Friday, April 18, 2014

Qualifications For Priests

Leviticus 21:1-24

“And the LORD said unto Moses, Speak unto the priests the sons of Aaron, and say unto them, There shall none be defiled for the dead among his people: But for his kin, that is near unto him, that is, for his mother, and for his father, and for his son, and for his daughter, and for his brother, And for his sister a virgin, that is nigh unto him, which hath had no husband; for her may he be defiled.” (Leviticus 21:1-3)

As an expression of their grief, people would often throw dust or ashes on their head.  Some cultures would cut themselves or refuse to change clothes for a certain number of days.   Permanent things such as tattoos or cutting oneself was forbidden for everyone.  The priests were forbidden even to put ashes or dust on their or not change clothes except for his parents, or his children, or an unmarried sister.  Their relationship to God was to be so important as to completely overshadow any other relationships.

As Christians, we are priest to God.  Our most important relationship is our relationship with God.  The second is our relationship with our spouse.  Third is our relationship to our children and our parents.  Other relationships must never be allowed to interfere with our service for God, just as the priests were not to allow other relationships to affect their service for God.   One mistake many people make is to equate the church with God.

“But he shall not defile himself, being a chief man among his people, to profane himself.  They shall not make baldness upon their head, neither shall they shave off the corner of their beard, nor make any cuttings in their flesh.  They shall be holy unto their God, and not profane the name of their God: for the offerings of the LORD made by fire, and the bread of their God, they do offer: therefore they shall be holy.” (Leviticus 21:4-6)

A person in position of leadership was not to allow even those close family ties to detract from his relationship with God, implying that God is somehow less important.  Their relationship to God was to be maintained at all times so that they were prepared to fulfill their responsibilities.  They were dealing directly with God and they should not dishonor him by coming to  him dirty or involved in sin.  

“They shall not take a wife that is a whore, or profane; neither shall they take a woman put away from her husband: for he is holy unto his God.  Thou shalt sanctify him therefore; for he offereth the bread of thy God: he shall be holy unto thee: for I the LORD, which sanctify you, am holy.” (Leviticus 21:7-8)

Because of their responsibilities before God, the priest was not to marry a woman who had a reputation for promiscuity, or a worldly attitude.  They were not to marry a woman who had been divorced.  The goal was to avoid any suspicion of immorality.  Both I Timothy 3 and Titus 1specify a similar standard for a pastor’s wife in the present age.

“And the daughter of any priest, if she profane herself by playing the whore, she profaneth her father: she shall be burnt with fire.” (Leviticus 21:9)

A priest’s daughter who was sexually promiscuous mad a mockery of her fathers profession.  She was to be burned with fire to eliminate any indication he considered it acceptable.  Both I Timothy 3 and Titus 1 stress the behavior of the pastor’s children for the same reason.  As I Timothy 3:5 points out, if he cant even teach his own children to do what is right, how can he teach the whole church to?

“And he that is the high priest among his brethren, upon whose head the anointing oil was poured, and that is consecrated to put on the garments, shall not uncover his head, nor rend his clothes; Neither shall he go in to any dead body, nor defile himself for his father, or for his mother; Neither shall he go out of the sanctuary, nor profane the sanctuary of his God; for the crown of the anointing oil of his God is upon him: I am the LORD. 

And he shall take a wife in her virginity.  A widow, or a divorced woman, or profane, or an harlot, these shall he not take: but he shall take a virgin of his own people to wife.  Neither shall he profane his seed among his people: for I the LORD do sanctify him.” (Leviticus 21:10-15)

The  rules were even stricter for a high priest because he served a function even ordinary priests couldn’t fulfill.  He could not wear torn clothes or even take off his hat as a symbol of respect for a dead person, nor could he go to their wake, even for his own father or mother.  He was to be so totally dedicated to God that no human relationship affected his service.  When he married, he could only marry a woman who was a virgin.  Even a widow was not acceptable, and any indication of promiscuity on his part, even as a boy disqualified him to be high priest.

Christ is our high priest and as Hebrews 4:15b tells us, “…was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”  As Christians we are priests, but we are not high priests, and do not have to meet the same standard he did.  However, a pastor or church leader should be held to a higher standard that the average Christian.  God’s goal is for every Christian to be conformed to the image of Christ.  No one can teach others what they don’t know.

“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto Aaron, saying, Whosoever he be of thy seed in their generations that hath any blemish, let him not approach to offer the bread of his God.  For whatsoever man he be that hath a blemish, he shall not approach: a blind man, or a lame, or he that hath a flat nose, or any thing superfluous, Or a man that is brokenfooted, or brokenhanded, Or crookbacked, or a dwarf, or that hath a blemish in his eye, or be scurvy, or scabbed, or hath his stones broken; No man that hath a blemish of the seed of Aaron the priest shall come nigh to offer the offerings of the LORD made by fire: he hath a blemish; he shall not come nigh to offer the bread of his God. “ (Leviticus 21:16-21)

The demands of this passage are considered politically incorrect and unloving in our day.  Any person with any kind of physical deformity was permitted to serve as priest.  Even a scabbed over sore or a rash, a broken bone, or a damaged eye was enough to disqualify a person from serving as priest.

“He shall eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy, and of the holy.  Only he shall not go in unto the veil, nor come nigh unto the altar, because he hath a blemish; that he profane not my sanctuaries: for I the LORD do sanctify them.” (Leviticus 21:22-23)

As a child of Aaron, the person was still qualified to go into the holy place, and to partake of any of the foods that the priests were given, any blemish disqualified him to offer the sacrifices for others or to go through the veil into the Holy of Holies .

In the same way, a person can be a Christian, a member of the church, and take part in everything God gives the Church, but be unqualified to perform the office of pastor or deacon.  

“And Moses told it unto Aaron, and to his sons, and unto all the children of Israel.” (Leviticus 21:24)

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