leviticus

Leviticus 26, Ecclesiastes 9, Psalm 112

Today’s readings are Leviticus 26, Ecclesiastes 9, Psalm 112.

This devotional is about Leviticus 26 and Psalm 112.

Great blessings continued to be promised here in Leviticus 26. If only Israel had believed God (vv. 1-3), they would have:

  • abundant rain in season yielding fruitful harvests (v. 4).
  • a consistent supply food (vv. 5, 10).
  • peace and security from wild animals and invading armies (v. 6)
  • military victory if war did break out (vv. 7-8)
  • growing population base (v. 9)
  • MOST IMPORTANTLY: fellowship with God who would live among them (vv. 11-13).

Following those positive promises were promises that there would be consequences if they disobeyed God’s word (vv. 14-39). This is what Israel actually got, for the most part, because they disobeyed God. But notice that God’s described these consequences in verse 23 as “my correction” and he said that the purpose of these punishments was to “break down your stubborn pride.” This is what God does for those he loves. He blesses us when we follow him in obedience and he brings correction, painful though it may be, to humble us and teach us to follow him.

Psalm 112 re-affirms many of the positive promises God made here in Leviticus 26, and Leviticus 26:44-45 affirmed for Israel that God would not forget them or forsake his promises to them. Instead, verses 40-42 promised that “if they confess their sins... I will remember my covenant....”

Here in the church age, God’s blessings to us are not necessarily the material prosperity he promised to Israel. We will enjoy that when his kingdom comes to earth, but that is not always his will for his elect in this age. We can, however, enjoy God’s fellowship (vv. 11-13) in this life while we wait for the kingdom to fulfill all the other promises he made. We also enjoy the conviction that God will not forsake us when we sin against him but that his correction is designed to humble us and to turn our hearts in confession and repentance to him.

How is this working out in your walk with God these days? Are you enjoying the comfort of his fellowship even if you may be experiencing some trials? Or are you stubbornly living in disobedience and, maybe, experiencing his correction in your life? If you are walking with God and not harboring any sin, then keep going. Don’t allow the lies that sin tells us to rob you of the blessings of God’s fellowship. If you need to repent, though, claim God’s promised forgiveness and have your walk with him restored.

Leviticus 25, Ecclesiastes 8, Psalm 111

Today we’re reading Leviticus 25, Ecclesiastes 8, and Psalm 111.

This devotional is about Leviticus 25.

The people of Israel were dependent on God for everything while they traveled from Egypt to the Promised Land. Here in Leviticus 25, verses 1-22, God gave some laws that would keep them dependent on him, if they obeyed them. These laws extended the notion of Sabbath rest to the land. God’s people were commanded to leave the land alone every 7th year (v. 4) and live by whatever it produced on its own without any sowing, cultivation or reaping (v. 6).

Think about that. The idea of having a Sabbatical year after every six years of work sounds pretty nice, doesn’t it? “Take the next year off” your boss tells you. “We’ll send you a profit sharing check based on whatever money comes in, even though we’re not going to work or produce anything. It should be fine.”

When you put it that way, taking a year off sounds pretty terrifying. Land doesn’t ordinarily produce crops on its own, so just loafing around for a year and eating whatever shows up sounds incredibly risky.

That’s exactly the point. As the Lord said in verse 21, “I will send you such a blessing in the sixth year that the land will yield enough for three years.” Taking a Sabbatical was an act of faith. It was taking God at his word that he would provide for his people. It wasn’t exactly a miraculous provision, like the manna from heaven was, but it was a divine provision. It would be an extraordinary event for God to make the land produce in this way, a reversal of the curse in Genesis 3:17-19, but that’s what God promised. He was promising a blessing to his people--the blessing of rest--if they simply trusted him.

God’s people didn’t trust him, so they did not observe this command. When God allowed Jerusalem to fall to the Babylonians, it was in part to fulfill this passage. 2 Chronicles 36:21 says, “The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah.” A great blessing was there for the taking but unbelief and fear kept it from happening.

Makes you wonder, doesn’t it? What blessings you and I might be missing because unbelief and fear cause us to disobey God’s commands?

Leviticus 19, Ecclesiastes 2, Psalm 105

Today’s readings are Leviticus 19, Ecclesiastes 2, Psalm 105

This devotional is about Leviticus 19.

Twice in today’s reading God’s people were commanded to love others “as you love yourself.” We are familiar with Christ’s teaching that, “Love your neighbor as yourself” is second greatest commandment in God’s law. But this chapter taught that command not just as a broad, abstract principle. Instead, this chapter spoke of the principle in connection with a specific command each time.

The first way in which Israel was to “love your neighbor as yourself” was found in verse 18, “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” This instance of the second great commandment comes in the context of verses 16-18. In those verses, care and consideration for others are the specific ways God told his people to love their neighbors. He commanded them not to slander (v. 16a), endanger the lives of others (v. 16b), hate others (v. 17a) refuse to address their sins (v. 17b), seek revenge (v. 18a) or carry a grudge (v. 18b). These would be surprising commands to find the laws of our country, state, county, or city but in God’s laws they make perfect sense. In God’s kingdom, there is no place for gossip, hatred, recklessness, revenge, or bitterness and Jesus died to redeem us from these common human sinful tendencies.

The second instance of this command was in verses 33-34: “‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” The Egyptians had enslaved and mistreated God’s people but that kind of oppression has no place in God’s kingdom. This command calls believers not to live with prejudice in our hearts toward any others. They may look different, dress differently, have a different language and different customs from us; no matter, we should treat with kindness and love, just as we want for ourselves.

Given these specific commands about how to apply the general command to love our neighbors, how are you doing? Do you have any unresolved problems with other people? Any prejudice or unfair treatment of “foreigners” around you? Ask the Lord to help you love them as you love yourself. Then, take one action that would show love to that person today.

Leviticus 17, Proverbs 31, Psalm 103

Today’s scheduled Bible readings are Leviticus 17, Proverbs 31, and Psalm 103.

This devotional is about Leviticus 17:11: “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.”

Before the tabernacle existed, people offered animal sacrifices wherever and however they wanted. God’s laws described how the sacrifices should be offered and where they should be offered, namely the tabernacle. But people are creatures of habit and stubborn. If Israel was ever going to worship as God had commanded, the people had to stop doing their own thing and start bringing sacrifices to the tabernacle. That’s what Leviticus 17 is about. It commands the people not to offer sacrifices anywhere else but the tabernacle (v. 5) and it prescribes a severe penalty for those who don’t bring their sacrifices to the tabernacle (v. 4).

A key reason for these commands was to stop idolatry in Israel (v. 7). If anyone can sacrifice whatever they want, whenever they want, wherever they want, they also can sacrifice to whomever they want--God or some idol. Creating a central place of worship had many benefits but guarding against idolatry was one of the biggest.

A key theme within this chapter has to do instructions about handling the blood of an animal sacrifice. The word “blood” appears 12 times in this chapter in verses 4, 6, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, so it is an important detail. The reason for this attention to blood is stated in verse 11: “For the life of a creature is in the blood....” Blood is necessary for life. When it stops flowing through the veins of a man or an animal, the organs and tissues in the body stop working and the animal or person dies. Because it is essential to life, blood is a perfect way to represent life and death. The later part of verse 11 goes on to explain the significance of blood in animal sacrifices: “and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.” The Hebrew word translated “atonement” here means “to cover or conceal.” God is saying that the blood conceals one’s sins; it is God’s appointed method for receiving forgiveness. When a person brought an animal as a sacrifice for his sins, that animal became the person’s substitute. God accepted the life of that animal, symbolized by its blood, instead of the life of the person who committed the sin.

Ultimately, of course, all of this anticipated the death of Christ on the cross for us. The statement, “For the life of a creature is in the blood... it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life” (v. 11) explains why Christ had to die on the cross for our sins. Because he was the perfect man, sinless in every way and righteous by merit for obeying God’s law perfectly, he was the only man who could die as a substitute for sinners. Because you have believed in him, you can be certain that God has forgiven you based on Christ’s death and has accepted you. The death of Christ is central to our faith because only his death could atone for our sins.

Leviticus 10, Proverbs 25, Psalm 97

Today’s readings are Leviticus 10, Proverbs 25, Psalm 97.

This devotional is about Leviticus 10.

The previous chapters in this book explained the various offerings God had commanded his people to bring (Lev 1-7), the dedication of Aaron and his sons as priests (Lev 8), and the beginning of their service to the Lord on behalf of Israel (Lev 9). Their ministry had just begun and, here in chapter 10, two of Aaron’s sons broke the Law of Moses and displeased God with “unauthorized fire” (v. 10). What exactly they did wrong is not explained to us. It could have been incorporating some pagan worship element in the offering. It could have been that they were drunk when making the offering (which maybe why verses 8ff are in this chapter). It could have been that they entered the Most Holy Place even though it was not the Day of Atonement. We just don’t know specifically what they did but whatever it was, it was done in willful disobedience to God’s word. This is why God acted as swiftly as he did. Instead of fearing the Lord and doing their ministry in that spirit, they attempted to worship God in an unholy way.

Moses responded swiftly and told Aaron and all the other priests exactly what to do next. This was re-enforce that Nadab and Abihu were completely in the wrong and to keep the other priests from compounding the sin by disobeying God’s commands in other ways while they served as priests.

Still, despite Moses’s best efforts to keep the priests on an obedient path, they broke God’s law in verses 16-18 by not eating “the sin offering in the sanctuary area” (vv. 17-18). Moses was angry about this, too (v. 16) and confronted the priests about this violation. Aaron spoke up for the others and asked, given the fact that “such things as this have happened to me. Would the Lord have been pleased if I had eaten the sin offering today?” That satisfied Moses (v. 20) and no punishments resulted. But what exactly did Aaron say?

To answer that question, we must remember that Aaron was ordered not to grieve the death of his sons while he was on duty as a priest (vv. 6-7). These orders were directed at the outward signs of mourning; they were forbidden from tearing their clothes or allowing their hair to become disheveled which was a common way of showing mourning. Although Moses commanded them not to mourn externally, they were of course sad and distraught on the inside, both due to the sin of Nadab and Abihu and due their deaths. So Aaron’s response to Moses in verse 19 seems to have meant something like, “We fulfilled our duties to the Lord as priests despite the sorrow we have. The only part we didn’t complete was the part that benefited us, eating the meat from the offering. Because we are mourning, none of us felt like eating. Since the meal is supposed to be for our benefit anyway, is God really displeased that we didn’t eat it? Would he have been glorified if we feasted away while our hearts were breaking?” If that’s what Aaron meant, it is a compelling argument and, therefore, not surprising that Moses was satisfied by it.

The most important part of what Aaron said, however, is totally clear: “Would the Lord have been pleased...?” His motives for allowing the sin offering to be consumed like the burnt offering instead of eaten were to glorify God. In every other circumstance, he would have obeyed God’s directions completely but, given these circumstances, it would be more glorifying to God for them to fast rather than eat the meal as if nothing were wrong.

The truth of this passage, then, is that the motives behind what you do for the Lord matter more than what you do for the Lord. This is something the Old Testament prophets emphasized and Jesus spoke about often as well. It is never right to disobey God because of your feelings; but there are times when it is not totally clear what the best way to glorify God is. In those times, one should seek to honor God and act in a way that is consistent with trying to honor God.

From time to time people in our church ask me about various ethical dilemmas they have. Things like:

  • Should I attend a baby shower for a baby conceived out of wedlock, especially if the mother is unrepentant? It isn’t the baby’s fault, but does it send a wrong message?
  • Should I attend the wedding of someone who professes Christ but is marrying an unbeliever? What if I’m not really convinced that the professing believer truly knows Christ?

These and other situations call for wisdom and they bring stress (and distress) to many conscientious believers. Whenever I’m asked a question like this, I try to reason aloud with the person asking the question from clear Scriptural truths and see if any seem to apply in the situation they are asking about. Often, though, it ends in a judgment call. A passage like this gives us some comfort. If we are seeking to please the Lord--not to justify or excuse a sin that we really want to do but earnestly seeking to please him--then that matters more to God than scrupulous obedience to his commands from a cold heart.

Are you facing any tough decisions where the right thing to do is not 100% clear despite the fact that you’ve sought counsel from the Lord and from godly people? Take comfort that God knows your motives and that he is gracious and merciful to us, especially when we want to please him.

Leviticus 5, Proverbs 20, Psalm 92

Today we’re reading Leviticus 5, Proverbs 20, and Psalm 92.

This devotional is about Leviticus 5:1: “‘If anyone sins because they do not speak up when they hear a public charge to testify regarding something they have seen or learned about, they will be held responsible.’”

“Minding my own business” is a phrase that people use to disclaim responsibility. Sometimes that is a good thing; the Bible commands us not to get involved in gossip or someone else’s argument. In those situations, we would do well to mind our own business.

But there are times in life when we see something that we really should speak up about. If someone else sins and you see it but say nothing, are you complicit in their sin?

My instinct has always been to answer that question with “No.” This verse, Leviticus 5:1, argues otherwise. As Christians we are not under Moses’s law, so Moses won’t do anything to you if you don’t speak up. But these laws are God’s Word and, as such, they reflect God’s standards of right and wrong. They give us a set of ethical principles that should guide our behavior. This verse, then, tells us that God is not impressed when we are silent after witnessing a crime or some other kind of non-criminal sin. If you saw a man scratch someone else’s car, then drive off, what would you do? Would you try to stop him or say, “I saw that” if he drove by you as you walked through the parking lot? Would you copy down his license plate number and call the police or at least leave it on the car that was scratched?

Or would you just mind your own business?

Again, my instinct is usually very strong in the direction of do-nothing. Although I cannot remember any specific instances, I feel convicted reading these verses that there have been times in my life when I remained silent when I should have stepped in or spoken up.

Note that this is not the same as being a “tattle-tale.” Tattle-tales are, in my thinking at least, people who report others who broke procedural laws without damaging anyone else. So the isn’t a command to write down the license plate number of everyone who speeds but it is a call to do something if you witness a hit and run accident. It isn’t your job to turn in a child who runs in the hallway at school but you and I shouldn’t stay silent if we hear someone slandering the good reputation of someone else.

Each of us will answer to God for how we’ve lived our lives on this earth and that means giving an account for the things we’ve personally done. But we also have some obligation to others. Part of living in a community means not being idol or quiet when one person in the community takes advantage of someone else in the community.

Is it possible that someone reading this devotional today is sitting on some information that really should be brought to light? If you’re struggling with whether or not you should come forward with information you have, let the moral principle behind this verse give you some guidance. If you remain silent, could someone be blamed falsely for something they didn’t do? Will it hurt a business or negatively impact someone’s life if you are silent about the information you have?

I recently met a man in another state who moved across the country to take a new job in a community’s government. Once he was in that job, he discovered evidence of corruption and spoke up about it. Instead of being praised for his honesty, he lost his job and was blamed for the situation. Eventually an independent investigation cleared him of the false charges against him but he is unemployed and his reputation has been sullied. I prayed with this man and asked for God’s justice and I continue to pray for him periodically as I think of his situation. But I told you this story to warn you that there may be negative consequences for you if you speak up they way Leviticus 5:1 says you should. Nevertheless, trusting the Lord and obeying his will in these areas is the right thing to do. Let’s determine in advance not to be silent when we should speak up.

Leviticus 3-4, Proverbs 19, Psalm 91

Happy Easter Sunday! Today’s readings are Leviticus 3-4, Proverbs 19, and Psalm 91.

Note: according to the schedule we were supposed to read Leviticus 2-3 yesterday but I only linked Leviticus 2. Today, we’re caught up.

This devotional is about Leviticus 4.

This chapter of scripture prescribes how the people of Israel were to atone for their sins. This isn’t the first time we’ve read The commands in this chapter are tailored to the type of person who sins:

  • an anointed priest who sinned was required to bring a young bull for his sin offering (vv. 1-12). His sacrifice was more costly than that of the other individuals in this chapter because he was guilty of “bringing guilt on the people” as their representative before the Lord.
  • if the whole nation sinned, they too were required to sacrifice a young bull as a sin offering for the whole community (vv. 13-21).
  • if a leader sinned, he was required to sacrifice a male goat (vv. 22-26).
  • if a everyday Israelite sinned, that person was to bring a female goat (vv. 27-31).

There are several things that are worth noting in this chapter, but let’s focus on this one: for all four types of people described in this chapter, the sinner (or his/her representative) was required “to lay his hand on its head” (vv. 4, 15, 24, 29, 33) just before it was slaughtered. Why? Because the animal was about to serve as the sinner’s substitute. When a sinner placed his hand on the animal’s head, he was symbolically transferring his guilt to the animal who would then die in the sinner’s place.

This gesture would remind the person offering the sacrifice how serious sin is. Because of his or her sin, an animal would die. Although the expense of animal life was bloody and costly, it was a merciful concession by God to allow the sinner to live by accepting another’s death as a substitute.

All of this pointed toward Jesus who died as our substitute on Good Friday. Animals couldn’t really be substitutes for sinful people; only another human could die in our place. But just as each animal had to be perfect (“without defect” -- vv. 3, 23, 28, 32), so only a perfect man could truly substitute for sinners. This is what Jesus did for us! As we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus today, we can do so knowing that our sins are truly and eternally forgiven. Jesus, the perfect sacrifice, stood in our place, accepted the guilt of our sins, and was punished by God as our substitute. This is why we are accepted by God and can worship him today.

Leviticus 2, Proverbs 18, Psalm 90

Today’s readings are Leviticus 2, Proverbs 18, Psalm 90.

Today’s devotional is about Leviticus 2.

This chapter describes how grain offerings were to be prepared and offered. However, there is no explanation in scripture about what grain offerings were for, other than to feed the priests (see p. 10a). At the very least, this kind of offering gave God’s people a way to worship and give thanks to him for providing for them. It also gave the people a way to bless the priests as they came to worship of God.

Two regulations stood out about this offering. First, it had to be made “without yeast” (v. 11). Yeast usually (but not always) symbolized sin in Scripture. By insisting that the offering be prepared with out yeast, everyone from priest to every person, would remember that God is holy and completely without sin. This required the sinner to prepare himself to worship and to approach God with appropriate fear and reverence.

The second regulation that stood out in this chapter is the requirement to add salt. Verse 13 says it as clearly as it could be said: “Season all your grain offerings with salt. Do not leave the salt of the covenant of your God out of your grain offerings; add salt to all your offerings.” Not much is known about this requirement, other than that there is salt everywhere where Israel was going, so it might be an expression of giving thanks for God’s faithfulness.

Regardless of when or why someone might offer this sacrifice, the requirement not to add yeast was a subtle reminder of God’s holiness. Each time they prepared for this sacrifice, the lack of yeast emphasized how completely separate God is from all evil. This was designed to show the worshipper how imperfect we are so that we would cry out to God for his help.

Have you thought recently about how holy God is and how repulsive sin is to him? Does your life reflect that as you become more like him? Or are you letting “just a little” yeast into your life? Let this passage cause you to reflect on where sin might be leaking (even just a little) into your life. Let it cause you to cry out to God for help removing the sinful yeast from your life.

Leviticus 24, Psalm 31, Ecclesiastes 7, 2 Timothy 3

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Leviticus 24, Psalm 31, Ecclesiastes 7, 2 Timothy 3. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Leviticus 24.

It is common for skeptics of our faith to point to Old Testament passages like we have here in the latter part of Leviticus 24 and condemn the Bible for being violent and brutal. In this case, the man who was executed was guilty of blasphemy; in our world, that sin is highly accepted and even protected legally as free speech. But Israel was a theocracy and her worship was important for several reasons and deserved to be protected. 

Leaving aside the offense, note how Israel’s legal system as illustrated here is superior to ours in some ways. First, according to verse 16, “The entire assembly must stone them.” The whole community was required to participate in the punishment, not someone paid to give lethal injection in private somewhere as happens in our country. There are at least two benefits to this. First, it protects someone against a false accusation. If you had to be part of executing a death sentence against your neighbor, the seriousness of taking his life would, I’m guessing, cause you to question intensely any witnesses to his offense. You would want to make absolutely sure that he was guilty before you took part in his execution. It is easy to accuse someone falsely and, in the case of a jury, to convict someone wrongly if you don’t actually have to do the dirty work of imposing the sentence of death on the accused. Second, if the whole community must execute the sentence of capital punishment, it might actually serve as a deterrent for many people. When you see how brutal and painful death by stoning is, you will be more careful about committing a capital offense yourself lest you end up like the guy you just passed sentence on. 

More broadly, however, notice that there is never any penalty of incarceration in Israel’s justice system. If you broke the law, you paid the price. That price might be a simple fine or it might cost you your life but either way it will be over shortly. In Israel’s system, there is no wasting the years and productivity of a man’s life while he rots in prison. If he’s guilty of breaking the law, the penalty is paid immediately; you either go on with your life or life goes on without you. There is no limbo where the state takes over custody of you for a few years. Think about how much money is spent in our society investigating criminals, trying criminals in court, processing them when they are sentenced, paying for them while they are in prison, etc. Israel’s system is much cheaper and, in the long run, more in keeping with prosperity than our system is.
Thirdly, Israel’s system strives for justice that is proportional to the crime. If someone punches you in the face and you lose your eyesight, you are not allowed to kill them. An “eye for an eye” is not a metaphor; it is a lesson and here is the answer: God is just and he commands his people to do justice in proportion to the crime.That’s what is being described in verses 17-22. 

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.

Leviticus 20, Psalm 25, Ecclesiastes 3, 1 Timothy 5

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Leviticus 20, Psalm 25, Ecclesiastes 3, 1 Timothy 5. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Leviticus 20.

As we’ve read through the book of Leviticus, we have seen all kinds of commands. Some were moral, others were ceremonial. Some are repeated in the New Testament and make sense for us to obey today; others seem arbitrary and unnecessary. What was the purpose of these commands? As we approach the end of Leviticus, we are given the answer here in Leviticus 20:23-24: “You must not live according to the customs of the nations I am going to drive out before you. Because they did all these things, I abhorred them. But I said to you, ‘You will possess their land; I will give it to you as an inheritance, a land flowing with milk and honey.’ I am the Lord your God, who has set you apart from the nations.” That last sentence, “I am the Lord your God, who has set you apart from the nations,” explains the reason for all these commands. God had made a covenant with Israel; part of that covenant was delivering Messiah into the world, but for that to happen, Israel must remain a distinct people. If they began to blend in and intermarry with the people of the land, their distinct identity would be lost.

These days God wants us to be holy through obedience to “the law of Christ” (1 Cor 9:21) rather than through ethnic purity or symbols and ceremonies. But reading these laws reminds us not only how difficult it is to be holy, but how perfectly Christ has fulfilled the law for us.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.

Leviticus 19, Psalms 23–24, Ecclesiastes 2, 1 Timothy 4

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Leviticus 19, Psalms 23–24, Ecclesiastes 2, 1 Timothy 4. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Leviticus 19.

Leviticus 19 contains a large number of commands on various topics. The passage begins with a call for God’s people to emulate his character: “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: “Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.”’” Every command in this chapter flows from the holiness of God. Those who desire to know God must also desire to become holy; this chapter gives some specific ways in which holiness works out in the life of a believer. Being “holy” simply means “set apart.” God is set apart from humanity in two ways: First, he is Creator and we are the created. There is a distinction between the Creator and creature that we can never cross. As Creator, God has certain qualities that we can’t understand, much less emulate. These are things like knowing all things, having all power, being everywhere present in the fullness of his being, and others. These are qualities that only God can have; they are one way in which God is holy.

Usually, though, when we talk about God’s holiness, we are talking about his moral perfection. God is set apart from people in the sense that he is perfect morally. He has no sinful desires or actions. God did intend us to emulate this quality. Adam and Eve began with a perfect moral nature; if they had refused the temptation offered to them in the garden, humanity would have existed in moral holiness just as God did. Since we chose to sin, however, we are unholy. In Christ we are declared to be holy and God’s Holy Spirit is working us over morally so that we become more holy like Jesus was, but it is an ongoing process that does not reach completion until we see Christ. 

When God commanded Israel to be holy (v. 2), he was commanding them to set themselves apart from the nations around them. This required faith that living according to God’s commands would be better than living according to their natural moral instincts, the ways that were common to the other nations around them. Many of the commands here in Leviticus 19 are easily understood as categories of holiness—either moral holiness, such as “no idols” in verse 4 or cultural holiness, such as “do not mate two different kinds of animals” in verse 19. But what do you make of the command, “do not reap to the very edges of your field… leave them for the poor and the foreigner”? In what way does this command flow from the holiness of God?

The answer is this: God affirmed the righteousness of private property rights in verse 11a: “Do not steal.” This command tells us that people have a right to private ownership and that it is morally wrong to take, either by force or by deception, any property that justly belongs to someone else. Our capitalist system is built on private property rights. Not only do you have the right to own productive assets (land, flocks, tools, trucks, factories, whatever), you have the right to use those assets in ways that are productive. And, you have the right, morally speaking, to keep the product of that production. That’s why people were allowed to own land, farm land, and harvest what they have planted. 

However, God wanted his people to show generosity to the poor. Unlike other nations where the poor had to beg, borrow, or steal to live, God affirmed the right of his people to private property and to the cultivation of wealth but he also wanted them to be different from the nations around them by generously providing for the poor. Leaving food in the fields for poor people to reap on their own without fear of being killed or prosecuted for trespassing showed love and compassion for the poor. Instead of selfishly gathering every bit of profit, God commanded his people to be productive but also to provide a means for those who were poor to live. This kind of love for one’s poor neighbor would set apart his people from the nations around them. It should also mark us, his people by faith, today. We should be generous to the poor—regardless of why they are poor-because we want to live a holy life that emulates God. That doesn’t mean that we have to support every (or any) government program. After all, the people were commanded to leave the grain out there, not to hand over 40% of what they reaped to the central government. But it does mean that we should do what we can personally to help anyone within our reach to meet their daily needs for survival. This goes against our instincts to watch out for ourselves alone; that is an expression of holiness because it sets us apart from people who despise the poor and even take advantage of them. This is why we as a church have a food pantry and why we leave money in our budget for benevolence. Being holy, like God is, means loving and showing kindness and help to the poor people nearby us.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.

Leviticus 17, Psalms 20–21, Proverbs 31, 1 Timothy 2

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Leviticus 17, Psalms 20–21, Proverbs 31, 1 Timothy 2. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Leviticus 17.

Blood was really important to the rituals associated with Israel’s worship and to the purification of God’s people. This chapter in Leviticus demonstrates just how serious it was with dire consequences spelled out for anyone who sacrifices away from the tabernacle (vv. 1-9) or who eats blood (v. 10). Why was this so important? Verse 11a: “For the life of a creature is in the blood…” Blood carries oxygen (and other important stuff) to every cell in the body of a person or animal and it carries away waste from those cells. It is so essential to life that God chose it to symbolize life itself. When an Israelite sacrificed an animal, the blood of that animal represented the exchange of one innocent life for one guilty life. That’s what verse 11b is saying: “…and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.” All of this symbolized and prepared God’s people for the coming sacrifice of Christ on the cross. When the Bible says that “the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7), it is drawing on the theology stated and explained here in Leviticus 17. When Jesus died on the cross, he poured out his innocent life in order to erase the sin debt for my guilt. His sacrifice was, finally, the one life that could truly solve the problem of our guilt. Thanks be to God.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.

Leviticus 6, Psalms 5–6, Proverbs 21, Colossians 4

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Leviticus 6, Psalms 5–6, Proverbs 21, Colossians 4. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Leviticus 6.

Leviticus 6 continues the section that we’ve been reading for the past few days. These chapters detail the regulations for the various types of sacrifices the Hebrew people were to bring to the Lord at the Tabernacle. Verses 1-7 describe the sin offering—the type of offering brought when someone sinned. Verses 8-13 describe the burnt offering and verses 14-23 describe the grain offering. Finally, verses 24-30 give further regulations for the sin offering. Verses 1-7 described this sin offering from the perspective of the sinner; verses 24-30 described the priests’ responsibility for handling this sin offering. When we think of the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament, the sin offering is the one that usually comes to mind, at least for me. We understand the need to pay restitution to others (v. 5) and to pay the wages of sin, death, to God (vv. 6-7). But as important as the sin offering was, it was not the only offering the Hebrews were commanded to bring to God. The burnt offering described in verses 8-13 was an offering of pure worship. It was often offered to God in conjunction with other offerings, such as the sin offering, but it could be brought on its own by anyone who just wanted to worship God. Verse 9 tells us that this burnt offering “is to remain on the altar hearth throughout the night, till morning, and the fire must be kept burning on the altar.” It is called the burnt offering because of this verse. It was to be given to God completely and not removed from the altar until nothing but ashes remained. The symbolism of this is that the worshipper belongs to God. It is an expression of the worshipper’s desire for God to consume his life completely. “Take all of me, O God,” was clear message that this offering was to convey. Think about what that must have been like. The worshipper gave up something of high value to him—a perfect animal that would totally consumed, nothing left for him to use or sell. The priests received no value from it, either. It was 100% given to God, a complete waste from the perspective of someone who did not know God but an act of pure devotion for those who do. It as also an act of faith, expecting to God prosper his work and provide for him and his family in the days ahead.

For us, Christ himself was our sin offering (see 2 Cor 5:21) but, just as the Hebrews were to bring other offerings as acts of worship to God, we too bring offerings to God—not for the forgiveness of sins but as expression of our praise, thanks, and love to God. This is what Paul had in mind in Romans 12:1, a passage I’ll be reading this morning in our Sunday worship service: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” In light of all that God is and all that Christ has done for us as our sin offering, we owe God everything! But instead of consuming a dead animal to show him our love and give him our worship, we have an opportunity to be his living sacrifices. As we’ll see in today’s message, this means serving within the body of Christ. Every time we spend time giving the gospel, or preparing to teach or teaching, or serving the poor in our food pantry, or listening to others who are hurting or need advice, we are giving of ourselves to God as living sacrifices, acts of “true and proper worship.” 

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. See you when we gather for worship later today!