Tag Archives: Leviticus

Leviticus 27: Final Guidelines for Vows

Chapter 27 is a type of tagline after the conclusion found in chapter 26. God features these guidelines for personal vows and offerings after the conclusion as a reminder that these offerings are not given from command, but of the people’s free will.

What does this tell me about God:

  • God expresses his value for freewill offerings.

God could have viewed the people’s personal vow offerings as insignificant gifts. After all, God is the creator and owner of all things, so what is a personal gift from a human worth to Him? But God’s perspective is different. He expresses his appreciation for the people’s gifts by giving guidelines and weight to them. These guidelines ensured the people to also see their vows as significant, and to not approach these offerings with a willy-nilly attitude.

How can I live in light of this:

  • No thoughts: these parameters are specific to the Israelite freewill offering.

Other thoughts or questions:

  • I was confused about the idea of consecrating a gift for God, then redeeming it back.

The Bible Knowledge Commentary helped me unpack this concept. A person could make a vow to God, dedicating themselves, their property, or other people to be set apart for His use (as Hannah did regarding the birth of her long-awaited child in 1 Samuel 1). They could then offer a monetary payment in exchange for the dedicated item/person. In this way, they could redeem the item/person back, as each circumstance allowed, but still fulfill their personal gift to God. A redemption payment, or assessment, for an adult male equaled 50 month’s earnings. My commentary notes that this kind of equivalent kept people from making reckless offerings.

  • Verse 34 serves as a definitive marker, signifying the end of God’s list of expectations for His nation.

How did you feel about finishing the last chapter of Leviticus!?

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Leviticus 26: Conclusion Warning

This concluding chapter of Leviticus wraps up the great expectations of the Holy God with a warning. Blessings will abound to a nation that keeps the covenant. However, correction and a curse lies in wait for the years the people rebel.

What does this tell me about God:

  • God’s conditional favor was a gift for the Israelites.

We are not familiar with conditions or boundaries to God’s favor, because we live in the new covenant of Christ (more on that later). We often think that conditional grace is selfish or one-sided. But that is not the case with God.

In Leviticus, God sets up parameters for his grace and provision: the covenant. Leviticus 26:3-13 reminds the people of the blessings available, indeed promised, for their obedience. The later verse of the chapter serve as a warning of the consequences, justly deserved, for the people who forget their God, ignoring his expectations and laws. This covenant, along with its curse/blessing consequence, was a benefit to the people. Every part of it ensured the people:

  1. Walk closely with their God.
  2. Live set apart lives for God
  3. Maintain healthy standards relationally, economically, and physically.

In short, God knew these things were the absolute best the Israelites could have. No other way of life would bring more fulfillment, safety, hope, joy, and purpose. The consequences awaiting a people who strayed from this covenant were arrows designed to point them back to a close relationship with their creator.

How can I live in light of this:

  • I am grateful for the new covenant.

As history reveals, the Israelites struggled to keep the covenant. Over and over again, they rejected God’s laws and fell into the curse promised in Leviticus 26. People were dragged off as captives, experienced famine, and other judgments for their sin.

Any covenant that hinges on human ability for righteousness will consistently swing towards brokenness. That is why God made a new covenant with humanity, hinging on the perfection of His Son Jesus. When we trust in His ability to keep the covenant in our place, we experience unconditional favor, freedom, and connection with our creator.

“For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.” Hebrews 9:13-15

  • I should be grateful of God’s blessing in disguise.

I do not believe that God lavishes material blessings and wealth on those who follow Him closely. The Bible is clear that there is a spiritual blessing for the poor, the persecuted, the striving. These things themselves are gifts as they drive us closer to God. We often forget the greatest blessing we receive is not material or relational. It is not a sound mind or a healthy body. It is not a close family or a solid roof over our heads. It is intimacy with God.

God used correction and curses to turn the hearts of the Israelites back to himself; in this way, each curse was a blessing. The wars, famines, captivity, and destitution were the tools of return.

I don’t think that every time I face a difficult situation that God is using his mighty sovereignty to drive me closer to him. We live in a broken world and sometimes crap just happens. However, I do believe that every circumstance is an opportunity to seek a closer walk with Him, to plead for His help and proximity for comfort.

Other thoughts or questions:

  • I appreciate Leviticus 26:40’s nod toward generational sin: “But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers…—if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity, then I will remember my covenant…” (vs. 40-42)

God is reminding the people that their sin is not just about the bad things they do. It is about the sin-nature at work in their very lives, passed on through generations like a hereditary trait. When we come to Jesus for salvation, we do not make a list of all the bad things we do. Rather, we confess our very nature as sinners, which the Holy Spirit then replaces with a new nature, enabling us to have that unconditional relationship with God.

When has God used a tough situation as a blessing in disguise in your life?

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Leviticus 25: Sabbath and Jubilee

Leviticus 25 introduces two unique concepts that remain significant (and still unique) for our world today: rest and redemption.

What does this tell me about God:

  • God is both systematic and extraordinary.

God commanded the sabbath year to be observed every 7 years, allowing the land and the people to rest from work and production. God promised an extra-abundant year for the 6th year, every rotation. This abundance would provide for the year of rest, and for the year of starting over (the 8th year). God reveals his consistency with the promise of seasonal provision. Participating in the 6th year harvest must have been a humbling experience for the Israelites, seeing the abundance of harvest compared to the last 5 years. God certainly deserved the credit for sustaining the Israelites through this foreign practice of rest. In fact, that is one of the purposes God ordained for the Sabbath year: to remember that God is the provider, not man’s efforts.

  • God is the owner, provider, and ultimate sustainer of everything.

The year of Jubilee, happening once in 50 years, was a call to celebrate, restore, and proclaim freedom for the people and the land. In this a special sabbath year, the people were to return to their clans, reclaiming the property God had originally assigned to them. Imagine the family reunion!

People who had fallen on hard times would have sold themselves into slavery. The year of Jubilee was a blessed occasion where all debts were canceled, all properties restored (except those within the cities), and all slaves set free! No other civilization that I know of has ever had or has today such a total-redemptive concept among its people.

How can I live in light of this:

  • I should be intentional about God-honoring rest.

Studying Breathe, by Priscilla Shirer, alongside Leviticus, has greatly helped me understand the concept of Sabbath and rest. Shirer reminds me that sabbath is not about kicking my feet up, taking a load off, and zoning out. True rest is about recognizing God as the creator and provider, and finding satisfaction in His work in and through and for me.

  • My perspective of time, space, property, and stuff can shift from “mine” to “His.”

This is a tough one for a Wyoming-born gal. We are “self-made people” here in the West. As a culture, we tend to avoid asking for help, and gravitate to pride in our accomplishments. The Jubilee was set up to remind the people that ALL property and people belong to God. He makes us stewards of His space and stuff, but I should never adopt the mentality that “I worked for it, I keep it.”

Sometimes, this means I leverage my stuff for God’s kingdom: using our home hospitably, offering to give rides in my car, etc. Sometimes, this practice means I freely give away my possessions. We credit God for the over-abundance of baby clothes we have received through hand-me-downs in our community. And as soon as our babies have grown out of a size, we passed the entire lot of clothes on to someone else in need. We could have stored the clothes for future children, but we are trusting God for that kid too, and hoping to help other babies and mommas in the meantime.

If I live Jubilee in my day to day life, I will be listening to God, whom I recognize owns it all, to stay in touch with what He wants to do with it.

  • I need to repeatedly acknowledge my roots.

“It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan.” Leviticus 25:10.

I think the Bible is clear that our “clan” in Christ is the believers who we call brothers and sisters, the sons and daughters of God. We can honor this Jubilee concept by sharing the stories of our “roots” to those around us. Does my family know my testimony? Could my kids trace back their spiritual heritage? Have I expressed my gratitude to the one’s who shared the love of Jesus with me initially?

Other thoughts or questions:

  • How many times in their up-and-down national crises did the Israelites actually celebrate Jubilee?

How do you observe rest and restoration in your life?

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Finding 5 Minutes with God…And Loving It! (the Leviticus study continued with chapter 24)

5 minutes with God

I woke up today pretty groggy and exhausted. My little boy has a lingering cough that wakes him up at all hours of the night. His cough is loud and sharp, frightening his twin sister in the crib next to him, causing screaming fits at all hours of the night. So what do I do, for all hours of the night? Lots of home-made saunas in the bathroom and vapor rub massages. I’ll admit I enjoy the bonding time, I’m just not crazy about the foggy brain the next morning.

Foolishly choosing Facebook scrolling over Bible reading, I stumbled upon a challenging article. I was defaulting to mindlessness, but God intervened with encouragement! (Isn’t that what we’ve been learning all along in Leviticus… God is personal, intimate, and all about relationship with His people).

The article is titled, “FOR WHEN YOU ONLY HAVE FIVE MINUTES TO BE IN THE BIBLE.” The author encourages women not just to fit in what you can, but actually enjoy it!

“If I found an abandoned dollar on the ground, would I pick it up? Of course I would! I wouldn’t leave it behind, just because it isn’t a hundred. If I had an opportunity to spend five minutes with one of my heroes of the faith, would I turn it down? No way! I would take it and enjoy every second of it… So, why do I act differently when it comes to my time in the Bible? Why do I portray by my actions that nothing is better than something? “

“For a long time, I felt that if I could not have a long, deep time in the Bible each day, it wasn’t good enough. So, paralyzed with the feeling that I wasn’t giving God my best, I gave Him nothing. This lack of time in the Word led to guilt and feelings of inadequacy.”

 I was incredibly challenged by this perspective. In writing this series on a study through Leviticus, I have often been intimidated by the book. In fact, that’s a big reason many people don’t study Leviticus. It feels like a huge undertaking, one that I often don’t have time for.

To be sure, there are some chapters that I chose to put 2 or 3 weeks work into unpacking and applying to my life. I thoroughly enjoyed researching Leviticus 23’s festivals. Digging deep into that heritage was not just a chore; it touched me deeply with God’s love and sovereignty. And I spent almost 3 weeks studying it, praising God the whole time.

But here’s the thing. When we choose to study through a book, we can easily make it an academic exercise instead of an intimate conversation with our loving Father.

On busy days when Shane and I are apart, I still make time to send him a phone call or a text message. Even though it is short, 5 minutes of connection still provides a healthy dose of encouragement, perspective, and warmth to my heart.

Today, I only have 5 minutes. Naps and a shower are going to win over cracking open my thick commentary. But I am connecting with God, discovering His character, and embracing my own role in this story together with Him. It might not be a feast, but it certainly whets my appetite for more.

Here’s how my brief study through Leviticus 24 spelled out:

What does this tell me about God:

  • God desires fellowship. It is an integral part of His covenant.

The bread was to be always before the Lord, right in front of the veil covering the inner sanctuary. God invites the priests to share a meal with Him, to stay daily in fellowship with Him.

  • God’s name deserves reverence and careful regard.

The young man who cursed God’s name after a fight deserved death. My Bible’s study notes comment that a persona’s character was deeply rooted together with his name. God’s name, and identity, is not just something humanity gets to throw around like an insult, or even an exclamation, in a fit of anger or poor judgement.

  • God values justice.

I find verses 17-22 fascinating. I suppose the “eye for an eye” rule would deter the people from these sins. However, history shows us that the Israelites took what God meant for righteousness, and turned it into means for one-upping each other.

For instance, the principle God set up in Leviticus 24 seemed to become distorted over time, becoming more about selfish justice than God-honoring righteousness. We see this when Jesus challenged this rule in Matthew 5 when He encouraged His disciples to turn the other cheek.

How can I live in light of this:

  • I should value fellowship with God.

As I mentioned above, even 5 minutes is enough time to prioritize my relationship with God (though, not always my theological study of His Word). He deserves more of all of my time. But I must remember the truth behind Leviticus 24: He invited the priests to share bread with Him. My “bread” is Jesus Christ, and through Jesus’ sacrifice, I have access to fellowship with God in spite of my sin. Even 5 minutes can be enough to express my gratitude for that.

  • I can revere the name of God in my daily habits.

We might find the punishment in Leviticus 24 harsh. After all, we hear God’s name used in vain all the time: on tv, at the store, in our own homes, sometimes even from our own mouths. The names of God and Jesus have become “less” offensive than many foul-mouthed expressions. I tend to lose my own feelings of justice and being offended upon hearing it. Of course, “taking the Lords name in vain” goes so far beyond just using it as a cuss word. However, today I am challenged to redefine my understanding of how to revere the name of Jesus.

  • I can promote justice and righteousness in my own heart, rather than judge it in others.

Jesus’ reminder in Matthew 5 was about keeping your own heart in the right mindset: in this instance, going the extra mile in humility. Instead of always looking for other people’s mistakes, and using them as a springboard for my own self-confidence, I am convicted that I must first pray for revival in my own heart.

Other thoughts or questions:

  • Why did God require continuous light? (verse 2) [Answer: God provided the first fire, if it went out, that meant the people would have to re-light it with their own fire. This has so much significance to whether or not we value heavenly provision or our own.)
  • What is the significance of 12 loaves of bread (verse 5)? Why not 7, like other things mentioned in Leviticus? [Answer: they represented the 12 tribes of Israel; symbolizing everyone was included in the fellowship with God.]
  • What exactly does verse 11 mean when referring to “blaspheme” the Name?

How did your 5 minutes with God impact your day today? If you had more time for your study, could you provide some insight into my “other thoughts and questions” section by commenting below?

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Leviticus 23: There Ain’t no Party like a God-ordained Party

Studying Leviticus gave me a new perspective on observing of Passover, Lent, Holy Week, and Easter this spring. Though the big holiday season ended barely a week ago, I am still musing over the significance of each holiday and what they represent in my life today.

Leviticus 23 begins with instructions for the sacred assemblies: on a weekly basis, the sabbath, and on a yearly basis, other festivals.

The reason for the festivals came to life for me after reading this paragraph from Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology:

“Israel’s festivals were communal and commemorative as well as theological and typological. They were communal in that they drew the nation together for celebration and worship as they recalled the common origin and experience of the people. They were commemorative in that they kept alive the story of what God had done in the exodus and during the sojourn. They were theological in that the observance of the festivals presented the participants with lessons on the reality of sin, judgment, and forgiveness, on the need for thanksgiving to God, and on the importance of trusting God rather than hoarding possessions. They were typological in that they anticipated a greater fulfillment of the symbolism of the feasts. It is not surprising that each of the major feasts is in some way alluded to in the New Testament. On the other hand, the festivals could become meaningless rituals and were subject to the criticism of the prophets ( Isa 1:13-14 ). (emphasis mine; Source)

After reading through Baker’s expose on the festivals, I wrote up a comprehensive list of each festival, when it was celebrated, and how its significance has shifted for a New Testament believer. While I would love to share that with you, I found the exercise so helpful to my understanding of this Levitical history, that I would highly recommend you do the same! (Let me know what you discover in the comment section below).

For now, I will stick with the simple objective I hold for every chapter of this study:

  1. What does this tell me about God?
  2. How can I live in light of this truth?
  3. Other thoughts/questions.

What does this tell me about God:

  • God set up reliable and repeatable occasions for the people to have direct access to God as a group.

Once a week, God gave the people a boundary in which to do no work, focusing instead on rest and meeting together to worship God.

I just began a study by Priscilla Shrirer titled Breathe: Making Room for Sabbath. Shrirer reminds us that the structure God imposed on the Israelites was a gift! Rather than being in bondage of busyness and constant work, God provides, no, He mandates room to meet with God and rest. Not only does this gift provide downtime for the people, it also reminds them to have a right perspective of who the provider is (Deut. 5:15)

The festivals also provided this opportunity to rest, gather, and meet with God.

  • Through Passover, God ensures His people will remember how the Lord spared the Israelite first-born during the final plague in Egypt (Exodus 12).

God knows humanity can be forgetful and narcissistic. The Passover festival kept the focus on God as the hero and ultimate rescuer of Israel, as well as the all powerful God who brought the terrible plagues to Egypt.

  • The Feast of the Unleavened Bread stood as a reminder of God’s call for the people to clean out the sin in their lives.

The whole week immediately after the passover, the people of God completely avoided yeast, even removing it from their homes. Avoiding yeast became a symbol for God’s call for the people to avoid sin.

In the New Testament, Paul compared the Corinthian church to the Feast of Unleavened Bread, encouraging them to remove the influence of an unrepentant member of their church:

Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast–as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth. 1 Corinthians 5:6-8
  • God deserves credit for our provisions.
God used the Feast of First Fruits, Pentecost, and Feast of Trumpets to mark His provision during the harvest season. He reminded the people his worthiness for the credit and worship during this time.

How can I live in light of this:

  • I should remember that God is the hero and Savior.

In many ways, Easter is a way that Christians commemorate Jesus’ sacrifice to spare us, in the same way the Israelites celebrated passover. In fact, on one special passover, Jesus gathered with his disciples for his last supper. Jesus is now referred to as our passover lamb (1 Cor. 5:7) reminding us that He has fulfilled the purpose of the young animal’s blood shed that the Lord’s judgement might “pass over” us.

  • I can set up specific seasons to purge both my home and my heart.

While we (Christians) are not commanded to observe the feast of unleavened bread, I still like to observe the principle that God ordained: to not allow ungodly influences and sin grow unchecked like a batch of yeast. Recently, I tackled a big project of cleaning out our guest room (the catch-all). In the process, I prayed and repented of sin as God brought it to my attention as I cleaned. I have written more about this type of purge here.

  • I should thank God for His provision.

Many Americans perceive Thanksgiving as a time to recognize God’s provision. In addition to celebrating the physical nourishment God provides, I also believe He calls us to give Him credit for the spiritual harvest we see in our churches and neighborhoods.

In John 4, Jesus says

“Don’t you say, ‘There are still four more months, then comes the harvest’? Listen to what I’m telling you: Open your eyes and look at the fields, for they are ready for harvest. The reaper is already receiving pay and gathering fruit for eternal life, so the sower and reaper can rejoice together. For in this case the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’  I sent you to reap what you didn’t labor for; others have labored, and you have benefited from their labor.”

In the Kingdom harvest, we can celebrate with new souls who accept Christ as their Savior, even if we did not directly share the gospel with them (or have them join our church, etc.).

Other thoughts or questions:

  • I had many more realizations while studying the festivals of Leviticus 23, and Baker’s comparison to the events and ideals of the New Testament. I won’t share them all here, but I challenge you to look further into it.

How can you celebrate, worship, and remember what God has done in your own life?

Source: http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/bakers-evangelical-dictionary/feasts-and-festivals-of-israel.html

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Leviticus 21-22: Expectations for the Priests

Chapters 21-22 spell out God’s expectations for the priests, descendants of Aaron, and their duties. While I don’t normally read 2 chapters in a row, today it was appropriate since both chapters create a special section in the “Holiness code” portion of Leviticus.

What does this tell me about God:

  • God held the priests to a higher standard of being set-apart.

In other chapters, we have seen how specific (and sometimes strange to us) God’s expectations are for the people of Israel. We know that God does this, of course, because

  1. God deserves obedience without explanation.
  2. The Israelites were to reflect God to the rest of the world around them.
  3. God cares about his people’s well-being, and provides for their health needs through His laws.

For the priests, however, the expectations are set up for additional reasons:

  1. Anyone playing the role of mediator must be considered holy, inside and out (much like the expectations for the sacrifices themselves).
  2. The priests were the example to the people of Israel and thus were held to a higher standard.

For the Christian today, we can be grateful that Christ exceeded those expectations as our high priest.

How can I live in light of this:

  • I can take my role in the Royal Priesthood seriously.

 

1 Peter 2:9 is clear that all Christians now fulfill the role of the priesthood:

But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9

We need not adhere to the specific rules and regulations for a Levitical priest; however, the principle of living set-apart lives, as examples of God’s goodness and holiness, remains imperative for the believer today.

Other thoughts or questions:

  • I was intrigued by verses 14-16:

If anyone eats a holy offering in error, he must add a fifth to its value and give the holy offering to the priest. The priests must not profane the holy offerings the Israelites give to the Lord by letting the people eat their holy offerings and having them bear the penalty of restitution. For I am Yahweh who sets them apart.”

We can appreciate that God knows humanities perchance to live in the loophole. “Well, I’ll eat the holy offering just this once and go ahead and pay for it,” was not acceptable, and God made sure that caveat was addressed before it became a trend.

What did you learn from Leviticus 21-22 today?

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Leviticus 20: Placing greater value on Relationships

One of the main reasons I am blogging my way through my study in Leviticus is so you, dear reader, can see that IT CAN BE DONE. Reading hard books of the Bible is not only do-able, but it also beneficial! However, it can still be intimidating. Here’s a peek at how I tackled this study today:

  • 6:30am— read chapter 20 on my iPhone app while half-asleep in bed (it piques my curiosity at least).
  • 7:00am—drag myself out of bed, spend time in prayer and stretching (an old habit I have recently picked up again).
  • 7:30am— enjoy “Breakfast with Jesus.” Cinnamon Pecan cereal, banana, Study Bible, journal, commentary, and a prayer: Holy Spirit, teach me.
    • I journal through the three points (in green below) as I read, and consult the notes in my Bible and commentary as needed.
  • 8:00am— digest (physically and spiritually) as I wake up the babies.
  • 10:00am— If I get the chance, I bring my Bible and journal to the computer to write down what God taught me. Otherwise, I’ll come back to my thoughts on a day available for blog writing. (I sometimes write out 2 or 3 chapter-thoughts at a time, and schedule them for different days on the blog).

Pretty simple. I really don’t get much out of the reading if I just scroll through my Bible app. But there are days that’s all I get to, and it is still good. I think the most beneficial part to my study is prayer. It reminds me that I am not just doing a task, but I am fellowshipping with the God of the universe (as we learned in chapter 19)!

I also greatly appreciate asking the question “how can I live in light of this?” It gives me an action point to launch from.

Here’s what I learned from chapter 20:

What does this tell me about God:

  • God requires his people to be on board with His expectations.

God makes a point in this chapter to address the entire community with their responsibility to hold each other accountable. They were to execute the punishments when a person violated God’s law.

  • God places the highest value on life and relationships.

Whereas other cultures valued possessions and economic gain, God called his people to value life and relationships. Many of the sins mentioned in chapter 20 are sins committed against the family unit or against the relationship with God. Death may seem to be a harsh punishment for some of these sins, but it gives us insight into what God values most.

  • God intends for his people to be set apart from the culture, possibly to the point of looking weird.

In verses 222-26, God reiterates his call for the people to be Holy, like He is, and describes a way to do so that may have felt irrational, extreme, or ridiculous: avoiding unclean animals. Leviticus specifically states the reason for this is to appear different from the rest of the nations.

How can I live in light of this:

  • I should place greater value on relationships, with God and with people.

Most of us do not struggle with any of the sins listed in chapter 20. However, we can lean toward valuing our time, money, possessions, and gain above relationships.

There are days that I have a task burning a hole in my mind, whether it be an article to be published, a pile of laundry to be folded, or a ministry event to be planned and scheduled. I want to get it done, make it marvelous, and hopefully receive some accolade or monetary compensation for my achievement. But these days are also the days that my daughter is extra-needy, my son skips his nap, my husband carved out time to connect with me, and my dog is begging for the ball to be thrown. Which will I make time for, the immediate or the important?

Please hear me, avoiding relationships or making time for personal achievement is not what God is addressing in Leviticus 20. However, the principle struck me deeply: do I value relationships with God and others as much as God does?

  • I should hold other believers accountable.

Israel was a nation who’s King was God. This is called a theocracy. Therefore, God’s expectations applied to the whole nation. Many Americans identify in nationality with a theocracy, but we must remember our nation itself is not under the rule of God. He is sovereign yes, but the laws and politics of the USA are not designed like a theocracy. Whereas the people of Israel could hold each other accountable to God’s expectation on a national level, Americans do not have that right to punish, mistreat, or otherwise hold accountable our nation and its citizens to God’s expectations. We do, however, have the right and responsibility to hold other believers accountable to the life God has called us to as His body. In this way, we can honor Leviticus 20 within our churches (along with Galatians 6, and James 5).

  • I should be willing to be weird as I identify more and more with God.

Other thoughts or questions:

  • What/who is Molech? Answer: Molech is the national god of the ammonites. Sacrificing a child may have meant burning the child, but also could refer to giving the child up to become a cult prostitute.

How can you value relationships better in your own life?

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Leviticus 19: Following Rules or Fellowship with God?

I recently had the privilege of praying along side a young woman as she accepted Christ as her Savior. It was exhilarating to see her find peace and freedom as she realized at last that she could come to God through Jesus, just the way she is. In the weeks leading up to this moment, “B” thought she couldn’t begin a relationship with God until she knew she would never sin again. The weight of this perspective kept B from giving her life to God for some time. I loved seeing the relief wash over her face when she finally understood that a relationship with God is about Jesus taking care of our sin, not us being perfect on our own.

Many people have this idea that Christianity is a religion of rules. They quote Leviticus 19 as proof. After all, Lev. 19 restates all 10 commandments found in Exodus 20. From gleaning to tattoos, it has many do’s and do not’s to obey. However, this chapter also describes the opposite of a check-list! It expresses God’s desire for fellowship with His people in a beautiful way!

What does this tell me about God:

  • God is about relationship, not about check-lists.

This chapter begins with God beckoning the people into fellowship with Him: “Speak to the entire Israelite community…” God then invites them again to “be Holy because I, Yahweh your God, am holy.”

God then reiterates this phrase 16 times! He says over and over again: I am Yahweh, your God. In so many ways, this is personal and intimate, drawing the people to know Him, “your God.” It certainly commands respect and fear (He is God), but that does not necessarily turn these expectations into a set of rules to follow to avoid punishment.

I think the prominence of the fellowship offering also points to God’s desire for fellowship. In verses 5-8, God gives a primary place in the list for the fellowship offering, the sacrifice that gives the people the chance to commune and “share a meal” with God.

  • God set up laws and expectations to strengthen our relationship with Him.

God invites His people to be Holy, as He is holy. This invitation is so much more than a “get ‘er done” mentality. It is not “follow rules so you will be a good person.” It is also not a means to avoid punishment or to achieve an awesome life.

“Be holy as I, Yahweh your God, am holy” is a call to know God in order to be like Him.

It is also a call to be like God in order to know Him.yahweh

God set up these expectations as a way to build identity together with Him in relationship.

  • God also emphasizes our relationships with others.

Leviticus is the book at the center of the Torah. At the center of Leviticus is chapter 19. The middle verse is verse 18. In other words, the axis of God’s direction for his people, on which the rest of His law revolves around, is

 Do not take revenge or bear a grudge against members of your community, but love your neighbor as yourself; I am Yahweh.

My study Bible comments: “relationships with people are inseparable from one’s relationship with God—Holy living and love are mutually dependent. Being identified with the Lord, who is holy, necessitates mirroring His holiness.”

How can I live in light of this:

  • Focused fellowship can become a springboard for intimacy in our relationship with Jesus.

Living a set-apart list does not come naturally to me. I have to be intentional about it. Throughout each week, I try to make room in my schedule to meet with the hurting and sick, like Jesus did. I read that Jesus prioritized his quiet time with God, so I set my alarm a little earlier. I know that Jesus detests religiosity, so I strive to be gracious, generous, and humble.

All of these things are ways to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, to be set-apart. But sometimes I do them to just do them. I have to admit, this study through Leviticus has been an eye-opener, but there are still days I just can’t wait for it to be over! I spend several hours a week with teenagers in a non-church setting, with the sole purpose of trying to be a light in their dark worlds. I pray for opportunities to share my faith with them, knowing I might be the only contact they have with someone who has a relationship with Jesus. Still, there are weeks I just “check it off the list.”

I avoid bad movies, say no to over-eating, delete a sarcastic text before I send it, and try to curb my negative thoughts. Each of these things present an opportunity to commune with God, ask for His help, express my gratitude, etc. But sometimes I just pat myself on the back and keep going about my day.

I believe God wants us to use our good things, and the avoidance of the “bad things”, to know Him better. To build our sense of identity in relationship, not just our badges of “Christianity.”

Today, after reading Leviticus 19, I noticed I was talking with God more throughout each task of my day. My tasks became talking points in an ongoing conversation with my Savior. Focused fellowship can become a springboard for intimacy in our relationship with Jesus.

  • I can strive for heightened awareness of the Holy Spirit’s work in me.

Every task of Leviticus 19 does not apply to those of us living in the days of Christ. But the principal of doing what is right does apply. Christ-followers do not accomplish good by our own efforts, however. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. Philippians 2 says

So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose. (vs. 12-13)

We get to work with the Holy Spirit on the character traits and behavior issues He is working on in us. Sanctification (becoming more like Jesus) is carried out by the Holy Spirit, but we still get to participate.

Other thoughts or questions:

  • I’ve decided not to enter the tattoo debate that Leviticus 19:28 often brings up.

How can you pursue fellowship with God through obeying the “rules”?

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Navigating a Sex-Crazed Culture (With an Old Testament Chapter as Your Guide: Leviticus 18)

This is the big one! Many people have targeted Leviticus 18 as the chapter to debate in the conversation about God and homosexuality. I encountered this conversation twice in the week leading up to reading this chapter. I find it helpful to read the chapter in its entirety (and the whole book of Leviticus, for that matter), in order to grasp the whole picture of God’s expectations for the Israelites. So before you jump into my thoughts on the subject, read here.

What does Leviticus 18 tell me about God:

  • God is not surprised by culturally accepted sinful practices.

I’ve heard people say “things are getting worse,” referring to our culture’s obsession with pushing the sexual boundaries. Interestingly, the unhealthy sexual practices were happening in other cultures long before our founding fathers set foot on American soil.

  • God sets standards for his people regardless of the cultural norms.

God was not surprised by Egypt and Canaan’s sin, and He isn’t surprised by my cultures sin either. He knew the heavy influence the Israelites were walking into, and spelled out very specific instructions on what not to do.

How can I live in light of this:

  • Live according to Romans 12:1-2

Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

In so many ways, Romans 12:1-2 sums up what we are studying in Leviticus. I am challenged to live a life that is set-apart, looking more like Jesus than the culture around me. My body and life are not my own, rather I am part of a sacrifice (along with the rest of the believers) to God. Not in my physical death, like an animal of Leviticus sacrifices, but in the daily death to my desires.

This means I don’t read books or watch movies that promote unhealthy sexual activity, no matter how popular they are in my culture. I will admit, my curiosity runs rampant when I recognize how elevated sex is in my American culture. Regardless, God calls me to a different standard. God doesn’t require me to remove myself from my culture; still, in order to reach that standard of being set-apart, I must renew my mind in Christ daily.

  • I can also live according to Romans 12:3, in humility and kindness.

For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one. Romans 12:3

The trouble with the conversation about God’s sexual standards is how “good people” use them to elevate themselves above others. Someone engaging in sexual sin, from sex-out-of-marriage to homosexuality, is first and foremost in need of the gospel that God loves them and made a way to have a relationship with them. And you know what? The same is true for this dirty, grimy, disgusting sinner who struggles with the not-lesser sins of pride, gluttony, laziness, rudeness, sarcasm, and idolatry. I have been released from the guilt of my sin because of Jesus sacrifice, which gives me no higher place to stand than any other sinner saved by grace, now or in the future.

Other thoughts or questions:

  • Not today.

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Leviticus 17: Worship Matters to Community

From our readings so far, we see that chapters 1-16 in Leviticus focus on how to have relationship with a Holy God. God provided the sacrifices and expectations for set-apart living so the people would have access to Him in an appropriate way. With chapter 17, we are entering new territory in the Leviticus outline. Chapters 17-27 are a sort of “holiness code” for the Israelites. Now that the people have a way to connect with their creator, God also provides proper instruction for them to connect with others, in a way that honors and glorifies God.

Interestingly, God begins this section of relating to the world around them by focusing first on worship of Him. Our worship practices not only affect our relationship with God, but they also greatly affect our earthly relationships, and thus they must be addressed.

What does this tell me about God:

  • God cares about Who we worship.

Verse 7 instructs the people to no longer offer sacrifices to “goat-demons.” The people of Israel had many influences on their worship practices, having lived in Egypt for so many years, and now entering a land that also did not know the Holy God.

God is reminding His people to be wholly focused on Him, regardless of the culture and practices around them. Leviticus will go into the influence of surrounding nations further in chapter 18.

  • God cares about how we worship.

This chapter outlines various ways that the Israelites were improperly practicing the slaughter, sacrifice, and use for worship of animals. He demanded that all animals being slaughtered (presumably for food) come first to the tabernacle. God desired fellowship with His people, and this law ensured that the people would not just go about taking care of their needs without sharing with the Levites and with God through a fellowship offering. This law also ensured that no offerings would be made to other gods.

  • God cares about living things.

Verses 10-16 show the significance of blood symbolizing life. God is adamant that life is sacred, and blood represents that.

How can I live in light of this:

  • I must worship God alone.

I do not build physical alters and worship demon goats, but I certainly practice focused attention and awe for the things my culture values. Stuff like celebrities’ behavior, new tech, and whether a dress is blue or white command my attention. Whatever buzzfeed or distractify is dangling in front of my face(book) gets me hooked. I give my attention, time, and money to the “American dream” that my culture continually worships. Reading Leviticus is a pertinent reminder to worship God alone. He deserves the obvious place in my conversation, the first hour in my day, the go-to thought in my daydreams.

  • I can worship God according to His expectations.

Sometimes, I want to worship in the way I want to. I want to be alone, with music I like, on the mountainside that makes me feel so alive. But God doesn’t always call me to worship in a way that makes me feel good.

Many people claim to follow Jesus, but want nothing to do with His people.

Leviticus reminds us how much God values our fellowship with Him and with others. I can also place greater value on worshiping with God’s people in a building that might feel confined, with sinners saved by grace just like me, singing songs of truth and praise regardless of the melody.

Other thoughts or questions:

  • Singing about the “blood” has greater significance now.

The comment in my study Bible emphasizes that “this passage is foundational for understanding the New Testament references to the atoning blood of Christ,” like these verses:

They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God presented Him as a propitiation through faith in His blood, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His restraint God passed over the sins previously committed. Romans 3:24-25

He entered the most holy place once for all, not by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow, sprinkling those who are defiled, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of the Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to serve the living God? Hebrews 9:12-14

How did Leviticus 17 impact you this week?

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