Archive for September, 2014

Leviticus 25

Leviticus 25 contains instructions for a Sabbath year, one in every seven, and a jubilee year which was to happen every fifty years.  This was to align with God’s economy and design.  It also was a key practice to care for the soil and be sure the land would be able to continue to be useful each year.  Agronomically, it is a very sound practice.  In today’s world, science has reduced the need for a seven year fallow through fertilizer and other agronomic practices.  But at this time, allowing the land to rest was vital to a strong future.

For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits, but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the Lord”.  God is clear that you farm and grow crops for six years, then you allow the land to rest for a year.  It aligns with God’s design for the Sabbath where we are to rest one day each week, but in this case, it was to give the land a chance to rejuvenate and become prepared to grow a crop again.  It required some planning since you had to save up enough food to survive not just one year, but now almost two until the next crop was harvested in year 8.

But God goes further and proclaims “The Year of Jubilee” which meant “you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan”.  This year of celebration was important to protect the destitute in the land.  God instructs everyone to return to their land and they were able to redeem it, or get it back.  It was a way for a farmer to regain their land in the event that their harvest hadn’t been sufficient to cover their costs, and they had fallen into debt.  It wasn’t just a financial thing though.  God says “It shall be holy to you”.

The reality is that God expects us to get along with one another.  His instruction is that we treat each other fairly, whether we are land owner or producer on the land.  “If the years are many, you shall increase the price, and if the years are few, you shall reduce the price….You shall not wrong one another”.  Bottom line is that God expects us to live together harmoniously and fairly.  If times are good, we share.  If times are bad, well we share in that too.  God’s law here was designed to “allow a redemption of the land” and return it to the family that had owned it.  His plan is not to allow debt to take control.

Leviticus 24

Leviticus 24 has God again speaking to Moses.  His first instructions were to Aaron and the priests who were told to use pure olive oil “that a light may be kept burning regularly”.  God assigns the task to keep the lights lit to the high priest.  The congregation was to provide the oil and the flour that would be baked into the ceremonial loaves.  This is part of the regular worship that was to occur in the tent of meeting and the priests were given specific direction on how they were to manage it.

The second half of the chapter addresses a man whose mother was Israelite and father an Egyptian who blasphemed and cursed God.  They brought the man to Moses and “put him in custody, till the will of the Lord should be clear to them”.  There was no specific law written about this yet, so Moses sought God for direction on how to proceed.  The instruction from God was clear, and it was pretty direct.  “Bring out of the camp the one who cursed, and let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him”.

It seems like a pretty strong response doesn’t it.  Curse God and die.  But the outcome of this incident becomes law.  “Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him”.  God takes His place seriously in the world and in our lives.  The congregation had to have multiple people lay their hands on the guilty parties head – which was a way to be sure there were multiple people who were assigning guilt to the party.

Moses is given some more laws for the people to live by, but then takes the man guilty of cursing outside the camp and stoned him.  It was a gruesome punishment but demonstrates just how seriously God takes obedience.  It demonstrates to us that the law of God was not given to Israel, nor to us, for interesting facts or mere guidelines; God expected them, and us, to obey it. Here, they obey even when it is difficult.  We are to do the same.  God’s direction in our life is not always easy, but the outcome He expects is obedience.  God wants us to live a life holy unto Him!

Leviticus 23

In this chapter we see the eight different special days or events that God meticulously lays out for the people to follow.  Some are weekly, but most are done each year.  There are specific lengths of time and activities that are to be associated with each.  We see these also mentioned in other parts of scripture – primarily in Exodus and Numbers.  Here is a basic chart that describes them:

Calendar Event Time on Calendar Reference
Sabbath 7th day of each week Lev 23:2-3
Passover first month, on the fourteenth day Lev 23:5
Unleavened Bread 7 days after Passover Lev 23:6
First Harvest During the week of unleavened bread Lev 23:9-14
Second Harvest 50 days after Passover Lev 23:15-22
Day of Trumpets seventh month, on the first day of the month Lev 23:23-25
Day of Atonement 9 days after the day of trumpets Lev 23:26-32
Final Harvest fifteenth day of the seventh month Lev 23:33-43

 

Let’s face it, you’d need a system to keep track of all these things.  But the truth is that they quickly become part of the routine of life and the people knew when they were, and what they were required to do.  Some of these were for a day, some for a week.  They did know how to stop and move their focus from self to God.  We all need things that help us do that.  As we live our day to day chaotic lives, we can tend to get pretty self-centered.  We may go for days and not even think about God.

Sabbath day was set aside to try and break that cycle.  One day a week the routine is to stop and the focus is to be placed on God.  “Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work”.  I don’t want to get into a legalistic discussion of the Sabbath and what day it should be celebrated or what activities it should contain.  I do want to emphasize that as people created in God’s image, we all need a Sabbath and we have to make sure we are making time to get away from our own focus on self and move to a focus on God.

Far too many people treat the Sabbath as a catch up day.  They might go to church, but then it is time to be used for whatever we didn’t have time to get to last week.  I’m guilty of that some weeks.  God’s intent is to use the day to refresh us and allow us to have time to really get centered again in Him.  We need to guard that time and use it in the way He designed it.  It isn’t our own free time.  It is His time with an intended purpose in His plan for our well-being.  We need to seek His guidance for how we should use it each week!

Leviticus 22

Leviticus 22 continues God’s instruction to the priests through Moses.  At the end of the day, it boils down to much the same as God gave His people in general.  “They shall therefore keep my charge, lest they bear sin for it and die…. you shall keep my commandments and do them: I am the Lord”.  Direct and clear – obedience is the only acceptable outcome in God’s eyes.  He is clear that what He tells Moses is not suggestion, but commandments, and that there is only one result that meets His standard – obedience.

This chapter and the previous one are addressed specifically to the priests and define how they are to live out holiness in their day to day life.

  • Defilement and the eating of priest’s food (22:1-9)
  • Those who are entitled to eat the priest’s food (22:10-16)
  • Acceptable offerings (22:17-33)

Holiness is not contagious, it cannot be transmitted by contact with holy things. Uncleanness, however, is contagious, and can be transmitted by contact with what is unholy.  The priests are charged with making sure they stay clear of things that will drag them away from God’s commands.

God wants to priests to understand a couple things.  First, it is He alone that makes a man holy.  He is the only way men are set apart.  It has nothing to do with application to be considered.  It is not based on how hard they try, or who they know.  God picked these guys called priests and set them apart to do a very specific job.  Secondly, He makes is clear that they cannot do that job if they don’t keep clean.  They can’t do whatever they want, or even what those around them might be able to do.  They are called to a higher standard because they have been charged with a higher task.

That higher task came with higher privileges of being able to enter the holy of holies and deal directly with sacrifice on behalf of the people.  And it also came with higher responsibility.  There was no margin for error allowed.  Total obedience is the only outcome God tolerates.  For us today, we are made holy when we accept Christ into our life.  At that point His perfectness overshadows our imperfection and He becomes the sacrifice for our sin.  But that gift of grace only becomes ours when we ask Him into our life.  We aren’t covered through a blanket because we know someone or did something.  Anything of a personal relationship with the Savior Jesus Christ Himself means we come up short.

Leviticus 21

Leviticus 21 is a chapter that might seem pretty non applicable to us today.  It is written to Aaron and the priests and was given to them by God through Moses.  But one thing we should continually remember about God is the importance of authority and leadership.  God could have spoken directly to Aaron on many occasions but chose to always speak through His chosen leader Moses.  It was Moses who carried God’s words to the people and priests – not the priest directly or themselves.

This chapter and the following one are addressed specifically to the priests and define how they are to live out holiness in their day to day life.

  • How the priests are to avoid being profaned (21:1-9)
  • How the high priest avoids being profaned (21:10-15)
  • Physical imperfections that profane priests (21:16-24)

The previous chapters in Leviticus have addressed holiness for the people of God in general, but now the microscope gets focused and the bar gets raised to a higher standard for the priests.  It is even higher for the high priest.  God holds those He places in authority and high places to a higher standard.  It is part of the expectation and requirement.

Some make the assumption then that if they are leaders or in a place of authority, they are holier than the regular person.  That isn’t what God is doing here – putting leaders on a pedestal to be idolized or worshipped.  In fact, the teaching really is that greater position and privilege brings higher responsibility. In the teaching of our Lord, “To whom much is given, much is required”, we see the New Testament reinforce what God tells Moses here.  If we have a place of leadership – we also carry a burden of responsibility.

We must be careful not to interpolate that measuring personal holiness in terms of ceremonial and ritual purity is the answer. The holiness of God is measured through obedience to God’s commands and by loving one’s neighbor as oneself.  It is about obedience, not the specifics of the commandments God gave.  Holiness is a condition of the heart that begins with a desire to walk in God’s ways, and becomes action when we make the intentional choices to do exactly that.

Leviticus 20

Leviticus 20 is a harsh chapter.  God means business.  He addresses some rather serious stuff, beginning with child sacrifice.  “Any one of the people of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn in Israel who gives any of his children to Molech shall surely be put to death”.  God is not tolerant of any sacrifice made to anything or anyone but Himself, but is especially intolerant of child sacrifice to a foreign god.  The penalty is severe – death.  And it isn’t something that just impacts the perpetrator of the sacrifice.

In fact, God makes it clear that “the people of the land do at all close their eyes to that man….I will set my face against that man and against his clan and will cut them off from among their people”.  There is some accountability here.  If sin happens, the community is held accountable to make sure the proper punishment occurs.  And if they fail, they will become the recipient of the punishment directly from God as a clan.  God isn’t fooling around here.  He is serious about obedience.

In fact, He makes it pretty simple to understand.  “Keep my statutes and do them”.  Nike didn’t invent the terminology ‘Just Do It’ – God did.  Obedience isn’t something we need to ponder.  It is an expectation, no actually a requirement.  Falling short will lead to a severe price.  Much of the sin called out here required that people be killed, or at the least cut off and separated out from the rest of the people.  God takes sin seriously.  He did then.  He does now.  We need to pay attention to this because it is no different today.  Sin carries a severe price.

While the law does not require us to be put to death today for the multitude of sins called out in this passage, it does carry the death penalty in a different way.  Sin that is not dealt with will separate us from God for eternity.  It is our ticket to what Scripture refers to as Hell.  God doesn’t want us to be banished to that place, which is why He sent Jesus to provide a way for us to deal with our sin and overcome death and separation from Him.  But make no mistake – obedience is still His requirement and when we fall short, which scripture is clear we will, we need a Savior to cover our sin with His blood and set us free from the penalty of sin.  Have you addressed sin in your life?  If not, do it today.  There is no guarantee of a tomorrow!

Leviticus 19

Leviticus 19 has God giving some pretty straight stuff about how we are to live.  Lots of similarities to the 10 commandments, although there are a lot more.  There are two types of commandments – those things we are to do, and those we are not to do.  God covers a broad range of topics here – and one of the areas that seems to be of interest is vs 27-28 where it talks about how to shave a beard, and whether or not you can have a tattoo or not?  There are lots of interpretations all over the commentaries – so I encourage you to take a read and see what God says to you.

Here are the shall’s:

  • “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy
  • you shall revere his mother and his father
  • you shall keep my Sabbaths
  • you shall love your neighbor as yourself
  • You shall keep my statutes
  • you shall fear your God
  • you shall observe all my statutes and all my rules”

He ends it with the command to “DO THEM”.  The Nike approach – just do it!  We aren’t to think about it.  We are to obey!

Here are the shall not’s:

  • “Do not turn to idols
  • you shall not reap your field right up to its edge
  • you shall not strip your vineyard bare
  • You shall not steal
  • you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another
  • You shall not swear by my name falsely
  • You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him
  • You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind
  • You shall do no injustice in court
  • You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great
  • You shall not go around as a slanderer
  • You shall not hate your brother in your heart
  • You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge
  • You shall not let your cattle breed with a different kind
  • You shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed
  • nor shall you wear a garment of cloth made of two kinds of material
  • You shall not eat any flesh with the blood in it
  • You shall not interpret omens
  • You shall not round off the hair on your temples
  • You shall not make any cuts on your body
  • You shall do no wrong in judgment

Quite a list of shall not’s here.  God obviously felt He needed to spell things out clearly so people knew how to live.

The charge here is to be holy, which means to be separated or called apart.  We are not to merely fit in with the rest of the world.  We are to live a life that is worthy of God – and that means we stand out and are different.  God tells us 15 times in this chapter that “I am Lord”.  Seems obvious He wants us to know and remember that fact.  He is Lord, we are not, and that is how we best live.  He gives us very specific guidance in what that life looks like.  The only question is whether we will learn it, heed it, and obey it!  As the scripture says it – we need to do them!

Leviticus 18

Leviticus 18 begins and ends with God stating the obvious: “I am the Lord your God”.  Often we forget the relationship we have with God.  He isn’t our best friend.  He isn’t Santa in the sky waiting to give us whatever we want.  He isn’t our genie that is in a bottle waiting to be rubbed.  God is God and He alone is Lord.  He is the creator and master of the universe.  He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  There is none like Him.  And when He gives us direction and commandments for how we should live – well that is how we should live!

He gets pretty direct in His instruction to Moses about sexual conduct.  “You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the Lord your God”.  The people may have experienced some things that were different than these commands, but that doesn’t make them acceptable.

Just because someone else does it doesn’t make it approved in God’s plan.  The people who had God’s children captive may have done all sorts of things that were different – but God is clear that they are not ok for His people.  Before God gave a single command in this area, He first established a foundation for the whole matter. He declared this principle: ‘You belong to Me, you shall not do as the world does’.  We can’t get our morality or see what is acceptable to God from others.  Our only source can be God and His Word.  That is the standard by which we will be measured.

God is also clear that His standards apply to everyone that is dwelling among His people.  “But you shall keep my statutes and my rules and do none of these abominations, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you”.  It isn’t expressed as a desire – but rather a command.  Obedience is the only acceptable option in God’s economy.  He doesn’t give credit for wishing, trying, hoping – only obeying.  The penalty is severe when we fail – God says over and over you shall be cut off if you fail to obey.  How you doing in this area?  Are you walking in obedience?

Leviticus 16

Leviticus 16 continues the instruction from God about becoming clean.  The past few chapters have addressed men and women and their unique personal situations around uncleanness and how to be restored.  Now God turns his attention to his leadership and the people at large.  He has Moses give some pretty clear instruction to Aaron.  “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat that is on the ark, so that he may not die”.

Not any real options here.  Obey or die.  That is the reality of sin and how God sees it.  It isn’t something to ignore or think lightly of.  It is a deep and highly important thing in God’s eyes.  Aaron was to clean up his own life and then work on the people at large.  “He shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleannesses of the people of Israel and because of their transgressions, all their sins”.  Sin touches those around us, even down to the places we are and live.  Sin is a big deal.  It must be addressed.

The good news is that God has made a way for us to be set free from sin.  In this time, it was a series of sacrifices and rituals that cleansed the impact of sin and restored the relationship with God.  Jesus went to the cross to change that process and we are offered freedom from sin through His shed blood on the Cross.  It still requires us to do something though – we have to confess our sins and repent from our sinful ways and claim the grace and mercy of God through Christ that sets us free.

So sin is a big problem for all of us.  Scripture is clear that all of us will sin.  That means we need forgiveness.  God has made it clear that we can receive that through Christ, and be cleansed from our sin.  “For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the Lord from all your sins”. Whether the sacrifice was bulls and goats that Aaron offered up, or the blood of Christ shed on the cross, we can be set free if we do the right things and allow God to be our God!

Leviticus 15

Leviticus 15 focuses a bit more on being clean for worship.  Leviticus is a book which was written so that the people of God would come to understand how to worship before a holy and righteous God.  The Lord desired the worship and lifestyle of His people to be distinct from the ungodly nations around them.  Leviticus addresses guidelines in four areas:

  1. offerings/sacrifices
  2. priestly duties
  3. uncleanness in worship
  4. individual holiness

This chapter addresses several areas of uncleanness in human discharge and is given to help the priests separate the holy from the unholy.  So God gets pretty granular in His instruction here, and while it falls short of an anatomy lesson, it certainly does get right down to the basics of life.  Concerning male bodily discharges, there are two different kinds mentioned: unnatural discharges and natural discharges.  He does the same with women.  In both cases, there are very specific instructions given as to how to become clean again so one could resume worship of God.

For men, unnatural discharges were primarily caused by a sexually transmitted disease (probably gonorrhea) would render a man ceremonially unclean.  “When any man has a discharge from his body, his discharge is unclean”.   Since the discharge from the organ is highly contagious, anything or anyone who touched the discharge also became unclean and needed to follow specific guidelines for becoming clean again.  After the cleansing had taken place, the individual had to wait seven days and then on the eighth day offer a sin offering and burnt offering.  With a natural discharge, primarily related to intercourse, the man was unclean til evening and merely had to wash his body to become clean again.

With women any unnatural discharge was probably caused by a disease.  She remained unclean until the discharge was cleared up.  “If a woman has a discharge of blood for many days, not at the time of her menstrual impurity….all the days of the discharge she shall continue in uncleanness”.  A woman’s natural discharge would happen once a month and make her unclean for seven days.  There was a specific set of steps a woman was required to go through each month to once again become clean.  While this all may seem a bit over the top, God did not want His people to come before Him with any type of bodily impurity, whether it was natural or unnatural.  He had strict guidelines that were designed to remind the people that they were also to be pure in heart when they worshipped Him!

%d bloggers like this: