What does Leviticus 21:16-23 mean for those who are disabled?

Question: : What does Leviticus 21:16-23 mean as far as disabled people are concerned? The reason I ask is I have a disabled son.

Answer:This passage restricts those in Aaron’s line from functioning as priests if they have any kind of defect physically. The reason that might have made sense to the Israelites was that like the sacrifices they offered that had to be perfect, so the priests who offered them had to be “perfect” in order to please God. They would certainly have also had some idea that a perfect sacrifice was representative of the need for a blameless substitute for their sin and guilt. When they offered the animal in their place it was the “just” for the unjust that was being offered. Likewise, the priest who offered it could not be “unjust” symbolically speaking, but needed to be perfect to get the desired result – forgiveness from God.

We know that God was also preparing His people to receive the real and ultimate sacrifice for our sins and high priest to offer the sacrifice – Jesus Christ. The symbols of the Old Testament rituals were symbols of Jesus and how his sacrifice was of a truly sinless substitute for our truly sinful selves.

Consequently this passage says nothing about the way God views people with disabilities in any personal sense. Jesus’ willingness to touch and heal many who had severe disabilities and illnesses is proof that God loves all of us. We are all disabled in many ways, spiritually, emotionally and physically. We cannot come to God on the basis of how “together” we are. I come “just as I am, without one plea, but that His blood was shed for me.”

God uses the disabilities in our lives and the comfort He teaches us to find in the midst of our disabilities to give us something to share with others in their disabilities. Our disabilities become one source of our ministry in the lives of others. We can identify with those who have our same disabilities and offer them what God offered us with a passion and believability that no one else can.

Randall Johnson


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