Leviticus 7:19-21

This passage is part of the law of the Peace Offering that begins at verse eleven and continues through verse twenty-one. In the initial verses the emphasis is on a thanksgiving offering associated with the peace offering. Unleavened wafers and cakes composed of fine flour which are mingled with oil and fried are to accompany the sacrificial meat. Also leavened bread is to be eaten. (This reminds us of the leavened loaves of the Shavuot celebration that are a contrast to the message of unleavened matzah during Passover.)

The presiding priest has his part from the meal along with the worshipper. The Sacred Meal is a Corporate fellowship between God and Man.

The thanksgiving offering is to be eaten the same day it is offered. If the offering is for a vow, then it is eaten the same day and the remainder is eaten the second day. But if there is any remainder on the third day it is to be burned with fire. (On the third day, it ascends exclusively to God in smoke.) If the worshipper eats of it on the third day, all the sanctity leaves the offering and it becomes an abomination.

Then we come to the verses that are the focus of this devotion: verses 19-21. These verses concern eating the sacrificial meal in a state of contamination.

“And the flesh that touches any unclean thing shall not be eaten; it shall be burnt with fire: and as for the flesh, all that be clean shall eat thereof.

“But the soul that eats of the flesh of the sacrifice of peace offerings, that pertain unto the LORD, having his uncleanness upon him, even that soul shall be cut off from his people.

“Moreover, the soul that shall touch an unclean thing, as the uncleanness of man, or any unclean beast, or any abominable unclean thing, and eat of the flesh of the sacrifice of peace offerings, which pertain unto the LORD, even that soul shall be cut off from his people.”

These verses make very clear that eating a ritual sacrificial meal of the LORD in a state of uncleanness produces death (“shall be cut off from his people”). Restoration to life from such a condition itself becomes an elaborate ordeal.

One would hardly think that such a law has any application in the New Testament; but this is not so; there is a spiritual application at the very least. There are also health applications. This law and others like it in Leviticus are not merely designed to bring the worshipper into clean proximity to the Holiness of God but also to promote health through good sanitation and through consuming only healthy foods: meat that remains exposed to air soon becomes unsafe to eat. Deterioration of food engenders disease and that condition leads in some cases to death.

In the New Testament we see that Jesus redefined defilement from foods by placing defilement into the category of the inner life of man. In Mark 7:15-23 when his disciples were rebuked for eating without first washing their hands according to the tradition of the elders and therefore becoming “defiled”, he said,

“There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man….

“…whatever thing from without that enters into the man cannot defile him;

“because it enters not into his heart [spirit], but into the belly, and goes out into the waste, thereby purifying all foods. [Some commentators believe that the phrase, “thereby purifying all foods” indicated that Jesus removed ritual impurity from all foods.]

“And he said, that which comes out of the man, that defiles the man.

“For from within, out of the heart of man [the inner man of the heart, that is, the spirit-and-soul complex of man], proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,

“Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:

“All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.”

Here, as in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus took the physical prescriptions of the Torah and elevated them to a spiritual dimension. He did this without obviating or cancelling the physical prescriptions themselves. [Matthew 5:17-19] Jesus also placed the focus of Torah laws on their effects on human beings rather than merely on observance for observance’s sake. That is why he told the “Parable of the Good Samaritan” and the case of “The Ox in the Ditch” in order to demonstrate that human need supersedes ritualistic observance.

But all that said, there is also a direct application of this law in Leviticus to our observance of the Communion Meal. In 1 Corinthians 11: 27-34 the Apostle Paul exhorts us concerning “eating the Lord’s Supper” in an “unworthy manner.” There he writes,

“…whoever shall eat this bread and drink this cup of the Lord unworthily shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.” The word “unworthily” in Greek is “anaxios” (an-ax-ee-oce) and it means “irreverently” or “unworthily.” [STRONG] He goes on to say that doing so can lead to condemnation for not “discerning the Lord’s body.” The word “discerning” in Greek is “diakrino” and it means to fail to discriminate or to discern [as holy and set apart from the profane]. In other words, it is to treat the Communion of the Body and Blood of our Savior through their symbols of Bread and Wine as common food. This in essence is the message of the Torah law of eating the LORD’S Peace, Thanksgiving and Votive offerings in a state of contamination.

Why do we not properly appreciate the holiness of God in our observances? It is because of our selfishness and irreverence. It is because we have not yet come to a mature capacity for discernment. There is much room for growth of spiritual understanding concerning this among the people of this generation.

May the LORD help me and you to cleanse our hearts when we come to the Lord’s table. And may he grant to us the self-discipline to keep our ordinary lives free from the defilement that comes from foods and from other things that lead to poor health—physical, mental, emotional, and above all spiritual. Amen.

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