Leviticus, Jesus Paid it All, All to Him I Owe

I must admit, I was dreading reading Leviticus. What am I going to write about in Leviticus? Now, after reading it, I have so much I could write about but don’t have the time to get it all in. I was surprised that many of the issues brought up in my last blog were directly addressed in Leviticus.

 “You must be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.” Lev. 19:2 NLT

Holy God. Sinful people.

How can the two coexist? Rebellion and sin won’t be tolerated in the presence of the Almighty Holy God. But then, what can God do with a people terrified of him? If God is executing his justice left and right (which he did) as his people flagrantly sin (which they did) then the people will panic and will be driven even further away from him. Then the intimacy that he desires to have with his people is compromised by their sheer stark terror for their lives. As you can see, this is a huge problem!

In Leviticus, God is now enabling Israel, giving them the tools they need, to be in relationship with a holy God.

The Sacrificial System

This practice of connecting the butchering of animals to worship had it’s origins with God. He was the first to sacrifice an animal to clothe Adam and Eve and somehow Abel knew to bring him the “fat portions from some of the first born of his flock” – incidentally “the fat portions” is exactly what Moses specifies as the offering to the LORD.

God required the fat, the kidneys and the long lobe of the liver to be a burnt offering on the alter in every animal sacrifice. The people were then forbidden to eat the fat or drink blood. We all know that animal fat clogs up our blood vessels and arteries and isn’t good for us, right? I just did a little research about kidneys and liver and came across this interesting article:

Eating Liver and Kidney: Would you eat a sink strainer or the air filter from your car?

Both the liver and the kidneys are responsible for removing toxins and the filth from our bodies (kidneys produce our urine!). So God is claiming the most polluted parts of the animal for himself (the fat, blood, kidneys and a portion of the liver) and this for our own good because he loves us and then he says it’s a “sweet smelling aroma” to him. Indeed it was a sweet smelling aroma – like burger King venting the smell of frying burgers – and the tabernacle was strategically placed in the center of the camp with that delicious smell wafting through the camp making everyone hungry and more than willing to bring in a peace offering to share with God… clever. (I realize that this is a silly way to look at it – more on peace offerings later – really exciting stuff!)

Question to ponder: Did God really forgive the people their sins because of the blood of these animals? Or rather was it because this outward action created faith in people’s hearts to receive and enjoy God’s forgiveness? Think about it. All those in the camp with a guilty conscience looking for grace would come with their offering and meet God’s requirements thus giving their hearts the freedom to say, “Now I am forgiven and cleansed”.

The writer of Hebrews later writes, “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” (Hebrews 10: 4 NIV)

Scripture explains that the sacrifices were a looking forward, by faith, to the perfect sacrifice God would provide. For those in Israel who had been paying attention, they had access to the story about Abraham in Genesis 22 where God tested him regarding his son. Consider this prophecy of a future provision of a sacrifice, “So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.” (Genesis 22:14 NIV)

the-blood-of-jesusI would argue that it was this faith in God (and ultimately the future sacrifice of Jesus) that cleansed them – not the sacrifice. But would the faith have happened without this sacrifice? Not likely. And it would have never, on such a grand scale, served a nation as well as this sacrificial system.

We know from the New Testament that Jesus and His shed blood was the real atoning sacrifice for sins that brings all who trust in him the pure joy and freedom found in forgiveness.

“He (Jesus) is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John 2:2  NIV

When was the last time you felt the joy and freedom of forgiveness? Why not experience that once again today? Take some time right now and talk to God about this.

The Grain Offering

The grain offering is interesting, because now not only do we have the smell of yummy meat on the grill but now the smell of fresh baked bread! I found it very interesting that he says, never forget to add salt to your grain offering “to remind you of God’s eternal covenant” (so just how long will this covenant with Israel last?).  Frankincense was added to this burnt grain offering which not only smelled nice, but it cleansed the air of undesirable germs. It was also a natural mosquito repellent. God is so amazing! He thinks of everything!

The Peace Offering

This is by far my favorite offering. Whenever people are slaughtering an animal for a meal they would bring it to the tabernacle and offer the fat and other select portions to God as a peace offering and then share the meal with friends and family that same day.  What a cool idea! Incorporating fellowship with God and others every time you grill out. This offering was usually an expression of thanksgiving. Fellowship with God over a meal is an idea that is also carried into the New Testament with the Lord’s supper.

Consider this amazing Scripture where Jesus says this to the believers in Laodicea:

“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” Revelation 3:20

That’s so awesome!

The Law of Love

When we talk about the “law of God” we often forget that his law is a law of love. Every command is for our highest good and for the good of the community. As the Scriptures say:

“Whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” Romans 13:8-10 NIV

So do we really want to wage war against love by choosing to sin? Or wouldn’t you rather rid your heart of love’s greatest enemy (sin) out of your life? You can do this right now by bringing your sin to Jesus. Recognize the sacrifice he made on behalf of sin, repent, and receive God’s forgiveness, a cleansed conscience, and yes, even a restored innocence! Isn’t it amazing that we have somewhere to go with our sin?

“But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” 1 John 1:9 NLT

I wrote a song based on the above verse that I would like to share with you called “Bring Me to the Light”. Be Blessed! JESUS PAID IT ALL!!!!!

Jesus, we pray that you would take take our sin away. Even as I pray that I realize that, through your sacrifice, you already have. But, we do need to acknowledge and receive your sacrifice on our behalf, and so we do. Jesus, we want to feel that joy of a cleansed conscience and restored innocence – of restored fellowship with you, the Source of all love. We pray that you would transform our hearts in this moment as we bring all our sin into your light. Thank you that your blood has covered all our sin and set us free.

ps. Here is more Scripture that sheds light on the sacrificial system and how Jesus is the fullfillment: Hebrew 7

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Exodus, a Rebellious People and a Patiently Forgiving God

In the first blog I included a verse about God’s love to those who fear him. But what is often overlooked and rarely spoken of is that God’s holy loving presence is deadly to rebels, to sinners, to the ungodly. Sin cannot be tolerated! (This isn’t just a problem for sinners in the Old Testament but also in the early church – see Acts 5). The problem in Exodus is that the Israelite camp is full of rebels and sinners. How can God continue to be with them and among them and not have casualties along the way? This is the problem God is dealing with in Exodus.

God wants these Israelites to be different from the sinful corrupt world around them. Different from the proud Egyptians. Different from the Canaanites whose land God is giving over to his chosen people. But they are not.

Apparently, there are so few actual godly people of faith among them that God is ready to start over with Moses. He says this regarding them:

Exodus 32 9 “I have seen these people,” the LORD said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. 10 Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.”

These people were rebellious, hard headed, hard hearted, complainers, doubters, unfaithful, and wicked. In spite of all that God had done for them, bringing them out of slavery, through the Red Sea, and promising them a bright future in a land flowing with milk and honey, they still don’t trust him. They hardly even believe in him (“is God really among us or not?”) though they saw his miracles and even his glory! They are willing to abandon him at the drop of a hat (Golden calf incident). They constantly complain to Moses, “Did you bring us and our family out here in this desert to kill us? Were there not enough graves in Egypt?” “We want water!” “We want meat like we had in Egypt!”

They had no faith that He who delivered them would provide for them, keep them safe, and sustain them. And as God tests them, they fail… time and again.

But, would any of us be any different?

Here is the account of when God appeared to all of Israel:

Exodus 19:16 On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. 17Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18 Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. 19 As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him.

God, the Creator of all the universe, appears in his glory and with a booming voice delivers the Ten Commandments publicly to over a million terrified Israelites. “Have no other Gods… make no graven image…”

Exodus 20:18 When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance 19 and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”

20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” NIV

Don’t be afraid… but fear! I once looked up this word translated “fear of God” and in the Hebrew it means to reverently trust in God.

God reiterates the second command again:

Exodus 20:22 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites this: ‘You have seen for yourselves that I have spoken to you from heaven: 23 Do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold. NIV

Moses then receives more laws about being a decent human being and the people all agree to the covenant:

Exodus 24:3 When Moses went and told the people all the LORD’s words and laws, they responded with one voice, “Everything the LORD has said we will do.” 4 Moses then wrote down everything the LORD had said.

Then Moses goes up to meet with the LORD to recieve the rest of the law and instructions regarding worship and the Ten Commandments written by the finger of God into stone tablets.

Even after God speaks to the whole congregation the Ten Commandments, what do the Israelites do while Moses is on the mountian, in full view of God’s glory on the mountain, but make a golden calf.

Seriously? The very thing God reiterates to them specifically (as if he was predicting this very thing), this is what they decide to do? Come on people!

But, would any of us be any different?

Philip Yancey in his book Dissapointment with God, writes about the hiddenness of God and our struggle with faith. He points out that here in Exodus, God is not hidden at all. Did this produce faith? Not in the least. The whole of the Israelite community abandons God and his explicit instructions.

So, what made Moses different? Whatever it is, this is what we need in our own lives if we are to be different from the corrupt and rebellious world around us.

Hebrews 11:25 said this of Moses: “He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin.” Scripture also later states that Moses was the most humble man who ever lived. Moses trusted God. He was obedient and faithful to God.

Why was he all these things?

As I reflect back to Genesis, specifically Jacob, I believe it has everything to do with God’s choosing. God had chosen Moses to be different from birth. God was watching over him, shaping his character, nurturing trust in Moses all these 80 years of his life (40 of them spent as a shepherd in Midian) before finally calling him to rescue the Israelites.

As I reflected on this, I realized that God had also chosen these Israelites and what God had been working into Moses heart his whole life, God is now working into the heart of a nation. What we read here in Exodus and following are just some of their growing pains.

How long has God been working on you? Don’t get discouraged. If your reading this, I’m pretty sure it hasn’t been 80 years yet (but given your long attention span, I would gamble that your not that young either). Even though he was frustrated with the Israelites, He didn’t give up on them, and he won’t give up on you either. Not if you don’t give up on him.

Do we choose faith or does faith choose us? Either way, if you choose to trust God, it hardly matters does it? You are in his family and among his chosen people. We must say “yes” to God each new day and then this promise comes into play in our lives:

“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” Philippians 2:13 NLT

Prayer:

“Dear God, please make us more like Moses. Humble, trusting, and obedient. We do want to be a good friend to you. Forgive us for all the times we have been rebellious and distrusted you. Thank you that as we trust in you that you are at work in us to will and to do of your good pleasure. We say “yes” to you God!”

What are some of your favorite parts of the Exodus story? What are some thoughts that this blog brought up for you? Leave a reply below!