Leviticus 21:21 “No man of the offspring of Aaron the priest who has a blemish shall come near to offer the Lord’s food offerings; since he has a blemish, he shall not come near to offer the bread of his God.”
How peculiar were the laws that regulated the Old Testament priesthood. There were laws about touching a dead body. There were laws about physical defects. There were laws about marriage. There were laws about the children of priests and laws about the sacrifices the priests offered to God.
Throughout the book of Leviticus, we are told that the priests, those who were to be holy, sanctified, set apart to represent the people to God and God to the people, were to be different than the general populace. In thinking about the relevance of all these Old Testament laws to us today, it is always necessary to understand that the Old Testament contains shadows and types of the spiritual realities for New Testament believers. One of the striking things about the Old Testament laws was their relationship to those things that were part of the curse that man’s sin brought into this world. Take the laws regarding dead bodies. Death is a part of the curse. As God told Adam regarding the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, “in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die (Genesis 2:17).” In the New Testament we are told that “sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned (Romans 5:12).”
And what about “blemishes” per the verse above? Blemishes are explained later in Leviticus as any physical deformity or injury of any kind, including such things as blindness, lameness, a mutilated face, or any number of other deformities or diseases. Again, all of these things are a result of the Fall. They are all marks of the tragedy of sin in this world. They are reminders of how sin has marred all of creation. Indeed, the very creation “groans” because of sin (Romans 8:22).
But then Jesus came. In Nazareth, as Jesus announced Himself as the Messiah, the Great High Priest, the supreme mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5), He quoted the following passage from Isaiah 61: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Everywhere Jesus went He healed the blind, lame, deaf, and dumb. He freed people from leprosy. He raised the dead, and He forgave sin. Here was the reality of the shadow of the Old Testament High Priest. He was holy, set apart to God in every way, perfect, and free from sin. Yet, for our sakes He became sin. He bore our sin and all its curse in His own body, forsaken of God and crucified on a cross. But through this awesome sacrifice He made it possible for fallen, sinful human beings to become priests of the Living God, freed from both the guilt and curse of sin.
Each and every one of us who has put our faith in Christ and His death on the cross as the penalty for our sin has been given the very righteousness of Christ. We have been set apart as those who have been freed from sin and made holy before a holy and perfect God. And one day soon, each and every one of us will be freed from all aspects of the curse of sin. There will be no deafness, no cancer, no diabetes, no Downs syndrome or any other syndrome. In the wonderful words of Revelation 21:4 “He (i.e., God) will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
In preparation for this from the earliest times, God pointed to what was coming in the shadow of the laws for the Old Testament priests. The priests had lives of service to God. They gave many sacrificial gifts to God. They were given an incredible privilege of being set apart as ambassadors of God to the world. But in all of this our great God was pointing to a time when all those who put their faith in Christ would themselves be set apart as holy, tasked with taking the gospel of salvation to the whole world, the good news of freedom from the guilt of sin and all of its curse – forever.
So, what about you? Are you free from sin, or bound in it with its curse? If so, you can be freed from it this very moment by putting your faith in the only One Who is able to save you. It was “For our sake He (God the Father) made Him (God the Son) to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).” He did this all so we could one day enter His kingdom, his royal priesthood, and become the very people of God. No wonder the apostle John could exalt in His Savior with these words: “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen (Revelation 1:5-6).”