The perfection demanded in the sacrificial victims
contains a typical, a symbolical, and a moral lesson.
I. THEY MUST BE PERFECT , THAT THEY MAY BE TYPES OF CHRIST . The perfect Victim must not be represented by anything imperfect. There are but few points in which the perfection of Christ, both absolute and in relation to the work which as the appointed Victim he was to fulfil, could be foreshadowed by the animals offered in sacrifice, but this was one—that they should be without blemish and perfect of their kind. "The blood of Christ who through the Eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God," is the antitype, we are taught in the Epistle to the Hebrews, to "the blood of bulls, and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer, sprinkling the unclean," which "sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh" ( Hebrews 9:13 , Hebrews 9:14 ). For "ye know," says St. Peter, "that ye were redeemed … with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" ( 1 Peter 1:18 , 1 Peter 1:19 ); "who did no sin" ( 1 Peter 2:22 ); who "gave himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour" ( Ephesians 5:2 ). The physical freedom from blemish on the part of the animal typifies the "spotlessness" of Christ.
II. THEY MUST BE PERFECT , THAT THEY MAY SYMBOLIZE THE PERFECT HEART WITH WHICH ALL SERVICE MUST BE DONE TO GOD . They symbolized the integrity of soul with which the offerer made his offering, and the purity of intention required of all who present themselves or anything that they do to God and his service. A gift to God is unacceptable, and not accepted, if there be in it anything superfluous, viz. self-display, or anything lacking, namely, the spirit of love. God chose those whom he afterwards called into his Church to "be holy and without blame (or blemish) before him in love" ( Ephesians 1:4 ), "that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God" ( Colossians 4:12 ), "that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing" ( James 1:4 ). Imperfection must always mark man and his work, seeing that "the infection of nature doth remain, yea in them that are regenerated" (Art. 9); but the Christian must not rest satisfied with aiming at anything but the highest. His purpose, however marred, must be to please God perfectly.
III. THEY MUST BE PERFECT , BECAUSE WHAT WE GIVE TO GOD MUST BE COSTLY TO US . "And the king said unto Araunah, Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing. So David bought the threshingfloor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver ( 2 Samuel 24:24 ). "And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the Lord of hosts" ( Malachi 1:8 ). "But cursed be the deceiver, which hath in iris flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing: for I am a great King, saith the Lord of hosts, and my Name is dreadful among the heathen" ( Malachi 1:14 ). The cost of our gifts to God need not be absolutely great—the widow's two mites, which make a farthing, may be more than all that the rich cast into the treasury ( Mark 12:41-44 ). Whatever we give, it must be of our best, the best effort of our intellect, the best affections of our hearts. Whatever we are most attached to, that we must be prepared to give up, if God demands the sacrifice at our hands.
Holiness of priests and sacrifices.
While much that appertained only to a temporary dispensation, still great principles included in the formal regulations, as—
I. RELIGION SANCTIFIES , preserves, and perfects the whole humanity of man.
1 . It preserves the true order—God first, the creature subject to the Creator.
2 . It utilizes the central power of human nature, the moral and spiritual The mind is the man, and the mind is not mere intellect, but moral consciousness and aspiration after God.
3 . It puts the individual and the social in their true relation to that which supports both—the positive and public worship of God. The temple at Jerusalem represented the center of the nation, Jehovah's throne. Humanity can be, will be, developed into a true family of nations only round the house of God. All non-religious influences arc disintegrating to the nation and the world.
II. THE LIFE OF MAN IS THE SANCTIFICATION OF ALL OTHER LIFE ON THE EARTH . The lower natures depend on the higher. God has taught us by his Law not only to use them, but to reverence them and to hallow their instincts and the laws of nature as exhibited in them. Science may discover secrets, but it will not protect the weak. The reverence for that which is below us is even more a yielding up of our nature to the Spirit of God than the mere bowing prostrate before that which is above us. The selfishness and tyranny of the stronger over the weaker can only be cast out by religion.
III. ALL LAW IS CONSISTENT WITH FREE AGENCY . "At your own will." The true service of God is that which the heart renders. We blend our will with God's will in the acceptable life. At your will, but by the regulations of the Law. The mere capricious individualism of the present day is no true liberty, but becomes the most degrading bondage. The covenant relation of Jehovah with his people lay at the foundation of their obedience: "I hallow you," therefore hallow my commandments and my Name. In that loving bond of sanctification all believers find their strength. They are not their own, they are bought with a price. Paul rejoiced to be a "slave of Jesus Christ." The Jews made their Law unto death, not life, because they departed from its simplicity and forgot its spirituality, and "made the Word of God of none effect by their traditions," forging their own fetters. The key-note of the Law is redemption. "I am the Lord which brought you out of Egypt," etc. The key-note of redemption is love.—R.
cf. Matthew 25:31-46 . We saw that inherited infirmity, such as is mentioned in Matthew 25:18-21 of last chapter, while it excludes from office, does not exclude from sustenance. We now come across a disqualification sufficient to exclude from both office and support, and this is contracted defilement. Any priest venturing before God with uncleanness upon him will be cut off from his presence. We are taught hereby—
I. THAT IT IS CONTRACTED , NOT TRANSMITTED , DEFILEMENT WHICH NECESSITATES COMPLETE EXILE FROM JEHOVAH . The priest's child providentially scarred or maimed, whose blemish has been from the womb, and in which he had no voluntary share, which excluded properly from office, is not excluded from sustenance from the altar; while, on the other hand, he who has through negligence or waywardness contracted defilement is, while it lasts, excluded altogether from the privileges of the priesthood.
The bearing of such an arrangement upon the question of original sin is plain on the least thought. The fact of original sin will not be questioned by any one who studies intelligently the question of heredity. Moreover, "representative responsibility," as a principle of providence, shows how we are held responsible for acts of others in which we have had no conscious share. At the same time, it is consolatory to think that transmitted evil will not of itself condemn its possessor to perpetual exile from God. When an infant dies, who has never been sufficiently advanced to contract any conscious defilement, who has never added to original sin any actual transgression, it is comforting to think that the righteous Governor will not exclude any such from the privilege of approaching him, but will purge away their inheritance of evil, and fit them for his everlasting fellowship. We believe in the salvation of the great multitude who die before coming to the years of discretion.
II. CASUAL , AS DISTINGUISHED FROM PERMANENT , CONNECTION WITH THE PRIESTHOOD DISQUALIFIES A PERSON FROM PARTAKING OF THE THINGS OF THE ALTAR . No mere casual guest, or even a hired servant of a priest's, was to eat of the holy things. If a servant had been purchased, and so became personally incorporated with the priestly family, he might eat of them. There is a corresponding casual and a corresponding permanent association with the Lord's work. Only those who enter on it with whole hearts, who dedicate themselves to it, body, soul, and spirit, need expect to participate in its privileges; while the mere casual associate will find himself excluded in the end.
III. THE SACRIFICES WERE TO BE AS UNBLEMISHED AS THE OFFICIATING PRIESTS ; ANY PHYSICAL DEFECT DISQUALIFIED THEM FROM ACCEPTANCE . The unblemished character of the sacrifices teaches the same truth which we have already considered. As the sacrifices were practically substitutions, their perfection was to teach man not only that his Substitute must be perfect if God would accept him, but that he himself must be perfected, if he is to serve God in the great hereafter in a priestly spirit. At the same time, man is encouraged in the present state to offer what he can, even though it be not perfect. God does not insist on the absolute perfection of the work of his people. If it is willing ( Matthew 25:23 )—if it is really a "freewill offering "—then God will accept it in the spirit in which it is given. The perfection is to be kept steadily in view as the ideal to which we must always be struggling; meanwhile, we are to be doing all we can with willing minds, even though our work is often poor at best.
IV. INHUMAN ACTS DISQUALIFY SACRIFICES OTHERWISE ACCEPTABLE . Thus a bullock, sheep, or goat, would not be acceptable till after the eighth day. It would have been inhuman to have denied it its week with its dam. Moreover, may not the seven days with the dam, like the seven days before the man-child's circumcision, represent a perfect period spent under parental care, and thus become an emblem of the providential use of the family institution?
Again, the dam and the young were not to be put to death on the same day. It has an inhuman appearance about it, like the seething of a kid in its mother's milk; and God arranged that the terms of the fifth commandment should be illustrated by, and not transgressed, even among the lower animals.
While, therefore, sacrificial worship entailed much suffering on the part of the innocent victims, there was a humane element to run through the service of the priests, and inhumanity would disqualify them from sacrificially serving God.—R.M.E.
Characteristics of acceptable service.
The very fact that all the points here referred to have been fully brought out before lends strong emphasis to them as matters of vital importance in the estimation of God. If our worship and service are to be acceptable, there must be—
I. SPONTANEITY OF SPIRIT . "Ye shall offer at your own will" ( Leviticus 22:19 ); "when ye will offer … offer it at your own will" ( Leviticus 22:29 ). There is a wilfulness in worship which is blamable ( Colossians 2:23 ); but there is a willingness, a "cheerfulness in giving," which is peculiarly acceptable unto God. The service which is rendered of necessity, under strong constraint and against the inclination of the spirit, has the least virtue, if, indeed, it have any at all. That which proceeds from a heart in fullest sympathy with the act, delighting to do the will of God ( Psalms 40:8 ), is well pleasing unto him.
II. COMPARATIVE EXCELLENCY . "Ye shall offer … a male without blemish.… whatsoever hath a blemish, that shall ye not offer: for it shall not be acceptable for you," etc. ( Leviticus 22:19-22 ). If the Hebrew worshipper brought that creature from flock or herd which, as being blemished, was least valuable, he did that which was offensive rather than acceptable. He put his Creator and Redeemer ( Leviticus 22:33 ) in the second place, and his own material interests in the first place. He was to bring his best to the holiest. We, too, must avoid this fatal error—must rise to this spiritual height. We must not put off our Redeemer with that which we shall miss the least—in kind, in substance, in time; we must bring to his altar the sweetness, the strength, and the beauty of all that we have to bring; we must reserve the choice treasures for his hand of love. So far as may be in a world of imperfection, our offering to a Divine Saviour "shall be perfect to be accepted" ( Leviticus 22:21 ).
III. REGARD FOR A SOLEMN PLEDGE . Absolute perfection, the positively whole and unblemished animal, might be difficult, or in some cases impossible, to secure. Hence some relaxation from the rule was allowed in the case of the free-will offering. But in the redemption of a vow no such departure was permitted ( Leviticus 22:23 ). Any vow which was made unto God was considered to be in the last degree obligatory ( Deuteronomy 23:21 , Deuteronomy 23:22 ; Ecclesiastes 5:4 , Ecclesiastes 5:5 ; Psalms 76:11 ). When "God's vows are upon us," when we stand pledged before him
we should feel that we are bound with peculiarly strong bonds to make our sacrifice, of whatever kind it be, in its fulness and integrity.
V. PREFERENCE OF THE DIVINE WILL TO HUMAN GRATIFICATION . "Strangers" might bring their offerings to the house of the Lord. It was a pleasing and gratifying firing to witness the stranger bringing his bountiful tribute to the altar of Jehovah. It gratified the national feeling. But nothing might be accepted from the foreigner which was not worthy to be laid on the altar of the Holy One of Israel. His will to receive only unblemished offerings must outweigh their readiness or eagerness to receive outside testimony to the excellency of their institutions. We may be too eager to welcome the tribute of the stranger; we must require of him that he worship in sincerity and purity. The honour and the will of God should be more to us than the passing gratification we gain from any source whatever. Whatever we lose, he must be honoured and obeyed.—C.
Laws of the oblations.
These naturally follow those concerning the priests, which form the subject of the earlier portion of this chapter. They may be considered—
I. WITH RESPECT TO THE SACRIFICES .
1 . These must be the animals prescribed.
2 . They must be individuals without blemish.
3 . Blemished creatures may be given as free-will offerings.
II. WITH RESPECT TO THEIR OFFERING .
1 . They may not be offered till after the eighth day.
2 . An animal and its young may not be killed the same day.
3 . It should be eaten the same day on which it is killed.
4 . They should be offered devoutly.
Just as the priests who offer to the Lord are to be ceremonially and morally holy, so the animals offered to him are to be physically perfect, in order
Whatsoever hath a blemish, that shall ye not offer. The list of blemishes and malformations which exclude from the altar is given; they are such as deform the animal, and make it less valuable: blind, or broken, or maimed, or having a wen, or scurvy, or scabbed, ye shall not offer these unto the Lord, nor any animal that is bruised, or crushed, or broken, or cut , that is, castrated in any manner. The clause following the mention of castration—neither shall ye make any offering thereof in your land—literally translated, neither shall ye make in your land, probably forbids castration altogether, not merely the offering of castrated animals in sacrifice. The expression, Ye shall offer at your own will, should be understood, as before, for your acceptance (see note on Le Leviticus 2:1 ). Only one exception is made as to blemished offerings: an animal that hath any thing superfluous or lacking in his parts may be offered for a freewill offering , but not for a vow (for the distinction of these offerings, see note on Leviticus 2:1 ). These rules as to unblemished victims are to apply to the offerings of strangers as well as of Israelites.