Dedicated to the LORD
We come this morning to the end of our exposition of the book of Leviticus. Now, when things come to an end, there can be several reactions. There can be the reaction of sorrow. Like the end of vacation, when you have enjoyed yourself, but now it's time to return to the daily grind of life. And you have sorrow in your heart that your enjoyment of vacation is over until next year. This sorrow is like the end of a soccer season, when you have been on a good team, but were eliminated in the play-offs. It's sad that the season is finished, because you thoroughly enjoyed playing.
There can be the reaction of relief. Like at the end of a long race, when you have pushed yourself for months of training, only to endure the long race. And you are relieved to be finally finished with the agony. Or like the end of a long project at home; perhaps an addition to your house, a major remodel, or a landscaping job. It's over and done and paid for. What a relief!
There can be the reaction of joy. Like at graduation time. You have put all of the work into your classes. You have studied hard. You have passed your classes. You have received your reward. And now, you receive your diploma. And you can have great joy. Or like when you landed the big contract at work, after all of those months of persistence, the contract has finally been signed.
I'm sure that among all of us there are mixed reactions to the end of our exposition of Leviticus. Some of you may be filled with sorrow. You have thoroughly enjoyed the exposition of Leviticus, but now it's finished. I know that this is some of you, because you have told me how much you have enjoyed Leviticus. But, my guess is that this is only a few of you. Some of you may be filled with relief. "Finally, we are finished with Leviticus!" "Let's get on with other things." Some of you may be filled with joy. "Yes! We did it. We finished it. I'm better off today, having gone through the entire book." Some of you may well have a mixture of all of these.
Well, regardless of your reaction, we are at the end. We have come to chapter 27. This is my 24th (and final) message on Leviticus.
I trust that the theme of Leviticus has been etched into your mind, "You shall be Holy." Since we began this book in September, we have had this overhead on display for all to see. "You shall be Holy." This is the main application of the entire book! It has come to us week by week. When you come to God, you must be holy. When living for God, you must be holy.
Holiness simply means being different; being set-apart; being righteous; being pure. Three times in this book, there is a link between our holiness and the holiness of the LORD. Leviticus 11:44, "Be holy, for I am holy." Leviticus 19:2, "You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy." And Leviticus 20:26, "You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy."
And over and over again throughout the book of Leviticus, we have seen these two things at play: the holiness of God and our need for holiness. God is holy, so we need sacrifices to purify us, that we might approach Him (chapters 1-7). God is holy, so we need priests to approach Him on our behalf, for we are not righteous in and of ourselves (chapters 8-10). God is holy, so we need to be clean to approach Him (chapters 11-15). And those who fail to consider such things will not come into God's presence.
Do you remember Nadab and Abihu, the first priests? Their story is told in chapter 10. They brought, "strange fire before the LORDwhich he had not commanded them" (Leviticus 10:1). And so, "fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD" (Leviticus 10:2). And when Moses surveyed the situation, he said to Aaron, "It is what the Lord spoke, saying, 'By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, And before all the people I will be honored.'" (NASB, Lev. 10:3).
Do you remember when the two men were fighting in the camp? The one man "blasphemed the Name, and cursed" (Leviticus 24:11). It cost him his life. For, God had said, "Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. Whoever blasphemes the name of the LORDshall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him" (Leviticus 24:15-16). And indeed, that is exactly what happened. He was put to death by stoning (Leviticus 24:23).
Such is a glimpse of what it means that God is holy. We cannot approach Him on our own merits. We must bring a sacrifice. We must have a holy priest. We must be clean. The holiness of God is serious stuff!
Perhaps there is no better picture of this than the Day of Atonement, described in chapter 16. That one day in the year, when the highest of priests would enter the holy of holies with the best sacrifice that can be offered! All to atone for the sins of Israel. And during that time, the people of Israel were outside the veil fasting and praying that the LORD would indeed accept their sacrifice.
Because, they knew that if God didn't accept their sacrifice, they were lost in their sin! And oh, to see the scapegoat flee into the wilderness as a picture of sins forgiven and taken away as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). They are gone! They are removed! God has accepted us.
With sins removed, the call of the book of Leviticus is for us to be like our God. Leviticus 19:2, "You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy." When living for God, we must live differently than those around us. We must not engage in sin like the gentiles. We are called to lives of sexual purity (chapters 18, 20). We are called to live lives of love (chapter 19). We are called to set a priority on the worship of our God in seasons and Sabbaths (chapter 23). We are called to extend hope and give freedom to others (chapter 25).
Last week, we saw the consequences. If you obey, God will bring a blessing in your life. If you rebel, God will bring a curse in your life. If you repent, God is ready to forgive.
And so, as we come to the end of our time in Leviticus, I ask you, "Are you any different than when we began?" Are there things of the holiness of God that have gripped your soul so that your heart ever wants to please Him? Are there sins that you have set aside because of a glimpse into the purity that the LORDrequires of His people?
So, if we get through the end of the book of Leviticus and nothing has changed in our lives; if we have not increased in our holiness, then we have failed to heed the warning of James 1:22, "Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
Have we become like the man who "looks intently at his natural face in a mirror," only to go away, "and at once forget what he was like?" (James 1:23-24). Heaven forbid! Oh, church family, may we be found to be doers of the word, and not merely hearers only.
Now, of course, because of Christ, our approach to God is fundamentally different than the ways of the Jews in Moses' day. We don't need to bring animal sacrifices, because Jesus, the lamb of God, is our great sacrifice. We don't need a priest, because Jesus has become our perfect high priest. And Jesus has washed us clean in His blood! Peter said it well, "You were ransomed ... not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot" (1 Peter 1:18-19).
But, that doesn't take away the fact that we are still children of God by faith. And as such, we are called to be like our heavenly father. We are called to be holy like our God. Peter says, "as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct" (1 Peter 1:15).
Now, as we come to chapter 27, we come to a fitting conclusion to the book. It's sort of a "so what" sort of chapter. So after everything that you have heard, so what? So, what are you going to do? Are you going to live a life of holiness? Or, are you going to continue along in your own way.
Chapter 27 is one that talks about dedicating people and animals and material possessions to the LORD. Sanctifying them for the LORD's use. And the chapter gives instructions in how to do so. In other words, you want to respond to God in ways that are appropriate to Him? Then give. That's the message of chapter 27.
My message this morning is entitled, "Dedicated to the LORD." This chapter breaks down into two sections.
So, let's first look at ...
The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, If anyone makes a special vow to the LORD involving the valuation of persons, then the valuation of a male from twenty years old up to sixty years old shall be fifty shekels of silver, according to the shekel of the sanctuary. If the person is a female, the valuation shall be thirty shekels. If the person is from five years old up to twenty years old, the valuation shall be for a male twenty shekels, and for a female ten shekels. If the person is from a month old up to five years old, the valuation shall be for a male five shekels of silver, and for a female the valuation shall be three shekels of silver. And if the person is sixty years old or over, then the valuation for a male shall be fifteen shekels, and for a female ten shekels. And if someone is too poor to pay the valuation, then he shall be made to stand before the priest, and the priest shall value him; the priest shall value him according to what the vower can afford.
The first thing that you can give to God is people. You see this laid out in verse 2.
"Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, If anyone makes a special vow to the LORD involving the valuation of persons,
Following are the instructions. A working-aged man is to be valued at 50 shekels of silver. A working-aged woman is to be valued at 30 shekels. A child is 20 shekels. And infant is 5. A senior citizen is 15. These monetary don't speak to the worth of a person. All created by God are of equal worth. Rather, these amounts simply represent the capacity for work in an agrarian society. A working-aged man can do more physical labor than an older man.
This was made clear in the Brandon household over the past two days. We have a fence in our back yard for our dog. But, we are taking it down and replacing it with an invisible fence. The process of taking it down requires a bit of labor. It requires digging holes and pulling out the fence posts. And my 19 year-old son, bless his heart, did the majority of the work! He took those things out like they were nothing! I took a few of them out of the ground and was exhausted. But, last night, he finished the project. The only thing left is to take the fence to the dump. That's why he would be valued at 50 shekels of sliver, whereas I would be closer to the 15 (i.e. a senior citizen).
Now, exactly what all this means, I'm not sure. I have more questions than I have answers. But, the big picture is clear. It has something to do with giving people into the service of the LORD. And doing so requires a cost.
A good picture of this might be Hannah. She was barren, but prayed earnestly to the LORD, vowing to give a child to the LORD.
1 Samuel 1:11
She made a vow and said, "O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head."
And the LORDopened her womb and gave her a son and named him Samuel (1 Samuel 1:20). And as soon as he was weaned, she brought him to the tabernacle and let him "dwell there forever" (1 Samuel 1:22). Now, as you read the account in 1 Samuel 1, there is no mention of a valuation for Samuel. Hannah did offer up some sacrifices, but nothing is mentioned of any monetary value given to the LORD for Samuel's service.
So, I'm a bit confused as to how exactly this would work. Would a valuation of Samuel come in at 20 shekels? Was that a one-time gift? What about when Samuel turned 20? Would it be 50 shekels? Would there be constant support? I don't know. But, the idea is clear. For someone to serve the LORD in a dedicated way, it requires another person to finance him (or her).
Perhaps you remember Anna, the prophetess, who saw the baby Jesus being presented in the temple. She was married as a young woman for seven years and then became a widow. She served the rest of her days in the temple, never leaving the temple, but "worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day, ... waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem" (Luke 2:37-38). When Jesus arrived on the scene, she was 84 years old! My guess is that she served the Lord for more than half a century! Somebody had to finance her work. Perhaps it was through the tithes for the temple. Perhaps it was through Leviticus 27 and a valuation of her life. I don't know. But, somehow she was financed.
I think that a good parallel today is financing the LORD's work. For me to devote my time to the LORD as your pastor, I need financial help. Apart from the generous giving from this church family, I would need another job. So, thank you.
But, know this, in some ways, your giving to this church, is like giving a valuation for people. It's a response to the book of Leviticus. "I understand the priority of the tabernacle. I understand the need for ministry. I love the LORD. Therefore, I give to His work."
Another parallel might be missionaries. That is, those who are serving Christ abroad and taking the gospel into new lands. For them to do so, they need funding. They need financial help. And any gifts that you give to them is like these valuation of people. You are giving people to the LORD and to His service.
And I simply want to commend you to the work of giving. Give to this assembly. Give to the work of Christ abroad. Give as a response to the holiness of God!
Let's look at the next thing you can dedicate. You can dedicate animals. This comes in verses 9-13, ...
"If the vow is an animal that may be offered as an offering to the LORD, all of it that he gives to the LORD is holy. He shall not exchange it or make a substitute for it, good for bad, or bad for good; and if he does in fact substitute one animal for another, then both it and the substitute shall be holy. And if it is any unclean animal that may not be offered as an offering to the LORD, then he shall stand the animal before the priest, and the priest shall value it as either good or bad; as the priest values it, so it shall be. But if he wishes to redeem it, he shall add a fifth to the valuation.
Again, there are many questions in my mind as to the particulars. But, the point is clear. Animals can be given for the sacrifices in the tabernacle (verse 9), such as bulls, goats, lambs, pigeons, turtledoves, or any of the animals acceptable for sacrifice.
And once you make the vow of an animal, you can't substitute the animal for another (verse 10). If you try to do so, both the dedicated animal and the substitute are the LORD's. In other words, you can't play funny games with these vows. You can't play the game of vowing a good animal and gaining the appearance of giving, but then trying to give a bad animal in its place.
Regarding animals, you can even give unclean animals. Not for sacrifices, of course, but you can dedicate them for the LORD.
And it's right here that we see a bit of the difficulty in understanding exactly how they applied these things.. Because, in verse 12, we see that the priest will place a value on it. If it's a good, healthy animal, it has a high price. If it's a weak, small and sickly animal, it has a low price. But, wait a minute. I thought that you were giving this animal. Then why are you paying for it?
Now, it may be that this is working like a fund-raising banquet. You know what I'm talking about. You pay $50 for each plate to come to this meal, only to be asked to give more to the cause. On top of this, there may be some high priced gift baskets that you bid for, to give more money. On top of that, you may just give as the offering plate is passed. In this way, this valuation might work something like this. You have a donkey, which is an unclean animal for sacrifice. But, it may be of use to those in the tabernacle so that priests could travel from place to place. So, you give the donkey. And you give its value on top.
Or, and what I think is more likely. Is that the animal is dedicated to the LORD, so you give to the LORD's work in accordance with the value of the animal. But, you keep it and you use it. Perhaps there is some sort of marker on the animal to say that it has been dedicated to the LORD. Maybe some plaque that can hang on your wall. Or a certificate that you can place in your desk. I don't know.
But, the presence of the animal in your home (on on your farm) is an indication of your support of the work of the LORD. This is what "Corban" means. It means "dedicated to the Lord." Perhaps this had reference to something given in accordance with Leviticus 27.
This is clear in the interaction that Jesus had with the Pharisees and scribes, when they saw how Jesus and his disciples ate with unwashed hands. They came to Jesus and said, "Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?" (Mark 7:5).
Jesus responded with these words, ...
"Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,
'This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'
You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men."
In other words, Jesus upheld the Scriptures above man-made traditions. He then gave an example of what they were doing.
And he said to them, "You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.' But you say, 'If a man tells his father or his mother, "Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban"' (that is, given to God) -- then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do."
So, you have some animals that would be of use to your aging parents. But, because you have gone through this ceremony and have dedicated them to the LORD (a la Leviticus 27), you cannot sell them. You cannot give them to your parents. It's a legal loophole that gives you "sanctified permission" not to care for your parents. "I have this that would help you. But, I can't use it, because it has been given to God! It is Corban!"
But even here in Leviticus, there is room for taking it back. You can redeem it. That's what verse 13 is talking about.
But if he wishes to redeem it, he shall add a fifth to the valuation.
In other words, you can give another 20% to the treasury to be able to use the animal as you see fit. For instance, you come upon hard times and you need to sell your animal for a few shekels. But, you can't, because it has been given to the LORD. You have made a vow. God says, "You can get out of it. But, it will cost you another fifth."Such a cost would prohibit rash vows from being made. It's not unreasonable, but it isn't something that you want to do all the time.
In this way, it's a bit like the penalties you get when taking money from an Individual Retirement Account prematurely. An IRA is set up in such a way that you gain some tax advantages with the agreement with the government that you won't take the money out until you reach retirement age. It's a way for the government to encourage saving. But, some crisis hits your family, and you need the money. You can take the money, but it comes with a penalty. Likewise here, you can redeem it, but you must add a fifth.
Almost the same thing applies for our material possessions. We can dedicate people to God. We can dedicate animals to God. And we can dedicate our possessions to God. Verse 14, ...
"When a man dedicates his house as a holy gift to the LORD, the priest shall value it as either good or bad; as the priest values it, so it shall stand. And if the donor wishes to redeem his house, he shall add a fifth to the valuation price, and it shall be his.
Again, you see the same thing. You have dedicated your house to the LORD. It doesn't mean that you sent your house to the tabernacle. Nor does it mean that you let the priests live in your house. It means that your house has been given to the LORD and you have given an appropriate financial gift to the Levites and to the work of the sanctuary to make this arrangement possible. Now, if for some reason, you need the money back, you can get the money back with a 20% penalty.
In some ways, this is like the "blue eagle" program that Franklin Delano Roosevelt employed as he sought to bring our nation out of the great depression. The idea was this. If your company was in compliance with the National Industrial Recovery Act, then you were allowed to display the Blue Eagle in your home or business. The gear in the eagle's talon represented industry. The lightning bolt in the eagle's other talon represented power.
Hugh Johnson, the head of the National Recovering Administration (NRA) said this, "When every American housewife understands that the Blue Eagle on everything that she permits into her home is a symbol of its restoration to security, may God have mercy on the man or group of men who attempt to trifle with this bird." 
And this is the idea here behind these valuations. Based upon your possessions, you could dedicate them to the LORD, by contributing financially to the work of the tabernacle. Thereby, you are demonstrating your support of the work of the tabernacle. Now, when it comes to dedicating your land (or a portion of your land), you had to take into account the year of the jubilee. Let's continue, ...
"If a man dedicates to the LORD part of the land that is his possession, then the valuation shall be in proportion to its seed. A homer of barley seed shall be valued at fifty shekels of silver. If he dedicates his field from the year of jubilee, the valuation shall stand, but if he dedicates his field after the jubilee, then the priest shall calculate the price according to the years that remain until the year of jubilee, and a deduction shall be made from the valuation. And if he who dedicates the field wishes to redeem it, then he shall add a fifth to its valuation price, and it shall remain his. But if he does not wish to redeem the field, or if he has sold the field to another man, it shall not be redeemed anymore. But the field, when it is released in the jubilee, shall be a holy gift to the LORD, like a field that has been devoted. The priest shall be in possession of it. If he dedicates to the LORD a field that he has bought, which is not a part of his possession, then the priest shall calculate the amount of the valuation for it up to the year of jubilee, and the man shall give the valuation on that day as a holy gift to the LORD. In the year of jubilee the field shall return to him from whom it was bought, to whom the land belongs as a possession. Every valuation shall be according to the shekel of the sanctuary: twenty gerahs shall make a shekel.
Now, for the sake of time, we aren't going to go through all of this detail. But, the bottom line is this: the LORD established a way for His people to support His work through gifts. People, animals, possessions -- really, anything that we own can be given to the LORD.
The simple question of application comes to all of us. Are your possessions dedicated to the LORD? Is your house; is your land; is your dinner table devoted to the Lord? Simply put, "Are you using the blessings of God in your life to further advance the cause of God?" You may use the things God has given to you. But, do you consider them to be the LORD's.
Now, it's not that God needs anything. As Psalm 50 says, ...
For every beast of the forest is mine,
the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know all the birds of the hills,
and all that moves in the field is mine.
"If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
for the world and its fullness are mine.
God doesn't need anything. But, to be holy means that we are completely set apart to God. And that includes you. And that includes your possessions.
By the way, all of this was voluntary. There was nothing in the law the required any of these sorts of dedications. I say this because (beginning in verse 26), we see, ...
You can't give these things because God already owns them. You can't give these things because they are required of you.
"But a firstborn of animals, which as a firstborn belongs to the LORD, no man may dedicate; whether ox or sheep, it is the LORD's. And if it is an unclean animal, then he shall buy it back at the valuation, and add a fifth to it; or, if it is not redeemed, it shall be sold at the valuation.
Back in Exodus 13:2 we read, "Consecrate to me all the firstborn. Whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine." You can't dedicate a firstborn, because God has already laid claim to it. Verse 28, ...
"But no devoted thing that a man devotes to the LORD, of anything that he has, whether man or beast, or of his inherited field, shall be sold or redeemed; every devoted thing is most holy to the LORD. No one devoted, who is to be devoted for destruction from mankind, shall be ransomed; he shall surely be put to death.
This has reference to the conquest of Palestine. During the conquest, God placed certain items of the conquered nations "under the ban". They were the things "devoted to the LORD," which were to be destroyed. And what God wanted destroyed, He didn't want "dedicated to him."
This is like giving your unwanted items to the church. "I don't want it any more. I'll give it to the church." And so the church gets cluttered by things that were destined for the garbage heap anyway. You are throwing that table away? Throw it away. Don't give it to the church. It's of no use to you. It's probably of no use to us.
We get to the tithe in verse 30, ...
"Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the LORD's; it is holy to the LORD.
If a man wishes to redeem some of his tithe, he shall add a fifth to it.
And every tithe of herds and flocks, every tenth animal of all that pass under the herdsman's staff, shall be holy to the LORD.
One shall not differentiate between good or bad, neither shall he make a substitute for it; and if he does substitute for it, then both it and the substitute shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed."
These are the commandments that the LORD commanded Moses for the people of Israel on Mount Sinai.
In ancient Israel, the tithe was mandatory. It came out to about 23%. Every year, they were required to give a tithe (a tenth) to the Levites, who performed the duty of the sanctuary (Numbers 18:21-32). Every year, they were required to give a tithe for the festivals, which were celebrated in Jerusalem three times each year (Deut. 14:22- 27). Every third year, they were required to give a tithe for the needy, which were the Levite, the alien, the orphan, and the widow (Deut. 14:28-29). You couldn't "give" these things to the LORD, because they were His.
See, when it comes to the tithe, when it comes to the 23%, those in Israel were "robbing God" if they didn't pay it. This is what Malachi said to those who weren't bringing the tithe. He said, ...
"Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, 'How have we robbed You?' In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this," says the Lord of hosts, "if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.
The offerings given here in Leviticus 27 were above and beyond the 23%. Now, when it comes to today, you need to realize that some of this 23% was like our taxation. It funded the public work of the tabernacle. Nevertheless, God called the people of Israel to give above and beyond. And I would simply call you to the same.
The call of holiness is a call of total commitment to the LORD. And this includes our giving. The reality of it is this: everything is God's anyway. We are simply His stewards. The question is not, "How much should I give?" The question really should be, "How much do I need to keep for myself?"
Because, this is the reality of everything we own anyway. "What do you have that you did not receive?" (1 Corinthians 4:7). "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein" (Psalm 24:1).
So, when it comes to us, followers of Jesus, we are really required to give it all. Jesus said, "So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:33).
Now, I don't think that Jesus meant that we should give all of our possessions away. But, I do believe that it means that we should hold everything loosely, as it is the Lord's. Let's look in 2 Corinthians 5, "For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised" (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). Hold your things loosely that you might not live for yourself.
This sermon was delivered to Rock Valley Bible Church on
May 24, 2015 by Steve Brandon.
For more information see www.rvbc.cc.