Leviticus

Here begins our challenge for this series through Leviticus.

Essentially, this study through Leviticus is about finding what we can learn about God from some of the more obscure and maybe not so often referred to passages.

How are you going to prepare for this challenge of meeting God in Leviticus?

In embarking on this challenge, I would like to invite you to post a prayer by making a comment  for this post (just click on the title above ‘Challenge’ and then fill in whichever boxes you want towards the bottom of the page).  You can remain anonymous if you would so desire or you can put your name at the end of your prayer.  This prayer is about what you want God to do in your life over the next three months as you continue a life of preparing to live in the presence of  a holy God.

READ:    Leviticus 1:1-17

Introduction and the ‘burnt offering’.

READ:    Leviticus 2:1-16

The ‘Grain Offerings”

I just wanted to share some thoughts about Leviticus 2:13.  As you read through the stipulations for each of the different offerings there are certain steps that must or must not be taken depending on the offering.  One interesting step that was to occur on all of these offerings in chapter 2, and quite possibly in many other offerings also (Numbers 18:19), was the inclusion of salt.

You can’t read that without asking the question why was salt included and what on earth is the ‘covenant of salt’ that it was a reminder of???  No one really seems to know the exact answer to those question but there are a few interesting ideas and parallels.

To the people of Middle Eastern culture, salt has long been used as  an agreement ‘handshake’.  Two people making a covenant would eat salt together.  Certainly, the simple reference to the ‘Covenant of salt’ would seem to imply that this use of salt is a call back to a covenant that has been made between God and the people.  The use of salt in the offerings was, in a sense, a continual reminder and refreshment of the Covenant between God and His people.

It is also interesting to note that in the surrounding verses there are a number of things that must, and must not, be included in these grain offerings.  Two things that were not to be included was leaven and honey.  Again, why that is to be so is not explained to us but it has been suggested that leaven and honey are natural fermenting agents – which would cause the food (part of the offerings was for the priests food) to spoil quickly.  These fermenting agents would spoil the food – in a sense they would corrupt it.  Salt and oil, on the other hand, are natural preservatives.  Not only would they preserve the food longer so the priests could do their priestly duty and eat a set portion but I do wonder if they symbolically pictured a preservation of the covenant.  By adding salt to the offering it was reminding the people that this covenant was being preserved between them and God.  It was an everlasting covenant.

Also, there is a Middle Eastern food that the Arabs call Dukkah.  Dukkah is a mix of spices and salt and sometimes nuts that is all mixed and ground together – it is to be eaten with bread that has been dipped in oil.  You don’t eat salt by itself!  In the New Testament Jesus says, ‘I am the bread of Life!’ and to us He says we are to be the ‘salt of the earth.’  Ever tried eating salt by itself?  Would be pretty disgusting.  Yet, the Arabs will dip their bread in the dukkah mix of spices and salt and eat the salt with the bread.

It is an interesting thought that it is useless for us to be ‘salt’ by ourselves without first being dipped with the ‘bread’.  In a sense we should be not only the ‘power’ of God on earth but we are also the preservers – we should be (not discounting the fact that God is Sovereign and will preserve His own name) the ones that proclaim the Name of God for all time.

READ:    Leviticus 3:1-17

The ‘Peace Offering’

 

As a kid growing up on the farm there was a handful of occasions when my folks killed a cow for ‘home-grown’ meat.  The butcher came out to the property, did the deed and then came back a few days later to chop up the animal into its respective parts.  I hated it!

I still remember sitting at the table an uncountable number of times and being forced to eat this fatty meat which I absolutely detested.  I tried to throw it under the table; or go for needed toilet stops (to spit out the fatty bits stored in my cheeks).  To this day I’m still not a big fan of beef, especially rare, medium-rare, or medium cooked steaks.  The idea of eating half cooked meat in addition to fatty meat disgusts me.  I’m continuously saying that there is only one way to cook meat – the Biblical way…as burnt offerings.

I should have drawn my parents attention to Leviticus 3:17.  What was good for the Hebrews should have been good for me too.  You are not to eat the fat and the blood.  Now, of course, such laws are no longer laws that pertain to us.  You are not disobeying God and breaking a covenant if you eat fat or ‘rarely-cooked’ steak – don’t ask me why anyone in their right minds would want to though???!!!

So, why weren’t the people to eat the blood and the fat.  I guess there could have been a slight motivation of health, as we discover in a lot of Levitical laws, blood is not at all healthy, unless you are a vampire (that is a joke…I’m not serious), and everyone is out for ‘lean’ meat now because of health reasons, but I doubt that health is the only motivation for not eating these animal parts.

We learn elsewhere in Leviticus (17:10-11) that the blood is not to be eaten because it is the life of an animal and God has dedicated that part to the act of atoning for His people.  A life for a life, as it were.  The blood was for a special purpose.  So also was the fat.  On every occasion with every offering that involved an animal the fat was to be offered to God – it was never to be eaten.  Someone has suggested (Hartley, WBC: Leviticus) that the fat was symbolic of the animal’s strength – something that only God could ultimately give and take away.  Whatever the reason was, God had dictated that both the blood and the fat were His – really, that should be reason enough.  A certain proportion God would give back to the people but the rest (blood and fat) was to be His no matter what the situation was.

Its probably a good reminder of a distinction between God’s and Ours.  Essentially, everything we have in the first place is because God has granted it as a gift.  But, are there things in life that God hasn’t allowed and yet we still try to take anyway?  May I suggest that anything whereby you need to use manipulation and conniving to get may not be rightfully yours in the first place.  Just a thought!

READ:    Leviticus 4:1-21

Two ‘sin offering’ scenarios.

It is a very worthwhile time to note, if you haven’t noticed this already, a particular action that occurs when an animal is offered as the sacrifice – as is the case of these two circumstances.  It may depend upon the version that you read from as to how obvious this action is described.  Essentially, it boils down to the fact that it is up to the guilty person that has brought the offering to lay their hands on the animal’s head…and to kill it (vs. 4, 15).  That is up close and personal!

I’ve watched animals being killed.  A swift hit with an axe that turned into a few attempted swift hits  (for a chicken); a shovel to a snake; a quick breaking/wringing of the neck; I’ve seen them done but I would find it hard to do myself.  Too hands on and personal for my licking and comfort zone.  When the Israelites brought their offerings because of their guilt due to some wrong doing, it seems they had to kill the animal themselves.  Because the blood was to be separated for the sacrificial purposes the killing was generally done by slitting the throat and letting the animal bleed.  Sounds nasty, ay!  I guess the process magnified the guilt in the hand of the guilty.

Can you imagine yourself standing over a lamb, slitting its throat???

Can you imagine yourself killing God???

Although you may not have physically cut His throat, Jesus, the Son of God, died because of you.  It is true, He died willingly, but He died because of your guilt.  ‘He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So he opened not his mouth’ – Is 53:7.  Throughout history the Jews have been condemned for killing Jesus; although they may have physically cried for Him to be crucified at that exact point in the space and time continuum, and although it was the Romans that hammered the nails, in many ways they were just echoing the actions of our own guilt.  Jesus, the Son of God became your lamb and He died because of your guilt and He bore your sins upon His head – if you ask me, that is up close and personal.

Such a thought is not meant to make you feel guilty all over again; such a thought is supposed to humble you to the point of praising God for being that selfless servant that became a man and played the lamb even to the point of death for you!

READ:    Leviticus 4:22-35

Two more ‘sin offering’ scenarios

I just want to share a quick thought for today’s reading.  You may have already noticed this thought as you read through the instructions of the previous offering situations.  This chapter demonstrates it quite well though.

As you progress through the different stages of this chapter it is broken into sections of explaining how the offering should be conducted depending on the person brining the offering.  The first person (vs. 3-12) is the case of a priest; then the entire nation (vs. 13-21); next is the case of a gulty ruler (vs. 22-26); finally it is the case of ‘any old soul’ (vs. 27-35).

Different animals are to be brought depending on who the offending party was – the more important you became, the higher the standard of animal.  Eg. bulls for the priests and the nation; a male goat kid for the ruler; and finally just a female kid or lamb for the ‘any old soul’.  In other cases, sometimes a number of different animals could be brought so that the offending party had every opportunity to make the sacrifice.  The common people had a number of options (lamb or a goat kid) and the animal only had to be a female (the male animals were more popular in the sacrifices); the King had to bring a male goat kid – which is more specific and probably harder to attain; the congregation and the priests had to bring a young bull (which would have been an even rarer animal amongst these shepherds).  In the case of some other offerings, if the worshipper couldn’t afford the sheep or goats etc. they could simply bring two birds; if he couldn’t even do that then it was possible to just offer grain (see chapter 5).

God is gracious!  I think God knows what is in our means to give and only expects us to be able to contribute what we have avaiable to us.  There is certainly a principle of ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ in the sense that the higher the person was the more important their offering had to be – but I don’t think those expectations were outside their ability to meet.

Is it possible (I personally think it is very prevalent)  that we place blanket expectations of service, attendance, giving, sacrifice, and work on all people within a church culture???  We expect to see the single mother at church every Sunday just as we expect to see the retired couple sitting in the same seats every week?  We expect the busy, travelling businessman who has a young family to get involved in every homegroup, men’s meeting, morning prayer time and Sunday service.

I’m not trying to state God’s expectations of people, I just want to suggest that maybe God is more gracious with His practical expectation of people than we are ourselves.

READ:  Leviticus 5:1-6:7

‘Guilt Offerings’

I know, quite a big selection to read and somewhat repetitive.  It is important, though, that you notice some of those repeated ideas.  For instance, one of the big themes of this reading was an ignorance of the wrong doings and the guilt that resulted in a realization of the wrong.

Take the example of vs. 2.  Someone has touched something that was unclean – therefore, they officially should have been unclean themselves.  But at the time they didn’t know that what they touched was unclean and so they didn’t know that they were unclean and they went about life without undertaking the proper purification steps (we’ll read about all that soon).  It is true that they had always been unclean and yet they had not realized their guilt – now that they realized their guilt, steps had to be taken and a ‘guilt offering’ was made.

The next example, in vs. 3, is very similar.  The person must deal with their guilt once it has become known.  Vs. 4 talks of someone that ignorantly makes a stupid vow and then, once he has known of his stupidity, become guilty under the law – his guilt must be dealt with.

And so the examples continue.

Reminds me of something the Apostle Paul said in Romans 7:7-8, ‘What shall we say then?  Is the Law sin?  May it never be!  On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “You shall not covet.”  But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sins is dead.’

When there is no law can someone be tried for their wrongs?  Paul says that a Law must exist, and a knowledge of that law, before someone can be deemed guilty for their actions…seems to also be the practice of Leviticus

READ:  Leviticus 6:8-13

‘Burnt offerings” – Priestly instructions.

The rest of chapter 6 and all of chapter 7 complete the instructions regarding the offerings.  Yes, we’ve already read about all of these but this time they are approached from the perspective of the priests.  Previously the instructions related to how the offering was supposed to be brought and the general steps of making the offering; now the instructions relate to how the priest was to prepare and process each of the offerings.

 

First, notice the specific steps the priest was to take in vs. 10-11.  After the offering had been burnt, the priest, who was dressed in his white linen priestly garments, was to take the ashes off the altar and place them beside the altar.  Then, this is especially important, he was to change his clothes and take the ashes outside the camp and place them in a ‘clean’ place.  The priest’s white linen garments were holy and ‘sanctified’; they had been set apart for use only in the tabernacle/temple and could not be used for anything else.  That is a good illustration of part of the meaning taught by holiness and sanctification – something that is set apart, distinguished and used for a special purpose.

 

The other thing you must notice, a repeated emphasis of this passage is that the altar’s fire had to be kept burning (vs. 9, 12, 13).  Jewish tradition states that the fire that comes down from God (Lev 9:34) was kept burning on the temple altar.  There are a number of suggestions as to why this was supposed to be a continual fire that never went out – generally they relate to the idea that it reminds the people that God is always present and they are always in need of atonement.  I love what Charles Wesley wrote in one of his hymns.

O thou who camest from above

The pure celestial fire to impart

Kindle a flame of sacred love

On the mean altar of my heart.


There let it for Thy glory burn

With inextinguishable blaze

And trembling to its source return

In humble prayer and fervent praise.

 

I think that is a great point to ponder and prayer to pray for this day!

READ:  Leviticus 6:14-23

“Grain offerings” – Priestly Instructions

 

This passage records an interesting variation between the grain offering of a non-priestly person in comparisson to the grain offering of the priests (the twice daily offering).

One of the key principles of the sacrifices and offerings is the very obvious point that it is a ‘sacrifice’.  Depending on the situation, some of the items to be sacrificed were the very core of the nations substance and daily existence.  It wasn’t just a  matter of selecting one of the 200 bulls from the paddok – to sacrifice a bull for many would have substantially impacted their wealth.  To make an offering was to make a sacrifice.

Now, in many cases the priest was allowed (expected) to eat a certain potion of the people’s sacrifices.  It is quite possible that these potions became their daily food while serving in the temple.  How would it have been if they benefited from their own offerings???  It would almost be like they had a hidden agenda in making their ‘sacrifices’ – in the long term they would reap the benefits.  When they offered their own grain offering it was to be entirely burnt.

I think that is an important principle to apply in our own lives – when we make a sacrifice (take financial offerings and gifts to the church for example) we make it under the principle that we leave all claim behind.  We don’t expect to have some long term pay outs; we don’t expect to personally beneft; we don’t expect to receive great recognition – we make a sacrifice with no selfish motives.  We burn our ‘stakes’ on the altar of our sacrifice.

Even with our own lives, which we present as a ‘living sacrifice’ (Romans 12:1), we so often are quick to claim it back to do with as we please.  When we give an offering and make a sacrifice we must do so unselfishly!

 

(P.S. Sorry this was a late posting)

READ:  Leviticus 6:24-7:10

‘Sin & Guilt Offerings’ – Priestly Instructions

Remember, these passages record specifically how the priests were affected by the offerings.  This particular reading flows somewhat from yesterday’s observation about certain offerings of which the priests were banned to eat.  This time the offerings relate to specific wrongs and guilts.  Vs. 30 of Chp. 6 says that any offering having had blood brought into the tent of meeting and sprinkled in the holy place had to be entirely burnt, it too could not be eaten by the priest.

If you take a look at the instructions of Chapter 4, there were two offerings of which the blood was sprinkled before the veil of the Holy Place.  Those offerings were for the priests (4:3) and for the entire congregation (4:13).  Again, we have the same issue of the grain offering – the priest would be eating a sacrifice that was made on his behalf.

The other issue with this partiucular style of offering is the phrase in vs. 29, ‘It is most holy’.  Because the offering was holy it could only be eaten in a certain place, by certain people, under certain circumstances.  If the person eating the offering wasn’t made holy then the offering would come of no effect.  And so, whenever an offering was made on behalf of the priest it was entirely burnt.

READ:  Leviticus 7:11-38

“Peace Offerings” – Priestly Instructions

 

I’ve just sat down after helping to clean out our fridge.  I know that cheese is reportedly supposed to get better with age (even though I have dutch blood I hate aged cheese) but did you know that cheese can grow so much fur that it looks like a big cotton ball?!  At least with cheese it is expected to get old and still be understandable; but not so with meatloaf – meatloaf should not be left for any length of time…it becomes a marshland of mold.

Imagine keeping a meatloaf for three days without a fridge (even my strong stomach couldn’t handle that).  Verse 18 is a great illustration of the holiness idea in Leviticus.  If there was any of the food portion of the Peace offerings left over by day three it was to be burned!  If the people so much ventured an attempt at eating this now ‘unclean’ food (see chapter 11 for the same use of ‘abomination’) then the offender would become guilty of a wrongdoing; he would ‘bear guilt’ for his eating of the unclean animal.  I love the practical nature of this clean/unclean system of the Law.  This was to keep the people as complete and perfect as possible (disease was not considered clean and would defile a person – they weren’t ‘whole’ and so could not be ‘holy’).

But this abuse of the food even went a step further than just ‘uncleaning’ the eating party.  This abuse of the offering would even annul it’s effect in the eyes of God.  ‘It shall not be accepted, nor shall it be imputed’.  God set a standard for His people – a standard of health, holiness, and if nothing else it was a standard of obedience.  If that standard was broken then everything that hinged upon what the offering was suppose to accomplish was undone.

It reminds me of the unforgivable sin.  If the very foundation of that which brings us forgiveness before God is undermined/denied/rejected then how can the forgiveness be completed.  If we have no faith in the person and work of both Jesus and the Holy Spirit (the foundations of God forgiving work) then how could we ever expect to experience forgiveness – we have turned our back on the very thing that brought that forgiveness – therefore it is the only act that would be unforgivable.

 

As a side, it is interesting to compare the mention of the offering being associated with vows with Acts 21:17-27.

READ:  Leviticus 8:1-13

Preparation of the Priests

The scene now changes to a new section in Leviticus.  Everything has been working towards these next three chapters.  In these chapters the priest hood is dedicated and their ministry begins.  This is one of the few narratives in the entire book.

Take note of the use of oil in vs. 10-13.  If you were to follow the use of oil throughout the Scriptures you would note that it is often used as a form of preparation – if nothing else it was at least a sing of preparation/dedication.  In a practical sense oil was used as a sweet smelling odorizer.   It would almost be like when we get out of the shower and spray deodorant – we are preparing ourselves for what is about to come.

The temple and high priest were being prepared for their service.  They were about to be put into full time service – their most important mission and role in life – and so they were prepared and symbolically dedicated for that roll by the sprinkling of oil.

The apostle James talks about using oil to prepare in James 5:14.  If anyone was sick they could call for the elders who would pray and anoint the person with oil.  It was a symbol to say we are preparing this person to be well again because we have faith in God hearing our prayers.

Maybe, in our often reserved culture, we shy away from publicly giving testament of our dedication to God.  Maybe we could do more public, symbolic oil sprinkling and dedication?!?!

As you read on over the next few days, keep in mind that these three chapters are all a series of events that occurred in close succession.

READ:  Leviticus 8:14-30

Dedication Sacrifices

READ:  Leviticus 8:31-36

Seven Days of Ordination

 

There is an interesting concept in this particular reading.  The first day of the dedication ceremony has been completed, but that is just the beginning.  The priests are instructed to continue a ritual of sacrifices and cleansing for themselves for the next seven days.  ‘…for it will take seven days to ordain you.’ – ESV

Seven is an interesting number throughout Leviticus; it is used some 28 times.  Sometimes it is just used to define a particular day of the month; most often though it is referring to a seven day period – generally this is a cleansing period, eg. woman have given birth and around menstruation (12:2; ch 15), people/clothes/houses with diseases (ch. 13-14), a lamb/calf was to remain with its mother for at least 7 days before it could be separated (22:27).

For me, the use of seven in these contexts denotes the idea of completeness (the world was completely created in seven days).  In such a serious deal as dedicating the priests to their holy roles it wasn’t just enough to have a simple ceremony – this had to be complete in every possible way.  It took seven days for the priests to be totally dedicated to God.

I think, in modern church culture, our dedication to God is kind of a one day affair – Sunday.  Our dedication to God should be complete it should be seven day affair.

 

READ:  Leviticus 9:1-24

On the Eighth Day

After spending seven days confined to the temple competing their consecration the priests officially begin their public ministry.  They have been completely consecrated and separated for their roles and so there was one task left – to complete the process for the entire camp.  So, offerings are brought on behalf of the priests and on behalf of all the people.  This is the first occasion when Aaron and the priests make the offerings themselves, up till now Moses had been conducting the sacrifices for the priests.

One would have thought that with the offering made for the priests on day one (the same offerings made on day eight); and with the seven days of consecration, the priests would have been ready to serve God in the temple.  Yet, there was still the need for more offerings!  In fact, burnt offerings were to be offered every morning and every evening – there was no end to the need for these offerings.

“And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.”  “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.”  “…We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:11, 4, 10)

How great is it to live under the auspices of the New Covenant.  Knowing that our very being has been purged on a once for all occasion.  There is no longer a need to offer sacrifices for our sins because that was done sufficiently by the sufficient Lamb of God with a single sufficient sacrifices that could truly take away all our sins.  The further beauty of Jesus sacrifice that makes it far greater than the regular offerings of the priests was that it cleansed every part of our being.  It wasn’t just a forgiveness for our individual sinful acts – Jesus’ sacrifice cleansed the fact that we are sinful by nature.

Thank you God for your perfect Lamb offered ONCE as the perfect atonement for my life!

READ:  Leviticus 10:1-7

Unholy Offering

Finally, an actual story 🙂  Not a very positive one at that though!   I would suggest that amongst the words of this story is the key verse of Leviticus.  Verse 3, “By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified.” Leviticus is all about the people knowing how they are to live in the presence of God; God is holy and so they must live to God’s set standards of holiness.  The laws and regulations was an attempt to keep the people holy before God and always focused on Him and His character.

This story is an example of two priests that failed miserably in regarding the holiness of God and approaching Him correctly.  These two sons of Aaron offered something that God had not told them to do; they tried to incorporate their own practice into God’s system.  It is very possible that their ‘profane fire’ (also translated as ‘alien/foreign fire’) was a remnant of the Hebrew’s stay in the Egyptian culture.

Because of their disrespect, God struck them dead (with fire nonetheless).  Notice that the priests that had to dispose of the bodies were careful not to touch the dead men but to ‘carry them by their garments’ otherwise they would have become unclean (as we shall soon read in Leviticus).

I think this story is an important reminder to respect the holiness of God.  We, praise God, have been granted an eternal holy standing before God through Jesus Christ.  But if you take Jesus’ work from our lives (if that were some how possible) then where would we be left before that still same holy God?!?  And so, as wonderful as Jesus’ once for all sacrifice is and what has been accomplished for us through that gift, we must be humbly reminded that on our own steam we have the same fate as Nadab and Abihu when we stand before God as unholy creatures.

It is an important reminder that amongst all our praises and fellowship with God we must be humble to remember our place but for the Messiah.

READ:  Leviticus 10:8-11

Warning to Priests

This is such an interesting passage.  Simply stated, God warns the priests (directly through Aaron for a change), not to drink wine while on duty because it will cloud their judgement.  The priests had a particular role to play as priests; they were to distinguish between what was clean and unclean and they were to teach the people.  Can you imagine a stone drunk priest trying to tell if the lamb was perfect and without blemish when he was already seeing double.  Or can you imagine the priest trying to teach a congregant the ‘Lewiticel Lawsh’.

Even just in these three verses we have rather a clear statement of the role of the priests – to distinguish between the clean and unclean and to teach the people.  But along with that statement of roles comes an introduction to the next section of Leviticus.  From here we lead into verse after verse of what would and wouldn’t constitute cleanness in the camp.  It was important that the priest could live by these laws himself as well as be able to teach them.

There is a practical nature to this principle for our lives also.  The fear was that the priests would loose their senses and not live as they were supposed to be living – they would somehow slip up because the dulling affect of ‘strong drink’.  Although the Scriptures don’t condemn drinking alcohol altogether [this passage directed to the priests would probably be the closest you could get to it] it is still a fair warning of what alcohol has the potential to do for anyone.  It can still dull our senses [even if we aren’t yet drunk] to the point where we begin to ‘relax’ and have difficulty distinguishing between right and wrong.

Drinking isn’t a sin but please be wise about it – no one wants to see you have one too many and take one step too close!

 

READ: Leviticus 10:12-20

Aaron Confronts Moses

READ:  Leviticus 11:1-23

Clean and Unclean Animals

We’ve just finished reading about the role that the priests had to distinguish between the unclean and the clean (10:10).  Now we launch into a number of chapters that expound on what is considered clean and unclean.  Today I want to share a thought on the practical nature of this chapter, tomorrow I want to share a thought from a spiritual nature.

We’ve noted already that a number of practices played a pracical roll in Jewish life (eg. the eating of food and the giving of food to priests).  It has long been thought that this list of animals that were kosher for the Jews played an important role of health regulation.  Many of the animals that are considred unclean did themselves have a higher risk of being unclean – literally and religously.  The pig is one well known literal example; many of the birds are carnivours – they would feed on the carcasses of other dead animals; other animals were forigers and had an unclean way about life – flies for instance.  It is also important to note that if one of these animals had touched another dead animal then they too would most likely have been unclean (we read later about a dead rat that falls on a pot makes the pot unclean).  So there was a very practical aspect to stop the spread of germs, bacteria and disease.  The ‘Creator’ God knew what was and was not healthy for His special people.

So why do we eat these animals today?  The truth is, no one is making you eat them – you don’t have to if you don’t want to.  The more important point to make is that no one is stopping you from eating them.  This system of clean and unclean animals is no longer a matter of sin and unholiness.  You may remember the vision given by God to the Apostle Peter.  Have a quick read in Acts 11:1-18.

Also, compare the whole subject to this passage from Romans 7:1-8 (NET)

‘Or do you not know, brothers and sisters (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law is lord over a person as long as he lives?

For a married woman is bound by law to her husband as long as he lives, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of the marriage.  So then, if she is joined to another man while her husband is alive, she will be called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she is joined to another man, she is not an adulteress.

So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you could be joined to another, to the one who was raised from the dead, to bear fruit to God.  For when we were in the flesh, the sinful desires, aroused by the law, were active in the members of our body to bear fruit for death.  But now we have been released from the law, because we have died to what controlled us, so that we may serve in the new life of the Spirit and not under the old written code.’

So, I’m not about to go chow down on a rock badger, nor am I going to munch on any locusts (even though they are clean and have been very numerous around here), but neither am I going to stop enjoying pork!

READ:  Leviticus 11:24-47

Unclean and Clean People

We just read yesterday about the animals that were considered edible for the Hebrews and the animals that were an ‘abomination’.  This passage reflects on more of those animals but also adds the extra dimension of the person being made unclean by the eating and touching of certain dead animals.

It is important to note that holiness and uncleanness were not always an issue of salvation; a person who was unclean because they touched a dead body did not need to offer sacrifices and receive atonement.  Being holy as God was holy is simply a matter of being complete – living up to the purpose for which you had been designed.  You don’t wear a shirt to work that has been stained with ink from the day before – it would be considered an ‘unclean’ shirt – it is not fitting its purpose.

The Israelites were called by God to be a sanctified (separated) people – they were to be different from those around them.  By following these clean and unclean laws the people were reflecting their special distinctions (distinctions that were practical and symbolic in the nature of the animals that were considered unclean).  If the separation wasn’t being fulfilled then they weren’t being the people that God had designed them to be.

But these distinctions went far beyond what could be seen on the outside by someone looking in.  Jesus Himself said that it wasn’t the outward actions that defiled a person but it was the heart that ultimately determined the defilement of an individual (Matthew 15:17-20).  In many ways, these ceremonial and ritual laws tested the hearts of the people.  Would their faith motivate them to obey?  Would their hearts follow God and show a concern for His calling; or would they disregard God and reveal their defilement?  It was always an issue of the heart; even though man may be concerned with what is on the outside, God’s concern has always been the heart (I Sam 15:7).

God’s concern is still with our hearts!

Check out Hebrews 8:8-13, could this passage refer to the ‘new heart’ as talked of in Ezekiel 36:26?

READ:  Leviticus 12:1-8

Uncleanness in Childbirth

This is quite a passage!  An explanation of a woman being considered unclean for between 40 (for boys) and 80 (for girls) days after giving birth.  This chapter actually changes perspective on the clean and unclean laws by shifting focus from outward influences that would ‘defile’ a person (in the previous chapter) to inward occurrences that would cause a person to be considered unclean and therefore unholy.  Remember, of course, that a state of uncleanness was not always an issue of having or losing salvation; uncleanness was an issue of not being whole and as complete as was expected and therefore was ritually considered unholy.

After giving birth a woman was considered unclean and could transmit that uncleanness for the period of her’customary impurity’ (which relates to the same length of unclean time during ‘each month’); after that 7/14 day period she became unclean only in the sense that she could not eat of holy food or go into the temple.

I guess one of the biggest questions of this passage is why childbirth was an occassion to be considered unclean!?!  Maybe, the best suggestion would be the symbolism of the loss of blood after childbirth.  It was through blood that atonement was bought (17:11) but at the same time a loss of blood (which has been medically suggested happens longer at the birth of a female that a male) pictured a loss of life – it was a state of incompleteness – therefore a picture of unholiness.

In light of blood being both essential and ‘defiling’ one commentator makes an interesting point that ‘Our greatest woes result from the corruption of our highest good.’ (Wenham, NICOT)

Things in life that have the greatest of potential for blessing and perfection can also be tools for curses and pollution.  Take speech for example – from the same use of the tongue flows both blessing and cursing (James 3:1-12).  For these areas in life to be considered practically holy they were to be used for the purpose they were created – the purpose of the tongue is not to degrade mankind.

It is an interesting exercise to think through the many practices and gifts of life and to ponder how we can ‘redeem’ those areas towards practical holiness.

 

READ:  Leviticus 13:1-28

Skin Disease Diagnosis

READ:  Leviticus 13:29-46

Skin Disease Diagnosis (cont.)

So far the chapter has been dealing with the discovery and diagnosis of skin diseases (there is debate as to whether the Hebrew actually refers to leprosy becasue this same ‘disease’ could be found in clothing and houses, it also doesn’t fit a medical description of leprosy symptoms; whatever the passage refers to it must have been a very unpleasant disease).  There are a number of different cases thoughout this chapter; in each case there is a general flow of how the problem is to be addressed.  1) a preliminary statment of the symptoms; 2) an inspection by the priests; 3) the specific symptoms on which the priest would base his diagnosis; 4) the priest’s diagnosis and treatment.

If a person had (after a second and possibly a third visit) been diagnosed as unclean then verses 45-46 explain the actions that were to follow.  Firstly the infected person was to ruffle his hair, tear his clothes, cover his lip, and walk around crying ‘Unclean! Unclean!’.  Secondly, if that wasn’t humbling and humiliating enough, the infected individual would have to live outside the camp/city.  These people were as good as dead to the rest of the world, they were cut off from the general life and society of the nation.  Their unclean state mean that they could not participate in the rituals and customs of the nation (including the sacrifices) becasue they could not approach the temple; even if they could make it to the temple they couldn’t sacrifice the lamb or bread becasue even if they just touched the animal it became unclean.

Imagine the life of such people.  Imagine a day just outside a small village.  Ten lepers stand a distance off the road as a crowd of people walk past, a crowd that includes the now famous Jesus.  “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us,” the lepers called to Jesus.  Jesus turned aside and instructed them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.”  Showing themselves to the priests was as we have just read the step they were to take to see if they could be cleansed and considered clean once again.  As they found their way to the priests the story says that they were cleansed of their disease.  One man came back to Jesus (a Samaritain nonetheless).  He praised God with a loud voice, fell at Jesus’ feat and thanked Him.  “Where are the other nine?”  Jesus asked, “Where there not ten men who were cleansed?  Is this the only man who turns back to give praise to God?”  And you have got to love the words with which Jesus parted.  “Your faith has made you well!” (could be translated ‘your faith has saved you’).

I don’t think we can begin to imagine the sheer joy and relief that these men must have experienced; there was nothing that could cure them – there was next to nill hope of them ever being considered as clean and righteous and holy.  They all had a sense of faith becasue they called on God to save them and took Him for His word; because of that faith they were healed of their disease but only one of these men came back to thank Jesus – and he did so with loud praises to God.

Stop what you are thinking and give praise to God (loud praise if you wish).

Our sin, Levitical sacrificial religion or not, has made us unholy before God – we have been cast out and separated from Him.  But faith, the same faith that spritually saved a leper in Moses day, the same faith that spiritually saved the leper in Jesus’ day (Luke 17) has aslo given you spiritual cleansing and healing.  Spend a moment to thank Jesus and glorify God – He deserves every bit of it!

 

P.S. Sorry this was posted so late in the day.

READ:  Leviticus 13:47-59

Diseased Clothing

It is quite amazing to think about the Sovereignty of God.  We’ve mentioned before the practical essence to many of these laws in Leviticus.  These laws (including some in the next chapter) deal with cleanliness even in a person’s clothes.  Obvioulsy, we know now what God knew then but the world did not properly discover until the late 1800 – the existence of germs and the curbing of disease in sanitation.  In a time when a bloody apron was the mark of a good doctor, Florence Nightingale introduced sanitation to hospitals.

I don’t offer anything profound with today’s reading other than to say that as far as I can see, instructions such as we have just read don’t come from man.  No man could lay down guidelines as to whether or not a garmet should be destroyed or simply washed depending on the response of some ‘growth’ – many may not have even cared up to 150 years ago.  It is amazing to ponder the Creator’s Sovereignty in revealling these very partiucalr steps to His chosen people in the law.

READ:  Leviticus 14:1-32

Leper Cleansing

The number seven occurrs some 43 times throughout the book of Leviticus (second in frequency only to Genesis).  The Jews believed that these numbers had significance and meaning in what they pictured.  Certainly, as you read through the instructions of Leviticus – especially the instructions relating to the treatment of skin diseases – seven days is a popular time to wait until purification.  It has been said that the number 7 is God’s perfect number.  Maybe so (my brother used to love the fact that he was born on the 7th and he was over the moon when he turned seven).  In Seven days God completely created the world and rested (Genesis 1); it took seven days of being shut up in the temple for the priests to complete their ordination (8:33); seven days completed an unclean period (12:2; ch. 13, 14, 15); seven days a calf had to remain with its mother before it could be sacrificed; and there are so many multiples of seven thoruhgout the structure, length and dates of the feasts (Lev 23).  For the leper, whether he was being diagnosed (ch. 13) or cleansed (ch. 14) seven days held his future in balance – would he be considered complete and clean?  Or would he be cast out of the camp?  Seven carries the significance of completion – so many things are completed in seven days or with seven sprinkles.

So maybe these seven days of waiting outside the camp + another seven days of waiting outside one’s tent, then finally, an offering made to begin a new stage of life on day eight are all significant in the picture of God expecting the people to be ‘complete’, to be ‘holy’.

How’s your service; how’s your worship?  Is it ‘complete’?  Does your dedication last for a completed time each week or is it only a fractional committment of your life?

 

See also:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_symbolism#The_symbolic_values_of_numbers

http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=366&letter=N

READ:  Leviticus 14:33-57

Diagnosis and Cleansing of Houses

It is amazing to think that in this passage we see that God is not only concerned with the completeness, cleanliness and holiness of his people but that it relates also to items and even houses within the nation.  There are times when items are dedicated and ‘cleansed’ before God (Exodus 29, Leviticus 8).  These items are separated from what makes them unclean and sanctified, or dedicated, to God.  I guess that is the same of what goes on in this passage also.

Of course there are health reasons for how this disease is treated when found in houses, as we’ve mentioned so much already and will continue to see.  People that enter the house have to follow set rules of waiting or washing to make sure that they too are clean – again, health reasons.  There is also a spiritual picture of what is happening.  A picture of everything in life, including one’s house, being separated and dedicated to God as holy.

The real issue to think through in this passage though, comes from verse 34, a passage in which God says that He has placed the leperous disease within the house.  I don’t want to say too much because that simple verse and statement is sermon material.  You have to at least acknowledge God’s sovereignty in every area of life, even in the areas that seem distressing for us – God knows and God is in control.

 

READ:  Leviticus 15:1-18

Male Discharges

Wow, what does one say to that without going into interesting territory.  Let me be a little blunt and bold and just share a thought or two about the last three verses – even more particularly vs. 18.  If a man and woman sleep together they need to wash and then they will be unclean until evening.

Obviously, this whole chapter is a great example, as we continue to see, about the practical hygenic health regulations of the law.  But remember, these laws also had a spiritual significance.  Unclean people were not allowed to take part in the religious ceremonial rites of the nation.

This passage is made all the more interesting when you compare it with Exodus 19:15.  In Exodus, the people were about to see God’s glory descend on the mountain and the instruction was that they couldn’t go near a woman (do I need to explain what that means?!?).  Why not?  I mean, isn’t sex in the right context OK?  Sex between husband and wife isn’t unholy!  It isn’t unrighteous is it???  So why were these instructions given?  Why did they have to abstain when they were to take part in the temple proceedings???

I would suggest that the answer comes in a form of focus.  Rather than focusing so much on each other you take the opportunity to focus on God.  Imagine a newly married couple on their honeymoon, they kind of have all their thoughts and focus on each other – that is why they go on a honeymoon, they can be alone for some time.  Try to factor God into that whole mix and He is almost taking a back seat.

The Apostle Paul probably explains this far better in the first few verses of I Corinthians 7, maybe he even had these passages is mind.  Here he talks of a benefit in a husband and wife fasting from sexual relations with each other – a form of spiritual renewal and growth by fasting.  Of course, he warns that you don’t let that allow either of you to fall into temptation and commit a sin (you’ve got to read ALL of the six verses).

So, does this all say that sex is wrong?  Not in the slightest (in the right relationship of course)!  The point is, just like sex can become a distraction, it can also be used as a tool of focus!

READ:  Leviticus 15:19-33

Female Discharges

READ:  Leviticus 16:1-10

Day of Atonement Pt. 1

Verse 1 sets the scene of this passage, right after the events of chapter 10 when Aaron’s two sons had been struck dead because they did not properly prepare before the Holiness of God.  So now, Aaron is given very specific instructions as to how he can approach the holy place – he is given very specific instructions as to how he must prepare to come before a holy God.

Chapter 16 relates instructions to one of the most central events in the religious life of the Hebrews – the Day of Atonement.  Some have suggested that this is the central chapter of Leviticus because it accounts the central event of their lives and practice.  Because God is such a holy God, as was practically witnessed when Aaron’s two sons were struck dead, even the Highest Priest was to guard how he approached God.  To enter the Holy of Holies was the closest that anyone could physically get to the presence of God – certain steps had to be taken, the priest had to properly prepare.

One of these preparation steps was to change his clothes.  This simple outfit – linen tunic, linen trousers, linen sash, linen turban – were different from his normal clothes (they are described in Exodus 28 and referred in Leviticus 8:7-9).  This particular outfit was very plain; probably even planer that that of the priests of whose outfits Exodus 28:40 says were made for ‘glory and beauty’.  This outfit is different; this outfit is very basic and doesn’t at all seem to be made for glory or beauty.

For so long the priest was to minister on behalf of the people; the High Priest was to be seen by the people as their mediator.  As Wenham so aptly puts it, ‘his splendid clothes draw attention to the glory of his office’ (NICOT p. 230).  On this particular occasion though the High Priest came before God with all humility.  Before man he was the HIGH priest; before God he was brought low, he was simple and plain and nothing special.  This man still had to bring offerings for himself before he could even begin to make offerings on behalf of the people (16:6).

I guess the thought occurs to me, as I’ve mentioned before and as I see more and more through Scripture, we must remain humble before God.  Maybe God, through Jesus, has given us a holiness that makes us worthy of His presence; maybe God has made us righteous and He treats us now as His children; maybe we have all right to boast in the work of God in us.  As the prophet Zechariah (3:4) once prophesied, ‘Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you and I will clothe you with pure vestments.’ Even still, we should never forget our place before God.  Take away the covering of Jesus that God sees us through and we are nothing more than dirty rotten rags that stand before a clean and pure God.  I think it is an important exercise and it does us well to ‘clothe ourselves with humility’ – to remind ourselves of our place before a Holy God.

“God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” – I Peter 5:5

 

READ:  Leviticus 16:11-19

Day of Atonement Pt. 2

This Day of Atonement was at the epitomy of the Hebrew calendar; the whole religious regulations seem to revolve around the actions of this day (even when the writer of the book of Hebrews looks back on the sacrifices this Day of Atonement is at the forefront of his mind).  In this particular reading we begin to see the process that the High Priest must follow in conducting this ultimate ritual of dealing with the nation’s sins.

First, the High Priest must prepare himself to stand before God; he must make a sacrifice on his own behalf.   So a sin offering of a bull is made by the priest for himself.  Then the priest brings a sin offering for the people – to cleanse the temple (from the inside to the outside – vs. 20) and to cleanse the nation.  As we will see in tomorrow’s reading, the final step is to lay all these sins and wrongs upon the head of the ‘scape goat’ and send it and its burden into the wilderness.  This is the central (possibly considered as a culminating) ceremony whereby everyone and everything is cleansed from the unholiness and sins of the year.  Here the High priest and his family are atoned for and atonement is made for the temple – except for specific instances (e.g. Lev 4:3 and the original dedication in chp 8-9), this is the only occassion when atonement is made for these holy items and people.

There is only one man that could stand between everything that represented the people and their method of holiness (being the temple sacrificial system) and God.  The High Priest was the only person that could play this role of mediator.  While this whole process was being conducted, no one was even allowed into the temple precinct, only one man could play this role.

Under both testaments there is but one mediator that could stand between humanity and God – in the Old Testament it was seen as the High Priest; in the New Testament we are told that there is still only one mediator between us and God.  There is still only one Way!  I Timothy 2:5-6 gives us a great verse to either conclude or inspire our thoughts for today.

“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all…”

READ:  Leviticus 16:20-34

The Day of Atonement Pt. 3

Now we read the instructions that concern the two ‘kid goats’ that were selected to be used as a sin offering (vs. 5), one became the ‘scapegoat’.  This is truly an amazing offering ritual.  The scapegoat isn’t a normal offering; the only time it is practiced is during this Day of Atonement.

The High Priest, after sprinkling the blood of the sin offering behind the veil in the presence of God, was to come out and complete the atonement of the people by laying both his hands on the head of the live goat and confessing the sins of all the people.  As the passage said, he was putting all the sins and failures of the people on the head of the goat.  And then the goat is sent far away into the wilderness.  This whole process is symbolic of the principles of Psalm 103:12, “As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”

There is a great passage in I John 3:5, ‘And you know that He was manifest to take away our sins…’  The role that Jesus has played on the cross is to fulfill, in part, the role played by the scapegoat.  Jesus has borne our sins upon His shoulders and He has removed them from sight forever.

The ‘taking away’ of such sins on a once for all basis means that with that removal our conscinece has been cleansed; there is no longer a reason for guilt.  There is no longer a need to feel guilt because the wrong has been removed as far as the east is from the west.  Sometimes there is a natural consequence depending on the seriousness and impact of our wrongs, a consequence that seems to contain a continual reminder of certain sins.  In such a case there needs to be a difference between the guilt that motivated our repentance and reminds us not to walk such a track again and a guilt that makes us feel like we are judged by God – when our sins have been forgiven by the blood of Jesus our guilt before God no longer exists.  Praise God!!!

READ:  Leviticus 17:1-9

Adhoc Sacrifices

Essentially, what this passage is addressing is idolatry.  Here, God presents a law through Moses that if anyone offers sacrifices outside of the temple they would be cut off and kicked out of the camp.

The passage considers two occassions. On the one hand a general killing of any sacrificial animals, even if it was just for the purpose of food.  In such a case, the offerer would bring the animal in the form of a peace offering – whereby there was a portion that the offer would take and eat for himself.  (Deuteronomy 12:20-21 later clarifies that when they enter the Promised Land and distance becomes a problem in having to travel to the temple simply to eat meat, then they can kill animals when and where they need).  On the other hand it also realted to the killing of animals partiucalarly for the purpose of sacrifice.

The motivation would seem to be made clear in verse 7.  Basically, such a law should stop the people from offering sacrifices to any other gods or idols but the One True God.  In essence this was a law to guard against idolatry.  Not only could they not sacrifice to any other gods because they were to only make sacrifices at the temple, but neither (while in the wilderness) could they secretly kill an animal for ‘devil worship’ and then just claim it was for the personal meat box.

There was one place where the people could go to make their sacrifices and conduct their worship.  They could not go to other worship centres and try to incorporate other gods there was one system, one standard, and one God!

The Apostle Paul seems to direct his thoughts back to this principle in I Corinthians 10:18-33.

Are there areas of your life that could be considered as eating ‘meat that has been sacrificed to idols’?

READ:  Leviticus 17:10-16

Life Blood

These six verses talk very simply about instructions that directly relate to the handling of blood.  For more than one obvious reason (least of all the mythical reason), there were no vampires amongst the Jews.  There were no ‘I don’t eat human blood just animal blood’ vampires.  The very idea of eating blood may be rather disgusting to many but God gave very specific warnings to the people that they were not to eat blood – blood of any sort.  In fact, God gave instructions almost to the point that they were supposed to respect the blood.

The reason was two fold.  First, the blood was considered to be the ‘life’.  Both verse 11 and verse 14 say exactly the same thing – life is in the blood, it is the blood that sustains life.  Therefore, to take away the blood was to take away one’s life.  Second, verse 11 says that the blood was the means of atonement before God.  Life for a life; both practically and symbolically one life (in the blood) was taken so that another life (in the soul) would be spared (vs. 11).

A price had to be paid for guilt; the price was death (at least in a spiritual and eternal sense, Gen 2:17); if the death price was paid by another then the guilt penalty had been satisfied.  Just as Hebrews 9:22 says, “Without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness of sins.” The problem was that the blood of bulls and goats only cost so much – it could not pay a once-for-all complete and perfect price for the deserved penalty.  That is why Jesus came, to pay the perfect and complete, once-for-all penalty in the giving of His blood.  (Hebrews 9-10)

Now, in a Divine twist of fate (I Cor 10:16), Jesus’ blood was given so we might live; but also, Jesus’ blood is symbolically eaten through the process of the Communion service.  As we are told by Jesus Himself (Luke 22:20), the blood reminds us of the New Covenant, the New Life, that we have in Jesus.  Life for a Life!  At Communion we drink the blood and it reminds us of the life that we are receiving in ourselves, a New Life through a New Covenant.  Now we drink of the symbol of life because God has literally given the life of Jesus in us (Col 1:27).

Christ has for sin atonement made;
What a wonderful Savior!
We are redeemed, the price is paid;
What a wonderful Savior!

I praise Him for the cleansing blood,
What a wonderful Savior!
That reconciled my soul to God.
What a wonderful Savior!

He cleansed my heart from all its sin,
What a wonderful Savior!
And now He reigns and rules therein;
What a wonderful Savior!

He gives me overcoming power,
What a wonderful Savior!
And triumph in each trying hour;
What a wonderful Savior!

To Him I’ve given all my heart:
What a wonderful Savior!
The world shall never share a part:
What a wonderful Savior!

What a wonderful Savior is Jesus, my Jesus!
What a wonderful Savior is Jesus, my Lord!

(“What a Wonderful Saviour” by Elisha Hoffman)

READ:  Leviticus 18:1-5

Be Different Introduction

The start of chapter 17 saw the beginning of a new major section in the book of Leviticus.  Chapters 17-20 deal with crimes and often their respective punishments as it relates to society in general; chapters 21 & 22 deal with crimes and the special laws that particularly relate to the priests.  This particular chapter, chapter 18, deals primarily with sexual sins.

The chapter begins and ends with a very straightforward explanation as to why these particular laws are established.  The nation they had come from, Egypt, and the nations in and around the land they were going to, Canaan, practiced these forbidden actions; often the practices of this chapter were found in religious and cultic rituals.

One might almost suggest that the motivations behind this chapter are three-fold.

First, that the people will be different.  God’s people were to be different, they were not to simply become like the other nations (vs. 3, 24, 26, 27, 29, 30).  They served a special God – the One True God – they were to be His people and He was to be their Lord (vs, 2, 4, 5, 6, 21, 30).  The Israelites were not to conform to the standards and practices of others, they were to set the standards and practices to which everyone else was to conform.  If everyone around them walked these forbidden paths but the Hebrews walked a different path, then they would stick out as being different.

Secondly, such laws and regulations should have kept the people from falling into the idolatrous traps of the surrounding heresies.  If these practices (child-sacrifice for instance) were intertwined into a local religion then it should have become blatently obvious that such a ‘god’ and his rituals were well off the mark of the One True God.  For instance, the very fact that Baal and Asherah (male and female Canaanite deities) worship involved a massive sexual orgy ritual in an attempt to initiate spring should have kept the Hebrews well away from such an idolatrous cult.  Sadly, the got caught up in such idolatry.

Finally, the passage reveals the moral depravity of such actions.  The last part of the chapter, vs. 24, 25, 27, 28, emphasizes that these practices have defiled the people which in turn has defiled the land.  Therefore the land is ‘vomitting’ these nations from its shores.  Of course, there is a divine aspect to this ‘vomitting’ in the sense that it is ultimatley God casting out these other nations becasue they have hit such a low moral bar.

 

This chapter presents an option, will you get caught up in the worship and the ways of the world or will you follow me, I am the Lord!?!

I guess that is a question that many of us still need to ask today.  Sometimes the question may be directed at an imoral/defiling aspect of our lives (e.g. sexual sins just as this chapter focuses on); sometimes the question may be directed at areas in our lives in which we are afraid to be different (e.g. voicing our convictions, ignoring peer pressure); sometimes the quesiton may be directed at an area of life that is leading us down a path that heads in the opposite direction to God (e.g. hours of TV watching at the expense of spending some time with God).

Will you follow the Lord or follow the world?

 

READ:  Leviticus 18:6-20

Sex Crimes

Not much needs to be said about this passage.  In case you are wondering, everything is covered.  Don’t sleep with anyone closely related to you, don’t sleep with your neighbour’s wife, don’t sleep with the same gender, and don’t get into beastality.

I guess the big question that is raised from this passage is how far do you take these laws?  How much must they relate to our culture today (this is partiuclarly relevent on the topic of homosexuality)?   If you want to abide by and impose these laws as a relevant moral code for today then what about the laws of the previous chapter; what about the laws of the following chapter; what about all the laws throughout Leviticus???

Remember the meaning of holiness?  Holiness is about being complete; holines is about being what God created us to be!  What did God say about a husband and wife in Geneseis 2:24?  They shall become ‘one’.  Any form of abuse of that partiuclar plan falls short of God’s set standards for completeness between a man and a woman.  If that marriage ‘oneness’ is broken by outside relationships then the standard of completeness (holiness) has been broken.  If any sexual union does not fit into the God ordained plan of completeness (man and woman), then that standard has still been broken.  The Apostle Paul reflects such thoughts when he makes reference to homosexuality in Romans 1:24-27.  Here Paul uses such words as ‘uncleaness’, ‘dishonour’, ‘vile passions’, ‘natural’; even in Pauls’ mind this practice was not at all according to God’s perfect and complete plan.

Now in some cases the laws and instructions given in Leviticus would seem to simply relate to the Jews being different to the other nations (some laregley served practical purposes such as not eating pork) – if these instructions were broken the people were not living up to God’s plan of completeness (holiness) – these laws related to the Hebrews.  Other instructions and laws given in Leviticus reflect God’s plan upon the whole of his creation – e.g. God’s perfect plan of unity between a man and woman.  Therefore, some of God’s levitical standards of holines related direclty to the Jews and to their being seperate and distinct; some related to God’s perfect plan for all of mankind and therefore transcend time and culture.

The New Testament upholds these laws of sexual crimes as a present standard of morality.  Many times the NT writers warn their readers to stay away from any form of sexual immorality (see Romans 1:27; 13:9; I Cor. 5:1ff; 10:7ff; Gal 5:19; Eph 5:3; Col 3:5; I Thes 4:3).  In a western culture to take a stand against many of these socially accepted practices is no longer only about upholing morality.  Such a stand is also becoming a point of difference between the church and the world – such a difference, makes the stand even harder to hold when it has become for many a solitary existance on a sexually moral square; yet this was the type of posture that the Hebrews were often called to make in many areas of life and practice.

“But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.” – Ephesians 5:3

READ:  Leviticus 18:25-30

Chapter Summary

READ:  Leviticus 19:1-8

General Social Laws

Is there anything about God that is not perfect?

Is there anything that God should have but doesn’t?

Is there anything wrong about God?

Is there anything that God lacks?

Is there any way that God could be improved?

Is there anything/anyone higher, greater, more powerful, or better than God?

Is there anything incomplete about God?

The answer to all those is a loud, resounding ‘NO!’  God is perfect and complete in every way, and although sometimes we may question or doubt Him, that doesn’t change His nature, it just means we don’t have a complete understanding of this complete Being.  God is complete and perfect in every way – God is Holy!

Now, what about humanity!

Is there ever a time when humanity is not perfect?

Is there anything that humans should do but don’t?

Is there anything wrong with humanity?

Is there anything humanity lacks?

Is there any way that the human race could be improved?

Is there anything/anyone higher, greater, more powerful, or better than you?

Is there anything incomplete about mankind?

The answer is a loud, resounding ‘YES!’  The very fact that the whole of humanity cannot agree on at least one single issue (at minimum) is argument enough to say that something is incomplete somewhere.  Aside from that, the fact that the human race and the entire world is bent by wrongs and tainted with evil is proof of the fact that we are not perfect and we are not complete – we are unholy!

“You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” It is with these words that God begins to speak to His audience with the instructions of chapter 19.  As you work through and meditate upon these instrucitons spend some time thinking about the angle of how ‘completness’ (e.g. holiness according the the completeness and perfection of God) fits into these verses.

For example, verse 4, ‘Do not turn to idols!’  At any point, the seemingly simple task of worshiping anyone or anything other than God is immediately not brining God the complete focus, love, service, attention, worship and committment that He deserves.  That is not even slightly completely fulfilling what God has created us to be.

Maybe it would be worth pondering what areas of your life are not ‘complete’ in the realm of God.  What areas of your life are not ‘holy’?

READ: Leviticus 19:9-18

Laws of Love

This passage contains such practical and foundational advise that can very easily be applied in every day situation – advise that transcends time and culture!  The cornerstone of this advice is the word ‘love’ as seen at the end of this verse selection (mentioned only twice in the whole of Leviticus…19:18, 34).  Contemplate the subjects and themes of each verse duet.

Verses 9-10:

The instruction is to provide for the needy.  Don’t be greedy in your harvests and keep every scrap and morsel for your barns but purposely leave a selection of your harvest so that down and out have a place to come find food.  Love those in need and show it by allowing provisions for them.

Verses 11-12

Deception towards others.  Whether it comes in the forms of outright robbery and blatant lies, or whether it comes in the form of broken promises and finger-crossing handshakes.  In purposely deceiving a fellow man there is no evidence of love just evidence of selfish ambition and self centeredness.

Verses 13-14

Taking advantage of others – especially people that are less fortunate.  Intentionally causing damage or injury to a fellow human, whether they are aware of it or not, is essentially a form of hate.  Certainly, there is no love involved in placing a shopping trolley in the path of an on-coming blind man; nor is there love in speaking evil of someone who hasn’t even got a chance to defend themselves.  If there is no love then at minimum there is indifference or at worst outright and intentional hate.

Verses 15-16

Unfair judgments in life are a terrible lack of love.  Maybe we don’t often pull punches in favor of the rich and famous or out of pity to the poor, but surely we are, every one of us, all too often guilty of spreading rumors about others.  The simple act of spreading rumors, particularly negative rumors, and telling tales about others is an act of making, or at least agreeing with, a judgment of their actions, personality and or motives.  Unless we have a full understanding of that other person, then it is highly likely that we are making an unfair judgment.  Honestly, if we truly loved such people would we make unfair judgments on their lives.  Unless you were 100% sure of a person’s guilt would you be willing to stand against their life?

Verses 17-18

It is all summed up in the opposite poles of love and hate.  ‘You shall not hate your brother/sister…but you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  To love another as you would love yourself has got to be one of the highest callings on life (may I suggest it to be second only to loving God).  None of the warnings given in the previous verses are actions of love, they evidence only a magnetic pull towards hate.  Neither are the topics mentioned in this duet…vengance, grudges, ignorance (in the sense of turning your back on someone that has wronged you).

The simplicity of these instructions just go to show that love for one another is to be the foundation of life – especially a holy life.  Reflect on the words of Paul and James that the law can be summed up in the command to love your neighbor as yourself (Gal 5:14; James 2:8).

READ:  Leviticus 19:19-25

Mixers

READ:  Leviticus 19:26-31

Laws of Separation

The laws of verses 27 & 28 are rather interesting: don’t shave around the sides of your head, don’t disfigure the edges of your beard, don’t make cuttings in your flesh, don’t get tattoos (which could simply refer to just painting the body)! Why are these given as laws and how should they relate to society today?

One must understand that, not only would these practices seem to be taking away from the ‘whole’ – e.g. disfigured beard, disfigured body, disfigured hair – but these practices were often associated with pagan rituals and religions.

For example, when Elijah had the showdown with Baal’s prophets on Mt. Carmel, they were ‘cut[ing] themselves, as was their custom, with knives and lanches, until the blood gushed out on them.’ (I Kings 18:28) Another ancient text talks of ‘El the Kind’ mourning for the Canaanite God Baal: ‘…cuts his skin with a razor; he cuts his cheeks and chin, he raked his arms with a reed, he plowed his chest like a garden, he raked his back like a valley.’ (Coonan, Stories from Ancient Canaan)

It is said that there was an ancient practice of painting one’s body as preparation to attend a ritual; also such bodily markings could serve as a sign of belonging to certain religions and cults (Harley, WBC: Leviticus).

So, it would seem that there are two principles that motivate these laws. 1) they symbolised incompleteness, 2) they adhered to local pagan practices.  Holiness, of course, is about being complete and about being separate from everything that is wrong or contrary to God.

One of the few New Testament desires for Christians under the New Covenant was that they would not partake of anything sacrificed to idols (Acts 15:29) – that they would be seperate from such pagan rituals and worship.

The challenge for us today is to ask what sort of practices should we re-think and not be associated with because they are so akin to the pagan practices of our own culture and society?

READ:  Leviticus 19:32-37

Final Practical Insturctions

There are a number of odds and ends through these last few verses of chapter 19.  Each is such a powerful thought in their own right.  Maybe one of the very practical instructions which the world would do good to listen to is that of vs. 32.  Respect for one’s elders!  Maybe there has always been a lack of respect within each younger generation but it would certianly seem very prevelant in our day and culture.  Hey, it doesn’t just have to apply to people that have gray hair; this relates just as much to those that have a God-given responsibility of ‘elders’ through leadership over us, e.g. Prime Minister, Boss.

In Isaiah 3:5 this lack of respect was a curse that God prophesied would fall upon the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.  There is nothing good about not respecting one’s elders.  The really challenging part is to know when a stand must be taken against such elders.  In Job 32:1-8, after all Job’s three initial friends had tiraded before Job, a fourth young man, Elihu spoke.  He was concerned that Job was far his senior and respect should be shown and yet he had something important to say (you have to read the story…he in fact was a wise young man).  In his own words, there is a spirit in man into which God can speak understanding.

So, we must always seek to show respect to our elders; yet sometimes there maybe issues in which God has truly convicted us and given us a moment of wisdom ‘beyond our years’.  At such a time we must still seek to show absolute humility and respect in the face of those same elders.

READ:  Leviticus 20:1-8

Capital Punishment for Religous Crimes

Chapter 20 continues the subject of laws and offenses against the holiness of God.  This chapter is significantly different in that much of what is mentioned has already beeen mentioned; this time, though, the laws include their respective punishments.  Most of these punishments involved death and/or being ‘cut off’.

Some would suggest that being ‘cut off’ could refer to an act of God’s dealing spritual death or maybe even physical death, other times it could be that the people were supposed to cut the people out of their society and culture.  In any case it was a severe punishment.

In the first crime mentioned, that of child sacrifice, the penalty was supposed to be death by stoning; we are told that God would also ‘cut him off ‘.  In fact, if the people were remiss in their duties of judgment then God promises that he would still play the role of ‘cutting off’ even on the heads of those that do not accept their responsibility.

There is a keen mix of divine and human.  Judgment was sometimes supposed to take place on a human level in addition to the divine level; other times the judgment would be enacted at least on a divine level.  King David, for example, and his sin with Bathsheba was not punished by the required death penalty; and yet God still brought in an angle of divine jugdment.

We must keep in mind that these people had an agreement with God, otherwise known as a covenant.  An agreement that they would be blessed if they did what God asked, and they would be cursed if they rebelled.  A new covenant has been enacted, an agreement between people of faith and God that is hinged and centered upon grace.  We have no need to fear God ‘cutting us off’ any longer if we have a faith in God!  Which is a magnamanously wonderful truth!

Yet there are plenty of times when judgment on a human level is not just and the wicked get away with a seeming lack of retribution for their rebellion and unrighteousness; judgment is still divine!  The Psalmist often looked around and noticed such a discouraging truth, yet he took comfort in the fact that God is the ultimate just judge and each would face their lot in life when they stand in the presence of the Divine.

Ponder the thoughts of King David himself in Psalm 37:

“Do not fret because of evildoers, Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, And wither as the green herb.  Trust in the Lord, and do good…Delight yourself also in the Lord, and he shall give you the desires of your heart…Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; do not fret – it only causes harm.  For evildoers shall be cut off; But those who wait on the Lord, they shall inherit the earth.  For yet a little while and the wicked shall be nor more; Indeed, you will look diligently for his place, but it shal be no more.  But the meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.  The wicked plots against the just, and gnashes at him with his teeth.  The Lord laughs at him, for He sees that his day is coming.  The wicked have drawn the sword and have bent their bow, to cast down the poor an needy, to slay those who are of upright conduct.  Tehir swrod shall enter their won heart, and their bows shall be broken…”

There are many wonderful thoughts that continue all through that Psalm and a great challenge to remain faithful to God.

 

 

READ:  Leviticus 20:9-21

Capital Punishment for Family Laws

READ:  Leviticus 20:22-27

Purpose of the Laws

“…keep all my statutes…that the land…may not vomit you out.”  Although the picture here is that the land would not be able to stand the wickedness of the people becasue of their sins (‘creation groans’ becasuse it had been ‘subjected to futility’ – Romans 8:22, 20), ultimately the judgment is enacted by God.  It was becasue of this immoral and unethical practices of the people that God was casting out the previous inhabitants – practices that abhored God.

It is interesting to think about the means by which God might enact His judgment.  He wanted the people to walk a certain path in life, His path – a path of spiritual cleanliness as evidenced by their physical cleanliness; a path that was complete, perfect, and holy; a path that was separated and different from the rest of the world.  God promises that He would bring them into such a refreshing and sweet land of hope, but if they tunred their backs on Him and His path they would be in danger of becoming vomit matter.

The judgment warned of in this passage isn’t just a warning that could be enacted on the Hebrews; this was a judgment that was being enacted on the current inhabitants, the Canaanites.  This wasn’t about a deal made expressly between God and the Hebrews, this was how God was dealing with the evil cultures.  Nations rise and fall; kingdoms win and lose; cultures and societies grow and shrink.  History portrays the ups and downs of every culture that has existed – sometimes the power that was didn’t deserve to prosper yet their end still came, they still wound up as tasteless bits of chunder struggling to survive and hold on to their rank possessions.  I have yet to recall a nation that was walking God’s clear path while at the same time still being spewed from their land and power.

Its a timely warning!  You may be a part of what looks to be a powerful nation; you may be a part of the most powerful nation on earth.  Yet, unless they are clearly upholding and walking God’s clean path then they will one day meet expulsion, maybe even oblivion.

READ:  Leviticus 21:1-15

Laws of the Priests

Much could be said about this passage; much of which has already been said in other places throughout this series.  This is one of the greatest practical illustrations of the book’s theme verse in 10:3 – essentially, as you approach God you must prepare.

We’ve already covered many of the insturctions and standards of the everyday person within and without the Israelite camp.  Instructions that were to keep them holy and focused on God so that they could participate in the religous rituals and worship in the Creator’s presence.

Now, in the first nine verses of Leviticus 21 there is a list of rules partiuclarly for the priests that were to specifically place them a cut above the rest because they had a ministry closer to the central, holy presence of God – in the Holy of Holies.

The priest was only allowed to bury the closest of his relatives.  If he were to bury anyone, relative or not, he would become unclean for touching a dead body and would thereby be exluded from his duty until pronounced clean again (this refers to a literal burying).  Nor was the priest allowed to mutilate and thereby imperfect his body, he had to remain physically whole.  Neither could these priests just marry any gal from off the street – again, his marriage bed had to be a cut above the rest, it has to be pure.  He has greater responsibilities to stand before God as holy becasuse he is a representative of the people; the priests had a task above the everyday Joe Bloe and so he was to be especially set apart and whole [vs. 6, 8].

Then there was the High Priest, with an even higher level of standards to keep him whole and separated [vs. 10-15].

The High Priest was to remain in the temple, he wasnt’ to leave even for the purpose of mourning the death of his own parents – such an instruction doesn’t mean that he spent his life at the temple 24/7, rather his duties in the temple took precedence over everything else.  The High Priest had to marry a virgin woman who was of his own people so that there would be no chance of degrading the priestly line (he couldn’t even marry a widow as the other preists could do – probably to protect any unworthy step-sons taking over his role).  Remember, it is the High Priest who was the only one who could stand in the Holy of Holies – he was the one who could physically stand in the closest physical relation to the physical expression of God’s presence.

 

Now, the real question is how does this relate to us?  It is important to remember that we all live in the presence of God, whether we recognize and acknowledge it or not.  We all have the privelage of approaching God’s throne of Grace (Heb 4:16) and yet it is still not without a mediating priest.  These mediting priests had to live higher standards of holines, right up to the highest imposed standards of the High Priest, so that the everyday people could live before God.  Does this mean that we need to live by the highest standards possible?  NO!  We are not our own mediators!

“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympahtize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” – Hebrews 4:15-16

Jesus is our High Priest who has lived a human life but he did so far better than any High Priest before Him – He lived the life without sin; He lived the life in perfect holiness.  Now, because he has lived that life, not only can we go to Him at the throne of God and know that He sympathizes with our trials and difficulties but we know that He stands before God as our mediating High Priest – the best that could ever be had!

“…Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of god, who also makes intercession for us.” – Romans 8:34

The story of the Gospel and all its facets is endless.  No wonder Jesus is worthy of all praise and has been highly exalted; no wonder He deserves our service and love; no wonder He will receive all praise and worship. [Phil. 2:9-11]

READ: Leviticus 21:16-24

Deformities amongst the Priests

The teachings of this passage are not meant to teach, nor do they consider that any form of deformity is inherior or subhuman! Remember, Leviticus is about living a holy life in the presence of God – particularly about preparing as you come before the Holy God. As we’ve just seen, the priests, and especially the High Priest, had a higher standard of holiness before God.

Be reminded, of course, that throughout Leviticus holiness is pictured and symbolised by God to the people as ‘wholeness’.  The point of these laws further illustrate to the people that God wants His people to be whole and dedicated – separated from anything that would make them incomplete in their service to Him.

So these laws regarding who was barred from serving as a priest due to physical deformity, were about separating the physically ‘unwhole’ from the physically ‘whole’.  Those priests that were not in some way missing or falling short of God’s ‘whole’ creation could better serve as the picture of holiness.  Of course, those that were barred from the serving as priests were not driven or excluded from daily life – they still had greater privelages than the average Joe Bloe in the camp.  These incomplete priests were still taken care of and looked after and considered a part of the priest’s society and family – they could still eat of the priestly portions that were allotted from the sacrifices.

The passage continues to paint the picture of God’s holiness and His calling of holiness upon the lives of the people and also on the lives of us.  What is it in life that practically prevents you from being ‘whole’ before God???

READ:  Leviticus 22:1-9

General Priestly Regulations

READ:  Leviticus 22:10-16

Priestly Regulations Concerning Food

This chapter revolves around a number of specific regulations for the priests concerning their duties.  Of course, these regulations go over and above those of the general populance because the priests had areas of responsibility different to that of the rest of the nations.

In the first 9 verses the regulations dealt with making sure that items that had been sanctified as holy for the service before God would not be contaminated by an unclean priest – the priests had a responsibility to discern the clean from the unclean.  The 6 verses that we read today relate specifically to the food that was allotted to the priests from the offerings (e.g. the grain, peace, selected sin, and trespass offerings).

These particular instructions are directed to explaining who is and who is not considered a part of the priest’s family and therefore able to partake of the priestly food.  Essentially those that are considered as able to partake are those that are under the responsibility of the priest – e.g. his slaves and his family (of course, once a daughter leaves her father’s house she becomes apart of another family…unless she is left alone due to the death of her husband).

The really intersting part of this passage though is in vs. 14-16.  Here the situation is presented whereby someone accidentally eats the offering in an unworthy/unholy situation.  In such a case, the offender had to restore the amount they had taken and so also include 20% ‘interest’.  I love the picture of restoration in these instructions.  An offense against holiness had occurred and the wrong had to be made right!

We too have offended the holiness of God; there is no conceivable way that we could restore enough to make restituion for our unworthy lives before a holy God.   But glory be to God that a price was paid; a price that was rich enough for complete restituiton of our offenses.  The man that was God, the sinless man, paid our price for us – the price of a freely-chosen, perfect and holy life.  We had offended the holy and Jesus is the only one that can pay the restitution price.

“For you were bought at a price.  Therefore glorify God with your body.”

READ:  Leviticus 22:17-33

Priestly Regulations concerning Offerings

In this particular reading the priests are given very specific instructions as to what was and was not considered as a worthy sacrifice from the people.  In a sense, the buck stopped with the priest – it was the priests’ duty to refuse the offering of a lamb that was not worthy – a lamb that was not complete and ‘whole’.  There are a stack of regulations that very specifically remind the priests of the role that the lamb was to play before God; and also the role they had to play in offering that lamb.

Let me share where my thoughts went with this passage.  The book of Malachi is a revelation of God’s indictment against his people – especially the priests.

“To you priests who despise my name…” God says in 1:6, “…You offer defiled food on My altar but you say, ‘In what way have we defiled You?’  By saying, ‘The table of the Lord is contemptable.’  And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil?  And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil?  Offer it then to your governor!  Would he be pleased with you?  Would he accept you favorably?”

The complaint of Malachi in these verses is the disobedience of the priests to the commands and instructions of Leviticus 22.  The essential call of God to these priests in Malachi is that they would realise their role and realise who God is and therefore give Him the honour and the respect that is due His name.

“A son honours his father, and a servant his master.  If then I am the Father, where is My honour?  And if I am a Master, Where is My reverence?” – Malachi 1:6

It is so easy for us to fall into that same trap in our own lives.  We can tend to give the better part of our lives to people that we face in a physical world; we can tend to give the best part of our efforts to those that may seem to have authority and power over us in this world.  Generally speaking we would respect our parents and listen to our boss.  God’s challenge to the priests and people of Malachi’s day was that they would treat God worthy of who He is!  How do you treat God?

God deserves our best!

Give God your Best!

 

“You are my Father, I will honour You!  You are my Master, I will reverence You! ” – Amen

READ:  Leviticus 23:1-8

The Feasts

And so begins God’s instructions regarding the festivities of Israel.  The instructions begin with the keeping of the Sabbath and then move to the events of the Passover and the 7 days of Unleavened Bread.  There is so much that can be studied regarding these feasts, but it couldn’t be contained to this short devotion; for now we must suffice with a quick thought.

These feasts were given as a form of remembrance.  They were an opportunity for the people to remember who God was as evidenced by what He had done in their lives and in their history.  In the case of the Sabbath it was a day set aside to remember that in six days God created the world and then rested; just so, the people were to particularly spend time remembering the Creator God on that seventh day.  In the case of the Passover (14th of Abib/Nissan) and the Feast of Unleavened Bread (15th – 21st Abib/Nissan) the people recalled God’s divine providence and redemption of life in the events of the Exodus.

It is important to remember and to give time for reflection.  Time to remember how God has worked in your life; time to reflect upon who God has revealed Himself to be throughout your own experience and also the experience of humanity.  Communion is just such an example; the Lord’s Supper is the remnants of this passover feast that brought the participants minds back to God’s exodus redemption; in some ways Jesus reconstituted this feast as a particular remembrance to the redemption that He provided (Luke 22:19; I Cor 11:24-25) – lest we would at worst, forget what He had done, and at best, forget to take time to reflect.

It is important to establish opportunities to reflect in your own life.  There are, or course, culturally established days, e.g. Christmas and Easter and Sundays, that provide such an opportunity; nevertheless, don’t let it stop there.  Take time in your own walk with God to dwell and reflect upon who God is as evidenced by the times in your life when God has worked.

READ:  Leviticus 23:9-16

The Firstfruits Festivities

These particular feasts, that began during the celebrations of Unleavened Bread, revolve around firstfruits.  At the beginning of harvest season the Jews were to offer the first fruit of their harvests to God.  Fifty days later they again made an offering of their yields to God.

The first opportunity to offer their firstfruits was seen as a chance to give thanks to God for the very fact that they had crops to harvest; the second feast, known to many as its Greek name, Pentecost,  was a chance to give thanks for the yields that had been harvested and gathered.  Again, these instructed feasts caused the people to take time out of their very busy schedules (especially just as harvesting was beginning) and give credit to God for His provision.  To take time to reflect upon how God and been faithful in providing for them in the past, in the present, and for the future.

Someone was recently telling me how they had done the sums on how much they would give to God as an offering and how many hours on their current pay rates that equated to.  They were then able to work those hours consciously thinking that they were working them for God.  That is such a practical opportunity to take time and reflect upon what God has provided and, if you have walked into work that day, is continuing to provide.  In a small way such a practice carries the idea of a feast, a feast like these firstfruit feasts, a time set aside to reflect upon God.

Another culturally current practice that comes close to these ancient firstfruit feasts is that of saying grace before a meal.  A practice that can so easily become common place and mundane, yet it also has the opportunity to become a mini feast – a short time to reflect and remember what God provides.

What opportunities do you have to reflect upon God’s provision?

What opportunities could you create that would give you a chance to reflect upon God’s provision?

READ:  Leviticus 23:15-22

The Feast of Weeks

The feast of weeks, otherwise known as Pentecost, was an opportunity for the people to rejoice and give thanks for the provision that God had granted (Deuteronomy 16:11).  Here we read that there were animals that had to be brought as an offering by the community; also there was to be an offering of two loaves also brought, most likely, by the community.

The people were to take a holiday, a day of rest and rejoice in God.  In modern Jewish tradition the feast revolves around a rejoicing in God’s provision of the Law; in modern Christianity, Pentecost revolves around a remembrance of the giving of the Holy Spirit.

I love part of the words of a traditional Jewish poem that is quoted on the morning of this feast, I think it gives some thought as to how Great God is and how that should reflect in our moments of rejoicing.

“Before I begin to read His words,

I will ask permission,

Of the One whose might is such that –

Even if all the heavens were parchment,

And all the reeds pens,

And all the oceans ink,

And all people were scribes,

It would be impossible to record

The greatness of the Creator,

Who created the world with a soft utterance,

And with a single letter, the letter ‘heh,’

The lightest of the letters.” – Akdamut vs. 1

Our God is so great He deserves all the praises, and the worship, and rejoicing that we can muster; God is worthy of all the best in our lives – the firstfruits.

READ:  Leviticus 23:23-32

Trumpets & Day of Atonement

READ:  Leviticus 23:33-44

Feast of Tabernacles

 

READ:  Leviticus 23:33-44

Feast of Tabernacles

This feast presents an opportunity for the people to do two things.  To give thanks to God for the produce of the fruit of the trees and to take time to remember the exodus and the wandering in the desert.  Essentially these feast provided a magnificent time for the people to take stock of everything that God had provided, and then to give Him praise.

Take the aspect of dwelling in booths for example.  The people were to live for a week in primitive shelters made of branches – it reflected what life would have been like as struggling nation of slaves that wandered in the wilderness.  It would kind of be like us going to live in the shanty of a jungle tribe so that we would appreciate everything we have been given.

Maybe that isn’t such a bad idea.  To go without something to be reminded of the blessings that God has provided.  Actually, come to think of it, that could be a part role in fasting (fasting doesn’t always have to do with food), an opportunity to go without so that we focus on Who God is and what He has provided.

What could you do to remind yourself of the blessings that God has given; maybe you could go without some very physical blessing that God has provided to remind you of what He does.  These people would move out of their homes and live in a bunch of sticks – that is a sever reminder.

Maybe you could suggest some things in the comments below and then take the challenge to go without for a season.

READ:  Leviticus 24:1-9

Items in the Holy Place

Here is a short passage mentioning a number of principles that related to the items in the Holy part of the temple – this was the first part of the tent, the room before the Holy of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant was kept.  Here was the lampstand of the first 4 verses and also the Bread Table spoken of in vs. 5-9.

The light and the bread.  On a pracitcal level the light provided guidance for the priests to go about their duties in what would otherwise be a very dark tent; the bread provided food for the priests from where they could get their nourishment.  I’m tempted to call  your thoughts forward to the claims of Jesus – that He is the Light of the world (John 8:12) and the Bread of Life (John 6:35) – but we are not specifically told of this direct parallel.

It is, nonetheless, interesting to think through the similarities and so I will leave you to ponder Jesus as the Light of the World and the Bread of Life.

“Light of the World you stepped down into darkeness, Opened my eyes, let me see…so here I am to worship!” – [‘Here I am to Worship’ by Tim Hughes]

“Bread of Heaven on Thee we feed, For Thy flesh is meat indeed; Ever may our souls be fed, with this true and living Bread; Day by day with strength supplied, Throught the life of Him who died.” – [‘Bread of Heaven’ by Josiah Conder]

 

READ:  Leviticus 24:10-23

A Case of Blasphemy

Within this account of a man that Blasphemed the name of God is a string of summary regulations and responses.  Vs. 16-22 can be outlined in what is known as a chiasm.  Each lead-in point builds up to a central emphasis and then is reflected on the lead-out of the passage.  For example.

A     Stranger and Native [vs. 16]

B     kills any man [vs. 17]

C     kills an animal [vs. 18]

D     as he has done so shall it be done to him [vs. 19]

D’    as he has caused…sho shall it be done to him [vs. 20]

C’    kills an animal [vs. 21]

B’    kills a man [vs. 21]

A’    Stranger and Native [vs. 22]

The emphasis is lying on the fact that a man should get what he deserves; a man must pay the penalty that is equal to his offense.  Now the interesting thing about these penalties in the Jewish system of laws is the priority placed by God on family and religion.

We’ve already seen the severe penalties that one would face for offenses that destroy lives and families (eg. Lev 18 & 19) and we’ve just read of the penalty for blasphemy; yet the penalty for those that destroy property is not as severe.  It is said that in other cultures of the day the penalties had a different focus and ‘economy’; in the Babylonian ‘Laws of Hammurabi’ the death penalty is given for property damage [see Wenham, NICOT: Leviticus, p. 311].

Leviticus, through the laws and their applicable punishments, teaches that God values family, life and religion (true religion being the worship of Him alone).  It is profound to think through what is held as valuable in our own society.

Take life for example; in a society where abortion is accepted even to the point that it cannot at all be medically explained as ‘abortion’ [late-term].

Take family for example; in a society where divorce and affairs are not only common but they are accepted as a common practice of life.

Take religion for example; in a society where the name of God is used to curse more times than the ancient Jews could throw a stone at.

So, what do you hold as ethically valuable?

READ:  Leviticus 25:1-7

The Sabbath Year

It is interesting to think through the references to the land in this passage.  Dare we suggest that God is concerned about the land???  God sets out laws for the people to give the land a year of rest.  They weren’t to work the land but it was to run free and ‘rest’ for a time.  They were of course allowed to live off the produce of that year but they were not to use the produce for personal gain in any way; this particular aspect of the law would have been to hinder them from trying to farm the land for better crops and profit.

Is God concerned with the world He has created?

He once looked at it and said that it was good (Genesis 1).  Since creation has been marred by sin ever since the fall of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3) it has also been looking forward to its redemption.  “…the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation groans and labours with birth pangs together until now.” – Romans 8:21-22.  God created a world most beautiful; just travel to my birthplace along the Great Ocean Road of southern Australia and you will quickly see the beauty that still exists in God’s creation.  Yet, sin has permeated an otherwise perfect world; and one day it will be redeemed along with the final redemption of God’s children.

Yes, God is concerned with His Creation and I think that should imply that we too should share such a concern.  Now does that mean we need to become Global Warming advocates?  Not necassarily!  We should take care of what God has given and entrusted to us whether Global Warming is fact or fiction.

Give nature a rest; treat it right – it should display the glory of God (Psalm 19:1) not the abuse of man!

 

Read:  Leviticus 25:8-55

The Year of Jubilee

READ:  Leviticus 26:1-13

Promises of the Covenant

READ:  Leviticus 26:14-39

Curses of the Covenant

 

 

If you would like to watch the second installment of the Welfare message instead of just listening to it, you can click the link below.  You can then download the video and watch it in your own time.