Archive for the ‘Leviticus’ Category

Numbers 1

Numbers 1 has Moses and Aaron taking tally of all the people.  “Take a census of all the congregation of the people of Israel, by clans, by fathers’ houses, according to the number of names, every male, head by head”.  Seems simple enough doesn’t it.  Have them all log into an online survey and fill out the information on their household.  Oh wait, this was thousands of years before computers so that isn’t how it is going to work.  We struggle to get this information to in our highly technology centric world so it had to be quite a process for Moses and his team.

But wait, how many people could there possibly be anyway.  After all they traveled with Moses as a group.  It can’t be that many.  And Moses had to be wondering what the purpose of this count was anyway.  “From twenty years old and upward, all in Israel who are able to go to war, you and Aaron shall list them, company by company”.  This is God’s way of preparing His people for the future.  There are some major threats coming, and having a handle on the people and how they are organized is vital to their future protection and success.

Here is what they counted:

 

Tribe Count Leader
Reuben 46,500 Elizur the son of Shedeur
Simeon 59,300 Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai
Judah 74,600 Nahshon the son of Amminadab
Issachar 54,400 Nethanel the son of Zuar
Zebulun 57,400 Eliab the son of Helon
Ephraim 40,500 Elishama the son of Ammihud
Manasseh 32,200 Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur
Benjamin 35,400 Abidan the son of Gideoni
Dan 62,700 Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai
Asher 41,500 Pagiel the son of Ochran
Gad 45,650 Eliasaph the son of Deuel
Naphtali 53,400 Ahira the son of Enan

There was one exception to the count – the tribe of Levi.  “Only the tribe of Levi you shall not list, and you shall not take a census of them among the people of Israel”.  The Levites served as priests and keepers of the tabernacle, so they were not going to be resources for war.  God’s instruction to them was to keep them focused on watching “over the tabernacle of the testimony….and over all that belongs to it”.  They have a very clear mission in life.  Moses and Aaron get the count done, but not alone. Often we read that they did as the Lord commanded.  In this instance “the people of Israel; they did according to all that the Lord commanded Moses”.  Can you imagine uniform obedience like this – everyone doing what they were supposed to do to accomplish any task?  It can be done. We simply need a strong leader with a plan, and then a heart to obey!

Leviticus 27

Leviticus 27 has God giving instruction about giving to his people.  He addresses both the consecration/dedication/vow or in other words gifting of something to God, and also ends with a reminder about tithing.  Money is not off limits when we consider how we walk with Jesus.  It is a core part of our life – after all we all trade our most precious gift of time in exchange for money as we go to work each day.  So God addresses the topic often in scripture because He knows how much it can control what we do and how we live if it is not put in proper perspective.

Let’s start with the last part of the chapter first and look at tithing.  “Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord”.  Tithing is not a gift at all.  It is simply returning to God what is already His.  I’ve come to believe that tithing is not really about the money or amount – it is about us realizing that all we have belongs to God in the first place.  It is an attitude that God desires that we have – being open handed with what He has given to us – and trusting Him enough to return 10% to Him.  Tithing is basic table stakes for a believer.  It isn’t optional and shouldn’t require a lot of thought or contemplation.  It is simply giving God what is His.

The majority of this chapter addresses things above and beyond the tithe using the concept of a vow.  There are various words used to describe that vow, but that is basically what is happening here.  We see examples of people vowing to give their animals, crops, homes, land – all sorts of stuff – to the priests who carefully value and receive it for use in their ministry.  The chapter outlines the process and how things are to be valued and what the cost is to reclaim something that has previously been given – a 20% buy back cost over the valuation of what was provided.  Simply viewed, offering a vow is practicing a kind of “credit card” act of worship. It is a promise to worship God with a certain offering in the future, motivated by gratitude for God’s grace in the life of the giver. The reason for the delay in making the offering was that the giver was not able, at that moment to make the offering. The vow was made, promising to offer something to God if God would intervene on behalf of the individual, making the offering possible. In many instances, the vow was made in a time of great danger or need.

There also is provision for a person to vow himself or another person to God where someone could make “a special vow to the Lord involving the valuation of persons”.  It is assumed that these persons would either serve in ministry related to the tabernacle, or would at least serve the priests, likely helping take care of some of the workload that may involve the fields and property the priests were responsible to care for.  It seems that the value of each person is to be determined by the category into which they fall, corresponding to their age and sex. Their worth seems to be their “market value,” what the person would bring in the market place based on their ability to do the hard work that was required. So it is not demeaning of women or of the young or elderly, but only a recognition of what value this person had in the market place.

Leviticus 26

Leviticus 26 lays out some clarity about our relationship with God.  He has expectations.  And those carry requirements that when violated will lead to punishment.  Sin always carries a price.  We tend to focus on the forgiving grace of Christ on the Cross, which is true and valid, but it doesn’t negate the penalty of sin.  This chapter talks about how important obedience is to God.  It is not optional.  And the foundation of that requirement is that we realize and live like God is God alone.  There is no other.  And we must not have any idols in our patch or lives.  God alone is whe He says.  He alone is worthy of our worship and praise.

Here is the first reality God gives.  “If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, then I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its increase”.  Obedience brings blessing.  He gives a few more results of obedience:

  1. “I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid
  2. I will make my dwelling among you
  3. I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people

Truth is God wants a relationship with us, and that is based not only on His covenant, but on our response.  We have to make sure He alone is our God.

 

When we stay focused on God and who He is and what He has done, we tend to walk in obedience.  When we allow the focus to be on self and what we want we tend to fall away and do whatever we want.  The fact is, God has always been faithful.  “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be their slaves. And I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect”.  We need to stay focused on that reality.  God is who He says and does what He says He will do.  He alone sets us free and fulfills what He has promised.

The second reality is that sometimes we make bad choices.  Disobedience carries a price tag.  “But if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments, if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant, then I will do this to you”:

  1. “I will visit you with panic
  2. I will set my face against you
  3. I will discipline you
  4. I will continue striking you
  5. I will let loose the wild beasts against you

The third reality is that when we continue to make bad choices, even after God begins to punish us, it goes from bad to worse.  “And if by this discipline you are not turned to me but walk contrary to me, then I also will walk contrary to you, and I myself will strike you sevenfold for your sins….I will bring a sword upon you….I break your supply of bread….I will walk contrary to you in fury….I myself will discipline you….I will destroy your high places….I will lay your cities waste….I will not smell your pleasing aromas….I myself will devastate the land….I will scatter you among the nations….I will unsheathe the sword after you….I will send faintness into their hearts”.  If you ever wondered if God really cares about obedience – this should make it pretty clear.  He does.  It is not optional.  He will get our attention.

That brings us to the fourth and final reality.  Even after all this disobedience, God’s desire is still to restore us to a right relationship with Him.  “But if they confess their iniquity….if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity, then I will remember my covenant….and I will remember the land….that I might be their God”.  At the end of the day God wants to be our God.  So He makes a way for us to come back to Him even after our sinful behavior and selfish living.  Today that forgiveness is offered to you and me through Jesus Christ.  Same process occurs.  We have to admit our need of a Savior, confess our sin, repent and turn to go the other way, and walk with Jesus.  But God has always been most concerned about our relationship with Him.  That is His number one desire.  Are you walking that way, or have you let disobedience get in the way.  If so, time to confess and repent and turn around and run to God!

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.

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