Thursday, May 28, 2015

Psalm 71: Age to Age

Psalm 71 tells the story of an older man (now in trouble) who reflects on his lifelong relationship with the Lord.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Leviticus 23: Holidays

In Leviticus 23, the Lord directed Moses to establish appointed festivals for the Israelites.  These were to be holy convocations in which the Jewish people came together to remember their heritage and celebrate their covenant with God.  Observant Jews continue to celebrate these occasions.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Leviticus 22: The Costliness Of Sacrifice

"You shall not offer anything that has a blemish, for it will not be acceptable on your behalf" (vs. 20).

Leviticus 21: Special Rules For Priests

Just as Israel was to be set apart and different from all the other nations around them, so, too, were their priests to be held to an even higher standard.  Leviticus 21 details some of the special rules that the priests were to follow in order to be holy enough to serve God.

Leviticus 20: God vs. Molech

If you think following God's rules is tough, be thankful that your god is not Molech!  (And be especially thankful that your parents' god wasn't!)

Leviticus 19: Rules Or Relationship?

Leviticus is full of rules, and this is especially clear in Leviticus 19.  Various laws are given (some re-given) concerning sacrificial offerings, sowing and harvesting, garment-making, sabbaths (twice in this chapter alone), eating blood, honesty in business practices, witchcraft, and tattoos, among other areas.  Why all the rules?  I thought this was a covenant relationship?

Leviticus 18: The Call To Be Different

I have observed two impulses within Christianity: the urge to be just like everyone else so that we are not viewed as "strange", "bizarre", or "old-fashioned", and the desire to be set apart in a way that differentiates us from non-believers.

Leviticus 17: Blood = Life

"For the life of every creature - its blood is its life...for the life of every creature is its blood" (vs. 14).

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Psalm 70: When You're In A Hurry

I noticed several interesting things about this short psalm.

Leviticus 16: Yom Kippur

"The Day of Atonement" is the holiest day of the year for Jews.  It is known as Yom Kippur.  Taking place in September or October (it moves because it is based on a lunar calendar), the day is a very solemn observance with fasting and worship.  The mood is much like the Good Friday experience for Christians, but even more somber.  It is based on the procedures laid out in Leviticus 16.

Leviticus 15: Next To Godliness?

The proverb, "Cleanliness is next to godliness," is often quoted by concerned mothers, but it is actually not in the Bible.  Readers of Leviticus 15, however, could be excused for believing that it is with the emphasis placed on "clean" and "unclean" dimensions of one's physical health.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Leviticus 14: The Joy Of Restoration

Leprosy was such a serious condition in the ancient world that exile from the community was a necessary prescription  to ensure its containment.  That is why a diagnosis of leprosy was so devastating.  It often meant the end of a individual's social connections and relationships.  When a person was healed, imagine how exhilarating it would be for them to re-join the community!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Leviticus 13: Department Of Public Health

The life of an Old Testament priest wasn't all burnt offerings and incense!  They were also responsible to monitor and determine such public health issues as leprosy and mildew.

Leviticus 12: The Original Maternity Leave

The Old Testament law touches upon all the major aspects of life.  Leviticus 12 explains what is supposed to happen after childbirth.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Leviticus 11: Distinctions

In ancient Israel, the law codified which animals were clean - and which were unclean.

Leviticus 10: Strange Fire

Some lessons are painful.  For Aaron and his family, a priestly transgression - following hard upon the heels of their ordination - cost the lives of his two oldest sons, Nadab and Abihu.  What happened?

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Psalm 69: A Prayer From Quicksand

I confess to getting a little claustrophobic whenever I read Psalm 69.  The psalmist's images include the sensations of falling into a pit, being dragged down into mire, and drowning.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Leviticus 9: The First Official Sacrifices

Firsts are always attention-getters.  The first time a baseball player gets called up for a major league game (i.e. "the show").  The first time a young person gets to take the car out after they get their driver's license.  The first time a child steps on the school bus for his first day of school.  The first time a lawyer argues a case in court.  The first time a young adult leaves home.

Leviticus 8: Why Not Moses?

Leviticus 8 describes the ordination of Aaron and his sons as priests for the nation of Israel.  Moses follows the procedure for ordination as previously laid out in Exodus 29.  Interestingly, Moses (not a priest) is the one who sprinkles the anointing oil, offers the sacrifices, and applies the blood.  He is unordained, but he leads the first ordination.  This made me wonder: why was Aaron and his line chosen to be priests - and not Moses?  Wasn't Moses the one in charge, the man who spoke with God as one speaks with a friend?  Why not Moses?

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Leviticus 7: A Portion For The Priests

Out of all the creatures in the world, God made humankind to be in special relationship with Him, being created in His image.
Out of all the human nations in history, God chose Israel to be a people in a special covenant relationship with Him.
Out of the twelve tribes of Israel, God selected the Levites to serve Him in a special role of devotion.
Out of the tribe of Levi, God ordained Aaron and his descendants as the ones to function as priests. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Leviticus 6: Repairing Relationships

One key to understanding the system of law and sacrifice in Leviticus is that it is designed to repair relationships - between the people and God as well as among the people themselves.

Leviticus 5: Unintentional Sins?

I used to work with a pastor whose definition of sin was: "An intentional violation of a known law of God."  Anything that didn't fit within that tight framework was not considered a sin.  However, what we find in the sacrificial system of Leviticus describes something out-of-bounds by that definition - unintentional sins.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Leviticus 4: Different Stokes For Different Folks

Leviticus 4 details the procedure for sin offerings - when an individual or group errs unintentionally and breaks a commandment of God.  While a sacrifice is always required for such an act, the prescribed offering differs depending upon who sinned unintentionally.

Leviticus 3: Types Of Sacrifices

You may have picked up by now that there are several different kinds of sacrifices described in the opening chapters of Leviticus.  Here are the five types and what they signify:

Monday, May 11, 2015

Leviticus 2: The Ingredients Of An Offering

Leviticus 2 discusses a second kind of offering - not an animal from the flock or herd, but agricultural produce from the field.  Just as Cain and Abel offered two different kinds of sacrifices in Genesis 4 (though one was accepted and one was not), so were these offerings still presented to the Lord in Aaron's day.  This chapter of Leviticus describes the ingredients of an acceptable offering of grain.

Leviticus 1: Burnt Offerings

"My wife thinks I'm a god."
"Really?  Why do you say that?"
"She serves me three burnt offerings every day!"

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Psalm 68: In Praise Of God

Psalm 68 is a love letter.  It contains the psalmist's unbridled enthusiasm and admiration for the God of Israel.   Whether reflecting on the deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery (vs. 7) or the conquest of Jerusalem (vs. 17), God's might is on display.  God's compassion, too, is praised as the "father of orphans and protector of widows" (vs. 5).  In the view of the psalmist, God's goodness and greatness is cause for worldwide worship and devotion (vs. 32).  Surely, our awesome God is worthy of praise!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Exodus 40: "As The Lord Had Commanded Moses"

Whichever translation of the Bible you are reading, you will probably see a phrase pop up again and again in this section of the book of Exodus.  In the NRSV, it is rendered, "As the Lord had commanded Moses."  (In the NIV, it's "as the Lord had commanded him.")  One of the key points about the construction of the Tabernacle is that the people faithfully followed God's instructions to the letter.

Exodus 39: Dressed To Kill

The sight of the priests in their special garments must have been stunning.  In a world where ordinary items like clothing were very plain, imagine how much the garb of the priests must have stood out!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Exodus 38: A Group Project

To build something like the Tabernacle requires participation from the whole community.  In this case, we see that the nation of Israel really did come together to construct God's tent to be in their midst.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Exodus 37: Sacred Objects

Bezalel gets to work in Exodus 37 constructing some of the holy furnishings for the Tabernacle.  Specifically, he is credited with building:

  • The Ark of the Covenant (vs. 1-9)
  • The Table for the Bread of the Presence (vs. 10-16)
  • The Lampstand (vs. 17-24)
  • The Altar of Incense (vs. 25-28)

He also makes the anointing oil and fragrant incense (vs. 29).

Throughout this chapter, you can see that Bezalel faithfully builds each item to the specifications laid out by God to Moses earlier in Exodus.  As it was revealed, so it is done!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Exodus 36: The First Capital Campaign

Exodus 36 records an event that is truly noteworthy: the first capital campaign in the history of God's people was conducted - and it was so successful that the people had to be restrained from giving any more (vs. 6)!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Psalm 67: The God For Everybody

Sometimes the Old Testament Jews could properly be accused of parochialism regarding their faith and especially God.  The scope of their vision was often that God was Israel's - and everybody else could just mind their own business.  Yet occasionally a broader picture breaks through and emerges of the Lord truly being the God for everybody, Jew and Gentile alike.  This wider vision is captured beautifully in Psalm 67.