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O great God, we ask now that You would condescend to speak to us, lowly and sinful as we are. Give us grace to listen, to understand, to feel what we should feel, to obey all that needs obedience. We give thanks for Your unfailing, unerring, unchanging Word. Give me grace to preach it in the power of Your Spirit. In the name of Christ Jesus, the Word made flesh, we pray. Amen.
Our text this morning comes from Leviticus, as we continue through this series. 27 chapters, so Lord willing we’ll be finishing next month. It says in the bulletin chapters 21 and 22. One chapter will be adventurous enough, so we’ll constrain ourselves to just chapter 21. Chapter 22 contains similar instructions covering many of the same themes. For the sake of time I’ll just read 21 and that’s where we will focus our exposition. It’s another one of those passages that has seemingly strange commands and instructions but are surprising relevant. It also has words that you did not expect to hear in church, but they’re here in the Bible so you’re going to hear them. Follow along as I read from Leviticus 21.
“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.””
“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.”
I imagine many of you have heard of the name, at least the last name, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, perhaps because you’ve used the M’Cheyne Bible reading Plan, which takes you through the Bible once in a year and a few parts of it twice. D.A. Carson has written two volumes that go through parts of the M’Cheyne Reading Plan, so you may have heard of his name before.
Tragically, his life was very short. He was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on this very day, May 21, in the year 1813. He attended the University of Edinburgh and was awarded various prizes in several disciplines. He was a very good student. He was licensed to preach on July 1, 1835. Besides a brief stint as what we might call a short-term missionary to the Jews in Palestine, M’Cheyne spent most of his ministerial career as the pastor of St. Peter’s church in Dundee. Dundee, Scotland, not the crocodile Dundee of Australia.
It was a church of more than a thousand hearers each Sunday. Sometimes we think, well, we only have big churches in America and recently, but they had big churches then as well. On March 12, 1843 he preached before his congregation for the last time. Two days later he fell ill with typhus fever and he died less than two weeks later on March 25, 1843, not yet 30 years old. Remarkable, he died at 29 and we will remember and many commemorate his ministry today.
During his short life, M’Cheyne was well-known as a powerful preacher. He was a very hardworking pastor. He perhaps worked himself to death. He was a gifted poet and perhaps his greatest renown was for his saintly piety, a man of prayer, and a man of not showy but simply evident godliness.
In his book Lectures to my Students, Charles Spurgeon tells of a famous letter that Robert Murray M’Cheyne wrote to a friend of his who was preparing for the ministry and was applying himself to learn German. It’s a famous letter. Here’s what M’Cheyne says, and it’s powerful counsel for every Christian, and especially for those who are called to be shepherds in the church of God, and especially those who are called to full-time pastoral ministry.
Listen: “I know you will apply hard to German, but do not forget the culture of the inner man, I mean of the heart. How diligently the cavalry officer keeps his saber clean and sharp, every stain he rubs off with the greatest care. Remember you are God’s sword, His instrument, I trust, a chosen vessel unto Him to bear His name in great measure according to the purity and perfection of the instrument will be the success.” And then this last line: “It is not great talents God blesses so much as likeness to Jesus. A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God.”
I know it can be hard to listen to sermons that are directed more explicitly to ministers, to those in full-time ministry, pastors, but from time to time we have texts that are more suited for that direct application. Perhaps it’s fitting on a Sunday when we celebrate five interns graduating from seminary, heading off into various avenues of ministry, and on a Sunday when we remember in some way the lives and legacy of Tim Keller, Harry Reeder, that this text would focus us to think in particular about leaders in the church.
So while the application may fall most directly on just a few of us here who are pastors, and the slightly bigger circle who are ordained leaders and may be ordained leaders, yet there is application for all of us in whatever sphere of Christian life and ministry we are called to lead others in the things of Christ.
What I want to do with our time is look at three lessons. You’ll notice in chapter 21, you can see in the ESV, there are three paragraphs, in which each of these paragraphs want to distill a lesson for us in Christian leadership. Three lessons in Christian leadership.
First. Looking at that first paragraph, verses 1 through 9. Here’s the first lesson: A leader must be set apart. A leader must be set apart.
I won’t re-read the paragraph, but perhaps you notice that there were two sets of rules in this initial paragraph. Notice verse 1, “The Lord said to Moses, speak to the priests.” So these chapters, 21 and 22, are further instructions for those men who were set apart for the priesthood.
Now the whole nation in one sense was a royal priesthood, they were set apart. They are also to be holy. But even though they were all holy and all God’s treasured possession, there were certain officers, certain men who were set aside for an ordained function. These two chapters are addressing the priests and in some instances the chief priests.
You may have noticed in this first paragraph of instructions for the priests, or the sons of Aaron, two sets of rules. One for mourning, that’s “mourning” “O-U,” sadness, mourning, and the other for marriage. Or, quite fitting considering even today what pastors do, you might think of it as instructions for weddings and funerals.
So first, mourning. There’s a series of instructions which are quite nuanced, but the gist of it is easy to understand, that the priest cannot make himself unclean except for close relatives. So handling and being near dead bodies made you ritually unclean. Well, what is the priest to do as he has to oversee this function and commemoration for the dead?
Well, can he or can he not make himself unclean? Well, he can’t make himself unclean except for these close relatives. So there’s a number of exceptions that with these close relatives he can, because he is able to draw near and he’s human and he, too, can mourn, though different set of rules.
Remember in chapter 10 with Nadab and Abihu. They sinned, those sons of Aaron, and there the Lord said even though this might be the normal exception on this occasion, no, you cannot mourn for them. Because what is more grievous than the death of your sons, Aaron, is their disobedience to God. More flagrant was their disobedience than is even the sadness of losing your sons. Here give the necessary exceptions.
And then there are rules about marriage, that the priest had a higher standard than other men. So he could not marry a prostitute, a defiled woman, says he could not marry a divorced woman. Related to this there is a command about family life, that if the daughter becomes a prostitute she is to be burned with fire. You see that at end of verse 9. Most scholars think, and I agree with them, that the burning with fire here is not the punishment because elsewhere we know that the punishment for adultery, male and female, was death by stoning. So this is likely not another means of capital punishment, that would have been by stoning, but this is a further chastisement in that after dead, the bones are to be burned with fire. So the means of death is not the fire, but a further chastisement is that once put to death, then her body is to be burned.
You see throughout the Old and the New Testament that for one to not receive a proper burial was considered a sign of judgment, the assumption in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, and here we see it plainly in Leviticus, is that burial was to be considered an honor. More importantly, it was a visible reminder of our hope in the goodness of the body that God gave us and our hope that our bodies will be received and resurrected at the end of the age.
So for this woman, who had been caught in flagrant sin, to be put to death and then for her body to be cremated was considered a further form of judgment and chastisement. Burial was to be for the Jews as it would be later for the Christians, the means of honoring the dead and presenting to the world our hope in the Resurrection, the goodness of the body.
We have here instructions then for mourning and marriage, or weddings and funerals. Or you might think of it how the priest is to be set apart as he handles death and sex.
There is, in other words, a higher standard for those in leadership. We could get lost in the weeds here and the various restrictions and exceptions, but the larger principle is obvious, that the priests are set apart and theirs is a higher standard with a higher cost. We see quite plainly there will be a cost at times to the family of the priests.
Now it is true that there are far too many examples, now and in the past, of pastors or other church leaders who make the ministry their obsession, and to the neglect of their family. We ought never to commend that example.
There is, however, also the danger, not only for pastors, but for all Christians, in thinking that family trumps every other consideration. We would never put it quite like that, but we sort of live our lives like that. God can ask anything of me underneath family. As long as I have family and I get to do what I want when I want with my kids, with my parents, family is obviously above all. That is always the trump card and God, anything else as long as it doesn’t touch my family. Some of us live like that. We are willing to serve the Lord as long as it, it can even touch our wallets, it can touch our time, our plans, it just cannot have a bearing on our families.
But think of these priests, part of what they were learning. They could not mourn like the rest of their family, and with few exceptions, they could not mourn for the rest of their family. They had to be more careful in picking a spouse. When their children sinned in public ways, like this daughter who was a prostitute, it wasn’t that a grown child sinning necessarily disqualified someone from leadership, but it was a significant, a bigger deal because the man was a priest. They were set apart.
The refrain throughout chapter 21 and into chapter 22, “I am the Lord who sanctifies you.” You see that in verse 15, again in verse 23. If we went over to chapter 22, it’s in verse 9 and verse 16: “I am the Lord who sanctifies you.” That word “sanctified” could just be translated “set apart.”
We hear that as a very ethereal sort of thing, but it was in a very practical sense, they set apart. These class of Levites and priests, they lived in a different land, they had different jobs, they often had to wear different clothes, and they had different restrictions when it came to weddings and to funerals.
We all want, or many of us want, the privileges of leadership. We like the influence of leadership. We like the prestige of leadership. We don’t, however, like the responsibilities, the sacrifice, the cost. Are we willing to work hard? Study hard? Do the mundane things? Some of us are ready to be the ones doing the big things, but are we ready to start doing the small things?
One of the best things anyone ever had me do when I was in seminary and was interning at a church is to teach the 5- and 6-year-olds Catechism class during the week when the moms were having their Bible study and I was with the young kids, teach them the Catechism. We want to have men who are training for pastoral ministry who aren’t just aspiring to preach in front of multitudes, but are eager to give the Word of God to whomever will listen, to children, to the young, to the old, to groups that are small, medium, and large.
Are we who are called to leadership in Christ’s church interested in only what we gain? Or are we interested first of all in what we can give? Will we be open to correction? Are we interested in higher honor? Or are we willing to be held to a higher standard?
That means that if leadership means being set apart in whatever realm it may be, leaders are bound to be lonely at times. No, don’t read into this, “Pastor’s trying to tell us something.” I’m doing okay. Come into our house – I am not lonely.
But I sometimes say when you’re a leader and you have influence, say going down and you have influence going out, you have influence to a lot, we like that. Lots of people that might listen to us, lots of people we can influence. But we have to realize the more people who listen to you, the more people you influence, you are opening yourself up to the more people who have something to say to you, and they may not always like the decisions that you make or the things that you say.
It takes a great deal of discernment to know when we simply have to say, “I’m sorry.” It’s one of the most powerful things a leader can ever say – “You’re right. I made a mistake. I’m sorry.” And to have the discernment for leaders to know when, as Spurgeon says, sort of cheekily, when to turn the blind eye and the deaf ear. Yes, yes, I hear that complaint. Turn that to my deaf ear now as I listen, was Spurgeon’s point. It takes discernment.
We can be sure that Satan will go after those who have been given positions of leadership and influence among God’s people. Strike the shepherd and the sheep are often scattered. So those who are called to positions of influence or leadership must be extra vigilant, prayerful, soft-hearted, and yet not pushovers. Hard-headed, but not obstinate. Understanding our own weaknesses but without a self-pitying bone in our bodies. Leaders must be set apart.
Look at the second paragraph. Similarly, a leader must be above reproach.
Again, we have instructions about mourning and about marriage, but these laws are not just for the priests, but notice verse 10, the priest who is chief among the brothers on whose head the anointing oil is poured. This is narrowing even further, not simply the priests, but here are instructions for the chief priest. He has been consecrated with the anointing oil. He has been set apart with special vestments. He is a, we might say, first among equals, a leader of leaders, and therefore it is even more crucial that he is to be above reproach.
So if we had time to compare and contrast the various instructions, you’d find that they are similar instructions, but even more restrictive. So the priest can make himself unclear for father and mother, but not high priest. The number of people for whom he can be unclean and mourn like everyone else is even more restricted. Marriage is even more restricted. It says that the high priest cannot marry a widow, cannot marry divorced, can only marry a virgin.
You might say, well, why this added layer of scrutiny for the chief priest? Is that really fair? We know that Paul says in the New Testament that if your spouse deceases you are free to marry, so don’t hear this as anything against widows or widowers remarrying. But it was a particular case with the chief priests? Why? Because the chief priest was to be a hereditary office, from Aaron and his sons passed on to son by son. So in order to be absolutely certain that the blood lines were pure, we might say, and that these children were from the clan of Levites and from the particular family of Aaron, it was absolutely required that any child must be born to a woman who had not known any other man except in her marriage to the high priest, so there would be no doubt, an impossibility, that this child belong to anyone else except was a line of direct descendant from the high priest. They did not want any possibility that the high priest was not actually from the line of Aaron. So the chief priests could only marry a virgin daughter of Israel.
It’s one further indication that the leaders are set apart and here that the high priest must be absolutely above reproach.
You probably know that that’s a requirement for elders and deacons in the New Testament, above reproach.
Now it doesn’t mean that if somebody out there in the world thinks something bad about you, you can’t be an officer in the church. I don’t recommend that you go on Twitter and read everything that people might think about your pastor. I don’t go and read it.
So it must mean, “above reproach,” it must mean that no one has anything legitimate against you.
Think about Jesus. A lot of people were against Jesus. Think about the Apostle Paul. People wanted to kill Paul. So you could have easily just, if everybody had a phone and a Twitter account back in the ancient world, you could have looked and said, “Wow, this Jesus is pretty controversial. This Paul, he’s got a lot of enemies.”
So it’s not simply that there are people that like or dislike you, it’s do you have anything that someone legitimately could bring? Are you above reproach?
I think in previous generations, perhaps there was a danger to think about our leaders or to think about our pastors, as being a totally different kind of human being that you would expect if you drove down my street, you would see me on our John Deere tractor mowing the lawn in this, like this is just what I wear. I know that’s very, just, like when you were a kid and you saw your teacher at the grocery store or you see your pastor on a run. I apologize; my wife says the shorts are too short.
So it’s not that your leaders and pastors aren’t real people. In fact, in chapter 22 there’s a number of instructions about what happens when the priests are made ritually unclean. They’re normal people like everybody else.
But I think if there was a time in which we considered pastors or other Christian leaders to be superhuman, abnormal people, I think in reaction to that many have gone too far in the other direction and think that, well, we want our leaders to be, what’s the buzzword? Authentic. So they drop in a cuss word or they can kick back some alcohol, or they can consume the same sort of entertainment as everybody else. You know, we don’t want someone to seem too holy. If they seem holy, then they don’t seem real, and we want somebody real, authentic. That attitude is often unwise, unhelpful, and an unbiblical overreaction.
Of course Christian leaders and pastors are real people with sins and shorts and all the rest. But leaders must be extra careful. If you want to have a position of leadership, if you want to aspire to the office of overseer, then we must be above reproach. A wise, godly leader must even consider the way in which he conducts himself so that there is no hint of ungodliness. How we handle our money, how we meet with people, private communication, an off-color joke, men who are awkward to the point of even harassing at times in the way they might speak with women, as if they’re speaking to just another one of the guys, and they’re not. Or an over-familiarity or a jocularity. Or a communication by text that is too frequent and too familiar with a woman in a way that would, even if not inappropriate, would cast suspicion and perhaps reproach upon the Gospel.
There’s a reason Paul told Timothy keep a close, a close watch on your life and your doctrine.
The emphasis here in Leviticus is in particular upon the life.
I think about it at times, and it’s a sobering thought, but I think the Lord brings it to mind in a salutary way, I think in a fearful way. I think, “Lord, a lot of people depend upon me.” Now, we’re all indispensable, but in a human sense, they depend upon me, not just my hard work or skill or doctrinal clarity, but in a very real way on my holiness.
It’s true for you parents, for elders, for any sort of leadership position you have, even perhaps in the workplace or a teacher, or any time where there are people looking up to you. This is a Christian that I want to emulate. You know that people are looking at you not just for your skill and what you can accomplish, but for your character, who you are.
Think about that quotation I read from the beginning from M’Cheyne. You want to be a sharp sword, not a blunt instrument, in the Lord’s hand. It is likeness to Jesus that matters more than abilities, resources, knowledge, or gifts.
It would have been easy for these priests, in fact, we have many evidences of it. Read Malachi sometime. The Italian prophet Malachi. Read through his prosection against the priests. There was a temptation to cut corners: Any animal will do; we’re not going to bring the best ones; go ahead and eat the food. Or Eli and his sons with the sacrificial things in 1 Samuel. It was easy and tempting to cut corners. Go ahead, we do this every day, it’s the same thing over and over, no one will notice. And it’s a lackadaisical attitude not only to ministry but to godliness.
And it happens. It happens imperceptibly. Pray for your pastors, congregation.
It’s possible for men to first study hard and be passionate and serious about Christ and on fire and they pray and memorize Scripture and read the Bible, and at some point it becomes too routine and they become careless.
I may have shared before some of the, just about the first preaching I ever did when I was a college student and I would preach at the Rescue Mission in town. 15 men who had to be there in order to get a meal and then they’d listen to me preach. I remember spending hours and days on those sermons. So thankful the internet wasn’t around. What dreadful sermons, I’m sure they were. I’m glad they’re not preserved for posterity’s sake. But I can tell you this – as bad as they were, I took very seriously. I walked around the block and I prayed and I prayed and I prayed to preach to 15 people in a rescue mission. I’ve often thought to myself, and the Lord has brought to mind and I’ve said this prayer week by week in sermon preparation, now, O Lord, may I treat this as seriously on this day as I did on that day.
Even though hopefully there’s been improvement and there’s more people and there’s 25 years, but the Lord will surely bless an attitude of dependence before 15 people than He will bless an attitude of presumption before 1500 people. We must not be careless with the things of the Lord.
A leader is set apart, a leader is above reproach, and then finally, look at this last paragraph – a leader must be a model of integrity.
This is a hard paragraph. It has words didn’t look forward to saying, and besides that, the rules sound harsh. Let’s be honest. It sounds like discrimination against the handicapped. You can’t be a hunchback, you can’t be a dwarf, you can’t be blind, you can’t have any infirmities in order to bring the holy things before the Lord.
Now notice it’s not saying these men could not be priests. They could eat the holy food, presumably they can take part in some of the priestly tasks, but this level of integrity is required for those who would offer the holy bread, those who would approach and enter the veil. So this is specifically for those who have those tasks with the holy bread to enter the veil into the tabernacle. These priests need to be whole, inside and out, in order to understand the holy things of God. God wanted perfect priests to mirror the perfect sacrifices.
There are 12 infirmities that are listed as disqualifying the priests in chapter 21. Look over at chapter 22 for a moment because there are also 12 infirmities listed as disqualifying the sacrifices that the priests would bring. Chapter 22, verse 20 – you shall not offer anything that has a blemish for it will not be acceptable for you. Then beginning in verse 22 through 24, we have another list of 12 blemishes and it starts with the very same thing, blindness, and it ends with the crushed male organ as the last one. So it starts and it ends with the same items and there are 12.12 blemishes that disqualify the priest, 12 blemishes that disqualify the sacrifices.
So why do we have these requirements? Well, on the one hand, it’s because physical wholeness was to be a picture of spiritual wholeness. We don’t have priests, we’ll come to that at the end, anymore because we have the High Priest, so don’t hear these as qualifications for pastors. This isn’t what Paul mentions in 1 Timothy 3, he doesn’t go through physical requirements for those who would serve in office in the church. But the reason it’s here for the priests is because they’re spiritual wholeness was to be reflected in their physical wholeness. Part of what it communicated to the priests and to the people, is that when you are a priest, God is giving you not just a job, but He is claiming the totality of your life. This is not something that you can just show up and do as a ritual, but this claims your entire person. We’re not looking for people to just fill in and do a job, like we could get AI to do this for us, we’re looking for a type of person to do it. This priesthood gig is your whole life, is what he’s communicating . They were supposed to be known chiefly for their holiness. Sadly, throughout Israel’s history, they often weren’t.
When Israel prospered, they had godly priests – Samuel, Jehoiada, Ezra. And the nation declined under ungodly priests – Eli, Amaziah. The people faced judgment in Malachi’s day because of the guilty priests. Hosea, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Amos, Zephaniah – all criticized the priests. Hosea says at one point, “as goes the priest, so goes the people.”
It still is true, that it will be hard for congregations to rise much higher than the shepherds that God has given to watch over the flock. It’s why it’s so crucial for all of us in positions of leadership to take care how we speak, how we act, to pay careful attention to our life and our doctrine, because many people’s souls may be at stake.
So that’s one reason for these laws, which seem harsh and even offensive to us, is that the physical wholeness was to be a picture of spiritual wholeness.
But there’s another reason. Think about what the tabernacle is in the redemptive arc of history. The tabernacle was both a kind of a garden of Eden and a prototype of the heavenly sanctuary to come. So the tabernacle with the inside where they had blue like the sky, it had palm trees and pomegranates, it was to look like a garden paradise on the inside. It was to be a type of the garden of Eden. Likewise, not only did it look back to Eden, but it looked forward to heaven. Hebrews says it was made everything according to a copy. It was an earthly copy of this heavenly blueprint.
In Revelation 21 and 22, the dimensions of the new heaven and the new earth are given as cubic, the same height, length, and depth, as a cube, and there’s only one other cube in the Bible, one other cubic dimension, and it’s the holy of holies. So heaven is depicted to us as the holy of holies comes down to earth.
Now why is this significant? That the tabernacle was a type of the garden of Eden and a type of the heaven to come? Well, it means that since this is a prefiguring of heaven and an echo of Eden, that everything here should have an Edenic perfection to it. So far from these requirements being a way of demeaning those who have handicaps or other impairments, there’s actually a sweet, implicit promise that is this tabernacle was pointing to the heavenly reality, so it’s showing that in heaven none of these will be left to mar God’s new heaven and new earth. These are not the ways things are supposed to be, not the way they were in the garden, not the way they will be in heaven.
Those who enter, therefore, should have the wholeness and the perfection of Eden in the past and of heaven in the future, where all of our physical defects will be sanctified and made whole.
Then ultimately there’s a reason. Perfect sacrifices and perfect priests to offer the sacrifice. That’s what we see. Both 12 defects that disqualify the sacrifice and disqualify the sacrificer. Which is all leading us to Calvary. All leading us to the cross. To Hebrews chapter 7 where Jesus is both the perfect sacrifice, a Lamb without spot or blemish, and He is the perfect high priest to offer the sacrifice.
It was to communicate to Israel, year after year, well, really, where are we going to get that perfect sacrifice? Where will we finally get that perfect high priest without any spot or blemish? Because we need both. No defect in the offering, no defect in the one who makes the offering, and both come to their completion and their fulfillment in Christ. As Hebrews tells us, He is holy, blameless, pure, set apart for sinners, exalted above the heavens. He is not weak like men but as the Son has been made perfect forever.
So ultimately we find in Christ the One who was set apart, the One and the only One who is absolutely and finally above all reproach and without blemish, and the One who is not only the model of that perfect integrity but the One who died on the cross as the high priest and on the cross as the Lamb for the sins of us all.
Let us pray. Father in heaven, we given thanks on this day for Your Word and we pray that You will so guard this pulpit as has been proclaimed faithfully for more than 40 years and more than 25 years in this very building, and we pray will continue for as long as You give this lampstand and as long as the Lord Jesus tarries. We pray, also, Lord, that You will give not just to pastors and shepherds and deacons but to all of us the earnestness and the zeal that we might be a people set apart, holy, unto You, and we give thanks for doing all that we could not, living the life that we cannot live, and dying the death that we deserve. So we crown You with every crown. In Jesus we pray. Amen.