Leviticus 15-16

Humble Your Souls

This shall be a permanent statute for you: in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall humble your souls and not do any work, whether the native, or the alien who sojourns among you. for it is on this day that atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you; you will be clean from all your sins before the LORD. It is to be a sabbath of solemn rest for you, that you may humble your souls; it is a permanent statute. – Leviticus 16:30-31 NASB

There are two interesting chapters to read together. One has to do with uncleanness due to different kinds of bodily emissions or discharges. Not exactly the kind of thing you want to read before breakfast. But then the following chapter outlines the Day of Atonement, the one day each year when the High Priest was allowed to go into the Holy of Holies to make atonement for the sins of the people. Chapter 15 describes the uncleanness of the people. It seems that there were all kinds of things that could make them unclean and separate them from fellowship with God. In fact, the word “unclean” appears at least 32 times in chapter 15 alone. God seems to be contrasting His own holiness and man’s inherent unholiness. The Jamieson Fausset Brown commentary on Leviticus says this:

Thus shall ye separate the children of Israel from their uncleanness–The divine wisdom was manifested in inspiring the Israelites with a profound reverence for holy things; and nothing was more suited to this purpose than to debar from the tabernacle all who were polluted by any kind of uncleanness, ceremonial as well as natural, mental as well as physical. The better to mark out that people as His family, His servants and priests, dwelling in the camp as in a holy place, consecrated by His presence and His tabernacle, He required of them complete purity, and did not allow them to come before Him when defiled, even by involuntary or secret impurities, as a want of respect due to His majesty. And when we bear in mind that God was training a people to live in His presence in some measure as priests devoted to His service, we shall not consider these rules for the maintenance of personal purity either too stringent or too minute.

Over in his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul reminds us that God’s requirement of holiness still stands: “For this is God’s will: that you become holy, that you keep away from sexual immorality, that each of you know how to possess his own body in holiness and honor, not in lustful passion like the Gentiles who do not know God” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 NET). Impurity marked the lives of the people of God. Natural acts and bodily functions could render them unclean, because of the very presence of sin in their lives. They were surrounded by sin and, in essence, infected by sin. So there was a constant need for purification. But one day a year, God provided for a way to have their sins atoned or paid for. It was the Day of Atonement. But in order for that day to take place, even the High Priest, the Tabernacle, the altar, and the Holy of Holies itself all had to be cleansed and atoned for. Why? Because it was surrounded by sin. It existed in the midst of sin. “He shall make atonement for the holy place, because of the impurities of the sons of Israel and because of their transgressions in regard to all their sins; and thus he shall do for the tent of meeting which abides with them in the midst of their impurities” (Leviticus 16:16 NASB). Even the dwelling place of God Himself had to be cleansed because of the contaminating effects of sin. Sin is pervasive. It spreads. It contaminates.

Which is why we should come into the presence of God humbly. God tells the people that on the Day of Atonement, they were to humble their souls. This refers to not only the humiliation of the heart for sin and by repentance of it, but includes fasting as well. They were to literally “bow down” their soul before God. They were to admit their sinfulness and come to Him for cleansing. They were to acknowledge their need for His sacrifice and cleansing. Chapter 15 reminds them that even natural bodily functions that they could not control could render them unclean before God. They could not more stop those things from happening as to stop breathing. It pictures the pervasiveness of sin. We sin without even knowing it. We become unclean without even being aware of it. Which is why we should humbly come before God – admitting our constant need for Him and the cleansing work of His Son on the cross. Like the Tabernacle, we are set apart by God, but we are still surrounded by sin. We are still influenced by sin. We still commit sin. So we need to humble our souls daily and come before Him for cleansing, as we admit our sins and confess them to Him. We humble our souls and He faithfully forgives and cleanses us from all our unrighteousness.

Father, thank You for always being faithful to forgive. Thank You that sin, while pervasive, is not permanent. It can’t keep me from You. If I confess my sins, You are faithful and just to forgive my sins and to cleanse me from all unrighteousness. All I have to do is humble my soul before You and admit that I need You. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

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