Tag Archives: Book of Leviticus

Chapter-a-Day Leviticus 22

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“If anyone eats from a holy offering accidentally, he must give back the holy offering to the priest and add twenty percent to it.” Leviticus 22:14 (MSG)

I was never a “straight A” student. I did well in school, but was never overly concerned about having to have a perfect grade point average. I wanted to be a good student, but perfect grades didn’t matter that much to me. What mattered to me was not that I had memorized every factoid, brown-nosed every teacher, meticulously excelled at every class project. What mattered to me was that I was getting the big picture. I wanted to understand and internalize each subject and how it fit into the grand scheme of life.

Leviticus is a book that will drive a straight A student crazy. You can list out all of the rules and try to adhere to every one of them, but you’ll find yourself in a straight-jacket. Even God was giving the law so that the people would get the big picture: you can’t possibly live good enough lives to overcome the root problem of sin because rule keeping doesn’t change the condition of your heart.

By the time Jesus arrived on the scene some 1500 years later, the lesson had been completely lost. The straight-A, hard-core keepers of the law had created a religious class system based on who best kept all of the rules. They even went further to add rules to the rules which would ensure their power, profit and religious standing. Journey through the source accounts of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and you’ll find many example of Jesus calling all of the religious do-gooders to a legal point of order:

Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”

Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:

   “‘These people honor me with their lips,
   but their hearts are far from me.
   They worship me in vain;
   their teachings are merely human rules.’”

Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”

The point of Leviticus is not to get mired in the minutiae of the rules, but to see the larger truth(s) to which they point. Jesus made it clear that God’s great concern was not the keeping of the rules but the condition of the heart.

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Chapter-a-Day Leviticus 17

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This is so the Israelites will bring to God the sacrifices that they’re in the habit of sacrificing out in the open fields. Leviticus 17:5a (MSG)

We are creatures of habit. In fact, we’re selfish creatures of habit. We want things the way we want them, and in a largely consumer-driven economy, we’re used to getting what we want, when we want it, how we want it served. I found out recently that our local body of Jesus followers is eliminating the worship service which Wendy and I have faithfully attended the past several years. It’s become our worship home and an integral part of this leg of our faith journey. We’ve built community there. We’ve connected to God and others there. We’ve grown spiritually and matured there. We’ve served God and others there.  Now, our service is being eliminated and two services will be offered at two different times in its place.

The news creates a heady mixture of emotions in me. Frustration and anger are easily identified emotions on the surface, but as I trace the emotions to their roots I find grief and the pain that comes from feeling slighted. I don’t think that this is a bad decision. In fact, I can see that it’s likely to be a good decision long-term for our church as a whole. Nevertheless, like a child I tend to react negatively when decisions are made inconsiderate of how it affects me or makes me feel. We are selfish creatures of habit in a consumer driven society. I’m used to having my feelings and expectations considered in surveys, discussed in focus groups, and catered to in products and services. When something is taken away from us irregardless of our feelings, we tend to get annoyed. Just last night Wendy complained to me about her facial scrub which was recently removed from the market by the people at Neutrogena and replaced with something she doesn’t like. We like what we like and we don’t want someone taking it away.

Even as I process these feelings I am fully aware that a change of course, whether freely chosen or forced upon me, leads to a change in scenery, a new perspective of the landscape, and new vistas which open up on the horizon. I will grieve what I leave behind, but am grateful for the rich seeds of faith this stretch of the journey has planted in me. Those seeds will continue to germinate and bear fruit in the months and years to come. A new course creates new opportunities, new challenges, and offers new promise. That’s exciting.

I think about these things this morning as I imagine the people of Israel who’ve lived their entire lives with no religious structure but those they developed on their own. Their lives in Egypt offered them an open market of gods and idols, sacrifices and practices to choose from. They had gotten used to worshipping whichever god they chose to worship in their tents, in their fields, or among their flocks. They were used to worshipping whichever god they wanted whenever and however they wanted. Now, Moses had forcefully delivered God’s religious rule book and it demanded that they only offer sacrifices to the one true God, whose name was so holy it could not be uttered, at one specified place in the prescribed fashion. I’m sure there was a large and angry outcry from among the people. We are, after all, selfish creatures of habit.

Today, I am at once grieving the loss that change brings and excited for the opportunity which it promises.

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Chapter-a-Day Leviticus 15

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God spoke to Moses and Aaron: “Speak to the People of Israel. Tell them, When a man has a discharge from his genitals, the discharge is unclean. Whether it comes from a seepage or an obstruction he is unclean. He is unclean all the days his body has a seepage or an obstruction.” Leviticus 15:1 (MSG)

When my daughters were young, the word for “unclean” was “acky” (toddler-ese derivative of the word “yucky”). Kids need a clear understanding of what things are acceptable and which things are “acky” because they could maim you, burn you, give you intestinal problems (and let’s face it – the diapers are nasty enough without compounding the issue), spread a communicable disease (we’d like to abandon our “pink-stuff-of-the-month” subscription with the local pharmacy, thank you), or outright kill you (dad gets blamed for enough, he doesn’t need that hanging over his head, too). As a result, there is a period of development when “acky” was a hot topic of conversation.

As I read today’s chapter, I found myself returning to the metaphor of Leviticus being a heavenly Father’s rules for the nation of Israel who were just toddlers in their societal development. Wives have enough trouble with us men who were reared in an advanced civilization and the best educational system in human history. We still fart, belch, spit, scratch, pick and leave unhealthy residue of our bodily emissions on toilets with the seat up. Can you imagine how bad guys must have been living in a tent city in 2500 b.c. without showers, indoor plumbing, laundry facilities and disposable razors?

All of the description about what was “acky” in today’s chapter served layers of purposes. From a societal point-of-view, it helped protect the nation from communicable disease by prescribing ceremonial washing of things that could easily carry all sorts of nasty germs and viruses. From a spiritual point-of-view, it reminded the people that they served a holy (and clean) God.

Today, I’m reminded that [wait for it….] “cleanliness is next to godliness.”

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Chapter-a-Day Leviticus 10

That same day Nadab and Abihu, Aaron’s sons, took their censers, put hot coals and incense in them, and offered “strange” fire to God—something God had not commanded. Fire blazed out from God and consumed them—they died in God’s presence. Leviticus 10:1-2 (MSG)

When I was a young child, I went to my grandparents house with the rest of my family. I have only vague recollections of the exact circumstances, but I know my sister and I were running wild (probably on a sugar high from the candy we consumed from Grandma Golly’s genrously large candy bowl). Somewhere along the line, likely having been told to settle down, I mouthed off to my dad disrespectfully. I was immediately taken behind the Grandpa and Grandma’s garage and received a spanking, which did not hurt me but which I remember to this day. I learned a lesson in that moment that has stuck with me the rest of my life. My father loved me, but he was also my father and deserved my respect. He should not, and would not tolerate me mouthing off to him.

The story of Nadab and Abihu is a hard one to wrap our minds around, but it illustrates an important lesson. If my earthly father, who is every bit a fallible human being, deserves my respect and honor, then how much more honor and respect does my Heavenly Father deserve who is the holy Creator of the universe? At the time of Leviticus, God’s people were like young children in their understanding of who He was. I believe God was trying to teach the entire nation some very basic concepts like a parent teaches their toddler.

I wonder if we sometimes focus so much on God’s grace and forgiveness that we lose respect for God’s holiness and omnipotence. Perhaps it would do me good to, spiritually speaking, be taken out behind the garage once in a while when I forget. It might remind me that God is my Heavenly Father, but He’s not my ol’ man.

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