Any man from Aaron the priest’s offspring in whom is a physical defect shall not come near to present offerings made by fire to Yahweh; a physical defect is in him; he shall not come near to present his God’s food. (Leviticus 21:21 Lexham English Bible)
How is one who has a disability to deal with this law? It’s hard not to take exception to it, and many have. Even a devout believer may feel hurt by it. I confess that I have. Even though I am aware that this was a regulation specifically for the priesthood, meant to emphasize the necessity of perfection we cannot obtain, it stings. Combine that with a lifetime of always having in the back of my mind that somehow if I could only have enough faith or find some missing piece I could be healed and you have a toxic concoction of perceived inadequacy and failure.
Snippets of scripture taken from their context are usually not properly applied. This one is no different. Taken outside of the regulations for the priesthood it seems harsh indeed. Yet there’s another little bit of text from the New Testament that really spoke to me recently and took out some of the sting of the Levitical stricture.
And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. (Matthew 21:14 NASB)
It’s almost an aside. Nothing much is made of it. Jesus just did that sort of thing everywhere He went. But in the context of the law and who He is, you can find the whole of the Gospel story right there. Our sins, our defects if you will, keep us from approaching a holy God. Anything less than perfection dies in the presence of His holiness. At that time only the high priest could come into the Holy of Holies once a year to offer the blood of the sacrifice. If he hadn’t done everything just so, if he was impure in any way, he would die. He had bells on his robe and a rope tied around his ankle so that if he died while in there he could be dragged out without anyone else having to go in.
Now look at this situation again. Yahweh in the person of Jesus has come out of the Holy of Holies and is with the common people in the temple. Those who could not serve as priests whether they were of Aaron’s line or not were coming to Him, and He was healing them. We could not go to Him, but He came to us and removed that which prevented us. Thus he would do for all of humankind not long after this episode as he died on the cross and rose again.
Rejoice in what He has done for you. From now on, if He so wills, I will happily serve as a living example of those who could not be in His presence except for His power to make all things new. After all, that is true for any of us. Without His cleansing sacrifice, we are all defective.