Welcome to the beginning of your journey through Leviticus! I wonder how you are feeling about it, and how you are feeling about the passage you have just read. Spoiler alert – it is only one of the first seven chapters that deal with different sacrifices Israel was to bring to God. Perhaps that causes quite a deep intake of breath? We do pray that, together with the messages on a Sunday evening, these notes might help you to digest some of what you read, that you would learn more and more about the character of God and His desire to have a relationship with you, and that you would reflect on how these chapters can be applied to your own walk with God, so that your worship to Him would be transformed. We hope that behind the detail and the criteria of the sacrifices you find a God who is making a path from His throne to His people in a way that is ultimately preparing a way for the Cross. Furthermore we hope you recognise that from the outset the criteria for these offerings is designed so that everyone, whether poor or rich, whether they are bringing their offering from the ‘herd or the flock’, the cattle, the goats or the birds, can bring a ‘pleasing aroma to the Lord’, so long as they bring the very best of what they have. Lastly, it should be recognised that in these verses the entirety of the sacrifice is offered up to God. The Israelites have thus far experienced a fantastic journey with God; their deliverance from Egypt, and the building of the tabernacle. God is now imprinting on their hearts His expectation for their whole hearted devotion. The challenge that comes from these verses should be more spiritual than intellectual. How ready are we to give the best that we have in every part, completely sacrificially and whole heartedly to serve the God who delivered us from slavery to sin, through His son. Please pray God would help us to do this.
Leviticus: Holy Living
There are some recurring themes in today’s passage which I hope serve to remind us of God’s inclusive invitation to those who would turn to Him. In today’s class structured society it might be easy for us to perceive a hierarchy in the sacrifices we have read about so far, and to see today’s grain offering as a ‘poor relation’ to the herd and the flock. However the character of our Lord Jesus Christ teaches us this is not His perception of His people’s offerings. His commending of the poor widow’s offering (Mark 12: 41-43), and the sinful woman who prepared Him for burial with her expensive alabaster flask (Luke 7: 36-50) testify that the true pleasing aroma to our God is that of a true worshipper. The true worshippers in today’s passage engage in rituals, not for their own sake, but which demonstrate that the Lord is central to every activity in their lives, every single day. The offerings here speak of gratitude for all the Lord has provided. The labour of His servant’s hands are being worked in worship to Him and the right portion of what He has provided is being returned to Him. The application and challenge here might be regarding our own daily work and labour, whatever it might be; how often do we consider it an act of worship and thanksgiving to our God? Do we stand out as His holy people in the way that we conduct our lives?
It is difficult to unpack some of the theology in these chapters in Leviticus, and many commentaries offer different explanations for the instructed absence of honey and yeast in these offerings. Perhaps many of those bringing these offerings, with all their criteria, knew less of the why than the how, but this was not to diminish their obedience. Is that another application we can take into our lives? Do we have to understand in order to exercise strict obedience to our God? Or can we trust the God who has been anxious to protect the wellbeing of our soul to the point of sacrificing His very own son for our eternal salvation. Pray that you would learn to obey the Lord more each day, and to settle for understanding only when God sees fit to reveal it.
So far, the sacrifices we have read about are those that can be termed ‘freewill’ offerings. That is to say they are offered voluntarily and often spontaneously as acts of worship and thanksgiving, that are simply responsive to God’s unending goodness. Today’s ‘peace offering’ falls into the same ‘freewill’ category, and when read together with the Lord’s instructions for those parts not to be burnt on the altar (Leviticus 7: 11-21), this offering speaks volumes of how God was transforming this offering into a blessing for His people; the blessing of community. Those parts that were not burnt at the altar were to be enjoyed in fellowship on the first and second days of the offering. In Leviticus 2 we also read that a significant portion of the grain offering was to be enjoyed by the priests in fellowship with one another. God is continually extending the invitation for fellowship, and making it integral to the sacrificial rituals He establishes. The spirit of this Old Covenant fellowship is reinforced throughout the New Testament and New Covenant, particularly in regard to the Lord’s Supper. Paul rebuked the church at Corinth for how divisive they allowed the Lord’s Supper to become, and implored them to transform this into an inclusive celebration the Lord would be happy to preside over. Those who witness our spontaneous responses to God’s unending goodness should feel an invitation rather than an exclusion to enter into His fellowship. Pray that God’s abounding love would flow through you to others in a way that continually builds and strengthens His Kingdom here on earth.
We now move from ‘freewill’ offerings to absolutely essential acts of atonement. In the previous chapter (Leviticus 3: 5) we learn that the peace offering could only be made on top of the burnt offering, emphasising that freewill offerings could only be accepted, and indeed enjoyed, if a broken relationship with the Lord had been restored. We will see from the passages over the next few days that there are many ways in which our relationship with God needs continually restored, both at an individual and corporate level. However we should also see in these passages that it always the Lord who provides the way for restoration, and has ultimately done so at the Cross. When we are overwhelmed by the guilt and shame of our sin we often feel at a loss as to how we can restore our relationship with God. We sometimes forget that the only way has already been provided and accomplished by our Lord Jesus Christ. Reassurances are offered in today’s passage that when the Israelites sacrificial offerings met the requirements ‘the priest shall make atonement for them, and they shall be forgiven’. We can be reassured that the atoning blood of Jesus Christ meets all requirements for restoring our relationship with God, as we know that ‘if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and will purify us from all unrighteousness’ (1 John 1: 9). Pray that God would help you to confess your sins to Him continually, and if need be to others, so that you will be built up in His grace, shining His righteousness.
This chapter continues to detail how sin is to be dealt with throughout the hierarchy of Israel (the hierarchy relating to positions of leadership rather than positions of class). We learn that the sacrifices of the intermediaries between God and his people had to be greater. How clearly this points to the perfect sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ who acts as our intermediator to a holy God. We are also reminded that the offering achieves complete forgiveness, and therefore a restoration of the Israelite’s relationship with God. This is what the Lord’s sacrifice has accomplished for us. In John 1: 16-17 we read “For from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ”. The grace of God poured out through a perfect blameless sacrificial lamb that was the Lord Jesus Christ; He is our hope and our salvation if we would put our trust in Him! These sacrifices should help us realise the serious nature of our sin, be it of a leader, a congregation or an individual. What a gracious God we serve who in His love and mercy would find a way to deal with our sin in a way which only required us to take a step of faith into His kingdom. Put your trust in the Lord Jesus anew this day. Pray with the Psalmist “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139: 23-24).
So far, in these ‘acts of atonement’, we have learned that the sacrifices of the intermediaries had to be greater; that the sacrifice accomplished complete forgiveness; and that it is always the Lord who provides the way for our reconciliation (i.e. it is never something we can think up ourselves!) We can also learn from these sacrifices that they deal with the consequences of our sin. Sin is never only an individual matter. It has consequences not only in our relationship with God but in our relationship with others, and ultimately in the community we live in (including the community of believers). In fact there is an interpretation of the passages we have read so far that the purpose of the blood was to cleanse the temple as well as the individual. The Lord Jesus tell us “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5: 16). The acts of atonement are not only concerned with the forgiveness of the individual who commits the sin (although praise God, the Cross does so in abundance!), but also with bringing into perfection the community that should resemble His kingdom on earth, and even the place where they worship. Remember that our sin affects our witness to the world, as we cannot be light to the world if we are living in darkness. Pray that you would bring every part of your life into the light, where His love and grace abounds and can shine through us.
Today’s sacrificial ‘guilt offering’ relates to sins regarding ‘any of the holy things of the Lord’ (v.15) and sins relating to the ‘Lord’s commandments’ (v.17). A skim of Exodus from chapter 35 onwards paints God as quite the interior designer in his instructions regarding the tabernacle and the tent of meeting. God took the contributions of his people (Exodus 35: 4-10) to create the place of worship where His people would come with these sacrifices to seek forgiveness and reconciliation. The tabernacle and all that was within it was precious to God, perhaps partly because of the labour and gifts of His people that went into it. What could the ‘holy things of the Lord’ be in our lives? How can we use all that the Lord has provided in service to Him, by viewing them ‘the holy things of the Lord’?
The second half of this passage speaks of sin relating to the ‘Lord’s commandments’. If you are able take some time just now to read Exodus 20 (the Ten Commandments) and reflect and how they make you feel. The law, given through Moses, is given to make us feel that way; to expose the things in our life that separate us from a holy God. In the absence of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the Israelites had some criteria to meet in their sacrifices in order to let go of the guilt attached to any of the sins we have discussed. The disciples, realising their hopeless position in regard to the law said to the Lord: “then who can be saved?” (Mark 10: 26), to which the gracious response came: “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10: 27). Praise God again today that He has made all things possible, especially the forgiveness of sins, through the precious blood of His son Jesus Christ.
You may be feeling ‘off the hook’ in relation to today’s passage. You can reflect on the past week and think “Well I haven’t robbed anyone, so I’ve had nothing to swear falsely about, and I didn’t find and keep anything that didn’t belong to me, and so I’m on pretty good terms with the people that I had fellowship with today at church, that part of Leviticus I like!” Sometimes we like to check boxes and feel we’re doing well, rather than explore the character of God behind the verses and allow ourselves to be challenged just a little. Remember God, through Moses, is speaking to the community of Israel, a community that is to be set apart as God’s people. United by the blood of Christ we should see ourselves as the same community, set apart as a resemblance of His kingdom on earth. Part of what that should mean is that our dealings with one another should be full of integrity, grace and love. In Luke 19: 1-10 we see how an encounter with Jesus Christ led Zacchaeus to return ‘fourfold’ all he had taken from others, not out of a detailed consideration of the criteria of the law, but as a loving response to a gracious Saviour who had extended an invitation to dine with Him and his friends. Pray that we would be a community that people are drawn to, set apart in our dealings with others, which should be continually marked with respect for others time, resources and property.
I don’t know about you, but I often spare a thought for the priests when reading these passages. I mean, they had a messy job! They had to deal daily with the blood and the carcasses of the sacrificial animals. They had to know which parts were for the altar and which parts weren’t. They had to know what to wear and where and when. Once the sinner had done their part it was really on the priests to ensure the sacrifices were acceptable to God. So we arrive at today’s passage with yet more criteria for burnt offerings that had to be overseen by the priest, and the key instruction seems to be ‘keep the fire burning’. It is helpful to remember here that fire had been a sure sign of God’s presence amongst His people at various points. God revealed himself to Moses in a burning bush, and to his people at Mount Sinai with a burning cloud of fire. Sometimes when we are so busy trying to get everything right we cannot see God or feel His presence in the midst of it. However, at the centre of the priest’s obedience and diligence, God, through the fire, was revealing His presence, His nearness and His acceptance of their offering. Commentator Derek Tidball states that the fire of God can be ‘comforting, warming, refining, purifying and terrifying’ all at once’. Whatever combination of these the priests felt while the fire continued to burn they recognised that it was the presence of God in the midst of their service. Pray that God would be the fire in your heart, and that you would know His presence as you seek to serve Him and do His will in your life.
I wonder if it might be helpful to look at today’s passage from the perspective of the symbolism we attach to our own faith. When we commit our lives to Christ we usually like to symbolise it in some way, and we are instructed to do so through baptism. We might even choose to wear a cross. We meet together to share the bread and the wine to remind ourselves of all Christ has done for us, and even to make a fresh commitment to serve Him each week. When we get it wrong we humbly pray to God for His forgiveness, and claim the grace that is offered through Christ. That is a helpful perspective with which to read todays passage. The grain offering, which we first encountered in chapter 2, had many purposes. As one of the ‘free will’ offerings, it could be made as an expression of reverence, a commitment of allegiance, a tribute to a gracious God, an offering of the first fruits of a person’s labour, a memorial offering to remember all God had done for the people of Israel and the individual worshipper. We are reminded that the priests shared a significant portion of it together in fellowship and thanksgiving. We are also told that a similar grain offering, in its entirety, was to be offered at a priest’s inauguration. It is clear from the passage that this is not a small insignificant tribute. It is a commitment, to be carried out with very specific instructions. Our own tributes in our walk with God are equally significant, particularly where they are instructions from God through scripture. Pray that God would give you a fresh perspective of the significance He attaches to your routines that He has established: baptism, communion, prayer.
Well done, you are half way through the week, still accessing these reflections, and nearing the end of instructions regarding different kinds of sacrifices. You might well read today’s passage and think ‘thank goodness for that!’. I trust that you are finding the goodness and faithfulness of God in these chapters, and I hope that you see how clearly they point to Jesus Christ on the cross. Today’s passage is no exception. The crucial point we can take from today’s passage is the blood of the sin offering was not taken lightly. It was significant to God where the blood even accidentally dropped, and what it dropped on. Even in Levitical times the blood was precious. I wonder, do we call upon the blood of Jesus so often that we take less time to appreciate how precious the blood of Jesus is. It is of course difficult for us to fathom the reality of what it meant for Jesus to go to the Cross, and as His blood essentially drops on each one of us, how precious we are to Him. Blood reminds us how costly the grace we seek and receive daily was to our heavenly father, when He produced the necessary sin offering for our atonement. As you bring your prayer requests for grace before God today, in all confidence that He will forgive you, take a moment to try to comprehend, and give thanks for the cost Jesus was willing to pay to make a way for us to the Father.
What does God reveal about himself in today’s passage? More of His faithfulness, more of His goodness, and further: the fact that God provides abundantly for those who serve Him. The priests were allowed to eat a significant proportion of the animal sacrifices. In fact one commentator suggests that the priests could not have lived on mere sporadic occasional offerings of the Israelites, and were not intended to do so. The offerings needed to be regular. It is an interesting interpretation and application to consider that this passage teaches us something about how we should financially support those who serve us in ministry. This is reinforced in the New Testament in 1 Corinthians 9: 13-14 where Paul tells us: “Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel”. In Leviticus we will read passages about tithes, and more about what the Israelites needed to offer up to the Lord, and we may be challenged in terms of our own discipline of giving, or consider how sacrificial our giving is. However, more than a lesson in discipline and giving we can see God’s instructions on giving as an opportunity to be a stronger community, to be a part of the resourcing of God’s work in this community, through what He does through His church. Praise God!
True thankfulness is accompanied by true obedience in today's passage. There is no diminishing of standards for an offering of thanksgiving compared with any other offering. This sacrifice was to be given whole heartedly by the Israelites. In fact if they were to let standards slip in any way in this offering it might‘not be accepted’, the bringer might still ‘bear his iniquity’ (v.18.), and further still an Israelite might have been ‘cut off from his people’(v.20.). The passage teaches us the joy and the importance of bringing to God our thanksgiving, which we should offer up just as fervently as our prayers of petition for others, and our prayers for forgiveness for ourselves. His goodness, His faithfulness, and His provision is what gives us confidence in all other things, and before all other things we should give Him thanks for this. Let's pray that in the details of our everyday lives, we would be just as diligent in our thanksgiving as the Israelites were required to be in their offering.
Saturday & Sunday, 19th & 20th September - Leviticus 1-7
Leviticus 7: 37-38 brings to a conclusion the instructions regarding the different sacrifices the Israelites were to bring to the Lord. I hope that each day we have learned something new about the character of God through these passages. They teach us that devotion to God means wholehearted obedience, which should work into the details of our everyday lives. We have learned how inclusive His invitation is no matter how meagre our offering might seem (2:1-16). Throughout these passages it is evident that the Lord is strengthening His community through these rituals (3: 1-17, 11-21), and the passages demonstrate what it means to be part of His community (6:1-7). Even in Levitical times we can see that there is absolutely nothing that the worshipper could do to restore their relationship with God, it was always God who provided the way (4: 1-21). Furthermore the way that He provided accomplished complete forgiveness and dealt with the consequences of any sin an Israelite committed (4: 22-35, 5: 1-13). Even the place of worship was protected in all the requirements for sacrifices (5: 14-19), and the priests were provided for in the offerings (7: 1-10). Lastly we learned that there was no hierarchy of offerings (sin, guilt, peace, or thanksgiving), they all had to be treated with equal importance. The countless sacrifices of different kinds with different requirements may have seemed confusing at times over the past two weeks. Isn’t it amazing that only one sacrifice, one time accomplished all of these things once for all. Through Jesus sacrifice our relationship with God can be restored, our sins forgiven, and the consequences dealt with. Bought with the blood of Christ we are His community, and we can give Him praise and thanksgiving in abundance. Praise God!
This week we move on from the different sacrifices, to the ‘manual of priesthood’ that was to be given to Aaron and his sons. In today’s passage imagine yourself part of the congregation of Israel, assembling at the entrance to the tent of meeting (v. 4), to witness the most spectacular ordination of your leaders, your intermediaries to God. It is the moment that Aaron and his sons are transformed from ordinary people to extraordinary servants. You watch your service leader (Moses) wash, dress and anoint Aaaron’s family in front of you all. The ritual sacrifices of the priests are made in the appropriate order in front of you, and the tabernacle itself is anointed. You have lost all track of time as the spirit of God has you entranced in the significance of what is taking place. It is quite mind blowing! They might be washed and dressed, but they’re not quite ready. The service closes with the priests entering the tent of meeting, instructed not to return to the congregation for seven days. They needed to grow in holiness before they rushed into service. Even Jesus needed to be prepared for His earthly ministry by 40 days (not 7!) in the dessert. Similarly the disciples were instructed to wait in Jerusalem after the ascension for the promised Holy Spirit before their work could begin. Pray that in your desire to serve God, you would be patient for His calling and patient in preparation, so that you would be fully equipped to glorify God in your service.
In today’s passage we read about Aaron’s first day in office. The assembly of Israel has been waiting in great anticipation for Aaron and his sons to emerge from the tent of meeting after the required period of ordination (8: 35). To say that Aaron’s first day was a ‘baptism of fire’ would be a slight understatement! Moses, Aaron and the congregation are informed that ‘today, the Lord will appear to you’ (v.4). How much do we seek an encounter with God in our worship, and our obedience? The Israelites were to prepare to encounter their God, the object of their worship, not from a distance, but among them. They were to learn this day how holy and how gracious the presence of God among them was. God consumed their offerings in holy fire among them, demonstrating his acceptance of their offering and His dwelling among them. Their response was complete submission. The holiness and grace of God has appeared to us more fully in the person of Jesus Christ. In John 1: 14 we read “The word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth”. In this series on ‘Holy Living’, I pray that a deeper understanding of His holiness, helps you to further comprehend His grace, as he dwells in our hearts daily.
Little speculation for the causes and roots of Nadab and Abihu’s disobedience will be offered in today’s reflection, except that the ‘unauthorised fire’ was in fact disobedience and did not glorify God. This passage should challenge us that our intentions in our service and offerings of worship should always be to glorify God, and not to diminish His holiness. Verses 6-7 may seem incredibly harsh as Aaron and his family are prohibited from grieving, but even in his grief Aaron was to learn to put service first. He was to set an example to all of Israel that portrayed his acceptance that God had acted justly. Aaron now understood that the example to be set could not be sloppy, but had to fully respect and honour a holy God. This was a lesson taught by Jesus in Luke 12: 48 when we read “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more”. This chapter ends with conflicting interpretations between Moses and Aaron over how Nadab and Abihu’s offering should be dealt with. Moses felt it should be consumed by the newly ordained priests to complete the offering, but Aaron was exercising caution fearing the events of the day may have made the offering unclean, his priority in his grief is still to honour God. Perhaps our response in prayer should be in the words of Matt Redman:
“Blessed be Your name, when the sun’s shining down on me, when the world’s ‘all as it should be’, blessed be your name. Blessed be your name on the road marked with suffering, though there’s pain in the offering, blessed be your name”
The next five chapters in Leviticus detail what are often referred to as ‘purity laws’, and this particular chapter relates to ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’ animals. Although the distinctions might be difficult to understand, they certainly do not refer to regrets God had in certain aspects of His creation. Diet was just going to be one of the many ways that God was going to set apart His people from the general population. If you’ve ever had a vegetarian or a vegan friend for dinner, then as their host you will completely understand that their lifestyle requires your menu to be different, and to take into consideration their abstentions. Similarly God wanted His people to be distinguished by what they did and did not eat. The Israelites needed to resemble God’s holiness and in fact a ‘simple’ diet made this an attainable reality rather than an abstract ideal. Verse 45 demonstrates that obedience to these purity laws was to be a response to God’s grace. If they thought for a second ‘why?’, the response “For I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall be holy for I am holy” should have been more than a sufficient response! Of course these laws are obsolete with the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, who himself tells us that “there is nothing outside a person, that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him”. Indeed Paul tell us that “whatever you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God”. We are still His distinct people, and we are to be Holy (set apart) as He is Holy, but we accomplish this through our resemblance of Christ, and our response to His grace.
Today the ‘purity laws’ refer to purification after childbirth. They may seem outrageous, but perhaps if we try and separate them from the connotations we may have about what it meant to be ‘unclean’, they will seem less outrageous, and reveal more of the gracious character of God. If you were ‘unclean’ you were essentially not in a fit state to take part in worship. In this sense we could perhaps view this passage as God’s protection of the vulnerable, and his providence of time to recuperate before taking part in active worship. The sin offering to be given afterwards then would be to cover the time of absence from worship, rather than the act of giving birth to a child. The connotation of ‘unclean’ with ‘sin’ is also incorrect and unhelpful here. The fact that Mary undertook the purification ceremony after the birth of Jesus (Luke 2: 22-24) should rid us of any notion that God seen the birth of a child as sinful! There were just appropriate and inappropriate ways to approach the temple and take part in worship and they referred to physical as well as spiritual matters. We can therefore assume that, whatever the reason, the distinction in time needed for purification between a boy and a girl, was equally gracious, and reflective of a caring loving Father looking to protect the physical and spiritual wellbeing of mother and child. Pray that where you do not always understand Gods intentions, you would trust in His provision and grace.
In Leviticus 19 we find the origin of ‘love your neighbour as yourself’. The fullness of meaning of ‘holy living’ can be discovered here as we realise it is not only a private individual pursuit, but is traced in social relationships; ‘holiness’ is not just inward, but outward; ‘holiness’ was the mark of a community, and not just the individual. In order for a healthy society to function as God intended the family and the church are to play a crucial part, hence the people are reminded to honour their parents and honour the Sabbath. Idols are to be repudiated. Israel should not need to make images of God, because they were made in His image, and in the fulfilment of these laws resembled His character. The poor were to be remembered and provided for in this community. Holiness was to involve generosity. We read about friendship that should be marked with integrity, justice, love and absence of exploitation. Respect for others was to include the disabled, the elderly, business associates in the marketplace and immigrants. In all of this the Israelites were reminded of the slavery they had been delivered from, the ‘sojourners’ they had been in the desert, and of course the God who rescued them. ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ in this context is not carried out by the Israelites legalistically, but in response to God’s love and grace in their lives. Pray that God would reveal a deeper meaning of ‘holy living’ to you today, and that your own pursuit of it would flow outward from God’s love and grace in your life.
A fuller understanding of this passage should convey a tone of an overwhelmingly concerned father, watching His children about to enter a perilous, dangerous territory; a territory where people worshipped false gods and even sacrificed their children to them; a land where people turned to every form of idolatry rather than worship the true and living God. Even though He had given His distinct holy people every kind of instruction to set them apart, He understood their frailty and their weakness, and to protect them He makes them fully aware of the consequences of failing to follow His decrees. We, like the Israelites are set apart as God’s holy people. The land we live in is full of every kind of idolatry, and we are called to be different. Pray that God would protect you from the traps and pitfalls of this world, that would make us forget that there is only one true and living God, and that we will only truly prosper if we know and serve him.
Against passages like todays in Leviticus the challenge of ‘holy living’ can seem an impossible standard. In these two chapters we read of the higher standard that was required of the priests; standards that involved their personal affairs and relationships, standards that involved their physical appearance, and standards that involved their professional conduct. We live in a society that set’s its own standards, that measures itself against itself, and that provides very few strong examples that we can follow in our own pursuit of holy living. As Christians we look to the church to provide these examples, and through Israel’s leadership God was trying to provide them to His people. God wanted His appointed leaders to exalt their relationship with Him above all other relationships. He did not want standards in worship and offerings to slip over the passage of time. He did not want the priests to forget their privileged position in terms of the access they had to His presence. If they could internalise the laws on their hearts, and always remember the significance of their rituals, then their descendants could start to comprehend the perfect example that is in Christ Jesus, in the life that He lead, in the work that He did, and in the sacrifice that He made on the cross. Pray that God would help you to put Him above all else, to pursue holiness vigorously in your personal and professional life, and to turn daily to Jesus in thanksgiving and humility, praising Him for meeting the standard we couldn’t possibly hope to!
The next set of instructions that Moses was to bring to the people of Israel was regarding the feasts and celebrations that would mark the Jewish calendar. Mere mortal men have added and detracted to this over the centuries, but here we have God with his Filofax setting out how and when His people would rest, how they would remember their deliverance from Egypt, how they would acknowledge and return His provision, how they would remember His covenant with them, seek His forgiveness, and regularly reconnect with both their God and His community. God was seeking to bless them throughout all of this so that they would keep trusting, keep acknowledging Him, keep growing stronger, and keep accepting with thanksgiving all that He was providing. It was not a calendar for their time in the dessert, but for their time in the Promised Land they had not yet entered. It is therefore a passage full of promises for the life they are about to enjoy in fulfilment of the promises He had made them. Pray that God would protect you from becoming complacent, and that you would acknowledge daily all His goodness to you, and that you would daily look to the cross and be reminded of His grace that is new every morning.
This chapter is concerned with a lamp that should continually burn, bread that should be continually replenished and the name of the Lord that should be revered and honoured. We move from annual festivities, to daily and weekly routines, reminding us that our service to Him should not be calendar based but ingrained into our daily lives. These acts of service would have reminded the Israelites that God’s light shines in a dark world, that He provides for the hungry, and that He is always with them. In John’s gospel (8:12, 6:35) Jesus claims that He is the ‘light of the world’ and the ‘bread of life’. Part of the challenge of ‘holy living’ is to let His light shine before others, and to proclaim the ‘bread of life’ that He offers. The words of Jesus “You give them something to eat” (Matthew 14:16) should resonate in our hearts as we come into contact daily with those who desperately need to be nourished by the grace and truth offered in Christ. Lastly, our routines and our calendar may barely resemble what we read in Leviticus, but our God remains sacred. However we commemorate the sacrifice He made, may He always be at the centre of our lives and our service, in a way that brings honour and glory to His holy name.
Instructions for holy living in this passage involve the livelihood of God’s people. God was making His way into every corner of their lives, imploring them to learn to trust Him. If they would just trust Him and obey Him they would learn what it means to truly prosper. There was no risk involved. He would provide. While He done so His creation would recover naturally from years of toil, the poor and destitute would be provided for abundantly, and His people would be blessed with a time of rest and restoration. In the year of Jubilee they would be reminded that nothing was truly theirs, but simply in their possession by the grace of a holy God. In obedience to all His instructions economic exploitation would be prevented, and debilitating dehumanising debt would be removed. In obedience mercy would triumph over what people ‘deserved’ or had ‘worked for’. If trusting and obedient hope would be kept alive in times of despair as the Israelite people looked forward to the year of Jubilee that was bound to come around at least once in their life time. There is an abundance of challenges here. Does our holy living embrace our economic decisions and not just our church activities? Do we rely too much on human effort rather than rest and trust God? Do we allow mercy to triumph over what we believe people owe us? Is our lack of reliance on God leading to an obsession with ‘things’? Is our hope being kept alive as we look forward and upward to Christ? These may seem like hard decisions, but pray that God would convict you to knowing that it is only by this kind of trust and obedience that we will truly prosper.
In this chapter we learn what characterises those who walk near with God, what characterises those who do not, but most importantly the mercy that characterises God. With destinies of two very different paths laid out so clearly in this passage, the only logical choice seems to be to walk as closely with God as possible. Only then will people be content with all God has provided, and be free from worry as they experience His protection and witness His victory over the enemy. The absence of such assurance is too much to bear. To lack God’s protection and His peace; to experience constant defeat in health, family and work; to be alienated from the community we were created to be a part of: this is to know separation from God. We have all known it at some point in our lives. However we also know that mercy triumphs over judgement, and that through Christ we are now characterised as a people who know the nearness of God by grace. For it was always His desire to dwell among us, by pouring the judgement that we should bear on Christ at the cross. Give thanks to God for all the blessings we know in our lives because of what Christ did.