TODAY’S READING: LEVITICUS 19-21
A significant emphasis in these three chapters is holiness. In Leviticus 19:2, God told Moses to tell Israel, “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” The word holy is found 16 times. So, these chapters give a picture of what holiness before the Lord looks like.
While the words clean and unclean rarely appear in these three chapters, they are a significant focus of Leviticus. The issue of holiness is related to what is clean and unclean. Israel was not to bring anything unclean before the Lord so that Israel could be holy, set apart from all other nations.
Israel took the command to be holy to mean that they should have no contact with any person that was unclean. Israel believed that to be holy as a nation meant that every person who was unclean should not have access to God. And, in the most extreme cases, the person that was unclean should be stoned to death so that their blood would be upon them, which of course would permanently bar them from the presence of God.
Yes, there were certain things that Israel, and us today, should not do because God doesn’t do them. We are to be holy as God is holy. If Israel did those things, then Israel wouldn’t be separate from the nations of the world. Therefore, they would not be holy as God is holy. But, what does it look like to be holy as God is holy?
That question can only be answered when we read these three chapters through the lens of Jesus. It is then, and only then, we can know what it means to be holy as God is holy. In Jesus, we see what it means to be clean or unclean. In Jesus, we see how one that is holy, the Holy One of Israel, interacts with all that is unholy, which includes every person ever born.
THE HIGH PRIEST’S BRIDE
A wonderful example of being holy as God is holy in found in Jesus, the Holy One of Israel, and who he would marry.
In Leviticus 21, we read the commands for who “the priest who is chief among his brothers” could marry. This priest was the high priest. And, according to Hebrews, Jesus is a our high priest.
The command for the who the high priest could marry is found in Leviticus 21:13-15. It says, “And he shall take a wife in her virginity. A widow, or a divorced woman, or a woman who has been defiled, or a prostitute, these he shall not marry. But he shall take as his wife a virgin of his own people, that he may not profane his offspring among his people, for I am the Lord who sanctifies him.” Israel believe that the high priest should only marry a virgin from her own people. The bride of the high priest should be clean, pure, unblemished, undefiled, etc.
But, is that who Jesus married? Does that describe the woman that Jesus married?
Not at all!
JESUS MARRIED A WIDOW
Throughout the Bible, Israel is pictured as God’s bride. God, the Word of God, Jesus, was made flesh and dwelt, literally tabernacled, among Israel. But, Jesus died. God died. It was as if Israel had become a widow.
Romans 7:1-4 says, “Or do you not know, brothers – for I am speaking to those who know the law – that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? For a married woman is bound by the law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But, if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another she is not an adulteress. Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit to God.”
Jesus died and Israel was released from the law of marriage. Israel had become a widow. Therefore, Israel was free to marry another. The one Israel was to marry was the one who had been raised from the dead – Jesus.
Instead of viewing the widow as unclean, unholy, and unfit for marriage, Jesus in several instances reveals his attitude towards the widow. Jesus speaks favorably of the widow who offered two mites, everything that she had. And, Jesus raised from the dead the son of the widow of Nain.
Jesus, the high priest, married a widow in direct contradiction to Leviticus 21.
JESUS MARRIED A DIVORCED WOMAN
That nation of Israel was broken into two kingdoms, Israel and Judah. Did you know that God divorced Israel? Jeremiah 3:8 says, “She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce.” God divorced Israel.
However, in John 4, Jesus meets a woman at a well. This woman was a Samaritan. The Samaritans were of the ten tribes God split off into the kingdom of Israel whom he divorced. So, the woman Jesus meets at the well is a picture of the divorced woman.
Jesus said to the woman, “Go, call your husband, and come here.”
The woman responded, “I have no husband.”
Jesus said to the woman, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband.”
Apparently, the Samaritan woman had been divorced five times. She was now living with a six man. But, at the well, the well where this is living water, eternal life, she meets a seventh man. Seven is the number of perfection, completion, and rest. At the well, the Samaritan woman, the divorced woman, met her perfect husband. From this husband she received eternal life.
Jesus, the high priest, married a divorced woman in direct contradiction to Leviticus 21.
JESUS MARRIED A DEFILED WOMAN
In Leviticus, we read that a woman who was menstruating, shedding blood, was unclean and could not enter the sanctuary or tabernacle. A woman who was shedding blood could not come into the presence of God and worship.
However, in Luke 8:42-48 we read of the woman who had an issue of blood and how Jesus responded to her. The woman had a discharge of blood. Therefore, she was unclean. No one would be allowed to have contact with her or else they would be unclean too.
In the Bible, the number 12 often symbolizes God’s power and authority. This woman’s discharge of blood had lasted 12 years. In other words, this woman was so unclean, so defiled, that she had been completely cut off from God’s power and authority. This woman had spent all she had to be healed, to be made clean, but nothing worked. Nothing could cleanse her. Nothing could make her undefiled.
So the woman went to Jesus in the midst of a crowd and touched the hem of his garment. Immediately, her discharge of blood ceased. Jesus asked who touched him, and the disciples wondered how Jesus could even ask that question since they were in such a large crowd. But, Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.” This woman who had been completely cut off from God’s power went to Jesus, the Word of God who tabernacled among Israel, and received God’s power to heal her.
Jesus didn’t tell this woman she wasn’t allowed to touch him, that she wasn’t allowed near the tabernacle. No, he received this woman and acknowledged her faith. Jesus said, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”
Jesus, the high priest, married a defiled woman in direct contradiction to Leviticus 21.
JESUS MARRIED A PROSTITUTE
In Luke 7:36-50, Jesus was having dinner at the house of one of the Pharisees. Into the house came a woman of the city, who was a sinner. In other words, the woman was a prostitute. This woman knelt behind Jesus at his feet, began weeping, wetting Jesus’ feet with her tears, wiped Jesus’ feet with her hair, kissed his feet, and anointed his feet with an expensive ointment. A prostitute, an unclean woman, had come to Jesus, the tabernacle, to worship.
The Pharisee, who had invited Jesus to dinner, was appalled. He said to everyone at the dinner, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”
But, Jesus lays out the truth for this Pharisee. Jesus responded, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; and you gave me no water for my feet, but she was wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven – for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
Jesus then told the prostitute, “Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Jesus, the high priest, married a prostitute in direct contradiction to Leviticus 21.
JESUS PRESENTS HIS BRIDE HOLY
We tend to think that salvation is a work of God and then we need to work to make ourselves clean, holy, sanctified. But, the work of holiness, of sanctification, is just as much a work of God as the work of salvation. In Leviticus 19-21, the Lord repeatedly says that he is the one who separates us, he is the one who makes us holy, he is the one who sanctifies us. It is not our work but his.
Therefore, in direct contradiction to who Israel believed the high priest should marry, Jesus marries the widow, the divorced woman, the defiled woman, the prostitute. Jesus and these women come together while the women are in their unclean, unholy, and unsanctified states.
But, what does Jesus do for these women who have become his bride? What does Jesus do for us who have become his bride?
Ephesians 5:25-27 says, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”
Jesus takes us, who are unclean, defiled, not worthy to enter the tabernacle and worship, and marries us. He brings us to himself. And, then he washes us with his word, he cleanses us, he removes every spot and wrinkle, so that we can be holy and without blemish. We don’t do this to ourselves first and then come to Jesus already holy. No, we come to Jesus, the high priest, as the woman Israel believed the high priest shouldn’t marry. And, Jesus, our high priest, makes us the bride that he desired.
So, through these women, Jesus shows us how we are to treat those that are unclean, unholy, and unsanctified. We aren’t to stone them to death, permanently barring them from the presence and worship of God. Instead, we are to bring them in to the presence of Jesus to be cleansed by him.