Displaying Holiness, A Conversation on the book of Leviticus

Chapter 5

Corrupted human nature needs direction about what is the right thing to do. Having the knowledge of good and evil that Eve and Adam acquired for us confuses us about just how to tell one from the other. As psychologist Philip George Zimbardo says, “People like to believe the line between good and evil is clear – with them on one side, others always evil.”[1] He also pointed out that humans have an inclination to carelessly take the first small step into dehumanizing others, de-individualizing self, diffusing personal responsibility, blindly obeying any authority, uncritically conforming to group norms, and passively tolerating evil through indifference.

Without purpose and direction in our lives the flaw in human nature makes us feel disoriented and distressed. Right behavior enriches our lives and the lives of those around us. It’s especially important to exercise and practice right conduct so that we will be prepared when confronted with the more difficult problems life has in store. In other words, when we make an effort to make moral decisions throughout life it helps us when we are faced with serious moral dilemmas. Supervision is important in any society so throughout the ages humans have made laws to regulate actions. When someone breaks the rules even with the best of intentions, the course of the social intercourse will be impacted negatively. However, when flawed human nature makes the rules for society it results in flawed laws and people often feel like they are trying to swim upstream. The difference between what society deems right and what we feel is right confuses us. We need to know what is right from someone who we know is perfect, so Yahweh, who is perfect and our Creator told us what is right and what he requires of us. He explained what it means to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with him. Yahweh gave his people laws so that those who live in fear because of weakness or uselessness under the flawed laws of corrupted human nature would be able to experience thorough protection and provision based on the standards of righteousness that issued from his holy reign.

Yahweh had to tell his people that there is more to bearing false witness against one’s neighbor than just lying about someone, so he explained that they were also responsible to make the truth known. Being a false witness includes not telling the truth in cases of wrongdoing. Yahweh’s people were to be involved in seeing that justice was done.

Joe M. Sprinkle pointed out that human beings are unclean or sinful by nature so they cannot approach Yahweh, who is holy. Just as uncleanness can come from within – by way of natural bodily functions; or from contamination from without – sin comes both from perverse human nature within and temptations without. As he said, some laws of purity express ethical lessons that indoctrinated Israel with the concept of holiness and served as object lessons, creating in his people a sense of self-identity as a separated people.[2]

So Yahweh told his people that if they touched anything ritually unclean, like the carcass of an unclean animal, wild or domestic, or a dead reptile, even though they weren’t aware of it at the time, they were contaminated and guilty. Or if they touched any sort of ritually contaminating human uncleanness, even though they weren’t aware of it at the time – they were guilty.

Yahweh told his people that breaking a vow implicitly denies that truth is sacred so making a rash vow is a sin. Yeshua said, “And don’t say anything you don’t mean. This counsel is embedded deep in our traditions. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying, ‘I’ll pray for you,’ and never doing it, or saying, ‘God be with you,’ and not meaning it. You don’t make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.”[3] Since vows were made in Yahweh’s name, breaking an oath was breaking the third commandment.

Yahweh told his people to immediately confess their sins as soon as they were aware of them and bring their payment of a female lamb or goat for an Absolution Offering to him and the priest would make atonement for their sin. If the sinner couldn’t afford a lamb or goat the sinner could take two pigeons to him – one for an Absolution Offering and the other for a Whole Burnt Offering. The priest was to first take the Absolution Offering, wring its neck, and splash some of the blood against the altar. He was to drain the rest of the blood at the base of the altar. And then he was to take the second bird and offer it as a Whole Burnt Offering following the procedure that Yahweh had already given for the Whole Burnt Offering. That was the way the sinners transgressions would be forgiven.

Yahweh gave further instructions for a sinner who couldn’t afford the doves for the offering. He was to bring two quarts of the best of the flour, without oil or incense, as an Absolution Offering. The priest was to take a handful as a memorial and burn it on the altar. The priest was to make atonement for the sinner and he or she was forgiven. The rest of the offering was to belong to the priest, the same as the Grain Offerings.

And then Yahweh told Moses that when someone betrays his trust and naively sins against any of the things that are holy to him – Yahweh – then he was to take a ram without defect from his flock whose value was to be assessed by the standards of a weight for a Compensation Offering. He was to add twenty percent to the worth of the ram and give it to the priest. That was the way the priest was to make atonement for the unintentional sinner and he would be forgiven.

Yahweh gave instructions for anyone who sinned without being aware of it and later realized he or she had errored. They were to take a ram without defect as a Compensation Offering.  In that way the priest would make atonement for the error and it would be forgiven. The lesson here was that sin has a price that must be paid. The human body and mind are corrupted because of sin. The human conscience is flawed and tormented because of sin. Yahweh gave humans the instructions for having flawless minds, bodies, and consciences and the very first time humans ignored these instructions it started the corruption[4] of all the good that Yahweh had created us to be. As time went on the corruption increased until our creator had to come down to our level and give us those ten guideline commandments as an outline of the right way to live. And then he followed it up by expanding on each one and pointing out where we error. Humans are so flawed that we can’t possibly “do it right” so Yahweh made a way for our consciences to be cleared of the awful burden of knowing how far we have fallen short of what we were created to be. First the sacrificial law that was a lesson plan to draw a picture of how he would rescue his people once and for all time from the guilt of corruption when “One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own. … Anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. “[5]

Summary of chapter 5

Yahweh gave instructions for the removal of guilt from someone who refused to tell the truth; from those who contract defilement by touching unclean things or persons; and from those who bind themselves by vows or oaths, and do not fulfill them. The trespass-offering prescribed in such cases was a lamb or a kid, a turtle-dove or two young pigeons, or an ephah of fine flour without oil and frankincense. He gave other rules relative to trespasses, through ignorance in holy things, and for trespasses in things unknown, and for ignorant sin.

Prayer: My gracious God, Yahweh, my sins are too heavy to carry, too real to hide, and too deep to undo. Forgive what my lips tremble to name, what my heart can no longer bear, and what has become for me a consuming fire of judgment. Set me free from a past that I cannot change; open a future in which I can be changed; and grant me grace to grow more and more in your likeness and image, through Yeshua ha Mashiach, the light of the world[6].

 

 

Things to think about

  1. Why, according to psychologist Philip George Zimbardo, do we need direction?
  2. Why do you think we need direction?
  3. Why do you think we need Yahweh’s laws to direct us in the way we should go?
  4. What does justice mean to you personally?
  5. What do you think it means to love mercy? Is the mercy Yahweh shows you personally something you can pass on to others?
  6. What do you think the regulations about what was clean and unclean mean? Do you think they are still important today? What lesson do they teach you personally?
  7. What did you learn about the character of Yahweh through the trespass offerings listed in this chapter? Try to name at least three things the chapter teaches about the nature of our God.

 

 

[1] https://tedsummaries.com/2014/11/24/philip-zimbardo-the-psychology-of-evil/

[2] http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/clean-unclean/

[3] Matthew 5:33-37

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4250049/; http://dlc.dlib.indiana.edu/dlc/bitstream/handle/10535/6420/The%20Price%20of%20Sin%20The%20Effects%20of%20Social%20Norms%20on%20Markets%20.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4382211/;  http://www.pulpitpages.com/uploads/9/5/3/2/9532717/the_hidden_cost_of_sin_-_2_sam.121-14.pdf

[5] II Corinthians 5:15, 17

[6] From the PCUSA Book of Common Worship Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1993; p. 88

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