What is true love? What does it mean to love someone, for real? What does it look like, feel like? How can you be sure? Whatever answers your favorite philosopher, song, or movie gives to those questions, we all know that love is a big deal. It’s the ultimate trump card. Your family and friends think so-and-so isn’t right for you? But you love them! Your SO wants you to quit your job and move across the country to be with them? You have to go, because you’re in love! Love, especially true love, conquers every excuse.
All except these ones. More laws follow the others in Leviticus 21, and these are about the priests: what they can wear, what they can look like, who they can marry, and even who they can mourn. A priest must marry a virgin Israelite (verses 13-14). If someone dies who is not a close family member, the priest cannot make himself unclean by touching the body (verses 1-3). He can’t even tear his clothes or his hair (a common expression of grief in those days) (verse 10). And it doesn’t matter how close a person is to a priest: if they sin, they must receive the entire punishment – even if it’s being burned in a fire (verse 9). Obviously, a priest crying out “but I love them!” would not have changed anything. Should it?
The Treasures Within:
The Apple Of My Eye
A priest meets a woman that he cannot marry according to God’s command. Maybe she’s a widow, or from another nation, or divorced. They fall madly in love. He wants to make her his. Shall he not enjoy this most necessary and basic of pleasures? How dare God ask that of him? How unfair! What will the priest do? “Forget it!” he cries in a downpour outside her tent. “I love you more than anything. Let’s get married.” Before we squeal and applaud, we have to let reality set in. Is there anything so valuable that we should choose it over God?
Sacrifice is a squirmy word, especially when it’s in the same sentence as something we believe we should never have to give up. But God insists, over and over, that nothing should come between us and Him. Our number one priority. The apple of our eye. Our favorite, our day one, our ride or die – God is supposed to take first place in all of those categories. Elisha was asked to sacrifice one last goodbye with his family. Priests and prophets (Hosea, anyone?) were asked to sacrifice the freedom to marry who they wanted. Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son. God asked and asked and asked, and He asked too much! Right? It’s unfair, right? But what is more fair than complete surrender to the Creator? What is more fair than devoting our entire hearts to the God who healed us by His wounds and stripes? What is more fair than to promise every moment to the Savior who gives us breath in every moment? Maybe, just maybe, sacrifice of all things to our God is the fairest thing of all.
So that’s what the priests did. They prioritized. They gave up all to serve God forever and ever, with love. Some were eager. Some were itching to give to God, no matter how small in comparison to what He’d done for them! But then God spoke the words in verses 16-23. All the Levites who were blind, lame, deformed, crippled or suffering from a disease could not be priests. “No man who has any defect may come near”, God said. Imagine how heartbreaking that was for some of them. Imagine how isolating. Imagine watching your brothers and cousins heading to a life of service while you stay behind on account of a “defect”. Imagine being asked to sacrifice absolutely everything, only to be told that you’re not enough. Why were they not enough?
Think about every terrible thing human beings are responsible for: climate change, God’s glorious creation in the Amazon literally being on fire, racism, murder, molestation, corruption, sexual harassment, Gamergate, incels, bullying, President Trump, and every hurt or damage or sin you’ve ever done. Why are we not enough? We know the answer. We’ll never be enough for a holy, perfect God — and that’s exactly why the tabernacle was a thing. It drove the point home. With all its bathing and sacred garments and days of atonement and sacrifices and incense, it threw in the Israelites’ face constantly that they would never be enough. But. But one day, a Lamb would come and be sacrificed for all sins and suddenly, we would be enough. Our hearts would be enough. Our service would be enough. Our lives would be enough. We are loved and accepted and actually called God’s family because of that sacrifice. There was no hope for us before. Now, there is infinite hope.
God’s Message To Us:
“Love.” Tell the philosophers to put down their pens. Tell the songwriters to write some new lyrics. Tell the filmmakers their central question has been answered. We know what love is. We know what true love is. It is our Savior. He looked at you and me, pathetic, addicted, hopeless, and drowning and He made up His mind that no matter what we did to hurt Him, He would save us. Give us life. Love us. In the face of the festering history of humanity, God promised every single person a second chance. He didn’t falter. He has never second-guessed His decision. He is as in love today as He was when He chose to die on the cross for us, when He chose to make us enough. That is true love. That is the kind of love that is to come first, before spouses and parents and friends and desires and hopes and dreams. That is the love that conquers all excuses. That is the love that wins our hearts to His, forever.
What do you think? Do you love Him? Do you love Him before everything else?