God’s Character lived out in community
Have you seen the movie, “Cinderella Man”? It’s a great movie about character and community. During the Great Depression, a common hero, James J. Braddock (a.k.a. the Cinderella Man) becomes one of the most surprising sports legends in history. In the early 1930s, the impoverished ex-prizefighter was seemingly as broken-down, beaten-up and out-of-luck as much of the rest of the American populace who had hit rock bottom. Because his family is poor, Braddock’s son justifies stealing. He walks out of a grocery store with meat under his jacket. When Braddock finds out, he makes his son take the meat back and explains, “You are my son, and we don’t steal. I will provide for you.” His son learns the lesson very well. I won’t ruin the ending for you, but it’s very exciting.
This is similar to the book of Leviticus and the section we are reading this week. God states, “I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy; because I am holy…I am the Lord who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy.” (111:44-45) What does this say about God and about us?
The word "holy" has taken quite a beating, between associations of being stuck-up ("holier than thou") and pedantic usage in popular culture ("Holy Socks, Batman!"). Similarly, we may suppose that "holy" means "morally good.” However, this is only part of the meaning. Holiness also means uniqueness. He is unique in that he is like no other. He is beyond anything we can imagine.
What does this mean about us? In the Old Testament Israel was called holy because they were associated with God. This set them apart from other nations, for His "presence resides with and is invested in Israel."
Today, this is matched with the residence of the Holy Spirit in the person of the believer, and is seen in Paul's description of the believer's body as a temple of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 6:19-20). Our bodies should be treated like temples, because we belong to a holy God and we reflect his glory. This is why the judgment occurred on Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10 and maybe one reason for the dietary laws in Leviticus 11.
When the Jews followed these laws, it was a reminder that they were holy, special, set apart for God. It is the same for us today when we live as if we belong to God. It speaks volumes to our hearts as to our identity in Christ.
Tips for Reading- (Interpretation tip #19)
Note: This section is help for Bible Reading in general. It will be building throughout the year under the topics of Observation (what the Scripture says), Interpretation (what it means) and Application (what it means to your life). Feel free to look back over last week to get the whole picture.
We are moving to the next aspect of Bible study called interpretation. We have spent 1/3 of the year working through observations - seeing what is in the text. Now, we will see what it means.
An example of this is Acts 8, where the Ethiopian eunuch asks Philip what the passage in Isaiah means. (Do you remember this story?) He was reading the words, but he didn’t understand whom the prophet was speaking of.
The same is true for us, we are removed from the context in which the Scriptures were written, and as a result we don’t always know what the author meant when he wrote a certain passage.
We believe that every book of Scripture has a message, and that message can be understood. 2 Timothy 3:16 states, “All Scripture is profitable.” That means is has purpose and meaning. God is not playing a game of hide and seek with you. He doesn’t invite you into His Word only to puzzle and confound you. He is far more interested that you understand it. But, how do we go about getting meaning? First, we attempt to stand in the author’s shoes and re-create his experience. Think as he thought, feel as he felt, and decide as he decided. We’re asking, “What did this mean to him?” before we ever ask, “What does this mean to me?”
This week, just try to get perspective as you read the chapters in Leviticus. Focus especially on Chapter 8-9. I love the provisions God has made for the people so they know they belong to Him. There is a high calling for priests to live out a high standard of holiness. What parallels do you see that echo a picture of Jesus Christ? Try to walk in the Priest’s shoes as they are being commissioned. We’ll add some ideas to this next week
Notes from David’s Journal
Two thoughts hit me as I read these chapters.
First, is the need for guilt to be absolved? We all feel guilt at one time or another. In fact, I think guilt is one of the proofs of the existence of God. From where does guilt come? Some suggest it’s merely the feeling of not meeting the norms of any social setting. Fair enough. But, it doesn’t answer the question from where does guilt come? It’s an emotion. Emotions have roots in something larger than just our thoughts. I’d suggest guilt is an inward mechanism from God to warn us of doing something against his will, something that harms us and the society in which we live. It’s rooted in God’s moral law that he authored for our good and protection.
Second, as I read these verses, I’m struck by the careful instructions from God about the place of priests in our society. They are terribly important. Biblically, both Jeremiah and Malachi took shots at the priests for not living up to their calling, plus being one of the major reasons for God’s judgment upon the people. Ministers and priests, those called by God, have a stricter judgment before God one day (James 3:1). Our lives are supposed to call people to a higher standard. If we don’t take that seriously, who will? And remember this too: every Christians is a priest of sorts (I Peter 2:8&9). The call to holiness is not only reserved to special priests who work as heads of God’s people but to all His children who say they have been absolved from their guilt through the Cross of Jesus.
Our guilt is dealt with. Our calling as God’s holy people is secure. Two great truths rooted in the book of Leviticus.