Whenever YHWH sets a leader over His people, He sets up some pretty high expectations. There are things that the people can do that the leaders must stay away from. Those who act as priests, prophets, and kings are expected to live at a higher standard than those who do not have a direct connection and responsibility to YHWH.
In this chapter those of the priestly line and especially the priests who serve the LORD are instructed that they may not defile themselves by a corpse unless it is a direct family member. Even then, the high priest may not even do that. They may not marry a woman who has been widowed or divorced, or who has slept with any other man at any time in her life. She must be a virgin or he may not marry her. Nor may a priest tear his clothes in mourning or uncover his head. If his daughter profanes herself in harlotry, it rests on him as well. Then finally, if there is any physical defect in a man, He may not serve as priest before the LORD. YHWH even goes so far as to say that if a man has a broken hand or foot, he may not serve the LORD.
Do we take our responsibility in representing the LORD seriously? Do we set ourselves apart from the world, or do we do what everyone else is doing? As people who pursue God and seek His work and will in our lives, we should be living examples of God and His work and will. We should be truly pursuing Him in all holiness.
It is chapters like this that make the Bible that much more real. We see the sons of Jacob as real people. They come alive with both their good and bad features. The story is not just told of the warriors of old who battled great serpents and monsters and creatures of the deep: who then went on to live perfect little lives playing heroes and growing prosperous as a shining light for all to see and desire to be like.
These are real men who are dealing with real problems. Sometimes they do the right thing. Sometimes they do the wrong thing, and sometimes they do nothing when they should be doing something.
They don’t always make the right choices, and when they don’t sometimes it can have a huge lasting impact on their lives and the lives of the people around them for generations. Ultimately, we see all things working together for good to all according to God’s purpose. He can take the worst, and make the best.
The impact of what happens here, the total annihilation of a city-state by the work of these two men, affects them for over a thousand years to come. It’s amazing how in one small (or not so small) choice there are waves of repercussions spreading out throughout time.
Do we take the time to consider how our actions will affect us and those around us for the next week; for the next month; for the next year; for the next hundred years? What kind of an example are we setting to our children / families / future generations? Does it even matter?