"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Focus on Leviticus - Part 1 of 2

This weekend I read eight short essays in a publication called Biblical Viewpoint: Focus on Leviticus. Each essay was written by a different author and I found some of their thoughts incredibly interesting. I can't share all of them or I'd be reproducing much of the book, however, I wanted to take note of a few of them for my own easy review. In the introduction page, the main theme of Leviticus is given:

"Holiness is essential for fellowship with God."

One of the authors suggested Leviticus was a series of object lessons. Indeed as you read through this book of the Law, you notice how involved it is. I had never thought of Leviticus as object lessons for the Israelites, yet I recall how often Jesus used parables to teach important truths. God as the Creator of the human mind knows our abilities to learn and grasp truths often comes easier when we can visualize things or learn them through stories. Perhaps this is one reason for using object lessons. I don't know, but it was an interesting thought to consider.

Here are some of the thoughts I enjoyed from this book along with a bit of commentary from me.

1. "Not only does God's law prohibit the worship of other gods, it also demands that man worship God according to God's revealed will and way. Throughout Scripture, acceptable worship and approach to God has centered on the blood sacrifice. Man's salvation was won by the atoning work of Jesus Christ and there is no other way to God apart from that sacrifice. Without the shedding of the precious blood of Christ, there is no forgiveness of sins and no possible fellowship with God. The cross of Christ is the essence of the Gospel. That is God's revealed way." (pg. 17 -- Michael P.V. Barrett)

I totally get that by John the Baptist's declaration when he saw Jesus, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!" (John 1:29)

Even Jesus said he came to give his life as a ransom for many (see Matthew 20:28, Mark 10:45) and declared himself the only way to the Father (John 14:6).

Yes, Jesus declared it is a narrow way which leads to life (Matt. 7:13,14) perhaps because man always wants to reach God in his own way rather than God's way. Perhaps even the "Lord, Lord have we not done...in your name" verses show how it is essential to not merely do good things in Jesus' name or God's name, but to come to God as He prescribed. In short, we come to God in God's way or not at all.

2. The author contrasted the acceptable fire vs. the fire of judgment which was Nadab and Abihu's demise since they brought "strange fire" to the altar and were killed. He writes, "These two characters stand as a warning to all who think that pedigree or religion are viable alternatives to God's exclusive way to life. Their father was Aaron, the High Priest, and their uncle was Moses, the great Lawgiver and leader of Israel. They had a great heritage. They themselves were religious and had enjoyed many of the external privileges of religion. ... Godly heritage and religious experience are not guarantees of spiritual life. It is possible to be in the middle of true religion and simply ride the tide without a vital personal relationship to the Lord." (pg. 23 -- Barrett)

Notice how relationship with God - not heritage, religion or good works - is essential!

3. "These laws [of cleanness and uncleanness] functioned as 'schoolmasters' to bring men to Christ (Gal. 3:24). They illustrated the depths of man's fallen nature and created within him a healthy abhorrence for sin. Through them the perceptive Israelite recognized his inability to abide by God's demands. Bereft of all personal sufficiency, he learned to cast himself on the mercy of God." (pg. 27 -- James Frederick Creason, Jr.)

Keep that in mind as you read this parable of Jesus in Luke 18 and notice which praying person was considered "justified" by Christ.

9To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10"Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'

13"But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'

14"I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

4. The author described how scholars have tried to make sense of why God set certain animals as clean and some as unclean. He briefly covered theories of symbolism/allegory ("'Sin is the ugliness and spitefulness of the camel; the burrowing, secretive, wily disposition of the coney, the rabbit, and the fox; the filthy sensuality of the hog...'"), hygienic (e.g.scavenger birds might carry diseases), cultic (pigs were sacred to the Canaanites, yet bulls were also, but the latter were "clean" so?), arbitrary and election.

About arbitrary rules, this author writes, "They tested Israel's willingness to obey, since God made no attempt to explain the purpose behind them. Israel was to conform to these laws because Yahweh was her God (Lev. 11:44); her obedience was in no way dependent on her understanding. Man's rebellious heart is repulsed by rules which appear to be arbitrary, even when these come from God Himself. When God had proved this truth sufficiently, He did away with the laws." (pg. 29 -- Creason)

Haaaaa! How I can relate to disliking arbitrary rules! So, yeah, I can see the point of God wanting to prove to us we like to rebel against laws we don't understand. Actually the author said this theory deserved some respect yet he seemed to like the election theory best of them all.

I have a bit more, but I think I will stop for now as this post is already longer than I thought it would be! It was short 'til I added my commentary. *ahem*



Niki said...

I like it. :-)

Susanne said...

Thank you, Niki! It's stuff probably many Christians already knew, but I didn't so it was a good read for me. Thanks for taking time to let me know you liked it.:)

Suroor said...

Interesting stuff there! Thanks for sharing.

Susanne said...

Suroor, at least maybe you can see why I say you have to take the whole message of the Bible and why I often refer back to the Jewish sacrifice system when explaining the importance of Jesus as the "perfect Lamb" and all that blood stuff. Nooooow I'm trying to make sense of all that YOU have shared with me about pre-Abrahamic religions' sacrifices and how that fits into things. :-)

But as far as understanding the Jewish system under Moses, this book of essays was helpful in showing me many things.

Thanks for reading.:)

Joni said...

Susie, that was really interesting! I especially appreciated the part about why God chose certain animals to be clean and others to be "unclean". I can relate to the 'arbitrary' part personally. :P

Susanne said...

Joni, thanks so much for taking time to read this. I found it helpful and hoped others would as well. I'm glad you can also relate to not liking arbitrary rules. We are rebels, huh? :-D