Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Parthenon at night

Monday, February 6, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for Feb 7, Lev 19-21

Today's readings are Lev 19- 21.

Israel's instructions on how to live holy lives continue in Lev 19. Holiness extends to all of their interpersonal relationships with numerous references to the Ten Commandments as a reminder that they are in a covenant relationship with God. God demands their holiness and will transform His people into a holy people. This holiness encompasses, but also exceeds, the rituals prescribed in previous chapters. It will flow through every facet of their lives. In other words, their faith and religion are a way of life, not just something they do when they assemble for worship.

Beginning in Lev 19:23, we see a series of cautions regarding pagan cultures and practices. The fruit of the Promised Land (Canaan) is forbidden until it is grown by God’s people, offered to God then allowed to multiply. This is a five-year process (Lev 19:23-25). It is also a metaphor for sanctifying the land.

Lev 29:26-28 warns against pagan worship practices, particularly those devoted to mourning or worship of the dead. Note, the phrasing in Lev 29:28 prohibits taking tattoos as an act of worship to pagan gods. 

Lev 19:29-31 prohibits occult practices while the following verses deal with hospitality and integrity in business dealings.

Likewise, Lev 20 must be read in the context of the pagan religious practices that dominated the day. God is serious about making Himself the primary influence and focus of His people and their lives. God's people are set apart and are not to indulge in any activity that may be construed as honoring other gods or worshiping oneself more than God. 

The priests have to be exemplars of holiness (Lev 21). They are the ones that set the standard the people are to emulate. God gives them even stricter guidelines than the others. They must remain pure and conduct themselves with the highest level of integrity in everything they do. Strict obedience to everything God tells them is a requirement of ministry. Still, the work of sanctification is accomplished in and through God, it is not achieved by their behavior (Lev 20:9).

In time, it will become apparent that even the priests are human beings and subject to the same propensity to stumble as everyone else. As that human weakness continues to expose itself, God will continue to faithfully show them that while there may be real-world consequences for violating His commandments, His grace will flow in abundance. God is not trying to fashion perfect priests, He is trying to set before them His own character and nature.

All of these commandments and guidelines are not meant to merely make God's people behave in a nicer manner than other people. They’re not intended to be a self-improvement program, making them better human beings. They are being put into place to demonstrate God's standards for His covenant. His standards must be met for them to have a relationship with Him.

As time goes on, it will become evident that no one can meet those requirements. Israel will, time and again, fail.  God will, just as frequently, forgive and redeem them. God is not expecting them to be perfect. What He is looking for is a desire in them to please Him, a desire to enter deeper into their relationship with Him. If their hearts are turned toward Him, He will, in His grace, supply the perfection He demands. God provides the guidelines right here in Leviticus, not to change His children's behavior, but to show them they need a savior!

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