spoke a very famous line here. In 1 Samuel 15:22-23, he said, “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.”
On the contrary, when David sinned, the prophet Nathan blamed him. His first reaction was to say that he was wrong. He recognized that he offended God. David repented and wrote the famous repentance poem, Psalm 51. He didn’t argue or make excuses.
This woman shared that she was still asking why God didn’t stop her from saying those inappropriate words but instead let her get exposed. On the one hand, she felt that she wouldn’t have been in that situation if she lived in the Spirit. On the other hand, she also thinks that the Holy Spirit is keeping watch over her at all times, not allowing her to follow worldly ways, and intervening at the right moment. Our experience can be like this. Why, after the priest’s daughter married the outsider, did her husband die, and she was left barren? This is not an exception. Naomi’s husband and two sons died in the Gentile land of Moab. She returned to Israel with her daughter-in-law Ruth and was able to eat the sacred offerings and inherit her husband’s property. Ruth had a child named Obed by her husband, Boaz. This child was even considered to be Naomi’s son as Ruth 4:14 says, “The women living there said, Naomi has a son!” This is God’s discipline in our circumstances. He wants us to have a share of His sacrifice so certain things are allowed in our lives. He allows our Husband (which represents our old man or carnal nature) to die for a day so we will return to our father’s house (representing the House of God). This way, we can continue to enjoy the sacrifice God has given us.
The story of Naomi seems to have little to do with the woman in our study’s situation, but it lines up perfectly by showing us that Christians need to be in the world but not of the world participating in the ungodly affairs going on around us. We need to be in intimate fellowship with Christ enjoying and delighting in him as the sacrifice given to us by God. Often when everything is going well in our lives, we haphazardly read the Bible, but hearts are closed and there is no deep revelation of the word. When life gets difficult, we find that the truths of the Bible come alive and are empowering.
Another person in our meeting had a similar experience. She had a big fight with her husband. She felt that she couldn’t keep their marriage going anymore. After their fight, she was moved by a chapter she read from the book of Job, and hope began to rise inside of her again.
The more we stay away from the Lord, the less we enjoy the sacrifice of God. But when we are forced to return to our father’s house due to circumstances, we will find that God’s sacrifice is really sweet.
When we finished this topic, another woman asked a question about verses 26-28.
“Chapter 22:26-28 says: The Lord said to Moses, “When a calf, a lamb or a goat is born, it is to remain with its mother for seven days. From the eighth day on, it will be acceptable as a food offering presented to the Lord. Do not slaughter a cow or a sheep and its young on the same day.”
So why not kill the mother and its young on the same day?
One of the men who took the lead in this bible study said that he saw many discussions on the Internet but didn’t see an explanation that impacted him.
I shared an explanation that I felt was inspired by the Holy Spirit. I think this verse says that when a person is still living in the flesh or the soul, they are very attached to the world’s affairs and don’t need to pretend to be spiritual.
Why? First of all, God hates hypocrites. When Jesus was on earth, he hated the Pharisees for their hypocrisy. Jesus teaches us that yes is yes and no is no. If you say more, it’s from the evil one. In Acts 5, Ananias bought land and donated half of it, but he made a pretense of donating it all. In the end, he offended the Holy Spirit. Peter said: Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? Why do you have to pretend and lie to the Holy Spirit? Ananias immediately dropped to the floor dead, verifying God’s feelings on hypocrites.
Some of us are living according to the desires of the flesh. We can liken it to the Israelites who were slaves in Egypt then drifted through the wilderness, unable to enter the Promised Land. God knows that saving a person from Egypt, and watching them journey through the wilderness before entering the Promised Land is a process. We need faith to win the battle, and God’s grace is provided for us throughout the different stages of our journey.
For example, when the Israelites were in Egypt, God appointed Joseph to look after them. When the new king (who did not know Joseph) took over, God appointed Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and leave the wilderness. After the first generation of the Israelites had fallen in the wilderness due to rebellion and disobedience, God raised Joshua and led them to experience victory and enter the Promised Land. God has different leading in every stage.
If you haven’t reached the next stage of spiritual maturity, God won’t always correct you immediately. He isn’t pleased when we live in sin or act according to the flesh, but he hates hypocrisy.
I’ll give you another example that may help you understand better. We know that chicks are hatched from eggs. Eggs have eggshells, egg whites, and egg yolks. A chicks’ life originates from egg yolk, but the eggshell protects the egg. It preserves the chick’s life in the egg. Egg whites provide nutrition to the developing chick, allowing it to get nutrients to help it hatch. When the chick matures, it naturally breaks out of the shell. Eggshells and egg whites represent a mother’s nurture allowing the chick’s life to grow and expand.
Imagine if the eggshell was broken into pieces or if there was no egg white. How could the chick survive?
Paul explicitly mentions in the Bible that we needed to be held in custody under the law when we were young because we needed a guardian.
Galatians 3:23-25 says, “Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.“
You can argue that this only refers to the time before the coming of Jesus Christ, but I think the spiritual principle still applies today.
We can liken the guardian’s role in the law here to the role of the “mother” in Leviticus 22:26-28. We are all born from the flesh and have gone through a weaning process, but we can’t kill our mother as we are undergoing this process. In other words, before the new life in our Spirit is mature enough to offer sacrifices to God, we cannot kill our mother. The spiritual meaning here is that before we can live the victorious life in Christ, we still need the “mother” jurisdiction, such as the law and the rules.
There has been a big debate among Christians in recent years, especially for those who have been hurt by legalism. In the Hyper-Grace Gospel teaching, the role of God’s grace has gone too far, and all laws and regulations seem to be abandoned. I will not deny that these Christians have been hurt by legalism and dogmatism, but you can’t completely abandon the church’s law and rules. Even the Lord Jesus said that He came not to abolish the law, and not the least stroke of a pen will by any means disappear from the Law. He came to fulfill the law.
For example, I am Chinese. Before the Chinese accepted the Gospel, Confucius’s teachings helped us maintain a clear conscience and morality. It’s not right to say that all the teachings of Confucius are wrong and must be tossed out. A Christian needs to be disciplined before he can get freedom in the law of the Spirit in Jesus Christ. He needs to be taught by his parents. He needs to persevere in reading the Bible every day. Unfortunately, many people hang on to legalism’s negative effects, thinking they are pursuing freedom by abandoning submission to any authority. But, in reality, they are entering the stage of rebellion against God. God does give leaders authority, not to rule over His children but to help discipline them to become mature in Him. We need to be disciplined.
This is the current situation of our society and the church. Many people are using the banner of Grace against legalism, but they are actually opposing God. They oppose any rules and laws, saying that they are in pursuit of the freedom of the Holy Spirit. But instead, they are entering a lawless state. This is one of the greatest difficulties in American churches. The pastors are afraid to ask the congregation to do anything. If they ask for more, they may be convicted of legalism. They are fearful of weak believers who easily stumble. Slowly, believers become weaker and more frivolous and undisciplined.
Let’s not have a pretense of spirituality when we are living in sin. An honest evaluation of our lives is essential not only to us but to God. God is Holy and is not pleased with sin, but an attitude of repentance pleases Him. An example of this is David’s sin. Although his sin didn’t please God when he had a repentant heart and soft Spirit, it delighted God. Saul made fewer mistakes than David, in my opinion, but his resistance to God and his Spirit of pride didn’t please God.
God also knows that we still love the world and the affairs of this world. In this case, we must be honest and strive to grow more, expanding the life of God in us. We should learn a lesson from Ananias, who donated half of his property but said he donated all. If we kept something in reserve, we should be honest about it. If we don’t love God wholeheartedly, we shouldn’t pretend to be sold out to Him.
One of the most significant difficulties of the church today is spiritual pretense or false spirituality. The churches are now full of this spiritual pretense. They are clearly sinning but are pretending to be holy priests. They are doing it for the sake of their own interests but say it’s for the Lord. This is the most fundamental reason why the church has become weak today. These situations are like what the previous verses have said: it is impossible to kill the mother and its young on the same day. Because your life has not yet achieved the state of freedom in the law of the Spirit of Christ, you need the discipline of the Holy Spirit (although not the level of following the law in the Old Testament) to help you grow mature in life.
Can people be self-taught? Paul blessed Timothy and said, don’t forget where you learned these from (2 Timothy 3:14). All of us need to learn from other people. The habit of disrespecting older people in American society and churches does not come from God but is influenced by the world’s rebellious culture. We must respect the elders in the church and accept their training in spiritual life and spiritual discipline to achieve maturity in life. In a sense, these older men and women are the spiritual fathers and mothers we cannot kill. If you kill them, and your life is not mature enough, both die the same day.
We can’t completely abandon the elders or abandon the law or rules. But our goal is not to obey the law, rather, to be more mature in character and life through various disciplines. In all things, God works for the good of those who love him. (NIV, Romans 8:28). We shouldn’t treat all difficulties as an attack from evil spirits. We must bear our cross daily to follow the Lord. These daily difficulties we may experience could be the mother to foster our spiritual life further. If you disregard these disciplines, “kill” them, ignore them, or attribute them to evil attacks every time, you may miss the chance of being “nurtured” to spiritual maturity.
Our physical and soulish lives provide a shelter for our spiritual lives to grow in, just like how eggshells and egg whites helped the chicken grow. Likewise, the pain of life living in this world and our souls’ agonies are the eggshells and egg whites to supply growth in our spiritual lives. The pain in our physical or soulish lives will eventually mature our spiritual lives.
In the OT, God mentioned that he would not drive out all the Israelites’ enemies in one day, or the beasts in the land would increase dramatically. Rather, God left some enemies in the good land and waited for the Israelites to take them out gradually. This matches the principle we are talking about here.
When we are not mature in Spirit, we will often have constant struggles with sin or the world. You should face them and solve these problems. But you can’t cover issues up and pretend you don’t have them by just reading the Bible, going to church, or staying busy with Christian service or ministry.
That won’t solve the problem. You can’t offer a good sacrifice to God since you are not mature yet. You haven’t completed your eight days yet and are not weaned before God. That is the significance of why Samuel asked Saul to wait for him to offer sacrifices to God because Samuel knew Saul’s offering was not pleasing to God. So Saul first needed to wait for the prophet who represents God to come. A Prophet represents God’s message and acceptance. Sacrifices and what a priest does represent something we are offering to God.
We are not discouraging anyone from offering repentance to God as Jesus became our sacrifice. But we are talking about offering our service to the Lord. Don’t hastily offer your sacrifices like Saul or burn the strange fire like the sons of Aaron. Instead, we should take care of the issues in our lives first.
If you apply to an American Graduate school, you need to take an entrance test called GRE. This computer-based test works to give you a set of questions that will change to more difficult questions when answered correctly. The score you get will be higher as well since these questions are more complicated. But if you didn’t answer the questions correctly, the computer-based test will give you more questions in the same difficulty level. It seems like you are still answering the same amount of questions in the same time period, but your score will be lower since you never answered the more difficult levels correctly.
It’s like the test of obedience and faith for the Israelites in the wilderness. When they failed again and again, they wandered in the wilderness for their whole lives. The Bible tells us we are pots made of clay, and the Lord God is the potter. And a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without the permission of our heavenly father. That means we are put into a furnace to mold us, and all of the circumstances around us can be equated to the furnace molding us.
For example, if you feel a particular temptation of sin in your life, it doesn’t necessarily mean that evil spirits are attacking you. It could be, but it also means that God is testing you to help you overcome this particular sin. If you succeed, you may face different obstacles, but your victory over this sin will become your sacrifice or offering to God, and He will be pleased. Suppose you don’t deal with sin properly, and you think spending more time in prayer, reading the Bible, going to a Bible study, or participating more in ministry will offer better sacrifice to the Lord. In that case, you are just killing the mother and the baby at the same time. God isn’t pleased with any of that.
I don’t mean that you shouldn’t read the Bible, go to Bible study, or participate in Christian ministries. I’m saying there is a better way to do that. Obeying the Lord’s dealing in your circumstances is always a better service than mere spiritual endeavor because it builds character in the inner man.
No wonder many Christians haven’t achieved much spiritual growth after many years of struggle. It is simply because they overlooked God’s dealing in the womb of the mother, whether this is a difficult husband/wife or a mean boss. They often try to escape God’s plan and do things their way. We must learn from Saul and his failure. We also must learn from Cain and his failures. Sometimes we need to wait for God’s timing, and we should not be hasty to make the sacrifice. We also need to know that God is delightful and offer the right sacrifices; otherwise, we may miss the opportunities and displease God.
This is my explanation of what it means to not kill the mother and its young on the same day. It means you shouldn’t hurry to offer the young, which represents your spiritual sacrifices to the Lord, while the Lord intends you to stay in the womb of the mother longer to make you more mature.