Thursday, June 30, 2016

Thursday - Leviticus 25 – Economics and Faith

Every 7th year and every 50th year were supposed to be special in Israel. Just like there were Sabbath days of rest, there were also Sabbath years of rest. The fields and vineyards were supposed to be allowed to lie fallow every 7th year.  And, slaves and lands were to be freed every 50th year.  That 50th year was called the Jubilee (a year of joyful sounds; a year for joyful music). During the year of Jubilee slaves were to be given their freedom and lands were to be returned to the family that originally owned them.

To me, the most intriguing thing about God's word to Israel in this passage is the timing of God's supply. You would think that if God promised to bless every 5th year's harvest enough to make it last until the 3th year (which He did), then the people would have had no problem observing the 7th year rest. But actually, they did struggle to believe God for this. The proof of their disobedience is found by comparing the promise and the record (Leviticus 26:34-35, II Chronicles 36:17, 20 and 21 and Jeremiah 25:9-12). God warned the Jews that if they didn't observe the Sabbath years; if they failed to let the land rest, then He would have to rip them from the land.  It would certainly rest without them there to inhabit it!  And, that is exactly what ended up happening. The land eventually rested (most specifically) while the Jews were in Babylon. 

Tuesday - Leviticus 24 - Cussing

Words are powerful! Words were God's tool of choice for making the universe and for revealing Himself to humanity. Words reveal and express the realities of the heart of mankind. Words have the force to affect people's earthly and eternal destiny. A word can be absolutely bound up with potential (Proverbs 15:23 and 25:11).

Now, this chapter begins with an innocuous repetition of the instructions concerning the light in the sanctuary. It continues with more instructions concerning the showbread that was to be kept in the Tabernacle (Leviticus 24:1-9).  But it ends with an account of violent justice against a blasphemer.

It all started with a fight.  In the middle of that fight one of the moral vagrants (an Egyptian-Jew) used God's name unholily (Leviticus 24:11). Well, those who heard him cussing brought him to Moses for judgment. And, what was the verdict? God decreed, "Death by stoning." His accusers laid their hands on him identifying him as the guilty one and then they killed him (Leviticus 24:23).

Our society has almost completely lost touch with this perspective.  God expects respect from everyone, believer or non-believer (Leviticus 24:22). Yet, what's the truth? In cussing, cursing, swearing, blaspheming, degrading, mocking, joking, marginalizing and ignoring the name of God - His name is currently "taken in vain" everywhere by wholesale disregard for its value and perfection. His name is wonderful and powerful.  His name is unique.  There is no other name through which we can be saved (Acts 2:21 and 4:12).

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Monday - Leviticus 23 – What is a Feast?

Well, what is not a feast? Famine or fasting is certainly not a feast. Neither is a feast an average or daily routine. In modern terms, we might call it a party, a holiday or a celebration. God called these occasions "feasts" and He instructed the Jews to observe 7 different feasts annually.  Here they are by title: Passover (Leviticus 23:4-5), Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:6-8), First-fruits (Leviticus 23:9-14), Pentecost (Leviticus 23:15-21), Trumpets or Rosh Hashanah (Leviticus 23:23-25), Atonement or Yom Kippur (Leviticus 23:26-32) & Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:33-44).

Clearly there is a great emphasis on the purpose and focus of a feasts. The same God who commanded feasts also condemned gluttony. Of course, the feasts were not just about eating. In fact, the word is really much more general than that. Feasts were meetings; appointments; assemblies. They were festive events associated with historically noteworthy happenings ... quite literally, they were spiritual festivals.

Each one of the seven annual feasts parallels with Messianic occasions. The first coming of Christ appears to fit perfectly with the first four feasts, while the last three fit more with His second advent... an event that we still await. I know, the atmosphere in this dispensation is supposed to be one of liberty, simplicity and heart... not ritual and restriction, but, sometimes love is at its best when it is intentional, organized and scheduled.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Saturday - Leviticus 22 – Temporarily Disqualified

Probation serves two purposes. The person under probation is temporarily restrained under restrictive discipline and the people who might otherwise be affected by that person are thereby protected from him.  In this complex list of regulations, there is a probationary principle laid down and the reason behind it is explained.

The key phrase here is "until he be clean" he shall not do thus and so. Or, in the case of a sacrifice, "It shall be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no blemish therein." And, why is that? Because, (He said) "I will be hallowed among the children of Israel: I am the LORD which hallow you ..."  But, by all means - don't throw in the towel while God is still cheering for you. His mercies are still new every morning!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Friday - Leviticus 21 - Leadership

A leader normally lives in the spotlight. Now, life under the radar can be much less stressful than life in the spotlight. But living in the shadows and making no waves is not an option once God calls you to lead. Of course, God's idea of leadership is a bit different than the definition one might find in the collective mind of our modern popular culture.

Climbing the rungs of the ladder to the top might be judged to be about education, ambition, risk, effort, authority, independence, who you know, who you can push out and how much money you can make.  But, leadership under God's paradigm is something very different. It's defined by responsibility, faithfulness, sacrifice, service, dependence, courage, boldness, obedience, holiness and good character. The emphasis in this passage is primarily on holiness.

Leaders are held to a higher standard than their followers are... or, at least, should be. A leader is rightfully expected to do better.  By the natural scrutiny that accompanies a bishopric, a leader is limited in what he can... or should... do. Likewise, the glass house that spiritual leaders live in makes it reasonable that God would limit who can serve in the office... which, of course, is exactly what He has done (see Acts 6:3, Titus 1:6-9, I Timothy 2:12 & 3:2-13). Now, I can't imagine that any man could honestly declare himself qualified by God's standard - so, that responsibility falls to the congregation as they adhere to the Bible and to the Holy Spirit's affirmation of it.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Thursday - Leviticus 20 - Death

Our modern society specializes in the surreal. Everything from origins science to modern cinema strikes me as having increasingly surrealistic elements. Yet, perhaps you have heard the phrase, "truth is stranger than fiction." One of the most enigmatic things that we can study is actually as basic, common and normal as eating, sleeping or breathing.  I'm talking about death.

Death is the opposite of life. When God breathed into Adam the breath of life, he became a living soul. Of course, when Adam disobeyed God and took a bite of the forbidden fruit, he became a dying soul (Genesis 2:17).  Here in Leviticus 20 there are 29 direct or indirect references to death.  While chapter 19 was a focus upon the rules, chapter 20 is a focus on the consequences of breaking those rules: death.

In both testaments the Bible verifies the solemnly morbid warning of God: "The soul that sins, it shall die" (Ezekiel 18:20) & "The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). Death is a sure thing. It is also a constant possibility. Every breath that I take is potentially my last one. Death is our enemy. Death is a dark and mysterious door... a door that most of us willingly avoid rather vigorously. Yet, death is a universal experience... an occasion well worth our discussion.

The specific capital crimes listed here are as follows: offering children as human sacrifices, occultism, cursing one's parents, adultery, incest, homosexuality, bestiality and I'm not sure what to call the only remaining fatal infraction in this particular list. Anyway, by stoning, by fire or by whatever other means, God ordained death as the just consequence for all such transgressions. But, those legislations were directed at individuals. However, God's justice is not just vindicated upon individual sinners. Corporate, national, geographic and racial consequences are also guaranteed. Distinctively, in this context, the nation of Israel was threatened with national exile if they ignored God's mandates (Leviticus 20:22-23).  In a sense, rebellion would bring the death of the nation.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Tuesday - Leviticus 19 – An Attempt at Purity

This is certainly a diverse passage. Much ground is covered in many directions very quickly in this list of large and small admonitions. Yet there is actually an overarching reason for all the rules. The reason is this: God is God and He is holy. Because of who He is and because of what he is like, He expects His people to fear Him and to be holy and pure in their devotion to Him.

Now, in addition to some more familiar commandments that had been expressed previously (don't steal, lie, worship idols or violate the Sabbaths), a long list of 18 sanctions was given.  Whatever we may think about these rules - they did come from God. In their time they were immovable. Thankfully we aren't under these regulations any more. I say thankfully not because we are now glad that we can do this stuff, but because the wages of sin is death. In other words, I'm thankful that we don't have to suffer the consequences of being law breakers. Despite the fact that I have indeed been guilty of disrespecting my parents, giving begrudgingly, not paying people what I owe them and judging people based upon there socioeconomic "grade" ...despite the fact that I have been a talebearer, sought vengeance, held grudges, cut the corners of my beard, failed to respect my elders and certainly have treated strangers with disdain - I am not under condemnation. God is still God & He is still holy, but now God's person and His character are respected and even elevated through Christ. The purity that was then pursued hopelessly is now possessed freely as a gift of (and from) God.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Monday - Leviticus 18 - The Naked Truth

Babies are born naked. God made Adam and Eve naked. Jesus hung on the cross naked (John 19:23). Nuptial nakedness is approved of God (Hebrews 13:4 & all of the Song of Solomon). Everything is naked in the eyes of God (Hebrews 4:13). God commanded Isaiah to preach naked for 3 years (Isaiah 20:2-4). Yet, with all of the aforementioned nakedness, clearly it is a problematic bane under most circumstances.

To be clear, this chapter is not about voyeurism, exhibitionism, naturism or pornography - although those things would certainly be included by implication.  The phrase "uncover the nakedness" was obviously a relatively couth way for the AV translators to communicate God's word concerning the illicit carnal activities that   dominated Egypt and Canaan in the days of Moses (Leviticus 18:3, 24 & 27).  Still, in the midst of the archaic tone of Leviticus 18, the horror of sin is still unmistakable.  So, here it is in brief form...

Incest was both defined and condemned in verses 6-18. In addition to incest, relations during menstruation were forbidden. Also, adultery, homosexuality, bestiality (and, by extension, all such perversions and pollutions of God's holy procreative order) were capital offenses (Leviticus 18:29). And, to show just how abominable and appalling these reprobate customs were in His sight, He listed ritualistic infanticide right in the middle of the mix to emphasize His utter disdain for such filth. God condemns ANY deviation from His ordained plan concerning the proper expression of our sexuality (that is, within a societally recognized lifelong monogamous heterosexual relationship - Matthew 5:28 and Deuteronomy 5:21). 

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Saturday - Leviticus 17 - Blood

God was blocking off a problem by issuing this injunction.  See, there was a habit of occultist devotion that the Israelites had evidently picked up over the generations in Egypt. The evil practice was associated with eating meat (a practice very rare during the Exodus and wilderness wandering; see Numbers 11:4) - they ate mostly manna. But when they did kill animals for food God required them to sanctify their meat at the door of the Tabernacle so that they would not be tempted to kill it before the devil's imps (Leviticus 17:7).

When Able was killed, God said it was his blood that cried out for justice (Genesis 4:10). When God instituted human government by authorizing capital punishment it was the blood of victims that He used to justify the measure (Genesis 9:5). It was a blood plague that commenced the ten Egyptian persuasions (Exodus 7:20).  It was blood that was used to preserve the Hebrews when the angel of death was slaying all of the eldest Egyptians (Exodus 12:13). It was blood that dominated the Tabernacle system of worship. And, to skip way ahead, it was blood that sealed the New Covenant for us; Christ's blood (I Peter 1:18-19).   No wonder the apostles maintained this OT directive even after the illumination of grace (Acts 15:20 and 29; 21:25).

Friday, June 10, 2016

Friday - Leviticus 16 - Yom Kippur

The Day of Atonement really shouldn't be thought of as a happy day. It was a very important day and the result of that day was precious, but the event was a solemn one. It was a day set aside for serious introspection & repentance (Leviticus 16:29 & 31).

The annual day of atoning was necessary because of two things: the holiness of God and the sinfulness of men. Both of those realities were seen clearly in the divine execution of Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1-2 and 16:1). Even "well meaning" religious activities are rejected by God when those activities are self-righteous efforts rather than simple faith-filled responses to His will. So, while many sacrifices were offered daily throughout the whole year, there was one day that was set aside for a general sacrifice for all sins of all people for the whole year. On the 10th day of the month, the high priest was to go into the Holy of Holies to atone for his own sins and then for the sins of the people. This ritual was highly typical. There were many activities during the Day of Atonement that pointed to the day when the Great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, would offer Himself for the sins of all men for all time.

Each year as Aaron stood behind the Ark of the Covenant and sprinkled the blood upon the lid, the presence of God was manifested there in a cloud.  Now, unlike the Messiah, Aaron had to offer the blood of a young bull to atone for his own sin prior to offering the blood of the sacrificial goat for the all of the sins of the people (Leviticus 16:16, 30 and 34). Of course, Jesus had no sin of His own, so He simply "became sin" on the cross and offered Himself for us.

The most outstanding part of the day's ritual was the handling of the two goats. By chance (Ruth 2:3 and Ecclesiastes 9:11) one goat was selected to be killed as a sin offering and the other was left to be set free in the wilderness.  Both goats represented the ugliness that made the day necessary in the first place.

The dead goat represented the sinner and the scapegoat represented the sin. The punishment that God owed to the people was laid on the sacrificial goat... thereby rolling God's wrath against them back for another year as they waited for the sufficient sacrifice that had been promised (Genesis 3:15, 22:8 and 49:10). Their sins were metaphorically placed on the scapegoat and were thereby taken away. The destination of the scapegoat represented the sea of God's forgetfulness (Micah 7:19). Yom Kippur... the Day of Atonement; without atonement there could be no peace with God - then, or now.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Thursday - Leviticus 15 - Blood Borne Pathogens

Here Moses gave a big spill (pardon the pun) to his people on the uncleanness of body fluids. Under the Levitical law, cleanness was obviously paramount. Both men and women were instructed concerning all sorts of ceremonial uncleanness that resulted from coming into contact with various body fluids. In some cases, this chapter is so explicit that it's uncomfortable even discussing it, yet the code of cleanness was specific and important for the Jews in those days. One thing is for sure, the claim that one way or another the Bible addresses any and every issue that you can possibly imagine is certainly illustrated vividly in this chapter.  And, while we are no longer under those laws, it is interesting to see just how strict the program was back in those days.

Ironically, in the OT men were made ceremonially unclean by coming into contact with certain body fluids, yet our souls are made perfectly clean by the blood of Jesus Christ. Being washed in the blood of Christ (spiritually) removes our uncleanness.  There is no way of being made clean apart from His blood.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Tuesday - Leviticus 14 - Response to Healing

In a continuation from the last chapter, we find now the proper response that was expected from anyone who experienced healing from leprosy (or from some similar problems in a person's body, clothing or house).  The most significant thing about this chapter is the fact that there was an assumption or presupposition that healing was even possible. Leprosy is not typically thought of as a curable ailment. Of course, by application, neither is depravity. Depravity, when rightly evaluated, is an incurable spiritual disease; a birth defect passed down from Adam himself... untreatable by any natural means.  However, with God, all things are possible.

After being healed, a healthy x-leper was to offer a couple of possible combinations of 2 male lambs, 1 female lamb, flour, oil and 2 doves or pigeons (depending on his financial station) which were to serve variously as trespass, sin, meat and burnt offerings. Just like in the ritual that went with the consecration of the priests into service, the extremities of the healthy worshipper was supposed to have been touched with blood from the trespass offering, evidently to demonstrate both that every part of the individual was sinful and that every part was also wholly sanctified. Other rituals accompanied all of this including reverential uses of the oil which (we have previously discussed) represented the gladsome presence of the Spirit of God in all of this.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Monday - Leviticus 13 - Leprosy and Sin

Like leaven, leprosy is used in the Scriptures to illustrate sinfulness. The fermentation process in leavening and the rottenness of leprosy are appropriate representations of sin. Though we might not see things this way, sin is literally grotesque.

Leprosy came in many forms, just like sin. Priests could identify it under the skin, in a scab or as an open wound. Whether it was white, red or dark; a boil or inflammation... whether it was on a man, a woman or in a piece of cloth; on the head, in a beard or wherever else... it was a serious problem. Being a leper would get a person banished from society (Leviticus 13:45-46). The implication by comparison is powerful. Morally, we stand naked and shameful... we are unclean in the eyes of God. We are defiled and are doomed to nothing better than to be rejected and alone. Just find the most repulsive physical human image that you can imagine, and realize that in God's eyes, we all look worse than that spiritually.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Saturday - Leviticus 12 - God Sees Sin

God sees sin even where we see perfection (Isaiah 64:6). When Eve listened to Lucifer she blindly participated in a sequence of events that damned all of creation. And, when God meted out the curse which He had promised, He specifically spoke of the pain in childbirth that would always remind women of the awfulness of Eve's decision. In fact, I Timothy 2:14 says, "The woman being deceived was in the transgression" (which might be the reason behind the doubled period of uncleanness in the case of female babies under the ceremonial law). Again, Psalm 51:5 agrees, "Behold, I was shaped in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me."

Mankind is fit for nothing but destruction (Romans 9:22). Good news though. God loves our pitiful race despite our despicable rottenness (Romans 5:6 & 8). Because of that unfathomable love, the curse was cured by Jesus (I Corinthians 15:22). So, even though many babies die in sin (naturally condemned by the sin nature inherited from their father) as yet unable to make a choice to turn to the Savior, they are covered by the merciful grace and compassion that was demonstrated and justified by the shed blood of Christ. The righteous God who HATES sin also loves sinners (Romans 3:26).