February 10, 2010

Lev 26-27: New Beginning

Posted in Forgiveness, Restoration, Sacrifices, The Law tagged , , , , , , , , at 11:44 pm by Steve

“I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.” Lev 26:12

Does this sound at all familiar? What can we learn about the purpose of God through all these Law, rules and rituals?

“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day” Genesis 3:8

The passage in Leviticus reminds me of this passage in Genesis when God walked with us in the Garden. Could it be that God is trying to bring us back to that unity where we walk with God again? Is the purpose of all these regulations to set the boundaries where we can walk with God without fear, guilt, or shame?

Leviticus is filled with all kinds of regulations about guilt offerings, burnt offerings and cleanliness rituals. God is trying to remove the guilt and shame we all feel yet cannot quite be free from. Imagine working all day in the garden, hands dirty, body sweaty, and hair matted against your forehead. But there’s no way to get clean. So you pull back the covers and crawl beneath the sheets.

Does that sound comfortable and cozy, or nasty and irritable? I have to think the latter. God is providing a way for us to come clean. To feel comfortable around God and each other. To know that the inside is able to heal and come out of the shadows and know who God really is and trust His heart enough to seek forgiveness and reconciliation.

Leviticus has a lot to teach us about the heart of God.

February 9, 2010

Lev 24-25: Jubilee

Posted in The Law tagged , , , , at 8:34 pm by Steve

A young man who blasphemed God,  Leviticus 24:10-23.   [In Summary:  In the first test of the law against blaspheming God’s name, the Lord directed that the offender be indicted by those who heard the sin, then stoned by the Israelites.]

It is one thing to listen to the rules.  It is quite another thing to actually apply them – especially when it involves the death penalty.  Note carefully that those who made the accusations – who heard the man blaspheme – were required to be involved in the ritual of the stoning (v. 14).  This very practical part of the process made it difficult for individuals to accuse falsely.  They could not insulate themselves from the actual execution.

This incident underscored the holiness of God’s name.  It was not to be treated carelessly.  Jesus affirmed this principle in teaching the Lord’s Prayer (Matt 6:9).  Although the death penalty is not applied for this today, the affront to the living God is the same.  We should not forget that fact.

Does anyone else find it strange that God offers us a Jubilee? What other religion takes such details to have one day of rest each week. One year of rest in every seven and a year of Jubilee in every 50 years. It was a year to re-establish equity and to prevent the creation of classes. Today we have the super wealthy, Bill Gates is worth an estimated 86 billion, and the homeless and masses of those living on less than one dollar a day.

God asks us each 50 years to reassess where we are as a people and what life was meant to be. No longer would people be consumed with unimaginable wealth at the cost of the life of other.

There is a quote I have always like, “for every wealthy person, there is one in poverty.”

What would you consider to be the major problems we would encounter about going to a Jubilee in our time and culture?

What would be the benefits?

February 7, 2010

Lev 19-21: Sacrificial bring Healing

Posted in Priests, Sacrifices, The Law tagged , , , , , , at 2:19 am by Steve

The Fellowship Offering was an act of thankfulness and worship. Certain portions of the animal were burned on the altar as a sacrifice to the Lord (chpt 3). The person and his family then ate the meat before the Lord in the area of the tabernacle. The Priest was to have gthe breast and the right thigh of the animal as his share (7:31-34)

The Sin Offering was, in most instances, for unintentional sins: for priest, leader, individuals, and the assembly of people.

The Guilt Offering is similar to the sin offering but also includes purposeful sins. When something had been deceitfully taken, restitution had to be made.

In the Latter two sacrifices, after pouring of the blood, the fat was burned on the altar. The hide, the head, and the intestines were burned outside the camp in a clean place (4:8-12). The meat of the animal was then given to the priest ot eat in the area of the tabernacle (6:24-30). If, however, the sacrifice was for a priest (4:3-12) or for the entire community (vv 13-21) the flesh of the animal was completely burned outside the camp.

Of the sacrifices at the tabernacle, only the fellowship offering could be eaten by the layperson who brought it. Leviticus 7:28-38 gives the regulations about what part of the fellowship offering belongs to the priest.

The Burnt Offering was to be made each morning and each evening on behalf of the entire people and was to be left burning at all times. An individual could also present a burnt offering. Not in 1:4 that the offering made atonement for the person who brought it. This was the only offering that was entirely burned.

The Grain Offering was offered as a present to the lord it was cultivated grain, made without yeast; after the “memorial portion” was removed and burned, the rest was given to the priest to eat.

February 4, 2010

Lev 11-13: Leviticus invites Holiness

Posted in Historical, Priests, The Law tagged , , , , , , at 10:54 pm by Steve

The theme of Leviticus is holiness. The term “holy” (set apart to God) is the key word of the book. Moses uses this word 87 times in Leviticus. Leviticus 19:2 is the key verse and states the theme of the book:

“You shall be holy, For I the Lord your God am holy”

(cf. Exodus 19:5-6; Deuteronomy 7:6).

After Israel had been set apart as God’s special heritage by the Passover and by the covenant at Mt. Sinai, they almost immediately broke the covenant through idolatry, the worship of the golden calf. Only the intercession of Moses prevented God from destroying the nation. But the Lord refused to go up in their midst to Canaan, warning, “You are a stiffnecked people. I could come up into your midst in one moment and consume you” (Exodus 33:5).

Israel gave evidence of their repentance by putting off their jewelry, and Moses again interceded in their behalf. Thus, the Lord promised, “My. Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:14). He renewed the covenant with Israel. Then the tabernacle was built in which God was to dwell among His people and where they were to come to worship Him.

A key element of Leviticus, and of Old Testament worship, was animal sacrifices. Sacrifices were offered so the sinner might have access to God. They were to “atone” (cover) sin (Exodus 30:10) and to “sanctify” (set apart to God) the offerer (Exodus 29:33; 31:13).

The sacrifice was a substitute; it died in the place of the sinner. The steps in animal sacrifice were: (1) the selection of an animal with no defect or blemish, (2) the laying of the hands of the offerer upon the animal to symbolize that the animal bore the penalty for the offerer’s sin, (3) the killing of the sacrificial victim by the offerer to suffer the penalty for sin in his place, (4) the pouring out of the blood at the base of the altar as the symbol of a sacrificed life, (5) the smearing or the sprinkling of the blood by the priest upon the altar as a symbol that the sins of the offerer were atoned, (6) the burning of the sacrifice as a sweet-smelling savor to satisfy the judicial wrath of God for sin, and (7) the eating of the sacrificial meal as a symbol of fellowship with God (cf. Ephesians 5:2). Every sacrifice had to be salted (Leviticus 2:13). Salt preserved meat from rotting and was a symbol of an unbreakable covenant. The salt symbolized the purity of the sacrifice and the covenant of the Israelite with God.

Of course, these sacrifices could not in reality remove the guilt of sin (Hebrews 10:4) but showed Israel the need for a sacrifice which could do so and acted as a foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Christ for all (cf. John 1:29; 1 Peter 1:18-20; Revelation 13:8).

Are you pursuing holiness?

How are you in the Wesleyan tradition “pursuing perfection?”

January 26, 2010

Exo 22-24: A Community of Justice

Posted in Foundations, Historical, Israel, The Law tagged , , , , , , at 10:09 pm by Steve

Justice — conformity to truth, fact, or reason. Correctness / Righteousness / Equity

How do you define Justice? We’re pretty good at know when something wrong has been done to us, but less so when we’ve been accused of doing something wrong. When we’re accused we usually have a string of excuses as long as your arm ready for why the action was unavoidable. “I was in a hurry and didn’t mean it.” “After all that has been done to me I didn’t think anyone would notice.” And many more.

IN these passages from Exodus what is striking is the punitive damages that God requires for a crime. They require restitution but then the matter is settled. These laws, while sometimes laborious to get through, tell of a God who is involved in the simplest of details of human life and recognizes that if we cannot find a way to forgive each other, to offer mercy, then our existence will become simply “hell on earth.”

The details of these crimes deal with slaves, animals, the poor, rulers, and every once in awhile, the holiness of God’s name. The topics cover social, religious, economic, and political life. Everything is included. It may seem a bit bizarre to cover all these topics, but for the Hebrews coming out of Egypt, this was radical stuff. They were used to living as tribes under Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and then Pharaoh. They were used to being ruled, now they would have to learn to live co-dependent and as one body.

Could they do it? Can we?

Exo 19-21: Freedom to Serve

Posted in Foundations, Israel, Moses, Redemption, The Law tagged , , , , , , at 9:38 pm by Steve

19:6 “Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

>> Believe it or not this verse is considered by many to be the central theme of the Exodus. We often think of the Exodus narrative as God’s freeing the slaves to live out their joyful happy lives to do whatever they want in the Promised Land. God defeats Pharaoh’s earthly rule and commands these Hebrews to follow Him to the land He promised Abraham. But God has a greater purpose for the Hebrews, just as He does for us. They are to be a people of priests before the Lord.

What does this mean to be a priesthood and holy nation? They are to be an example of a people wholly dedicated to serving God, loving one another, and living in justice, mercy, and love [see Micah 6:8].

What doe this mean for us as Christians? God did not save us through the blood of Jesus so that we could do whatever we wanted whenever we wanted. We are also called to be a Royal Priesthood [1 peter 2:5], Ambassadors [2 Corinthians 5:20], and the Body of Christ [1 Corinthians 12:27]. We are to live as Christ’s representatives that the world may know how good, loving, gracious, slow to anger, and merciful God really is.

So here’s the big question – how do you think you’re doing?

[19:16] “On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled.”

>> Does this sound familiar to anyone? On the morning of the third day God comes to the mountain to give the Law. On the morning of the third day Jesus comes to give new life.

[21:1]  These are the laws you are to set before them:If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years.’”

What should we make of this long list of laws from Exodus 21. What I noticed right away is their focus. Notice that the very first law laid down by God is for the proper care of slave. A SLAVE! The first thing God wants the Hebrews to be concerned about is how they care for one another and the slaves above all. In our culture the wealth are the ones we are most concerned about, but not God. God’s focus is on the poorest.

When we as a church try to decide who the church is suppose to serve, is it

(a)  The poorest in our community

(b)  The richest in our community

(c)   The silent majority who do most of the work?

Look over the rest of the laws in Chpt 21. Where is God drawing out attention? What kind of people and issues are being addressed and why?