Sunday, February 28, 2010
Chapter 4 is a very specific set of instructions for the taking down and moving of the tabernacle. Specific tasks are assigned to the Kohathites, Gershonites and Merarites in a most organized fashion. Even the age of the men to take on these tasks is specified to between 30 and 50 years of age. Old enough to bear the responsibility and weight and young enough for it not to be a burden to their bodies.
What struck me in Chapter 4 was the matter of the poles. I remember reading before about the construction of these pieces and all the rings for the poles was curious to me. Perhaps I'm more dense than some, but it just occurred to me to be significant that these men were not to come into physical contact with these holy structures. The poles were to help bear and distribute the weight without the need for touching.
I also found this correlation by a commentator to be interesting. He compares the tabernacle (or temple) to the body of the believer:
"So Peter calls his death the putting off of his TABERNACLE, 2 Pet. i. 14.
And this similitude is very fit; for, as here, in the tabernacle of Moses, the holy things were first covered and taken away, (see ver. 20,) so the soul and its powers are first withdrawn from the body by death. 2. As the curtains and coverings were taken off and folded up, so the skin and flesh of our bodies are pulled off and consumed. 3. As the boards of the tabernacle were disjointed and pulled asunder, so shall our bones and sinews: compare Job's description of the formation of man, chap. x. 8-12; and Solomon's account of his dissolution, Eccles. xii. 3, 4. 4. As the disjointed and dissolved tabernacle was afterwards set up again, chap. x. 21, so shall our bodies in the day of the resurrection; see 1 Cor. xv. 51-54. "(taken from this commentary)
Chapter 5 is just down right intense. It felt like something so not Christian but more ritualistic or pagan or from a movie I'd be uncomfortable with. I guess when I come across things like this in the old testament that were unfamiliar to me before it's rather shocking. It makes me so glad we don't live under the law anymore! However, the intensity of the process of this "jealousy trial" had to be a stark reminder to keep in obedience to the Lord because the consequences were down right scary.
Bible Gateway commentary summed this up well:
"This law would make the women of Israel watch against giving cause for suspicion. On the other hand, it would hinder the cruel treatment such suspicions might occasion. It would also hinder the guilty from escaping, and the innocent from coming under unjust suspicion. When no proof could be brought, the wife was called on to make this solemn appeal to a heart-searching God. No woman, if she were guilty, could say "Amen" to the adjuration, and drink the water after it, unless she disbelieved the truth of God, or defied his justice. The water is called the bitter water, because it caused the curse. Thus sin is called an evil and a bitter thing. Let all that meddle with forbidden pleasures, know that they will be bitterness in the latter end. From the whole learn, 1. Secret sins are known to God, and sometimes are strangely brought to light in this life; and that there is a day coming when God will, by Christ, judge the secrets of men according to the gospel, Romans 2:16. 2 In particular, Whoremongers and adulterers God will surely judge. Though we have not now the waters of jealousy, yet we have God's word, which ought to be as great a terror. Sensual lusts will end in bitterness. 3. God will manifest the innocency of the innocent. The same providence is for good to some, and for hurt to others. And it will answer the purposes which God intends." (taken from this commentary)
I really appreciated God's interest in justice for the woman who could not prove her innocence as well. However, the first line of this commentary struck me too "watch against cause for suspicion". That is so wise for any of us women. Not only to watch out for this but to build up our husbands confidence in our love for them. It would motivate me to be above reproach in every way and I should think this way still out of love for my Lord and my husband.
The last thing that struck me was the picture of the bitter water. Even though there are so many repetitions of this sin in our culture today, let alone an overall acceptance or excusing of it, there remains the truth still of it's bitterness once swallowed. It made me think of what a great story this is for older teens as we train them about purity and God's design. He does not wish for us to have to drink the water of bitterness in our lives and his ways seek to bless us instead. Even though the youth of this age don't have to go through such a scary ritual, they do bear severe and serious consequences for taking their purity lightly.
Tomorrow's reading is: Numbers 6:1-27; Numbers 10:1-36
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Today's passage first continues to describe how the clans were camped and how they travelled.
The tribe of Judah leads the tribes of Issachar and Zebulun - the same tribe God chooses to be the lineage of Jesus Christ.
The tribe of Ephraim leads the tribes of Benjamin and Manasseh - this reminded me of the fact that Israel gave Ephraim the blessing over Manasseh in Genesis 48.
The last two tribal leaders it's more unclear why they were selected. The tribe of Reuben leads the tribes of Gad and Simeon. Perhaps this is because Reuben tried to redeem himself (sleeping with his father's concubine) by bargaining with his brothers in an attempt to save Joseph's life? I'm not sure. And the tribe of Dan leads the tribes of Asher and Naphtali - I'm not sure of the significance here either. Perhaps there is none, I don't know.
Edited to add: after I wrote this I found this commentary which gave further reasons as to how/why God arranged the tribes and tribe leaders this way.
The other thing that struck me about this chapter was what an immense undertaking it would be to pull up camp, travel and set up camp again - with over 2 million people! Wow! There obviously needed to be structure for this to work at all. Our God is a God of order, not chaos, and the camp was set up in such a way as to facilitate the orderliness of millions of people. I think that's just incredible.
And lastly - all the tribes encircled the tabernacle. The nation of Israel revolved around the sanctuary. God was the centre. God was the focus. So should it be within our own hearts and lives!
In chapter 3 there is a census of the Levites, counting every male over one month old. During the last plague of Egypt, every firstborn male Egyptian and every firstborn of their cattle died, but God spared the lives of the Israelites boys and cattle. After this, all Israelite firstborn boys and cattle were dedicated to God - the cattle were sacrificed and the boys were to have served God in the sanctuary (Ex 11:4-13:15). However, after the Israelites worshiped the golden calf, the Levites answered Moses call to come to the Lord's side (Ex 32:25-29), and they now took the place of the firstborn boys, to serve God in the sanctuary.
The census indicated that there were 22,273 firstborn males (perhaps born since the exodus), and there were 22,000 Levites, so the 273 "extra" firstborns had to be redeemed and the money was given to Aaron and his sons.
Tomorrow's readings: Numbers 4-5.
Friday, February 26, 2010
Leviticus ends today, but seems to do so on a somewhat less-than-conclusive note ~ instructing the Israelites how they can "buy back" items they've promised to give to God in worship. At first glance, that appears to almost negate the whole book, but this commentary gave me a new perspective:
Leviticus 27 concludes the entire book by focusing the Israelites’ attention on the highest form of worship which men can experience. Earlier chapters of Leviticus have largely dealt with compulsory offerings and obedience. The final chapter of the book deals with that which is purely voluntary. While the first obedience is that of duty, the second is that of delight.We've just finished an entire book of RULES & REGULATIONS, but incredibly, we've seen the love, grace, and holiness of God throughout the whole thing! I find that absolutely amazing!! I love what all this digging is turning up!
The voluntary act of worshipping God by means of vows is the highest form of Old Testament worship. The legislation of this chapter assumes that men will, out of gratitude to God for His mercy and grace, make offerings which were the Israelites’ response to love, not to Law. How appropriate for the Book of Leviticus to end on a note of love, rather than of law, on a note of delight, rather than duty. (emphasis mine)
Next we move on to another book that usually doesn't rank among favourites: Numbers!
True to its name, the book of Numbers opens up with a chapter of numbers ~ the ordered census of all the Israelite tribes ~ and we have another chapter of twelve repetitive two-verse passages, where only the tribe name and the number change. Again, we see how each tribe, no matter how large or small or their position in the camp, performed the census in exactly the same manner. No tribe was more significant to God than the others.
We also see that the Israelite population hasn't changed much in the 1-2 years since the Exodus, and also the reiteration of why the Egyptian Pharaoh was nervous about the size of their population. If 603,550 fighting men are a representation of approximately one-quarter of the entire population, we're looking at a nation 2-3 million strong!
The Levites are intentionally omitted from this census because Moses was to determine the number of able-bodied men who would be able to serve in the army. The Levites were to commit themselves ONLY to serving in, maintaining, assembling, disassebling, and transporting the tabernacle. Interesting to note that the Levites were still engaged in warfare, just not in the physical sense that the other tribes were ~ they were called to do battle on a spiritual level every. single. day. on behalf of their nation.
Numbers 1 ends with some interesting and intimidating verses about how the Levites are to encircle the tabernacle each time the Israelites set up camp to provide a sort of shield between the wrath of God and the general public. This commentary states this order had a 3-fold purpose:
When they rested the Levites were to encamp round about the tabernacle (v. 50, 53), that they might be near their work, and resident upon their charge, always ready to attend, and that they might be a guard upon the tabernacle, to preserve it from being either plundered or profaned. They must pitch round about the tabernacle, that there be no wrath upon the congregation, as there would be if the tabernacle and the charge of it were neglected, or those crowded upon it that were not allowed to come near. Note, Great care must be taken to prevent sin, because the preventing of sin is the is the preventing of wrath. (emphasis mine)So what sounds like harsh orders from a vengeful God are really once again, upon closer examination, guidelines for the preservation of His chosen people and the place where He communicated and communed with them. His jealous desire for their safety and their close relationship with Him are very evident, even in these seemingly boring, repetitive books!
Tomorrow's passage: Numbers 2-3.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Scripture: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high 26:13
Observation: God has brought the Israelites out, He has taken them out of slavery and given them a free life, one free from burdens.
Application: I don't know about anyone else, but I don't always put my burdens down at God's feet. I carry them around, or I try and fix them. This was a good reminder for me and my situation that by Jesus' blood I am saved. I am not a slave, I don't have to carry a yoke around and be burdened and pushed to the ground by my circumstances, I can walk with my head held high because I am THE KING'S daughter. He has offered to take my load, to help me, walk with me, I just have to lay it down.
Prayer: Thank you God that you sent Jesus to bear our burdens, sins, troubles. Thank you Jesus for the sacrifice you made for us. Thank you that your yoke is easy and your burden is light. Help us to walk with our heads held high, help us to lay down what we are carrying and allow you to work in our lives. In Jesus Name, Amen.
Tomorrow's readings: Leviticus 27 and Numbers 1.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Chapter 23 describes the numerous feasts that the Israelites were to celebrate. The Lord's Appointed Times discusses these in more detail. One interesting thing about understanding how the Israelite calendar operated is that provides important information....
Passover begins on the fourteenth day of the month of Abib. Since the months, in the Jewish Calendar, follow the phases of the moon, we know that this must be a full moon. The darkness that fell over the earth when Jesus was crucified could not, therefore, have been an eclipse of the sun. It had to be, therefore, of supernatural origin.
One verse that my new ESV Study Bible commented on and I thought was very true was regarding vs 22 which appears right after describing the Feast of Weeks - And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.
The verse appeared previously (Lev 19:9) but was repeated here. The Feast of Weeks is also called The Feast of the Harvest and the day of the firstfruits (in the NT it's called Pentecost). This celebration gives glory to God for the provider of all crops and reminds the people that He deserves the firstfruits of all produce - generosity is expected of the people during this occasion and in v.22 God reminds the people not to forget about the poor during this time of celebration of abundance.
Chapters 23 - 25 are all about rituals. Chapter 24 is as well. The lamp was to be tended daily (constantly!) to ensure it would not go out and the bread was to be tended to weekly. The Lamp, The Loaves and the Loudmouth indicates that the punishment for blasphemy is included in this chapter as a reminder that justice is also supposed to be done ritually, routinely, fairly.
People often tend to focus on rituals being legalistic. And certainly they can become so, and we can become complacent in our ritual acts of worship. But do we through the baby out with the bath water? Not at all.
From the same commentary....
There are righteous rituals and unrighteous rituals. By “ritual” I mean that kind of activity which is habitual, which is consistent, which has a certain predictability... The Book of Proverbs is based upon the fact that people’s actions can be predicted on the basis of their character. The wise will act in a certain way, while the sluggard will act in another (predictable) way. Our character results in certain habits or rituals and these rituals reveal our character. Thus, the “way” of an individual is, to some degree, his ritual behavior...
we must seek to develop habits, consistent patterns of godly conduct which become a way of life. Righteous is not something which should happen but once in a while, a kind of “freak of our spiritual nature,” but rather should be striven for as a regular course of life. While this will not be an unbroken pattern, it should be one which reflects some degree of regularity.
I have observed those who are skilled at what they do and every such person has some kind of ritual associated with his skill. The finish carpenter has a certain way of doing his work which is consistent. The surgeon, likewise, follows certain procedures meticulously. Every skilled worker I know of employs rituals in the way he or she does their work. Why should we who name the name of Christ think that God’s work needs to be done thoughtlessly, spontaneously, and with no consistency?
The rituals which we should strive to develop should surely be in the area of Bible study, prayer, giving, and ministry. The exceptions to our rituals should be few and far between. This, I believe, is the evidence of the work of God’s Spirit, who produces discipline in our lives rather than disorder.Chapter 25 begins with the Sabbath Year and the Year of Jubilee. I love these two rituals!
The Sabbath Year was to give the land rest every 7th year. This obviously benefited the land but it also reminded the Israelites to trust in God for their provisions.
The Year of Jubilee was to occur every 50 years and was an equalizer, and the buying/selling of land was to be done fairly - there was to be no exploiting of each other.
What a great reminder for us today. We live in a society where wealth and power and status is the be all and end all and who cares who gets hurt along the way. This is one area (of many!) where there should be a huge difference between the secular worldview and the worldview of a professing Christian.
Tomorrow's readings: Leviticus 25:24-26:46.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
If you're interested in reading it, Capital Crimes is a commentary on Chapter 20. Oftentimes understanding the OT is key to truly understanding the NT. In this chapter God required capital punishment for crimes that we certainly wouldn't always consider to be worthy of death (sleeping with a women during her period is a preference, but we would hardly consider it a capital crime today). But the point is that God determines what is sin and what is not. And though we do need to have a hierarchy of sins in society, to God even a "little sin" separates us from Him and His holiness.
The crimes which are declared worthy of death in Leviticus 20 are those acts which God called sin previously, and which His covenant clearly prohibited. The reason why any violation of His covenant was a capital offense was that this was God’s expressed will, the basis for His blessing or discipline, the standard for holiness. Whether or not the act appeared to have great social significance, it had great spiritual significance: it would defile the land and God’s sanctuary, thus either causing Him to depart or to drive the nation Israel from the land.
I found this commentary, Holiness: The False and The True, to be simply fascinating, as the writer explores how the way the Pharisees incorrectly viewed these 2 chapters led to their legalistic way of thinking and holier-than-thou attitudes.
The scribes and Pharisees correctly recognized that these 2 chapters were written for the priests, not the people, and they also correctly recognized that higher standards of separation were required of them as priests.
What was incorrect was their conclusion about these two facts.
They wrongly concluded that they were holier than the people.
What they should have concluded was that with their high positions as priests came greater responsibility.
From the above commentary...
To measure personal holiness in terms of ceremonial and ritual purity is a mistake. The holiness of God is to be manifested through obedience to God’s commands and by loving one’s neighbor as oneself. Remember, too, that even though a priest was ceremonially pure, he still could only approach God by means of the shed blood of an innocent and perfect sacrificial animal.
The priests were those who offered the sacrifices of the people, and thus a higher standard of conduct was essential to assure that the offerings which they sacrificed were acceptable to God (Lev 21:6). In addition, the priests were also leaders in Israel. It is my observation that leaders, in the Old Testament and the New (cf. 1 Tim 3), are required to live according to a higher standard, and for good reason. Leaders are to exemplify God’s ideals for character and conduct, not the minimum standard. To allow leaders to live according to the lowest standard, rather than according to the ideal, would be to encourage the people to live the same way, rather than to challenge them to the highest level of conduct.
The scribes and Pharisees were wrong to view themselves as the spiritual elite. If anything, the higher standards God requires for leaders should cause one to be even more sensitive to impurity and contamination in his or her life, and thus to be humbled by a position of leadership. Humility, not pride, is the mark of God’s leaders. Leviticus was written to assure a greater sensitivity toward corruption on the part of the priests, not to create a sense of pride, as though they were better because God required more of them.Another mistake made by the Pharisees was to assume that holiness was directly equated to ceremonial rituals. Jesus taught that we are not defiled by the external, but by the internal.
Listen to Me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside the man which going into him can defile him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man … That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts and fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, sensuality, envy, slander, price and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man”. Mark 7:14b-15, 20-23
From the commentary...
Our Lord taught that the emphasis should be inward and not outward, and that this was the teaching of the Law as well, but does our text in Leviticus teach this truth? I believe that it does, although this is not immediately apparent. Let me explain how and why this is so...
There is no question that Leviticus focuses on the external, ceremonial defilements. This was done so that the people of God could first understand defilement concretely, and then begin to grasp the more abstract concept of sin.
The problem with the interpretation and application of Leviticus (and the whole Law) by the scribes and Pharisees was that they did not go far enough with what was taught. They wrongly concluded that the essence of holiness was the avoidance of ceremonial defilement, rather than to see that it began with it...
Leviticus begins by defining defilement in very concrete terms, but as the Old Testament revelation unfolds, the prophets emphatically teach that God is not nearly as interested in the external ceremonial acts of men as He is in the attitudes of their hearts and the resulting righteousness that should produce love for one’s neighbor, especially the oppressed and the weak:
For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. Hos 6:6
“I hate, I reject your festivals, Nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; And I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream”. Amos 5:21-24
The psalmists understood the need to see beyond the ceremonial and the external in the Law. Thus we read, “Oh how I love Thy law! It is my meditation all the day”. Ps 119:97. Seeing beyond the ceremonial and the external required the Spirit’s illumination, and thus the psalmist prayed, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Thy law” Ps 119:18.
Thus, finding God’s wisdom in the Law required much more than a casual or cursory reading, it required diligent study: “If you seek her as silver, And search for her as hidden treasures; Then you will discern the fear of the LORD, And discover the knowledge of God” Prov 2:4-5.And so we see that we must search for meaning in the Old Testament Law which goes beyond the ceremonial, beyond the external and the literal to the heart of the matter. This is precisely where the scribes and Pharisees went wrong. They did not take the Law far enough. They stopped at the level of what was concrete, and did not press on to the abstract. They stopped at the external, without exploring the internal—the issues of the heart. God wrote the Law to deal with men on both levels, but primarily on the internal, rather than on the external. The scribes and Pharisees strained the “gnats” (the external outworkings of the Law), but they swallowed the “camels” (the internal implications of the Law), for which our Lord rebuked them. Neither “gnats” nor “camels” should be neglected (Matt 23:23-24). emphasis mine
Because the Pharisees concluded that avoiding defilement equated holiness, they assumed that works equaled righteousness.
From the same commentary...
Now is the time to note the phrase which is the key to the entire passage, both structurally and interpretively: “I am the LORD, who sanctifies you.”
Who is it that sanctifies the priests, who makes them holy? God said six times that He did. He set Israel apart from the nations, and He set the priests apart from the people. The Israelites did not sanctify themselves by leaving Egypt, God released them while they, at best, stood by passively, and, at worst, drug their feet, rebelling and complaining.
God commanded the priests to avoid outward defilement because they were already holy, by God’s sanctification. They were to avoid the things prohibited because these things would make them unclean, not because avoiding them would make them clean. There is a world of difference between avoiding something to keep yourself from defilement and avoiding something to make yourself holy.
Here is a key to the error of the scribes and Pharisees. They confused the cause with the effect. The cause is the holiness, the sanctification, which God has already accomplished (which is primarily inner—a matter of the heart). The effect is separation of the priests from that which defiles, so as not to contaminate and defile that which God has sanctified. This explains why our Lord persisted, in His earthly teaching, to carefully distinguish between cause and effect. Salvation—making men clean—is our Lord’s work alone. Keeping ourselves pure is our duty (enabled by the Holy Spirit), so that we do not defile what God has cleansed. We ought to keep ourselves clean, but we can never make ourselves clean. We seek to stay clean (effect) because God has made us clean (cause). The priests should avoid defilement (effect) because God had already set them apart (cause)....
The point which is made here is that holiness is not contagious, it cannot be transmitted by contact with holy things. Defilement, however, is contagious, it can be transmitted by contact with what is unholy.
The scribes and Pharisees seemed to think that they “caught” holiness by their official duties, which put them in contact with “holy” things. Defilement can be caught, and thus God warned the priests about coming into contact with the unholy. Holiness, however, only comes from God. (emphasis mine)I don't know about you, but that was a huge eye opener for me! Fascinating.
Tomorrow's readings: Leviticus 23:1-25:23.
Monday, February 22, 2010
If you're interested in reading any commentaries on these passages, Chapter 17 is discussed in the Preciousness of Blood, Chapter 18 is discussed in The Obligation of Being Owned and The Boundaries of Godly Sexuality, and Chapter 19 is discussed in How to Spell "Holy".
I am going with the SOAP approach today.
Leviticus 19:32 Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord.
The Lord commanded the Israelites to honour the elderly.
Our society does not place a lot of value on "unproductive" life. Life that is inconvenient or unproductive is considered unimportant. Abortion and euthanasia are the obvious results of this incredibly sinful worldview. Disrespect for the elderly is perhaps not quite as obvious, but it's certainly not hard to find. All life is created by God, God has made each individual in His image and that is what makes it valuable. The elderly have so much to teach us, if we will only take the time to listen. And quite frankly, we're all going to be old at some point (unless we die young). The Golden Rule applies here quite well - we need to treat the elderly the way we will want to be treated when we are the elderly.
Lord, I especially pray at this time that we would, as individuals, as communities, as a nation, begin to view the elderly with the respect that You expect from us. They are not useless, they have not passed their expiration date, they do not need to be treated with disrespect or worse, contempt. They have valuable wisdom gained from life experience to share with us. And they are worthy simply because You say they are worthy. They are worthy because You created them. They are worthy because You created them in Your image. Lord, thank you for the precious gift of life. Thank you that you have formed each one of us in our mother's wombs. Thank you for creating us in Your image. Lord, help us to see each individual - no matter their age, race, gender, social status, or any other label - as your image bearers. Help us to see each other through Your eyes of love. Give us the compassion and empathy we need to treat each other with the respect and love that is deserving to each and every person. Amen.
Tomorrow's readings: Leviticus 20:1-22:33.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
I'm going to let the commentaries do most of the talking for me in this post.....
From this commentary....
The regulations of Leviticus concerning sex-related uncleanness served one very important purpose—it clearly separated sex from religious worship. If one had sexual relations with his wife this rendered both unclean until evening. This meant that the Israelites could not have sexual relations during the Sabbath, since this would cause both to be unclean, thus prohibiting their participation in worship. The effect was to encourage the Israelites to keep their minds devoted to worship. Ideally, both sexual intimacy and spiritual intimacy require the undistracted involvement of body, soul, and spirit. This means that either activity should be engaged in apart from the competition of the other. One can see a similar theme in Paul’s practical instructions to the Corinthians (1 Cor 7)....
Let us return to the great and pressing problem which confronts us in all of these chapters on the clean and the unclean: Why is a person declared unclean and caused to suffer for something for which he or she is not responsible? Further, why, in some cases of uncleanness, was a sin offering required when no specific sin was committed by the one making the offering? ....
The answer to the question, “Why must the Israelite suffer when no wrong has been committed by the individual,” is answered by this principle: The fall of man, as recorded in Genesis 3, has brought chaos and suffering to all creation, including mankind. The fall has rendered man inherently sinful from birth. Thus, man sins because he is a sinner. So, too, he will suffer in life because he lives in a fallen world where the consequences of sin cause chaos and suffering.....
The laws of uncleanness were instructive tools, by means of which God taught the Israelites those truths fundamental to their religious faith. One of those truths was what we now call the “doctrine of the depravity of man.” Man is born a sinner, by virtue of being a child of Adam. When the Israelite asked himself (or herself), “Why should I be unclean for a condition I did not cause?,” the answer, contained in the first chapters of Genesis was, “Because of the sinful condition you inherited from your forefather, Adam.”
As you stop to think about it, most of the conditions which caused the state of uncleanness were those which resulted from the fall. All sickness and death is the result of the fall. Child-bearing is at least related to the curse. Sex was distorted and diminished by the fall, to the point where Adam and Eve were ashamed of their nakedness and fled from God. This first view that sex was “dirty” and unacceptable to God originated with man, as a result of the fall, not God. Thus, we can say that uncleanness was a condition resulting from the fall, from sin, and thus uncleanness also required a sin offering. As the Israelite offered up the sin offering due to uncleanness, he or she also acknowledged their sinful condition inherited from Adam....
While the Law could pronounce a person unclean, it made no provision to make him clean. The priest could declare an unclean person unclean, and he could pronounce a clean person clean, but there was no means to cure the condition which produced the uncleanness. It was only with the coming of Christ, who inaugurated the New Covenant, that the condition of uncleanness, and the curse of Adam, would be remedied.
This commentary deals with chapter 16 and the Day of Atonement.
The Day of Atonement foreshadowed and anticipated a greater, permanent cleansing of God’s people and of His dwelling place, which was to be accomplished by a better priest, who offered a better sacrifice. I believe, for example, that both Israel’s goats for her sin offering symbolize the death of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, in the years to come. The dying goat signifies the death which Christ died, as did the other sacrificial animals. The goat which is driven away from the camp, into the wilderness, never to return, symbolizes the even greater agony of our Lord, His separation from the Father, due to the fact that the sins of all men were borne by Him. This is the agony which caused Him to agonize in the Garden of Gethsemane. This is the one Old Testament sacrifice which reflects one of the most gruesome aspects of our Lord’s atoning work as our substitute.
The New Testament, particularly the Book of Hebrews, stresses the superiority of the death of our Lord, in contrast to the Old Testament sacrifices, of which those of the Day of Atonement are most prominent. Our text clearly indicates the superiority of the person of Christ to Aaron. Aaron was a sinner, if we had not already figured this out (cf. Exod 32). Our Lord, Christ, was (and is ) sinless. He did not need to make an offering for Himself. As the Scriptures put it,
For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins, and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever (Heb 7:26-28).
Further, Aaron died, but Christ lives forever (Heb 7:15-25). Christ is vastly superior to Aaron, and to all the high priests of Israel.
The place of Christ’s ministry is also superior to the place of Aaron’s ministry. Aaron ministered in a small earthly sanctuary, entering into the Holy of Holies but once a year. The people could never enter into this privileged place. Christ “tabernacled” among us in His flesh, during His earthly ministry (cf. John 1:14; Heb 3:14, 10:5,11). And after He offered Himself once for all, He entered into the heavenly sanctuary (Heb 8:1-2; 9:1-10).
The sacrifice of Christ was superior to those offered by Aaron. Aaron and all the other priests could but offer the blood of bulls and goats, but Christ offered His own precious blood:
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption (Heb 9:11,12).
The superiority of Christ’s one offering to that of Aaron’s many offerings is also seen in the fact that the results of Christ’s sacrifice are greater. The best that one could hope for with the sacrifices of the Day of Atonement was that the impurity of sin would be put off for another year. Christ’s death put away sin altogether:
For all have sinned and have come short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed (Rom 3:23-25).
Aaron’s offerings could only produce forbearance; Christ’s offering brought forgiveness.
The last aspect of the superiority of Christ’s atonement to Aaron’s (which we shall consider here) is that Christ’s sacrifice brought better access to God. Aaron himself could only “draw near” to God, that is to the Holy of Holies, but once a year. The people could not come this near ever. But when our Lord was crucified and His blood was shed for the sins of the world, the veil which formerly kept men apart from God was torn asunder, signifying that every believer has full and unlimited access to God. Thus, the writer to the Hebrews can say,
Since therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water (Heb 10:19-22).Tomorrow's passage: Leviticus 17:1-19:37.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Leviticus Chapter 12 speaks about purification after childbirth. We are not told exactly why the period of ceremonial uncleanness was twice as long when a woman gave birth to a daughter (80 days) compared to when she gave birth to a son (40 days).
I found this commentary here about a woman's total isolation immediately after childbirth:
This disease, puerperal fever, still exists today, though uncommon due to the use of anti-bacterial soaps and gloves. However, millennia before the use of special soaps and gloves, God knew that the best way to protect moms and babies was to just keep them isolated for several days after childbirth. It is ironic that in order to do so, the women were declared to be "unclean" and not the actual unclean people. Whatever...the moms were protected.
The person is totally cut off and forced to announce themselves to keep others away. I understand the reason but I feel bad for the people who found themselves in that situation.
This commentary likens the isolation of those with infectious diseases to our own isolation from God by our sin:
Tomorrow's readings are Leviticus 14:33-16:34 .
Friday, February 19, 2010
Yesterday's passage ended with Aaron and his sons being ordained as priests, with all the instructions of Exodus 28 being followed exactly as God had commanded.
Leviticus 9 continues with the ordained priests performing their duties for the first time. Notice v6 Then Moses said,"This is what the Lord has commanded you to do, so that the glory of the Lord may appear to you." And after they had done as God commanded, God's glory certainly did appear to them v24 Fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat potions on the altar. And when the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown.
Notice that God's glorious acts appeared after God's instructions were followed. Often we seem to want to bargain with God the other way around "God, if you'll do _____, I promise to do whatever you want me to do". We're putting the cart before the horse I believe. We need to serve God out of faith and out of love for Him. Our actions should not be conditional on Him acting the way we mere humans expect Him to.
The glorious fire that consumed the offering was soon followed by a fire of judgement that consumed Aaron's two oldest sons Nadab and Abihu for their disobedience to the Lord during their holy priestly duties.
This incident reminded me of the NT account of Ananias and Sapphira who were struck dead for lying to the church. This commentary agreed and provided additional insight...
In Leviticus chapter 10, where the death of Nadab and Abihu are recorded, the Mosaic Covenant has just been instituted, along with the tabernacle and the Aaronic priesthood. In Acts chapter 5, where Ananias and Sapphira were judged of God, the church age has just commenced with Pentecost (Acts 2). In both cases, the death of God’s people is designed to set a precedent, so that those who enter into the new dispensation would grasp the significance of the holiness of God in relation to the institutions which He has just created.
The Israelites who read these passages would be impressed with the importance of the priesthood. They would have taken note of the grace of God by selecting Aaron to be their high priest - the same man who had led the nation in an idolatrous orgy not too long before this. Only God's grace can explain this choice (reminiscent of Saul/Paul in the NT as well!). The Israelites would also have been reminded of the supreme holiness of God and the dangers of the priesthood, and the limitations of it as well. If even the priests can't get it right, how can they? This prepared them to look beyond the Aaronic priesthood, to look for the Messiah that would come in Christ Jesus.
We now know that the priesthood was fulfilled completely in Jesus Christ, making the Aaronic priesthood obsolete. In fact, Jesus has established a new priestly order for all those who are born again.
You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. … But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light 1 Peter 2:5,9.
The inferiority of the Aaronic priesthood should also encourage us to continue to look towards the grace provided through the death and resurrection of our Lord, instead of being tempted to revert to the OT law.
Most of the principles of the OT priesthood apply to the NT priesthood. Priesthood is reserved for a specific family - in the OT it was the family of Aaron, in the NT it is the family of God through personal faith in Jesus. God's priesthood is holy and He takes the sin of His priests seriously. Priests must not do anything to cloud their judgement or to take their duties less seriously than they ought to - we must not drink in excess. Lev 10:8-11 seem to imply that drinking may have played a part in Nadab and Abihu's disobedience by clouding their judgement. And priests are to serve God and man.
Another interesting point made in this commentary is that the OT as a whole seems to be a record of a whole pile of failures. These failures serve a two-fold purpose. One is to not become self-confident, to remain humble and to rely on God. The other is purpose is to give us hope. How can failure give us hope?
From the same commentary..
The answer to this is very clear in the Bible, and it is one that is consistently taught. It is the essence of the Gospel: When men come to the point that they see they cannot trust in themselves, they must turn to God alone for their deliverance. Thus, human hopelessness is the basis for biblical hope. Over and over in the Bible, God brought people to the end of themselves, so that in their weakness they might find God sufficient. When all human hope is lost, men still have the promises of God, backed by His power and by His character.
Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. 1 Corinthians 10:11-12
For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4
You have called us
Out of darkness, out of darkness
Into Your marvelous light
You have saved us from the darkness
We rejoice in Your power and might
We are a chosen race
A royal priesthood
By Your grace, we are a holy nation
Set apart for You
Tongue and tribe
So they may see Your glory
Shining through our lives
I didn't have time to dig into chapter 11, but you can read a commentary on it here.
Tomorrow's readings: Leviticus 12:1-14:32.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
I must apologise in advance for keeping it brief today, I am short of time today! I wasn't able to read the post before so I don't know what was touched on, I again apologise for that.
The reading starts with explanation about the guilt offering. In my Bible it says in the notes it is where restitution is possible, the sin offering is where it is not possible. I guess I don't really understand what an unintentional sin was or why there was a need for an offering, I mean if they didn't intend to sin then why the offering? Anyway. I thought it was interesting that this one and the sin offering is the only one that is said to be "most holy".
The fellowship offering is then explained. An offering of thankfulness for the deliverance from troubles, death and sickness and the thankfulness for blessings recieved.
The thing that I was stumped on was in chapter 8:23. Why did Moses put the blood on the right ear, thumb and big toe. I did some research and found an explanation on a Jewish website, you can see here. "When the blood was placed on the right ear, right hand, and right toe of Aharon and his sons they entered a covenant with HaShem that required them to dedicate their lives hearing, doing, and walking in HaShem's will." The symbolism all made sense and I thought it was so beautiful, whereas before I read that I thought it was just strange LOL.
What spoke to you today?
Tomorrows reading is from Leviticus 9:1-11:47
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Today's passage continues to describe the purpose and the process of two more offerings - the sin offering and the guilt offering.
The purpose of the sin offering was to make payment for unintentional sins of uncleanness, neglect or thoughtlessnes. The sin offering restored the sinner to fellowship with God, it showed the seriousness of sin and it was mandatory - once the Israelites became aware of their sin, they had to bring a sin offering.
Something important to remember is that sin is whatever God says it is. It does not matter if society thinks it's ok (abortion and homoesexuality come to mind), it doesn't matter if you or I think something is ok or no big deal. If God says it is sin, it is sin.
Sometimes we sin intentionally and sometimes we sin unintentionally. Even when we sin unintentionally, we are still sinning, and we are still guilty. Ignorance is not an excuse.
Sin results in defilement and guilt, is very costly and can only be atoned for by blood sacrifice.
This is why only the blood and the fat was used in the sin offerings. The fat was considered the best portions and therefore dedicated only to God. By requiring the Israelites to throw out the perfectly good meat, God was showing that only the blood atoned for sin, that forgiveness could only be found through the shedding of blood.
The NIV Life Application Bible also indicates that...
Because blood was the river of life, and life was God's gift and his alone, blood had to be returned to God and not used by people.
Other symbolism in some of the previous sacrifices: the oil used in the grain offerings symbolized God's presence; the absence of yeast symbolized the absence of sin.
From the NIV Life Application Bible....
Why was no yeast allowed in the grain offerings? Yeast is a bacterial fungus or mold and is, therefore, an appropriate symbol for sin. It grows in bread dough just as sin grows in a life. A little yeast will affect the whole loaf, just as a little sin can ruin a whole life. Jesus expanded this analogy by warning about the "yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees" (Matthew 16:6, Mark 8:15).....
The offerings were seasoned with salt as a reminder of the people's covenant (contract) with God. Salt is a good symbol of God's activity in a person's life, because it penetrates, preserves, and aids in healing. God wants to be active in your life. Let him become part of you, penetrating every aspect of your life, preserving you from the evil all around, and healing you of your sins and shortcomings.....
What did sacrifices teach the people?
(1) By requiring perfect animals and holy priests, they taught reverence for a holy God.
(2) By demanding exact obedience, they taught total submission to God's laws.
(3) By requiring an animal of great value, they showed the high cost of sin and demonstrated the sincerity of the people's commitment to God.
(4) By their nature, sacrifices required the use of all the sense in worship, encouraging a whole-person response to God. Some sacrifices were voluntary while others were required. The sacrificial system taught a combination of requirement before God, but also presented opportunities for heartfelt voluntary response to God.
The purpose of the guilt offering was to make payment for sins against God and others, similar to the sin offering, but it also included compensating the injured parties.
Of course the sin offering is only fulfilled completely and perfectly with the shedding of Jesus' blood on Calvary. He died once and for all, satisfying the wrath of our Holy God, assuring us of God's forgiveness - a most precious gift. He was the perfect offering, He is the only way to fellowship with God. His death restores our fellowship with God and takes away the deadly consequences of our sin.
I found some additional interesting information in my old NIV reference edition....
When more than one kind of offering was presented (as in Numbers 7:16, 17), the procedure was usually as follows (1) sin offering or guilt offering, (2) burnt offerings, (3) fellowship offering and grain offering (along with a drink offering)....First, sin had to be dealt with (sin offering or guilt offering). Second, the worshiper committed himself completely to God (burnt offering and grain offering). Third, fellowship or communion between the Lord, the priest and the worshiper (fellowship offering) was established.
This commentary on bible.org had some good thoughts on these chapters, especially chapter 4. From the above commentary...
The teaching of Leviticus on the Sin Offering has something very important to say to the Christian about personal sanctification. Whenever we sin, we need to remember that it is the shed blood of Christ which God has provided for our forgiveness. Repentance and confession is the means for experiencing that forgiveness and cleansing on a daily basis.
Knowing the high price which Christ has paid for our forgiveness should also cause us to take sin very seriously. Every sin, no matter how insignificant it may seem, required the blood of Christ to be shed. Let us never forget that while forgiveness is free, it was not obtained cheaply. Here is a motivation for godly living.
Then, too, let us be reminded of the seriousness of sin. God takes sin very seriously. God takes unintentional sin more seriously than we take willful sin. And God takes willful sin even more seriously than we wish to think about:
For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? (Hebrews 10:26-29).
I am not for a moment suggesting that Christians are not eternally saved and secure, but I am suggesting that the willful sin of a wayward saint is a very sobering matter, and one which will not allow that wayward believer to sense any safety and security in what he or she is doing. Let us learn from both the Old and the New Testament how much God hates sin.
Finally, I must say to you that “ignorance is not bliss,” in spite of those who would have you think so. The Israelites were held accountable for the sins they committed ignorantly. Many contemporary Christians seem to think that if they don’t study their Bibles, if they don’t familiarize themselves with the standards and principles God has given in the Bible, they will not be responsible for their sins committed in ignorance. Not so! The Sin Offering strongly suggests that we had better become careful students of the revealed Word of God, for it is disobedience to His word that constitutes sin.Today, because of Jesus' death on the cross, we no longer have to sacrifice animals. But we still need to confess sin. Genuine confession and repentance shows a realization of our sin, a recognition of God's holiness, humility before God, remorse for our sin, and willingness to turn away from this sin - all of which is required for true reconciliation and fellowship with God to be restored.
Tomorrow's readings: Leviticus 7:1-8:36.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
The chapters from Numbers cover setting up the lamps in the tabernacle, making sure once again to point out that God's instructions were followed to the letter. Following that is a section on consecrating the Levites to be God's priests, and then the first anniversary of the Passover. It has now been a year since the Lord led his people out of Egypt.
The first three chapters of Leviticus are detailed instructions on how offerings are to be handled. I'm not very familiar with Israelite customs in general or offerings in particular, so I'll be relying on information from articles on bible.org for the key points about each type of offering. There is a separate article for each chapter, surprisingly, so I'll just be touching on mainly the purpose of the offering. I'll try to keep it short.
According to this article on burnt offerings, the offerings they're talking about in this chapter are personal offerings by an individual on behalf of himself or his family rather than corporate offerings, or offerings that encompass the whole people. Burnt offerings were the most common, and performed for a wide variety of reasons, often in combination with another offering depending on the "offense". For example, if a woman had borne a child, she was considered unclean. A burnt offering AND a sin offering had to be performed on her behalf.
The reason for describing the burnt offering first is that it was the commonest of all the sacrifices, performed every morning and evening, and more frequently on holy days. … This makes it plausible to suppose that the sacrifices in chs. 1-5 are arranged according to their various theological concepts, so that it is easier to remember their distinctive features. It may be that they were grouped in this way to help the priests learn their tasks.In the case of a burnt offering, the entire offering was burnt away and none was saved or eaten either by the offerer or the priests. There were other offerings that the priests or sometimes the offerer partook of, but not the burnt offerings. More from the above-referenced article:
When we come to the point of trying to discern the meaning of the burnt offering (or any other offering, for that matter) to the Israelites of Moses’ day, we tend to forget a very important fact: they understood this sacrifice in the light of what they already knew about it, not in terms of its future fulfillment. (Referring to redemption of sin by the blood of Christ.)
Thus, the key to understanding the meaning of the burnt offering for the ancient Israelite was what had already been revealed about it before the regulations of Leviticus. Leviticus 1 informed the Israelite how the burnt offering was to be offered, not what it meant. I believe that the two major interpretive keys to the meaning of the burnt offering are to be found in the “burnt offerings” of Noah in Genesis 8 and of Abraham in Genesis 22.
The sacrifice which Noah offered was the basis for the covenantal promise of God that He would never again destroy every living thing by a flood (Gen. 8:21). This promise was not due to the fact that all sin had been destroyed from the face of the earth.
The basis for God’s promise to Noah is not the goodness of man, for man’s depravity is specifically stated. This basis for God’s covenant promise is the result of the burnt offering offered up by Noah. Thus, the Israelites saw that the burnt offering was a means of avoiding God’s wrath and of obtaining God’s favor. God’s blessing was the result of a burnt offering, not of man’s good deeds.
In what way did this account of the offering up of Isaac as a burnt offering instruct the Israelites about the meaning of the burnt offering? I believe that it taught them several important lessons. First, they could have seen that the promise of God’s blessing to all the earth, the promise of the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 12:1-3), involved the death and resurrection of Abraham’s offspring. Secondly, the Israelites saw that in the “burnt offering” the sacrificial animal died in place of the man. Isaac didn’t die because God provided an animal to take his place. So when the Israelite place his hand on the head of the sacrificial animal, he should have known that this animal was dying in his place, just as the ram died in the place of Isaac. He should also have seen that something must take place in the future, so that the death of Isaac, which was prevented by the sacrifice of the ram, could be carried out in some greater way.GRAIN OFFERINGS
Here is the link to the second article The Grain Offering, located on bible.org. The grain offering was different from the burnt offering in several key ways, the most obvious of which is that the grain offering consisted of grain (imagine that!), likely barley or wheat, and the burnt offering consisted of meat. A point the author makes is that the Israelites were wandering about in the desert and not planting or harvesting crops, so the grain offerings were likely taken from the seed they had with them to plant when they reached their destination. The grain offering was a demonstration of their trust in God to provide for their needs. I have to remind myself of this almost every time I'm writing that cheque for the offering at church... "I know there are other things I could and would like to do with this money, but I must trust God to provide for my needs," is basically what I tell myself.
The second difference is that the grain offering contained no blood, so it was not an offering to make atonement for sin. Only blood sacrifice will blot out sin. As touched on in the previous section, some offerings were partaken of by the priests. Grain offerings fell into this category, where burnt offerings did not. Also, the grain offering was in part offering the fruits of labour, which a burnt offering was not.
The Burnt Offering allowed men to participate in the ceremony of the sacrifice, but not to add anything to the sacrifice. This can easily be understood in the light of the purpose of atonement and attaining divine favor. For sinful man to attempt to contribute to an atoning sacrifice would only defile that sacrifice. The Israelite could add nothing to that sacrifice which atoned for his sins, just as we can contribute nothing to the work of Christ, which atones for our sins.
The purpose of the Grain Offering is not atonement, but worship, acknowledgment of God’s divine provision of the needs of the Israelite for life itself. The Grain Offering praised God for His abundant supply of the “daily bread” of the Israelite. But while men do not contribute to their redemption, they do participate in the growing of the crops by which God sustains their life. Thus, the human element is present in the Grain Offering in a way that it is not in the Burnt Offering.FELLOWSHIP or PEACE OFFERINGS
The peace offering was an offering of meat, but different from a burnt offering in that the animal could be male or female, and was shared by the priests and the offerer. There was also a meal associated with this offering, which is not the case with either the burnt or grain offerings. Excerpts from The Fellowship Offering at bible.org:
“Any man from the house of Israel who slaughters an ox, or a lamb, or a goat in the camp, or who slaughters it outside the camp, and has not brought it to the doorway of the tent of the meeting to present it as an offering to the LORD before the tabernacle of the LORD, bloodguiltiness is to be reckoned to that man. He has shed blood and that man shall be cut off from among his people” (Lev. 17:3-4).
These are strong words indeed! Any animal that was slaughtered had to be offered to God as a sacrifice. Any blood that was shed, was shed as a part of a sacrifice. Thus, any meat that was eaten (at least from the cattle of the Israelites) had to be that which was first offered to God as a part of a sacrifice at the tent of meeting. And since the Peace Offering was the only sacrifice of which the Israelite could eat, every time the Israelite wanted to eat meat for dinner, he had to offer a Peace Offering.
Every offering has very exacting rules as to what is offered, how it is offered, and by whom it is offered. For example, the Peace Offering could be eaten on the day it was sacrificed, or on the day after, but not on the third day. To eat this sacrificial meat on the third day would have serious consequences (Lev. 19:5-8). A burnt offering had to be a male, while the Peace Offering could have been a male or a female, but not a bird. An ox or a lamb with an overgrown or stunted member could be offered for a freewill Peace Offering, but not for a votive Peace Offering (Lev. 22:23). Because of the consequences for failing to observe the “laws” of the offerings, one must be very certain what offering he was making, and then do it in accordance with all the laws God had laid down.
You could offer a Peace Offering as an act of thanksgiving (Lev. 7:12; 22:29-30), or to fulfill a special vow (Lev. 7:16; 22:21), or as a freewill offering (Lev. 7:16; 22:18, 21, 23). These were all optional offerings, which an Israelite could offer at any time, except for the feast of Pentecost (Lev. 23:19) and the fulfillment of the Nazarite’s days of separation (Num. 6:13-20), when the offering was mandatory.
If you would, the law prescribed the plan, the way in which every offering was to be made. Before men could follow the plan, they had to determine the purpose, that is they had to decide which offering they were about to make, and why. Thus there was a built-in safeguard against mindless ritual, in which one went through the motions of making an offering without really thinking about what he was doing or why. The Israelite’s worship was to involve his whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. The precise regulations encouraged the Israelite worshipper to engage his mind in his worship. (emphasis mine)I find it incredibly discouraging in some ways to read the books of the law. There were so many rules ... it seems impossible that one could remember them all, much less follow them. And the consequences for breaking those rules involved death quite a bit more than I'm personally comfortable with. But the benefit, as mentioned above, is that obeying God was uppermost in their minds a lot more so that it is with many of us today. Their daily lives revolved around following God's law.
All to often we reserve our thoughts of God for when we're doing our devotions, or worse, for a weekly church service. It's so easy to let everything else we have to do get in the way of remembering to seek his face. I wish obeying God and following his will for my life was uppermost in my mind a lot more than it usually is. That is one of the reasons I've been so happy to participate in this blog. It's held me accountable more so than anything has in the past. I've seen differences in my attitudes and patience level since spending time reading God's word on a daily basis, for which I'm thankful. I pray that you are learning and understanding as much from this journey as I have been.
Tomorrow's reading from the One Year Chronological reading plan is Leviticus 4:1-6:30.
Monday, February 15, 2010
This chapter basically describes the offering brought by each tribe of Judah - twelve times over! The exact same words, the exact same verses are repeated twelve times. Five verses repeated twelve times. That's 60 verses when 5 would've sufficed right? Obviously not. I know that the repetition means that this is important. I'm just not sure exactly what it is that's important.
Is it stressing the people's obedience? Each tribe was to bring exactly the right offering, one tribe per day for twelve days. And they did.
I couldn't find any commentaries on this passage on Bible.org or on the John Piper website, or anywhere else online for that matter! So, if anyone else has some thoughts I'd love to hear them!
Numbers 7:89 "When Moses entered the Tent of Meeting to speak with the Lord, he heard the voice speaking to him from between the two cherubim above the atonement cover on the ark of the Testimony. And he spoke with him.
From the NIV Life Application Study Bible
Imagine hearing the very voice of God! Moses must have trembled at the sound. Yet we have God's words recorded for us in the Bible, and we should have no less reverence and awe for them. God sometimes spoke directly to his people to tell them the proper way to live. The Bible records these conversations to give us insights into God's character. How tragic when we take these very words of God lightly. Like Moses, we have the privilege of talking to God, but God answers us differently - through his written Word and the guidance of his Holy Spirit. To receive this guidance, we need to seek to know God as Moses did. (emphasis mine)
How thankful I am for God's gift of His Word to us in the Bible and for His incredible gift of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit inside each and every one of us who have accepted Him as our Lord and Saviour. What an incredible gift!
To truly benefit, to truly grow, we need to seek to know God. And how to we do that? Through prayer and the reading and studying of God's Word. Through the pursuit of discernment. Based on my cousin (ValleyGirl) Tammi's chapter by chapter book review and recommendation (the same posts are what prompted me to start this blog in fact!), I purchased The Pursuit of Discernment by Tim Challies and I'm in the process of reading it now. I would highly recommend it!
And this is why I'm so thrilled that we're doing this blog together. It has given me the accountability I need - with the exception of about 2 days, I have been feasting on the Word daily for the first time in my life. I am feeling a hunger to learn more, to dig deeper, to understand His Word more than I ever have.
For the past few months I have been coming alongside my dearest friend in a time of her deep personal grief/loss/hurt. In order for me to be the friend she needs right now, I have to be rooted in the Word, I have to be standing on His promises, I have to be grounded in the Truth. I have no doubt that last year (the first year I read through the Bible in a year) and this year have been preparing me to be better equipped to be the friend she needs right now. I know this is not a coincidence. Of course I know that studying the Word and growing in knowledge and relationship with Christ will have a huge impact on every relationship and every area of my life - but this is one that jumped out at me in particular, especially due to the timing of it all.
Tomorrow's readings: Numbers 8:1-9:14 and Leviticus 1-3.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
The Tabernacle is finished! The people have followed every detail of instruction from God through Moses and the design he intended has come to completion. Each with his own skill had done his job well and together they kept obedience to God in the highest respect as they did every tiny task and every collective task. There must have been such a sense of joy for everyone at it's completion. Moses blesses them and it's the one and only time when this blessing is given to the people from him. Almost a year has elapsed since they left Egypt.
Moses did the final checking and setting up the details to God's request. Then the most joyful moment happens on the scene. The joy of the confirmation from God himself on their work. "Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle." (vs 34) How much more of an exciting affirmation could one ask for? This is definitely one of those "wish I could have been there" moments of the bible. There seems to be such intimacy between God and his people here. They have held his command highly, and he has come down to be with them and guide them with his presence as to when to stay and when to move on. Numbers 10:11 tells us that the first time it was "taken up" was 50 days after it was finished and erected.
What strikes me in all this is God's focused intention to have a relationship with his people. The fact of his holiness makes each and every detail to how this will happen crucial to say the least. Yet, he really wants to be near his people, to have their obedience and to be able to guide them in obvious ways.
Hebrews 9 tells us the other side of these important details of the tabernacle once Christ has come to full fill much of the foreshadowing here. I think our journey through the bible will make our New Testament journey all the more precious to us.
"The way to think about the old and strange and foreign is not to say it's irrelevant, or to say that it's just a shadow of eternal truths, but rather to say, that in that old period of history, under God's sovereign design, everything was pointing to a new period of history that began with Jesus, and in which we live. And the old period has much light to shed on the meaning of the new period." (John Piper sermon "Purified to Serve a Living God")
His intentions from the beginning has been reconciliation with us. All of the bible works, leads, points, and follows up on this. Many of the aspects of the tabernacle remind us that we are separated from him. The law reminds us of our imperfection and the curtain reminds us of our inadequacy to come before Him.
Our pastor often gives the convicting and somewhat comical illustration of our inadequacy to achieve holiness. He talks about the vast divide between us and God being like standing on one side of the Grand Canyon (and even this massive word picture does no justice to the reality!) looking over to the other side. At this point it does not matter if you are able to jump 5 feet or 50 feet in your spirituality! Should we cheer for he who can even jump 60? Well, Mr.60 footer won't have any time to pat himself on the back as he plumits still! The point is that we all fall so way short.
Really, I'm impressed at the humble reminders of the events at the End of Exodus. We are so unworthy and yet so loved by Him. I think Louis Giglio in his amazing DVD "Indescribable" said it best when he talks about our "significant insignificance". (BTW, if you enjoy this you can watch more on Youtube. This is part 3 of 5 and they are all amazing) Like I shared in the comments in the previous post about the lovely moment with my son about God knowing the hairs on his head, this segment speaks to this. We are so rightly humbled, and yet so divinely loved.
As you celebrate Valentines today, remember the great lover of your soul who has been working from the beginning (on every detail of your life) to have an intimate relationship with you. To guide you when to move in His will, to cover you with the blood of his Son in covenant and to sit you in the great mercy seat before Him.
The Mercy Seat by Hugh Stowell 1799-1865
From every stormy wind that blows,
From every swelling tide of woes,
There is a calm, a sure retreat;
'Tis found beneath the mercy-seat.
There is a place where Jesus sheds
The oil of gladness on our heads,
A place than all beside more sweet;
It is the blood-stained mercy-seat.
There is a spot where spirits blend,
And friend holds fellowship with friend;
Though sundered far, by faith they meet
Around one common mercy-seat.
There, there on eagle-wing we soar,
And time and sense seem all no more;
And heaven comes down our souls to greet,
And glory crowns the mercy-seat.
Tomorrow's readings: Numbers 7:1-89.