A few weeks ago, I was reading a book about leadership. One of the exercises that the book recommended I think of my favorite leader. And then, the book asked, "Write down three words that describe what you loved about his/her leadership style"  And then, the challenge, of course, is to take what I said and compare those words to my own leadership style. It has been a good exercise for me. And I want for you to think about this as well. Because, all of you are leaders to some extent.
If you have any children, you are a leader of your children. If you are a supervisor at work, you are a leader of your fellow workers. If you are a salesman, you are a leader of those to whom you are selling, wishing to lead them to purchase your product. If you ever organize any event, you are a leader of those choosing to attend. If you have ever influenced another person, you are a leader.
And so, I ask you to think of your favorite leader. This may be a boss or a coach or a teacher or a parent or a pastor. I want for you to think about three words that you have loved about his/her leadership style. What are some words that come to mind?
Accountable, Adaptable, Approachable, Authentic, Aware, Believes, Bold, Brave, Candid, Caring, Celebratory, Challenging, Charismatic, Clear, Collaborative, Committed, Communicative, Compassionate, Confident, Confident, Courageous, Creative, Credible, Customer-Focused, Deals-well-with-conflict, Decisive, Dedicated, Delegator, Determined, Empowering, Encouraging, Engaged, Ethical, Fair, Fearless, Focused, Forward-Thinking, Genuine, Gracious, Honest, Humble, Humility, Influential, Inspirational, Instinctive, Integrity, Intuitive, Knowledgeable, Listens, Loyal, Moral, Motivator, Motivator, Objective, Open, Organized, Passionate, Persuasive, Positive, Principled, Pro-active, Receptive, Respectful, Responsible, Results-Orientated, Sacrificial, Sensitive, Servant, Sincere, Skilled, Smart, Steady, Strategic, Supportive, Tireless, Transparent, Trustworthy, Visionary, Wise.
Did you notice the sort of words that weren't mentioned?
Ambiguous, Arrogant, Artificial, Blurred, Brutal, Callous, Chatty, Cheater, Closed, Conceited, Corrupt, Cruel, Deceitful, Depressing, Discouraging, Devious, Disengaged, Dishonest, Disingenuous, Dismal, Disorganized, dispassionate, Doubtful, Egotistical, Faithless, Fake, Falsehearted, Fearful, Fickle, Foolish, Fraudulent, Fuzzy, Gloomy, Guarded, Harsh, Hasty, Heartless, Hypocritical, immoral, Inadaptable, Independent, Indistinct, Irrational, Irresponsible, Lazy, Malicious, Mean, Merciless, Nasty, Negative, Pitiless, Pompous, Proud, Rash, Reckless, Restrained, Selfish, Silly, Spiteful, Timid, Treacherous, Unaccountable, Unapproachable, Unaware, Uncaring, Uncertain, Uncommitted, Undecided, Unfaithful, Unfocused, Unpersuasive, Unreal, Unsupportive, Unreachable, Unteachable, Untouchable, Vacillating, Vague, Vicious, Vindictive.
This is the reality of how life works. In general, the most effective leaders are those with wholesome characteristics, like "truth" and "integrity" and "morality." And in general, people won't follow those who are corrupt and selfish and merciless. The exception, of course, is the leader of a gang or some tyrannical regime, where an element of fear is introduced. But, for the most part, people want to follow good guys; those committed to the cause. In general, people are looking to follow leaders who are role-models, people who they can look up to, people who will help them and inspire them and lead them.
And what is true in the secular world is also true for the people of God. That's why those who are called to lead the New Testament church are called to live exemplary lives, lives that others see as worthy of following. Because we proclaim that those who believe in Christ are changed by the Spirit of God, the transforming work of God through the gospel must be evident in the lives of those who lead the church.
According to 1 Timothy 3, an elder must be "sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money" (1 Timothy 3:2-3). A deacon must be "dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy" (1 Timothy 3:8). And when such is not the case of a leader of God's church, it brings shame upon the bride of Christ.
My wife has come to know a worship leader of a church in town. She's not the most encouraging and uplifting individual. Her attitude is often negative and she frequently complains. Curse words freely flow from her mouth. What sort of picture has she given of her church? Or, more importantly, what sort of picture has she given of her Lord? What sort of worshipers will she lead? She will lead people to believe that such a lifestyle is what God wants. That it's OK to swear. That it's OK to complain. But, it's not. God is concerned about the behavior of His leaders. He is concerned about the behavior of His people. And as the leaders are, the people will follow. That's why it's important for those who lead God's people to live lives of holiness.
We come this morning to Leviticus chapters 21 and 22. These are chapters that deal with leadership. In this case, it is speaking of the priests, those who come before God on behalf of the people of God.
We will see here in these chapters, that God is calling them to holiness. This ought not to surprise us, especially as the theme of Leviticus is this, "You shall be holy." And what is true for the people of Israel was especially true of their leaders. The priests were to be holy in everything. In fact, they were held to a higher standard than everyone else. Because, they were the ones to offer up the holy things before the LORD.
See, it's one thing for the people of God to be sinful in their worship as they bring their sacrifice. After all, isn't that the purpose of their sacrifice? It shows them to be sinful and in need of forgiveness. But, it's another thing for the one offering the sacrifice to be sinful. If you are seeking purity before the LORD, you need to have a pure priest to present the offering! And that's the whole point of Leviticus 21-22. Priests must be holy. Or, as I have entitled my message this morning, "Holy Leadership." Now, before we begin with our text, let me remind you where we are in the book of Leviticus.
The first half of the book describes "coming to God." In this portion of the book, we see the things that you need to come before the LORD. You need a sacrifice. You need a priest to offer up that sacrifice. You must not be unclean.
The climax of the book comes in chapter 16, which describes the Day of Atonement. This is the one day in the year when the priest of priests enters the holy of holies to offer up the sacrifice of sacrifices on behalf of the people of God.
The second half of the book describes "Living for God." In this portion of the book, we see the way that we ought to live. In our sexuality; in our worship; in our dealing with our neighbors; in our celebrations; in our dealing with debts.
And in our text this morning, we see how the priests are to conduct themselves. And it's not surprising that they are held to a higher standard of holiness than the people. Let's turn to my first point. Leadership must be holy ...
Let's begin reading in verse 1.
And the LORD said to Moses, "Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them, No one shall make himself unclean for the dead among his people, except for his closest relatives, his mother, his father, his son, his daughter, his brother, or his virgin sister (who is near to him because she has had no husband; for her he may make himself unclean). He shall not make himself unclean as a husband among his people and so profane himself. They shall not make bald patches on their heads, nor shave off the edges of their beards, nor make any cuts on their body. They shall be holy to their God and not profane the name of their God. For they offer the LORD's food offerings, the bread of their God; therefore they shall be holy. They shall not marry a prostitute or a woman who has been defiled, neither shall they marry a woman divorced from her husband, for the priest is holy to his God. You shall sanctify him, for he offers the bread of your God. He shall be holy to you, for I, the LORD, who sanctify you, am holy. And the daughter of any priest, if she profanes herself by whoring, profanes her father; she shall be burned with fire.
"The priest who is chief among his brothers, on whose head the anointing oil is poured and who has been consecrated to wear the garments, shall not let the hair of his head hang loose nor tear his clothes. He shall not go in to any dead bodies nor make himself unclean, even for his father or for his mother. He shall not go out of the sanctuary, lest he profane the sanctuary of his God, for the consecration of the anointing oil of his God is on him: I am the LORD. And he shall take a wife in her virginity. A widow, or a divorced woman, or a woman who has been defiled, or a prostitute, these he shall not marry. But he shall take as his wife a virgin of his own people, that he may not profane his offspring among his people, for I am the LORD who sanctifies him."
These verses deal with the conduct of priests. How they deal with the dead (verses 1-4). How they cut their hair (verses 5-6). Who they marry (verse 7-8). The behavior of their children (verse 9).
Now, in those days, dead bodies were unclean. Numbers 19:11, "Whoever touches the dead body of any person shall be unclean seven days." Thus, anyone who came into contact with a dead body was unclean. And when it came to the conduct of the priests, they were not to go near the dead, unless the dead was a close relative. The reason is simple: as the leaders of God's people, they were to be ritually clean.
Regarding cutting their hair and their skin, Israel was told ...
You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard. You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord.
And if that was the standard of the people, how much more ought this to be the standard of those who lead the people of God. Just think about it. If God said, "Don't cut your beard," but the priests cut their beards, what are the people to think?
This is why pastors need to practice what they preach. This is why parents need to practice what they preach. Telling your children to "Do as I say and not as I do," simply won't work. Your children will follow your actions, not your words. You show the meaning of the words by the way that you act. Likewise with the priests. If God said it, the priests must do it. Leadership must be holy.
Regarding marriage, their marriage was to be a picture of purity. They couldn't marry those who were deviant in their sexual behavior (verse 7). They couldn't even marry those who had been divorced. And in the case of a high priest, even a widow was prohibited (verse 13). The idea is that the high priest had to maintain the utmost standard of purity. Verse 9 even speaks of the conduct of the priest's children. Should a daughter go astray, she profanes her father.
And when you come to the standards for the high priest, the bar is raised. The high priest is prohibited from grieving at all. In those days, grief was expressed by tearing their clothes and messing up their hair. When Joshua heard that Israel was defeated at Ai, He "tore his clothes and fell to the earth ... and put dust on [his] head" (Joshua 7:6). Not even for his father or mother may the high priest grieve (verse 11). Instead, he was to remain in the sanctuary as the procession went to bury his father or mother (verse 12). It's the call of duty for the high priest.
Furthermore, his wife must be spotless and pure. There are several verses in this section that explain why this is the case with the priests.
They shall be holy to their God and not profane the name of their God. For they offer the LORD's food offerings, the bread of their God; therefore they shall be holy.
You shall sanctify him, for he offers the bread of your God. He shall be holy to you, for I, the LORD, who sanctify you, am holy.
Now, it's right here that the role of a priest and a pastor is made clear. The priest is the one who will bring people to God. The pastor is the one who will direct people to God. Now, that's not to say that a pastor of a church isn't to be holy. But, it is to understand why a holy leadership was necessary during the days of the Old Covenant.
The priests of old were coming into God's presence, bringing their sacrifices to the LORD. They were offering up the LORD's food offerings (verse 6). It was imperative that they be holy, lest the LORD reject their sacrifice.
This is why the Roman Catholic Church prohibits marriage for their priests. They are bringing people to God. Their sacrifices must be acceptable before God. To remain pure, the priests are required to be celibate (although in practice, this often has the opposite effect).
But, pastors are different. We lead people to God. That's why I don't wear a gown on Sunday mornings. In fact, that's why I never wear a gown. That's why I prefer to be called, "Steve." If you prefer, "Pastor Steve," that's fine with me. But, I'm not a priest. I'm not bringing you to God. I am, as they say, a beggar telling you fellow beggars where to find bread.
Jesus Christ is our priest. He is the one who brought us to God. He was the pure one.
1"For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God" (1 Peter 3:18). Go to Him. Trust in His sacrifice. Trust in His purity, not mine.
Now, that's not to say that I (as a pastor) can live whatever way that I want and still be a pastor. No, if my conduct doesn't match my gospel, remove me from my office. Find somebody else to lead you to God. Place me in the pew. Let me follow another.
But, such is not my heart. I want to follow the counsel of Paul to Timothy: "Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe" (1 Timothy 4:12). I want to be a holy leader, where people follow my actions and not simply my words.
Let's move on. Leadership must be holy In Conduct (21:1-15) and, ...
Verse 16, ....
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to Aaron, saying, None of your offspring throughout their generations who has a blemish may approach to offer the bread of his God. For no one who has a blemish shall draw near, a man blind or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or a limb too long, or a man who has an injured foot or an injured hand, or a hunchback or a dwarf or a man with a defect in his sight or an itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles. No man of the offspring of Aaron the priest who has a blemish shall come near to offer the LORD's food offerings; since he has a blemish, he shall not come near to offer the bread of his God. He may eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy and of the holy things, but he shall not go through the veil or approach the altar, because he has a blemish, that he may not profane my sanctuaries, for I am the LORD who sanctifies them." So Moses spoke to Aaron and to his sons and to all the people of Israel.
Now, this rubs against everything that we know in America. We are a land of opportunity, known for not discriminating. In fact, here's what I read on the U. S. Department of Agriculture's website regarding their non-discrimination policy.
"The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination against its customers, employees, and applicants for employment on the bases of race, color, national origin, age, disability, sex, gender identity, religion, reprisal, and where applicable, political beliefs, marital status, familial or parental status, sexual orientation, or all or part of an individual's income is derived from any public assistance program, or protected genetic information in employment or in any program or activity conducted or funded by the Department. (Not all prohibited bases will apply to all programs and/or employment activities.)" 
Though, in actuality, this is impossible, particularly when we see these things conflict. When one's exercise of religion conflicts with the sinful behavior of another. That's when discrimination will occur. And more often than not, the discrimination will trample upon one's first amendment right, rather than upon the behavior of an individual. But that's a discussion for another day.
I bring up the concept of discrimination because God clearly discriminated against those who were able to serve at His altar. They must not be blemished in any way. Not blind or lame or mutilated (verse 18). Not a hunchback or a dwarf (verse 20). No itching diseases or scabs (verse 20), but to name a few. In other words, a priest must be a man "without blemish."
The point comes again in verse 23, ...
he shall not go through the veil or approach the altar, because he has a blemish, that he may not profane my sanctuaries, for I am the LORD who sanctifies them."
Again, the focus is upon entering into God's presence. A priest with a blemish will "profane the sanctuary." Now, it's not that God doesn't have a love for the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame. These are the very ones that God invites to the banquet (Luke 14:21). Nor is it that those with disabilities are not welcome by God on account of their disabilities. Throughout the law, one of the things you notice is God's heart for the weak and down-trodden, for the orphan and the widow and the stranger.
Certainly, God's heart goes out to those with physical blemishes. In fact, aren't these the sort of people that Jesus came to heal? (Matthew 4:23-25). And isn't the broad testimony of Christians that they have a similar heart? Who starts hospitals in care for the sick and hurting? Who starts orphanages in care for the orphans? Who starts pregnancy care centers in care for the unborn? Who starts the schools for the blind? Speaking broadly, it has been the followers of Christ who have begun these works.
And today, those with physical disabilities are welcome in His church. There is no sanctuary to defile today. This room is not a "sanctuary." There is nothing sacred with the room, but that we use it on Sunday mornings to worship God corporately. This room is an auditorium, where the word of God is spoken and heard. And all are welcome here, even those who have physical disabilities.
But, to serve as a priest is a different matter altogether. The priest was called to represent God. As a result, he was to be blameless. Anything less would profane the sanctuary of God. Again, this points us clearly to Jesus, ... who was without sin. "He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth" (1 Peter 2:22). And we read in Hebrews, "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). "You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin" (1 John 3:5). He was our perfect high priest to bring us to God!
Let's move on into chapter 22. Leadership must be holy ...
That's the best way that I can summarize verses 1-16, as they deal with administrating the sacrifices.
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to Aaron and his sons so that they abstain from the holy things of the people of Israel, which they dedicate to me, so that they do not profane my holy name: I am the LORD. Say to them, 'If any one of all your offspring throughout your generations approaches the holy things that the people of Israel dedicate to the LORD, while he has an uncleanness, that person shall be cut off from my presence: I am the LORD. None of the offspring of Aaron who has a leprous disease or a discharge may eat of the holy things until he is clean. Whoever touches anything that is unclean through contact with the dead or a man who has had an emission of semen, and whoever touches a swarming thing by which he may be made unclean or a person from whom he may take uncleanness, whatever his uncleanness may be -- the person who touches such a thing shall be unclean until the evening and shall not eat of the holy things unless he has bathed his body in water. When the sun goes down he shall be clean, and afterward he may eat of the holy things, because they are his food. He shall not eat what dies of itself or is torn by beasts, and so make himself unclean by it: I am the LORD.' They shall therefore keep my charge, lest they bear sin for it and die thereby when they profane it: I am the LORD who sanctifies them.
"A lay person shall not eat of a holy thing; no foreign guest of the priest or hired worker shall eat of a holy thing, but if a priest buys a slave as his property for money, the slave may eat of it, and anyone born in his house may eat of his food. If a priest's daughter marries a layman, she shall not eat of the contribution of the holy things. But if a priest's daughter is widowed or divorced and has no child and returns to her father's house, as in her youth, she may eat of her father's food; yet no lay person shall eat of it. And if anyone eats of a holy thing unintentionally, he shall add the fifth of its value to it and give the holy thing to the priest. They shall not profane the holy things of the people of Israel, which they contribute to the LORD, and so cause them to bear iniquity and guilt, by eating their holy things: for I am the LORD who sanctifies them."
These words deal with the tasks that God has given for priests to do.
If you read through the first five chapters of Leviticus, you see that God was very clear about which portions of the sacrifices were to be burned on the altar, which portions of the sacrifices were to be thrown out, and which portions were to be eaten by the priests. And these verses explain how a priest is to deal with these things.
Now, I don't think that it's important for us to dig into the details of these things this morning. Other than to say this: A priest is to be faithful in his ministry. He should keep the holy things holy.
If he doesn't, it will not go well with him. Verse 3 is a key verse: Say to them, 'If any one of all your offspring throughout your generations approaches the holy things that the people of Israel dedicate to the LORD, while he has an uncleanness, that person shall be cut off from my presence: I am the LORD.'
God wanted the priests to take these things very seriously. You do it wrong and you will be cut off. When we were in chapter 10, we saw the example of Nadab and Abihu. They offered strange fire before the LORD and were cut off from the presence of the LORD.
In 1 Samuel 2, we read the story of Eli's sons, who paid no attention to God's directions.
1 Samuel 2:12-17
Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the Lord. The custom of the priests with the people was that when any man offered sacrifice, the priest's servant would come, while the meat was boiling, with a three-pronged fork in his hand, and he would thrust it into the pan or kettle or cauldron or pot. All that the fork brought up the priest would take for himself. This is what they did at Shiloh to all the Israelites who came there. Moreover, before the fat was burned, the priest's servant would come and say to the man who was sacrificing, "Give meat for the priest to roast, for he will not accept boiled meat from you but only raw." And if the man said to him, "Let them burn the fat first, and then take as much as you wish," he would say, "No, you must give it now, and if not, I will take it by force." Thus the sin of the young men was very great in the sight of the Lord, for the men treated the offering of the Lord with contempt.
Even when Eli, their father came to rebuke them, they didn't listen.
1 Samuel 2:22-25
Now Eli was very old, and he kept hearing all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who were serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting. And he said to them, "Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all these people. No, my sons; it is no good report that I hear the people of the Lord spreading abroad. If someone sins against a man, God will mediate for him, but if someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?" But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for it was the will of the Lord to put them to death
And they were both killed in battle on the same day (1 Sam. 4:17).
And as I think of application for leaders under the New Covenant, I believe that the same principle applies. A pastor (or Christian leader of any sort) should be faithful in his ministry. One of the last things that the apostle Paul told Timothy to do was to "fulfill your ministry." The priests were given sacrifices to burn and distribute accordingly. A Christian leader is given God's word to divide accurately and distribute accordingly. A Christian pastor is given the task of prayer.
When the apostles were burdened by the serving of tables to the neglect of preaching God's word, they said, "Brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, who we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word" (Acts 6:3-4).
A Christian pastor is given people to shepherd. When Paul was saying farewell to the Ephesian elders at Miletus, he told them, "Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which he purchased with his own blood" (Acts 20:28). And a holy pastor will be one who does these things to the best of his ability. And the church will flourish when its leadership is holy. Whatever ministry the Lord gives you, do it with holiness.
Let's turn to our last point this morning. Leadership must be holy ...
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to Aaron and his sons and all the people of Israel and say to them, When any one of the house of Israel or of the sojourners in Israel presents a burnt offering as his offering, for any of their vows or freewill offerings that they offer to the LORD, if it is to be accepted for you it shall be a male without blemish, of the bulls or the sheep or the goats. You shall not offer anything that has a blemish, for it will not be acceptable for you. And when anyone offers a sacrifice of peace offerings to the LORD to fulfill a vow or as a freewill offering from the herd or from the flock, to be accepted it must be perfect; there shall be no blemish in it. Animals blind or disabled or mutilated or having a discharge or an itch or scabs you shall not offer to the LORD or give them to the LORD as a food offering on the altar. You may present a bull or a lamb that has a part too long or too short for a freewill offering, but for a vow offering it cannot be accepted. Any animal that has its testicles bruised or crushed or torn or cut you shall not offer to the LORD; you shall not do it within your land, neither shall you offer as the bread of your God any such animals gotten from a foreigner. Since there is a blemish in them, because of their mutilation, they will not be accepted for you."
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "When an ox or sheep or goat is born, it shall remain seven days with its mother, and from the eighth day on it shall be acceptable as a food offering to the LORD. But you shall not kill an ox or a sheep and her young in one day. And when you sacrifice a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the LORD, you shall sacrifice it so that you may be accepted. It shall be eaten on the same day; you shall leave none of it until morning: I am the LORD.
"So you shall keep my commandments and do them: I am the LORD. And you shall not profane my holy name, that I may be sanctified among the people of Israel. I am the LORD who sanctifies you, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am the LORD."
We have covered this ground before in Leviticus 1-5, when we covered the offerings. But, we see in Malachi 1, that Israel was not doing these things.
“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the Lord's table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the Lord of hosts.
Leviticus repeatedly made the point that sacrifices must be unblemished. But, in Malachi's day, the priests disregarded the LORD's counsel. In so doing, they brought shame upon the LORD. And they brought shame upon the office of priest.
We have a parallelism in the New Testament by looking in Romans 12, ...
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
We are not bringing bulls and goats to sacrifice. We are bringing ourselves. All of ourselves. Christ has become our ultimate sacrifice, and we bring ourselves as our spiritual act of worship, seeking His holiness.
This sermon was delivered to Rock Valley Bible Church on
April 12, 2015 by Steve Brandon.
For more information see www.rvbc.cc.