Holy Hands, Humbled Hearts (Leviticus 22:1-33)

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An experienced pastor once said with reference to shepherding the flock of God, “My assignment is to prepare the sheep for sacrifice.” Well said! The flock of God is called to be a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is our reasonable service (Romans 12:1). Every Christian—every priest of God—is called to be devoted to a life of holiness.

Leviticus 22 speaks to this issue. The priests were here tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that the “bread of God” (v. 25) was not defiled, either by their unclean hands or by unworthy offerings from the congregation. In other words, the sacrificial offerings were to be handled with holy hands and received from hearts humbled by God’s sovereign and redemptive grace. The sacrifices were to be holy.

The contents of this chapter teach us that if our worship will be acceptable to God then it must be holy. As it is expressed in the New Testament, we are required to worship God with holy hands and with humbled hearts (1 Timothy 2:8-9). May our study lead us to a greater commitment to such a high and gracious calling!

The Context

This chapter is intimately connected with the contents of Leviticus 21. There, we saw how God expected the leaders of His people to be holy. He delineated this by several restrictions:

  • How they mourned;
  • Whom they married (and the children whom they raised); and
  • If they were marred physically (twelve defects were specified).

These were divinely ordained rules that God’s appointed priests had to obey if they would be acceptable as His priests. Of course, since He is the Lord, He has every right to make the rules. If you don’t like that, then take it up with the Sovereign—if you want to be a fool.

As Vasholz notes, “While ‘perfection’ means ‘no observable defects,’ it symbolizes an absolutely impeccable standard.”1 And it is the perfect standard upon which Christianity either rises or falls—a standard met by the Lord Jesus Christ. God’s people then, as now, must be cognisant of the need for holiness, apart from which no man will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).

At the end of chapter 21, the Lord revealed that though a priest was disfigured (through no fault of his own) and therefore barred from serving in the tabernacle; nevertheless such priests were permitted to partake of the meals that God provided to the priestly families through the sacrifices of His people. In other words, even though such priests were disqualified (physically) from offering up the sacrifices of the people, they were still entitled to be remunerated. God provided for their needs; He fed them. It is as though the Lord graciously provided them with a disability grant. And with this theme still at the forefront, Leviticus 22 opens.

In this chapter the Lord prescribes the rules for any priests if they would enjoy the remuneration that He provided. In short, they must have clean hands. But further, the Lord prescribed, once again, that any sacrifices offered by the people must be holy; a sacrifice must without defect or blemish. In other words, the Lord revealed that both priest and sacrifice must be holy. Here, we see that God prescribed both holy hands and humbled and holy hearts if worship would be accepted. But, most wonderfully, we also have another preview of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is both perfect Priest and perfect Sacrifice.

We can divide this chapter into two major sections:

  • Holy Hands (vv. 1-16);
  • Humbled Hearts (vv. 17-33).

As we will see, the priests were responsible for both of these. They were tasked with the stewardship of the offerings; both with how they were (literally) to handle them and with what they accepted from the people. They were to be remunerated for their ministry, but they were to be very careful with how they handled such remuneration and with what they accepted as remuneration. And all of this had to do with the holiness of God, the hallowing of His name and the holiness of His people.

May we learn from this chapter to offer to God only the best, and may we learn to be faithful stewards of what He enables us to give to Him.

Holy Hands

In the first part of the chapter (vv. 1-16), we read of the need for holy hands in the priestly ministry.

Setting the Table

When we were raising our young family we taught our children that they had certain responsibilities (chores) within the home. One of those was to set the table for dinner. And when they did so there was a prerequisite: They needed to make sure that they first washed their hands. We had an aversion to unnecessary germs being consumed with our well-prepared meals. So, it seems, does God.

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, that they separate themselves from the holy things of the children of Israel, and that they do not profane My holy name by what they dedicate to Me: I am the LORD. Say to them: ‘Whoever of all your descendants throughout your generations, who goes near the holy things which the children of Israel dedicate to the LORD, while he has uncleanness upon him, that person shall be cut off from My presence: I am the LORD.’”

(Leviticus 22:1-9)

In this passage the Lord prescribed that those who touched His “bread” (v. 25) were to make sure that their hands were clean. He did not want what was offered to Him in worshipful communion to be defiled.

A Reverent Responsibility

Verses 1-2 set the theme for the chapter. Here, the priests were instructed to “separate themselves from the holy things of the children of Israel, and that they do not profane My holy name by what they dedicate to Me.”

As noted, there are two major exhortations given here: First, the priests must handle the offerings with holy hands; and, second, they must only offer on the altar that which was holy as prescribed by God. In other words, when it came to the offerings brought by the people, the priests were responsible for how they offered as well as for what they offered. If they accepted an unholy offering, then the tabernacle was desecrated and God’s name was dishonoured. But if they offered a holy sacrifice with unclean/unholy hands, that too would desecrate and dishonour the Lord’s name. As the prophet Haggai would remind God’s people, that which is holy can be easily profaned (see Haggai 2:10-14). Therefore the priests must wash up before they offered up. The how of worship is as important as the what. As I trust we will see shortly, the apostle Paul taught the same truth.

The wording of verse 2 is awkward, but it is helpful to note that the Hebrew term translated as “abstain” (or “separate”) is the word from which the term “Nazarite” is derived. “The word translated ‘treat with respect’ (nzr) is cognate to the noun from which we get the word ‘Nazirite,’ thus the connotation ‘put away for separate use’ or ‘treat as distinct.’”2

The Nazarite was one who took a vow of separation from various things (not unholy in and of themselves) for the purpose of being consecrated to God in a unique way. This is the fundamental meaning here in this text. The point being made was that the priests, whether eating their rightful portion of the sacrifices or offering them up on behalf of the people, were responsible to show great reverence. “The holy and the unclean must be kept apart.”3

The priests were to be so separated to God with reference to the sacrifices that they would literally not touch them if they or the offering were unclean and therefore unacceptable. As Eveson notes, “The sacrifices are so closely associated with God himself that to treat them without due respect would be to treat God likewise, and so to diminish his holiness in the eyes of the people.”4

In fact, it would be these very laws in this chapter that the priesthood would one day disregard that brought great dishonour to God’s name as revealed in the book of Malachi. Yes, this was a holy responsibility.

The priests were responsible for the spiritual welfare of the nation, for as go the priest, so go the people. If the priests were not faithful in their stewardship, then there was little hope that the people would be.

This verse reveals that the priest were not holy in and of themselves, and therefore they needed to constantly be dedicated to self-examination lest they allowed the name of God to be dishonoured, either by themselves or by the people whom they served. It is helpful to meditate on the fact that “the Aaronites are reminded in this section that they, too, can become defiled ceremonially, just like any other member of the congregation.”5

This is clearly a principle carried over into the New Testament as the following passages make abundantly clear: Acts 20:28; 1 Timothy 4:12-16 and 1 Peter 5:1-5.

Handle with Care

In vv. 3-16 we have the specific regulations concerning the priest’s handling of the sacrifices in such a way that they are not rendered defiled and hence rejected. And, as v. 9 makes clear, to fail here was hazardous to one’s health. “Failure to perform one’s duty before God with care showed lack of respect for God and amounted to treating his words with contempt. It could even result in death.”6

It would be good for leaders in the church today to meditate on this when it comes to handling God’s offerings. Sadly, there are too many infamous stories of pastors corrupting that which is given to the Lord. The result is that their reputations are ruined, the gospel is disgraced and the name of the Lord is dishonoured. Those entrusted with the stewardship of that which is given to God need to handle such responsibility with care.

The Prescription

In the first section the Lord lays down the rules for the condition of those priests who would partake of the sacrifices. In a word, they must be clean.

A priest who was defective physically (as indicated in 21:16-24) was still to be remunerated. Nevertheless, he could not partake of the meals while being ceremonially unclean. The following would render such a priest unclean: leprosy, a bodily discharge, being in contact with a corpse, an emission of semen, contact with a forbidden creepy crawly, or contact with another individual who was unclean. Of course, all of these cleanliness codes have been revealed earlier in Leviticus.

In v. 8, a further way by which one was considered unclean (defiled) addressed the matter of offering an animal which had died naturally or had been mauled to death by another animal. To touch such a carcass would render the priest unclean and therefore it was forbidden food (at least at the tabernacle).

The Penalty

Verse 3 stipulates that a priest who ate the sacrifices with unclean hands would be in serious danger, for he would be “cut off from My presence: I am the LORD.”

What does this mean?

It could mean that such a priest would be denied access to the tabernacle, which was the very place of the presence of the LORD. It could also mean that the offending priest would be excommunicated. Or it could mean that the priest would face the danger of being killed (see v. 9). Perhaps, though, it referred to the priest being eternally cut off from God (see “shall be cut off from his people” in 20:3, 5, 6, 17, 18). Was this a “sin unto death” (cf. 1 John 5:16)?

Then again, perhaps all of these judgements are summed up by this phrase. Whatever the precise meaning, it is certain that no priest who took the Lord seriously would ever want to find out from personal experience the specifics of this judgement. No doubt, the judgement of Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10 loomed frighteningly large in their sight.

The Remedy

Thankfully, the Lord provided a remedy for an unclean priest to be cleansed. Verses 6-7 reveal that the priest who had become unclean by any of the above means was to wash and then wait until evening, at which time he would be considered clean and could eat. The old adage “cleanliness is next to godliness” applies pretty well here.

This reminds me again of mealtime in our home when we would sometimes inspect the hands of our children before allowing them to eat their meal. It certainly could be said in our home, as well as at the tabernacle, that cleanliness was an antidote to hunger! Cleanliness, in fact, was next to feasting.

Thoughtful Lessons

We can learn from this that, when we worship God, we need to do so thoughtfully. We must not simply rush into His presence as we are but rather must do so having partaken of the gospel remedy. And what an encouragement that, if we come with a broken and contrite heart, God will accept us as we cling to Christ alone (Psalm 51:17).

In 1 Timothy 2 Paul gives instructions for corporate worship, with reference to the responsibility of the entire congregation. If their worship would be acceptable to God, they needed to follow God’s rules. The exhortations were mediated through their pastor-teacher, Timothy.

In a very real sense, this is precisely what was happening here in Leviticus 22. God gave to Moses instruction that he was responsible to relay to Aaron, his sons and the congregation as a whole. If their worship would be acceptable, then both priests and people, clergy and congregation, must follow God’s prescribed rules. So it is in our time.

In 1 Timothy 2:1-8 Paul charges the pastor to make sure that the males in the congregation take responsibility for prayer as the body gathers. And after exhorting such obligations he closes the section with these words, “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere [i.e. in every church], lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.”

Paul is saying that when the men pray they are responsible to make sure that they are not simply going through the motions. They are to make sure that their hands are holy and that their hearts are pure. The particular reference to “without wrath or doubting” addresses the need to make sure that one’s attitude towards fellow worshippers is proper. Putting this in perspective, Paul is saying, “Don’t pretend to be a worshipper if you hate one with whom you are congregating.”

He says the same thing to the women who had also gathered to worship. This is seen by the phrase, “In like manner also, that the women.” In other words, what is good for the gander is also good for the goose! Attitudes matter to God. When His professed people gather to worship, God only accepts worship from clean hands and contrite hearts. He despises all other approaches. “When people fail to prepare their hearts for worship by examining themselves, then they are treating the LORD as unimportant and his table as if it were an ordinary meal.”7

My fellow priests, how clean are your hands? Has your song of praise and worship been defiled by the uncleanness of hatred, bitterness, envy, or lust? Have your prayers bounced off the ceiling, unable to penetrate to the throne room because of self-righteousness? When you place your offering in the bowl, is it corrupted by ingratitude and a grudging spirit? Are your ears unable to hear the Word preached because of the noise created by unconfessed sin? If so, then repent and lay hold of the spotless sacrifice of Christ—this very moment. Do not delay. Be washed now by the blood of the Lamb.

Fencing the Table

We have learned that the offerings brought to God by the people were a means of remuneration (material support) for the priesthood. We have learned that the priests were to be careful that they were ceremonially clean if they would benefit from the meals. But the next question is, who specifically was permitted to partake of these priestly meals? After all, these sacrifices are sacrosanct and therefore certainly not just anyone can join in the meal. Who then can benefit from these sacrifices? Verses 10-16 give the answer.

“No outsider shall eat the holy offering; one who dwells with the priest, or a hired servant, shall not eat the holy thing. But if the priest buys a person with his money, he may eat it; and one who is born in his house may eat his food. If the priest’s daughter is married to an outsider, she may not eat of the holy offerings. But if the priest’s daughter is a widow or divorced, and has no child, and has returned to her father’s house as in her youth, she may eat her father’s food; but no outsider shall eat it.

And if a man eats the holy offering unintentionally, then he shall restore a holy offering to the priest, and add one-fifth to it. They shall not profane the holy offerings of the children of Israel, which they offer to the LORD, or allow them to bear the guilt of trespass when they eat their holy offerings; for I the LORD sanctify them.’”

(Leviticus 22:10-16)

Outsiders Outside

In v. 10 the law is given that a non-Levite was not entitled to eat of the sacrificial meals. This is how I interpret “outsider.” An “outsider” was one who was not of the priestly tribe. They might have been from a tribe of Israel, but they were not from this particular Levitical tribe. Such could not benefit from this form of material assistance.

The Levites, we know from other Scriptures, were not permitted to have their own lands, and so they were supported materially by the other tribes (through offerings as well as through the tithe). All others were to raise their own support by working their fields, tending to their herds or through other means of industry. Therefore they were not to be supported by that which supported the priesthood. If one lived with the priest (who was an outsider) or if one worked for the priest, then they too were excluded. Each was to earn his keep in the way that God prescribed. In other words, the church’s coffers were not for every Tom, Dick and Harry. There was a limit to the resources, and the resources were first and foremost to sustain the priestly tribe. If they were not taken care of then all of the nation would suffer.

Galatians 6:6-10 applies this same principle to the new covenant church.

A Levite Indeed

In v. 11 we learn that indentured servants, considered to be members of the household, along with their offspring, were entitled to be supported by the ministry of the tabernacle. I would conclude from this that the servant was circumcised and therefore considered to be a member of the family de jure.

Then, in v. 12, we read that a daughter of a priest who was married to a non-Levite was not permitted to benefit from the Lord’s Table. The exception was if she was widowed or divorced and came under the roof and rule of her father again. She was then permitted to the benefits of her father’s remuneration. However, if she had borne children, then she may not partake of the meals.

The reason for this is not stated but it would seem either that it was expected that her children were old enough to take care of her, or because her former husband was an outsider, that she was no longer entitled to this privilege.

Food Out of their Mouths

In v. 14 we read of a scenario in which one who was not of the priestly family unintentionally ate that which was permitted only for the priests. We are not told how this might happen, but perhaps the individual consumed a tithe of the firstfruits inadvertently. In such a case, the individual was responsible to be make amends (in terms of the trespass offering, cf. Leviticus 5) by making restitution. A twenty percent fine was added to the original amount. It is as if God was saying that it was a serious thing to take food out of the mouths of His priests.

By the way, it is still a serious thing to rob God by seeking to starve His servants! Sadly, some churches are flagrantly guilty of this. In fact, I know of one church where a wealthy individual recently attempted to do that. We need to be careful how we handle what belongs to the Lord. The tithe indeed is the Lord’s (cf. Leviticus 27:30; Malachi 3:8-10).

If this law were still in effect today, perhaps we would be more careful regarding what we give and what we keep for ourselves! But since we the have the Holy Spirit indwelling us, we have plenty of motivation to give to the Lord what is His due rather than using what belongs to Him for ourselves. Learn to give to God first and you will avoid much temptation to divert funds, thus defrauding God and defiling your worship.

Summary

Verses 15-16 are somewhat obscure due to the presence of so many third person personal pronouns. Currid, however, captures well the essence of these verses: “It appears to be saying that the duty of the priests is to safeguard the holy food so that no unauthorized person may eat of it. If they are not alert and a layman partake, then guilt and punishment will come on the sons of Israel.”8

We could paraphrase it thus:

The priests are responsible for the welfare of the people. They therefore must hold the people accountable for how they handle what belongs to God. The priests are not permitted to turn a blind eye to the people’s failure (contextually, v. 14). If they fail to hold the people to God’s revealed standard then the people will suffer. The priests are to do right and not rationalise away difficult accountabilities in a wrongheaded attempt to be kinder and more lenient than God. If they do so then their worship will be rejected and both people and priests will pay the price. After all, God is the one who gave this law as a means to sanctify them. He knows what He is doing, so priest, just do it!

How does this apply to us? We can take away from this the truth that God’s appointed leaders should do the hard thing of addressing the hard sayings contained in Scripture about financial stewardship. Pastors do not do their people any favours by neglecting any of the counsel of God, including passages that clearly teach that every worshipper is responsible to tithe and many are responsible to do far more. Like it or not, the Scriptures clearly make a connection between finances and one’s relationship with God. If we treasure Christ, then we will treasure our earthly treasures less and will cheerfully give to the Lord.

Humbled Hearts

In vv. 17-33, the instructions shift from matters of fencing the table to matters related to what the people brought to the table. These laws regulate that the offerings given to God (and by extension those that support the priesthood) were required to be the best. If they were defective, they were unacceptable.

The principle that underlies this section is that those who were humbled by God’s sovereign and redeeming grace were committed to giving Him their best, and it is the responsibility of the priest to ensure that this was the case.

Bread on the Table

The sacrifices offered to God on behalf of the people are referred to as “the bread of God” in v. 25. Of course, God did not literally consume the food (in most cases the offerings were for the priesthood and for his family, vv. 1-16). The point that God was making is that He viewed the sacrifices as a meal prepared for Him in His honour. “To bring a defective gift to a superior would not only be ludicrous but insulting.”9 Malachi 1:6-14 offers a historical illustration of this truth.

Even if you had very little to set before a house guest for a meal, you would never set before them mouldy or rotten food. The same principle applied to those who would worship God. A sacrifice had to pass the test of acceptability as prescribed by God, the ultimate Guest. As Vasholz put it, “The people with God in their midst were, literally, playing with fire. In fine, the laws were given to protect His people so that the Holy One of Israel could live in their midst.”10

We would do well to remember this principle in our worship (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:27-31). In other words, may our hands be holy because our hearts have been humbled! Clean hands should be the product of contrite hearts. And if our hearts are humbled, then the gifts in our clean hands will be honourable.

Defects Rejected

Verses 17-24 are a repetition of the principle laid down in the opening seven chapters where we learn that, for a sacrifice to be acceptable to God, it had to be without blemish. Here this is repeated while identifying twelve specific defects that would disqualify such a sacrifice.

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, and to all the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘Whatever man of the house of Israel, or of the strangers in Israel, who offers his sacrifice for any of his vows or for any of his freewill offerings, which they offer to the LORD as a burnt offering—you shall offer of your own free will a male without blemish from the cattle, from the sheep, or from the goats. Whatever has a defect, you shall not offer, for it shall not be acceptable on your behalf. And whoever offers a sacrifice of a peace offering to the LORD, to fulfil his vow, or a freewill offering from the cattle or the sheep, it must be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no defect in it. Those that are blind or broken or maimed, or have an ulcer or eczema or scabs, you shall not offer to the LORD, nor make an offering by fire of them on the altar to the LORD. Either a bull or a lamb that has any limb too long or too short you may offer as a freewill offering, but for a vow it shall not be accepted.

You shall not offer to the LORD what is bruised or crushed, or torn or cut; nor shall you make any offering of them in your land.

(Leviticus 22:17-24)

It is interesting that chapter 21 identified twelve defects that disqualified a priest from being able to serve in the tabernacle, and here He identified an equal number of disqualifying defects for the sacrifices themselves. This highlights, once again, that both what is offered and the offerer in worship must be holy.

Customs Inspection

In verse 25 the regulation is given that, regardless of the source of the sacrifice, only blemish-free animals could be offered up to God as His bread. No allowances were to be made for inferior sacrifices.

Obscure Obligations

Verses 26-28 contain some obscure instructions: “And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: “When a bull or a sheep or a goat is born, it shall be seven days with its mother; and from the eighth day and thereafter it shall be accepted as an offering made by fire to the LORD. Whether it is a cow or ewe, do not kill both her and her young on the same day.”

The Lord required that any young animal offered to Him must be at least eight days old. The reason is unclear. Was it because the eighth day was significant to the Israelites? After all, it was on this day that a son was circumcised and thus considered to be admitted to the covenant.

Perhaps it was because the older the newborn was, the better the meat. Perhaps it was an act of mercy to the mother since she would have a milk supply that needed to be relieved.

All of that may be true, but I would suggest, in addition to these things, that the restriction on the minimum time of eight days was to give ample time for the newborn to be examined as to whether or not it was defective in any way. Viability and acceptability were issues here. If an animal was going to be sacrificed, it needed to pass the test of integrity.

Verse 28 further makes the point that at no time were the mother and her offspring to be sacrificed at the same time (literally). Again, this is a little obscure, but perhaps it was intended to guard the Israelites from the pagan fertility rites of the surrounding peoples (see for instance Exodus 23:19; 34:26; Deuteronomy 14:21). It may also have been an act of compassion. It has also been suggested that this was an act of conservation. After all, if both mother and offspring were sacrificed then future progeny would end. Hence, perhaps God was saying, “Be generous in your giving but don’t be foolish. Plan for the future!”

Sharing the Joy

Finally, we observe the restriction with reference to one who would offer a thanksgiving offering (under the heading of the fellowship offerings):

And when you offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the LORD, offer it of your own free will. On the same day it shall be eaten; you shall leave none of it until morning: I am the LORD.

(Leviticus 22:29-30)

In such a situation, the meal was to be consumed on that very day and none was to be left over for the next. I would suggest that the reason for this was to encourage the thankful worshipper to share with all and sundry the goodness of the Lord (cf. Luke 14:12-14).

It is interesting that the priests were obviously here tasked with making sure that those who came to the tabernacle for such a purpose obeyed this law. Yes, it appears that the priests were somewhat responsible to make sure that the nation of Israel was a congregation committed to biblical hospitality.

The Head of the Table

The closing verses give the reason for these stipulations:

Therefore you shall keep My commandments, and perform them: I am the LORD. You shall not profane My holy name, but I will be hallowed among the children of Israel. I am the LORD who sanctifies you, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the LORD.

(Leviticus 22:31-33)

Motivation to Keep the Regulations

In the closing verses of this chapter, and of the section, the Lord gives reasons why the priests (and people) were to obey these laws. The principles here apply to us today as well. God identifies three theological reasons for their obedience.

The first reason was because of God’s sovereign name (v. 31). He is Yahweh and what He commands is to be obeyed. Tidball sums this up nicely when he writes, “Worshippers were not doing God a favour by giving him these gifts. He was doing them a favour by accepting them and making atonement because of them. It was essential, therefore, that the quality of the gifts presented was determined not by the worshipper but by God himself.”11

Simply put, He is God and so He gets to make the rules!

The second reason was because of God’s sacred name (v. 32). That is, He is Holy and intended for His holy name to be set apart by those whom He set apart for this purpose. One author insightfully notes the fundamental reason for these regulations, “To bring significance to His name, He sets aside a people by redeeming them from bondage and giving them His laws.”12

God’s laws are a means by which He sanctifies His people. This was the psalmist’s hope as expressed over and over in Psalm 119 (see vv. 1-3, 9, 11; etc.).

This remains God’s primary means to sanctify His people, “Sanctify them by Your truth, Your Word is truth” (John 17:17).

The third reason was because of God’s saving name (v. 33). That is, as the priests and people reflected upon God’s redemptive grace to them, their hearts would be humbled to offer to God their best—with holy hands. They would want to be holy as He is holy (19:2). Does that sound familiar when you consider the New Testament teaching as to why God saved you (see Ephesians 1:3-14)?

Let me make the important point that the motivation for giving to God our best must be theological. That is, it must flow from a worthy vision of God. This is precisely where Israel failed and over again. It showed in their corporate worship and in the condition of their offerings to God (see Malachi 1:6-14).

We too need a constantly growing vision of the glory of God if our worship will be acceptable to Him.

Hopeful for Holiness?

I don’t know about you, but this calling to holy hands and humbled hearts is such a high calling that it is easy to feel hopeless at times. So is there hope?

Certainly after contemplating the latest chapters in Leviticus, the thoughtful listener will realise something of the truth that we are all more sinful and flawed than we ever thought. If this chapter does not lead you to this persuasion, then I invite you to simply contemplate your recent thoughts, attitudes and actions.

Can you honestly say that your hands have been holy? Can you honestly say that you have offered to God your life consistently as a holy sacrifice? Can you truly say that you are clean? I doubt it! So, is there any hope? Yes indeed.

Pastor-teacher Tim Keller described the heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ as the truth that “we are more flawed and sinful than we ever dared believe, yet we are more loved and accepted than we ever dared hope.”13

The priests and people in Moses’ day realised how far short they came of the standard, yet they hoped in the spotless sacrificial and substitutionary Lamb to come. So we look back to the fact that He has come.

He who was both perfect Priest and perfect Lamb came to save us from our sins. He came to not only save His bride from her deserved penalty of eternal death but also to wash her to make her a blameless bride, a spotless priesthood. And we can know of His pardon and His gospel power today, this hour, this very moment. Look to Him alone!

As Ross puts it, “It is interesting to note that the only damaged or broken sacrifice that people can offer to God is themselves (Ps. 51:17). Without a broken and contrite heart, forgiveness is not available, and without forgiveness no other gift to God will be acceptable.”14

So, come to Christ today with a contrite heart, trusting Him to cleanse your hands. His gracious response will further humble your heart and empower you to lift holy hands.

Show 14 footnotes

  1. Robert I. Vasholz, Leviticus: A Mentor Commentary (Ross-shire: Mentor, 2007), 274.
  2. Mark F. Rooker, Leviticus: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 277.
  3. Gordon J. Wenham, The Book of Leviticus: The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), 294.
  4. Philip H. Eveson, The Beauty of Holiness: The Book of Leviticus Simply Explained (Darlington: Evangelical Press, 2007), 295.
  5. R. Laird Harris, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 12 vols. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990), 2:618.
  6. Derek Tidball, The Message of Leviticus: Free to Be Holy (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 2005), 266.
  7. Allen P. Ross, Holiness to the Lord: A Guide to the Exposition of the Book of Leviticus (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 388.
  8. John D. Currid, Study Commentary on Leviticus (Darlington: Evangelical Press, 2004), 292.
  9. Rooker, Leviticus, 279.
  10. Vasholz, Leviticus, 280.
  11. Tidball, The Message of Leviticus, 268.
  12. Vasholz, Leviticus, 278.
  13. Timothy J. Keller, “The Meaning of the Gospel,” http://goo.gl/JWnbE, retrieved 5 May 2013.
  14. Ross, Holiness to the Lord, 394.