Here’s the thing about the law: It’s both protection and education. It is full of images and reminders as well as practical and moral protections. It demonstrates the impossibility of anyone remaining pure and holy, that we all need atonement. It’s a constant reminder of our need for cleansing, for substitutes to pay our debts before God, of God’s grace and his mercy. And it requires the behavior we should cultivate out of love.
The law protected the poor and weak and the disadvantaged from those that would harm them. The law protected people from both intentional and unintentional harm. The law stood between people and demanded satisfaction for offense, it protected people from each other.
It also protected the people from a lack of technology and scientific understanding. No shellfish or pork, people, you have neither refrigeration or an understanding of disease. Basic hygiene folks. Yes, there is a spiritual element to the concept of cleanliness, holiness, and how you are to approach the holy places, but there’s also a lot about keeping germs away from the general population before they knew what germs were.
It protected people from themselves. Don’t marry people who are going to pull you away from what you know is right, who are going to lead you and your children away from the covenant relationship. Keep your focus where it needs to be. Observe these reminders every year, over and over, so that you won’t forget who God is and where you come from.
It pointed them all to Christ. This is why you need him. This is what he is for, to fulfill this need once and for all.
Yes, I’m getting a little ahead of myself. These chapters are just about sacrifices of various kinds. Being a priest involved a lot of butchery. And I’ll probably revisit these themes when we cover those chapters and I look at commentary for them. I just… well, this is where my mind when reading these chapters. That and to the amount of butchery involved in the priesthood and wondering how Aaron kept those fancy clothes clean?
To be honest, I find these chapters difficult to focus on. The repetition in them kind of makes me go cross eyed. The good news? Understanding what these chapters say and why is far more important than picking up on the exact details, because, spoiler, Christ satisfy this need. We no longer need to go to the temple to make sacrifices of any kind, whether burnt, grain, peace, or even sin. Christ took care of all of that.
Seriously, though, how did they keep the priestly garments clean?