February 23, 2007

Death, Be Not Proud

Leviticus 21:10-12

"He must not enter a place where there is a dead body." Leviticus 21:11


The high priest had the greatest responsibility and burdens. Once a year he would enter the Most Holy Place to sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice on the ark to cover all the sins of God's people. The rules for his own holiness were the most strict. Of these the most difficult was not to enter a room where there was a dead body, even it was the body of his father or mother.

Death is an enormous problem. When Adam and Eve touched the forbidden fruit, they became unclean. Death was their punishment. They did not die physically in that instant, but God did expel them from his presence. That separation was the beginning of their death itself.

Ordinary Israelites and priests could attend a funeral and cleanse themselves, but the high priest had no such opportunity. When his parents or a close family member died, he could not grieve as others did; for him death was a special burden.

Our High Priest, Jesus Christ, took care of this burden. When he entered the room where the young daughter of Jairus lay, he chased proud death away (Mark 5:35-43). He did away with the uncleanness of death; by his death on the cross and burial in the tomb he became unclean for all his people. No one escapes death. But its terrible uncleanness has been removed for all who are covered by the cleansing blood of Christ.

"Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? ... Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." In his name we pray. Amen.

About the author — Arie C. Leder

Dr. Arie C. Leder is the Martin J. Wyngaarden Senior Professor of Old Testament Studies at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He previously served as pastor at Ebenezer Christian Reformed Church, Trenton, Ontario, and with Christian Reformed World Missions in Latin America. He teaches courses on the Pentateuch and on historical books of the Old Testament.

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