Thursday, March 31, 2011

Leviticus 22 - Priests from the Heart

LINK: Leviticus 22


BACKGROUND


A priest was to please the Lord in the execution of his duties. He was to be careful in handling the sacred offerings. These offerings or gifts were probably tithes, firstfruits, and sacrifices (Numbers 18:8-19). Their hearts were to be 100% invested in what they were doing. They were to be clean, monitor who ate the offerings, and make sure that sacrificial animals were qualified.


Why were they to follow all these holiness regulations? There is a hint to this in the key repeated phrase of this chapter: "I am the LORD." He is a holy God, and His commandments were to be obeyed! He had brought them out of Egypt and set them apart (sanctified) them as a people for Himself, that was all the reason they needed.


REFLECTION


The people would have been familiar with the priests of Egypt who were into greed, power, and control. God was calling His priests to be different. They were to be set apart and to do their duties with a heart to please only God and help the worshipers draw near to Him.

Those of us who follow Jesus are priests who offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:5, 9). We are to live our life set apart and our behavior excellent as we abide in Jesus Christ (1 Peter 4:11-12).

What is your motivation for ministry?  Are you doing it from the heart to please God or just going through the motions? Do you do it for self-aggrandizement or to please the Lord?


APPLICATION


Meditate and pray through 1 Peters 2:4-12 below and dedicate yourself to Him!


PRAYER
And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For this is contained in Scripture:

“Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone, 
And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.”
This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve,
“The stone which the builders rejected, 
This became the very corner stone,”
and,
“A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense”; 
for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Leviticus 21 - High Standards for Priests

LINK: Leviticus 21

BACKGROUND


The priests were representatives of God's holiness. Therefore, they were held to a higher standard than others in Israel. They had greater restrictions on their conduct and a greater amount of responsibility. They were to be free from defilement or defects much like the animals used in sacrifices.

REFLECTION

As I was meditating on this chapter my mind immediately went to the standards that God sets for overseers (elders) and deacons of the New Testament church in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. God has very high standards for those who shepherd and care for their flocks!

Since I wrote this back in 2008, my husband served as an elder for three years. I love the high standards that this group of men maintain for each other. They email weekly accountability sheets to each other covering areas of holiness and godliness.  This is so healthy!

APPLICATION

Take some time to pray for the elders, pastors, and leaders in your church today. Pray through each of the character qualities in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. Pray them into your own life as well.

PRAYER


Lord, we ask that You would raise up leaders in our churches who are totally consecrated to You and can prove to be examples to their flocks. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Leviticus 18-20: Take Time to Be Holy

LINK: Leviticus 18-20 (read over the next two days) 

BACKGROUND

In Leviticus 18-19, the Lord gave the people rules about immoral relations and idolatry. The Canaanites had done many abominations and were defiled. The Lord wanted His people to be separate and holy.

The basic principles of the Ten Commandments are covered in Leviticus 19 in a different order. The Lord's command was clear, "You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy (19:2).

Leviticus 20 supplements and reinforces the prohibitions of Leviticus 18 going into more detail about the punishments for different offenses that the community needed to carry out. Most of the crimes included the death penalty. The different methods were stoning (20:2, 27) and burning (20:14). In Jewish tradition, burning was understood as hot lead being poured down the throat! Yikes!


This chapter has a warning against sacrificing children to Molech (18:21). He was the national god of the Ammonites in which Solomon erected a shrine in 1 Kings 11:7. King Ahaz burned his children to a Molech shrine in 2 Chronicles 28:3, and Manasseh sacrificed a son in 2 Kings 21:6. Sometimes, the Bible associates Molech with Baal (Jeremiah 32:35).

The main idea of this chapter is that God would punish those who engaged in false worship including consulting a medium or spiritist (20:1-8). He would also punish those who engaged in activities that broke down the family (20:9-21). He continued to prepare them to be a separate and holy people from the nations that would surround them in the Promised Land.

Key verses in this chapter continue to support the key theme of holiness in Leviticus:
You shall consecrate yourselves therefore and be holy 
for I am the LORD Your God.
I am the LORD who sanctifies You. (20:7-8)

Thus You are to be holy to Me,
for I the LORD am holy;
And I have set You apart from the peoples to be Mine. (20:21)

It also reinforces a key repeated phrase in the book: 


"I am the Lord (your God)."


APPLICATION

Underline the key repeated phrase, "I am the LORD (your God)" between Leviticus 18-26, and meditate on what it means the He is your LORD.


How do we, as followers of Jesus Christ, exhibit practical holiness? What is an "I WILL" statement that could help you live that out?

PRAYER

You are the LORD our God. We want to take time to be holy so we might glorify You. We praise You. Amen.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Leviticus 17 - The Life of the Flesh is in the Blood

LINK: Leviticus 17

BACKGROUND


Leviticus 17-20 was additional information about what had already been covered in Leviticus 1-7. Its emphasis was more on the mistakes that the people might make regarding sacrificing and eating meat.

Do you know what the key word is for Leviticus 17?  I'll give you some time to think about it . . .

BLOOD!


This word is used 460 times in the Bible. It is mentioned 362 times time in the Old Testament and 13 of those are in this chapter!

Blood is the key word, and Leviticus 17:11 is the key verse:


For the life [soul] of the flesh is in the blood
and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; 
for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.

There are seven directives that prohibit the drinking of blood in the Pentateuch (Genesis 9:14; Leviticus 3:17; 7:26-27; 17:10-14; 19:26; Deuteronomy 12:15-16, 23-24; 15:23), but this one explains why: blood makes atonement for the soul.

Yesterday, we learned about atonement when studying the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). The blood makes atonement. 
God has chosen sacrificial blood as the ransom price for a person's life, so the life of the substitute is given up in death; therefore to refrain from eating blood is to show respect for its sacredness as a vehicle of atonement. (The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, p. 199)

The Scarlet Thread says that Jesus was that substitute that was given up in death for our life!

REFLECTION


We usually have a little devotional before communion every Sunday, but this morning, no one showed up for the 8:15 a.m. service! I almost jumped out of my chair and ran up there. I wanted to proclaim to the world, "The life of the flesh is in the blood! The life of the flesh is in the blood! I just read it this morning!" Well, I did consider it, but I refrained.

But I still wanted to proclaim it from the rooftop. It is an AWESOME thing.  The reason why I keep referring to it as the Scarlet Thread of Redemption is because His scarlet blood was shed at a sacrificial atonement for our sins. Jesus said:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day." (John 6:53-54)
Can you imagine how confused the orthodox Jews would have been in light of Leviticus 17? Jesus was saying that it was His own blood would make atonement and give them life. They needed to eat his flesh and drink his blood, and that was prohibited (Genesis 9:3-4; 19:26). He was not saying to literally eat and drink but to receive Him into their innermost being and believe that His life could give them life (John 6:40, 47, 50-51).

I should have gotten up and done the communion devotional. Drat!


APPLICATION

I put a hold on The Passion of the Christ movie today.  The idea of the blood of Christ is brought home in this movie. I have not seen it since it came out in the theaters, and I have waited for my kids to be old enough to watch it before Easter. I think they are ready. It is not pretty so I am not sure I am!

PRAYER

Thank You that Your blood atones for me and gives me life. Amen. 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Leviticus 16 - The Day of Atonement

LINK: Leviticus 16


BACKGROUND

It is important to grasp the full import of this important chapter in Leviticus.

The Day of Atonement happened annually. It was a fast day (16:29; Acts 27:9).

The Ceremony:

1) Aaron washed in the courtyard and put on special garments that were plainer than that of even the ordinary priest. He put the garments on in the holy place.

2) He sacrificed a bull as a sin offering on the altar (in the courtyard) to make atonement for his sin and that of his household. The blood was not sprinkled in front of the curtain and altar of incense like the ordinary sin offering of Leviticus 4. The blood went to the most holy place and was sprinkled in front of and before the mercy seat/atonement cover. Before he sprinkled the blood, he took coals from the altar and incense and put it on the altar of incense in order to make a shield between him and the Shekinah glory of God's presence over the mercy seat/atonement cover (see note on the mercy seat/atonement cover under #4).

3. Aaron went outside the tabernacle and cast lots for two goats. He sacrificed one at the altar as a sin offering for the people and the other would be the scapegoat.

4. He took the blood of the sacrificed goat and went back into the holy of holies and sprinkled blood on and in front of the mercy seat/atonement cover.

The mercy seat/atonement cover comes from the Hebrew word kapporeth. It is where the Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur, gets its name which means "day of atonement." The mercy seat was the gold cover of the sacred chest in the inner "holy of holies" in the tabernacle. God promised to meet with men above it (Numbers 7:89). It was the "place of atonement" in that the blood was sprinkled there on the Day of Atonement and propitiation was made. A propitiatory sacrifice was one that appeased the righteous wrath of God. (To see the connection of propitiation to redemption and justification, you can go to a post on Romans 3 HERE.)

Atonement is related to the Hebrew word koper which means ransom, "to atone by offering a substitute." This word illustrates the theology of reconciliation in the Old Testament. The life of the sacrificial animal (symbolized by its blood) was required in exchange for the life of the worshipper. It was a symbol of innocent life given for guilty life. By laying hands on the animal and confessing his sin, the worshiper identified himself with the animal as his substitute which was then killed and the blood was sprinkled on or in front of the mercy seat or sent out as a scapegoat.

5. He returned to the holy place and sprinkled the goat's blood there to make atonement for himself, his household, the whole community of Israel, and for the holy place.

6. He went outside to the altar of burnt offering and sprinkled it with the blood of the bull (for himself) and of the goat (for the people).

7. He laid hands on the second goat known as the "scapegoat." The scapegoat was sent away and bore the sins of the nation symbolizing removal of sin and its guilt. The goat would "escape" to the desert by the hands of an appointed man.

8. Aaron disrobed, washed, and put his priestly garments back on.

9. He made another sacrifice of a ram burnt offering for himself and another ram for the people.

10. The ceremony concluded with the burning of the sin offerings outside the camp and the cleansing of the man who released the goat.

REFLECTION

The Scarlet Thread of Redemption

Only Christ was the Perfect Sacrifice and the Perfect Scapegoat! He was the innocent life given for my guilty, sinful life. His sprinkled blood has cleansed me. He has "removed" my sin and the guilt associated with it.


YIPPEE!

Only Christ was the perfect High Priest who did not need to offer a bull for His cleansing like Aaron because Christ was without sin. (Hebrews 5:1-3, 7:26-28). Christ does not need to perform this ritual year after year because He made one sacrifice for sin for all time (Hebrews 9:11-14, 10).


APPLICATION


Take a look at the "Feast Chart for Leviticus." Also, try praying through Hebrews 9:11-14 in your prayer time!

PRAYER


Thank You for providing a way into the Holy of Holies through the sacrifice of Your precious Son for our sin, once and for all time. Your presence is our desire. Make Your presence more real to us as we read Your Word. Amen.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Leviticus 13 - 15 --Unclean! Unclean!

LINK: Leviticus 13 - 15 
(Read these chapters over the next THREE days.)

These chapters are about skin diseases, mildew, and discharges. (EWWW!)  The word "leprosy" in many Bible versions is an incorrect translation of the Hebrew word tsaraath. The mix-up came when the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) and the Vulgate (Latin translation of the Bible) translated it lepra. The leprosy in these chapters does not refer to true leprosy (Hanson's disease). They refer to:
Epidermal maladies including boils, rashes, impetigo, and ringworm. They were ritually and medically contagious. Of more significance, perhaps, were the contagious and dangerous diseases with skin symptoms, such as scarlet fever and small pox. (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament). 
The NIV and NLT correctly interpret it as an "infectious skin disease."

With the maladies of 15:1-15 and 25-30, sacrifices were required, but a man with a chronic discharge was not isolated outside the camp like the person with an infectious skin disease (13:45-46). With the periodic discharges of men and women in 15:16-24, no sacrifice was required, and the uncleanness was removed with washing and waiting. The woman who touched Jesus cloak and was healed in Mark 5:25-24 had the kind of malady described in 15:25-27. What a risk she was taking by touching Him!

APPLICATION

Keep reading your Bible. This is where I used to give up in my "read the Bible in a year" plans.  Do not let this part discourage you. Spend some time in praise to God that you have been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb! Watch Ben Hur! Jesus heals in this movie, and it sends chills up my spine!

PRAYER

Lord, praise You that You heal us spiritually! We love You and thank You that we have been made clean by the blood of Christ Jesus. Amen.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Leviticus 11 & 12 - Clean and Unclean Food and Childbirth

LINK: Leviticus 11 & 12

BACKGROUND

In Leviticus 11 - 15, there are many instructions for the Israelite people. There were rules for handling food, disease, and sex.

The key verses for all of these chapters are found in Leviticus 11:44-45:

For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. . . For I am the LORD who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy.

They were in the "between" time in the wilderness where God had taken them out of idolatrous Egypt and was going to bring them to the land of Canaan with its pagan practices. This time in the wilderness was the time for learning to be holy in their actions and worship of a holy God.

Leviticus 11 involves a detailed list of all the foods that were clean and unclean. See current practices here. There were several reasons for their restricted diet:
1) To ensure the health of the people because the forbidden foods were usually scavenging animals that fed on dead animals that could transmit disease.
2) To distinguish them from the surrounding nations. For example, the pig was a common sacrifice in pagan religions.
3) To avoid objectionable associations. For example, many of the forbidden foods were creatures that moved on the ground and were reminiscent of serpents which often symbolized sin.
Leviticus 12 covers instructions for purity in matters of childbirth.

"Unclean" did not mean sinful or dirty. God commanded the people to "be fruitful and multiply." So there was nothing sinful about having sex or having a baby, but God wanted to make a distinction between His worship and that of the worship of fertility gods and goddess common in pagan culture. Canaanite religions practiced prostitution and immoral ceremonies as their adherents pleaded for fruitful crops, herds, and wombs. So, these were to remain separate from God's sanctuary.

At the end of Leviticus 12, a burnt offering and sin offering were for ceremonial cleaning and for rededication to worship after a woman's 40 - 80 day quarantine because of the flow of blood following childbirth.

REFLECTION

As I was meditating on Leviticus 11, my son was meditating on Acts 10 by illustrating the picture above. In Acts 10, Peter saw a sheet descending from heaven with all kinds of those forbidden animals mentioned in Leviticus 11. A voice told him to "arise, kill, and eat!" Of course, Peter said he could not because those animals were unclean! A voice said, "What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy." Wow! What a radical shift!

The gist of what God was trying to tell Peter was what Jesus already said in Mark 7:14-23 and Matthew 15:10-20: that nothing outside the man was going to make him "unclean" but a person is defiled morally by what he thinks in his heart. He was getting at the hypocrisy of the "cleanness" of the Jews on the outside when their hearts were hard on the inside.

Through this vision, God was showing Peter that he "should not call any man impure or unclean . . . and that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear Him and do what is right" (Acts 10:28, 34-35). Prior to this, Peter would not have even eaten with Gentiles without risking defilement. God enlightened Peter at the proper time so that he could go to the God-fearing Gentile, Cornelius. As a result, Peter would share the good news of Jesus Christ with Cornelius and his family, and they would become the first Gentiles to follow Jesus!

While God wanted to "set apart" Israel for Himself and to separate them from the pagan practices around them during the time of Leviticus, He still desired that all nations would worship Him, and He still does to this day!

A side note: I love how God orchestrated it for Michael and me to be meditating on related passages on the same day. That is such a God thing! I am also amazed that every single animal he drew on that sheet really was an unclean animal even though he has yet to read the specific unclean animals of Leviticus 11!

APPLICATION

There is a fine balance between being holy and "set apart" from the world and reaching out to the world Jesus came to save. I have often found in my effort to reach out to non-believing friends, I have stepped over too far into the worldly "unclean" side of life where I had to reevaluate and adjust. 

I have also found the other extreme in friends who shelter themselves so much from the world that they have no meaningful impact upon the people around them.

Where are you on the continuum?

Maybe you are on one end where there are areas in which you need to consecrate to the Lord and separate from the world's ways so that the not yet followers of Jesus in your life can see that you are different in a very good way.

Maybe you are on the other end where you are so afraid of defilement from the world that you never rub shoulders with those who need Jesus.

How can you come to finding a balance between those two extremes? Talk to God about it.

PRAYER

Thank You for being a holy God who has set us apart to serve You and bring glory to Yourself. Help us to be a sweet aroma of the knowledge of Christ to those who are perishing Lord without being polluted by the things in the world that are not pleasing to You. We ask this in the strong name of Jesus. Amen.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Leviticus 9 & 10 The Strange Fires of Nadab and Abihu

LINK: Leviticus 9 & 10

BACKGROUND

Up until now, Moses had been offering the sacrifices. In Leviticus 9, Aaron and his sons step into their role as priests by offering a bull calf as a sin offering and a ram as a burnt offering every morning and evening. Each day began and ended in consecration to the LORD. What an example for us to follow! We can begin and end our days in prayerful consecration to God.  I am up early this morning and will pause right now to do that!

I think it is interesting to note that Aaron offered a bull calf after having made a golden calf in Exodus 32. Just sayin'.


The Scarlet Thread of Redemption

The priests had to offer sacrifices every day for their own sins before they could offer sacrifices for the people. This whole system was set up by God so that His people could have access to Him through each atoning sacrifice. Without the sacrifice, the LORD could not appear to them (9:6) because they were sinful people. With this system, He could dwell among them and be their God (Exodus 29:45). Jesus Christ was the great High Priest who made a better way:
Therefore He [Jesus] is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever. (Hebrews 7:25-28)
After Aaron had performed the offerings for the people (9:15-22) and Moses and Aaron blessed them, the glory of the LORD appeared! What a sight that must have been! They had done "all the things which the LORD had commanded through Moses" (8:36). What a happy moment.

But then the sad part happened . . . 

Aaron's joy of watching his sons consecrated was turned to sorrow when his two eldest sons, Nadab and Abihu (Exodus 6:23; 28:1), offered fire that the Lord had not commanded. As a result, fire came out from God's presence and consumed them.

There has been much speculation about the "strange fire" of Nadab and Abihu. Some have even suggested that since Aaron and the remaining sons were instructed not to drink wine or strong drink (10:9) that maybe Nadab and Abihu were drunk. We do not know, but one thing is for sure, they did not do "all the things which the LORD had commanded Moses" (8:36). That was enough.

Moses summed it up in what he told Aaron, “It is what the Lord spoke, saying, ‘By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, and before all the people I will be honored’ (Leviticus 10:3).  Aaron's silence must have been heartbreaking. What a crushing thing for a father.

REFLECTION (from 2008)

My heart aches for Aaron. Did God have to consume them to get His point across? They were new at this whole job of being priests in the tabernacle. I have often thought His actions were so very harsh, but as I meditated on 10:3 today, I see that holiness is serious business to God.

I do not want to treat the justice and holiness of God flippantly. What a privilege it is to draw near to God, and I want to draw near to Him in reverence and fear. As fellow Bible Book Club member, Laura, and I met today, we prayed, "I will ascribe to You the glory due You name and worship You in the beauty of holiness" (1 Chronicles 16:29).

In that moment, I felt so humbled before Him in light of His holiness. God is so big, and I am so small. I want my life to be one of worship and respect for God as I come into His presence. I want to treat Him as holy, and I want to honor Him in my surrender and service. I want to do all that He has commanded.

APPLICATION

Pray through 1 Chronicles 16:25-30 and enter into pure, unhindered worship of our holy God!

Here are the words to a hymn that speaks of our holiness:

"Take Time to Be Holy" (William D. Longstaff, 1882)

Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord;
Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word.
Make friends of God’s children, help those who are weak,
Forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek.

Take time to be holy, the world rushes on;
Spend much time in secret, with Jesus alone.
By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be;
Thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.

Take time to be holy, let Him be thy Guide;
And run not before Him, whatever betide.
In joy or in sorrow, still follow the Lord,
And, looking to Jesus, still trust in His Word.

Take time to be holy, be calm in thy soul,
Each thought and each motive beneath His control.
Thus led by His Spirit to fountains of love,
Thou soon shalt be fitted for service above.

PRAYER

Holy God, help us, by the power of Your Holy Spirit, to live holy lives before You. Amen.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Leviticus 8 - Consecration of the Priests and Tabernacle

LINK: Leviticus 8

BACKGROUND

In Leviticus 8, Moses did "just as the Lord commanded" in Exodus 28 and 29. I have provided links to the posts regarding those chapters:
Exodus 28 - The Priestly Garments
Exodus 29 - Instructions for Setting Apart the Priests 

Try to imagine how you would feel if you had been there at that first ordination ceremony and part of the congregation at the doorway to the tent of meeting. First, Aaron and his sons were washed at the bronze laver. Then Aaron was dressed in the high priestly garments. Then the dwelling place of God was anointed with oil and consecrated (see a word study for this word in the reflection section). Following this, the altar of incense was sprinkled seven times (the number of perfection). Then Aaron was anointed with oil and consecrated (Psalm 133).

Put yourself in Aaron's shoes as he looked on to see his four sons dressed by Moses for this holy work. Would you feel pride and a sense of holy destiny and purpose? I sure would.

Then . . . the blood . . . of a bull as a sin offering for atonement, a ram as a burnt offering for worship, and a second ram of ordination were slaughtered and blood scattered according to what was prescribed for each of these offerings. The last blood was smeared on Aaron's right ear, thumb and big toe. Then grain was waved with more oil and blood sprinkled on the heads and clothes of Aaron and his sons. They were to remain at the entrance for seven days of their ordination. All things were going just as God had ordained . . . until Leviticus 10. Stay tuned for the tragic turn of events.

Holy sacrifices in a holy place demanded a holy priesthood that did "just as the LORD commanded."

REFLECTION

We who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ are called to be priests, consecrated for the Lord's service:


And He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father. (Revelation 1:6; 5:10)
But they will be priests of God and of Christ. (Revelation 20:6). 
Paul said he was to be "a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit." (Romans 15:16)
I did a word study on "consecrate" tonight. It is the Hebrew word qadash, and it means to "set apart as belonging in the realm of the sacred in order to avoid the diffusion of the sacred and the profane." We have a high, holy calling to set our lives apart for the Lord because we have been sprinkled by the blood of Christ. Yet, I look at this verse in Romans, and Paul said that he was "ministering as a priest the gospel of God" to the Gentiles. As believers, we are to live a holy life but one that is able to relate to the world. What a balance.

APPLICATION

What is your commitment to holiness? How are you set apart for the work that He has for you to do? What does holiness look like?

The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges is an excellent book for me to read when asking these questions.

PRAYER

Lord, set us apart for Your purposes! Amen.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Leviticus 7 - Offerings and Tool Time

LINK: Leviticus 7

BACKGROUND - The Chapter Outline

Let's have another Bible Study "Tool Time" today by learning about the chapter outline.

A chapter outline helps us to see the key themes and ideas.

Here is an outline of Leviticus 7:

  1. Further directions for the guilt offering (7:1-10)
  2. Special procedures for eating the peace/fellowship offering (7:11-21)
  3. Prohibitions for eating unclean portions of offerings (7:22-27)
  4. Portions of the offerings going to the priests (7:28-38)


It is also nice to find a key theme for the whole chapter. A key theme for this chapter might be: 
God made a way for the people of Israel to focus fully on Him in all of their life and for peace with Him.

The Scarlet Thread of Redemption

Ultimately God made a way to Him through Jesus Christ. These opening chapters of Leviticus have Christ written all over them because the death of Christ on the cross was a fulfillment of all of these sacrifices!


APPLICATION

Take time out to review the five offerings and see if you can explain what each one meant for the people of Israel, and what they each mean for you today because of Christ. Offer a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.

PRAYER

Lord, thank You that Jesus died on the cross in order to make a way to You that is simple and complete and for all time. Amen.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Leviticus 5 & 6 - The Guilt Offering and The Priest's Part in the Offering

LINK: Leviticus 5 & 6

BACKGROUND

While the sin offering atoned for sins against God, the guilt offering (traditionally called the "trespass offering") was for sins against others. It also included making restitution which meant paying damages with interest (20%). The offerer had to confess his sin to God and a ram was offered. Only then could he receive forgiveness. It was similar to the sin offering in that it was mandatory. The major difference was that the sin offering was used when there could be no restitution.

Leviticus 6:8-30 involves specific procedures the priests were to follow for the burnt, grain, and sin offerings.

REFLECTION

I once had a pair of really expensive sewing scissors that my mom entrusted to me while I was away at college. During one of the many activities during Rush Week in my sorority (I know, you are astonished that I was in a sorority, but it is true), my scissors were borrowed, but they were never returned. Someone lost them, but no one knew who. I had entrusted them to someone, and she loaned them out to the next girl, who loaned them out to the next girl, and so on. When I went to retrieve my scissors, everyone was very sorry that my scissors were gone, but since each person did not think they were the particular person who lost them, no one saw any need to replace them. I had many apologies but no restitution. This situation reminded me of the purpose of the guilt offering: Restitution.

The Holman Old Testament Bible Commentary says, "The guilt offering proclaimed both the need for atonement through blood sacrifice for forgiveness and due restitution toward our brethren in Christ as a demonstration of the sincerity of our repentance" (p.178). This is so true!

APPLICATION

If you really want to make peace, ask God to help you breathe grace by humbly and thoroughly admitting your wrongs. One way to do this is to use the Seven A's of Confession by Kenneth Sande from http://www.peacemaker.net/:

1) Address everyone involved (all those whom you affected)
2) Avoid if, but, and maybe (do not try to excuse your wrongs)
3) Admit specifically (both attitudes and actions)
4) Acknowledge the hurt (express sorrow for hurting someone)
5) Accept the consequences (such as making restitution)
6) Alter your behavior (change your attitudes and actions)
7) Ask for forgiveness

See Matthew 7:3-5; 1 John 1:8-9; Proverbs 28:13.

Relationships with others are near and dear to God's heart, and the guilt offering indicates that. Is there anyone with whom you need to reconcile or make restitution?

PRAYER

Lord, thank You that You always make a way back to You through the blood of Christ. Help us to also make our way back to those in which we harbor hurt or resentment (Matthew 5:23-24) or we may have hurt. Make us one in You, Lord. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Leviticus 3 & 4 - Peace (Fellowship) and Sin Offerings

LINK: Leviticus 3 & 4

BACKGROUND

Leviticus 3: Peace (Fellowship) Offering

Like the burnt and grain offering, this was a voluntary offering to the LORD and symbolized fellowship and peace with God and man through shed blood. The word comes from the root Hebrew word shalom which means "peace." An animal without defect was offered from the herd or flock. This is the only offering where the person offering could take part in eating it. It involved a communal meal where priests, worshippers, and guests could share in a feast as a meal with God. It was particularly popular in later years during the three feasts (Passover, Feast of Weeks, and Tabernacles) where many would gather in Jerusalem at the temple. When Israel became a monarchy, the king would often supplement it with many more animals (1 Kings 8:63-65).

Leviticus 4: Sin Offering

Different from the burnt, grain, and peace offerings, this offering was mandatory. It focused on paying for sin. The sin offerings atoned for sins against God. (more on that word in the future). Various animals were offered depending on the income of the person. Priests and leaders had to offer larger sacrifices.

The Scarlet Thread of Redemption

All high priests sinned and had to atone for their sins, but the great high priest Jesus Christ did not sin:
For every high priest taken from among men is appointed on behalf of men in things pertaining to God, in order to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins; he can deal gently with the ignorant and misguided, since he himself also is beset with weakness; and because of it he is obligated to offer sacrifices for sins, as for the people, so also for himself. (Hebrews 5:1-3)
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:11-14)
REFLECTION - Hot, Cold, or Lukewarm?


I don't know about you, but the words in Hebrews 9 above send electricity through every part of my body: His blood through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God and has cleansed my conscience from dead works to serve the living God!


Who would not want to serve the living God because of this? Are we lukewarm and lackadaisical in our faith because we do not quite get the enormous price that Christ paid to cleanse us and free us? When I really understand this, it makes me want to be HOT for God.

I love a cold glass of milk or a nice hot milk steamer, but I detest a lukewarm glass of milk. And I had some lukewarm milk yesterday, and as I was gagging over it, God immediately reminded me of Revelation 3:15-16: 
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. 
Christ has cleansed me to serve a living God! I want to be hot!


APPLICATION

Meditate on the verses in Hebrews and these verses about Christ's offering:

Isaiah 53:10
Matthew 20:28
2 Corinthians 5:21

If this is "old hat" to you, let the full import of Christ's offering wash over you anew. If it is new, and you are grasping it for the first time, cement it there so you will never forget it.

PRAYER

Lord, thank You that our consciences have been cleansed from dead works to serving You. Help us understand this to the depths of our souls. Lord, make us hot for You and Your purposes in our lives. Amen.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Leviticus 1 & 2 - Offerings to Him

LINK: Leviticus 1 & 2

If you read my story in "How the Bible Book Club Came to Be," you will know that I would DIE at Leviticus every time I did a Bible reading program. I used to dread it. Now, I actually like it. So, approach this book with 10 times more enthusiasm than you usually do, and come along with me for a very fun ride. It is not that much reading per day. Believe me, it is a very important book! I'll try to keep you engaged and excited throughout. Maybe I should have a prize at the end if you finish?

BACKGROUND for Leviticus

The title of this book comes from a Greek word Levitikon meaning "relating to the Levites." The entire book spells out the essence of Hebrew worship. It all centers on the principle theme of this book: The Holiness of God

My biggest encouragement to you is to not get bogged down in the details and try to look at its wider theological significance.

BACKGROUND

Leviticus 1: Burnt Offerings

The English rendering of "burnt offering" does not give the Hebrew word olah justice. The original word describes something ascending. Behind this is the concept that the entire animal was consumed. It was the complete self-surrender of the person offering to God. The best animal of the flock bore the sins of the worshipper and died in that person's place. The blood was sprinkled on the altar. Then, the animal was completely burned.

The Scarlet Thread of Redemption


Now, you might see why I think this book is so important. It has much to teach us about the Scarlet Thread!

We see Christ in the burnt offering. He offered himself completely to God for our sins. He was the "best of the flock" and bore our sins and died in our place. He was the substitute who died so that we might live a life of continual surrender and dedication to God (Romans 12:1-2). Isn't that wonderful?

Chapter 2: Grain Offerings

The grain offering involved offerings from the things on earth needed to support life: flour and oil. Apparently, the final product was like pie crust because it did not have yeast or honey. It could be eaten by the priests after a handful was burned at the altar. The worshipper did not eat any part of his or her grain offering. If a priest made an offering for himself, he did not eat any part of it.

This offering was given to God in thankfulness. The Hebrew word for "grain offering" can mean "gift." We give gifts of thanksgiving and praise.

APPLICATION 

It is important to start to learn to make "I will" statements when we interact with God in His Word. An "I will" statement is a personal commitment to obey the passage through understanding it, implementing it, and sharing it with others. While I may make suggestions for application, please ask God and listen to how He wants you to live His truth out in your life!


I decided to look more into cross-references related to:

The Burnt Offering and the key themes of . . . 

Surrender:
Psalm 51:16, 17
Matthew 26:39
Romans 12:1
Dedication:
Philippians 2:17
2 Timothy 4:6, 7

The Grain (Meal) Offering and the key themes of . . .

Giving:
Matthew 26:6-10
2 Corinthians 9:7-11
Praise:
Psalm 100
Hebrews 13:15, 16
Thankfulness:
Psalm 147
Philippians 4:6


I don't know about you, but when I read this chapter this morning, I was reminded at how much our Jesus Community (a gathering of like-hearted friends) has been transformed by starting out our time together in thanksgiving to God in prayer, recounting all He has been to us in the last week. I love that we start off that way rather than just sharing prayer requests. We give our offering of thanksgiving which leads to our praise throughout the whole time.

I love that it was all built in for the Israelites. Sure, they made it rote and mindless, but we do not have to do that. Make it part of your everyday life and fellowship with other believers and see how it transforms you and your community!

It was a busy and exciting week, and I have not stopped to thank Him. So my "I will" is to do just that. 

PRAYER

We bring a sacrifice of praise into Your house LORD. We want to give all to You in thanksgiving. LORD, we want to present our bodies as living and holy sacrifices, acceptable to You. We worship and love You. Amen.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Put Exodus on the Shelf!

BibleBookcase

Yahoo! You have finished another book on the first shelf! This is huge! Go, go, go!

Exodus 40 - The Glory of the LORD Fills the Temple

LINK: Exodus 40


BACKGROUND


The tabernacle was completed one year after the Exodus. The people arrived in Sinai three months later. Then, Moses was on Mount Sinai for the instructions. It is estimated that it took about 6 1/2 months (from mid-September to late March) to gather all the materials needed and to construct the tabernacle.

The Lord gave instructions to Moses about how to arrange everything in the tabernacle, consecrating it for holy use, and anointing Aaron and his sons for the priesthood. "Moses did; according to all the LORD had commanded him" (40:16). Then He "finished the work" (40:33). Did you know that the word "commanded" is used eighteen times in Exodus 39 and 40.

With the work on the tabernacle completed, the glory of God filled the tabernacle.

REFLECTION


"Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle" (40:35).  In this cloud was the "Shekinah glory" of God (see also Exodus 24:16). This comes from the Hebrew word shawkan that means in the Qal tense "to settle down to abide." The presence of God had "settled down to abide" in the tabernacle. We will learn in 1 Samuel 4 that this abiding presence departed when the people and priests sinned against God. When Solomon dedicated the temple, this Shekinah glory came again to dwell (1 Kings 8:10-11), but their sins made it depart again (Ezekiel 8:4; 9:3; 10:4, 18; 11:23).

The Scarlet Thread of Redemption


And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, 
and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
(John 1:14)

God's glory returned in the person of Jesus Christ. After His death and resurrection, that glory has come to dwell in the body of believers in Jesus Christ!  


Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 
For you have been bought with a price: 
therefore glorify God in your body. 
(1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Isn't that an awesome thought that God's Shekinah glory dwells in you?

APPLICATION


Jesus said, "Abide in me, and I in You" (John 15:4).  He dwells in You, and He has asked you to abide in Him. His glory is already there in You. All you need to do is plug into it!  Talk to God about your willingness to abide in His presence. Make it your ambition in life to abide!

Here are downloadable links to writings by Frank C. Laubach, a man who tried to live in a moment-by-moment connection with God:

Letters by a Modern Mystic 

Game with Minutes

It is such a lovely book. As I was writing this, I realized that I had loaned my hard copy out about two months ago, and I just asked for it back because I love to refer to it on a regular basis! I gave it as a gift to a friend, and she is playing the "Game with Minutes" with her kids. It is a great book!

PRAYER

Thank You that Your glory dwells in us who believe in Jesus. I thank You for Your abiding presence that teaches us how to live to glorify You. Help us to listen to Your voice today. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.