Men Under Authority II (Leviticus 7:1-38)

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In our previous study we began to look at this section of Leviticus (6:8—7:38), which prescribes the responsibilities of the priests with regard to the five previously described sacrifices brought by the people (1:1—6:7). We did so under the heading, “Men Under Authority.”

We saw that, in this section, God commanded the priests how they were to carry out these sacrifices for the benefit of the people. They were men who are under authority, who had been given spiritual authority over the nation. We began to note what the nation was to expect of them and made some parallels with what the new covenant church is to expect of those who are appointed as its leaders. In other words, what was to be true of the old covenant priests is to be true of new covenant elders, those appointed by God to give oversight to His people. And I would further note that we could apply this to other recognised leaders of God’s people, such as husbands and fathers.

We have so far identified the following musts of those who have authority over God’s people:

  • They must keep the fire burning: The cross of Christ must be central;
  • They must set the example: They are to exemplify devotion to Christ; and
  • They must take sin seriously: They must keep God’s holiness in focus.

In this study, we will complete our consideration of this subject and text and will do so by looking at four other musts of men under authority.

As we begin we would do well to realise that this is not a message merely for the eldership—those entrusted with the spiritual care of the flock—but it applies to any and all who aspire to spiritually aid others by pointing them to Christ. Jerry Wragg passionately observes the need for such leadership in all spheres when he writes, “We desperately need exemplary leaders who won’t flinch when tempted by the lure of power and human praise. We need men who refuse to capitulate to every fad and fashionable leadership technique our culture offers up. Fathers must train their sons, pastors must train their flocks, and leaders must pass the baton to faithful disciples who ‘teach others also.’”

May the Lord use His Word to further equip us to be exemplary leaders who follow our leader, the Lord Jesus Christ.

They Must Give Hope

We learn in vv. 1-7 that spiritual leaders must give hope.

Likewise this is the law of the trespass offering (it is most holy): In the place where they kill the burnt offering they shall kill the trespass offering. And its blood he shall sprinkle all around on the altar. And he shall offer from it all its fat. The fat tail and the fat that covers the entrails, the two kidneys and the fat that is on them by the flanks, and the fatty lobe attached to the liver above the kidneys, he shall remove; and the priest shall burn them on the altar as an offering made by fire to the LORD. It is a trespass offering. Every male among the priests may eat it. It shall be eaten in a holy place. It is most holy. The trespass offering is like the sin offering; there is one law for them both: the priest who makes atonement with it shall have it.

(Leviticus 7:1-7)

Allen Ross writes, “New Testament ministers have not only the responsibility to exhort people to maintain their relationship with the holy LORD by confession and repentance, but also the duty to assure the penitent worshiper that God has put away the sin.”1 This was the purpose of the guilt offering (v. 7).

God wanted His people to deal with their sin, to confess it, to make right with both God and man, and to experience a trouble-free conscience. God’s priests were given the privilege of pronouncing forgiveness, of reconciling man to God and man to man. In other words, these men—under the authority of God—were given the privilege of offering hope to the troubled. They were granted the privilege of helping sinners to deal hopefully with their guilt.

In chapters 5 and 6 we read of the why of the guilt offering. We learned that this offering was for the purpose of making restitution for one’s sins against either the holy place or against God’s holy people. Since sin creates a debt God, required a monetary compensation to be paid to the one who had been wronged. This was God’s means of teaching His people the costliness of sin.

In this passage there is nothing new added to the why, but rather it describes how it was to be offered. Here we are told that it was offered, in some respects, in a similar way to both the burnt offering and the sin offering. The ram was to be slaughtered on the north side of the bronze altar. Its blood was then to be thrown all around the altar, and the best of the beast (the kidneys and fat) was to be offered to the Lord. This was similar to the peace offerings. The rest of the ram belonged to the priests.

When the priest would fulfil this function he would also, of course, be dealing with the fiscal matter of compensation and restitution to the offended party (whether God or man). The net effect would be that the guilty party would leave forgiven and knowing it. And with such experiential knowledge the forgiven worshipper would leave hopeful.

Hope Accompanies Honesty

It is important for us to consider the reality that, when one brought such an offering, he or she would, of course, need to confess that for which they were guilty. The priests would hear their case and make a judgement as to the restitution required.

But there was also the additional matter of the priests seeking to discern the reality of their repentance. These men needed discernment, they needed wisdom if they would help their people. They, of course, wanted to give hope, but hope required honesty.

Sometimes people need some help to, in the words of the Eagles, just “get over it.”

I turn on the tube and what do I see?
A whole lotta people cryin’, “Don’t blame me!”
They point their crooked little fingers at everybody else,
Spend all their time feelin’ sorry for themselves.
Victim of this, victim of that:
Get over it!

There is some wisdom in that. God appoints leadership, whether pastors, husbands or parents, to help us who sin to deal with it honestly and biblically. We can therefore hopefully “get over it” and get back in the race.

Those who lead others must be very careful to not allow someone’s lapse to define them. Jesus doesn’t. Martin Luther once wrote, “No one has ever fallen so grievously that he may not rise again. Conversely, no one stands so firmly that he may not fall. If Peter (and Paul and Barnabas) fell, I too many fall. If they rose again, I too may rise again.”

Meaningful Reconciliation

Honesty was to be followed by reparation.

The guilt offering clearly made the point that reparation was necessary for reconciliation. The priests would make a valuation of the sacrificial ram, and would then in some cases add a twenty per cent surcharge to this, as well as another twenty per cent fine if the guilty party had stolen or damaged property belonging to another. Certainly, a willingness to make such a payment would indicate (though not infallibly) that true repentance was present. And where there is repentance there is hope.

God made it abundantly clear throughout the Scriptures that the mere offering of animal sacrifices had no redemptive merit before Him.

For example, in Psalm 51 we read,

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise.
Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion;
Build the walls of Jerusalem.
Then You shall be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness,
With burnt offering and whole burnt offering;
Then they shall offer bulls on Your altar.

(Psalm 51:17-19)

David urged, “Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD” (Psalm 4:5). Note that the offerings were to be accompanied by trust. God never intended that the sacrifices be merely externally rolled out, but rather they were to be offered from the heart if they would be accepted by Him.

Through Hosea, God said, “For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6). And through Amos,

I hate, I despise your feast days,
And I do not savour your sacred assemblies.
Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings,
I will not accept them,
Nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings.

(Amos 5:21-22)

“While the outward form may be right, unless there is also sincerity of heart and a desire to live to please God, the sacrifices are unacceptable and worthless. A broken and contrite heart is necessary as we come in the name of Jesus into the presence of God.”2

Bear in mind that the goal of the guilt offering was to facilitate reconciliation through restitution—between man and God and a man and his neighbour. The guilty party perhaps came to the tabernacle feeling dejected and even hopeless. The priests, by faithfully carrying out their duties, would help the repentant to experience hope that all was restored.

The priests, in other words, were used of God to help the repentant to experience peace with God, the peace of God, as well as peace with one another. Is that not precisely what God’s ministers in the local church are called to do? Those who are under the authority of God’s Word are in a wonderful position to give hope!

God’s leaders need to press this home. Proclaiming “peace, peace” where there is no repentance is merely empty talk and false assurance. And false assurance is a far greater problem than is false guilt! When Peter sinned, Jesus confronted him (John 21). Later, Paul confronted him when he sinned (Galatians 2). They did not pretend that all was well. Peter was guilty, and they confronted him so as to restore him.

Ministers, under God’s authority, are called upon to facilitate reconciliation between aggrieved parties on the basis of restitution grounded in the redemptive work of Christ. What a joy to offer biblical and thus certain hope! Note that, while Peter was guilty of sin (as seen in Jesus’ and Paul’s confrontations), the reconciliation that took place in each case ensure that it was, humanly speaking, upon Peter’s leadership that the church was built and that the gospel went forth to the Gentiles (cf. Matthew 16:18-19).

Though it is true that the tabernacle was a very serious place it was also to be a very hopeful place. So it is to be with the local church. In fact, the more serious the local church is, the more hopeful it will be! And this primarily rests on the shoulders of God’s appointed ministers.

The local church is to be a people, and thus collectively a place, where reconciliation and restitution takes place both between God and man and man and man. It is to be a place where things are well both vertically and horizontally. This means that such ministry of the priests was practical.

The priests were called upon to practically apply the law of God in legal matters, in relational issues, and in the so-called spiritual realm. Though these men were called to deal with things heavenly, they could only do so effectively if their feet were planted firmly on the earth. They were not shielded from the day-to-day necessities and pressures of life. Rather, they faced the same issues as the Israelite “laity,” but did so while keeping their eyes on the tabernacle.

Practically, the local church requires leaders who can bring opposing parties together in harmony. And, of course, such reconciliation will be the fruit of the application of the gospel.

For example, the marriages of local church members are to be characterised by harmony. Leadership has both the privilege and the responsibility to try and bring this about. As another example, consider the responsibility and privilege of church leaders to facilitate reconciliation between conflicted church members (see Philippians 4:2-7), and even between striving parents and their children.

Of course, the same responsibility lies with fathers and husbands. As leaders in the home and marriage they are to facilitate reconciliation when there is strife. Mothers too play their part in this when it comes to their children.

The local church and the Christian home, under God’s appointed leadership, are expected to be places of hope. May our local churches be places of righteous hopefulness.

They Must Be Naysayers

In vv. 11-27 we learn that spiritual leaders must at times be naysaysers.

“This is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings which he shall offer to the LORD: If he offers it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer, with the sacrifice of thanksgiving, unleavened cakes mixed with oil, unleavened wafers anointed with oil, or cakes of blended flour mixed with oil. Besides the cakes, as his offering he shall offer leavened bread with the sacrifice of thanksgiving of his peace offering. And from it he shall offer one cake from each offering as a heave offering to the LORD. It shall belong to the priest who sprinkles the blood of the peace offering.

The flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offering for thanksgiving shall be eaten the same day it is offered. He shall not leave any of it until morning. But if the sacrifice of his offering is a vow or a voluntary offering, it shall be eaten the same day that he offers his sacrifice; but on the next day the remainder of it also may be eaten; the remainder of the flesh of the sacrifice on the third day must be burned with fire. And if any of the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offering is eaten at all on the third day, it shall not be accepted, nor shall it be imputed to him; it shall be an abomination to him who offers it, and the person who eats of it shall bear guilt.

The flesh that touches any unclean thing shall not be eaten. It shall be burned with fire. And as for the clean flesh, all who are clean may eat of it. But the person who eats the flesh of the sacrifice of the peace offering that belongs to the LORD, while he is unclean, that person shall be cut off from his people. Moreover the person who touches any unclean thing, such as human uncleanness, an unclean animal, or any abominable unclean thing, and who eats the flesh of the sacrifice of the peace offering that belongs to the LORD, that person shall be cut off from his people.”

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘You shall not eat any fat, of ox or sheep or goat. And the fat of an animal that dies naturally, and the fat of what is torn by wild beasts, may be used in any other way; but you shall by no means eat it. For whoever eats the fat of the animal of which men offer an offering made by fire to the LORD, the person who eats it shall be cut off from his people. Moreover you shall not eat any blood in any of your dwellings, whether of bird or beast. Whoever eats any blood, that person shall be cut off from his people.’”

(Leviticus 7:11-27)

Of course, there was another option to forgiveness, reconciliation and hopefulness: namely, a refusal to repent, which resulted in alienation and therefore tragedy. Responding to this was also the responsibility of God’s ministers and they were to do so as those under His authority. It is for this reason that God’s ministers are sometimes called upon to be at the centre of heartache rather than of hope.

This passage is a rather lengthy one that describes the priests’ responsibilities with reference to the peace offerings. It is filled with intricate details with reference to the proper carrying out of this sacrifice. We should note these helpful words: “Care and attention to detail are indispensable to the conduct of divine worship. God is more important, more distinguished, worthy of more respect than any man; therefore we should follow his injunctions to the letter, if we respect him. . . . As no orchestra can give of its best without a competent conductor and meticulous rehearsal, so no congregation is likely to worship our holy God in a worthy manner without careful direction by a well-instructed minister.”3 Such leaders are at times called to be naysayers. They have to instruct, correct, and restrict (see 1 Timothy 4:11).

We have touched on this passage before so I will not repeat all of the details except to highlight the following.

The peace offering was one that celebrated the privilege of fellowship with God. Hence, it was the only offering in which God, the priests and the people received a portion. The people gave to God and He graciously gave back to them. It points to the new covenant Communion meal, the Lord’s Supper.

There were three types of peace offerings: thanksgiving, votive (a vow) and freewill (voluntary). The offerings were of both an animal and grain. The offering was placed upon the burnt offering signifying that our fellowship with God is founded on the atonement.

God instructed the priests, in the case of a thanksgiving peace offering, to make sure that that the entire portion for the people and priests was eaten the same day that it was offered. Hence in such a case a man would bring his family and perhaps some friends along with him when he presented this offering. In the case of the votive or voluntary offering, the food could be eaten over a two day period. But on the third day any remaining food had to be destroyed; it could not be eaten. If this rule was broken then offender would be “cut off” from the people. Presumably this meant either that they would be excommunicated or that, in fact, the Lord would bring eternal judgement upon them (as with an unpardonable sin). Eveson thinks that the phrase “most likely meant direct divine intervention with no link to the future hope. God would see to it that the person would have no posterity and no inheritance among God’s people.”4 Some suggest that this was akin to the death penalty. Whatever it meant, it was a serious discipline that the priests would be responsible to declare and to enforce.

In vv. 19-21 the priests were entrusted with the responsibility of making clear to the worshippers that they must be ceremonially clean to partake of this meal, as well as ensuring that the food consumed was not in any way defiled. Again, if the rules were not obeyed then the person was to be “cut off.” The priests were responsible to pronounce this.

In vv. 22-27 there is one final set of rules for which the priests were responsible: The people were forbidden (perpetually) to eat fat from any clean animal and were prohibited from eating blood.

Fat could be used for polishing, for fuel, for lubrication, etc., but could not be eaten. As for blood, it was the Lord’s for the “life of the flesh is in the blood” (17:11). It was, consequently, never to be consumed. Both were dedicated to God, and failure to observe these boundaries was to invite judgement; specifically, to be “cut off” from the people.

Now, what does this have to do with us? Much could be said about these prohibitions and pictures, but for our purposes I simply want to highlight that those under authority from God to lead His people in worship are often called upon to fulfil the unpleasant task of being naysayers. God’s ministers have to often use the word “no.” And sometimes they have the painful task of announcing a congregant as now being “cut off” (see Acts 5; 1 Timothy 1:18-20; 1 Corinthians 5:13; Titus 3:10; etc.).5

When the writer of Hebrews penned the words of 13:17—“Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you”—he was highlighting the truth that God has appointed leadership that He expects the church to obey. What does this look like? In what areas is the congregation to obey?

Clearly, those entrusted with the oversight of God’s flock are responsible to proclaim the Word of the Lord and the expectation is that the congregation will obey.

For example, when believers have sinned (transgressing God’s law, 1 John 3:4) and the leadership calls upon them to repent then they must repent. When the leadership commands church members to love one another, to be kind to one another, to forgive one another, etc. then the congregation is to obey this mediated Word. There are many other examples we could consider, but I trust that you get the point. Those who are called by God to lead His people do so through His inspired Word. No instructed believer will dispute this.

But what about matters that are not specifically spelled out in Scripture? How (if at all) does Hebrews 13:17 speak to this?

Perhaps first I might point out that the text in Leviticus is designed to protect the people of God from power-mad leaders. Robert Vasholz observes, “The instructions that Moses provides for the priests are open to all. There are no secrets. This marks a decided difference between Israel and some of their neighbours who practiced hidden rituals, which were for the priests’ eyes only. . . . Leviticus cautiously limits the authority of the priesthood by spelling out the priest’s duties to prevent too much control over the laity.”6 In other words, the Levites were to be very careful that they did not call sin what God did not. They were prohibited from calling evil what God deems good as much as they were prohibited from calling good what God labelled as evil.

Some would therefore argue that the only thing that leadership in a church can command is that for which we have chapter-and-verse. For example, they will have no problem with the leadership instructing the church not to commit adultery, lust, steal, lie or cause a brother to stumble. And, of course, they are right to affirm that church leadership has this right and responsibility.

But since the Bible already reveals these as God’s commands is it not redundant for God to tell the church to obey its leaders in these areas when God has already spoken? It seems to be. It seems that the concept of leadership implies the application of God’s rules, not merely their interpretation and declaration.

I would therefore argue that though God’s rules are included in this they are not confined to this. In other words, God’s appointed leaders are authorised by God to make some house rules for corporate worship in order to help ensure that God’s rules are not violated. But leadership is not permitted to elevate a house rule to the same status as Scripture. In other words, they cannot call sin what God does not.

For example, because God’s rules say “no adultery,” “no fornication” and “no lust,” wise leadership will set up some house rules to guard the sheep. This may include a dress code for the choir, or rules directing propriety towards how workers deal with children, etc. But leadership has no right to call a certain form of attire sinful if there is no Scriptural warrant for it.

Take another example. Though the Bible does not condemn the consumption of alcoholic beverages our house rules at BBC are that we will not use chardonnay at the Lord’s Supper!

Recently, while looking for something I went down to the basement of the church building and noticed in one of the classrooms a sign that one of the teachers had posted. It said, “House Rules.” Below it was listed things like “no running in the building.”

Do the children in that class have the right to disregard those house rules? After all, there is nothing in Scripture which says, “You shall not run in a church building.” What if the child runs in the building? Would they be guilty of doing wrong? Yes. Not because they have broken a biblical law against being rambunctious, but because they disobeyed their assigned and delegated authority. The same, by the way, applies to the house rules that parents establish in their home. When your children knowingly and wilfully disobey your rules then they are guilty of a violation of Ephesians 6:1.

It has been my observation over many years that often people seem to have no problem with house rules in their homes, at schools, or in the workplace. But for some strange reason the same people become hot and bothered about house rules in the most important place: the church of the living God.

Now I say all that to say this: Those who understand that they are under God’s authority will be very careful to not transgress the boundaries of delegated authority, and yet at the same time they should not be hesitant to establish boundaries as a means to guarding God’s boundaries. And they will be careful to not label as sin what the Bible does not call sin. They will not try and add their manmade fences to Scripture.

Of course, this does not mean that such fences do not have practical and wise legitimacy. As we are well, aware fences can be abused. The Pharisees, in their quest to protect God’s rule of the fourth commandment, established plenty of fences around the Sabbath. There was nothing inherently wrong with doing so, but when the fences took on the character of defining as sin what God did not define as sin, they were guilty of illegitimate authority.

But just because something can be abused does not mean there is not legitimacy to its proper application. Again, take the issue of modesty.

There is no Scriptural warrant to say that it is a sin for a woman’s knees or thighs to be visible. But this does not mean it is wrong, for the sake of order, for a church to have a dress code for its choir members and Sunday school teachers. I am aware that when such things are addressed that the accusation of legalism is often shouted forth. From our perspective, I don’t believe that BBC is even remotely in danger of legalism. If anything we are in danger of an unwise carelessness! And it is for this reason that the Lord has entrusted your care into the hands of naysayers!

I am also aware that some will argue that they don’t need such house rules, because they are able to discern what is appropriate behaviour or attire (or whatever) and they therefore don’t need the leadership’s assistance in this area. No doubt, this is true for many. But this is not so for everyone and since we are a community of faith, love calls us to think in terms of what is best for the community.

In concluding this point, let me make an appeal to you to obey the Lord’s mandate in Hebrews 13:17. Give your leaders joy as, under His authority, they seek to help you to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth.

But let me deal with another, most serious matter addressed in this text. Four times in vv. 20-27 we read of the danger of someone being “cut off” from his people. And in v. 19 we read a similar warning about someone who eats forbidden food who will “bear guilt.” In these situations, it was the responsibility of the priests to take action and to pronounce the guilt. That was a heartbreaking and heavy duty to shoulder. But shoulder it they must.

If God’s people will worship God in God’s required way then leadership must announce the boundaries and identify those who are out of bounds. We call this church discipline. God demands it and if the church will not heed God’s Word in this area then she will be weakened.

You will remember that the tabernacle was the place of God’s special presence and so His rules must be followed if the people would be blessed by God’s nearness. The same holds true for the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. If we will know of God’s blessings then naysaying is necessary.

Pray for your leadership to take God seriously. If they do so, the church will increasingly be a place where you hear the word “no” as a preparation for the amen of God’s blessings.

They Must Be Fed

The third must of church leadership, highlighted in vv. 7-10 and vv. 28-38 is that they must be fed.

“The trespass offering is like the sin offering; there is one law for them both: the priest who makes atonement with it shall have it. And the priest who offers anyone’s burnt offering, that priest shall have for himself the skin of the burnt offering which he has offered. Also every grain offering that is baked in the oven and all that is prepared in the covered pan, or in a pan, shall be the priest’s who offers it. Every grain offering, whether mixed with oil or dry, shall belong to all the sons of Aaron, to one as much as the other. . . .”

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘He who offers the sacrifice of his peace offering to the LORD shall bring his offering to the LORD from the sacrifice of his peace offering. His own hands shall bring the offerings made by fire to the LORD. The fat with the breast he shall bring, that the breast may be waved as a wave offering before the LORD. And the priest shall burn the fat on the altar, but the breast shall be Aaron’s and his sons’. Also the right thigh you shall give to the priest as a heave offering from the sacrifices of your peace offerings. He among the sons of Aaron, who offers the blood of the peace offering and the fat, shall have the right thigh for his part. For the breast of the wave offering and the thigh of the heave offering I have taken from the children of Israel, from the sacrifices of their peace offerings, and I have given them to Aaron the priest and to his sons from the children of Israel by a statute forever.’”

This is the consecrated portion for Aaron and his sons, from the offerings made by fire to the LORD, on the day when Moses presented them to minister to the LORD as priests. The LORD commanded this to be given to them by the children of Israel, on the day that He anointed them, by a statute forever throughout their generations.

This is the law of the burnt offering, the grain offering, the sin offering, the trespass offering, the consecrations, and the sacrifice of the peace offering, which the LORD commanded Moses on Mount Sinai, on the day when He commanded the children of Israel to offer their offerings to the LORD in the Wilderness of Sinai.

(Leviticus 7:7-10, 28-38)

Throughout this lengthy portion of Scripture there are numerous references to the priesthood being given a portion of the offerings for their consumption. In fact, Wenham maintains that the principal theme of these chapters is the eating of the sacrificial meat.7 There is some truth to that. As we have seen, the consumption of the sacrificial meat was an indication that the Lord had accepted the offerings and that atonement was in place. But there is also a practical issue here: The Levites had to be cared for if the people of God would experience all they could from their corporate worship. It is for this reason that there is so much emphasis upon the priests eating the appointed meat of the sacrifices.

Some of the food could only be consumed within the tabernacle precinct, while some was allowed to be carried home, including the hides from the burnt offerings. This was God’s means of materially supporting those under His authority who were devoted to helping the congregation to know and to live in the light of God’s good authority. This was not a man-devised means of the priests securing an income but rather, as v. 34 makes clear, was prescribed by God. It was God’s payment plan. Currid notes,

The sudden appearance of the first person singular, “I,” is quite striking. It is there to underscore the truth that the donation to the priests is by divine appointment. It is not by the will of man, but by the will of Yahweh! The gift is a divine endowment.” It was important for the people to obey God’s prescription for worship for several reasons, not the least of which was that their spiritual health was connected to the physical well-being of the priesthood.8

To the degree that the people of God took seriously their relationship with the Lord, to such a degree the needs of the tabernacle would be met. And, of course, the two were inseparably connected.

The one actually fed the other. And the same is true in our day. Paul picks up on this principle in 1 Corinthians 9:13-14 where he argues that those who served the tabernacle lived of the tabernacle. He argues from this the legitimacy of the church materially providing for the welfare of its leaders.

Paul further argues in Galatians 6:7-9 that if we desire to prosper spiritually then we need to pay for it. We pay for what we value and therefore we are to share with those who, under God’s authority, teach us how to live under God’s authority. “The labourer is worthy of his wages,” and “especially those who labour in the word and teaching” (1 Timothy 5:17-18).

As I type these words on my computer, I have just eaten lunch in my well-heated office. I don’t take that for granted. It is a blessing to have food, to be able to eat well and to be able to do so in comfort. It is a blessing to have access to a computer and the necessary software to prepare sermons. I thank the Lord for using the church to meet this need. Their offerings enable me to eat well, to have a roof over my head and to enjoy many other material, medical, and financial blessings.

The simple fact is that churches require funds to operate. And when the congregation is faithful then not only are the bills paid but ministry opportunities can be expanded. In fact, as the church takes sin and the gospel seriously then, generally, the church prospers (to some degree) materially.

It should be borne in mind by all of us that need will not exist long in the midst of an obedient, worshipping people. If we take God seriously then it will show in our offerings. Clearly this was a major issue that we see in these opening seven chapters. I want therefore to exhort every member of BBC to take God seriously. Some are not and the result is that there is lack where there should be none. May God kindle your heart through the cross of Christ and may the fires of your devotion result in a sacrifice of both praise and provision.

Shepherds Also Need to Graze

Where does leadership derive its authority and its devoted determination to lead? By “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). It does so motivated that one day it will give an account to the one who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom (2 Timothy 4:1).

It was essential that those who were entrusted with the leadership of God’s people under the old covenant did not lose sight of Christ in the midst of all of the blood and guts, and in the midst of their daily duty to “minster the holy things” (1 Corinthians 9:13). And obviously the same holds true for God’s appointed leadership of the new covenant church.

God’s leadership in the church must take time to daily seek Christ themselves. The must look for Christ in the midst of the blood, sweat and tears of sermon preparation. They must look for Christ and at what He is doing in the more mundane things of church life. The must keep the fire burning (see 6:8-13)!

They Must Lead Without Apology

Finally, we learn that church leadership must lead without apology.

This is the law of the burnt offering, the grain offering, the sin offering, the trespass offering, the consecrations, and the sacrifice of the peace offering, which the LORD commanded Moses on Mount Sinai, on the day when He commanded the children of Israel to offer their offerings to the LORD in the Wilderness of Sinai.

(Leviticus 7:37-38)

In the final two verses Moses writes a summary statement at the end of this first “worship manual.” He recounts the subjects of the sacrifices which he has described (like a table of contents, but in this case at the end of the book) and informs us that this prescription was from the Lord.

It is noteworthy that three times we are informed that these were authoritative prescriptions from God rather than mere suggestions. We read that “this is the law,” and twice the word “commanded” is used. In the first instance the Lord did the commanding and it would seem that in the second instance Moses did the commanding. The man under authority commanded others who were under his authority. And he did so without apology, for they were simply submitting to God’s authority.

The point that I want for us to see is that Moses made no apology for declaring God’s authority, and neither should any leader who is appointed by God.

If the church will properly worship God according to what He has prescribed then it needs leaders who fear God more than they fear man. It needs men who understand quite clearly that they are under authority and therefore must declare God’s authority to those they lead. The church cannot be led by those who are plagued with a failure of nerve.

If leadership is apologetic and double-minded, always second-guessing its decisions, then the church will not progress. In such a scenario worship will not be carried out by the book but will rather be at the beck and call of the latest fad or the latest pressures from the congregation. Leaders must lead! And, again, the principle is as valid for God’s other appointed leaders—husbands and parents—as it is for the pastors of the church.

Again, if a church is led by ministers who understand that they are under God’s authority then that church is in safe hands. Such leadership will lead with the sense that they have heaven’s weight behind them and so they will experience His power for His glory. The same is true for your family.

Leaders must cultivate a culture of conviction and courage with reference to God’s commandments and expectations.

The reason, of course, that such leaders guide the sheep without apology is because they understand that they are under the Chief Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Leadership must never lose sight of the reality of the Headship of the Lord Jesus Christ over His church. He is the One who shed His blood for His people and it is for this reason that He expects His people to be carefully cared for by His appointed leadership. Therefore, they must not be controlled by the fear of man. That will result in the harming of the sheep. So it is in your home.

We who have been saved serve and worship the wonderful Saviour. He kept the fire going and, in fact, endured the fires of God’s wrath for us. He was wholeheartedly devoted to the Father and indeed was the perfect example of what it means to love God with all one’s heart, mind and soul. He took sin so seriously that He became the sin offering in order to free us from it. He gives us hope in the midst of our guilt because, through Him and the debt He paid that we owed, there is no condemnation. He was—and still is—the one who was willing to tell the truth even when it was not popular. He both embraces the penitent and cuts off the rebellious. He feeds His people with the sacrifice that He offered: Himself. The sacrifice on the altar becomes the food on the table. He lived His earthly existence under the authority of the Father and therefore when He speaks we hear His authority. He rules and reigns today without apology as He commands the world to repent and to believe on Him. And one day, once all for whom He died are brought in, He “the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28).

It is on such a Saviour that God’s appointed leadership must stay focused. And as it does so then it is equipped to help those it leads to focus on Him.

When such is the focus of the local church and its leadership, when such is the focus of husbands and parents, then we will all be able to heed the exhortation: “The Lord has spoken. He has revealed his will. It is for us, His people, to respond in glad obedience to what He commanded should be done.”9

In Jesus name, submit to men under authority!

Show 9 footnotes

  1. Allen P. Ross, Holiness to the Lord: A Guide to the Exposition of the Book of Leviticus (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 171.
  2. Philip H. Eveson, The Beauty of Holiness: The Book of Leviticus Simply Explained (Darlington: Evangelical Press, 2007), 103.
  3. Gordon J. Wenham, The Book of Leviticus: The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), 128.
  4. Eveson, The Beauty of Holiness, 99.
  5. There is an application here to parents as well! Parents, for the benefit of their children and the glory of God, must sometimes say no!
  6. Robert I Vasholz, Leviticus: A Mentor Commentary (Ross-shire: Mentor, 2007), 79.
  7. Wenham, The Book of Leviticus, 116.
  8. John D. Currid, Study Commentary on Leviticus (Darlington: Evangelical Press, 2004), 100.
  9. Derek Tidball, The Message of Leviticus: Free to Be Holy (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 2005), 105.