Numbers 11-13 begins with the people of Israel complaining about their misfortunes, which results in the Lord’s wrath expressed as consuming flame that breaks out against the outskirts of their camp. They continuously lament their current diet and compare it to that which they had in Egypt. Moses, hearing this, intercedes for the people and tells the Lord how the burden he is struggling under is too much for him to bear. As an answer to the latter issue, seventy elders from among the people are gathered to the tent of meeting and get a portion of God’s Spirit which had been given to Moses. After this, the Lord brings a vast amount of quail to saturate the camp as an answer to the Israelites bemoaning their lack of meat, though this ends up spreading a plague through the camp.
The 12th chapter tells of the problem Miriam and Aaron have with Moses’ spouse, a Cushite woman. They openly oppose Moses who, being meek and mild, does not retaliate – though the Lord heard it all. Miriam, who spearheaded the effort to undermine their leader, is stricken with leprosy and banished from the camp for seven days. After this, the Lord moves on towards the wilderness of Paran.
It is here that twelve Hebrew spies, one from each tribe, are sent forth to check out the promised land and brought back a report of what they saw. Though they saw many of the riches and goods of the land, ten of the twelve spies presented it as bad news, saying there was no way to go against the people that inhabited the lands, the sons of the Nephilim, who were great warriors. Only Caleb and Joshua gave an honest account of what they saw.
The heading in my ESV Bible for the eleventh chapter of Numbers is a sensational headline that nobody could have seen coming:
“THE PEOPLE COMPLAIN"
The grade 4-6 Sunday School class just finished going through Judges where it seemed virtually every chapter or paragraph started by detailing some sort of rebellion or major sin committed by the Israelites. It is clear that, from the beginning, Israel did not have a slow descent into sinful living – they dove headfirst into idolatry at the foot of Mount Sinai! Remember: God did not choose Israel because they had merit. Rather, they had merit because God chose them.
Yet who does Israel leap to serve? Is it the God who delivered them from Egypt, or the god of their own desires? Philippians 3:19 spells it out rather concisely “Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.” This passage is on full display as Israel crosses some desolate and rugged terrain – terrain that does not feel unfamiliar to us today. The Israelites have been broken out of a wicked place and brought into a glorious inheritance.
Though they had spent the last year walking through the desert, they were constantly being tended by God Almighty who was in their midst. They journeyed knowing their destination was a place of abundance and security, a land flowing with milk and honey.
The Lord made it clear that the land to which they were being brought would be full of good things, all they had to do was follow and be patient. Despite this and all the Lord had done with them, a large portion of the population harbored discontent within their own hearts, lashing out at their leader and defying their God. Discontent is an insidious sin, for on the surface it is seen as mere quibbles, but can give birth to gossip, slander, division, lust, jealousy, and a myriad of other unholy habits.
Pastor Dave wrote in the very first blog post of this year “The one issue I will touch on in a little more detail is that of original sin, but from a perspective that you may not expect, that of gratitude and ingratitude.” Israel stumbles and falls continuously in to sin. Ingratitude is the block over which they trip.
Too many lines can be drawn between the Israelites in the wilderness and God’s people nowadays for comfort. We have undoubtedly gone through a difficult wilderness over roughly the same period of time as the Israelites in that specific instance – a year spent without our usual comforts and delicacies, a year spent without our normal routines and communities. Being obedient to the Lord means following where He leads, even if it means a lean diet and rough footing underneath. Yet still we complain and bemoan that to which He has called us, even though He has promised to always provide for His people and use all things for their good.
Paul writes in Philippians 4:11-13 “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Just as we can see the way in which God was shaping His people in the wilderness, let us seek the face of the same God who has called us to follow Him wherever He may go. Better yet, let us surrender everything and follow Him, clinging not to the things of this world, but to the One who will always hold us fast.
Gratitude centers us properly before the Lord – it brings us to our knees in worship, lightens our hearts as we remove our focus from ourselves, and fights off the creeping sins that follow in the wake of continuous discontent. We could all do with less of ourselves and more of God!
Think about an average day for yourself. How often is it that you focus on expressing genuine gratitude to the Lord Almighty? What are some ways we can make gratitude a lifestyle? How can we learn from these accounts of the Israelites and adjust our perspective?
Lord, we confess we have often put our own desires in front of your desires. Please forgive us our sin and help us look outward and upward at you and not at the things of this world. We have set our eyes on the things of this world, forgotten you, and turned to complaining instead of gratitude. Please help us and change our hearts to be the living embodiment of prayerful gratitude. Thank you so much for calling us, guiding us, and bringing us ever nearer in your everlasting arms! Amen.
PLEASE do turn this song way up and blast it - a few times, even! We must practice gratitude daily, and might as well start now!
Song – Feel Again, Strahan
Text: Numbers 8-10
"My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you..." - Psalm 42
Aaron sets up the seven lamps according to God’s instructions to Moses.
The Levites are consecrated as a substitute for all the firstborn males and are made ceremonially clean by the priests so they can work at the Tent of Meeting and make atonement for the Israelites.
The first memorial celebration of Passover occurs but some of the people were unclean at the time and missed the celebration. These people approach Moses and ask how they too may celebrate the Passover. Moses takes their question before the Lord and God makes provision for them to celebrate a month later.
The Israelites follow the manifestation of God’s presence (the cloud) wherever it goes. If the cloud lifts, they know it is time to move, when it settles over the tabernacle, they camp around it until it moves again. Trumpets are made to signal the people so they collectively know when to assemble and when to move. These trumpet sounds are also to help the people remember that the Lord rescues them from their enemies and they are to sound at various special festivals as a memorial.
Leaving the Desert of Sinai, the Israelites follow the Lord into the Desert of Paran and Moses invites his wife’s relative, Hobab, to stay with them and share in the good things coming to them in the Promised Land.
After celebrating the Passover and reflecting on all that God has done for them so far, it’s time to get moving towards the Promised Land! We hear Moses’ anticipation for what’s ahead as he begs his father-in-law to stay with them and share in “the good things the Lord gives us”.
There is a systematic way the people are to move forward. If the cloud rises, the Israelites know it’s marching time. If the cloud stops, they set up camp. All this is communicated through the camp as various sounds are blasted by silver trumpets. In this way, it is the Lord who will lead and guide Israel through the wilderness.
What would have been going through the minds of the people as they celebrated the first memorial Passover? Perhaps they reviewed all that had happened since they left Egypt 12 months earlier. It’s been a transformational year as the people learned (the hard way) about what it meant to belong to the God who rescued them out of slavery. Essentially starting from nothing, it was a year to build and establish a new identity for these people. They have received the rules and regulations for how they are to live in proximity to Holy God and they have constructed the tabernacle so that His presence can be with them wherever they go. God has given them a way of life that sets them apart from all the other nations so that when they enter the Promised Land, they will have a strong identity that will distinguish them from all other peoples.
Before the people could move forward towards the Promised Land, God gave them the opportunity to look back and remember. This was supposed to help solidify their trust in the God who miraculously rescued them from slavery so that they would have the strength and courage to face what was ahead: 1. the harsh conditions of the rough terrain as they travelled through the desert, and 2. war as they were about to conquer the land and claim it for themselves.
SPOILER ALERT: The people of Israel aren’t able to trust God as they move forward and instead of entering the Promised Land, they end up wandering for 40 more years in the desert--a major consequence rooted in the distrust the people have in the God who miraculously brought them out of slavery.
God prepared the Israelites for the Promised land with a year in the wilderness.
Let’s overlay some of this story with our own lives. We have been living in a worldwide pandemic for about a year now. For a lot of people, the year 2020 was perhaps a “wilderness” time. Old ways of living were done away with and new systems were set up for life moving forward. Take some time to reflect on the last 12 months of your life. How have you seen God moving during that time? How has He been there for you? How have you learned to trust Him more? If God was to take you somewhere new, what truths would you like to hold on to? By choosing to learn the lessons of the wilderness, you can avoid 40 years of wandering and accelerate into the promises God has for your life.
Song: Red Sea Road By Ellie Holcomb
We bury dreams
Lay them deep into the earth behind us
Said our goodbyes
At the grave but everything reminds us
God knows we ache
When He asks us to go on
How do we go on?
We will sing to our souls
We won't bury our hope
Where He leads us to go
There's a Red Sea road
When we can't see the way
He will part the waves
And we'll never walk alone
Down the Red Sea road
How can we trust
When You say You will deliver us
From all of this pain
That threatens to take over us
Well, this desert's dry
But the ocean may consume
And we're scared to follow You
Oh help us believe You are faithful, you're faithful
When our hearts are breaking
You are faithful, You're faithful
You'll grant us eyes to see
You are faithful, You're faithful
Teach us to sing
You are faithful, You're faithful, You're faithful
“Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness springs forth from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven.”
Psalm 85: 10-11
Numbers 5-7 (Psalm 41)
In essence these chapters deal with holy relationships: within the community; between individuals; within marriage; and with God. They cover physical, emotional and spiritual health. They may seem obscure or over serious but remember the context and time in history. Remember also that God calls us to be holy as He is Holy and to be holy in all that we do (1 Peter 1: 15-16); this is God’s call upon His people then and now. The vow and practice of the Nazarite sums this up perfectly. The Nazarite is a person (man or woman - 6: 2), who has marked out a special time of separation and consecration for devotion to God. This would be for a restricted period of time but some would take the vow for their lifetime. The restrictions for a Nazarite applied to all the people all of the time, they were simply more serious during the special time of devotion. So, the people were to be holy, set apart for God. In spite of all the directions they would still not meet the standard God required and so the Tent of Meeting with the Holy of Holies was given to them. We see Moses, as the people’s representative, entering the Tabernacle and meeting with God, hearing his voice from above the Mercy seat. The Hebrew word for Mercy seat is ‘kapporeth,’ a word that refers to a sacrifice that reconciles and leads to peacemaking; atonement. Once a year, the High Priest conducted a special ceremony of forgiveness and dedication at the mercy seat. God’s ‘shekinah’ glory shone out like a glowing light.
In Romans 3: 23-26 (where the Greek word for Mercy Seat is used), we see how the symbolism of the Mercy Seat is met in fullness in Jesus Christ. We are made holy once and for all by Jesus’ self-sacrifice (Hebrews 10: 10); He being our representative. The Mercy Seat, the cross, is where righteousness and mercy kiss, where love and faithfulness meet. God has made us holy by the blood of Christ, now He calls us into a life of holiness with right relationships within His Church, with others, in marriage and vitally with Him. We are now incredibly blessed with the ability to meet with Him, any time, any place, anywhere; God’s glory is to shine out of our lives!
The Question of Application
Consider your relationships within the Church, with others and with God. Do you need to take steps of reconciliation and restitution? Do you need to give yourself to the Lord for a special period of devotion (Lent is just around the corner)? Know that you can, in and through the Lord Jesus Christ
Allow me to pray the Priestly blessing over you (echo this in your hearts):
May The Lord bless you and keep you; may the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; may the Lord turn his face towards you and give you peace. May the Lord put His name upon you and bless you. Amen
From Numbers 6: 22-27
Depth of Mercy sung by the Soundforth Singers
Let your Mercy Rain by Chris Tomlin
In these four chapters we find a census is being taken of the tribes of Israel. The tribes are the descendants of the sons of Jacob (Leah and Rachel). You might note that in all the tribes, only the males over age 20 were counted; they were counted as warriors. Among the Levites of the tribe of Benjamin all males age 1 month and older were counted.* The introduction to the book of Numbers takes note that the book starts with the generation that left Egypt, came to Mt. Sinai and travelled through the desert lands. The book ends with the generation that entered the Promised Land. That first generation had been warned that they would never see the promised land because of their rebellion and disobedience.
It would be hard to interpret these four chapters as other than what they appear to be – a census, a counting. But, why do a census?
When you (or I) want to start a new project in our family or at our workplace. one of the first things we usually do is determine what we need in order to complete that project. Then we will number our resources: what do we already have that will help us to do that project, and what more will we need? Jesus gives us numerous ideas on what we can do to fulfill his instructions as disciples, or Christ-followers. For example: “let your light shine before others so that people will see and give glorify to our Father God.” I suggest to you that the options of what to do to fulfill our calling as Christians are numerous: to worship, to work at our job with a whole heart, to love our neighbours, to give with cheerfulness, and to think on things that are pure and right and good.
What will you do (or say or be) to bring about God’s kingdom? What are your gifts? How will you learn to use those gifts and skills to bring glory to our Father who is in heaven?
Our times are in your hands, oh God. Show us what you are doing in our world and how we can be part of that glorious work. Amen.
Whatever is true – Brian Doerksen
Text: Leviticus 26, 27
OBSERVE - As we come to the end of the book of Leviticus, we read God’s reminder of who he is and what he has done for his people, “I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt so you would no longer be their slaves. I broke the yoke of slavery from your neck so you can walk with you heads held high” (Leviticus 26: 12-13). Along with this reminder comes a list of blessings for obedience to the covenant and curses for disobedience; with the curses (Leviticus 26: 14-39) far outweighing the blessings (Leviticus 26: 3: 13). This imbalance indicates an expectation of covenant violation. In addition, the last curse of exile (Leviticus 26: 33-39) proves to be the ultimate curse that Israel could experience.
INTERPRET – God wants us all to understand that apart from him we are slaves; slaves to our old natures and our old father, the devil. But long ago; long before Abraham’s descendants became slaves in Egypt; God had it in his heart to bring us out of his slavery and into a loving relationship as his children. His fatherly affection is what he expressed to the people as they were being prepared to enter the Promised Land. Even if the worst is to happen; hope is held out for Israel while in exile in a foreign land. However, that hope is grounded not in the Sinai covenant but in the Abrahamic covenant, which is repeated three times in one verse (Leviticus 26: 42). If the people confess their sins and have a change of heart, the covenant with the patriarchs will be remembered, and the end of exile is implied. We have a similar hope today.
APPLICATION – Many years later, the prophet Isaiah spoke in future terms when he prophesied, “In that day the Lord will end the bondage of his people. He will break the yoke of slavery and lift it from their shoulders” (Isaiah 10: 27). The deliverance of the Israelites from their bondage to slavery in Egypt was not a one-time event but rather a model event. The book of Leviticus has shown us that God is seeking a continuous relationship with his people despite their wayward tendencies. Although it would not be easy to be obedient, God promised to restore the people when they turned back to him. God was providing temporary solutions to model a future permanent remedy. As God chose to rescue the Israelites from the power of the Egyptians, so he has come to rescue us from the power of sin and death through our liberator and restorer; Jesus Christ.
PRAYER – Thank you Jesus, my liberator, for freeing me form the chains of slavery to sin that have only brought me pain. I gladly accept your instruction that brings me into a closer relationship with you. I can now have joy and rest knowing that you have restored me. AMEN.
Reflection: Is there anything that you need to be liberated from today? Jesus is able and willing to lift it from your shoulders.
SONG - Liberator - Corey Voss & Madison Street Worship
Chapters 19-20 of Leviticus lay out more specifications as to how the Israelites are to conduct themselves before the Lord, and while this contains many laws on practical purity, it also spells out proper attitudes of the heart. Chapter 19 covers the commandments given to keep the Sabbath, revere mother and father, and the all-encompassing rule to be holy as the Lord is holy. It goes on to say that the Israelites must love their neighbours as themselves and shows what that means in practical ways.
It then goes on in and through chapter 20 to break down some particularly important do-s and don’t-s such as proper sexual relations, the mixing of breeds of cattle, fabric types, and more. Child sacrifice is strongly condemned as well as sexual immorality and breaks down exactly what that constitutes. At the end of the twentieth chapter, we see again the commandment to be holy, just as the Lord is holy.
The Lord lays out His thesis, so to speak, for these two chapters; “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy” bookends this segment of Leviticus. That is the overarching theme of the Law itself – the Lord shows us what He requires of His people but also shows them exactly what that means and how to achieve it, for He so desired to be with His people. At the end of virtually every paragraph in the nineteenth chapter following a set of laws is the phrase “I am the Lord” which is a way of saying “this is what my holiness requires.” How does this apply to us nowadays? How are we to keep this law and be holy as Christians today? As always, let us look to Jesus, who by no means lessened this requirement of holiness (Matt. 5:8).
I think Christians tend to consider Old Covenant law more binding in its completeness as opposed to the New Covenant which has been fulfilled in Christ, but I believe the opposite is true. You see, we as Christians have several things that the Israelites did not:
As Christians we have not only the commandment but the provision to keep this most sacred commandment – and thanks be to God Almighty for doing for us what we could have never done on our own!
I find that I have not always let the truth of the Gospel impact me in the way it ought. By reading carefully through the bible and seeing how the Lord has brought His people along, by observing life under the Law, and by taking time to absorb just what Christ did by coming to earth as a man, we can all have a greater understanding and appreciation for the goodness of our God. This will lead us inevitably to the most wondrous thing – worship! As Leviticus can easily slip us by, let us take care to observe life under the Law and how that Law was fulfilled in Christ!
As Leviticus draws to a close, what has stood out to you? How has reading it impacted your impression of the Biblical narrative overall?
Lord Jesus, we thank you that we can have perfect freedom in you. We are so grateful that we can have your very Spirit living in us and are hidden away in your righteousness. Show us in the depths of our hearts the awesome thing you did for us on the cross, and help us to worship you in everything we do! Amen.
Christ the Sure and Steady Anchor (Matt Boswell & Boyce College Choir)
Text: Leviticus 16-18
Observe God reminds Moses of the illegitimate sacrificing Aaron’s sons made, resulting in their deaths -- approaching the Holy of Holies is not to be done lightly. Moses now hears His specific laws for atonement.
Before sacrificing for sins, Aaron purifies himself, the people, the Tabernacle and altar; he washes and changes his clothes through the day. In specific locations of the Tabernacle, Aaron slaughters unblemished sacrificial animals, drains and sprinkles the blood to cleanse. He lays hands on a scapegoat, confessing his and the peoples’ sins over it, then sends it, burdened, into the desert to die. But for the shedding of blood, the sacrificial goat was killed, its blood sprinkled to purify, its parts burned, the remains burned outside the camp. The Day of Atonement – sacrifice, Sabbath and self-denial.
The life of the body is in the blood. (17:11,12) Blood, life for life, purifies. Blood must not be eaten, nor animals that have not been killed -- early kosher laws.
God requires sexual purity of His people. Israel will not follow the sins of Canaan when they reach the Promised Land. (Chapter 18)
Interpret The high priest entered the Holy of Holies only on the Day of Atonement (think of Zechariah in Luke 1:8,9). Ritual symbolized cleansing from sin but could not achieve it. But -- !!
The old has passed away; Yeshua Mashiach (Jesus the Messiah), the New, has come.(2 Cor 5:17). Imagine the earliest Christians, the Hebrew Bible their scripture, reading of sacrifice and atonement with entirely new eyes of faith in Jesus! Freeing them and all future generations of believers from ineffectual, repetitive ritual and fear of ‘never enough’, Jesus completely upends the old ways.
He is the only pure sacrifice, complete atonement for our sins, paying our unclearable debt, redeeming all who come confessing sins and believing He does forgive. Because of His Cross, we are truly set free, no fear of death or punishment under law, but absolute hope in His eternal life.
As for the moral laws of purity in Chapter 18, the sixth commandment holds. The sexual laxity of our culture, the noise that insists on bending God’s laws of ‘male and female’ and sexual boundaries, will be dealt with. Or, forgiven, by repentance and faith of those who turn.
Apply Atonement moved from blood that could never cleanse to Blood that utterly purifies. Blood, symbol of life, renews our life in Christ.
We no longer rely on external sacrifices (or good works) to be assured of forgiveness. We must know that God, out of love, gave His beloved Son, His very being, the only sacrifice to deal with Sin (our inheritance as fallen people) and sins (that we gravitate to as fallen people). Recognizing the deception of our hearts, we turn again (re-pent) to be reinstated by His grace into His real life. Without flailing ourselves over past weakness, we remember He took into Himself all sins committed, from very beginning to ultimate end.
Think hard -- Jesus, crushed under the weight of evil so horrifying that His own Father abandoned His beloved Son, suspended between heaven and earth, to an agonizing three hours of utter darkness, a blood sacrifice – we can’t begin to imagine this obedient suffering on our behalf. We can only be humbled, thankful -- and forgiven.
“It is finished!” Atonement is made. Ours is to avoid sin, but oh, those reappearances -- that ‘white’ lie, that ‘shared confidence’, that ‘no one will know’, that angry outburst, that peek, all grave sins in His sight. We return to Jesus and cry out, “Have mercy on me, a sinner!” He remembers that we are but dust, (Ps. 103:14) and cleanses us again. His atonement, complete, reconciles us with God, our faces radiating His forgiveness and love.
Ask Do I really believe that His atonement for my sins is complete? What does repentance mean for me? Do I come to Him when I realize a wrong done, and forgive as I’ve been forgiven? I forget so easily… like the children of Israel.
Pray Jesus, You have atoned for, covered over our sins by Your sacrifice. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And -- thank You. Yes, thank You! We are forgiven! THANK YOU!!
“In this way the priest will make atonement before the Lord on behalf of the one to be cleansed.”
Leviticus 14: 31b
Leviticus 14 & 15 (Psalm 34)
In these two chapters sacrificial procedures are detailed which provide cleansing, restoration and atonement. The matters covered include infectious skin diseases, houses suffering from mildew and rot plus the delightful topic of human ‘discharges.’ This latter topic refers to sexual behaviour and to menstruation.
Whilst seemingly complicated and confusing the meaning behind these directions are profound and beautiful. They speak of healing, restoration, and forgiveness through the payment of a debt; atonement (which we considered on Sunday 31st January in our main service).
For example in the case of a skin disease the process describes the awful alienation of a suffering individual who is required to live outside of the camp, the community, because of their illness (14: 3a). If they are healed they are brought to the edge of the camp for cleansing (14: 8-9), before full restoration where atonement is made on their behalf (14: 10-31). Reality exists in the sacrificial process as evidenced by the two birds; one bird dies the other goes free (14: 1-7). This is believed to represent the truth that some will die of these diseases whereas others will live.
These practices were not just meant for God’s people during their time in the wilderness. The process for cleansing a home with mildew demonstrates that these guidelines and instructions were to be followed, and then adapted, for life in the Promised Land as well.
The directions regarding human discharges emphasize the respect that needs to be given to the matter of sex and our bodily functions. They apply with equity to men and women alike and promote cleanliness for the individual, couple and community (promoting health and preventing the spread of disease). The directions uphold the life giving essence of sexual intercourse and the blessing it is to a marriage and community.
There is much we can apply to life from these passages. Firstly, the adaptability of these directions to differing contexts encourages us to see that the bible, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, can answer most questions and be interpreted for application to our current situations.
Secondly the directions for sexual behaviour inspires us to see the joy of this blessing from God with the encouragement to keep ‘it clean,’ and the marriage bed holy (Hebrews 13: 4). Sexual intercourse is not ‘dirty’ but a gift from God, within a marriage, where we respect one another’s bodies and God’s purposes.
The overall process of sacrifice shows us the truth of Jesus’ self-sacrifice of atonement for us. He paid the ransom for our debts (sin and rebellion) so that we may be brought back from alienation to be cleansed and healed then welcomed in to the heart of the eternal community, - Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The Question of Application
Consider your spiritual journey. Do you see the stages of being welcomed back from being outside the camp (outside a relationship with God); of being forgiven and cleansed; and then of being drawn into full hearted communion with God? Which stage best describes where you are now? Remember we are all works in progress until the Lord completes that labour on His return.
Dear Father we will extol and praise you, always thanking you for your grace and salvation in Jesus Christ. We thank you that you hear us in our affliction; that as we seek you, you answer and deliver us from our sins. In our spiritual poverty we cry out and ask that you save us from our alienation. As we trust you, we thank you that your Son makes atonement for us and delivers us from our distresses. May our faces be ever radiant as we gaze upon you and praise you for your grace. Amen
Adapted from Psalm 34
His Robes for Mine by Chris Anderson and Greg Habegger
In these three chapters we find the description of which animals, birds and sea animals are considered “unclean” for food. Animals which have both split hooves and chew their cud are clean, and those who do not chew their cud and/or do not have split hooves are unclean. Similarly, if sea animals have both scales and fins, they are clean and if they are missing one or both, they are considered unclean. Among birds, those that are called birds of prey – vultures, raptors, owls, herons – are considered unclean.
The readings for today also talk about being unclean regarding bodily fluids (especially blood), and skin diseases, and ceremonial purification in order to be able to worship God in the temple.
Three New Testament references shed some light on how we are to think about food that is considered kosher (clean) or non-kosher (unclean). Jesus said (Matthew 4:4) to the devil when he was being tempted – “one does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God”. In other words, food is secondary to life—believing and following God is primary. This is supported by Jesus’ words in Mtt 6:25 “do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink…”. Jesus also says that it is not food which enters the body via the mouth but that which comes out of the mouth—i.e. evil words from the heart which defile a person. The evil that has taken hold in our minds and our hearts is what we must deal with –confess, repent, and be forgiven; be made clean by the Lord Jesus Christ.
Just a note: Food is not unimportant. It is that we consider the source of our food–God–to be the most important in our lives.
Perhaps that last sentence I wrote is also the application of this Bible text: The source of all that is good is God. We look to the Holy Triune God—Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit—as the source of true life and holiness. Becoming clean is what happens when we ask God to forgive our sin and to cleanse us from wrong-doing. Going through purification rites – while not wrong, is not what will ultimately make us clean and pure. It is God’s forgiveness and God filling us with the Holy Spirit that makes us pure or righteous.
Oh Lord God, we pray that your Holy Spirit would reveal to me areas of wrong-doing, especially those that make me feel unclean, so I can repent. Forgive us oh Lord, in our distress and cause us to forgive those who have sinned against us and whom we’ve sinned against. Forgive the guilt of our sin, (Psalm 32:5). Our times are in your hands oh God. Save us in your steadfast love, (Ps.31:14-16).
No Longer Slaves
How Deep the Father's Love For Us
TEXT: Leviticus 8-10
OBSERVE: As we move into the book of Leviticus, we read about many regulations that are to take place to allow for God’s presence to dwell with the people. In chapter 8, we read about the ceremony of cleansing and robing of Aaron which were public rituals intended to teach Israel about God’s holiness. “The whole community assembled at the Tabernacle entrance. Moses announced to them, “This is what the Lord has commanded us to do!” Then he presented Aaron and his sons and washed them with water” (Leviticus 8: 4-6).
INTERPRET: This ceremonial washing indicated the moral purity required of a priest. But, of course, an external washing has no power to create an internal reality. Every day, for century after century the priests were washed from head to toe, pointing to the need for a deeper, more persuasive and permanent cleansing that could not be accomplished by water. Looking forward, Jesus told his disciples, “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you” (John 15: 3). Here, Jesus was saying that as water washed the body, so does the Word of God wash and cleanse the soul. The cleansing pictured by the external washing with water can become an ongoing, internal reality for all who are a part of his priesthood of believers as we wash ourselves daily with his Word.
APPLICATION: The Word of God cleanses us as it penetrates us and brings sin to the surface so it can be washed away. Its truth washes away our self-centered, people-pleasing, God-denying attitudes and actions so that the Holy Spirit can fill us with Christ-centered, God-pleasing, God-dependent attitudes and actions. In his great priestly prayer, Jesus said of his own, “I have given them your word…….Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth” (John 17: 14, 17). Here is the fulfillment of what God intended all along in instituting the ritual washing of the priests. Jesus, the Word made flesh, is our great High Priest. We are washed as we hear his Word. As his Word is applied to our hearts, as it penetrates our thoughts and shapes our perspective, the cleansing that Christ accomplished on the cross becomes an internal reality in our day-to-day lives.
QUESTION / REFLECTION: What has the Word put on your heart today?
PRAYER: Jesus, you have given me your Word, and it is living and active, penetrating and powerful. As we move through the Bible together, may your Word continually encourage me, reshape me and bring me closer into your presence. Cleanse me daily with your Word. AMEN.
SONG: Lord, Your Word Abiding
Bible Blog 2022
This year the blogs are focused on the Psalms and are posted on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.