16 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,
17 “Speak to Aaron, saying,None of your offspring
throughout their generations who has a blemish
may approach to offer the bread of his God.
— Leviticus 21:16–17 —
In Leviticus 21, we come across a passage that is easily misunderstood. From a first reading of Leviticus 21:16–24, it appears that God does not associate with the disabled, the deformed, or the dismembered. And by extension, this seems to imply that God is cruel to those who deserve compassion. Or at least, as Old Testament scholar, Katherine Smith, has observed this passage is difficult for Westerners who would find themselves in trouble with the law if they mistreated those with a physical disability.
So what is going on in Leviticus 21? And how can the Law of God be holy, righteous, and good (Rom. 7:12), if it teaches Israel to withhold blemished priests from the offering sacrifices to God? Can we honestly say these laws are good and should be followed today? Or, do we need to make apology for Leviticus 21 and unhitch the Old Testament from the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Affirming the unity of Scripture and the goodness of everything contained therein (see Rom. 15:4 and 2 Tim. 3:16–17), I will argue that verses not only bear witness to God’s unswerving holiness but in the fullness of time, and with finished work of Christ in view, we have in Leviticus 21 a glorious declaration of what the resurrection of Christ accomplishes—namely, the good news that blemished priests will be brought into the presence of God, but only after they have been raised from the dead. But praise be to God, that is the good news of the resurrection! Continue reading