The following true story might make you angry, but remember that it makes God even angrier. There was a pastor who collected one-hundred percent of the tithe from his parishioners. He had quite a large church, so he made a lot of money. But that’s not the part that stirs anger. There were people in the church who were on fixed incomes and food stamps. One of these people, an elderly woman, received a monthly call from the pastor with his shopping list for her to tithe on her food stamps. While she shopped for steak and chicken for him so she could comply with the demands of her tithe, she purchased cat food to feed herself.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 25:29 through Leviticus 25:38, we read more about property ownership, but we also see more of God’s heart in how we should treat the poor. The portion begins with an explanation about buying property in a walled city. Unlike the ownership of fields that always require the right of redemption and revert ownership in the year of jubilee, the person who sells a property within a walled city only had one year to redeem it. If he doesn’t, the ownership passes permanently to the new owner, and will not be returned at jubilee.
The reading goes on to talk about the houses and cities owned by the Levites. In those cities, the houses will be redeemed at jubilee, and the lands can never be sold because they are under permanent ownership of the Levites as their possession. This means that if someone is truly called into ministry by God, they can trust that God will always provide for them. They do not need to ask people to charge up their credit cards or send in their gold fillings as an act of faith. They do not need promise riches in Heaven to their audiences in a bid to get them to sell their precious family heirlooms to prove they love the man who brings them the gospel. And they do not need to demand millions of dollars to keep God from killing them. (They do need to repent of serving a spirit of manipulation though.)
In the final part of today’s reading, God gives instruction on how to deal with those in the community who have become poor. First, God tells the people to assist the poor the same as they would assist a foreigner or temporary resident who lives with them. And then He tells the people to make sure they do not charge interest or make any money off of the poor, but instead they are to fear God. He reiterates the command to say that even if they loan the poor person money, or if they sell him food, they are not to charge interest or make a profit. And He reminds them once again that He is the God who delivered them from Egypt in order to give them their new land and to be their God.
Going back to the story at the beginning, I have to wonder if that preacher truly feared God. And I don’t just mean fear in being afraid of what God could do with his misuse of a ministry position, but fear as in respected Him and His holy word. The verse that talks about not making any money off the poor says that instead a person should fear God, so that tells me that the person who does not care about the poor is one who does not fear God.
We know that God cares for the poor, especially if He sees the demise of each little sparrow. He knows how we treat each other, and He knows what is in our hearts when we cross the path of a poor person. I feel shame for the preachers and pastors out there who receive tithe and offering from those who actually need support from the church more than they need to be paying into it. Letting people tithe to honor their own obedience to God is one thing, but that doesn’t mean the pastors have to keep the money. May each of us trust God to lead us in being better stewards of all God gives us and in learning how to deal with the poor that cross each of our paths in a way that blesses and glorifies Him. Amen.
I was raised in the city, so I can’t tell you much about family farms, but I did hear some stories from my grandparents. Most of what I heard about getting up before sunrise, and getting kicked by cows because of trying to milk them with cold hands didn’t sound like much fun to me. But in those days when I slept under trees or lived out of my car, I think those not-so-fun tasks would have been worth it to have a real roof over my head if we still lived in the days when farms got passed along from generation to generation.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 25:25 through Leviticus 25:28, we have just a few verses, but they’re on an important topic. God provides for us even when circumstances make life difficult. This reading says that if someone becomes poor, and has to sell the family farm to survive, the next of kin must be given the right to buy it back. If that can’t happen, and the seller should become rich enough to buy back his own property, the new owner must sell it back minus the years it was under new ownership and giving profit to the new tenant.
Imagine if all of us who came from families that had farms at one time or other were able to have the promise that one day, we could come back to our land. As we continue our reading today, we see how that could be possible even if the poor farmer never finds a way to get enough money to redeem his family’s land. At the year of jubilee, the land will be returned to him no matter what.
I can see these promises as something that lines up with the biblical prophecies that Israel will be grafted back into her own root and redeemed to her land. Where Paul talks of this in Romans 11, (I recommend reading the whole chapter for inspiration) he says in verse 15 that when Israel comes back, it will be as life from the dead. What is the definition of revival? It can be defined as “bringing back to life something that has died.” It certainly will be a year of jubilee when God brings Israel back to their own “family farm.” Verses 26-27 of Romans 11 sum it up perfectly…
26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:
“The Deliverer will come out of Zion,
And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;
27 For this is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins.”
I’ll close with a video of some awesome Messianic worship songs. The first one, that even includes some of the words from the above verse, is called Awake O Israel and runs to 1:15 in the video. The other songs are The Zeal of God and I Lay in Zion. All the songs include lyrics. Enjoy!
When you purchase an item, especially when it’s something from a salesman in your home, you usually have what is called a “right of rescission” where you have a chance to change your mind. It is often used when getting a loan as well, and most of the time, it is a “cooling off” period of about 3 days. It gives buyers a way out of their “buyer’s remorse” when they feel they’ve made a bad purchase decision.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 25:19 through Leviticus 25:24, we read about the opposite of rescission. It begins with God answering a question He was sure the people would ask about how they would eat during the years their fields were in Sabbath rest. He tells them He will bless the sixth year to make it produce for three years. That would make sure it provided for them in the 6th year when they both planted and harvested, in the 7th year when they ate from the harvest of the 6th year, and in the 8th year when they planted but still had to eat of the old harvest while waiting for the time of the new harvest.
After speaking to them of harvest, God reminds them again that their land does not belong to them, but it belongs to Him, and they are foreigners and temporary residents on the land. He explains that this is also the reason they cannot permanently sell their land but must always include the right of redemption.
When God made us, He gave us our temples to live in as temporary residents just as He put Israel in the Promised Land. Though He gave us free will, He reserved for us the right of redemption. Like the land He owned, He has already bought and paid for our souls and redeemed us for Himself. By paying for our sins before we ever asked, He has gone way too far to change His mind and rescind the contract, so once we accept His salvation, we can trust that God will not try to undo the contract.
The definition of redemption comes from the Latin word redimere and Old English redeem, and it means to “buy back.” The right of redemption we have in Christ to buy us back from our sins is not a contract He entered into lightly. After all, He paid the price with His own blood and life. We know He won’t have any buyer’s remorse because He knows exactly what He’s getting into when He makes us His own. Therefore, we should make sure we don’t end up with a case of seller’s remorse by taking care to not enter into our covenant with Him as if it’s a minor thing.
In fact, the covenant He wrote for us in His own blood is a major thing. But, oh what a pleasure to know that God first showed His love for us by redeeming us while we were yet sinners, and that He continues to show His love for us with mercy that is new every morning. And there is coming a day when He will claim His right of redemption over us once more, when we are redeemed from this temporary home to live in eternity with Him.
And with that, here’s a video of another older song I love to listen to and to sing. It’s called “Temporary Home” by The Heritage Singers…
I’m a firm believer that God is the true owner of all things in my life. I even say that God owns the copyright to all my works, which is why I don’t keep them in hiding until I can get registered copyrights, though even without the registration, I know my works are copyrighted as soon as I create them. Still, I know some people fear theft of their intellectual works, so they don’t get them out there. But what if we lived as if we didn’t own any of it, and what if we lived as if all we have is given to us to share?
In today’s reading from Leviticus 25:14 through Leviticus 25:18, we read about God’s idea of fair sales practices, and how He says to stay secure in our land. First, He says that when people sell to each other, they should never exploit each other. In context with the passage, this refers to land for sale between years of jubilee (every 50 years) since on those years, all land goes back to the original owners. Yesterday’s post introduced jubilee, but I didn’t comment on the last verse about owners returning.
So, because the land is not sold permanently, God explains here that if it is close to an upcoming jubilee, the price of the land should be reduced. If it is a long way off, the price should be raised. He tells them that what they are actually selling is not the land, but the amount of crops the purchaser will be able to produce. For this reason, and because He is The Lord and their God, He says for them to make sure not to take advantage of each other.
The last statement in today’s section says that if men will keep God’s commandments and obey all His rulings, they will be able to live securely in their land. Secure living: Can you imagine such a thing? No need for a Department of Homeland Security. No need for burglar alarms or spiked fences. No need for guard dogs (or attack cats :-)). Just living and doing whatever God has guided us to do each simple day of our lives. Can you imagine just how awesome this would be. I know I can.
I would love to be “anti-war,” and to have peace, love, and butterflies all the time, but I know it’s not realistic. The people who march for peace and rage against our soldiers and our right to defend ourselves might as well boycott ADT and all other home security companies because the message is the same… “We don’t want security forces; we want peace.” And I would love it if such could be true, but it can’t be true on this earth as it stands now. It could work if every person on the planet earth would do things God’s way, but they won’t, so we’re left with war between those who are lawful and those who make their own law to do whatever suits them. And because of war, we have to protect ourselves–or employ others to protect us–from those who live according to the wanton desires of human flesh instead of seeking God’s perfect will.
Did you notice that before men created a golden calf to worship, there was no law about not creating golden statues? The more men misbehave, the more laws must be created to rein them in. A child gets hit by a car, and new speed-limit laws are put in place to protect other children on that same street. Multiple accidents happen at an intersection, and a new traffic light goes up to better govern the crossing. The “Department of Homeland Security” was not created until November 25th, 2002. It was a direct result of the lawlessness that cost multiple lives on September 11th, 2001. Lawlessness creates a need for more laws, but lawfulness (especially to the will or Our Creator and Savior) brings security to our lives, our homes, and our lands.
How many times have you gotten what you deserved? And how many times have you not gotten what you deserved? In the second question, that could mean not getting bad if you earned it with an evil deed, or not getting good you felt was coming to you. In all truth, this world is not fair. Innocent become victims, and criminals seem to get away with terrible acts. But in God’s economy, grace pays the way for many of us to reap benefits we have neither earned nor deserved. He paid the price for evil, so we could reap the same pay as if we had lived our lives sowing nothing but good.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 25:1 through Leviticus 25:13, we begin a new portion. Parashah 32 is titled B’har which means “On Mount.” In today’s part of the portion, God instructs Israel in giving their fields a sabbath rest. Every seventh year, He tells them not to plant anything, and He tells them not to harvest anything. Everything in the field is still available for their food, so they can gather it for meals, but they are not to fully harvest it.
After seven of these resting times in the fields, that is after 49 years, the fiftieth year is considered a year of jubilee, and it is another year of complete rest for the field. The year of jubilee is a year when everything and everyone is to celebrate freedom, and every person and animal will eat from whatever crops continue to grow in the untended fields and vineyards. The year begins with a blast of the shofar on Yom Kippur of that fiftieth year.
It’s not late enough in the year yet for me to tell what my untended garden will yield, but last year–our first year in our new home, we grew lots of tiny tomatoes that we didn’t plant. I called the old owner to ask if she planted them, and she said she did not. She informed us they were called “volunteer tomatoes,” and told us how blessed we were to have them come up on their own.
We read in the words of Messiah Yeshua that instead of worrying about our provisions, we should rest in Our Creator, Yahveh, and trust that He has it all in His hands. Luke 12:27-28 (NLT) puts it this way…
27 “Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 28 And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?
In God’s economy of grace and mercy, we are promised provision by His hand, and we are promised a prize in His kingdom just by letting go of our sin and trusting Him to guide and direct our lives. No other boss tells us that all we have to do is commit our loyalty to the company, and we’ll receive a paycheck, but God gives us a paycheck that He Himself earned simply because He loves us and wants to share eternity with us. We can praise Him for our wonderful provisions on this earth, but we can rejoice even more greatly in the provisions He has prepared for us where we will reap that we could never do enough good works to earn.
I have a favorite old song by Joel Hemphill called Consider The Lilies. This one is performed by Charlotte Richie with backup by singers from The Isaacs and The Martins. Enjoy!
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, and I won’t hide it under a bushel. My life on earth was created for a purpose, and since I now walk with God, I believe that purpose is to declare the Light of Christ to those who wander in darkness.
Light is an important aspect of life. They say that just a short time in total darkness can drive a person insane. What does that say for people who walk without God? In John 8:12 we read…Yeshua spoke to them again: “I am the light of the world; whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light which gives life.” So, without His light, we have no life. In the beginning, God spoke light. Throughout biblical history, light plays a huge role in showing God’s being, and darkness is a curse. In eternity, we’re even told we will have no need for light because The Lamb will be the light.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 24:1 through Leviticus 24:23 (the end of the chapter), we read about the importance of the light in the temple. The people were to bring the oil that kept the light burning, and the pure oil was to come from crushed olives. The priest would actually light the candlestick which sat just outside the curtain of the testimony.
Yeshua told His disciples in Matthew 5:14-15 that they were light for the world, and that a city set on a hill could not be hidden. He also told them that men do not kindle light and then put a bowl over it. If we have been saved by the Blood of The Lamb, we are that light of testimony now. Our testimony comes when we crush the ways of the flesh, and let our High Priest light Himself within us. To keep that testimony shining for the world, we do not hide it by going back to the works of the flesh.
As the reading continues. we learn of the 12 loaves of bread that are to be baked with fine flour and set on the holy table in the temple. The bread is to be set in two rows of six, and each row is marked with incense. I know that God never does anything without a purpose, so I’m certain there’s some meaning here, but I have not learned it yet. I can only think of the 12 loaves representing the 12 Tribes of Israel, the 12 disciples, and the 12 gates of Heaven.
The next thing we read is actually pretty disturbing. A young man who is half Jewish and half Egyptian. (His mother is the Jew and this makes me think that this Scripture may be why you prove your Jewish heritage through your mother to this day.) The man gets in a fight with a neighbor, and during the fight, he curses the name of Yahveh. All who hear it take the young man to Moses for judgment. The judgment God sends down is that all who heard the curse are to lay hands on the man and stone him to death.
I know I get very uncomfortable when I hear people curse God, even when they don’t mean to be doing it. Even before I was saved, when I didn’t watch my mouth very well, I was never okay with using the words “God” or “Jesus” in foul language. And that’s just a casual language type of curse where people are not intentionally cursing God Himself, but are just slinging words around without thinking. It’s worse when I hear people say things about Him that I know are not true, or in any way disrespect Him. I would rather a person just say they don’t believe in Him, or not want to mention Him at all, than to put Him in a place of dishonor.
God is all about life and respect. The remainder of the portion talks of the value of life for both man and animal. It tells men what they should do if a man kills another man, or if a man kills an animal. But that was before the blood of Christ. Even though we do not take a life for a life, a tooth for a tooth, or an eye for an eye anymore, God has no less respect for the value of life. I believe He still requires some type of restitution from those who would take a life and treat it as if it has no value, and I believe that applies to both the life of the flesh and the life of the soul. If there is no other reason to let God’s light shine before men, there is reason when we think of the value of a living soul made in God’s image. Even if your whole life is on this earth just to shine a light for one soul, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
What if everything you’ve ever believed about Christmas was off by about 2-3 months? What if you found out that Yeshua’s birth was the fulfillment of one of The Lord’s feasts? And what if the fulfilling of that feast turned the holiday into a holy day, and brought all the joy of its celebration to you in abundance?
Today’s reading from Leviticus 23:33 through Leviticus 23:44 (the end of the chapter) gives us the information about the feast of Sukkot which means “booths,” and learning of this feast made the birth of Our Messiah more special to me than ever. I wrote a detailed article about it on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/notes/crystal-a-murray/sukkot-why-would-a-christian-celebrate-a-jewish-feast/10150361954688703 and I covered a little bit about it on my first post in this Torah commentary series at https://crystalwrites.wordpress.com/2013/09/28/the-joy-of-the-word-simchat-torah/
Our reading today begins with Yahveh telling Moses to mark the 15th day of the 7th month. You’ll recall that he has just told Israel to mark the 1st through the 10th days of the 7th month, so this is all happening right after the highest holy day of the year, Yom Kippur. The year starts brand new, the sins are wiped clean, and now it’s time to celebrate by remembering exactly what God has delivered Israel from. Oddly, they are still living in tents in the wilderness at this time, but the holiday is being established, so they will never forget.
The reading explains exactly how God intends for them to celebrate this feast, including days of rest and days of sacrifice. The children of Israel are also required to dwell in a sukkah (Hebrew singular for “booth” or tent, which is why the holiday is also called “The Feast of Booths” and “The Feast of Tabernacles”). They are to dwell in this temporary shelter for seven days, and God says it is a permanent regulation, so that generation after generation will know that He is God, and that He delivered them from Egypt.
A sukkah is a temporary dwelling just like our bodies on this earth. Our Messiah chose to live in a temporary body as well, so that He could deliver us from our own type of Egypt–living in sin without Him. My other articles give more detail about Sukkot being the real manger scene, but I’ll try to sum it up in a few bullet points…
- A sukkah is a shelter built outside a permanent shelter, and many businesses put them up as well.
- Because Sukkot is one of the feasts where all people were to go to their homes, Bethlehem was filled with homecoming celebrants, so there would have been no room in the inn, but the sukkah would be acceptable for dwelling.
- The top of the sukkah was open where starlight could have shined through.
- Yeshua is called the “sukkah” or “tabernacle” of men, and this fulfills Revelation 21:3.
- It would have been too cold in December for shepherds to have been in the fields at night.
- Caesar would have been smart enough to hold a census when he knew people were headed home rather than trying to declare one and gather people together from all over.
There is so much more, but I’ll write more later this year when we’re actually having our own celebration of this day. This is by and far my favorite feast day to celebrate because it seems I see more and more of Messiah in the celebration each time we gather. We build our own sukkah in the back yard, and we invite friends and neighbors to join us in the celebration, as we did with our friends Mary and Steve in the above image. If you live in the Kentuckiana area and want to learn more, please let me know to send you an invitation and a map for Sukkot 2014–Lord willing and the rapture don’t come. In the meantime, may all your days be blessed with the holy presence of Our Wonderful Creator.
Wine and roses are considered romantic, and someone who views the world through rose-colored glasses is said to see things too romantically and not realistically enough. So, if we pair rose-colored glasses with wine, we get a good-looking false reality. But false or not, it’s usually more comfortable there, so we rarely want to stop and examine our lives to see where we are headed, or if there is anything we should change. We are so interested in the headlong pursuit of happiness that we will stop to smell the roses (because they represent the romance of beauty and comfort), but we rarely stop to pray.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 23:23 through Leviticus 23:32, we read about the preparation and celebration of the holiest day of the Jewish year, Yom Kippur, which means “Day of Atonement.” Our reading starts nine days before this high holy day, on the first day of the seventh month (Tishrei). We’re not told yet that this is Rosh Hashanah, meaning “Head of the year,” but only that it is a day of complete rest for remembering, and its start is signaled by a blast of the shofar (ram’s horn).
Rosh Hashanah, or as we often see on US calendars, “Jewish New Year,” is the beginning of a 10-day period of remembering and self-examination. These days, called “The Days of Awe,” are a time when people take off their rose-colored glasses and look for things in their lives that require repentance and forgiveness. They spend those first nine days with a focus on cleansing their hearts, forgiving each other, asking forgiveness from their neighbors, and trying to become blameless before the “Sabbath of Sabbaths” when they will wait to see if God has accepted the offerings of the high priest and forgiven the sins of the people.
On the tenth day of the month, God tells Israel to deny themselves and bring an offering to Him. This would be the realist of the days of reality; a day where fear and hope are equal partners. If a person does not deny himself (go without his desires, comforts, pleasures, etc.) on this day, he will be cut off from his people, so this is not the type of feast where you will find celebration. Instead, this is the day where all must bring forth real fruit of real repentance. It is a sabbath of complete rest, self-denial, and last ditch self-examination to strive for as much holiness as possible.
Like our salvation in Yeshua gives us at the time of our repentance, this ten-day period is a time when people have the opportunity to start over with a clean slate before God. It’s the time when the children of Israel would leave their gifts on the altar, and make amends with anyone they had given reason to hold an accusation against them. It didn’t mean they could do whatever they wanted for the rest of the year, but if they had wasted their days with not thinking about God and instead gotten lost in a stupor of wine and rose-colored glasses, this was their chance to stop the wild ride and try to make things right.
A current tradition for celebration of Yom Kippur is to wear all white to represent purity. For those of us who have been washed in the blood that makes us “white as snow,” we can have these days of self-examination every day. For each new day we deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Yeshua, we get the opportunity to exchange our rose-colored glasses for crimson-colored glasses that allow us to see ourselves through the eyes of Our Loving Creator and Savior. And that’s a romance that will carry us throughout eternity.
Matthew 11:28 (CJB) says, “Come to me, all of you who are struggling and burdened, and I will give you rest.” We know from that verse that Yeshua is talking about Himself there, and that He has become all that we need when we are burdened with the sins of the flesh. He is the Passover Lamb that shed His blood for our salvation, and He is our Sabbath that we may rest in our deliverance and celebrate God’s grace and mercy.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 23:1 through Leviticus 23:22, we read about the beginnings of God’s appointed celebrations and commands that are fulfilled in our Messiah. I’ve said before that you cannot know whether an orange candy that says it tastes like a real orange lives up to its claim if you have never tasted a real orange. It’s good to know that Yeshua has fulfilled all the mitzvot (Hebrew for laws and commands) of the Old Covenant, but it will mean much more when you understand what those things were for Him to fulfill for us.
In verse 2, God tells Moses to remind the people that all the designated times He gives them are His times. In this portion, He talks about the festivals of Shabbat, Passover (Pesach), Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits. These festivals are holy, and they are times for celebrations. (And, yes, Sabbath is listed among The Lord’s feast days, and it is to be a day of celebration for us.) God gave Israel (and us) the feasts as ways to remember that He has provided all things for us. That’s why the feasts are permanent regulations, even to the point that we will enjoy them in Heaven as we celebrate that He not only gave us life on earth, but that He also gave us eternity. That’s also why man was not made for the Sabbath, but Sabbath for the man.
One thing I noticed about the Lord’s feasts in today’s portion is how the lack of them has affected our current society. For example, most people do not take a true Sabbath rest–one where they do no work at all. Some of the celebrations say not to do “ordinary” work, but the Sabbath rest says it is to be a complete rest, even in the homes. We say Yeshua is our rest, but do we take a complete rest even when we rest in Him? In other words, do we rest according to our idea of rest, holding on to those doctrines of men we think will make us holy to God? Resting in Him means letting go of ALL our own ways, not leaning on our own understanding, and trusting that His ways and thoughts are above our own. That kind of rest would cure all kinds of anxiety and depression if we truly grabbed hold of it, but in our current society, it’s hard to let go and rest as an individual when our families and communities do not rest with us. Still, if you’re with me on wanting to make an effort to rest more in Him, I recommend the book 24/6 by Matthew Sleeth.
The next holy day covered is that of Passover. We have just come through the season of celebrating Passover, and my husband and I went to two different Passover Seders during the week. I enjoyed parts of them both, but I longed for something more. One former Orthodox Jew mentioned how the seder used to take three hours not including the regular meal, and my husband and I both realized that the new “speedy” versions of most Seders meant we were probably missing something; especially since the more we understand about Passover, the more we understand about how Messiah fulfilled it.
The next feast is that of Unleavened Bread, and the teaching of it is part of the Passover Seder. I won’t tell you everything you can learn from a seder, but I will tell you about the bread. First, leaven (yeast) represents sin, and when put into dough (the flesh) it makes it rise up, so with leaven, bread is puffed up, and with sin, we are filled with works of the flesh instead of with Christ. So, for the week of this feast, all leaven is removed from the home. Symbolically, then, if Yeshua is our feast of Unleavened Bread, we would remove all sin from our body, so it may be a temple of the Holy Spirit. Also, instead of regular bread, matzah is served during the feast week. Click on the word for an up close image that will show you some very cool things about this bread: It is not puffed up, it has blood-colored stripes, and it is pierced. As part of the seder, it will be broken, hidden in a sack that is divided in three parts (a sack called an echad which means unity), and one of the broken pieces will be wrapped in linen and hidden (as in a grave) which will later be found by a child and “redeemed” (as in resurrected).
If I go on to tell you anymore, this blog will get too long, but you can read all about the seder at the Hebrew4Christians site that also includes a downloadable Passover haggadah (story book) in PDF. Also, I recommend that next year, you find yourself a Messianic or Christian seder to attend, so you can hear the story. Oh, by the way, that’s what the seder dinner is all about. It is a way to tell the story of what God has done for his people in a way that is easy to remember. It has actions (like tasting bitter herbs) as part of the telling, so even the children can remember their Creator and Deliverer. Our current society depends almost solely on their own works to accomplish success in this life, and as they face failure after failure, they turn to things like drugs, alcohol, and illicit sex to help them forget their failures. When that doesn’t work, too many decide to take their own lives.
The last feast mentioned today is that of “First Fruits.” This harvest festival is the time when people say “Thank You,” to the Creator who “brings forth bread from the earth.” They wave sheaths of their harvest before Him, and they thank Him by given grain offerings. And have you noticed that in our current society, grain seems to be something that brings a lot of curses? How often do you hear the words “gluten free” these days? Gluten seems to be a curse on wheat. And MSG is also a wheat by-product. At one time, it was even thought that refined flour caused an overabundance of sexual urges in young men, so Dr. Graham created “Graham flour” and “Graham crackers” to include more of the wheat germ to stave off lust. Read more about Sylvester Graham at Wikipedia. In addition to wheat, we have corn meal and corn by-products (like high fructose corn syrup) that are blamed for all kinds troubles from diabetes to lethargy. But I wonder if it would be different if we were still bringing our grains before God to thank Him for being our Provider.
Today’s reading ends with a reminder to leave the corners of the field unharvested, so the poor can come harvest for themselves and be able to eat without depending on someone else to feed them. Imagine if our society created a system where every person (except those who are truly physically unable) would have to do some kind of work for his or her food. If they had to pick their own vegetables, clean around the farm where their beef was raised, or even pick up garbage and weeds in the cities where funding is running to short to hire people to do it, they would feel their provisions had more value, and they would be healthier. Imagine a world where people actually did things God’s way, and you will understand then how He is where true rest can be found.
During my time growing up on the west coast, our family was pretty picky about the type of sandwich spread we used. Whether it was for a sandwich or a salad, we always used “Best Foods Real Mayonnaise.” Since I am typically alert to details, I always read the part on the label that said, “Known as Hellman’s East of the Rockies.” So, do you know what I did the first time I traveled east of the Rocky Mountains? I went into a grocery store to look for some “Hellman’s Mayonnaise.” so I could read the label to see if it said, “Known as Best Foods West of the Rockies.” And, sure enough, it did.
Such a little thing to get excited about, but it really was important for me to find out. Oh, and if you live east of the Rockies, like I do now, you may have heard the commercial jingle that says, “Bring out the Hellman’s, and bring out the best.” That makes so much more sense, though, when you hear it as, “Bring out the Best Foods, and bring out the best.”
In today’s reading from Leviticus 22:17 through Leviticus 22:33 (the end of the chapter), we read of God wanting us to always bring out the best for Him. This entire teaching covers the offerings brought before God whether for vows or for voluntary burnt offerings, and it gives the details of the acceptable and unacceptable offerings. In order to make the person giving the offering acceptable to God, the offering they gave had to fulfill the requirements that made it acceptable to Him.
Just as the priests who had defects could not give offerings to The Lord, people could not offer animals with defects like blemishes, uneven limbs, blind, injured, mutilated bodies, etc. Even if a foreigner tried to offer something less than perfect, ignorance would not entitle him to give a defective offering.
So, how many of you readers would like it if you gave your child all the ingredients to make a wonderful and tasty dessert, and after the child made it, he or she gave it to a bunch of friends and said you could only have whatever leftovers you could scrape off the pan? As the reading ends, God once again reminds Israel to keep His commandments because He is The Lord, and He is the One who brought them out of the land of Egypt to deliver them and make them holy. He gave them all the cattle and land from which to choose their offering, and He gave them the life of freedom that allows them to now offer gifts to Him, so He not only wants the best from them, He deserves the best from them.
Because of the grace and mercy we have from God through the blood of Yeshua, we might sometimes be tempted to think that God is not so picky anymore. After all, He accepts us just as we are, right? Yes, He does accept us, but only because He, Himself, brought out the best when He robed Himself in flesh to lay His life down for us. As the Lamb of Our Salvation, Christ had no imperfection, no blemish, and no sin. He was not even born of the sinful seed of man. He became the offering that was worthy to allow us to come to God broken, blemished, and damaged by sin. And His blood cleanses us and makes us whole in God’s eyes, so we can now offer ourselves to Him in the way He requires and deserves.
I hope this is enough to inspire and encourage people to keep themselves cleansed and holy before God. Let us not allow any of the desires of our sinful nature to drag us down to a place where we are covered with the muck and mire from which God delivered us. God gave us His best, now let us bring out the best for Him.
If I were to ask you if you honor the Lord with holiness, you would likely begin to look at the works you do for Him to decide how to answer. But I believe holiness has everything to do with our hearts, and only has to do with our works insomuch as they follow the thoughts of our hearts. Holiness begins in our hearts and with a commitment to give to God that which He should have because He is worthy. Holiness is the change of heart that makes us see God as worthy of our belief, our obedience, our trust, and our praise.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 21:16 through Leviticus 22:16, we start with Yahveh telling Moses to tell Aaron the following: “None of your descendants who has a defect may approach to offer the bread of his God.” And then the teaching goes on to explain all the types of defects that would prevent a descendant of Aaron from working in the priesthood. I would not be able to bring offerings into the holy place because I have stunted growth. My husband could not bring offerings into the holy place because he has a cataract. We could both eat the bread of God, both the holy and the especially holy, but we could not offer it to God with our defects because that would profane God and His place of holiness.
Moses tells these things to Aaron and to all of Israel, and then he goes to Aaron to deepen the lesson. He tells him to have his sons keep themselves separate from the holy things of God, so they will not take a chance of defiling them by approaching them in an unholy state. If they do, God will cut them off from their people. For us, this means that we should not try to come into “the church” by doing all the right stuff without first repenting and being covered with the holy blood of Christ to make us clean. Like the verse above says, our salvation is a gift from God, and that alone should be enough to bring us to our knees before we strap on the apron of good works.
The teaching goes on to explain more ways in which a descendant from Aaron (member of the tribe of Levi) can make himself or herself unclean, and that uncleanness can prevent both doing the work of the tabernacle and partaking of the holy food. Even a daughter who has married outside of the tribe is no longer able to partake of the food, but a widow or divorcee with no child that comes back to live with her father may share in the food. Also, while an employee or tenant may not partake of the holy foods, a slave that lives in the home of a Levite may eat them.
I see all of this teaching as a simple commandment to not put the cart before the horse. We don’t do the works of God with unholy hearts that are not committed to Him. That means we don’t get brownie points for going to church on Sundays and hoping it will erase the demerits we earned during the rest of the week. We don’t get a pat on the back from God because we donate to good causes or give ourselves to service if we are doing those things in the sin of pride and arrogance instead of with a holy love for our Creator.
Holiness is a changed state of heart and mind that will have us proclaiming the glory of God in wondrous new ways. Here are just some of the verses from King David’s song in Psalm 96 in which I can see his holy heart…
1Oh, sing to the Lord a new song!
Sing to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Sing to the Lord, bless His name;
Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.
3 Declare His glory among the nations,
His wonders among all peoples.
4 For the Lord is great and greatly to be praised…
6 Honor and majesty are before Him;
Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.
9 Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!
Tremble before Him, all the earth.
I especially like that last verse because I see holiness as something beautiful and wonderful. It is an acknowledgement that God’s holiness is so majestic that all we can do is tremble in His holy presence. Hallelu-Yah!
Have you ever worked under bad management in a job? Whether it is a team manager, a department manager, or the leader of a company, managers can make or break the future for every person who is subordinate to them. I’ve found the best managers to be the ones who know how to be managed by others and how to manage themselves.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 21:1 through Leviticus 21:15, we begin a new portion (Parashah 31). The Hebrew name for it is Emor and it means “Speak.” In this reading, we find God telling Moses to speak to Aaron and his sons about their requirements as priests. What is expected of the people will be expected that much more from those God has called to lead the people. And even in the leadership, the higher the rank (anointing), the stronger their need to adhere to God’s commands.
We begin with the ruling that a priest is not allowed to make himself unclean by touching anything or anyone dead except for his close relatives. Because he is a leader among his people, the priest must maintain an integrity to set an example that will never profane God’s call on him or God’s word to him. God gives the reason here to be more than just the example though. He must maintain these rules of being separate and clean because he is the one who offers sacrifices and bread to God.
Later, we learn that the priest ranked highest among his brothers (the one who has had anointing oil poured on him and who has adorned the consecrated garments) is not allowed to make himself unclean even if his father or mother dies. This is speaking of the priest who is actually on duty to make offerings at the time, so leaving his station to deal with the dead would interrupt the holy practices he is currently involved in. A modern-day visual might be something like a preacher stopping in the middle of a baptism to jump in a mud bath.
The other rules for our leaders concern their marriages. While some have decided that being a priest means being married only to the church or to God, (I’m guessing they’re leaning on Paul’s statement here that a man can be more effective if he stays unmarried), these priests could marry, but they had strict requirements about their marriages. They could not marry a prostitute, a widow, a divorcee, or any woman who had been profaned in any way. The high priest was required to marry a virgin of his own people so as not to disqualify his descendants from following in the priesthood.
These Scriptures explain why a calling to any kind of leadership for God is not just a simple “I think I want to be a preacher” thing. We have those who come in declaring themselves to be apostles and prophets for no reasons but pride and money. We have those who are barely saved but want to run their own churches and ministries before they have learned how to be submissive to God. 1 Timothy 3:1-13 lays out a modern-day equivalent to our reading from Leviticus (leaders and elders compared to high priests and priests) , and it explains well why leaders must be above reproach, and why they must not be new converts. It’s summed up well in verse 5 which reads (in NLT), “For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church?”
If it is not God who manages the management, then the management will not be able to bring forth the fruit God desires of His church. And that’s the key to remember if you are in any position of leadership or ministry…it is not our church, but God’s. He must increase, and we must decrease, and that even applies to management (leadership).
I once received a request from someone who wanted to be apart (sic) of a writing project I was putting together. My first reaction was to wonder how much editing I would have to do based on that incorrect request, but after some of the “I know better than this” mistakes I’ve made on Facebook posts, I realized it was an easy mistake that spell-check would never catch. I sent a reply that I would like her to be “a part” of the project and hoped she didn’t really want to be “apart from” it.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 20:23 through Leviticus 20:27 (the end of the chapter), God tells Israel to make sure they do not live by the laws of the land’s former inhabitants. He reminds them that the reason He detested those who lived in the land before He chose to give it to Israel is because they were doing all the things He’s been commanding Israel to avoid. And then He reminds them that He is their God, and He has set them apart from all other people groups.
He wants Israel to be a people that knows the difference in good and bad, clean and unclean, obedient and unruly. He does not want them to be ignorant about what sets them apart for Him or what makes them holy to Him. He is a Holy God who has set apart a people to be holy to Him, so they can belong to Him.
As a Christian, I have been offered many opportunities to go along with the crowd and participate in a variety of behaviors that I felt were not something God would have me do. The ones doing the offering were always quick to explain how the activities would not hurt anyone, so they couldn’t really be wrong. I came up with a little chorus along the line of the country song “On The Other Hand” where the man says he won’t cheat on his wife because of the ring on the other hand. My chorus basically said something like…
On one hand, I could go out and party all night long, And maybe grace could justify all your wild and wooly plans. But even if our fun would not be all that bad or wrong, The reason I can’t sin, is in Jesus’ nail-scarred hands.
I can’t remember the actual words I wrote back then, and I don’t remember if I even had verses, but I’m sure you get the idea. If we try to fit in with the ways of the world by looking to justify the “minor” sins, how are we treating the price that was paid for our salvation? It doesn’t matter if a sin seems to be a little thing, or if it seems to be innocuous in that it would not really hurt anyone, if our purpose in committing it is to be a part of the world instead of being set apart for Christ, then we need to examine our hearts. Because we serve a holy God, our hearts should desire holiness.
Think of it this way; just as we don’t want someone marching across our freshly washed floor with muddy boots (or paws if we’re talking about fur-babies), God doesn’t want a parade of unclean things in His presence. With His blood, God has set us apart and welcomed us to be a part of a wonderful eternity. And until then, He wants us to be a part of the intimate relationship He created for a set apart people. It should be our pleasure, and our gift back to Him for choosing us, to live in a way that seeks to be separated from all things God Himself would not want in His holy presence.
Remember the commercial where a couple at the movies trip over each other and end up mixing their snacks? One of them says, “Hey, you got your chocolate in my peanut butter.” Then the other one says, “Hey, you got your peanut butter on my chocolate.” And items that at one time would have been considered strange bedfellows were suddenly finding themselves mixed together in the form of a peanut butter cup.
The phrase “strange bedfellows” has been in use since the 1400s as a reference to unlikely or peculiar alliances or combinations. For example, in nature, if we see a friendship between animals that normally would be enemies, it strikes us as odd. There are some things that we know just don’t go together, like cats and birds. But strange bedfellows usually refer to things that might seem odd together but actually work, like pickle and peanut-butter sandwiches. (But you do have to toast the bread and used thin sliced dill pickle if you really want it to taste right. 🙂 )
In today’s reading from Leviticus 20:8 through Leviticus 20:22, God again teaches Israel what He considers to be “strange bedfellows.” The difference here, however, is that if God says we should not be in a bed together, He means it. It’s not a matter of figuring out that something unlikely might actually work together because if it goes against God’s perfect will and design, it goes into the arena of disobedience to God and irreverence of God’s holy word.
The reading begins with a reminder that a man should not curse his father and mother or he would face death. From there, it jumps right into a long list of what God considers to be sexual sin. Obviously, these things are important to God because this is the second such list in the book of Leviticus. This list has a little more detail in that instead of just calling people who commit the sexual sins unclean, God goes a bit further and speaks of those that should be put to death.
The first sin listed is that of a man committing adultery with another man’s wife. This says that both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death. Next it says that a man who sleeps with his father’s wife disgraces his father, and both of them should be put to death. If a man sleeps with his daughter-in-law, both of them are to be put to death. And if a man goes to bed with a man as he does with a woman, both men are to be put to death.
God goes on to say that if a man sleeps with a woman and her mother, all of them are to be put to death by fire, so that no depravity will exist in the community. If a man or woman has sex with an animal, both the human and animal are to be put to death. If a man sleeps with his sister (or half-sister), God says it is shameful and they are to be cut off from the people and will bear the consequences, but this does not appear to include death. And, finally, it goes into men who sleep with their mother’s sister, their father’s sister, or their uncle’s wife. The consequence for a man who sleeps with his aunt, even if she is only related by marriage, is that the two of them will be childless.
Going back to the first command about killing both the adulterer and the adulteress, I wonder if Yeshua wrote this Scripture in the dirt when the men of Israel were about to stone the woman caught in adultery. At that moment, it wasn’t as much about His having mercy on the woman as it was about His showing the hypocrisy in the men. Why weren’t they casting stones at the man who was with the woman? If they were so holy and so apt to keep the letter of the law, the woman was not the only one who should have been facing a death sentence.
This story, in John 8:1-11, does not end with the men facing their hypocrisy and dropping their stones. It’s one of the places where the mercy of Yeshua shines brightly. He physically demonstrates the grace and mercy He has for all of us when He tells the woman that He finds no fault in her and that she is free to stop her sinning. He didn’t tell her that she was free from that one sin, or for one day only, but he set her free to stop sinning for the rest of her life. No more strange bedfellows for her because she who the Son sets free is free indeed.
Death is still the price for adultery (and all the sins listed in today’s portion), but just as Yeshua protected the woman from the price of her crimes, His blood will set us free from every sin listed in His word–Old or New Testament–because He has paid that price of death for us. He set the woman free from the bondage to her sin with the words “Go and sin no more.” He sets us free in the same way. May we let go of our excuses for sin, and instead may we climb out of the bed we have made with our weaknesses and walk in the mercy and grace that sets and keeps us free. Amen!
Why is it so hard to stand for the right these days? I mean, it’s even hard for those who want to stand for the right things because there is such a rising up against standing for God’s holy word and standing against any kind of sin. People try to tell those who stand for the right things that what others do is none of our business. The popular culture of music has kids being harassed in the lyrics just for wanting to live on the right side of the law. There are even songs that warn people not to report a crime to protect the innocent. In those songs, they’re called snitches, and they’re threatened with violence.
But what happens if we all just give in and let the bullies win? The picture above is a good example of a land where sin became so accepted that it infiltrated the church and led to the slaughter of The True Messiah and later the destruction of the temple. Sure, Yeshua went silently as a lamb before the slaughter because He chose to give Himself as our Passover sacrifice to cover our sins, but does that mean we are supposed to watch silently as people commit one sin after another? Do we allow the innocent to pay the price of being sacrificed to gods of comfort and convenience through sins like abortion? Do we keep silent while the music steals the souls of the young by loudly proclaiming to them that life is better on drugs? Where does it cross the line between the individual’s sin and become the community’s sin because too many are turning away and pretending it doesn’t exist?
In today’s reading from Leviticus 20:1 through Leviticus 20:7, God talks to Israel about those in the land, including foreigners, who sacrifice their children to the god of Molech. I’ve been taught that in this sacrifice, women would self-abort and throw their fetuses into the fiery mouth of the stone god, and fathers would sacrifice infants after they were born. Supposedly, they have excavated jars with tiny remains in them, but I cannot verify that information. I did find some interesting information in an article at Wikipedia.
God tells Israel that if they see anyone at all performing this disgusting practice, they are to stone the person because it defiles God’s tabernacle, and it defiles the land. He goes on to say that if the people turn away and try to pretend they did not see this vile sin, God will set Himself against the sinner. Then, in addition to the person who committed the crime being cut off from his people, God will also cut off his family and all who follow after him. The cost of turning away is greater than the cost of making a person responsible for his own behavior.
For me. I would have trouble with the whole idea of being in the judgment seat to the point of stoning a person to death, but I understand why God wanted people to follow His will in this. I have yet to see a case where a person got away with a crime against the innocent and became a better person by getting away with it. In the end, many more members of their family, and often even their friends, end up paying prices for ignoring the original crime. It’s hard to find the line between having mercy for the sake of winning a person’s soul to Christ, and becoming a party to community sin by ignoring that a price must be paid and refusing to make the guilty person pay it himself.
But the fact is, God is a holy and a just God, and His laws and rulings are holy and just. If we ignore the laws of the harvest (men reaping what they sow), and if we decide that a person should not pay a price for a sin he commits–especially against the innocent, we are symbolically saying that we know more than God. And, we are also saying that it’s okay for the innocent to pay a price while the person who harmed them should go free. There is no balance or justice in that. Let us not participate in community sin by hiding our faces when evil is done because a price will be paid, and we do not want to get any part of that bill.
Do you measure up? Or, do you measure down? In other words, do you try to see people as better than they are, and give them the benefit of the doubt when you notice their failures? Or, are you quick to find faults and failures and to condemn someone who commits them to a hopeless end? There are a lot of Scriptures that refer to measurement with the most quoted being Matthew 7:2 that says (in CJB)… “For the way you judge others is how you will be judged — the measure with which you measure out will be used to measure to you.” So, we should be merciful in our judgment toward others (looking more to have compassion than to condemn to everlasting torment) if we want mercy given toward us, but that is not the only measurement in our lives.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 19:33 through Leviticus 19:37 (the end of the chapter), God teaches Israel about measurements that are both literal and figurative. This short portion begins with the literal in explaining to the community how to treat a foreigner in their midst as if he or she were native-born. God reminds the people how they were foreigners in Egypt, so they should love the foreigners as they love themselves.
This is the second time in this chapter where God has reminded Israel to love her neighbors as she loves herself. And Jesus quoted this statement as one of the two foundations on which all other laws are to be built. As servants of Christ, we must realize that at one time, all of us were foreigners to life with God, so while keeping ourselves in line with God’s word, we need to be gentle in bringing others along to walk that line with us. If they are true seekers, they may stumble, but they will keep learning to walk for God if we continue to teach in mercy. Even those raised in “church,” until they become familiar with all Christ did on the cross, and make a decision to serve Him because they love Him, they are still foreigners to His mercy.
In the latter verses of today’s portion, God gives Israel (and us) the rules for just measurements. He says to be honest in ALL that is measured; to be honest when measuring length, width, or capacity. He says to use an honest balance-scale, honest weights, honest dry measure, and honest liquid measure. And, after stating these rules, Yahveh once again reminds Israel to keep all His commands because He is God, and He is The Lord.
The measuring stick for everything we do should be honesty toward The Lord. He should always be our purpose. We can do all kinds of right and righteous works for the wrong purposes and the wrong reasons. Maybe we preach a message for the purpose of building up attendance in our churches. Maybe we give because of all the promises that if we give it will be given back to us overflowing. Maybe we sing to be heard, dance to be seen, and volunteer to be lauded. Whatever our reasons behind the works we do, God measures the honesty of our works by looking at the purpose in our hearts.
Good works are still better than bad works, and God will bless them because He measures up, and He gives us the benefit of the doubt as we grow in Him. But as we continue to seek and to learn, and as we continue to mature in the fruits we produce for God, let us measure ourselves against the holy word of God, and let us continually strive to make sure that God Himself is at the center of every purpose for every good work we do. And, let us remember that–as God said to Israel–He is The Lord.
Having been raised in the southwestern United States, I have had the privilege of tasting wonderful fruit, like strawberries, that was actually sweet without having to add sugar. The difference in eating fully ripened fruit instead of that which was picked early and artificially ripened with ethylene gas is indescribable. I’m sure you can imagine how much more flavor would be in any crop allowed a full stay in rich soil and sunshine.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 19:23 through Leviticus 19:32, the reading begins with instructions for planting fruit trees. In these instructions, it says that the fruit from the trees will not be edible and is forbidden to eat for three years. In the fourth year, it becomes holy for use in worshiping God. But in the fifth year, Israel may begin to eat the fruit, and that will cause the trees to produce even more fruit for them.
I don’t believe God compared the works we do for Him with fruit for no reason. His word says in Matthew 7:15:20 that we will know false prophets from true ones based on the fruit they bear. Comparing that with the instructions for letting a tree mature before eating its fruit, I would say that a true prophet will also bear mature fruit. Evidence of that is demonstrated in the story of an apostate preacher (Todd Bentley) who said God stuffed gifts into him (in a vision) without training him because he needed to teach right away. Now, even many who at one time believed the man was called of God have found out that he was running on his own power instead of on God’s anointing.
The rest of the verses for this portion give sensible advice including that Israel should not practice divination or fortune-telling, should not debase their daughters by making them prostitutes, and should not seek out spirit-mediums or sorcerers to be defiled by them. They are also told not to cut gashes in their skin when someone dies, and they are told not to tattoo themselves. In addition, they are to stand up and show respect for the elderly, and above all else, fear Yahveh and remember that He is The Lord.
As I read all these things, I wonder if that Scripture about there being nothing new under the sun is being played out before my eyes. Either the people who lived in the land before Israel, or some of the children of Israel, were doing things like cutting and living by horoscopes. Maybe a little of both. Now, we can pick up magazines on current culture and find advertisements for many of the things God forbade for Israel. We can read news stories where instead of respect for the elderly, people beat them because they are old and weak. It’s a scary world anymore outside the church and–unfortunately–inside many churches.
Maybe the obedience in waiting for physical fruit to mature is even more important than whatever scientific reasons are behind it. Outside the church, if people would learn to wait, anticipate, and mature before running headlong into life, they would make fewer bad decisions that affect their entire lives. In the church, if believers who want to be used of God would first study to show themselves approved before God, they would become–as the Scripture says in 2 Timothy 2:15–workers that do not need to be ashamed and can accurately teach the word of truth.
I remember learning in some class in school about butchers who would place a thumb on the scale when weighing out meats, and how this would charge the customers for more than they received. Later, I saw a few different movies where people would catch a merchant using lighter weights to make it appear the seller’s trades were not as valuable. Two different verses in Proverbs tell us what God thinks of those who try to tip the scales in their favor. Proverbs 20:23 says, “Adonai detests a double standard in weights, and false scales are not good,” and Proverbs 11:1 says, “False scales are an abomination to Adonai, but accurate weights please him.”
In today’s reading from Leviticus 19:15 through Leviticus 19:22, we get some examples of scales that are tipped out of balance in the eyes of God. One thing important to Him is how we judge others. He says in our portion for the day that we should neither show favor to the poor nor deference to the mighty, but we should always judge with justice. I believe the current economy in the USA is a good example of what happens when judgment is not done with justice. The poor have developed an attitude of entitlement–because of their history, because of their weaknesses, because of this and that, and the rich have learned how to buy their own way by greasing the palms of those in power. It has created an angry and bitter middle ground where many now hate all above and below them. But we can’t judge with justice if we don’t acknowledge Who determines what is truly just and balanced.
Another verse of wisdom from Proverbs 6:19 says, “A false witness who lies with every breath, and him who sows strife among brothers,” are among the things God hates. This speaks to the next Levitical law that says not to go around spreading slander among people. But there is balance needed here too. While God doesn’t want us sharing damaging thoughts about our brothers and sisters, He also doesn’t want us ignoring a neighbor who is being hurt by someone’s damaging ways. Israel is told not to stand by idly if a neighbor’s life is at stake. And that could also mean a neighbor’s spiritual life and soul as well.
Verse 17 really got my attention where it says, “Do not hate your brother in your heart, but rebuke your neighbor frankly.” The reason for the ruling is what grabs me. It says, “…so that you won’t carry sin because of him.” Carry sin? Can that happen from hating a brother? I think that’s answered in yet another verse from Proverbs. Proverbs 27:5 says, “Better open rebuke than hidden love.” I think we carry sin (and pain) when we do not speak what’s in our hearts, and then we allow it to fester and turn to bitterness.
Verse 19 simply tells God’s people to observe His regulations, and then the reading continues with instructions to not allow livestock to mate with another kind, to not plant two different kinds of grain in a field, and to not wear clothing made with two different kinds of thread. God knows what He made to go together and what should be kept apart. He knows when one species, grain, or type of thread could weaken or destroy the other. And our result of not observing those things when they were simple is to live now without even knowing if the corn syrup in our candy bar is made from genetically modified corn. (By the way, I’ve been told that most corn by-products these days are GMO, so I’ve got to wonder exactly what all that “franken-fruit” and “franken-vegetable” stuff really does to our systems. Don’t you wonder too?)
Let me close now with something interesting I’ve learned recently. Did you know that there is no Hebrew word for “fair” or “fairness”? So balance may not mean exactly what we think it means in our human understanding. There are Hebrew words and descriptions for justice, so we can trust that God does believe in balance by justice, which is why He couldn’t just let us “get away” with our sins simply because He loves us. Too often, that’s what we do–we let people off the hook for their behaviors because we love them, and somehow we don’t think it’s fair for them to pay for their misdeeds. But God knew the price needed to be paid, so He robed Himself in flesh to pay the cost of justice and bring things back into a right balance. Every time a new soul commits his or her life to Christ, and every time we make a genuine effort to live according to God’s word, I believe we are bringing balance by tipping the scales in God’s favor.
If our salvation is all by glory and grace, and if we are not to boast in any good works, why is it so important for us to be holy? If works and holiness won’t get us into Heaven, why should we try so hard to please God? And if no matter what we do, how well we believe, or how hard we try, some things will not go our way but will work out only for God’s will in the end, why should we keep acting in faith? The answer to all these questions is the same: because we love and serve a holy God.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 19:1 through Leviticus 19:14, we begin a new portion for our new week. Parashah 30 is titled in Hebrew K’doshim and it means “Holy People.” The second verse says, “You people are to be holy because I, Adonai your God, am holy.” And everything else builds from there. Every law, every ruling, every direction and teaching all point to the same purpose; be holy because Yahveh, your God, is holy. That sentiment is repeated in The New Testament in 1 Peter 1 where verse 15 (AMP) says, “But as the One Who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all your conduct and manner of living.”
The next verses have a few repeats of statutes given in “The Ten Commandments,” but there are a few more details as well. For example, in edition to telling Israel not to turn to idols, this says for them not to cast metal gods for themselves. It goes on to tell them to make sure that all their peace offerings bring acceptance to them. Next God tells Israel not to harvest their crops all the way to the corners, and not to pick up dropped grapes or ears of corn. Those remaining bits of harvest are to be left for the poor and the foreigner.
As the reading continues, God reminds the children of Israel not to steal from, lie to, or defraud each other, and not to oppress or rob their neighbors. He also says not to withhold pay on the day the work is done, so apparently that is the same as oppressing your neighbor. I can see how it would be more kind to receive your pay the day you work for it, so you can be the one to bank it for interest instead of your boss. I know lots of wait staff who prefer their tips in cash, so they won’t have to wait to receive them on their paychecks.
On the topic of being kind to each other, God reminds the community members to never speak a curse against a deaf person or put an obstacle in the way of a blind person. I find it a little sad that God had to tell people that though. It would seem that not being unkind to someone who struggles would be common sense, but with so many physical weaknesses being signs of sinfulness, maybe the people felt judgment against those who bore such weaknesses. Maybe it even made them feel justified in their cruelties. Still, to me, kindness seems like something that should not have to be taught.
Above all else, God reminds Israel not to swear by His name falsely since that would be profaning His name, and He reminds them that they should fear Yahveh and remember that He is The Lord. That’s a wrap-around of what our reading started out with. So, if we remember that Yahveh is our God and our Lord, and we remember that He is holy, we should automatically desire to be a holy people as a way to honor our Holy God.
I believe people who don’t know God fight His laws simply because they are of God. But for those of us who know Him, that should be reason enough to not fight them. It is reason enough for me, as someone who serves Him because I love Him, to adhere to a lifestyle of holiness because He is a Holy God. I don’t want to look for whatever I can get away with because I have His mercy and grace on my life. Instead, I want to please Him because He showed me that mercy and grace in spite of the fact that I did not deserve it.
In truth, the laws of God would serve all humans well. I mean, why should the world get offended by the idea of putting “The Ten Commandments” in public places when most of the rules given there would only serve to make life better for all of us? Is there anyone who likes to be lied about or lied to? Is there any parent who does not desire respect? Is there anyone who wishes for themselves or someone they love to be murdered? I don’t think so. What God calls being holy to Him is mostly just a matter of taking care of ourselves, our neighbors, and the world around us where we have an influence. Those who don’t serve God may call things like this “random acts of kindness,” but those of us to love Him know they are a way to get in touch with the holy part of Him that dwells in us.
That holy part of God that lives in His believers is what cleanses us to make us fit for the building. It’s also what smooths us to where we can be fitly joined together, and it’s what binds us together in Him. His power gives us the energy that makes us living stones. When we come together according to His plan, His light within this temple of living stones will shine out from us to draw in the lost and confused or our world. More than our “good” behaviors, His holiness set free within us and governing our desires is what makes us a holy people and a holy temple. What better living offering can we give to a Holy God?
P.S. On the subject of the holy temple, I want to link you to a long but worthwhile article by Chip Brogden from The School of Christ. It’s called “Escape from Churchianity” and it explains how the church (the ekklesia) is to be a holy temple of Christ that is built of living stones. You can read it for yourself at http://theschoolofchrist.org/articles/escape-from-churchianity.html where you will find other great articles and books as well.
I used to see God as something kind of like “The Abominable Snowman” who grimaced and growled and hated everyone who didn’t do things His way. I imagined Him sitting on His big throne, watching us (humans), and ready to throw out fiery judgments the minute we violated His laws. I don’t know what my reasons were for thinking He changed (I know it wasn’t just a bad tooth–LOL), but I got it in my head that His personality in the New Testament was a 180 degree difference from that of the Old Testament. He went from an abominable “no” man to a furry “bumble” who loved everyone.
I’m certain all my beliefs stemmed from some type of teaching I heard when I was young, just as many of us misunderstand God as being out there, far away, watching us from a distance as the song lyric says. But the more I get to know Him, the more I see Him as walking around with us, right here on earth, and I understand the things He wants to keep us separate from as well as the motivations behind His desires. Besides the fact that He loves us and wants to protect us from consequences He knows we won’t enjoy (disease, sickness, etc.), He also knows that we will be more comforted in His holy presence. Since He cannot dwell where sin roams free, He tries to tell us how to keep separate from sin, so we can draw nearer to Him.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 18:22 through Leviticus 18:30 (the end of the chapter), we complete this weeks portion and continue on the topic of sexual practices God does not approve of. Yesterday, it was about relatives that God said He didn’t want people to have relations with. Today, He says quite plainly that we should not have relations with those of our own sex or with any kind of animal. He goes on to say that a woman should not make herself available for an animal to have sex with, I’m guessing because of how animals are driven by pheromones and instinct and cannot tell that it is wrong.
As the chapter continues, God explains that it is because of these practices that the land has become unclean and is vomiting out the inhabitants. God says He is actually punishing the land because of the disgusting practices of the people. In verse 27, it says that the people have committed all these abominations, and that is why the land is now defiled. But it goes on to describe why that is not God’s desire for His people. He tells them to keep His laws and rulings, to keep His charge to not follow the abominable customs of the previous inhabitants, and to remember that He is The Lord.
I know there’s a new teaching out there about the word “abomination” that says it does not mean it the way we have always taught it. Of course, we use abominable for things that are big, hairy, scary, and mean, like a yeti, and we use the word as a judgment and put-down against those who stand against the word of God. So, in an effort to love all that are made in the image of God, this teaching is trying to say that the word is not as harsh as previously believed.
Because of those I love who are still walking in sin, and because of my “do unto others” attitude that would not have wanted to be judged harshly for sins I committed before turning to God, I want to believe the soft and easy idea that God really wants to live and let live. But that is not the truth. Even if the word “abomination” meant something else, the other detailed statements about the land vomiting out the people, the land being defiled, and the practices being disgusting, cannot all be misinterpreted.
Here’s at least part of the truth; if homosexuality is okay to God when it’s done by two people “in love” with each other, then we would have to make excuses for the pedophile who says he would never hurt a child and only does things out of love as well. And what if a woman truly believed she was loved by an animal she had sex with? I mean, I believe my kitty cats love me, and I know I love them, but I don’t believe that could excuse behaviors that God did not plan according to His perfect will.
As much as I love people who walk in a lifestyle that is plainly spoken against in these and multiple Scriptures, I cannot say that the behavior does not defile God’s perfect plan for His people or His land. That defiling is what makes it an abomination. And because it is an abomination, it will not draw God close to the lives of those who engage in what He considers disgusting. So, if I truly love people, I have to beg them to discontinue behaviors outside of God’s perfect will because I want them to walk in His presence just as I want myself to walk in His presence. If someone who loves me sees me walking in a way that will create a wedge between me and my loving God, who says “yes” to new mercies EVERY morning, I pray they will care enough to lead me away from that behavior. And I pray that God Himself, will show all His children more loving and better ways to stand for His truth and share His love without making Him look like an abominable “no” man.
What’s wrong with the above picture? Nothing? Look again. Actually, I really like what the photographer did with it. It’s a creative and beautiful treatment. We know from creation history that there are waters above the earth and below it, but even in a heavy downpour, I’ve never seen so much water in the heavens as to create ripples in the sky. And if I saw this in real life, I’d be running for cover. Even when presented as beautifully as this is done, we all know it’s not the way God made things.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 18:6 through Leviticus 18:21, we read about God’s designs and plans when it comes to human sexuality. The presentation goes into tomorrow’s reading as well, but the breaking point for today is at verse 21, so I’ll only discuss up to there. Of course, from the beginning, we know that God made Adam & Eve and told them to be fruitful and multiply. And from the ark, we know that God had Noah collect a male and female animal from each species and told them to be fruitful and multiply. But somewhere along the line, people apparently got more interested in the being fruitful part than in the multiplying.
So now God is following up on His ruling not to imitate the behaviors of the former inhabitants of the land. He goes into great detail to explain that no one is to approach a close relative to have sexual relations with them. He not only says that fathers should not be with daughters, and mothers should not be with sons, but that neither should be with step-parents, step-siblings, half-siblings, etc. He even says that no one should be with a woman and her daughter.
I’ve known of brothers who would date each other’s girlfriends, and sisters who even stole the other’s boyfriends, but according to this, the code about not sharing that is kept among most siblings is also the way God wants things. God even says not to take a woman to be a rival of with her sister while the sister is still alive. And I can see how that would be even more important when everyone lives in a community as the camp of Israel is living.
God designed everything about us with a perfect plan in mind. He designed our bodies to work a certain way, the harvest to work a certain way, the seasons to work a certain way, and procreation to work a certain way. I don’t know if He installed failure mechanisms to kick in when things don’t go by design, but I know they do kick in. Many of the diseases and issues we have these days can trace their lineages back to relatives that should not have slept together, or an infusion of contagions by animals that should not have been brought into human sexual relationships.
Like the picture above, some things not of God’s design may look okay on the outside, but only God knows what’s really changing on the inside. He knows about the crossed lines of DNA that should not happen. He knows about that hormone they call the “monogamy hormone” that He put in men to make them want to be with the same woman, and how the overly active sexual appetite of men these days is making them immune to it, and making men almost unable to be faithful. And all we have to do to make sure things go as He planned is to trust Him and obey His word–the written one, and the one He speaks to our hearts.
How many different ways can you forbid someone from stepping over the line? No trespassing. Beware of Dog. Speed Limit 55. Go to Jail: Do not pass go. Our world is made up of laws, both written and implied, that are meant to keep us living within some kind of safe borders. Laws are supposed to be fences that keep us safe, but not in bondage.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 17:8 through Leviticus 18:5, we also learn that God’s laws add life. The laws covered today include both community members and foreigners living with them. They are told, as yesterday, that no one is to offer a burnt offering without bringing it to The Tent of Meeting. And then we are told that no one is to eat blood of any kind because life is in the blood. The law of the hunt is that if a person kills game, whether animal or bird, he is to drain the blood and bury the blood under dirt. And all these laws come with consequences for not keeping them.
In the last paragraph, God reminds the people to not live as the Egyptians from the land out of which they were delivered, and He tells them not to live as the Canaanites in the land which He is giving them. He reminds Israel that it was the disrespect of the law by the Canaanites that caused them to lose their lands and homes to begin with. He tells them that if they will see Him as God and live according to His laws and rulings, they will have life through the very laws they keep.
We have the same promise now. Even though we are forgiven for the sin that brings death, seeing Yahveh as The Lord of our lives, and living accordingly, will bring life. The natural laws show us this in how much better a baby will thrive it is adheres to the law of staying in the womb to a full term. Some manmade laws, like traffic lights at busy intersections, show us how much better we adults thrive if we show respect for the laws that are meant to protect us.
So many want to see God as just slinging laws around for the purpose of wielding His power, but I can see love–toward us and toward all life that He has created–in most every law I read. I say most because I don’t always have clear understanding of the laws, but even when I don’t see the love, I can trust that it’s there. I trust that a God who would create beings with free will instead of forcing us to obey and worship Him, truly has our best interest at heart. And, if we seek after His heart, we will want to show Him that we trust Him by not trespassing against His will. And like a child finds joy in pleasing a parent, I believe we will find joy and life in pleasing God by doing our best to walk within His safe boundaries and laws.
By definition, fodder is something that is set aside for a particular use but has no natural value. It’s like the stuff of life that a comedian might turn into a joke for his next routine, and then the value would be added. But when God created life–all life–He created it with value. If He thought of the animals He requested for sacrifice as fodder, He would not have cared if they were spotless, and He would not have demanded such care be taken even when their end was to die. But if these same animals were killed senselessly, or killed to be offered to a false god, the killer would be seeing them as mere fodder and without value.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 17:1 through Leviticus 17:7, we find that the community of Israel doesn’t see the animals with that value. Instead, they have been slaughtering some of their sacrifices away from the tabernacle, and God is saying it must come to an end. When I first started reading it, I thought it was speaking of slaughtering for the purpose of a meal, and I was praying in my heart; asking God about it. Then I kept reading (which didn’t take too long at only seven verses, but the mind works pretty fast), and I found God’s reasons.
As it turns out, there were people in the camp who were slaughtering animals to make offerings to a false god. This Scripture calls these false gods “goat-demons” and says the people were prostituting themselves before them. After everything they have seen Yahveh Almighty do in their midst, I’m amazed they would even consider giving a sacrifice to a false god, but I’m also thinking they knew it was wrong since some were doing their sacrifices outside the camp. They’ve already received the commandments, and they know Yahveh is a jealous God, but I wonder how they could not know He is also an all-seeing God.
To prevent the people from being able to sacrifice to anything or anyone other than Their Holy Creator, God institutes a permanent regulation that all slaughters must take place at the door of The Tent of Meeting. My guess is that some people caught in the act of sacrificing to a false god might have tried to hide it by saying they were just preparing their offering for Adonai. But whether they lied about who it was for, or lied about why they had blood on their hands, performing the offering only at the door of the tabernacle and with the tabernacle priests would put a stop to the bad practices. It would also create a system of accountability.
The idea of accountability is helpful in everything from dieting and exercise to business and government. If we are only accountable to ourselves, we can eventually lose perspective. In the case of the tabernacle, the priests were accountable to the “high priest” who was accountable to God. The one(s) to whom you are accountable must be someone who truly cares to help you do the right thing. If a criminal is accountable only to other criminals, they will excuse his behavior rather than holding him to a higher standard. That’s why the people could not be accountable only to themselves.
As we walk and live for Christ now, we are living sacrifices and not just fodder. God looks on us and all we do with value. He saw us with enough value that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Now, after choosing to live for Him, we have our High Priest Yeshua to oversee us and offer accountability. We also have the accountability of God’s Holy Spirit living in us to guide us, so we don’t just run off trying to do things our own way.
I like the way The Message Bible talks about the living sacrifice from Romans 12:1-2…
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
And to close, let me give one more wonderful verse portion from Colossians 3:15-17 also from The Message Bible…
Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.
In Proverbs 21:31 (AMP), we are given the following wisdom…
The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but deliverance and victory are of the Lord.
So we do all we can to prepare to take a stand and to fight if necessary, but in reality, the battle against sin truly belongs to The Lord. Paul said he kept doing the things he didn’t want to do, and he kept failing when he tried to do the right things, because sin reigned in his mortal body. That doesn’t mean we quit fighting, but it does mean that it takes something (or Someone) greater than our personal self-control to wage and win this war.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 16:25 through Leviticus 16:34, we are still reading God’s instructions for the priest making atonement for the sins of Israel. We’re told that the man who takes the scapegoat outside the camp must wash his clothes and bathe before he can return to the camp. And then we’re told that the person who takes the hides and dung from the offerings and burns them outside the camp must also bathe and wash his clothes before he can return to the camp.
I see the verses above as a sort of physical representation of the symbolic steps we take as we change from who we are without Christ to who we will become with Him. These steps include confession (we saw that over the head of the goat yesterday), repentance, sending our sinful behaviors away from us, burning up any remnants of sin, and then washing our bodies and clothes (baptism) to show that we are fresh and new without even the smells of “old goat” or “smoke” of sin remaining on us.
And this walks us perfectly into the next part of today’s portion where we learn about The Day of Atonement on the tenth day of the seventh month. We learn that the community is to take a complete Sabbath on this day, and that atonement will be made to purify them. While this high holy day is prepared for with fasting, self-assessment of sins and weaknesses, confession and repentance, the day of Yom Kippur is a day of complete and total rest, and a day of self-denial. It is the actual day when the high priest would go into the Holy of Holies, and the congregation would wait in silence to see if he would come back out to them alive to declare their salvation.
In our lives today, we should not enter lightly into the atonement we have under the blood of Yeshua. Yes, He does all the work. Yes, His blood completely cleanses us. But to say we should not prepare for that holy moment would deny us of the knowledge of the awesome work Christ (our High Priest) does on our behalf. How can we value the depth of what He has delivered us from if we go in with our eyes closed and never look at the pit? How can we even know which side we’re on until we understand where the enemy occupies in his stand against our souls? Yes, Yahveh Almighty is The One who will win the victory for us; who has already won the victory through the blood of Christ, but let us prepare for the battle to stand for Him that we can cheer with everything in us when we hear His voice as He declares our salvation.
Do you realize that Hell was not actually made for people? According to Matthew 25:41, it was made for the adversary and the fallen angels. Personally, I don’t believe God has ever desired for any of those He created to suffer an eternity of torment, but the enemy chose to try and exalt himself above God and it’s unforgivable to know God and not recognize Him as God. But He has always wanted mankind to walk with Him as a friend. Someone even pointed out to me recently that when Adam and Eve were in the garden, they already had knowledge of good, so the reason God told them to stay away from the tree was to protect them from the painful knowledge of evil. But unfortunately, now that we have the knowledge, we often choose evil regardless of the end result.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 16:18 through Leviticus 16:24, we read of more instructions for Aaron to atone for the uncleanness in the camp of Israel. Because God wants to dwell with His people, He must find ways to bring cleansing to His altar and His people. Aaron will sprinkle blood on the altar to atone for it, and then he will change clothes and offer the sacrifices that will atone for the people.
We touched lightly on the 2nd goat yesterday, but today there’s a bit more detail on what is often called “the scapegoat.” Aaron must place his hands on the head of the 2nd goat, and he must confess all the transgressions, crimes, and sins of the people of Israel over the head of the goat. After that is done, he will send the goat away to the desert with a man appointed for that purpose. The goat will then bear away the transgressions of the people to an isolated place in the desert.
I may have mentioned this before, but when my nephews were little, I told them the story of sin using helium balloons. (It is my intention to put the story into an illustrated children’s book someday.) The balloons represented sins and things God does not want in our lives. I told them that if they didn’t let go of the balloons, they could be carried away by those sins. The blood of Christ gives us the ability to let go of our sins and let them be sent to Hell without us like the goat was sent to the desert without the people following. But if we choose to hang on to our sins instead of putting them under the blood, then when God sends the sins to Hell, we will go where they go.
As I said at the beginning, sending people that He created to a place of eternal torment has never been God’s perfect will. His word says in 2nd Peter 3:9 (and I love the way this reads in The Names of God Bible)…
The Lord isn’t slow to do what he promised, as some people think. Rather, he is patient for your sake. He doesn’t want to destroy anyone but wants all people to have an opportunity to turn to him and change the way they think and act.
So, when we are given the opportunity to repent and let go of our sins, let’s do it, so that we don’t follow them to a destination intended only for them and not for those God loves.
Now isn’t that title just a mouthful? Of course, I love words, and I have a thing for words that sound alike, but are spelled differently and have different meanings. They call them homophones, and the list includes many words that often get misspelled like there, their, and they’re; hear and here; to, too, and two, your and you’re; etc. I have challenged myself many times through the years to see how big a list of these I can make. I currently have over 400 sets and well over 800 words total, especially since so many of them have three to a set.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 16:1 through Leviticus 16:17, we begin a new portion for a new week, Parashah 29: Hebrew Acharei Mot meaning “After the Death.” This portion focuses on the requirements of Aaron before he is able to enter the Holy of Holies to meet with the presence of God. It begins by focusing on what not to do that got the sons of Aaron killed, and it explains that the rules apply because God’s presence is actually there in the Holy Place.
We’ve read the laws in previous portions but to summarize, there will need to be gifts from the community of Israel who will provide a bull, a ram, and two goats. Aaron will put on the priestly vestments, and then he will give a sin offering and a burnt offering, and he will cast lots over the goats to determine which will be for The Lord, and which will be for Az’azel. (Note: KJV translates this word as “scapegoat” but many are unsure what the word actually means.) After the blood sacrifices, Aaron will perform the other cleansing and praise rituals with the incense and the sprinkling of blood.
The important things in these behaviors are in Aaron doing whatever it takes to gain atonement for himself, for his household, and for the community of Israel, before he enters into the presence of God. The incense is to create a cloud over the Ark of the Covenant because God’s presence dwells there, and the smoke will keep Aaron from dying. Even though we now have the blood of Christ for our atonement, so we can come boldly before the throne of grace and mercy, I think heartfelt and sincere praise as we enter into the holy Presence of Yahveh Almighty is a valuable offering. I guess it’s like greeting someone you love with a kiss before you start making demands on them. 🙂
The verse that stood out to me today is verse 16 which reads…
He will make atonement for the Holy Place because of the uncleannesses of the people of Isra’el and because of their transgressions — all their sins; and he is to do the same for the tent of meeting which is there with them right in the middle of their uncleannesses.
Mostly, I noticed the fact that the tabernacle, which represents God and His presence, was right in the middle of the sins and unclean behaviors of God’s people. It makes me think of Psalm 40:2 (CEB)…
He lifted me out of the pit of death,
out of the mud and filth,
and set my feet on solid rock.
He steadied my legs.
I know God’s presence can stand right in the middle of sins and uncleanness now just as it did then. Because the blood of Christ covers our sin, even those in sin can now come boldly before the throne of grace. When we come into His presence bearing presents (fruits of repentance), God will reach into the pit of miry clay and pull us to safety. I’m watching Him perform a miracle right now in the life of my nephew that overdosed three weeks ago, and I’m believing that He will pull him out of that pit and raise him to new and clean places in His holy presence. And that’s worth any thank-you gift (any presents) I can give to Him.
When I was younger and a member of a small congregation, I took my turns with church cleaning duty because I believed it was a necessary sacrifice. It was odd to go to a larger church where they had a paid cleaning crew. Even though I’m not one of those who really likes to clean, I like the feeling of doing my part and being a part of everything.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 15:29 through Leviticus 15:33 (the end of the chapter), we finish the portion on being clean and unclean from leprosy and bodily discharges. The one thing I noticed that was different is the following statement from verse 31…
“In this way you will separate the people of Israel from their uncleanness, so that they will not die in a state of uncleanness for defiling my tabernacle which is there with them.”
I’m big on looking for the purpose in God’s laws because I am convinced that He never does anything without some reason that will ultimately benefit His creation. I loved reading this verse and seeing that His purpose in keeping Israel clean was to keep them from dying in a state of uncleanness and to keep the tabernacle pure. God is merciful, and He knows the end results of impurity. The biggest result of purity and cleanness though is being able to draw nearer to God because He will not dwell in the presence of sin.
I wonder sometimes if the people back then really understood why God wanted them to stay pure since so many of us now question why God wants us to do or not do certain things. As I’ve been reading all these rules since we’ve been in Leviticus, I’ve imagined both the frustration of the people when they didn’t understand the “why” of it all, and I’ve thought about the great mercy of God and how much He just wanted the people to trust Him. It’s not easy to just blindly trust, but that is the goal of putting our faith in Him–trusting that He always knows what’s best for keeping the church body clean and close to Him.
I love the times when reading something in the Torah, or other parts of the Old Testament, shines a new light on some message or story from the New Testament. On that note, I want to begin with the story about the woman with the issue of blood. The video above is the ApologetiX parody of Boston’s “More Than A Feeling,” and it’s called “More Than A Healing” which is exactly what happened to the woman in the short version of our story from Matthew 9:20-22…
20 And behold, a woman who had suffered from a flow of blood for twelve years came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His garment; 21 For she kept saying to herself, If I only touch His garment, I shall be restored to health. 22 Jesus turned around and, seeing her, He said, Take courage, daughter! Your faith has made you well. And at once the woman was restored to health.
And if you click here, it will take you to a page including all the texts with that story, (from Matthew plus from Mark 5:25-34 and Luke 8:43-48). In addition, the link gives parallel views of all verses in both The Complete Jewish Bible and The Amplified Bible.
Today’s Torah reading is from Leviticus 15:16 through Leviticus 15:28, and it speaks of more private things about discharges and uncleanness. There are many reasons why these things would not fare well in our current society, such as not being able to call into work sick because you are unclean due to spending some intimate time with your wife. To the extent of uncleanness in these verses, you would have to stay in and away from people if you even touched the bedding. But I’m certain there was more to it than we have available in current Scripture, and I think the advent of soap probably makes a big difference from those who could only bathe and wash their clothes in water to be cleansed.
But it’s the rest of the verses that brought light to the story I’ve included above. The remaining subject in today’s reading is all about when a woman is on her menstrual cycle. If you were a woman without soap, pads, underwear, etc., it was something better to endure by yourself because no one would be–or feel–clean around you. The laws made the woman unclean during her entire time plus seven days, and it made everything and everyone she came in contact with unclean as well. No one could touch her or her garments, and no one could sit where she sat or sleep where she slept without also being considered unclean.
So use what I’ve just spoken of, or read today’s portion for yourself, and then go back and read about the woman with the issue of blood. Now think about it. For twelve years this woman has not only been sick and bleeding, but she has also been considered unclean. No one would touch her, no one would sit with her, and no one would hold her, unless they were willing to be called unclean for a time. She was sick, tired, and completely alone. I imagine doctors tried to help her by prescribing medications, like whatever herbal remedies they normally gave to women who had issues with menstrual flow. The doctors likely did not actually examine her because it would have meant they had to spend the rest of the day as unclean. If they touched her menstrual flow, they would have had to be unclean for seven days. For her, this was a hopeless situation…until she heard about The Messiah.
I’m guessing that when the woman made her way into the crowd, they stepped away from her because they did not want to take a chance of touching her and becoming unclean themselves. The audacity that she would even try to get near the Messiah might have made them step between Him and her, so she would not touch Him and make Him unclean. (Ah, but they knew so little, right?)
When you read the story in The Complete Jewish Bible, you’ll see that what she reached for was not actually his robe, but the Hebrew word tzitzit which is the fringe on his prayer shawl. For a single man, the prayer shawl is long, so the fringe would have been closer to the ground and easier to reach for a weak, and possibly crawling, woman. But this daughter of Israel knew the promises of God’s word. Those pieces of fringe had knots in them that represented God’s promises to His people, including promises of healing. She may have reached for the fringe because it was easier to grasp, or because it was easier to get to without people stopping her, or she may have reached for the knot that promised her the healing she could not get from the hands of man. I believe that was the act of faith (trust in God’s promises) that brought her healing.
In spite of her fear of being condemned for touching another human being in her unclean state, this faith-filled woman was willing to take a chance because of all she would get as a result of stopping the plague that had been hers for far too long. With her healed body, the woman was not only reclaiming physical promises of strength and health, she was also reclaiming physiological strengths–being clean again, being able to socialize again, and being able to live and work among her peers again. This was more than a healing; it was a declaration of peace and joy for her future.
Are you afraid of germs? If so, are you just a little afraid, or are you afraid like Howie Mandel, John Travolta, and Monk? I used to love the way the character of Monk dealt with all the regular germs life deals out to us. He made it funny, but somehow, his craziness about it made me more aware of germs than I had been before. I think the acceptance of Mr. Monk might even have made it more acceptable for germophobic actors to do things they do like using a fist-bump instead of a handshake (Mandel) and wearing gloves in scenes where touching another’s skin is required (Travolta). Though much of germophobia is extreme, there are actually some biblical roots for wanting to keep yourself from all things unclean.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 14:54 through Leviticus 15:15, we move from the laws about leprosy to the laws about a person who has a discharge. The Scriptures state that even if the discharge is no longer flowing, any person who has a discharge is considered unclean. I’m guessing that even included a runny nose back then, and as I’ve said before, it’s because God knew about germs before we even had a clue they existed.
For those with a discharge, their unclean status affected their lives in many inconvenient ways. Not only were they considered unclean, but the clothes they put on were unclean, anything they sat on was unclean, and everything they touched was unclean. It was like a Midas touch of uncleanness. Beyond that, if someone touched them or their clothes, sat where they sat, or even carried their unclean belongings for them, they were unclean until the evening. Oh, and if an unclean person spat on you, there was no question that you would become unclean in the process. At least the uncleanness was not hopeless. Once a person’s discharge was cleared up, they could be declared clean again after a seven-day purification process and the sacrifices of sin and burnt offerings.
The image above may make germs look kind of attractive with its color and design, and I guess the germs we need to kill bad bacteria have their own kind of beauty, but germs–for the most part, are not pretty. And like “little sins” that can look fun and colorful on the outside, tiny germs can kill great creatures. If we were only as careful to wash our hands of every little sin the way we wash our hands of every little germ, we’d be far less apt to get caught up in something that can grow until it’s beyond our control. That first dip into temptation so often leads to that final deadly dose–be it deadly drugs, a drowning-in-alcohol liver, or the death of a marriage due to infidelity. Thankfully, God’s Spirit is the best antibacterial agent we know when it comes to the uncleanness of sin,
Have you ever visited an old building that left you feeling sick after your visit because of whatever was in the old walls? What about visiting somewhere (old or new) that left you feeling sick in your spirit because you just knew something unseen was there?
There are plenty of television series where people try to use fancy technology to discover what might be hiding in the walls of old places. Apparently, the idea that spirits might become attached or trapped in parts of old buildings is pretty intriguing to a lot of people. I think most people want it to be at least a little true to explain some spooky feelings they’ve had from their own chilling visits to places.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 14:33 through Leviticus 14:53, God is giving Israel instructions for when they move into the land of Canaan and take over houses already there. It starts by mentioning that if they go into a house where Yahveh put leprosy, they need to call the priest to examine it. It doesn’t make it clear when The Lord would have put leprosy there, but I’m guessing it would have been something done to former occupants that were enemies of Israel.
The portion tells the priest exactly what to look for to determine if there’s a contagious infection in the walls. Then, God tells the priest to remove any stones with infection and scrape off any plaster. After they replaster and then close the house up for seven days, if they come back to spreading stains, they are supposed to tear the house down completely and throw all its remains in an unclean place outside the city. If the stains don’t come back, they declare the house clean and perform a purification ceremony.
One of the things I really liked about moving into my current home was that I knew the former occupants, who had been living here for three years, spent a lot of hours in prayer and praise in its walls. I could feel the presence of God whenever I came over to visit with them, and I knew they were leaving me with a spiritually clean home. The last home I lived in did not have that same clean feeling when I moved in, but I wasn’t taught to search that out before buying, so it took me a few years to figure things out.
When we are forgiven of our sins, the wage of sin (death) is removed from us, but the consequences and side-effects may remain. For example, a woman who commits adultery or fornication and gets pregnant will not suddenly become un-pregnant just because she repents and is forgiven. In our daily failures, there may be times when, with God’s help, we must clean our lives of lingering side-effects that can inhabit our homes and/or lives. That’s why He gives us authority over the spirits of darkness.
While it’s nothing to boast about since it’s just housecleaning in the spirit realm, we can rejoice that God will strengthen us to do it even if we’re not the type that likes housecleaning much. We can also rejoice that when God placed us in The Lamb’s Book of Life, He gave us the tools and instructions for keeping our path toward Him free of the debris and remnants of sin that plagued us before we walked with Him. When we’re feeling sick in our spirits, it may be time to ask ourselves what’s in our walls, and then to start some spiritual housecleaning.
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