Today was flat out.
Apart from issues still flowing on from yesterday, there was a lot of work going on as well.
I don’t mind busy days, though. The time just goes fast. Before I knew it, it was 4PM, and I was due to go home (after starting early and skipping lunch). So I finally left fifteen minutes later, not too bad really.
But that’s the extent of my day. Barbecue this evening with some wonderful people.
I’m doing alright, really. Or trying to!
There’s a definite focal point of this chapter. It sort of flows on from last night about the priests being required to live more spiritually than physically in some perspectives.
However as I read this chapter I found a slightly different focus. It wasn’t about the priests themselves, but about the people. Chapter 21 basically said to the priests, that they were to be holy before God; that they weren’t to have the same level of concern for the things of the world as the every day Israelite.
Chapter 22, though, speaks about the people.
If we start with the second half of the chapter, from verse 17 onwards, we see what God expects from the people when they bring a sacrifice. The animals are to be perfect, flawless. They aren’t to be deformed or blemished, they aren’t to be blind or lame.
It’s a lot easier to give away something that we don’t really have use for, isn’t it. We’re coming up to Christmas, and one of the greatest times of the year where we find ourselves inundated with things that we’re probably never going to use, or look at again after they’ve been cleared off the table in the week after Christmas. I know I’ve known people in the past who actually store their unwanted Christmas presents away, and then pull them out as gifts for other people next year. Of course the danger with that is forgetting who gave you what, and giving a present straight back!
A lame cow, or a blind cow, or one that was deformed probably was a bit like those unwanted Christmas gifts. It wasn’t really worth keeping. So of course, it would be easy to just give the deformed one as a sacrifice. It’s better off – that way it’s not actually chewing up the food that could be used by the animals who would one day provide money back to their owner.
But God didn’t want the deformed cows. He still doesn’t. God wants to be given the best, he wants to know that he’s actually more important than our resources. That we trust him to continue to provide for us even if we give away the best of what we have.
Going back to the first part of the chapter, though, the priests are also told that they are to treat these sacrifices with the respect deserved of someone offering the best of what they have to God. The priests aren’t to be unclean in any way. They are the representatives of God who accept the sacrifices on his behalf, so they are to be holy and pure, not only for God, but also for the people offering them.
The offerings that the people brought were special, and weren’t to be enjoyed by just anyone. That would be disrespectful to the one who brought the offering.
I think we need to remember this thing about the best. God doesn’t want to be just the leftover in our lives. He doesn’t want to be given the deformed cow. He doesn’t want to just receive some Christmas gift that we got last year and recycled this year. God wants to be placed above all of that. He wants to be cherished. He wants to be special. He wants to be respected.
It’s funny how hard it is to change your mindset.
I had a terror of a morning today. I walked into work and the internet was down, we’d get access for thirty seconds or so and then it would die off again. Not good at all, especially when our entire business basically relies on internet access to function (which is sadly a state of most businesses these days. No computers, no work.)
So I ended up on the phone at 8:20 this morning, only five minutes after I’d walked in the door, to our IT company. They thought it was a server issue, so were trying to fix it, only to find that they couldn’t connect. So off I went to contact our Internet Service Provider – who told me that the problem wasn’t with them but with Telstra. Telstra in turn told me the problem wasn’t with them it was with our ISP, and so on and so forth, around in circles I went.
Anyway, what I found was myself just desiring everything that I’ve cut out of my life in the past five months or so. I wanted a cigarette, and a beer, and a coffee – I don’t know why I wanted a coffee as well – beer and a cigarette I can understand, but coffee? Oh well, the point is that even after several months, my brain still starts reaching for those things when things get tough. The difficulty level is higher, and the craving is less, but the desire is still there.
So I went to church instead!
When I finally had a few minutes where I didn’t need to be on the phone, I just said I was going for a walk. One of my workmates told me to remember to come back. I was exceptionally stressed out.
The first place I wanted to be, though, was with God. I know that I don’t have to be in a church to be with God; but I’ve found in the city that entering a cathedral that’s open during the day does allow me to just feel slightly separated from everything outside. It’s like a sanctuary; there’s still something about the physical ‘house’ of God.
So I went and prayed, just asked God for comfort and peace, and sure enough, he gave it. It was really like one of those moments of knowing that he’s Abba father; daddy; the caring father figure whose lap we can just curl up on. When we need him to give a hug and comfort, he’s more than happy to come through for us.
I really like this chapter. As I read through the conditions imparted onto the priests of Israel, I’m reminded of some of the things that Jesus said.
The priests are told that they are not to make themselves unclean for anyone other than the most immediate relatives. If a person died, then touching the dead person was to make oneself unclean. I’m guessing there was even more to it than that too. As I read this, I almost feel like God’s actually saying not to grieve for the people who are not most immediate to them. Parents, siblings and children were the exceptions.
Unless you were the high priest. Then you were not to actually make yourself unclean no matter who died. Not even to enter a place where there was a dead body.
To me, I don’t see this as anything negative. I see it as a recognition that as a priest, these people were those who went between the people and God. They were set apart, even from the people who were set apart from the nations. They were not to be troubled by things such as death.
Perhaps that’s why I view it that way. I don’t fear death; I didn’t even before I came back to God. I don’t want to die any time soon; but at the same time I’m not afraid of it. It doesn’t really trouble me. It’s a part of life, a natural part of our physical existence.
These priests weren’t to be troubled by the difficulties of physical life. They were to be so focussed on the spiritual that death in the physical was not something that they troubled themselves with. Their lives were to be lived in the spiritual realm, in the realm closer to God.
A holy life is still lived in the physical world, but it is not troubled by the struggles of the physical world.
“Regard them as holy, because they offer up the food of your God. Consider them holy, because I the LORD am holy – I who make you holy.” ~ Leviticus 21:8
Struggling tonight. Emotionally. I’m not really keen on emotions.
Today I went to my first service at the new Energizer location out at New Norfolk, it was quite good. Went to church this morning in Bellerive, hung out with a few great youth from Energizer, had church tonight, overall it was a lot of fun.
I’ve been struggling with feeling like God’s calling me to move on, though. Energizer’s been my home (even if I haven’t always been there) for over a decade now, so I’m very connected to it, and when I got there this morning there were a few things that happened, interactions with people that made me wonder. The thing that God really said quite clearly this morning, though, was that the main reason I’ve been finding it so difficult to step away hasn’t been about him, but has been about the other people.
It’s a difficult balance, I know. There’s a lot of strong arguments for the whole ‘be planted’ idea; but I was talking to someone Saturday night who told me about a cartoon they saw once, of these people who were ‘planted’. They were humans in a church, and instead of feet, they had roots, the roots were deeply implanted into the church, wrapped around the pews and the pillars, etcetera. They were so planted they literally couldn’t go anywhere.
God’s really laid on my heart, especially over the past month or so, the great commission. He really has pointed out the first word of what Jesus commanded the disciples to do.
I really feel a strong urge not to get settled. Not to let my roots get so deep that I can’t actually get back out. I’ve always had a bit of wanderlust running through my soul, and perhaps it’s finally becoming clear why. We’ll see.
Here comes the reality check.
You know, it’s one thing to actually be told not to do something; but that’s really only half of the lesson. The conclusion of the lesson is the consequence, the responsibility factor.
Think of a wet paint sign. It’s almost an impossibility for most of us to pass a wet paint sign without actually touching it, isn’t it? I know from my own experience that if I see a sign like that, I just have to touch it to see if it really is still wet. Sure enough, the consequence is that if the paint is wet, I end up with paint all over my fingers.
The consequences here are a little more dire.
We’ve already been through where God says not to do many of these things in this chapter, it goes through a lot of the sexual behaviours from chapter 18, as well as some others – pretty much, it focusses on the actions that related to defilement again, actually. The point is though, that here’s the list of consequences for the actions. Most of the consequences are death – either by stoning, or in one case, by burning. Others are a little less fatal – sort of – being cut off from their people.
I wonder what would have been worse. In a family-based community, being cut off from their people may perhaps even end up worse than actually just being killed.
God, though, again wants the Israelites to stand apart. He concludes the list of consequences with an explanation as to why this is all so important.
It’s amazing, I don’t recall ever really noticing this in the past, when I was growing up in the church, but as I’ve read through Leviticus so far, I can still feel God’s love. He’s not just being judgemental, high-and-mighty and so on (although he does, obviously, have the right to do so – he is, after all, God), but he’s about loving the people. His laws that he lays down aren’t for him, but they’re for the people, to live holy and righteous lives. It still comes down to God’s desire to have a relationship with the people.
And he wants them to be noticeably different.
“But I said to you, ‘You will possess their land; I will give it to you as an inheritance, a land flowing with milk and honey.’ I am the LORD your God, who has set you apart from the nations.” ~ Leviticus 20:24
“You are to be holy to me because I, the LORD, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.” ~ Leviticus 20:26
God set them apart, he wanted them to be distinct; so that they would reflect and shine his glory to the nations. Sound familiar?
Tired. It hit midnight and I remembered I hadn’t done this for tonight so I’m just doing a short one.
Well, this could be a really long discussion, actually, if I wanted to make it such. As I read through each of the laws in this passage, certain thoughts came to me on almost all of them, so it could be broken down almost verse-by-verse. I’m not going to do that, though.
It’s an interesting read, though, just some of the things that were forbidden or processes that had to be followed. If you plant a fruit tree, you can’t eat the fruit for the first four years. You shouldn’t plant two crops in the same field, or wear cloth made from two different fabrics (There goes the poly/cotton blend clothing market), don’t clip the edges of your beard or the hair at the side of your head. It’s all quite strange and interesting.
Other laws that are brought up in this passage make more sense. Use honest scales and weights, rise in the presence of your elders, treat aliens in the land as your own. Some of these things are actions that, really, I’d think would be common sense. It’s just about showing general courtesy to people, still, God actually considers these things worth specifying. I mean, he doesn’t actually go into pages and pages of laws that would also come under common sense and common courtesy, so therefore that would imply to me that these are actions that God really considers something special.
It reminds me of Jesus saying:
“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” ~ John 13:35
In spite of what so many people would try to suggest, God is actually all about love. Love for one another, no matter who the ‘other’ is; and love for him. Showing respect and courtesy to others is a simple thing that can reflect God’s heart.
I remember being struck when I arrived in Perth by something. We caught the shuttle bus from the airport in to Perth, and when we arrived at the YWAM base, I stopped, gave the bus driver a good handshake and said thanks to him. I was slightly startled by just how much his face lit up; when I did that, and God put into my mind the question: How many people actually stop to give a person in his position a real thank you? It’s one thing to say thanks in passing, with barely a second glance to a person who serves us – someone whose face we wouldn’t even remember three minutes later; but it’s worth remembering to actually be genuine in our thanks.
The little things that we can do, can be such a blessing to the people receiving them.
The Israelites were commanded, that if a foreigner entered their land, they were to be treated as an Israelite. There wasn’t to be any difference in interaction between their fellow countrymen and people from outside. Sounds very similar to loving your neighbour as yourself.
Well, with each day that goes by things seem to get easier.
On the tiredness front, that is. I’m still feeling very emotional about no longer being on the other side of the country. I’m managing, and doing my best to keep my eyes and heart on God, but it’s not always easy. Going over there and coming back again wasn’t meant to be this difficult; at least it wasn’t going to be in my head.
It’s a weird combination of peace and pain, really. Like, I do know that everything’s under control, that God’s got everything in his plan and in his timing, and all I have to do is keep my eyes on him; keep following his ways, and things will work out. Still, though, there’s an emotional pain at having said goodbye. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, as long as – like with most emotions – it doesn’t actually take over. It’s okay to miss people, it’s okay to love them, it’s okay to feel that you’re a little lost without them. What isn’t okay is to let those emotions take over your life and dictate you. If you’re being dicated by your emotions, following them, then you’re not following God.
So I can acknowledge the pain, the feelings of loss, the love – but I will continue to walk in his path, and in his guidance. When I follow his plan, and am walking in his light, then everything works out for good.
This is a whole heap of not good.
First of all, God talks about being a people set apart.
He’s not silly. He knows that when the Israelites walk into the land of Canaan, there are going to be things that are attractive to them. I can definitely vouch from personal experience that the road away from God sometimes seems so bright and welcoming. The Israelites had shown themselves throughout the journey so far, just how easily and quickly led astray they could be. Moses was up Mt Sinai for a few weeks, and they decided to make a golden calf to worship instead. It’s not that far-fetched to think that as soon as they entered Canaan, they’d look around all wide-eyed and vulnerable, and very quickly fall prey to the temptations that were the gods of the land of Canaan.
But that wasn’t God’s purpose for them. God’s purpose was for them to walk apart, to be noticeably different.
God wanted them to be pure, and so he goes into a list of behaviours from a sexual perspective that are forbidden. As we go through all of these things – which all seem to be pretty much common sense – God finishes the list by saying that any of these behaviours mean that people defile themselves in committing them. That’s a pretty intense choice of word.
There are a couple of different definitions according to Merriam Webster, but the one that I really notice is number 4:
To violate the sanctity of: DESECRATE
Pretty heavy if you ask me. There’s no light meaning for defile; It’s about breaching purity, violating chastity. To defile is to take away the purity of something. The punishment is just as bad.
“Everyone who does any of these detestable things – such persons must be cut off from their people.” ~ Leviticus 18:29
Not every law in Leviticus, not every rite and custom that has been looked at so far has been specifically pointed out as being for aliens as well as the Israelites. Non-Israelites were also forbidden from eating blood, and now they’re also forbidden from defiling themselves as per God’s instructions on sexual behaviour. These actions are things that God takes extremely seriously.
God wants his people to be pure and distinct from the rest of the world. He doesn’t want his people to be just like the Canaanites, who were defiled and driven from their lands. He wants people who will reflect him; not only back in the Old Testament, but now. God’s desire is to be reflected in the actions of his people. His desire is that the world would see him, and recognise him through his people.
Slowly starting to feel like I’m recovering. Slowly.
Today wasn’t as hard to get through, although I still woke up this morning feeling like a train wreck; and I’m feeling very tired still tonight so I think it’s going to be another early one here.
I was thinking on the way home tonight, how good it feels to have assuredness. To be living life with peace and assuredness about where you’re going, and that it’s all under control gives such a good platform to live life from. I may not necessarily be exactly sure of every detail of my future, but I know one thing. God’s plan for me is not to harm, but to give me a hope and a future. It’s a fairly cliche verse, but it’s so true, too.
And I can trust in that.
I was talking to a friend tonight about Church, and part of the topic was about whether or not they really feel the need to go or not.
It’s a question that I’ve seen raised – and raised myself – several times in the past, about whether a relationship with God is dependent on involvement in a particular ‘church’.
- I put ‘church’ in quotations, because The Church is the Body of Christ, we are all The Church; regardless of what ‘church’ we might attend or what denomination we might be a part of, or what doctrine we might believe in.
God doesn’t need a ‘church’ to work in people’s lives, but I think, to an extent, we do. It’s strange, because I’ve really started to feel the need to be involved in a ‘church’ on a regular basis since coming back to God, moreso than I ever did before. The difference is that now it’s about being planted, rather than feeling an obligation to go, or just going to socialise. There’s definitely a social aspect involved in fellowship, but being planted is more than that.
I think as humans, we do need to be planted, we need a regular source of sustenance. Yes, that is God, and yes, we can relate and involve ourselves with God wherever we are, but I think that we actually grow more effectively and stronger when we are in the environment where we are surrounded by others of like mind and like spirit. When we are directly involved in The Body.
That’s what I think part of God’s reasoning was here in chapter 17. It wasn’t necessarily that He was restricted to accepting only those sacrifices that were offered in front of the tabernacle; but it was about the people.
This is so that the Israelites will bring to the LORD the sacrifices they are now making in the open fields. They must bring them to the priest, that is, to the LORD, at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and sacrifice them as fellowship offerings. ~ Leviticus 17:5
They must no longer offer any of their sacrifices to the goat idols to whom they prostitute themselves. This is to be a lasting ordinance for them and for the generations to come. ~ Leviticus 17:7
By bringing their sacrifices to the Tent of Meeting, the Israelites were, themselves, ensuring that their hearts were focussed on God. There were distractions when offering sacrifices out in the open field, and it was easy to maybe consider the offering a sacrifice to another god also. They weren’t focussed. When sacrificing in front of the Tabernacle, they were confronted and had to focus themselves on God.
And this, perhaps, is something worth remembering on the question of whether a ‘church’ is needed in our walk with God today. Perhaps it’s not necessarily, but it certainly aids us in our focus on God. We have people around us with whom we can build relationship; there are people to keep us accountable, to help us, to pray with and for us. We should, certainly, have our focus primarily on God, definitely. It’s not always easy to keep our focus on God, though, when we’re out in the field rather than in front of the Tabernacle.
I’m so exhausted. I spent most of today at work trying to do my job while not falling asleep.
I don’ t know if it’s tiredness, or just the continued coffee fast that’s causing a part of this, but yeah, I’m just tired. It’s not like I feel drained, I actually feel refreshed, but I just also feel like I’m going to pass out and fall asleep at any moment.
Which means that I’m going to soon here, too. Early night tonight.
This is a bigger atonement ceremony, for the whole nation. Still, though, the symbolism remains strong.
We’re reminded, first of all, of the deaths of Aaron’s two sons who decided that they’d take it on themselves to make offerings when the timing wasn’t right. They were incinerated, and now God tells Moses to remind Aaron not to just show up when he pleases, but there’s a specific schedule. If he goes against the schedule, he will die.
Even in this, you can feel God’s love coming through though. It’s a warning, yes, but I read it sounding like a warning coming from genuine concern. Don’t let Aaron come in unprepared, because in his sinful nature, his flesh would be destroyed just by God’s presence. Aaron had to be purified to enter the presence of God, and once again, it comes down to blood. The power of the blood as Aaron sprinkles the bull’s blood over the ark. The blood that is there as the wages of sin.
As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. ~ Psalm 103:12
This is like the Scapegoat. The sins of the people of Israel were conveyed, through the sacrificial process, onto the goat who would then wander into the wilderness. It’s actually quite an interesting section of verses, because of the term Azazel that is used in some translations.
But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the LORD to be used for making atonement by sending it into the desert as a scapegoat. ~ Leviticus 16:10 (NIV)
The other goat, the scapegoat chosen by lot to be sent away, will be kept alive, standing before the LORD. When it is sent away to Azazel in the wilderness, the people will be purified and made right with the LORD. ~ Leviticus 16:10 (NLT)
Azazel’s sometimes referred to as a demon or actual character; but isn’t seen again in the bible. The demon references come from such sources as the books of Enoch; from what I’ve seen so far.
Fascinating, but much deeper theology than is really applicable for a blog entry!
I love the idea of atonement, it’s as simple as that. Purification before God; he wipes clean the slate, and we are fresh and presentable to him. Jesus became our scapegoat, he took our own sin upon himself, and went into the wilderness of all wildernesses, that of the darkness and blackness of death itself to conquer and return victorious.
I’m so grateful that I can simply walk into the presence of God, because Jesus carried my sin away, as far as the East is from the West. Jesus is our atonement, and our purification. It is through his blood and his sacrifice that we can be washed clean and enter the presence of God without fear of being destroyed. That warning, that concern of God the father is gone, because we are washed clean.
I really don’t like this time.
I’ve just spent the last ten days on holiday, most of it in Perth as most people reading this will already know.
Now, though, is the come-down. Now is when I have to face reality again; and I don’t really want to. Well, I do, but I want my reality to change.
I know that God’s got it all under control, and that everything in his plan will happen in his timing, but there’s a large part of me that just wants to tell him to hurry up and move on to the next cool bit in my life. I also know that everything becomes like this, it’s a lot easier to love a place when you find yourself in that honeymoon phase. It’s a lot easier to love anything in that phase, when it’s all shiny and new.
Love isn’t an easy thing to manage, though, but it’s when you can still love after that new sheen wears off that you know that you really love something.
It’s amazing, though. I really have a strong sense for the future that God has for me, and I can’t wait to see it and experience it for real. It’s just the patience that I’m struggling with. I accept it, I’m just not liking it right now.
But anyway… More on the trip later…
This is not necessarily an easily read chapter. All about bodily discharges and cleanliness.
I spoke about hygiene laws once before, I think, about those laws that were there to help the Israelites live more comfortably. This is part of that. It’s all about keeping clean, lowering the potential spread of infection, etcetera.
I like verse 31 though.
“You must keep the Israelites separate from things that make them unclean so they will not die in their uncleanliness for defiling my dwelling place, which is among them.” ~ Leviticus 15:31
It’s quite pertinent to us today, too. The New Testament speaks about not being unequally yoked, and I think about not associating ourselves with those who deliberately flout the law. That’s not exactly what I’m thinking here, but it is worth remembering.
This chapter tells us to remain clean; to keep ourselves separate from the things that make us unclean. Not so much in the physical realm now, but certainly in the spiritual realm. It’s not easy to maintain cleanliness, purity or holiness when continuously surrounded by dirty, impurity and ungodliness
I’m certainly not saying never hang around with those who aren’t necessarily walking with God, not by a long shot. One of the biggest examples we can take from Jesus’ life was to associate with the ‘sinners’ of the world; to dine with them, to help them; to speak with them. That’s not what I’m saying at all, but what we do need to remember is to keep ourselves clean and pure. Our hearts.
The kingdom of God – God’s dwelling place – is inside us and all around us. When we allow sin into our hearts, and into our lives, we’re defiling the dwelling place of God. He lives in our heart, which means that we shouldn’t be allowing uncleanliness in there.
I pray for a purified heart.