Here’s a section of Scripture we may think has no modern application at all. There no longer is a priestly class. Jesus fulfilled the role of the priests once and for all when he died on the cross and then entered into the heavenly throne room at the right hand of the Father.
If the priests were considered sacred – the holy ones of God – Jesus was the Most Holy One. There is none like him.
And so we might think there’s not much for us here as we consider how priests went about their funeral duties and whom they could marry and who could eat from the holy food and what the physical condition of a priest could be. (I’m looking at Leviticus 21:1-22:16 for this blog, so you might want to keep reading a little further.)
But there is still truth here – things that tell us about God and about who we are to be as his children. And, by the way, the “priesthood” now includes you (1 Peter 2:9).
It is this fact we ought to keep in mind as we read this chapter.
A priest was not to mourn like everyone else mourned. A priest was one who ministered to the people, who represented the life that God breathes into creation. He did not let his hair hang loose in grief. He did not tear his clothes as he mourned death. His grieving was to be marked by the knowledge of life.
Likewise, we do not mourn as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). As Christians, we know that physical death need not be the end. For us, death has lost its sting (1 Corinthians 15).
A priest also was to take marriage seriously. Someone who had been defiled was not to be married. This bothers us. How judgmental! But keep in mind, the priests were to model godly marriages – one man, one woman, healthy offspring. Marriage was to be a holy thing, set apart for God.
Marriage is no less so today. Read Ephesians 5:22-33. And how does a person today become holy, anyway? Only by the blood of Christ. Perhaps we can see here the need for believers to marry other believers – who are nothing more than sinners who’ve been made clean by Christ (2 Corinthians 6:14).
And then there are the disabled priests. They were “blemished.” No blemished sacrificial animals could be sacrificed. Blemished priests, likewise, were limited in their tabernacle service. As we have seen already in Leviticus, physical ailments were incompatible with the presence of God. Again, we groan at this.
That is, we groan until we realize that, indeed, physical blemishes and ailments are incompatible with the presence of God! This is great news after all, if you keep an eternal perspective. The physical problems you experience today will have no place in eternity, which you will spend with God in your resurrection body. The fact that these physical problems can’t enter into God’s presence might be a downer today, but “today” is only temporary. We have a happy and healthy eternal life awaiting us.
Think on these things. You are a priest, after all.