[This passage] seems to deeply contrast what Jesus had to say about the blind man (John 9). It’s found in Leviticus 21:”Say to Aaron: ‘For the generations to come none of your descendants who has a defect may come near to offer the food of his God. No man who has any defect may come near: no man who is blind or lame, disfigured or deformed; no man with a crippled foot or hand, or who is hunchbacked or dwarfed, or who has any eye defect, or who has festering or running sores or damaged testicles. No descendant of Aaron the priest who has any defect is to come near to present the offerings made to the LORD by fire. He has a defect; he must not come near to offer the food of his God. He may eat the most holy food of his God, as well as the holy food; yet because of his defect, he must not go near the curtain or approach the altar, and so desecrate my sanctuary. I am the LORD, who makes them holy.”
Whoa, this does not seem to portray the picture of the God I know. The God we talk about is almost always the one who reaches out to the poor, the lost, the destitute, the lame. With this passage in mind, I can understand why the Jewish people thought that this man or his parents must have committed a sin. They thought of God as loving also, and to bar a man from His presence by no fault of his own doesn’t seem to be just.
I understand the symbolism, that God can only accept what is right, perfect, true. His divinity may demand that much. But doesn’t divinity demand mercy, compassion, pity, especially for those who are weak without control?
Initial Thoughts:Jesus heals the blind man in order to reveal the Power of God to the world, not necessarily out of only compassion or mercy. Mercy which, by definition, is not deserved by anyone and to which God does not owe anyone. Also, in Leviticus the Israelites lived under the Old Law or Covenant. The whole purpose of the Law is to demonstrate the utter depravity of man and his total disability to enter into the presence of the Perfect and Holy God. It is used to bring the sinner to Christ. The Law is what accents the mystery of the Gospel, that God would call a chosen few from out of the bondage of sin for His glory!
God may “almost always” reach out to the poor, lost, destitute, etc., but one could also say that He is “almost always” bringing judgment on the sins of people, confronting the hypocrite, etc. While it is true that the sins of the blind man nor his parents in John 9 had caused his blindness, this man still had sins to be forgiven. His willingness to believe in the Great Physician could perhaps be demonstrated in his finding the Pool of Siloam and washing in it, believing that the act would bring the completion of his healing. We do not know if Jesus spoke more than what is recorded in the Gospels. (Also, later in the chapter, Jesus heard of him being thrown out of the temple for standing up to the Pharisees and finds him, asking if he “believe[s] in the Son of Man”. The blind man says he does believe and begins to worship Jesus. Jesus then states that He has come into the world “for judgment” in order to restore sight to the spiritually blind.)
So, almost always, it seems that Jesus’ reaching out to the poor and destitute is coupled with the demand for repentance from the spiritually poor and destitute.
What about divinity requires compassion, mercy, and pity? What you said is true, that God can only accept what is right, perfect, true, and holy. The temple, being a symbol or a type of heaven, mirrors this concept. Even as today God cannot accept any except those who have been perfect ed through the blood of Christ.
[I LATER READ THE CONTEXT OF LEV. 21 AND THIS IS A PASSAGE SPECIFICALLY ADDRESSED TO THE PRIESTS, THE DESCENDANTS OF AARON]
Leviticus 21 is a passage specifically addressed the priests, the descendants of Aaron:
“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them…”
The Levites were the tribe God had chosen to serve in the temple, and as such were put under special restrictions as part of their Divine duty. (It should be noted here that they were also the only ones allowed into God’s presence out of all the Israelites. More specifically, only the High Priest was allowed into the Holy of Holies where the presence of God dwelt.) God declared that no Levite who had a defect should serve in the temple (offering the priestly sacrifices for the people or entering through the veil into the Holy of Holies or approaching the altar), although he could still participate in the sacrificial offerings (vs. 22).
This doesn’t mean that God did not love them or was not just. Having ‘pure’ or ‘spotless’ priests serving in His presence was merely required to complete the picture of His utter holiness and need for perfection. It was not until the sacrifice of the pure and spotless Christ that all were allowed into His presence and there was no longer a need for a human mediator, as we had gained a perfect Mediator in Christ. (Matt. 27:51; Heb. 4:14-5:10)