Sunday, April 23, 2017

Year 7, Day 113: Leviticus 24

Theological Commentary: Click Here

It is the most basic of all laws: An eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth.  In other words, whatever you do to others can be done back to you.  It is the more punitive flip-side of the New Testament teaching, “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.”

I have to wonder how many of us truly consider the scope of this commandment.  When we are driving down the road and we drive in such a way as to anger others, do we really think about this commandment and how we are guilty of angering other people?  When we are having a bad day and we let our bad day rub off on other people and make their day worse, do we think about this law?  When we see someone truly in need and are capable of helping out but choose to walk past, do we think about this law?

So often we apply this law when the sin is grievous.  When there is a case of murder, we use this to justify punishment as I believe we should.  When there is a case of arson, we hold the person responsible for damages.  When there is a case of treason against a government, the punishment is usually quite serious.

However, how ready are we to apply this law to the small sins?  When we tell a little white lie, do we think about how we deserve to be likewise injured through a lie?  When we act out of selfishness and self-centeredness do we consider how we deserve to be impacted by the self-centeredness of others?

This is also why I value the teachings of Christ.  Jesus agrees with this law as good, but He also challenges us to rise above it.  This law is what we deserve.  But Jesus teaches us that the way of God is to turn the other cheek.  When someone takes from us, we should offer even more.  From the perspective of the offender, we need to recognize how we deserve to be punished.  From the perspective of the offended, we need to recognize the opportunity for grace.


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Year 7, Day 112: Leviticus 23

Theological Commentary: Click Here

As I read this chapter, I had one overarching thought.  This chapter is about remembrance.  It is about remembrance on many levels, but it is fundamentally about remembrance.  God desires His people to have feasts – or holy days – because it is important to remember.

One level of remembrance is to make sure that we don’t forget what the Lord has done for us.  Isn’t that a challenging task?  I find that I am all too quick to forget how God has been there for me in the past.  I call on Him when I am in need, and He has always been there!  The next time I am in need I rush to the Lord in a panic, however, completely forgetting how He has been there for me every single time in the past.

A second level of remembrance is to give thanks to Him for what He is currently doing.  This is why we tithe.  This is why the Lord calls us to give of the firstfruits of the harvest.  God has His hand in all that is currently going on, we should remember to thank Him for what is in in the middle of doing.  We should remember not just what He has done for us, but intentionally look for how He continues to bless us.

A third level of remembrance is simply to remember who the Lord is.  We need to remember the character of the Lord.  We need to look for ways to bring His character into our character.  We should be looking to learn from the character of the Lord so that we become more like Him and less like our natural, sinful nature.


Friday, April 21, 2017

Year 7, Day 111: Leviticus 22

Theological Commentary: Click Here

I think it is time to tackle this issue of the sacrifice without blemish.  When I read through the Law, I often find these passages troublesome.  I think I find them troublesome on several levels.  First, I believe in a God who has made all things clean and who does not judge on external appearances.  Second, I tend to really care about animals and I feel for the ones who aren’t acceptable.  Third, I tend to have an affinity for the members of a group who are outcast or overlooked and therefore I empathize with those animals who are blemished.  When I read through these passages, I can’t help but ask if those animals with a blemish are really all that worse than the perfect and pristine animal.

Naturally, I am missing the point.  These passages aren’t about demonstrating the selectiveness of God.  These passages are not about showing how much God prefers perfect people over real human beings.  These passages are certainly not about God judging us by our external appearances.  All of those conclusions miss the point.

Remember that the point of the Law is to point us to Christ.  In the Law, God is laying the foundation for what He is going to do in Christ.  In some places, the Law exposes our sin and points us to our personal need for Christ.  But other passages, such as this one in particular, literally point us to Christ through the idea of the unblemished sacrifice.

In short, here is what God is saying.  The only real sacrifice that God will accept on our behalf is the perfect unblemished one.  In other words, the only person who can be a perfect sacrifice for our sinfulness is a perfect being who is absolutely sinless and completely without blemish.  The only sacrifice that is acceptable is Christ.

These passages aren’t about the poor animals who aren’t perfect.  These passages are pointing us to Christ as the ultimate fulfillment of the Law.  He is the greatest sacrifice that could be offered on our behalf.  He is the only sacrifice that we need.  After all, who could be better than Him?


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Year 7, Day 110: Leviticus 21

Theological Commentary: Click Here

Leviticus 21 is a very interesting chapter.  In this chapter we have all kinds of rules and regulations for the priests of Israel.  At first glance, it seems like only those who embody perfection and who surround themselves with perfection can be near the Lord.  Just in case you are curious, if you are taking this message away from these verses, it is certainly understandable.  However, I think it is the wrong message to take.

Remember what God has been telling us about Himself in this whole book.  God is holy.  That means God is different.  He is separate.  He is not like the world.

In this light, God doesn’t want His priests to have a worldly mentality, either.  He wants His priests to go through life making choices for the right reason – even for righteous reasons – and not because it’s easy or the expected thing to do.  God wants us to put thought and consideration into our actions and their consequences.  He wants us to be concerned about our purity and our spirituality.

As I read through the commentary that I wrote six years back, I found a challenging thought along these lines.  The thought was this: the greatest evil is the corruption of the greatest good.  Now, I might argue with that and say that all evil is evil and there is no greatest evil.  But that is really an argument of semantics and it misses the real point of what I’m talking about here.

As high priests to God, we need to be careful about what we do and the choices that we make.  As God’s priests, our corruption carries weight and consequence.  As God’s priests, our actions and the consequences that they bring speak to the people around us.  We should take these things into account as we look to make our life available to God to use as He sees fit to use.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Year 7, Day 109: Leviticus 20

Theological Commentary: Click Here

Leviticus 20 is full of familiar themes about which I have spoken much lately.  We have the very familiar commendation to be holy in the world as the Lord is holy.  We have the very familiar - because it is repeated out of importance – passage about human beings taking their sexuality seriously.  We also have the familiar admonition against pursuing other gods.  In this chapter, it feels like God is largely repeating Himself.

Naturally, I wonder why God would repeat Himself so often.  Remember, throughout most of human history writing was an expensive and laborious process.  Things had to be copied by hand through most of human history.  It took much time to copy documents.  This means that ancient writers typically knew how to be concise without repeating themselves.  This should cause us to be more alert during repeated passages rather than tune the words out.

Why would we get these messages repeated again and again?  Of course, the obvious reason is that they are important to God.  God absolutely takes our worship and our sexuality very seriously.  God cares about from where we are looking for power.  These are topics that are near and dear to His heart.  All parents repeat themselves to their kids; God is no different in this respect.

I think there is more, though.  It is not just that these messages are so important.  It is also that the human condition is so bad at keeping them.  We struggle with keeping our heart devoted to God.  The passion of our hearts changes season after season.  We pursue almost anything that makes a promise towards our goals, whatever they truly are.

I do find it interesting that the things that appear to be most important to God are often the things with which human beings have the most difficult time.  I’m not trying to say that we are doomed to fail.  What I am trying to say is that this lifts up the holiness of God.  God is indeed separate and different from us because we have difficulty rising up to the things that are most important to Him!  There is a reason that holiness is so much work.  It is so much work because it is foreign enough to us that we must change to be like Him.

In the end, this is a great lesson to learn when we hit one of these chapters where it feels like God is repeating Himself so often.  Those chapters are a reminder to us to be holy.  They are a reminder to us to take notice of the holiness of God and ponder why it is necessary for us to hear these same messages again and again.


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Year 7, Day 108: Leviticus 19

Theological Commentary: Click Here

Leviticus 19 feels like a random chapter with a bunch of random catch-all laws.  There are even some repeat laws, such as eating flesh with blood in it.  While I think it is true that this is a reasonably random chapter in effect, I think there is actually a binding thought in purpose.  We need to go back to the thoughts around the word holy.

I’ve discussed often in Leviticus that the word holy means separate or different.  Leviticus 19:2 gives us the binding thought for this chapter.  “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”  This chapter is a reminder that the laws here are meant to demonstrate that God’s people are different than the world around them.

What I love about this chapter is that there is a such a focus on righteous behavior.  It’s almost like a slap in the face to the rest of humanity.  How is it that we know that God’s people are different than the rest of the world?  We know because they are fair and treat each other with respect!  If you think about that for a little while, you’ll see what I’m saying.  Human beings are naturally self-centered and seeking the desires of their own hearts.  Fairness is often the furthest thing from our mind unless we are the ones feeling the unjustness.  To be holy, all we need to do is live a live that thinks about other people!  That really is a scathing remark about the human race.

Look at some of the examples that we read about in this passage. 
  • We are to use fair scales in the market.  In other words, human beings like to cheat when it comes to economics.
  • We are to look upon the sojourner with love.  In other words, human beings tend to be cliquish and treat our own kind with preference. 
  • We are to honor our parents and elders.  In other words, young people typically don’t value those in power above them until they become old themselves.
  • We are not to turn to mediums or false gods; we are to worship God alone.  In other words, human beings are superstitious people who will follow just about anything that promises to work in the moment.
  • We are to be concerned about the sexuality of others, especially those in positions of less power than ourselves.  In other words, we often use our positions of power to get what we want from a sexual perspective.

Do you see what I’m saying?  When reading down that list, any normal person would say that this is a rather sane list and the world would be a better place if we followed these rules and rules like them.  These rules just make sense from the perspective of society.

The question, then, is why do we need them printed?  If they make sense, why does God need to tell us these rules?  The answer is short.  While these rules make sense philosophically, we don’t instinctually practice them.  In most of our lives, if we live off of our instinct we are always looking out for ourselves.  The only time that we follow these rules and rules like them is when we make a concerted effort to do so.

That says something about us as human beings.  It is why the laws for any country are thick and numerous.  Human beings need governance.  We need laws to affect our natural behavior.  We need laws and rules to tame the self-centered person within and make us capable of living in society.  The point of this chapter is that God wants to take it one step further.  God doesn’t just want us living in society, He wants us living in a righteous society.  That’s the point of this chapter.


Monday, April 17, 2017

Year 7, Day 107: Leviticus 18

Theological Commentary: Click Here

I think that there is a key to understanding this chapter, and that key is to be found in Leviticus 18:24-25.  The things that are listed in this chapter are an abomination to God.  For these actions, God is kicking out the Canaanites.  For these actions, God is replacing the Canaanites with the Hebrew people.  God finds these actions so abominable that he literally uses the word vomit to describe what the land is going to do to these people.

What are the detestable actions?  The first group deals with people having sex with their immediate family.  However, these aren’t the only ones that God lists.  Notice that God says we should have sex with people in the same family – even if it is not our own family.  Then God says that we shouldn’t have sex with a man as we have sex with a woman.  In other words, God is talking about homosexuality.  Then, God says that we shouldn’t have sex with animals.  In other words, bestiality.

God absolutely cares what we think about sex.  He absolutely cares about our sexual partners.  God goes so far as to kick the Canaanites out of the land because of their sexual practices!  That’s how much God cares about our sexual partnerships.

Often, I wonder if God cares about our sexual partners more than we do.  We live in a day and an age where “friends with benefits” seems to be the norm.  We live in an age where it is practically accepted that people will have multiple sexual partners throughout their life – and I’m not talking about multiple marriages after one spouse dies.  We live in a culture that has a growing interest in homosexuality.  In fact, I think there is even more growing interest in promoting homosexuality. 

Sometimes, I honestly think that we don’t care about our sexual partners at all.  We simply want to have sex and it doesn’t matter how we meet that end.  We give no thought to the long-term or communal dangers involved in the pursuit of our sexual needs.

In the end, I do believe that God cares about our sexuality for more than we do.  He cares about how it happens; we simply care that it happens.  Unfortunately, I think we are walking on a dangerous precipice.  How a society treats sexuality has much to say with how the rest of society functions.  To be honest, I am not impressed at all with the modern perspective on human sexuality.