After Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider and endowed with superpowers to become Spider-Man, his Uncle Ben gave him this memorable advice, “With great power comes great responsibility.” These words are similar to Jesus’ statement: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded” (Luke 12:48).
Priests in Israel were given much. They represented the people before God in the tabernacle and could enter the Holy Place. But with special privileges came a higher standard for holiness. Today’s reading outlines three specific areas where priests had greater restrictions than the rest of Israel: mourning rituals, potential marriage partners, and physical defects.
Priests could not make themselves ceremonially unclean in mourning for just anyone. They were allowed this practice only for close blood-relatives (vv. 1–4). The high priest had an even higher standard. He could not publicly mourn for anyone (vv. 10–12). This practice was in sharp contrast to other ancient cultures, such as Egypt, where the care of the dead was a primary concern of priests. These prohibitions may have helped Israel avoid falling into ancestor worship.
Priests also were restricted in their potential spouses. Their spouse needed to represent the holiness of their role and so could not have been previously married or have been engaged in prostitution (v. 7).
Just like sacrificial animals had to be physically whole, priests needed to be as well (vv. 16–21). They could not have physical deformities to serve in the tabernacle. Priests who did not measure up to this standard were still provided for financially along with their families (vv. 22–23).
>> Praise the Lord that Jesus, our High Priest, perfectly lived up to the highest moral standards during His earthly ministry (Heb. 4:14–15). He continues to serve as our High Priest in the presence of the Father (Heb. 10:12–13). Even now He is sanctifying His people, His bride at the wedding supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7–8).
We could never hope to live up to your standard of holiness. But Lord Jesus, holy and perfect, by sacrificing Yourself, You covered us in Your holy blood. Praise be to You forever!