Bible Society of South Africa

To The Word – Day 31

Leviticus 21–23, Hebrews 11–13

Bible text(s)

The Holiness of the Priests

1The LORD commanded Moses to say to the Aaronite priests, “No priest is to make himself ritually unclean by taking part in the funeral ceremonies when a relative dies, 2unless it is his mother, father, son, daughter, brother, 3or unmarried sister living in his house. 4He shall not make himself unclean at the death of those related to him by marriage.

5“No priest shall shave any part of his head or trim his beard or cut gashes on his body to show that he is in mourning. 6He must be holy and must not disgrace my name. He offers food offerings to me, and he must be holy. 7A priest shall not marry a woman who has been a prostitute or a woman who is not a virgin or who is divorced; he is holy. 8The people must consider the priest holy, because he presents the food offerings to me. I am the LORD; I am holy and I make my people holy. 9If a priest's daughter becomes a prostitute, she disgraces her father; she shall be burnt to death.

10“The High Priest has had the anointing oil poured on his head and has been consecrated to wear the priestly garments, so he must not leave his hair uncombed or tear his clothes to show that he is in mourning. 11-12He has been dedicated to me and is not to make himself ritually unclean nor is he to defile my sacred Tent by leaving it and entering a house where there is a dead person, even if it is his own father or mother. 13He shall marry a virgin, 14not a widow or a divorced woman or a woman who has been a prostitute. He shall marry only a virgin from his own clan. 15Otherwise, his children, who ought to be holy, will be ritually unclean. I am the LORD and I have set him apart as the High Priest.”

16The LORD commanded Moses 17to say to Aaron, “None of your descendants who has any physical defect may present the food offering to me. This applies for all time to come. 18No man with any physical defect may make the offering: no one who is blind, lame, disfigured, or deformed; 19no one with a crippled hand or foot; 20no one who is a hunchback or a dwarf; no one with any eye or skin disease; and no eunuch. 21No descendant of Aaron the priest who has any physical defect may present the food offering to me. 22Such a man may eat the food offered to me, both the holy food offering and the very holy food offering, 23but because he has a physical defect, he shall not come near the sacred curtain or approach the altar. He must not profane these holy things, because I am the LORD and I make them holy.”

24This, then, is what Moses said to Aaron, the sons of Aaron, and to all the people of Israel.

Leviticus 21GNBOpen in Bible reader

The Holiness of the Offerings

1The LORD commanded Moses 2to say to Aaron and his sons, “You must not bring disgrace on my holy name, so treat with respect the sacred offerings that the people of Israel dedicate to me. I am the LORD. 3If any of your descendants, while he is ritually unclean, comes near the sacred offerings which the people of Israel have dedicated to me, he can never again serve at the altar. This applies for all time to come. I am the LORD.

4“None of the descendants of Aaron who has a dreaded skin disease or a discharge may eat any of the sacred offerings until he is ritually clean. Any priest is unclean if he touches anything which is unclean through contact with a corpse or if he has an emission of semen 5or if he has touched an unclean animal or person. 6Any priest who becomes unclean remains unclean until evening, and even then he may not eat any of the sacred offerings until he has had a bath. 7After the sun sets he is clean, and then he may eat the sacred offerings, which are his food. 8He shall not eat the meat of any animal that has died a natural death or has been killed by wild animals; it will make him unclean. I am the LORD.

9“All priests shall observe the regulations that I have given. Otherwise, they will be guilty and die, because they have disobeyed the sacred regulations. I am the LORD and I make them holy.

10“Only a member of a priestly family may eat any of the sacred offerings; no one else may eat them — not even someone staying with a priest or hired by him. 11But a priest's slaves, bought with his own money or born in his home, may eat the food the priest receives. 12A priest's daughter who marries someone who is not a priest may not eat any of the sacred offerings. 13But a widowed or divorced daughter who has no children and who has returned to live in her father's house as a dependant may eat the food her father receives as a priest. Only a member of a priestly family may eat any of it.

14“If any person who is not a member of a priestly family eats any of the sacred offerings without intending to, he must repay the priest its full value plus an additional twenty per cent. 15The priests shall not profane the sacred offerings 16by letting any unauthorized person eat them; this would bring guilt and punishment on such a person. I am the LORD and I make the offerings holy.”

17The LORD commanded Moses 18to give Aaron and his sons and all the people of Israel the following regulations. When any Israelite or any foreigner living in Israel presents a burnt offering, whether in fulfilment of a vow or as a freewill offering, the animal must not have any defects. 19To be accepted, it must be a male without any defects. 20If you offer any animal that has any defect, the LORD will not accept it. 21When anyone presents a fellowship offering to the LORD, whether in fulfilment of a vow or as a freewill offering, the animal must be without any defect if it is to be accepted. 22Do not offer to the LORD any animal that is blind or crippled or mutilated, or that has a running sore or a skin eruption or scabs. Do not offer any such animals on the altar as a food offering. 23As a freewill offering you may offer an animal that is stunted or not perfectly formed, but it is not acceptable in fulfilment of a vow. 24Do not offer to the LORD any animal whose testicles have been crushed, cut, bruised, or torn off. This is not permitted in your land.

25Do not offer as a food offering any animal obtained from a foreigner. Such animals are considered defective and are not acceptable.

26-27When a calf or a lamb or a kid is born, it must not be taken from its mother for seven days, but after that it is acceptable as a food offering. 28Do not sacrifice a cow and its calf or a sheep and its lamb or a goat and its kid on the same day. 29When you offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the LORD, follow the rules so that you will be accepted; 30eat it the same day and leave none of it until the next morning.

31The LORD said, “Obey my commands; I am the LORD. 32Do not bring disgrace on my holy name; all the people of Israel must acknowledge me to be holy. I am the LORD and I make you holy; 33and I brought you out of Egypt to become your God. I am the LORD.”

Leviticus 22GNBOpen in Bible reader

The Religious Festivals

1The LORD gave Moses 2the following regulations for the religious festivals, when the people of Israel are to gather for worship. 3You have six days in which to do your work, but remember that the seventh day, the Sabbath, is a day of rest. On that day do not work, but gather for worship. The Sabbath belongs to the LORD, no matter where you live. 4Proclaim the following festivals at the appointed times.

Passover and Unleavened Bread

(Num 28.16–25)

5The Passover, celebrated to honour the LORD, begins at sunset on the fourteenth day of the first month. 6On the fifteenth day the Festival of Unleavened Bread begins, and for seven days you must not eat any bread made with yeast. 7On the first of these days you shall gather for worship and do none of your daily work. 8Offer your food offerings to the LORD for seven days. On the seventh day you shall again gather for worship, but you shall do none of your daily work.

9-10When you come into the land that the LORD is giving you and you harvest your corn, take the first sheaf to the priest. 11He shall present it as a special offering to the LORD, so that you may be accepted. The priest shall present it the day after the Sabbath. 12On the day you present the offering of corn, also sacrifice as a burnt offering a one-year-old male lamb that has no defects. 13With it you shall present two kilogrammes of flour mixed with olive oil as a food offering. The smell of this offering is pleasing to the LORD. You shall also present with it an offering of one litre of wine. 14Do not eat any of the new corn, whether raw, roasted, or baked into bread, until you have brought this offering to God. This regulation is to be observed by all your descendants for all time to come.

The Harvest Festival

(Num 28.26–31)

15Count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath on which you bring your sheaf of corn to present to the LORD. 16On the fiftieth day, the day after the seventh Sabbath, present to the LORD another new offering of corn. 17Each family is to bring two loaves of bread and present them to the LORD as a special gift. Each loaf shall be made of two kilogrammes of flour baked with yeast and shall be presented to the Lord as an offering of the first corn to be harvested. 18And with the bread the community is to present seven one-year-old lambs, one bull, and two rams, none of which may have any defects. They shall be offered as a burnt offering to the LORD, together with a grain offering and a wine offering. The smell of this offering is pleasing to the LORD. 19Also offer one male goat as a sin offering and two one-year-old male lambs as a fellowship offering. 20The priest shall present the bread with the two lambs as a special gift to the LORD for the priests. These offerings are holy. 21On that day do none of your daily work, but gather for worship. Your descendants are to observe this regulation for all time to come, no matter where they live.

22When you harvest your fields, do not cut the corn at the edges of the fields, and do not go back to cut the ears of corn that were left; leave them for poor people and foreigners. The LORD is your God.

The New Year Festival

(Num 29.1–6)

23-24On the first day of the seventh month observe a special day of rest, and come together for worship when the trumpets sound. 25Present a food offering to the LORD and do none of your daily work.

The Day of Atonement

(Num 29.7–11)

26-27The tenth day of the seventh month is the day when the annual ritual is to be performed to take away the sins of the people. On that day do not eat anything at all; come together for worship, and present a food offering to the Lord. 28Do no work on that day, because it is the day for performing the ritual to take away sin. 29Anyone who eats anything on that day will no longer be considered one of God's people. 30And if anyone does any work on that day, the LORD himself will put him to death. 31This regulation applies to all your descendants, no matter where they live. 32From sunset on the ninth day of the month to sunset on the tenth observe this day as a special day of rest, during which nothing may be eaten.

The Festival of Shelters

(Num 29.12–40)

33-34The Festival of Shelters begins on the fifteenth day of the seventh month and continues for seven days. 35On the first of these days come together for worship and do none of your daily work. 36Each day for seven days you shall present a food offering. On the eighth day come together again for worship and present a food offering. It is a day for worship, and you shall do no work.

37(These are the religious festivals on which you honour the LORD by gathering together for worship and presenting food offerings, burnt offerings, grain offerings, sacrifices, and wine offerings, as required day by day. 38These festivals are in addition to the regular Sabbaths, and these offerings are in addition to your regular gifts, your offerings in fulfilment of vows, and your freewill offerings that you give to the LORD.)

39When you have harvested your fields, celebrate this festival for seven days, beginning on the fifteenth day of the seventh month. The first day shall be a special day of rest. 40On that day take some of the best fruit from your trees, take palm branches and the branches of leafy trees, and begin a religious festival to honour the LORD your God. 41Celebrate it for seven days. This regulation is to be kept by your descendants for all time to come. 42All the people of Israel shall live in shelters for seven days, 43so that your descendants may know that the LORD made the people of Israel live in simple shelters when he led them out of Egypt. He is the LORD your God.

44So in this way Moses gave the people of Israel the regulations for observing the religious festivals to honour the LORD.

Leviticus 23GNBOpen in Bible reader

Faith

1To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see. 2It was by their faith that people of ancient times won God's approval.

3It is by faith that we understand that the universe was created by God's word, so that what can be seen was made out of what cannot be seen.

4It was faith that made Abel offer to God a better sacrifice than Cain's. Through his faith he won God's approval as a righteous man, because God himself approved of his gifts. By means of his faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.

5It was faith that kept Enoch from dying. Instead, he was taken up to God, and nobody could find him, because God had taken him up. The scripture says that before Enoch was taken up, he had pleased God. 6No one can please God without faith, for whoever comes to God must have faith that God exists and rewards those who seek him.

7It was faith that made Noah hear God's warnings about things in the future that he could not see. He obeyed God and built a boat in which he and his family were saved. As a result, the world was condemned, and Noah received from God the righteousness that comes by faith.

8It was faith that made Abraham obey when God called him to go out to a country which God had promised to give him. He left his own country without knowing where he was going. 9By faith he lived as a foreigner in the country that God had promised him. He lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who received the same promise from God. 10For Abraham was waiting for the city which God has designed and built, the city with permanent foundations.

11It was faith that made Abraham able to become a father, even though he was too old and Sarah herself could not have children. He trusted God to keep his promise. 12Though Abraham was practically dead, from this one man came as many descendants as there are stars in the sky, as many as the numberless grains of sand on the seashore.

13It was in faith that all these persons died. They did not receive the things God had promised, but from a long way off they saw them and welcomed them, and admitted openly that they were foreigners and refugees on earth. 14Those who say such things make it clear that they are looking for a country of their own. 15They did not keep thinking about the country they had left; if they had, they would have had the chance to return. 16Instead, it was a better country they longed for, the heavenly country. And so God is not ashamed for them to call him their God, because he has prepared a city for them.

17It was faith that made Abraham offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice when God put Abraham to the test. Abraham was the one to whom God had made the promise, yet he was ready to offer his only son as a sacrifice. 18God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that you will have the descendants I promised.” 19Abraham reckoned that God was able to raise Isaac from death — and, so to speak, Abraham did receive Isaac back from death.

20It was faith that made Isaac promise blessings for the future to Jacob and Esau.

21It was faith that made Jacob bless each of the sons of Joseph just before he died. He leaned on the top of his walking stick and worshipped God.

22It was faith that made Joseph, when he was about to die, speak of the departure of the Israelites from Egypt, and leave instructions about what should be done with his body.

23It was faith that made the parents of Moses hide him for three months after he was born. They saw that he was a beautiful child, and they were not afraid to disobey the king's order.

24It was faith that made Moses, when he had grown up, refuse to be called the son of the king's daughter. 25He preferred to suffer with God's people rather than to enjoy sin for a little while. 26He reckoned that to suffer scorn for the Messiah was worth far more than all the treasures of Egypt, for he kept his eyes on the future reward.

27It was faith that made Moses leave Egypt without being afraid of the king's anger. As though he saw the invisible God, he refused to turn back. 28It was faith that made him establish the Passover and order the blood to be sprinkled on the doors, so that the Angel of Death would not kill the firstborn sons of the Israelites.

29It was faith that made the Israelites able to cross the Red Sea as if on dry land; when the Egyptians tried to do it, the water swallowed them up.

30It was faith that made the walls of Jericho fall down after the Israelites had marched round them for seven days. 31It was faith that kept the prostitute Rahab from being killed with those who disobeyed God, for she gave the Israelite spies a friendly welcome.

32Should I go on? There isn't enough time for me to speak of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets. 33Through faith they fought whole countries and won. They did what was right and received what God had promised. They shut the mouths of lions, 34put out fierce fires, escaped being killed by the sword. They were weak, but became strong; they were mighty in battle and defeated the armies of foreigners. 35Through faith women received their dead relatives raised back to life.

Others, refusing to accept freedom, died under torture in order to be raised to a better life. 36Some were mocked and whipped, and others were put in chains and taken off to prison. 37They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword. They went round clothed in skins of sheep or goats — poor, persecuted, and ill-treated. 38The world was not good enough for them! They wandered like refugees in the deserts and hills, living in caves and holes in the ground.

39What a record all of these have won by their faith! Yet they did not receive what God had promised, 40because God had decided on an even better plan for us. His purpose was that only in company with us would they be made perfect.

Hebrews 11GNBOpen in Bible reader

God our Father

1As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses round us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. 2Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right-hand side of God's throne.

3Think of what he went through; how he put up with so much hatred from sinners! So do not let yourselves become discouraged and give up. 4For in your struggle against sin you have not yet had to resist to the point of being killed. 5Have you forgotten the encouraging words which God speaks to you as his sons and daughters?

“My child, pay attention when the Lord corrects you,

and do not be discouraged when he rebukes you.

6Because the Lord corrects everyone he loves,

and punishes everyone he accepts as his child.”

7Endure what you suffer as being a father's punishment; your suffering shows that God is treating you as his children. Was there ever a child who was not punished by his father? 8If you are not punished, as all his children are, it means you are not real children, but bastards. 9In the case of our human fathers, they punished us and we respected them. How much more, then, should we submit to our spiritual Father and live! 10Our human fathers punished us for a short time, as it seemed right to them; but God does it for our own good, so that we may share his holiness. 11When we are punished, it seems to us at the time something to make us sad, not glad. Later, however, those who have been disciplined by such punishment reap the peaceful reward of a righteous life.

Instructions and Warnings

12Lift up your tired hands, then, and strengthen your trembling knees! 13Keep walking on straight paths, so that the lame foot may not be disabled, but instead be healed.

14Try to be at peace with everyone, and try to live a holy life, because no one will see the Lord without it. 15Guard against turning back from the grace of God. Let no one become like a bitter plant that grows up and causes many troubles with its poison. 16Let no one become immoral or unspiritual like Esau, who for a single meal sold his rights as the elder son. 17Afterwards, you know, he wanted to receive his father's blessing; but he was turned away, because he could not find any way to change what he had done, even though in tears he looked for it.

18You have not come, as the people of Israel came, to what you can feel, to Mount Sinai with its blazing fire, the darkness and the gloom, the storm, 19the blast of a trumpet, and the sound of a voice. When the people heard the voice, they begged not to hear another word, 20because they could not bear the order which said, “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.” 21The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling and afraid!”

22Instead, you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, with its thousands of angels. 23You have come to the joyful gathering of God's firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, who is the judge of all people, and to the spirits of good people made perfect. 24You have come to Jesus, who arranged the new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that promises much better things than does the blood of Abel.

25Be careful, then, and do not refuse to hear him who speaks. Those who refused to hear the one who gave the divine message on earth did not escape. How much less shall we escape, then, if we turn away from the one who speaks from heaven! 26His voice shook the earth at that time, but now he has promised, “I will once more shake not only the earth but heaven as well.” 27The words “once more” plainly show that the created things will be shaken and removed, so that the things that cannot be shaken will remain.

28Let us be thankful, then, because we receive a kingdom that cannot be shaken. Let us be grateful and worship God in a way that will please him, with reverence and awe; 29because our God is indeed a destroying fire.

Hebrews 12GNBOpen in Bible reader

How to Please God

1Keep on loving one another as Christian brothers and sisters. 2Remember to welcome strangers in your homes. There were some who did that and welcomed angels without knowing it. 3Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them. Remember those who are suffering, as though you were suffering as they are.

4Marriage is to be honoured by all, and husbands and wives must be faithful to each other. God will judge those who are immoral and those who commit adultery.

5Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never leave you; I will never abandon you.” 6Let us be bold, then, and say:

“The Lord is my helper,

I will not be afraid.

What can anyone do to me?”

7Remember your former leaders, who spoke God's message to you. Think back on how they lived and died, and imitate their faith. 8Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and for ever. 9Do not let all kinds of strange teachings lead you from the right way. It is good to receive inner strength from God's grace, and not by obeying rules about foods; those who obey these rules have not been helped by them.

10The priests who serve in the Jewish place of worship have no right to eat any of the sacrifice on our altar. 11The Jewish High Priest brings the blood of the animals into the Most Holy Place to offer it as a sacrifice for sins; but the bodies of the animals are burnt outside the camp. 12For this reason Jesus also died outside the city, in order to purify the people from sin with his own blood. 13Let us, then, go to him outside the camp and share his shame. 14For there is no permanent city for us here on earth; we are looking for the city which is to come. 15Let us, then, always offer praise to God as our sacrifice through Jesus, which is the offering presented by lips that confess him as Lord. 16Do not forget to do good and to help one another, because these are the sacrifices that please God.

17Obey your leaders and follow their orders. They watch over your souls without resting, since they must give God an account of their service. If you obey them, they will do their work gladly; if not, they will do it with sadness, and that would be of no help to you.

18Keep on praying for us. We are sure we have a clear conscience, because we want to do the right thing at all times. 19And I beg you even more earnestly to pray that God will send me back to you soon.

Closing Prayer

20-21God has raised from death our Lord Jesus, who is the Great Shepherd of the sheep as the result of his blood, by which the eternal covenant is sealed. May the God of peace provide you with every good thing you need in order to do his will, and may he, through Jesus Christ, do in us what pleases him. And to Christ be the glory for ever and ever! Amen.

Final Words

22I beg you, my brothers and sisters, to listen patiently to this message of encouragement; for this letter I have written to you is not very long. 23I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been let out of prison. If he comes soon enough, I will have him with me when I see you.

24Give our greetings to all your leaders and to all God's people. The brothers and sisters from Italy send you their greetings.

25May God's grace be with you all.

Hebrews 13GNBOpen in Bible reader
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